Hey everybody, there’s a new itinerary out for arrivals 8/31 through 10/26/2019. You can find it here.

By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Category — A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: John Hench and Walt Disney World Color

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

JOHN HENCH AND WALT DISNEY WORLD COLOR

By Jim Korkis

In 1990, I got to attend an event in Glendale, California where Imagineer John Hench lectured about color in the Disney theme parks. Hench worked for Disney for 65 years in a variety of capacities, especially when it came to design decisions utilizing color. Here is a short excerpt where he talked about his color choices at Walt Disney World.

“Color is an important part of every environment. Even as a kid, I was always aware that the amount of space occupied by a color was critical, and also the kind of light falling on the color.

“One of my favorite places in any of the theme parks in relation to color would be in Florida at the entrance of Epcot Center. Particularly the way it was when it opened with the marvelous jacaranda trees. Unfortunately, they froze in a big freeze in January 1983. They took out the jacarandas out and they weren’t replanted. The entrance would have been a very special paradise once a year with jacarandas and those beautiful blue-violet colors.

“Spaceship Earth picks everything up. We had a choice about that, and I was almost tempted to use gold but they wouldn’t guarantee the color. I thought it needed pattern but then again, we settled for this light and shadow. We had a difficult time with the night lighting. We couldn’t figure out a way to light the top of the sphere. We finally got two or three light sources high enough so we could put blue near the top. So the darkness seems to blend into the blue, then violet, and so forth – a particular spectrum. It worked.

“Another favorite use of color was for Journey Into Imagination in Future World. There were hard crystalline and geometric forms, and so many of them. I used a color that is associated with something much softer – a blue-violet. And then we concentrated a brighter color at the entrance, close to eye level. A flowering magenta bougainvillea hanging down over the doorway provided a combination of magenta and purple that was very intense. The rest of the pavilion sort of drifted away into paleness. You can do that with a color.

“For example, we used an entirely different color at the top of The American Adventure pavilion to imply that the huge fly-loft roof was located behind the building so you wouldn’t notice this big, awkward mass that fought with the architectural design of the building. It was kind of a greenish-grayish-bluish half tone with very little saturation.

“The American Adventure is quite a bit out of scale with its neighbors. The elaborate stage show demanded an exceptionally large stage, which in turn, called for a matching fly-loft of the roof of such proportion as to violate the classic Georgian-carpenter’s hall-colonial structure. So what to do? We used a wide colonnade at the base of the building, hiding the base line where the building meets the ground, reducing the apparent height of the structure.

“By high contrast, with straight white paint on the colonnade, the eye tends to stay on the lower areas, further reducing the apparent height. By successively lessening the contrast of the white window trim color with a little raw umber for each of the upper floors and topping finial towers, the adjusted contrasts seemed to pull the whole ensemble back in better relationship with the Japan and Germany pavilions.”

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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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August 2, 2019   1 Comment

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Extinct Attractions at Disney Theme 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 (19)

By Jim Korkis

Things at Disney theme parks are constantly changing. Sometimes things disappear quietly in piecemeal fashion over a period of time. Other times things seem to vanish overnight as if they were never there in the first place, like the Metrophone booth in Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland.

At Walt Disney World, Disney learned never to announce too far in advance that something like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride will be removed, because it will spark protests and attempts to stop it from happening.

Extinct Attractions at Disney Theme Parks is a 172 page book that attempts to list some of the major attractions at Disney theme parks worldwide that have gone to the figurative Imagineering graveyard. While the book covers Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disney and even Shanghai Disneyland, roughly 56 pages are devoted to Walt Disney World, which is a sizable chunk of the book.

One of the reasons for that length is that Ware doesn’t just list Mickey’s Toontown Fair or the Wonders of Life pavilion at Epcot, but each individual element of those locations. So Cranium Command, Coach’s Corner, Goofy About Health, Sensory Funhouse, Wonder Cycles, Body Wars and Making of Me each receive their own entry.

However none of the entries in the book are highly detailed. Some are barely three sentences in length (Flight to the Moon, Skyway, etc.) while others might run two pages (Horizons, ExtraTerrorestrial Alien Encounter, etc). Basically, it is very much a quick snapshot comparable to a casual dinner conversation that might go “Gee, do you remember when such and such was at the park? I used to go there as a kid and I remember….”

So for scholars or those looking for definitive dates, names of people involved, quotes, material from press releases or newspapers, full description of the attraction, statistics or other hard facts, this book will be disappointing. However as a memory jogger, or a springboard to do further research on something that catches your fancy, the book is a nice addition to your personal library.

