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

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Category — A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Maps of the Disney Parks

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 (22)

By Jim Korkis

A 144 page book from Disney Editions filled with pretty much nothing but maps may not sound exciting, but I thought it sounded like a terrific idea to see how the various parks have changed over the years with things disappearing and other things being added.

Unfortunately, the book seems to be a hodgepodge of material, and while it is nice to see rare concept art like Imagineer Joe Rohde’s 1991 painted aerial view of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, primarily the book is not devoted to the guidemaps that were handed out each year, but rather to the novelty maps like artist Paul Hartley’s impressionistic map that hung in Walt Disney World resort hotels in 1971, and the aerial view cartoony map he painted for the Walt Disney World Preview brochure.

While those are nice pieces of art, they do little to help me understand what the park actually looked like at that time. For me, the early Sam McKim Disneyland maps were an amazingly detailed view of what was at the park and I treasured them, especially when he was so accurate that on one map he inadvertently revealed that the Haunted Mansion show building was on the other side of the railroad tracks.

This book is indeed a beautiful art book with its full color images, but I think most readers like myself wanted to see the guidemaps they remembered and would be able to use as reference. For me, the title was misleading.

But where else will you see a full color reproduction of Morgan Ditta’s 2014 load area mural map of Neverland from Walt Disney World’s Peter Pan’s Flight attraction and see how it was inspired by the artwork of the same fantasy location by John Hench and Al Dempster for a 1953 Golden Book?

Sometimes the maps–like the 1979 Walt Disney World map–are printed so small that it is difficult to read and appreciate the details. The maps are grouped by decade, not by individual park, so to find a WDW map requires some patience flipping through the pages, and you may be disappointed with the small percentage devoted to Walt Disney World.

Each decade section is preceded by a one page introduction that fails to help the reader understand what he is about to see or reveal some treasures or connections that might be discovered. Text is very minimal and does not attempt to explain how and why maps were produced and how the presentation of the geographical material has changed over the years.

I did appreciate that at the back of the book there are short biographies of six of the artists who drew some of the maps, especially Paul Hartley and Sam McKim. While there is a short index, there is no bibliography.

Author Kevin Neary has previously written four Disney trivia books with the late Disney Archivist Dave Smith, but in recent years seems to have devoted his talents to books about baseball.

Vanessa Hunt is an Imagineer and has curated several art exhibits as well as consulting for The Walt Disney Family Museum.

As long as you buy the book knowing full well what it is and what it is not, you may find this a valuable edition to your personal Disney library.

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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 latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

 

 

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October 25, 2019   1 Comment

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Orange Bird in Adventureland–and the Comics

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

ORANGE BIRD COMIC BOOK

By Jim Korkis

A Disney character unique to Walt Disney World is the little Orange Bird who recently returned to Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland.

In 1967, Walt Disney Productions entered into negotiations with the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) for a Florida Citrus Growers sponsored Magic Kingdom attraction at a cost of $3 million that was a version of Disneyland’s The Enchanted Tiki Room, called the Tropical Serenade show.

In 1970, WED Enterprises (today’s Walt Disney Imagineering) created the Orange Bird character to serve as the FCC’s official mascot in promotional campaigns. Orange Bird was designed by Disney artist C. Robert “Bob” Moore and it decorated billboards, appeared in commercials, was on multiple souvenir items from sipper cups to keychains, and even had a song written about him by the legendary Sherman Brothers.

However, I think most Walt Disney World fans are unaware that the character also appeared in his own animated short and comic book.

Foods and Fun: A Nutrition Adventure (1980) was a 12-minute animated short for the Walt Disney Educational Media department produced and animated by Rick Reinert Productions.

Rick Reinert Productions was a small, independent animation studio in the North Hollywood, California area that was responsible for later producing and animating Winnie the Pooh and A Day for Eeyore (1983).

The Orange Bird short narrated by Rex Allen told the tale of the Orange Bird, who could not speak or sing but could only produce images over his head in a puff of orange smoke like a thought balloon but with a picture.

He is sad, and a nearsighted Dr. Owl gives him advice to get a good night’s sleep, a balanced diet (grain, protein, calcium, fruit/vegetables) and exercise. The bird does so and flies to the Florida Everglades where he befriends a family at the beach. The father does not want to take the bird home with them despite the protests of his two children, but changes his mind when he is saved from going out to fish on an unsafe pier by the little bird.

