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: Pleasure Island

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

REMEMBERING PLEASURE ISLAND

By Jim Korkis

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of Pleasure Island in May 1989 and the 10th anniversary of its final closing in September 2008. It was a Disney nighttime entertainment venue in an area that is now part of Disney Springs.

There were two real life inspirations for Disney’s Pleasure Island. Chris Carradine, who was Vice President of Design Development for Concept and Design at Walt Disney Imagineering, was impressed with Granville Island in Vancouver, a manufacturing village that had fallen on hard times that had its buildings transformed into restaurants, theaters and shops and became a popular destination for both the residents and tourists.

The second inspiration was the Church Street Station area in downtown Orlando. By 1985, it had become the fourth most popular tourist attraction in the state of Florida, right behind Walt Disney World, Sea World and Busch Gardens.

Its colorfully themed clubs and shops were a favorite nighttime spot for both locals and tourists. Eisner felt that creating a similar entertainment venue would keep guests and their money on Disney property.

Image (c) Disney

When Pleasure Island opened, there were twenty-six plaques placed at the entrances of the island and on the individual buildings by the Pleasure Island “Histerical” (sic) Society to explain the mythology of the island in elaborate detail.

Walt Disney Imagineering created a back story of a Pittsburgh entrepreneur named Merriweather Adam Pleasure who arrived with his family on a Mississippi side-wheeler that steamed into Lake Buena Vista in 1911.

He envisioned a manufacturing center, research lab and development facility, as well as a social gathering spot for the famous and well-to-do. When Pleasure and his daughter disappeared on a voyage in 1941, the island fell on hard times with Hurricane Connie in 1955 inflicting near-total destruction.

The once bustling harbor community became a ghost town. But in 1987, Disney Imagineers re-discovered the island. Some buildings were renovated, and some, like the Adventurers Club that had survived disaster, were reopened.

Those new businesses included Mannequins Dance Palace (with a large rotating floor and overhead mannequins attired in a variety of theatrical costumes), Neon Armadillo Saloon (a country and Western location inspired by the Cheyenne Saloon and Opera House at Church Street Station that Eisner visited and saw a huge line waiting anxiously to enter) XZFR Rockin’ Rollerdrome (a dance club with a skating rink on the upper floors), Videopolis East (a non-alcoholic club catering specifically to people younger than 21), the Fireworks Factory (a restaurant specializing in barbecue to match the “burnt” theme of a stray spark from Pleasure’s cigar that had set off fireworks and blackened the interior of the building), the Portobello Yacht Club (an authentic Northern Italian cuisine restaurant), Merriweather’s Market (a food court with four distinct sections where everything was cooked to order), the Comedy Warehouse and the Adventurers Club.

In addition, there were many shops unique to the location including Avigators Supply (featuring aviation and clothing merchandise with a winged alligator who was supposed to be another mascot of the Island besides the half moon-faced Funmeister), YesterEars (selling Disneyana items), Suspended Animation (selling Disney artwork) and Jessica’s of Hollywood which opened in 1990 and showcased a giant two-sided neon sign of Jessica Rabbit with sequined dress and swinging leg who sat atop the light purple colored building to entice customers inside to purchase jewelry or nightgowns that featured her logo.

Disney faced many unexpected challenges running nightclubs and changes were made almost immediately including celebrating New Year’s Eve every night. Operational issues including rowdy youth gangs resulted in the location closing in late September 2008.

“Our decision is largely based on guest feedback,” said the official Walt Disney World, “We are seeing more demand for shopping and dining experiences and less demand for clubs.”

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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 his 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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May 10, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Cinderella Castle

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

CINDERELLA CASTLE AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

Cinderella Castle quickly became the icon for Walt Disney World.

The design for it by Imagineer Herb Ryman took the form of a romanticized composite of such fabled French courts as Fontainebleau, Versailles, and a dozen famed chateaux of the Loire Valley including Chenonceau, Chambord and Chaumont since the Disney animated feature Cinderella was based on the French version of the fairy tale. Ryman was also influenced by the blue-tipped turrets of the Alcazar in Segovia in Spain and even the Tyn Church in Prague.

People have always had a fascination for castles, and a desire to explore inside them, which is why King Stefan’s Banquet Hall (now Cinderella’s Royal Table) was originally included.