The Walt Disney World section is divided into Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Since the focus is on attractions, there is no coverage of things that went missing from the resorts or other areas of the property like the water parks. However, there are brief entries for Disney’s River Country, Discovery Island (the one that used to be near Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground) and Pleasure Island.

The book describes Ware’s credentials to write about these things as “Chris Ware has been a writer for over a decade and contributes to his local newspaper. He grew up ten minutes from Disneyland. In addition to his writing career, he has built a successful business buying and selling Disneyana collectibles.”

There is also a Chris Ware who is a popular cartoonist and no relation to the writer of this book. This Chris Ware hasn’t done any original research or interviews to perk up the material or provide a different perspective but where else can you find a book listing the attractions that went extinct at the Disney theme parks?

So if your expectations are not too high, this book may provide an enjoyable way to spend a few minutes of your time.

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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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July 26, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: When Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a Studio

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

DISNEY FILMS DONE AT DISNEY FEATURE ANIMATION FLORIDA

By Jim Korkis

From 1989 to January 2004, Disney Feature Animation Florida was considered an annex to the official animation studio in Burbank. It was housed at first in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then known as Disney-MGM Studios) in trailers, roughly where Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster is today, with just forty artists. Later, it moved to its own new seventy million dollar building in 1998, located behind the Magic of Animation pavilion, and soon employed up to four hundred artists during the 1990s.

I had many friends who worked there, and I taught classes to the animation interns on the history of animation and Acting for Animators. Here is a partial list of animation that was done at Walt Disney World.

  • The Little Mermaid (1989) — Florida artists contributed ink and paint support to the film.
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1990) — About 10 minutes of the 77-minute sequel to 1977’s The Rescuers was animated in Florida, as well as 10 minutes of the Mickey Mouse short feature The Prince and the Pauper double-billed with the movie.
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991) — Florida animators assisted in the “Be Our Guest” digital scenes of dancing forks, spoons, etc., the Beast bandaging sequence after the wolf attack, and much of “The Mob Song” and the “Something There” song.
  • Aladdin (1992) – Mark Henn supervised the character of Jasmine from the Florida studio. There was also had an Aladdin unit overseen by Alex Kupershmidt. (Supervised by Glen Keane in Burbank.)
  • The Lion King (1994) — Florida animators provided about 20 minutes of the film, including the “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” sequence. Two characters were supervised from Florida, Young Simba by Mark Henn and Young Nala by Aaron Blaise. Also, Alex Kupershmidt did much of the Hyena animation when Nala and Simba were cubs.
  • Pocahontas (1995) — Florida animators contributed about 18 minutes to the film, including scenes involving Pocahontas’ father, Chief Powhatan, supervised by Ruben Aquino.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) — Florida animators were only responsible for about 4 minutes of this movie, including scenes involving both Quasimodo and the villain Judge Frollo.
  • Mulan (1998) — This was the first animated feature film produced primarily by Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida at Disney-MGM Studios, all while theme park guests watched. It is also the first Disney animated feature made outside of Burbank.
  • The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) Additional Animation Production Services.
  • Dinosaur (2000) Additional Animation Production Services.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) Additional Animation Production Services.
  • Lilo and Stitch (2002) — Made almost entirely in Florida, this film was nominated for an Academy Award for best animated feature.
  • Brother Bear (2003) — The last major film to be released by the Florida studio. In development at the same time was another feature entitled My Peoples (also known as “A Few Good Ghosts” and “Once in a Blue Moon”), that was cancelled.

Other projects done at the Feature Animation Florida included the Roger Rabbit short cartoons Rollercoaster Rabbit (1990) and Trail Mix-Up (1993), the shorts John Henry (2000), Off His Rockers (1992), How to Haunt a House (1998) for Toon Disney featuring Goofy, and in 1993 “The House meets The Mouse Parts 1 and 2”, a non-Disney project for Warner Bros. Television’s Full House that had an animated Segment for “Joey’s Caricature” and Cameo. Uncredited except for Mark Henn.

Disney Feature Animation Florida also did projects such as “It’s a Small World” for Euro Disney, a Figment interactive attraction for Epcot, and Aladdin animation for the old Sega Genesis game system, and a Manatee PSA (1992). There were many other projects done in Florida by DFA Florida Special Animation that provided animation for TV commercials, theme parks, and video games.

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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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July 19, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

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

DISNEY’S CORONADO SPRINGS RESORT–IN MODERATION

By Jim Korkis

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort opened August 1, 1997 as a “moderate” priced resort, but with convention facilities and other enhancements aimed at business travelers not typical for the moderate level. By carefully doing things like having a lobby that employed millwork, vaulted ceilings, a mural and a fountain, the resort seemed more luxurious than it actually was.