There is a family picnic on the beach where the family sings about the joys of a balanced diet while the Orange Bird makes a healthy sandwich.

To tie in with the release of this animated film, Walt Disney Educational Media produced a supplemental comic book, very similar to other comics it produced at that time, including Mickey and Goofy Explore Energy and Mickey and Goofy Explore Business.

Orange Bird in Nutrition Adventures (1980) is a 32-page comic book with three separate stories written by Diana Gabaldon and drawn by Tony Strobl. Gabaldon is an award-winning, best-selling novelist. Strobl worked as a Disney animator on several features starting in 1938 before moving over into drawing comic books, especially stories featuring Donald Duck.

As animator Dave Bennett remembers, “Tony Strobl came to our studios [Rick Reinert Productions] for as much reference material on the Orange Bird as he could carry! Disney had not created an official model sheet.”

The comic book included three stories:

  • “Helping Out” (11 pages) where Orange Bird and his friends Toucan and Macaw agree to help Farmer Brown with his chores and learn the necessity of a healthy breakfast in order to get the day’s work done;
  • “A Day Off” (11 pages) has Toucan, Macaw and Orange Bird going on a relaxing picnic to Coconut Island but a series of misadventures including monkeys stealing some of their food results in Toucan realizing he should have stayed home;
  • “Fair Day” (10 pages), Toucan, Macaw and Orange Bird go to the State Fair but a black bird competitor steals all the prize vegetable entries and hides them in the human cannonball’s cannon. When the cannon goes off, the vegetables scatter throughout the air and Orange Bird makes a healthy vegetable salad for everyone.

In 2012 the Orange Bird returned to Adventureland.

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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 latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

 

 

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October 18, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Requiem for the Muppets in Liberty Square

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 MUPPETS PRESENT…

By Jim Korkis

[Note from Dave—this show closed October 5, 2019]

Disney acquired the rights to Jim Henson’s Muppets in February 2004 and tried to reboot the franchise starting in 2008 with new movies and television appearances. Henson had entered into negotiations with the Disney company for the franchise before his death in 1990 resulting in the characters being incorporated into shows at Disney MGM Studios.

However, after Henson’s death, Disney was unable to finalize the acquistion from the Henson family but were able to arrange a license for the Muppet*Vision 3-D attraction. With Disney’s purchase in 2004 the word “Muppet” became a Disney trademark.

After the release of the theatrical feature film Muppets Most Wanted (2014), Disney decided to develop a theme park show about American history that would have featured Sam Eagle interacting with guests and telling in typical Muppet fashion an unintentionally humorous version of famous events where he gets the stories partially right and mostly wrong.

Jim Lewis, who had written extensively for The Muppets for thirty years, was brought in for consultation, and the show expanded to include Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and two of Gonzo’s chicken friends. James Silson and Tara Anderson were co-directors of the show. Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda wrote a new song for the shows.

The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History premiered in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom on October 2, 2016 with two different shows, The Declaration of Independence and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. The Muppets perform in the upper three windows above the Heritage House gift shop so that it appears as if it is three interconnected television screens.

Because of the distance to the guests below, the puppets were made about five percent larger than the traditional Muppets and were built by the same craftspeople who build the characters for television and film. The pre-recorded voices are provided by Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog), Eric Jacobson (Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam Eagle) and Dave Goelz (Gonzo) and the Muppets’ actions are synchronized by live puppeteers to the voice track.

The puppeteers are also responsible for several costume changes during the show. Each show lasts approximately ten minutes and is performed multiple times during the day.

The Declaration of Independence show has Sam appearing in a circular portal at the top of the Hall of Presidents and interacting with a live James Jefferson (aka “JJ”), the Town Crier of Liberty Square down below who leads the guests in different responses during the show. As they attempt to share the events surrounding the drafting of the famous document, the other Muppets appear in the Heritage House windows.

These other Muppets portray historical figures Thomas Jefferson (Kermit), John Adams (Gonzo) and Benjamin Franklin (Fozzie). Miss Piggy is irritated that there are no female roles and decides to change King George III and later George Washington into “Georgette” for her to perform as those characters.

Midnight Ride of Paul Revere takes place solely in the windows above Heritage House and is a very loose adaptation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem Paul Revere’s Ride. Kermit portrays Revere and has a stick horse whose face surprisingly animates as another Muppet.

“The show really appeals to everybody, across generations, because the Muppets have such a wonderful history,” said Tara Anderson. “Parents are going to watch the show with their children and they’re both going to laugh! It’s the Muppets we know and love, but new.”