It took eighteen months of construction to complete it by July 1971. It is 189 feet tall measured from the concrete bottom of the surrounding moat that contains approximately 3.37 million gallons of water.

The castle is made of steel and concrete. Six hundred tons of steel make up the inner structure, which is encircled by a ten inch reinforced concrete wall. It sits on a concrete drilled caisson foundation that is 100-by-100-foot.

Most of the exterior appearance that suggests stones is a very hard fiber-reinforced gypsum plaster supported by metal studs. Fiberglass was used for the more ornate exterior walls of the upper towers. Roofs are made of the same type of plastic that computer monitor shells are made from.

Towers were raised by crane, welded and bolted permanently in place. There are 27 towers on the castle, numbered 1-29. Tower numbers 13 and 17 were deleted before construction since they could not easily be seen from anywhere in the park, primarily because of obstruction from other Fantasyland buildings.

The tower with the clock in front is number 10, the tallest is number 20, and number 23 is the other golden-roofed tower. In 2015, Disney added an additional four turrets to Cinderella Castle.

The turrets cannot be removed. It made more sense to build the castle to withstand 110 mile per hour or more hurricane force winds than to build it so that it could be quickly disassembled before a hurricane. Disassembly would have been a time and labor intensive process, not to mention reassembling it.

In 2010, dismantling the castle turrets was listed by Time magazine as one of the top five most popular urban legends about Walt Disney World. The castle has survived several hurricanes during the last nearly half century.

As a result of the September 11th attacks in 2001, amid concerns that general aviation could pose a threat to public safety, the Federal Aviation Administration placed a permanent Flight Restriction over the entire Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Law enforcement and Walt Disney World aircraft are exempt from this restriction. Since the castle is smaller than two hundred feet high, it does not need to comply with the FAA regulation that would require flashing warning lights at the top.

There are two other Disney Cinderella Castles. The one at Tokyo Disneyland is also 189 feet high. The Cinderella Castle that most Disney fans forget stands proudly in the Storybook Land attraction in Disneyland.

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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 Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, and his 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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May 3, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Disney’s Animal Kingdom is “Nahtazu”

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 ANIMAL KINGDOM IS NOT A ZOO

Back in 2002, to try to get the general public to understand that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was not like the typical zoo a person might visit, but rather a new type of theme park, in 2002 WDW through its Yellow Shoes Creative Marketing division brought on Mark Simon to storyboard a thirty-second commercial spot.

The final commercial was produced by Jim Derusha of Alpha Wolf Productions and consisted of various DAK cast members declaring “Nahtazu”, a fictional word that when pronounced sounded like “not a zoo”.

The commercial ended with the tag line: “Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s many, many things but remember, it’s Nahtazu!”

Disney stopped using the term in 2006 as it strengthened its connections with the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums).

The idea of it not being a zoo came from Imagineer Joe Rohde, executive designer and senior vice president, Creative for Walt Disney Imagineering. In a presentation to DAK cast members on June 14, 1998, roughly a week before the park opened to the public, he stated:

“When I became involved in Disney’s Animal Kingdom it was late 1989, Disney sent a group of MBAs out across the country visiting and researching zoos around the nation and they came back with a terrifically negative report that basically said, “Look. There’s a zoo in every city, in every town in this country. They’re all subsidized by the city, by the state, by the federal government. People pay a third of what they pay to get into our parks to come in…they stay for two hours…they buy a drink…they can go whenever they want…why would we ever do a zoo?” End of question, right?

“We the Disney Company simply cannot do what is out there to be done if for no other reason than we’re gonna charge you $50 or more to do it. So it has to be different, it has to be new, it has to be unlike anything else you can do or we simply cannot pursue it as a line of business because we can’t make our per cap.

“There’s still people in the company who will refer to this as a ‘zoo’ and I mean, by no means, any disrespect or disdain to what a zoo is. [A zoo] is a thing that exists in the world and is loved and valued, obviously, by their presence around the country and the world, by gazillions of people.

“It serves a purpose, it occupies a niche and it does it really rather well. That’s the point. That job’s done. The world doesn’t need another big, expensive zoo with a bunch of immersion exhibits in it. That is not a real pressing need on the planet.

“A zoo sits in a category of places within a community that is sort of comparable to the museum, to the library, in that it’s regarded with a kind of respectful awe. It represents a scientific stance. It is a place you go for a kind of edification. There’s always a secondary use of a zoo as a garden, as a place to just go stroll with kids in the sunlight when the weather is good. There’s clearly a recognition that this is a place of edification.