It also included a fine dining restaurant (Maya Grill) that gave the impression of a more upscale resort.

“In a moderate hotel there is little demand for room service, a concierge or beauty parlor so you couldn’t justify those amenities,” said Boll Holland, who was Director of Design and Development for the resort.

“And some conventioneers see only business deals and don’t want too much of a ‘good time’ atmosphere. However, the Walt Disney World Resort market requires more amenities. It’s all very subjective and you must take into account the nature of convention business and meetings.”

So the convention area is more neutral in tone than the rest of the resort. “There was a struggle between Southwestern and Mexican styles,” explained Holland. “Southwest is more serious and acceptable for business while Mexico provides a fun and fanciful image.

“The architect, Graham Gund, is not a literal architect. His style is evocative and exterior details are never exactly the same as the historic precedent. He has a tendency to reconfigure historical architectural elements.”

However, since it was to be a moderate resort, budget factors to contain costs were important. Assistant project manager Bill Hanus stated, “Economic concessions were made from a design standpoint. For example, there are open air walkways as a motel would have, versus corridors. We used real ceramic tile in high visibility areas, while in other less prominent areas we mixed the real thing with fake. That meant that for every 10,000 feet of tile, 5,000 might be ceramic but the remainder were faux finished.

“In the rooms, the headboards are painted for texture instead of using wood molding. It all adds up when each room’s savings is multiplied many times. The contractor purchased everything up front – door frames, hardware, roofing and then stockpiled the materials in site trailers which protected the project from price increases over a two year period.

“He also used ‘just in time’ delivery for all ‘pilferable materials’, a significant cost containment step.”

Looking for savings in low-maintenance, fan-coil air conditioning units resulted in the elimination of extra ductwork systems, a more efficient unit with less maintenance for the operator, and millions of dollars in savings for Disney. The Coronado Springs team even sparked a competitive bidding war between commode manufacturers to obtain the optimum savings in toilets that provided water conservation, quiet flush and less stoppage.

Construction manager Dean Majors recalled, “The highest savings came from using Tunnel form system, a fast method of construction using two L-shaped metal forms to pour concrete room structures. The speed in which the rooms were built – twice as fast as regular construction – could not have been achieved without it. Lowering overall construction costs was a key factor in realizing the resort’s moderate price point.”

Executive Vice President of Architecture and Design Wing Chao said when the resort opened, “the theme is attractive. It’s something you can’t find in other places in America. We offer our guests the opportunity to escape to a different geographic and time period. This resort was purposely designed to perform at the same level as a luxury class hotel with the individual products of the same quality because the expectation level of our guests remains high.”

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Thanks, Jim! My review of Coronado Springs begins here–I’ll post an update to it after my stay there at the end of July.

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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July 12, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Ice Station Cool and Club Cool at Epcot

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

CLUB COOL AND ICE STATION COOL AT EPCOT

By Jim Korkis

Paperwork has been filed to remove Club Cool to make space for changes coming to Epcot. Club Cool first opened on November 14, 2005 as a location promoting Coca-Cola.

Disney has had a long relationship with Coca-Cola, since it was one of the original lessees at Disneyland in 1955 and became the sole soft drink provider for the Disney theme parks in 1982, when it started sponsoring the American Adventure pavilion at Epcot.

Club Cool sells Coca-Cola souvenirs as well as offering guests unlimited free samples of different variations of the classic beverage from around the world, very much like a much smaller version of the World of Coca-Cola location in Coke’s corporate headquarters of Atlanta, Georgia.

(c) Disney

“Learn how the world refreshes itself!”

  • Italy – Beverly — A bitter flavor but is a popular non-alcoholic aperitif.
  • Greece – Fanta Pineapple — One of ninety different Fanta flavors, this caffeine-free offering has a sweet pineapple taste.
  • Thailand – Fanta Melon Frosty
  • Japan – Vegitabeta — A non-carbonated apricot and passion fruit mix
  • South Africa – Bilbo — Fruit flavored lime juice
  • Zimbabwe – Sparletta – Raspberry flavored cream soda
  • Peru – Inca Kola — A sweet fruity flavor some say is similar to bubblegum.
  • Brazil – Gurana Kuat — Guarana berry flavoreD

Originally the location opened as Ice Station Cool in June 1998 with a themed entrance near the Innoventions Fountain. It closed on June 6, 2005.

“Welcome to Ice Station Cool, the most refreshing place on Earth. Coca-Cola ‘Coolologists’ have been searching the globe non-stop for years, hoping to discover the origin of cool. This place is a recreation of one of the Coolologist’s recent Refreshus Maximus (Maximum Refreshment) expeditions,” stated a plaque.

