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

Fridays with Jim Korkis: T-Rex: a Prehistoric Family Adventure

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

T-REX: A PREHISTORIC FAMILY ADVENTURE

By Jim Korkis

T-Rex: a Prehistoric Family Adventure is a themed restaurant developed by Schussler Creative, Inc. and operated by Landry’s Restaurants that opened on October 14, 2008 in the area that later became Disney Springs.

Steve Schussler, who at the time was also responsible for creating the Rainforest Café and Yak and Yeti at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, stated “It will be a great place to eat, shop, explore and discover. It’s exciting that something has been built that has all the creativity and ingenuity of an interactive, educational experience that hasn’t been done before.

(c) Disney

“That’s what really excites me and my team. People will come first for the ‘wow’ factor but they will come back for quality food and service.”

Outside the restaurant is a full-sized replica of an Argentinosaurus at 125 feet long and 28 feet tall, reputably one of the largest dinosaurs to ever exist. Nearby, a parasaurolophus sits in a pond fed by a waterfall with some prehistoric looking plants by it. Inside is a 45 foot long Tyrannosaurus Rex, the largest of the many audio animatronics dinosaurs inside the restaurant.

The interior is based off of a water, fire and ice concept decorated with fossils and large chunks of amethyst.

“It’s a pretty amazing collection of artifacts,” said Keith Bradford, who at the time was vice president of WDW Operating Participants. “Historically and archeologically, it is all correct, so it is a true museum in that sense. It is a true educational experience.”

Each room in T-Rex: a Prehistoric Family Adventure is unique. The Ice Cave has a life-sized fossil replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, an aqua bar with a 5,000 gallon shark tank and a 37 foot octopus with movable tentacles overhead and hanging jellyfish light fixtures. The area also resurrects the woolly mammoth.

The Geothermal region houses the Kitchen of Fire with an open kitchen featuring a giant rotisserie that allows visitors to see meals being prepared. The Fern Forest and Sequoia rooms are the most serene, with canopies of flowers overhead and a docile Triceratops with its infants.

The entire 30,000 square foot restaurant provides seating for over 600. The tables feature designs resembling imprint fossils of fish and other small prehistoric relics. Even the restrooms (She-Rex and He-Rex) are decorated with ancient artifacts.

A two minute long meteor shower comes through each room every twenty minutes amidst waterfalls, bubbling geysers and a fossil dig site, signaling impeding doom for the dinosaurs. The lighting changes, prehistoric animals cry out in alarm and there is a sense of chaos. Even the ice cave seems to start melting.

The PaleoZone offers young guests kids the opportunity to dig for fossils and treasures and check out interactive displays to learn about the creatures in the restaurant. They can play games, watch toon clips, split a geode open, and more. For the menu offerings, creative names in keeping with the prehistoric theme of the restaurant describe tempting food options.

Among the other figures in the restaurant are Apatosaurus, Albertosaure, Stegosaurus, Arthropleura, pterosaurs (including Pteranodon and Rhamphorhynchus), large insects and more.

Attached to the restaurant is a gift shop where guests can build their own dinosaur in partnership with the Build-A-Bear Workshop.

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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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April 8, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: The Main Street Emporium Gallery

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 MAIN STREET EMPORIUM GALLERY

By Jim Korkis

The Main Street Emporium Gallery is the official name of the 2001 expansion of the Main Street Emporium into Center Street.

The expansion resulted in the replacement of the Hallmark Card Shop/Disney Clothiers and New Century Clock Shop, and the relocation of the Harmony Barber Shop. The entire west side of Main Street is now known as “the Emporium complex” rather than by individual store names.

The expansion added 4,600 square feet of retail space and featured an interior themed with crown molding, detailed wood columns, stained glass and an eighteen foot high ceiling. The “debut” of the store in 1901 references the birth year of Walt Disney.

On the back wall, a large mural displays happy customers and employees enjoying their shopping experience at the Emporium Gallery. In actuality, the mural depicts a number Imagineers who were responsible for the design, story, and execution of this addition.

One portrait is of Joyce Carlson, and can be found in the lower left corner of the painting. Carlson was a beloved and legendary Walt Disney World Imagineer who began her career in the Ink and Paint Department at the Disney Studios and was moved to Imagineering to work on the 1964 New York World’s Fair. In particular, she worked closely with Imagineer Mary Blair on the original it’s a small world attraction.

