For my thoughts on the re-opening of Walt Disney World, see this.


By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

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Category — A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Card Walker

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

CARD WALKER

By Jim Korkis

Esmond Cardon Walker, more commonly known as Card Walker, died November 28, 2005 at the age of 89 from heart failure. Even though he retired from the Walt Disney Company in 1983, Walker continued to serve as a consultant to the company until 1990, and was member of the board of directors until 1999.

After Walt Disney died in 1966, Walker became executive vice president and chief operating officer. When Walt’s brother Roy O. Disney died in 1971, he became company president, serving under Chairman and CEO Donn Tatum. He became CEO in 1976, opening Epcot and serving through February 1983, but stayed on as chairman of the board until May 1 to oversee the opening of the Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.

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In 1990, then CEO Michael Eisner said, “In a very real sense, Card is the link between the small, family-owned film company of the ’30s and the major global corporation we are today.”

Here is a brief excerpt from a speech Walker gave entitled “Walt Disney World: Master Planning for the Future” given on October 5, 1976 to the 40th anniversary convocation of the Urban Land Institute where he talked about building Walt Disney World.

“Not all the construction was actually here on the site. The monorail trains for example, were designed and engineered by our Disney staff in California and then assembled at the Martin Marietta plant in Orlando.

“We also required 337 monorail beams to be precision cast using the first major application for three-dimensional, pre-stressed concrete. The nearest place that could handle the work was Tacoma, Washington, so we had to ship them 3,000 miles across the United States to our property.

“Overall, the construction program was the largest non-governmental project in the world at the time. At the peak of the building activity, we had more than 8,000 construction workers on the property at one time. This created another kind of problem.

“In order to train many of the good-looking young hostesses and tour guides, we had to take them through the construction areas. And every time we did, it literally caused a work stoppage. Well, we finally got smart and put them in coveralls and old coats before the construction crews would see them. Productivity went back up after that considerably.

“With the opening date only a year away, we made a detailed evaluation of the construction progress and problems. Finally, we decided that the only way we could finish on schedule was to assume the construction responsibilities ourselves.

“No one understood what we were trying to accomplish or how to come to grips with the unprecedented construction problems any better than our own people. So right in the middle of the stretch run, we formed our own construction company, Buena Vista Construction, and managed to bring the project in on time, October 1, 1971.

“Needless to say, we were pretty nervous when opening day rolled around. Why did we choose October 1st? Quite frankly, we wanted to sneak it open. We deliberately chose the slowest month of the year because we needed a shakedown period where we could deal with smaller numbers of guests before the really big tourist season hit.

“But for Walt Disney World’s opening, the rumors were really flying. Some people had predicted that more than a million people would show up. Soon, everybody in Central Florida was believing it. And, despite the low tourist period of the year, pretty soon we were beginning to believe it ourselves.

“People were afraid to come out of their houses. The opening day crowd was, you might say, ‘underwhelming’. We had almost as many employees as guests. Well, after that, they did come. This week marks our fifth anniversary of operation and in that time, more than 59 million people have gone to Walt Disney World. Today, it stands as the number one tourist destination in the world.”

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Thanks, Jim!  And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.

 

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January 14, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Dick Tracy’s Crime-Stoppers at Walt Disney World

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE DICK TRACY’S CRIME-STOPPPERS ATTRACTION

By Jim Korkis

Dick Tracy (1990) was an expensive movie produced by the Walt Disney Company through its Touchstone brand.

Even as film production got underway in February 1989, CEO Michael Eisner had Walt Disney Imagineering develop a major “E Ticket” attraction for the Disney MGM Studios park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) that would capture the excitement of the film.

It was to be called Dick Tracy’s Crime-Stoppers, based on a term used in Chet Gould’s popular comic strip of the character.

The attraction was to be located at the end of Sunset Boulevard in the area that now includes Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror, in a section called Chicagoland that would have been themed to Chicago during the wild Roaring Twenties.

The exterior of the attraction building would have looked like a warehouse on a seedy waterfront street. In addition, there would have been a food and beverage location and merchandise shop devoted to selling Dick Tracy merchandise and promoting possible movie sequels.

The ride attraction would put guests inside an old-fashioned roadster as it roared through the streets of Chicago of the 1920s when vicious gangsters ruled the city.

As they careened at seemingly dizzying speeds with the vehicle lurching back and forth wildly through buildings, over bridges, and past the Chicago docks, they would have confronted audio-animatronic infamous Dick Tracy crooks, except the guests were armed with their own tommy guns so they could participate in the bullet blazing action from the movie.

The cars would have been based on the same type of vehicle that was later used in Disneyland’s Indiana Jones attraction and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Dinosaur attraction. It would have been able to safely recreate rocking and tipping movements of a high-speed chase.

