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


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

Available on Amazon here.

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Category — w. Most Recent Stuff

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Joe Rohde on Changes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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

CHANGES AT DISNEY’s ANIMAL KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

I attended a cast member only presentation with Imagineer Joe Rohde on April 3, 2006 where he addressed some of the changes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

Rohde: “I’m not of the school that believes you build it, you fix it, you pour resin over it, it’s stuck in there forever, nobody touch it, nobody deal with it…that’s dead. You know? That’s like one of those dead scorpions in resin. And I’d rather have the live scorpion, but the live scorpion does things, right? And you have to deal with it alive.

“Some of that stuff is response to operational things. The Big Red thing in Kilimanjaro Safaris was an operational problem. When we opened the park, we had these gorgeous, gorgeous dead animals. There was this eviscerated zebra that lay across the lion exhibit. It was fantastic, and it just looked like it had been torn to shreds…and spread all over the place.

“Its head was over here and its body was here and one leg was over there. It was the drinker, right? So the lions would come down to drink their water out of the thing and it would look like they were eating the dead zebra and it was perfect.

“And there was this dead gazelle in the cheetah exhibit with another drinker that just looked great and they’re made of bronze. They would last a thousand years.

“Then there was Big Red, the dead elephant. Everyone thought they were real dead animals. And so they would get off the thing and go to the operators and go, “You’ve got to do something! There’s a dead animal!” No. You’re trying to unload a vehicle. “Please move on. Go see the gorillas,” you know. “Go buy a Coke. And they’re fine.”

“And thinking they were real pulled guests out of the story structure and into some real world where there’s a real dead animal. The whole poacher scene thing—not the presence of the poachers, which was always there—but the BIG story came from (CEO Michael) Eisner’s desire to ramp that up.

“He took that germ of the story and ramped it up, ramped it up and wanted us to make a big car chase, big thing out of it. Where I’m not necessarily convinced it necessarily needs to occupy that level in the type of ride that that is, and so as it changes and modifies, I think the important thing to continue to have present is the fact that these animals live in a world with us and that our attitudes towards these animals have everything to do with whether they live or die.

“I mean, we put those Discovery boats into Animal Kingdom. I thought they were great. People hated them. Hate, hate, hated these boats. You know…okay, so we took ‘em out, right? A complete failure. A total failure.

“It’s not just bad, it’s gone. They’re gone. The boats are gone, they don’t run any more. The docks sit there. The water’s empty. The boats don’t run. But what we do is continually torture ourselves to go, “Okay, okay…there has to be a way to make this work. There has to be a way to make this work, or to replace it with something that does work.’’ And that is why there is continual change, right?

“Sometimes we think it’s great and the public thinks it sucks. And sometimes you it really is bad and everyone knows it’s bad, and it still got built somehow. You know, I mean all of those things happen. And part of the reason they happen is because it is a necessary cultural by-product of a creative enterprise that it is open to change, open to suggestion, open to variation, open to radical challenges to the status quo.”

*  *  *  *  *

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 9: Halloween Edition, and Hidden Treasures of the Disney Cruise Line.

 

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April 9, 2021   No Comments

Next Week (April 10 through April 18, 2021) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: APRIL 10 TO APRIL 18, 2021

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, parades, and fireworks.

Things are … a little different… as Disney World re-opens.  See this for park previews and key insights.

OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/10-4/18/21

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 8a-9p every day

Epcot will be open from 11a-11p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 9a-8p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 8a-8p every day

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/10-4/18/21

There will be no Extra Magic Hours anymore.  They will be replaced later in the year by a new program.

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/10-4/18/21

There will be no parades until further notice.

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/10-4/18/21

Some brief incidental fireworks may happen at various times at Magic Kingdom.

Otherwise, there will be no evening shows until further notice.

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/10-4/18/21

See Steve Soares’ site here. Click the park names at its top for show schedules.

 

 

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April 8, 2021   No Comments

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Disney’s Caribbean Beach 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 CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

By Jim Korkis

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort opened October 1, 1988 with calypso music and games as the first Disney moderate resort hotel. When the resort opened it was the fifth largest hotel complex in the United States. It was designed by Fugleberg Koch Architects of Winter Park, Florida.

In keeping with the Caribbean theme, the resort is split into five island-themed “villages”: Aruba, Martinique, Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica. These two story buildings blend tranquil pastel walls and white-wood railings. They feature vividly colored metal roofs.

These areas surround the 45 acre lake called Barefoot Bay. A mile-long promenade filled with walking/running trails and small white sandy beaches surround the bay.

In the center of the man-made lake is Caribbean Cay, an island with a playground, picnic area, and lots of lush foliage. Caribbean Cay is connected to the promenade on each side by a footbridge.

Cay (pronounced “key”) refers to a small, low-elevation, sandy island on the surface of a coral reef and comes from the Spanish word “cayo.” It is a popular term for islands in the Caribbean area. Key West was originally called “Cayo Hueso”.