The Imagineering back story for the Emporium is that it started in what is now the center of the building as shown by the early gas lighting chandelier fixture and the wall support posts. It expanded to Center Street, the first street in the city as shown by its bricks rather than paving. In reality, those bricks were salvaged from a turn-of-the-century building being torn down in Orlando when Walt Disney World was being built.

Then the store expanded toward the train station, which explains the more ornate exterior in that direction, as well as the electric lighting fixtures. This made the Emporium the largest store in the Magic Kingdom. During the Victorian era, the term “Emporium” was used to describe a large retail store that offered a vast selection of commodities and goods.

“The storyline is that the proprietor of the Emporium has continued to have such huge success that he wanted to expand his shop, but with no where left to expand, he made arrangements with the city to purchase part of Center Street,” stated Rhonda Counts, Magic Kingdom art director for Walt Disney Imagineering.

“The original Emporium was built in the 1800s and the expansion is being built in the early 1900s so you’re using an Edwardian style that was used in that day that is less ornate than Victorian with lighter colored wood and pastels.”

The expansion was controversial because it destroyed West Center Street. The purpose of Center Street was to “break up” Main Street so guests did not feel it was just one long block of buildings but a city. In addition, West Center Street’s narrow alley-like appearance curved at the end to give the impression that the road and the city itself continued out of sight.

When the new structure was built it was inset into the street, something that would not have been done at the time. It would have been flush with the street to attract traffic. The new addition sold the exact same goods that could be purchased in the Emporium and elsewhere on Walt Disney World property and were not unique to the location.

However, from a business standpoint, the new building was able to monetize previously unused square footage and to connect all the buildings to provide inside access down the entire street for guests.

*  *  *  *  *

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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April 1, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney Trivia

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 (50)

By Jim Korkis

The title on the cover of the book, and as listed on Amazon, is The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney Trivia but the book is entirely about Walt Disney World, and I am assuming this is a self-published book since the interior page lists the author as “Jasson” indicating it was “self edited” and not too carefully.

There are 290 unnumbered pages, no Table of Contents, no illustrations or photos and no Index. Good luck trying to find something. I am unfamiliar with the author and there is no information in the book or on its cover about him.

I really wanted to like The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney Trivia since I like the overall concept and the variety but it just comes across as disorganized and it takes a lot of effort to find the virtues. It is definitely not designed to be reader-friendly, and I found myself feeling frustrated, especially when after reading it I tried to find some specific things I wanted to talk about in this review. There was just no easy way to locate that information.

In theory, the book is divided into four lengthy chapters with each one representing one of the WDW theme parks–and only the theme parks, no resorts or other things on WDW property. Within each chapter there are two page sections devoted to a single attraction. Once again, these appear in no coherent order and not all attractions are included.

Each two page section has a short paragraph introduction, followed by a four-choice multiple choice question and a second question that requires a short answer. Then there is a paragraph with a “Fascinating Fact” and a paragraph of something to “Look For” at that attraction.

At the end of each complete chapter is a ten item scavenger hunt for that particular park. At the end of the book are additional Kids (and Kids at Heart) Scavenger Hunts. The end of the book has the answer to all the questions as well as the answers to the scavenger hunts. However, the layout is wonky at best and suddenly there will be huge blank sections between the answers especially in the Epcot section.

For the most part, the information is accurate (taking into consideration that things at WDW constantly change) and I found some of the information quite clever, but again too much of that is completely “lost” in the lack of the book’s organization. It seemed a bit odd that there were only two questions per attraction and I would have liked to have seen a bit of explanation, especially for the “short answer” questions, in the Answer Key.

These days almost anyone can publish a book about Disney but with that independence comes the responsibility to edit carefully and to be empathetic and respectful of the reader.

Again, I wanted very much to like this book and be able to recommend it to others. There is indeed some good stuff between the covers but its presentation is confusing and irritating. It is like some of those cooking shows on the Food Network where the chef has prepared something tasty but the presentation is sloppy and unappealing, so he is eliminated from the competition.

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Thanks, Jim! There’s a different book, published in 2013, with the more natural title for Douglas’s book of The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Trivia, this one by Susan Veness. Given the number and quality of the reviews of her book, it might be a better choice…

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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March 25, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Walt Disney World Fireworks

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

WALT DISNEY WORLD FIREWORKS

By Jim Korkis

The Walt Disney Company is the largest consumer of fireworks in the world (and the second largest purchaser of explosive devices, right behind the U.S. Department of Defense), deploying well over a million individual fireworks annually. Epcot alone uses over 750 shells every night in its show.

Disney has never issued information about what it spends on fireworks shows but it has been estimated that just the Magic Kingdom shows alone would cost conservatively fifteen million dollars annually.