The gun system was based on one that was later incorporated into Walt Disney World’s Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Disneyland’s Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. It would later be utilized in Toy Story Midway Mania.

Basically, in the Crimestoppers’ attraction, the guns would shoot a stream of light (with machine gun sound effects) at objects that would react when hit like a rattling trash can or the sound of shattering window.

Supposedly, part of the concept was that sometimes different things could happen each time you shot something which would increase the rideability of the attraction like shooting the top off of the trash can or the scream of a cat from inside of it.

Of course, this violent action brought up the concern about whether this fit into the Disney brand to have guest participate activities like shooting at people, even if they were only audio-animatronics.

The concept renderings are very reminiscent of the streets under the elevated tramway at the American Waterfront of Tokyo Disney Sea.

Eisner expected that the film would do so well that Disneyland would’ve gotten a whole new addition called Hollywoodland that would’ve been an idealized version of the film capital’s “Golden Age” from the ‘20s and ‘30s. A version of Dick Tracy’s Crime-Stoppers would’ve been the major new attraction there as well.

Disney sadly over-estimated star Warren Beatty’s box office appeal, and the public’s interest or connection with the character. However, the park did feature a live-action stage show, Diamond Double Cross, featuring Dick Tracy, and there was a display of costumes and props from the movie at the park as well.

With no excitement surrounding the initial release, no sequels on the way, EuroDisney bleeding money, and no new Tracy merchandise to push, there was little reason to build an expensive new attraction.

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Thanks, Jim!  And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.

 

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January 7, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Disney by the Numbers

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

YOUR PERSONAL DISNEY LIBRARY (47)

By Jim Korkis

Disney by the Numbers: Facts and Figures About the Walt Disney World Theme Parks and Resorts is an offshoot of the internet site disneybythenumbers.com.

This 141 page book, released in 2015 and never updated, is devoted entirely to Walt Disney World, with individual chapters on each theme park, the water parks, resorts, dining, recreation (golf courses and Disney’s Wide World of Sports), transportation (railroad and monorail) and “mousecellaneous.”

Disney by the Numbers is not a book of stories. It is a listing of numbers. The content within each chapter is not necessarily presented in any particular order. It is more the type of book to just flip open and casually read a page or two and be fascinated by the numbers. Each page is filled with facts and figures about a particular aspect of the property.

Author Caselnova worked at Walt Disney World as a security guard, and like many cast members in the 1990s was given a copy of the “That’s A Fact” pocket-sized reference booklet with the subtitle “The Official Facts About the Walt Disney World Resort.”

Primarily it had opening and closing times of the parks, admission prices, names of the resorts, etc. but it also included some numerical facts to help in answering guest questions. Walt Disney’s personal philosophy was that cast members should know the answers or know where to get the answers.

These books were given free to cast members with a new edition coming out each quarter printed in a different color so that cast members could recognize the latest edition to give accurate information since things were constantly changing at Walt Disney World. These books are sometimes offered for sale on eBay, sometimes at outrageous prices.

Caselnova took the facts from his collection of different editions and organized them all in a spreadsheet and then started his website. He supplemented the information from other sources as well.

So the challenge was that while some facts never change like the length of Main Street U.S.A. or the number of Alucobond panels on Spaceship Earth or the date construction began on the Wedding Pavilion, other things are always changing like the number of topiaries at the International Flower and Garden Festival and how many Mickey-shaped waffles are served at Chef Mickey’s each day.

The reviews on Amazon point out that sometimes a fact will appear in Disney by the Numbers and it will be contradicted later. That probably occurred from the author grabbing a fact from different places or a different time period. The other complaint is about misspellings.

Perhaps because I am familiar with Walt Disney World and familiar with the “That’s A Fact” booklet that I used many times as a cast member, it was easy for me to determine what facts were “set in stone” and which ones were current when the book was compiled but have changed.

The facts that are “set in stone” are as accurate as any other official information from Walt Disney World, like the height of Cinderella Castle, the approximate cost of the construction of Epcot, how many secondary limbs are on the Tree of Life and similar things.

While working at Walt Disney World, one of my roles was to occasionally help out with the “Fun Facts” sheets given to the media for events. I can share that sometimes those facts were best estimates.

However, since Disney by the Numbers was released in 2015, there are facts about extinct attractions like the Great Movie Ride, Horizons, and Mickey’s Toontown Fair in the book to jog some memories but that also means that newer additions to the property since then are obviously missing.

Keep in mind the caveat in the publicity from the publisher: “This is not a book of words. It is a book of numbers.”

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Thanks, Jim! Keep in mind that this is very different than a similarly titled, but much more important book—Buzz Price’s Walt’s Revolution: By the Numbers, and come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.