“We’re building a fun experience, a vacation,” said Wing Chao, vice president of the Disney Development Company when the resort opened. “A hotel is an extension of the guest experience. When they leave the Magic Kingdom they can continue their fantasy at their accommodation. We want the theming to be so pervasive that guests feel like they’re walking onto a movie set.”

That movie set was meant to reflect the brightly colored and laid back atmosphere of the Caribbean with references to its history as a haven for pirates. That includes a pirate themed pool area with cannons that shoot water. A pirate-ship-themed playground sits in the middle of a kids’ pool.

Older kids can climb a spiral staircase to the top of a turret for an 82-foot trip down the larger slide and through the fortress wall.

In January 2009, Disney refurbished many rooms in the Trinidad village with a pirate theme that included nautical details and pirate ship-shaped beds. Unique touches in the room include the dresser resembling crates and the mini-fridge fitting inside a barrel.

Until 1997, guests could purchase jewelry called “Plata del” that was handcrafted from 370 year old silver coins salvaged from a Spanish galleon that sank off the cost of Florida in 1622. Each piece of jewelry was struck directly from “Piece of Eight” recovered from the shipwreck site and came with a certificate of authenticity.

The Custom House that served as the resort’s reception building, where guests check in and check out, featured architectural elements like verandahs, handrails, canopies and tile floors that were typical to government buildings of the Caribbean islands.

In 2018, a major refurbishment project resulted in Old Port Royale now acting as “the port of entry” for the resort, where guests can access check-in, concierge services and other resort amenities

The Old Port Royale pool is themed after a Spanish fortress Fuentes del Morro. Port Royale is also a setting for both the movie and the Magic Kingdom theme park attraction “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim!  There’s much more on Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort 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 9: Halloween Edition, and Hidden Treasures of the Disney Cruise Line.

 

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

 

April 2, 2021   No Comments

Next Week (April 3 through April 11, 2021) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: APRIL 3 TO APRIL 11, 2021

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, parades, and fireworks.

Things are … a little different… as Disney World re-opens.  See this for park previews and key insights.

OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/3-4/11/21

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 8a-9p every day

Epcot will be open from 11a-11p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 9a-8p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 8a-8p every day

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/3-4/11/21

There will be no Extra Magic Hours anymore.  They will be replaced later in the year by a new program.

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/3-4/11/21

There will be no parades until further notice.

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/3-4/11/21

Some brief incidental fireworks may happen at various times at Magic Kingdom.

Otherwise, there will be no evening shows until further notice.

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 4/3-4/11/21

See Steve Soares’ site here. Click the park names at its top for show schedules.

 

 

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April 1, 2021   No Comments

Refurbed Rooms at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, see this.)

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort has been undergoing a room refurbishment. Of its six areas, three are done, one (the Grandstand area) is well along, and the last area confirmed for refurb, the Carousel, should be completed by sometime this summer. There’s no official word on a refurb to the sixth area at Saratoga Springs, the Treehouses, which saw a minor set of changes in 2016.

Thanks to COVID stuff, I have not yet had a chance to stay in any of these refurbed rooms, but do have some new floor plans of the refurbished rooms at Saratoga Springs to share, and some simple observations coming from comparing them with the former spaces. More will come after I can stay here.

REFURBISHED STUDIOS AT DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT

Like most other recent Disney World refurbs, Studios at Saratoga Springs have gained a nice wooden-look floor, and the queen bed is now a single mattress on a platform, allowing for storage below it.

As in other recent Disney Vacation Club construction and refurbs, the fold-out sofa bed has been replaced with a fold-down bed, which is more consistently comfortable.

The small table and two chairs that used to be in the corner near the balcony are gone. I don’t see the value of or need for this change, and it seems to diminish the livability of these rooms.

REFURBISHED ONE BEDROOM VILLAS AT DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT

In the Living-Dining-Kitchen area of One (and Two) Bedroom Villas at Saratoga Springs, the major changes are in the living area.

As in Studios, the fold-out sofa bed has been replaced with a fold-down bed, which is more consistently comfortable.

In front of tis fold-down bed is a larger, L-shaped couch with a movable piece that can serve as either a chair or a footstool. This new couch increases the overall seating capacity of this area.

The dresser has been replaced with a fold-down twin sized bed underneath the TV. This adds both capacity and flexibility to sleeping arrangements, and this space can now sleep three, rather than the two it could sleep before. There likely is a net reduction in storage space thanks to the dresser being replaced with this fold-down twin, but I won’t know that for sure, or how much the net change matters, until I investigate this space in person. These (and Studios, and Two Bedroom Villas) have always been among the smallest instances of their given room type among the DVC resorts, and short on closet space, so I am a little suspicious…

The dining table has had two chairs added, and now looks to seat five. These chairs, however, came from the old breakfast bar that used to be between the kitchen and living area and is now gone—perhaps to make room for the fold-down twin bed–so there’s no real net increase in dining seating capacity…and perhaps a reduction in “places to put your plates.”