“Now, on the other hand, what we are trying to do is profoundly subjective, even in ways that I think many education professionals would consider to be almost dangerous. A theme park is all about you in a very specific context. Nothing happens to you…nothing is said to you…nothing is seen by you…that isn’t governed by the overarching narrative umbrella that holds you in that place. When you move through a space, the space is crafted to specific narrative impact on you. That’s what Disney’s Animal Kingdom is. It is not a zoo.”

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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 Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, and his 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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April 26, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: David John Marley on the Jungle Cruise

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 (16)

By Jim Korkis

Walt Disney once famously said that it takes people to make the dream a reality, and that is certainly true of the cast members who work at the Disney theme parks. In fact, for some attractions like the Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror, the personalities of the individual cast members add tremendously to the overall experience.

However, the one attraction that has always been dependent upon the personality of a cast member is the iconic Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. It is infamous for its bad puns and corny jokes that developed almost from the opening of the ride in 1955.

Being a Jungle Cruise skipper is considered one of the prime and most coveted positions for a cast member.

David John Marley was a Disneyland skipper on the Jungle Cruise for three years. Currently, he is a professor at California State University, Fullerton with a background in history.

He had the idea to contact dozens of former Jungle Cruise skippers who worked the attraction over six decades to create an anecdotal oral history recounting humorous and horrific tales of working on the ride. The result is a fascinating and entertaining glimpse into the life of a Disney cast member.

Some former skippers asked that they remain anonymous as they shared their tales, but the overwhelming majority are identified by their entire name and by decade. Interestingly, some of the current skippers had to have their thoughts reviewed by Disney Media Relations.

The book is divided into twenty-three short chapters devoted to different topics from training to interactions with guests to accidents and much more. Each chapter is filled with many different skippers offering a paragraph or two discussing their personal experiences about that topic.

Marley allows each participant to tell their own story without any interjection from himself. However, Marley does share a few of his own stories just like the other skippers.

Not all of the memories are memorable, or in some cases even that interesting, but those that aren’t help provide a wider perspective, and make those that are amusing stand out even more.

Those funny moments run the gamut from the clueless questions asked by guests (“Is that water real?” “Where is Adventureland?”) to the various pranks devised by the skippers (like the five gallon jug of liquid soap that was dumped into the water, transforming the river into a bubble bath, or the skipper who showed up in the elephant bathing pool one trip wearing just his boxer shorts and holding a bar of soap).

Marley even had Jason Schultz from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library dig out information about a former skipper, Ron Ziegler, who later became Nixon’s press secretary.

The book was so well received that a sequel following the same format, More Skipper Tales, was released in December 2018.

Thankfully, these books debunk the theory that what happens in the jungle stays in the jungle.

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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 Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, and his 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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April 19, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Dumbo the Ride

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

DUMBO AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

One of the most popular attractions at Disney theme parks is Dumbo, inspired by the 1941 animated feature of the little elephant who, thanks to his large ears, could take flight into the skies. It was one of the original attractions at Disneyland.

Dumbo is known as a “hub and spoke” attraction because the ride vehicles rotate on an articulated armature connected to a central hub. Guests use a lever inside the vehicle that operates a hydraulic ram to control the vertical height. For decades, all versions rotated counterclockwise.

When the attraction first opened at Walt Disney World, the elephants were missing their hats and the attraction was missing the iconic Timothy Mouse figure who was added about two years later. In 1993, the attraction was expanded to sixteen vehicles to meet the demand for the ninety-second ride.

The original concept for the attraction was not multiple Dumbos but ten pink elephants on parade from the film. Supposedly, Admiral Joe Fowler questioned having children riding an alcoholic hallucination and Walt quickly agreed and had all the elephants painted gray.

Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland underwent a large expansion and renovation that resulted in Storybook Circus being added to the area in 2012. The Dumbo attraction was moved to this new section with a new interactive, enclosed queue resembling a Big Top circus tent that serves as a playground, as well as water fountains that change colors at night.

The original Dumbo carousel spinner closed on January 8, 2012. The new spinner (the first Dumbo ever to spin clockwise) soft-opened on March 12, 2012. The original spinner was refurbished to match the new theming of the attraction and be a fraternal twin of the new spinner. That new spinner soft-opened on June 15, 2012. Richer paint shades were used and the bottom of Dumbo’s feet are now pink.