The name of the location had been inspired by the 1963 Alistair MacLean novel Ice Station Zebra, about a British meterological station built on an ice floe in the Arctic Sea that was made into a popular 1968 movie. The idea came from the actual Ice Station Alpha and Ice Station Bravo that were established in the Arctic during The International Geophysical Year 1957-1958.

Another inspiration for the theming was the “The Iceman”, a 5,300 year old corpse discovered September 19, 1991 on the border of Italy and Austria (in the Alps) who had been buried in ice since the Neolithic Era and was completely preserved including items like his dagger and a copper axe.

“The story (of Ice Station Cool) is a group of archeologists made this discovery high in the sub-arctic,” said principal production designer Kerry Gilman. “But El Nino caused the ice to melt, so Refreshus Maximus (the name given by the expedition to the frozen Neanderthal) found reaching for a bottle of The Real Thing was brought to be preserved and studied at Epcot, the land of discovery.”

Guests entered a snow cave opening just past a snowcat vehicle and exterior misters exuding a fine, cold spray. Going through sliding doors and hanging freezer flaps, they find themselves in an insulated concrete tunnel featuring the remains (behind glass) of a recently discovered frozen Neanderthal from “a 30,000 year old highly civilized and now highly frozen refreshment culture” in a faux ice wall.

Throughout the 85 foot long cave, a snow machine pumped four tons of shaved ice per twelve hour period. That equals 240 cubic feet, roughly the equivalent of a ten by twenty foot room covered in a foot of ice. A two inch trough was placed below special floor grates to catch any melting flakes so that the area did not become flooded.

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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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July 5, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Spinning Disney’s 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.

YOUR PERSONAL DISNEY LIBRARY (18)

By Jim Korkis

Charlie Ridgway was hired at Disneyland in January 1963 as a publicity man for the park. In 1969 he was offered the job as Publicity Manager for Walt Disney World and re-located to Florida. He helped launch the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971 and EPCOT Center in 1982, as well as with special projects for celebrations such as Donald Duck’s 50th birthday in 1984. He retired in 1994 and was made a Disney Legend in 1999.

I knew and liked Charlie and interviewed him several times over the years. He was a gentle, generous, funny person and a wonderfully accurate source of information about Disneyland and early Walt Disney World.

I even shared part of one of those interviews with him about the opening of Walt Disney World in a previous yourfirstvisit column.

“Charlie defined Disney public relations,” stated Rick Sylvain, who was hired by Ridgway to join Disney’s public relations team in 1995. “He never lost his childlike enthusiasm for all things Disney. That enthusiasm was infectious. As a new recruit, you had two options: try to keep up with him or get out of the way.

“Disney doesn’t throw around accolades lightly. So being named a Disney Legend and having his name on a window of Main Street U.S.A. speaks to the esteem Disney held for Charlie.”

Since his business was providing stories for the media, it is no surprise that his book is filled with great stories of interacting with Walt and Roy Disney as well as Michael Eisner. There are no chapter titles in the 230 page book but fortunately there is an index to help locate information.

The book is filled with stories that no one else has ever told, including Charlie planning the 80th birthday party of journalist Lowell Thomas at WDW in 1972 that included World War I Ace Eddie Rickenbacker, World War II’s General Jimmy Doolittle, inspirational speaker Norman Vincent Peale and more.

Ridgway writes: “At the banquet that night (at the Contemporary), Lowell showed his home movies, things like Tom Dewey playing softball at Lowell’s farm while a smiling Franklin D. Roosevelt looked on from his open touring car.” Lowell moved from the Contemporary to the Polynesian (“which was his favorite”) for three more days.

Try to find that story anywhere else or “We flew into Orlando several times (on Walt’s plane 234MM) during construction of Walt Disney World. We always landed at Herndon Field instead of McCoy (later Orlando International) where they regularly announced ‘Mickey Mouse 234 approaching’. Then after landing, it was ‘The Rat is on the ramp’.”

What about the story of Walt and Bob Hope entertaining the U.S. Olympic team on its way to Japan in 1964 on a riverfront stage in Frontierland at Disneyland? When the little train from Nature’s Wonderland let out its shrill whistle unexpectedly, Hope quipped, “Walt, your waffles are ready”.

Even with all the gems in the book, Charlie had enough for another book and I kept urging him to write a sequel for almost a decade, until his death in 2016. Unfortunately, like other Disney Legends Jack Lindquist, Marty Sklar and John Hench who were in the middle of new books when they passed away, the same situation happened for Charlie.

Fortunately, this book does exist and shares with us all a different perspective and new information on both Disneyland and Walt Disney 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 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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June 28, 2019   No Comments