Wood-look floors replace carpets in this entire area.

The master king bedroom and bath have seen smaller changes, principal among them being losing the desk in the bedroom, and having the spa tub in the bath being replaced with a soaker tub that takes up less space on the long wall, and thus permits a larger sink area. Also gone here is the shuttered viewing space between the bath/sink area and the bedroom area.

REFURBISHED LOCKOFF TWO BEDROOM VILLAS AT DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT

“Lockoff” Two Bedroom Villas combine a One Bedroom Villa and a Studio via a connecting door, so changes to them combine the changes ot the two spaces already discussed. These will now sleep in total nine, but as in the past there’s still not remotely near enough space in the living/dining areas for nine.

REFURBISHED DEDICATED TWO BEDROOM VILLAS AT DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT

“Dedicated” Two Bedroom Villas at Saratoga Springs have a second bedroom that is similar to a Studio, but not identical to it.

For example, it has two queens rather than the queen and fold-down bed of a Studio–and this also loses the sofa. Instead of a mini-kitchen it has a closet, and the closet in the sink area of the Studio is gone, and replaced with a larger double sink. In where in a Studio would be an entry area and exterior door, it has a second closet. There’s no longer a table and chairs in this space.

REFURBISHED GRAND VILLAS AT DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT

Grand Villas see the flooring changes seen elsewhere in the Saratoga Springs refurb. Other changes appear minor.

The fold out couch in the living room is replaced with a fold-down bed.

The breakfast counter is gone from the area between the kitchen and dining room

The master king bedroom has largely the same changes as the king bedroom in One and Two Bedroom Villas.

The two upstairs bedrooms have changes similar to those in the second bedroom of Dedicated Two Bedroom Villas.

I’ll come back to all of these spaces after I’ve had a chance to stay in them!

PHOTO TOUR OF A STUDIO AT DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT

This review continues here

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can book you at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort or anywhere else at Disney World.  Contact her using the form below!

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March 31, 2021   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Boundless Realm by Foxx Nolte

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 (38)

By Jim Korkis

Before I purchased this book, I asked the same question that some of you may be asking: Is there really a need for another book about the Haunted Mansion when both The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic  by Jason Surrell and The Unauthorized Story of Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham already exist?

Both of those books are accurate and insightful explorations into the iconic Disney theme park attraction, and I include them as valuable references on my bookshelves and recommend them.

Admittedly, this new book does not strive to be a definitive primer on the attraction, but rather to focus on a more personal observation of just the Haunted Mansion attraction at Walt Disney World. In fact, the author assumes the reader already knows the basic history and operation of the attraction.

The author is a long-time fan of the attraction, spent some time actually working on the WDW attraction and refreshingly admits that she disliked the tedium involved with the role.

I found Boundless Realm very well written, enjoyable and felt my money was well spent. I’ve always enjoyed the author’s work on her Passport to Dreams Old and New website that she has been operating since 2006, and her different perspective on things.

She has been a true Disney historian in every sense of the phrase for years. I must admit that some of her opinions in Boundless Realm opened my mind to new possibilities to consider.

One argument that particularly intrigued me was that WDW’s Haunted Mansion does not exist in the Hudson River Valley but it is more likely to be on the Atlantic coast near Boston. The discussion of the architecture of a “sea wall” along the river and the revelation that a Columbia Sailing Ship like the one in Disneyland was originally meant to be included, which is why the nearby restaurant was called the Columbia Harbor House, is very convincing.

Because of actually working in the mansion and having the opportunity to personally explore the nooks and crannies, the author comes up with some technical information that does not exist in the other two books, including a lengthy explanation of the moving lights effect in the windows of the mansion. That’s just one of the reasons if you are a Haunted Mansion fan you need to include this book with the other two.

I also liked that while the author intends to confine her discussions just to the WDW Haunted Manion, that when necessary she makes connections to the other Disney theme park Haunted Mansion experiences, and how the effects are created differently there.

The author’s genuine affection for the attraction and her curiosity about why things are they way they are and how they have changed (not always for the better) is evident on every page. She has done her research, and more importantly, has done first hand original research. I especially appreciated her making historical connections to sources like films and the Pretzel Amusement Company.

Boundless Realm is over three hundred pages long and has five appendices as well as fourteen pages of additional notes, so that it is overflowing with information. The book also includes many black-and-white illustrations and photos.

This is her first book and without hesitation I would buy any other book she chooses to write in the future.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his two new books,  Vault of Walt Volume 9: Halloween Edition, and Hidden Treasures of the Disney Cruise Line.

 

 

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

 

March 26, 2021   No Comments