 

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Very different than a similarly titled, but much more important book—Buzz Price’s Walt’s Revolution: By the Numbers https://amzn.to/32Hn1lD

December 31, 2021   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Bill Clinton in the Hall of Presidents

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

BILL CLINTON IN MAGIC KINGDOM’S HALL OF PRESIDENTS

By Jim Korkis

President Bill Clinton made his debut as the first currently sitting U.S. president to speak in the Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents on October 1993.

Veteran Walt Disney Imagineering sculptor Blaine Gibson came out of retirement to sculpt the Clinton bust, as he had sculpted virtually all the Hall of Presidents figures up to that point. He started work on the bust in late November 1992.

Gibson’s protégé Valerie Edwards spent time with Gibson at his home in Sedona, Arizona to observe and discuss technique, so that she could continue with future presidents.

Gibson acquired information on Clinton from sources as diverse as the White House staff, the state of Arkansas gubernatorial photographer, and numerous publications.

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“My goal in sculpting is to render the uniqueness of an individual,” said Gibson. “I read a lot about him, as much as I could find. A caricaturist would make Clinton’s chin jut out, but I didn’t want to create a cartoon. President Clinton is a man of persistence and tenacity and I tried to reveal some of those qualities.”

The Clinton bust was molded, cast in bronze, and attached to a marble base at an outside foundry under Gibson’s supervision, a process that took approximately eight weeks. The bust was later presented to Clinton.

For the audio-animatronics figure in the attraction, Gibson created another bust without hair. Like the other presidential figures, a hand-tied wig would be fabricated for the figure, making the figure look more realistic and the hair easier to style. Disney’s MAPO (Manufacturing And Production Organization, named for Mary Poppins) Plastics made a tooling to create the likeness and the hot-melt skin.

Walt Disney World Central Shops produced the plastic body sections for the final figure. These sections were shipped back to MAPO in California where principal animation designer Stan Abrahamson created the animation sheets that served as a function list that listed all intended figure movements and a parts list of mechanical equipment necessary for those movements.

The parts were fitted inside the plastic body shell. After the president recorded his speech at the White House, the hand movements had to be reworked, because Clinton did not speak with an open hand but with a closed fist thumb-up gesture.

Michael Horen, in charge of Head Animation Assembly, said “I studied Clinton on television and his lips slide toward the side of his face when he pauses between words. I had my doubts about whether I could approximate this expression because I don’t think we’ve tried to capture it on another figure before.”

Hydraulic values at the base of the figure were connected to the actuators that provide the figure’s movement. The wiring took four days. Once completed, the entire figure was monitored and re-calibrated for another ten days.

For the wardrobe, costumers fashioned a navy blue, single-breasted European suit and a red-and-white polka dot tie. Additional information was supplied by the White House staff on details such as shoe size (13D) and even the simple black sportsman’s watch Clinton preferred. The watch came with a 12 page instruction booklet and took hours to program.

When the figure arrived at WDW in mid-October, it went through an eight-day test-and-adjust session.

Imagineer Rick Rothschild said, “We walk a really fine line between showing the president as he looks in the media, the one we are familiar with on magazine covers and television, and the ‘real’ Bill Clinton, the person who looks different every day just like the rest of us. I’m aiming for somewhere in between.”

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Thanks, Jim! There’s more form Jim on Bill Clinton in the Hall of Presidents here and here.  And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.

 

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December 24, 2021   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Magic Music Days

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

MAGIC MUSIC DAYS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

By Jim Korkis

I would assume that many readers of this site sometime over the last thirty-five years either participated in the Magic Music Days program at Walt Disney World or enjoyed a performance by earnest and talented teenagers involved in it somewhere on the property.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Music Days Program began in 1985, followed by Disneyland in September 1987. It gives middle and high school choral, band, and other music groups the opportunity to perform at a Disney park as well as learn about musical performance from Disney professionals.

Prior to Magic Music Days, the program for guest performing groups had various names, including Disneyland Music Festival Program beginning in the late 1970s. Walt Disney World had its Disney Band Festival Program beginning in 1972. A Guest Band Program, where Disney first solicited nationwide for high school bands to perform, was begun for America on Parade in 1975. Magic Music Days was renamed Disney Performing Arts in 2011.

There are some differences in the Disneyland and Walt Disney World programs. At Walt Disney World, groups wishing to perform must send in a video audition and picture with their application. These are reviewed by the Magic Music Days team to ensure the group is up to Disney standards. All groups must purchase tickets through Disney Magic Music Days with a minimum 3-day theme park ticket purchase required.