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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 latest, The Unofficial Walt Disney World 1971 Companion: Stories of How the World Began, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

 

 

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October 11, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Epcot Airport

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 EPCOT AIRPORT

By Jim Korkis
In 1970, only nineteen percent of visitors came to Central Florida by airplane. The majority of people journeyed there by car, usually on their way to Miami.

It was obvious that with the opening of Walt Disney World, more tourists would be coming by plane.

By 1995, more than fifty percent of WDW guests, especially international ones, came by plane rather than car. That year counted for over twenty-two million visitors taking flights to Central Florida.

Eastern Airlines, the official airline of Walt Disney World from 1970-1987, doubled its flights to Orlando from 40 to 80 at the beginning of 1972. Eastern offered service to Orlando from sixty different cities across the United States

Walt Disney’s original plan for the Florida property was to have an operating airport with three to four parallel runways on the land that is now occupied by the city of Celebration. The entitlements in the Reedy Creek Improvement District legislation allowed for Disney to build such an airport.

An Entrance Complex and Registration Center staffed by cast members who spoke various languages would be there to assist foreign visitors.

That primary entrance to the Epcot location (the Main Gate) would be roughly across the street from Walt’s airport. The nondescript building that houses Entertainment, Merchandising and Disney Design Group on Sherberth Road is known as “Main Gate”, since that is where the planned entrance to the property was to be located.

In 1971, there was no Orlando International Airport — that didn’t come until 1976. There was just Orlando McCoy Jetport, which had limited capacity. (Orlando International’s “MCO” airport designation actually originates from the McCoy Air Force Base formerly on the same site.)

Expectations were that more than 400 people would be working at the Epcot airport by the time Phase Two of the Florida property was completed in 1976. By then, there were to have been three new resorts near the Magic Kingdom and new attractions.

Disney projected that by 1991 the airport would employ more than 2,000 full-time workers and would be surrounded by hundreds of motels accommodating the many travelers coming to visit the Epcot area.

According to Marvin Davis, who created the initial layout for Walt Disney World, “This airport was planned after one in Cincinnati. We made a special trip to New York and met with the guy in charge of that airport who said it worked like a charm.

“The circular plan cuts down the area that you need by half, instead of those long runways that were standard. They had a circular runaway plan and it worked on a banked curve for the takeoff. Of course, we would have had to get all kinds of approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration.”

As the plans evolved, this international airport would have been located in the southwest portion of the land and in the north east would be a second, smaller facility to handle general aviation.

Walt’s intention was that the architecture would mirror the distinctive Theme Building at the Los Angeles International Airport built in 1961 by architects that Walt liked including William Pereira, Charles Luckman and Welton Becket.

Disney could never get a major air carrier to partner with them in the costs for the airport, especially with the oil crisis in 1973, although Delta Airlines came close at one point to signing on.

The continuing expansion of Orlando International Airport, as well as drastic changes to the original plans for Epcot, resulted in the airport project quietly disappearing as an unnecessary expense. Basically, when Disney abandoned the plans to build the Epcot city that Walt Disney had envisioned, the airport was abandoned as well.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, The Unofficial Walt Disney World 1971 Companion: Stories of How the World Began, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

 

 

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October 5, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis

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 (21)

By Jim Korkis

  • The Wonders of Walt Disney World by Aaron H. Goldberg

When reviewing a book, in general, a reviewer should try to keep at least three things in mind: What was the author trying to do? How well did they do it? Was it worth doing in the first place?

In general, I avoid reviewing guidebooks for a number of reasons. First, they have a limited lifespan since Disney changes so frequently and without warning so that they are often already out-of-date before they are even published.

Second, there are many terrific and well-proven guidebooks that are already in existence and are updated each year including the iconic Birnbaum guides as well as The easy Guide among others. In addition, for people needing information about WDW, there are multiple websites that not only supply practical information but share valuable tips and back story information as well.

When I saw the title The Wonder of Walt Disney World on a new book, I was intrigued. I also saw that the author in the description emphasizes that he was not producing a guidebook.

In the introduction, Goldberg writes, “It is a book with tips, trivia and secret stories…I aim to give you a backstory on the backstory as we work our way through each and every Disney park, visiting all the popular attractions, highlighting the secrets and magic that make WDW so special.”