While Disney guests spend a great deal of time and research trying to strategize the best time and location to view one of the Walt Disney World parks evening fireworks shows, they may not think about all the thought and effort that goes into those spectaculars.

Several teams are involved, including Safety, Entertainment Fireworks Storage Facility, Fireworks and Special Effects, and Reedy Creek Emergency Services, spending months in preparation to make sure that the Entertainment stage technicians can deliver the finest and safest fireworks displays every day.

“When making the initial design for a show, careful consideration must be given to product selection,” stated Brad Cicotti principal Special Effects designer. “Working with Safety & Heath, this is achieved by performing numerous live tests of hundreds of fireworks items. Familiarity with the parks and their operation and, most importantly, knowledge of how the firework product will react when it is fired are critical.”

Entertainment Fireworks crews work on more than a half dozen Operation shows daily, some performed multiple times. Before the pandemic shutdowns occurred, teams also worked on over 350 special events annually including holiday celebrations, weddings and conventions.

At the Walt Disney World Resort, fireworks are not lit by hand but are ignited electronically. The product is “matched” by an electric igniter. For large shows, the electric igniter goes into a computerized firing system controlled by a pyrotechnician. The pyrotechnician monitors the computer status, the performance of the fireworks, weather conditions, and site security.

Starting in 2004, to launch the projectiles Walt Disney World uses a compressed air system that ensures a higher launch with greater accuracy and consistency, as well as reducing unwanted noise. The compressed air system also eliminates launch-related gunpowder fumes. Since fireworks do indeed still burn, guests may smell fumes, but fewer of them.

As a means of fire prevention at the Magic Kingdom Park, a sprinkler system irrigates the area surrounding the firing site before the show is performed. The rooftops in Fantasyland where more pyrotechnics are launched also are watered down before the fireworks are launched in order to minimize fire risk.

“Safety is a part of every step of the process,” said Doug Madill, Entertainment Operations manager of the Fireworks Storage Facility, “from the technical training our Entertainment Cast Members receive, to the show design, to the storage and delivery of the product and finally the actual show.”

Only Disney’s Animal Kingdom does not have a fireworks, show because it was determined that the loud noises would bother the animals and disrupt their sleep schedule.

Walt Disney World parks change their fireworks offering regularly, constantly trying to “top” previous shows in terms of visual display, music and more. The nighttime park shows last roughly fifteen minutes or a little more.

*  *  *  *  *

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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March 18, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Columbia Harbour House

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

COLUMBIA HARBOUR HOUSE IN MAGIC KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

The Columbia Harbour House is themed as a New England tavern of the Colonial time period. During the American Revolutionary War, the proprietor of the Harbour House was Harold Stalmaster while the innkeeper was a woman named Priscilla “Cilla” Lapham.

Around 2011, crates were added to Liberty Square addressed to different residents of the locale. Harold Stalmaster is a reference to actor Hal Stalmaster who portrayed in the role of Johnny Tremain in the 1957 Disney live action film Johnny Tremain based on the novel of Revolutionary War characters. Another crate is addressed to innkeeper Pricilla Lapham, who was Johnny’s love interest in the story.

(c) Disney

Located between Fantasyland and Liberty Square, the counter service restaurant has two entrances. The Fantasyland side represents a dock in England (since it is just below the Peter Pan’s Flight attraction) set at a time when most people were illiterate, so the sign just features a chicken and fish to indicate what was served inside the restaurant, much like English pubs of the time would have images on signage to identify them.

The Liberty Square side represents a port in New England and the sign spells out the name with the British “u” included in “Harbour”. Instead of images of a chicken and fish, since this is a later time period in the New World when many people could read, it features the American bald eagle first designed in 1776.

Looking closely at the eagle, the thirteen arrows representing the original colonies are in its right claw signifying “war”. The back of today’s dollar bill has the arrows in its left claw, and an olive branch in the right one signifying “peace”.

Based on concept sketches by Imagineer Dorothea Redmond, The Harbour House didn’t open until Summer 1972, along with Olde World Antiques, the Perfume shop, and the Heritage House. In early planning and maps it was designated as the Nantucket Harbor House and even sometimes as New Bedford and Montauk Point.

By the time it opened, it was officially the Columbia Harbour House because there were plans for the Sailing Ship Columbia to ply the waters of the Rivers of America, like at Disneyland. In 1787, when the Constitution was ratified as is referenced in the number of the building that houses the Hall of Presidents, the Columbia became the first American sailing ship to circumnavigate the globe.