The new attraction’s two spinners separated by about fifty feet rotate in opposite directions, so that those looking at the middle of the attraction will see elephants moving toward them on both sides of the walkway.

Timothy Q. Mouse, an iconic part of the original attraction, was moved to the entrance archway. “We cleaned him up and moved him over,” Imagineer creative director Chris Beatty said. “He’s such a neat ambassador.”

Timothy holds a representation of the magic feather seen in the film, rotates atop the sign, and bows toward each half of the attraction. The back of the sign reads “Believe & Soar!”

High in the play tent queue is a flying Dumbo and Timothy Mouse. The area includes a tall burning-building set as seen in the film — the climactic scene where the title character discovered he could fly.

Pull a cord near the fireworks display to set off a light show with strobes. Benches line the outer edge, providing rest for parents who have been given a ticket-themed pager to let them know when their group can board the ride.

A center ring, designed primarily for 2- to 3-year-olds, has interactive elements such as a little fire truck with horn, tap-touch lights and various cranks. Step on animal prints and it creates noises.

The Dumbo attraction inspired imitations at other amusement venues such as Bulwagi’s Flying Adventure at Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida; Amazing Flying Elephants at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; and Elephant March at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest,  The Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, and his 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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April 12, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Test Track 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.

TEST TRACK AT EPCOT

By Jim Korkis

The Test Track attraction that replaced the original World of Motion attraction at Epcot officially opened March 1999. Test Track then was closed in 2012 for renovations, and re-opened in December 2012.

The up-to-65 mph speed track of almost a mile in length remained much the same in the 2012 renovation, with the major change being the storyline.

The changes include a pre-ride interactive design center where guests can design their own custom vehicle and a post-show state-of-the-art showroom that features high-tech games. Throughout the ride, guests see how their designs performed in each individual test.

The first version of the Test Track attraction was notorious for its many delays before opening. Among other things, the original wheels and axles on the cars could not handle the speed demands, and the original ride programming system couldn’t handle the number of cars needed for the highest capacity since each car had three on-board computers. Re-setting after a shutdown could take up to an hour. The challenges were eventually resolved and the attraction was one of the first at Disney parks to have a single rider line.

Kevin Rafferty was the Walt Disney Imagineering Senior Show Writer for the original attraction. As a young man, he worked at Disneyland’s Plaza Inn washing dishes. His dream was to be an animator, and he was a week away from an interview with Disney Feature Animation when he saw an opening in the Art Services Department at Walt Disney Imagineering, and his portfolio and prior Disney work experience were enough to get him the job.

Rafferty recalled the creation of the original attraction: “The Test Track attraction isn’t very story dependent. The story is that there are more than 15,000 parts that go into every new GM car and truck and that before they arrive in the showrooms, each and every new part has been tested…and re-tested in labs by technicians and out on test tracks by professional test drivers.

“The attraction story is basically all about this vehicle testing and that you, the guest, get to experience what it’s like to be a test driver.

“My role began from the spark of the idea before we landed on Test Track, when a core group of us were discussing what we could do to refurbish the original World of Motion attraction presented by GM that no longer wanted to sponsor the ride.

“We ran a few of our initial ideas past some GM executives and they challenged us with the thing Imagineers love to hear: ‘What if you guys started from scratch on this? What would you do?’ GM had mentioned to us that their ‘story’ is not only about manufacturing but it’s about testing.

“Then we were faced with ‘How could we make an attraction out of that?’ We immediately began talking about a test track-like ride idea and came up with the concept and logical story.

“GM invited us out on a research trip to several of their proving grounds, including their main test track facility in Milford, Michigan. After spending a day riding with professional test drivers and experiencing the rigors of their daily schedule, including driving over rough roads, braking, road handling and speeding along their four mile speed loop, our idea was validated.

“It was my job to help design and develop a logical scene-by-scene story progression throughout the attraction and then write the plaque copy and scripts for the pre-show ‘lab’ exhibits and videos, the ‘briefing room’ (with actor John Michael Higgins, playing director of operations Bill McKim) and ride narration, as well as pitching the idea’s progression to our management along the way. By the way, this also includes riding the ride a zillion times before opening to test and adjust the show and ride timing.”

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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 Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, and his 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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April 5, 2019   No Comments