With his stated goal as to create “an informative resource…that is a comprehensive and entertaining tour designed for both easy reading and reference”, then the book falls far short of those expectations.

In short, it is just another guidebook, and not a very effective one.

Goldberg admits that much of the information he uses came from WDW News, the Walt Disney Company’s fact, information and press-release website for the media and public. He uses the exact words from that site to describe the attractions, restaurants and more and accompanies them all with the review ratings (used by permission) from TripAdvisor. So much of the information comes word-for-word from those two websites.

His secret stories are often just direct quotes from other books like Rolly Crump’s It’s Kind of a Cute Story, Alex Wright’s Imagineering Field Guides, Jeff Kurtti’s Since the World Began, Melody Malmberg’s The Making of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Jason Surrell’s The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic and other familiar and still easily attainable books, as well as articles from the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. I liked that he did indeed acknowledge those sources.

Perhaps my expectations were too high judging from the author’s description of what he thinks the book actually is. He emphatically states that it is not a guidebook so I am writing this book to let you know that it is a guidebook.

I was not a fan of his offhand conversational approach to walking through each park as it offered no new information or new perspective on existing information but you might enjoy it.

Goldberg has visited the Walt Disney World Resort “more times than his wallet cares to remember” and is the author of The Disney Story which is a compilation of newspaper articles and the short kid-oriented biography Meet the Disney Brothers.

I am still puzzled why he felt this book filled a gap not supplied by so many other books and websites that do it so much better, especially for people who have never been to Walt Disney World. However, I love the title of the book but in this case, buyer beware if you purchase it thinking it is something other than a guidebook.

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Thanks, Jim! Jim has more on the history of Disney guidebooks here, in a fine essay that fittingly ends with mine!  (He wrote it years before he began writing for me…) And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, The Unofficial Walt Disney World 1971 Companion: Stories of How the World Began, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

 

 

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September 27, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Doctor Who and Disney

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

DOCTOR WHO AND DISNEY

By Jim Korkis

Doctor Who is the main character in a long-running British science-fiction television series of the same name. He is a time-traveling, humanoid-looking alien Time Lord whose method of transportation is the TARDIS that from the outside looks like a typical blue British police call box.

In April 1981, Doctor Who producer, John Nathan-Turner had approached Disney’s London office with the idea of setting a story at Walt Disney World where The Doctor would be tracking down an alien who was hiding there. After all, an odd looking character would seem to fit in very easily at WDW.

Arni Halling, Disney’s Sales Promotions Director, wrote back that the whole idea had been quashed by the American head office, stating, “It is against our policy to allow settings like Disneyland and Walt Disney World to be used as background for a program in a non-Disney television series.”

When Michael Eisner became CEO in 1984, he was actively looking to purchase franchises like the Muppets. Disney made several attempts to buy the rights to the Doctor Who franchise and its video library. At one point, it looked like a deal might finally be made just as the show went into an indefinitely long hiatus in 1989.

Eisner was looking for something to revitalize Tomorrowland. Preliminary plans were drawn up for a walk through attraction at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland that would have taken guests through the inside of the TARDIS. They would enter the phone booth and find themselves in a much larger show building and just as in the television show the interior was much larger than the exterior.

The show building was also to include some type of a dark ride that would have taken guests through an adventure in time and space.

There were discussions about Disney making a film based on the franchise with an elaborate official announcement of the new Doctor to be made at a special press conference in Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, negotiations stalled, and Disney partnered with George Lucas for Star Tours.

In 1987, The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) appeared in a three-episode serial entitled Delta and the Bannerman. The premise was the Doctor and his companion, Mel, and a bunch of aliens were to spend a week at 1959 Disneyland. However, when their Nostalgia Tours bus hits an orbiting satellite, they all then end up at a holiday camp in South Wales which was more appropriate for the BBC budget.

In the third novel about The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), the companion Rose Tyler says she would like to go to Disneyland and the Doctor responds that he can take her to a place with real talking mice.

In the August 1975 edition of Disney Time, a BBC TV series that was shown three or four times a year and featured clips of Disney cartoons and films since the U.K. did not have a weekly Disney television show, Tom Baker attired as the Fourth Doctor appeared as the host for those clips and both appeared and disappeared in the TARDIS at the movie theater showing them. The following Saturday was the first episode of Doctor Who Season 13 featuring Baker.

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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 latest, The Unofficial Walt Disney World 1971 Companion: Stories of How the World Began, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

 

 

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September 20, 2019   2 Comments