Columbia Harbour House is one of the largest restaurants at the Magic Kingdom, but seems more intimate with its low ceilings and small dining areas named after port towns: Charleston, Cape Hatteras, Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis, Long Island, Cape Cod, Portsmouth, New London, Newport, Marblehead, Salem and Plymouth.

One of the second floor rooms, by a window overlooking the Haunted Mansion, is themed to the paintings of ghost ships like The Flying Dutchman. There is also a map from the National Geographic magazine that is framed and marks the locations of 500 ships that were lost on the U.S. coastline between Virginia and North Carolina.

The Harbour House is decorated with nautical artwork and paraphernalia such as an antique scuba helmet, scrimshaw, mermaid figureheads from ships, model ships, nautical paintings, chandeliers made from helms, maps of the ocean, helms mounted on the walls, and charts, among other clever details. One of the paintings in the restaurant is a recreation of a painting from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).

For the first two decades the restaurant was open there was second separate serving area upstairs with its own kitchen. In the 1990s this was closed and walled up.

*  *  *  *  *

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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March 11, 2022   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Grand Floridian Fun Facts

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

FUN FACTS ON DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT

By Jim Korkis

I recently wrote a book about the WDW resort hotels but I am always discovering new information so here are some fun facts that do not appear in that book.

The forty acre Grand Floridian Resort & Spa opened June 28, 1988 and the Walt Disney Company describes it as the “crown jewel of the Walt Disney World Resorts”. It is the most expensive of all the WDW resorts, not counting the new Star Cruiser Halycon, a different type of resort that is more akin to a Disney Cruise vacation.

The theming of the Grand Floridian inspired the design of both the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel in Paris.

The Beach Boys taped the music video for the 1988 song “Kokomo” on the sand of what originally was known as Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort.

Cast members John (security investigator) and Heidi Pickert (senior sales manager) were the first couple to be married at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion on July 15, 1995.

The gallery located near the entrance of Victoria and Albert’s restaurant features eleven original maps of Florida from 1775 up to the period of railroad tycoon Henry M. Flager’s railway lines.

The two large chandeliers in the lobby are sixteen feet tall and fourteen feet wide at the base. Each weighs approximately one ton and has forty-four candelabras.

The resort received its first AAA Four Diamond award in 1990 and has continued to earn it every year since. Its Victoria and Albert’s is one of only five dozen Five Diamond restaurants in North America.

In 2007, nearly every room received an elegant makeover with new bedding, wallpaper and furnishings. In 2008, the resort installed a custom-designed marble floor throughout the main lobby and mezzanine. It includes “hidden” Disney characters like Pluto inlaid into it.

Several episodes of the Hulk Hogan television series, “Thunder in Paradise”, were filmed at the Grand Floridian.

On Monday and Friday mornings almost fifty housekeepers do what has been known as the parasol parade. They grab beautiful parasols and, starting at the swimming pool, they stroll through the pathways of the Victorian garden in the center courtyard. They often choose one or two children to lead the parade. It started in 1988.

On October 3, 2020, the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra that had entertained guests since the resort first opened thirty-two years earlier gave its final performance. A pianist could be found during the daytime hours playing popular Disney melodies on the grand piano in the center of the first floor lobby.

During the evening hours, The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra played tunes of ragtime, Dixie, traditional jazz and Disney favorites  from the upper floor custom built bandstand. Originally, they played in the area now known as the Enchanted Rose, but when the lounge opened, they were moved to the upper floor lobby bandstand.

For many years, the Grand Floridian had its own exclusive line of bath products. These were branded with the name of the Grand Floridian on them, and had that fresh, elegant smell that seems to pervade the whole Victorian resort. Unfortunately for consistency and cost issues, the Grand Floridian’s bath amenities were changed to match the rest of the resort hotels on property.

The sheets on all beds are changed daily, unlike other WDW resorts. In addition, the beds are also triple-sheeted which gives them a lusher feel and makes them more comfortable. Standard beds have a bottom sheet, top sheet, and blanket. A triple-sheeted bed, however, has a third sheet on top of the blanket.

The December 2021 gingerbread house in the lobby celebrating WDW’s 50th anniversary with some blue and gold trim and official logo included1,050 pounds of Honey, 140 pints of Egg Whites, 600 pounds of Powdered Sugar, 700 pounds of Chocolate, 800 pounds of flour and 33 pounds of spices.

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Thanks, Jim! There’s much more on the Grand Floridian beginning 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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March 5, 2022   No Comments