Besides performing, the following workshops are offered to participants: Bands (“You’re Instrumental” and “Jazz it Up”), Choirs (“Disney Sings” and “Disney’s Show Choir Magic”) and Dance (“Disney Dancin'” and “Disney’s Broadway Magic”). According to Disney, “Professional Walt Disney World Entertainers teach at multiple workshops on Disney Property.” The workshops are typically two hours or so in length, and are an additional cost.

“It is pretty amazing to me that middle school and high school students get to experience a glimpse into the life of a professional musician, singer or dancer,” said Allen Gray, who was a program coordinator.

“In the You’re Instrumental workshop for concert and marching bands, students rehearse and record a portion of a movie soundtrack from a classic Disney animated feature film. They get to experience the intensity professional musicians feel when in the recording studio.

“Once the students see the movie and hear themselves providing the soundtrack, they get a new sense of just how much they can achieve in a short amount of time. It empowers the students to think for themselves, take accountability and perform at a new level.”

Bands may play on an outdoor stage at Disney Springs in front of the World of Disney store. At Epcot groups may perform on a stage that is encased by a temporary “shell”, this is located next to Innoventions West. The stage faces a small seating area with a control booth at the rear of the area.

For those groups that are marching, the bands perform a march down the Magic Kingdom parade route at various times that may or may not coincide with one of Disney’s actual parades. They may also march at Epcot around the World Showcase or Future World. Performances have happened at other locations around Walt Disney World as well.

In the past, participants received an exclusive Magic Music Days pin or a t-shirt with the program logo. The program operates year round and has welcomed more than 50,000 groups from six continents to the parks.

Some of the talented student performers who participated went on to successful careers including School of Rock actress Caitlin Hale, American Idol finalist Syseha Mercado and Dancing With the Stars’s Lacey Schwimmer.

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Thanks, Jim! I can’t tell if Disney Performing Arts–the renamed version of Magic Music Days–is operating in 2022 or not. Perhaps an alert reader will let me know…And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.

 

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December 17, 2021   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: The Species Survival Program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE SPECIES SURVIVAL PROGRAM AT DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

Even the Covid pandemic can’t stop nature. July 2021 was a big month for babies being born to the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

A Nile Hippopotamus calf made its debut July 12 in the park’s Safi River on Kilimanjaro Safaris, joining nine other hippos in the family (also called a bloat), including mother Tuma and father Henry.

The following day, Western Lowland Gorilla mom Azizi gave birth backstage and can be seen onstage with her new child along with father Gino and the infant’s big brother Cory at Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. The new arrival marks twelve gorillas currently in Disney’s care.

Finally, Humphrey, a Masai Giraffe calf, made his savanna debut July 29. He was born June 10, but spent time backstage bonding with mom Lily. He can be seen on Kilimanjaro Safaris, and can be recognized by the heart-shaped markings dotting his coat.

Giraffes are a vulnerable species facing extinction in the wild, with a population decline of 40 percent over the past 30 years. There are roughly 35,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild, and their population continues to decline due to poaching and habitat destruction.

Hundreds of birds and animals have been born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some were born even before the park was officially opened on April 22, 1998.

The very first animal births were a female kudu (a kind of African antelope) on October 1997 and a baby lowland gorilla in November 1997. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) species survival programs that involve cooperative breeding and management for critical species.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been able to successfully breed many vulnerable animals, including black rhinos which are endangered in central and southern African as well as white rhinos which are endangered in east and southeast Africa, northeast Sudan and northeast Nigeria due to poaching for their valuable horns. Disney’s Animal Kingdom was able to breed two black rhinos and six white rhinos just in its first ten years.

Scott Terrell, director of animal and science operations for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, said “Accredited zoos and aquariums participate in breeding programs for a variety of reasons, including helping to ensure excellent health for the animals in our care by maximizing genetic diversity and so people will be inspired to conservation action as a result of seeing live animals face-to-face when they visits places like Disney’s Animal Kingdom.”

How important is the species survival plan? In 2008 Disney’s Animal Kingdom was responsible for five of the eleven Micronesian kingfisher chicks (a very rare bird with a world population at the time of only 81) born worldwide.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom has also been responsible for the birth of Key Largo woodrats (an endangered species only found on Key Largo in Florida), and akapi (a large African mammal only found in the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo) among many others.

In addition, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been responsible for the births of African elephants, a threatened species and difficult to breed. The first calf, a male named Tufani, was born May 2003, followed by Kianga, a female born in July 2004 and another female Nadirah, born December 2005.

In August 2017, two adorable Sumatran cubs named Anala and Jeda were the first Sumatran tiger cubs born at the park. Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers are left in the wild due to threats such as habitat loss, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The cubs belong to Mother, Sohni, and Father, Malosi, and can be seen at the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.

 

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December 10, 2021   No Comments