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.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)





Category — w. Most Recent Stuff

Next Week (October 31 through November 8, 2020) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: OCTOBER 31 TO NOVEMBER 8, 2020

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, Extra Magic 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 10/31-11/8/20

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-9p 10/31, 9a-8p 11/1, 9a-6p 11/2 through 11/5, and 9a-9p 11/6 through 11/8

Epcot will be open from 11a-10p 10/31, 11a-9p 11/1, 11a to 8p 11/2 through 11/5, and 11a t0 10p 11/6 through 11/8

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 10a-7p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 7a-6p 10/31, 8a-6p 11/1, 9a-5p 11/2 through 11/5, and 8a-7p 11/6 through 11/8

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/31-11/8/20

There will be no Extra Magic Hours until further notice.

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/31-11/8/20

There will be no parades until further notice.

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/31-11/8/20

There will be no evening shows until further notice.

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/17-10/25/20

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

 

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October 29, 2020   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Washington Irving in Walt Disney 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.

WASHINGTON IRVING IN WALT DISNEY WORLD

By Jim Korkis

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a short story by American writer Washington Irving that was first published in 1820. It tells the timeless tale of schoolteacher Ichabod Crane’s memorable encounter with a Headless Horseman who rides on Halloween night looking for a head to replace the one he lost to a flying cannonball. Irving is actually buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

When The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949) was first run on the weekly Disney television show on October 26th, 1955, to fill out the hour, a new fourteen minute animated segment about the life of author Washington Irving was included.

The new prologue told about Irving’s life and adventures as a child in Manhattan, New York, which included visiting old and abandoned houses that were said to be haunted, and even visiting Sleepy Hollow itself. The prologue also shows Irving’s time as a writer and his trips to different countries of Europe. This animated prologue has unfortunately never been released on any form of home media.

(c) Disney

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow seemed a natural fit for Liberty Square at Walt Disney World, especially since the Haunted Mansion was not in New Orleans as at Disneyland but now resided in the Hudson River Valley which was the location for Irving’s story. The architecture of the mansion reflects that location and time period.

When Liberty Square was being built at the Magic Kingdom in 1970, Imagineer Tony Baxter pitched the idea of a dark ride based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to help the transition of the intersection from Fantasyland to Liberty Square. Guests would have ridden in hollowed-out spinning jack-o-lanterns through a variety of scenes from the story until the final dramatic confrontation with the headless horseman.

However the area set aside for that attraction was used for the Yankee Trader shop that eventually became what is today the Memento Mori (“Remember that you will die”) shop opposite the Columbia Harbour House.

The exterior architecture of the Sleepy Hollow food and beverage location at the entrance to Liberty Square is based on the tiny, two-room cottage that writer Irving purchased on ten acres along the banks of the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York.

Irving spent many years remodeling and expanding the cottage, combining elements of colonial New York architecture and buildings he knew in Scotland and Spain. He named it Sunnyside in 1841, and history shows that it was usually busy with lots of friends and family.

The Sleepy Hollow food and beverage location in Walt Disney World offers a souvenir plastic stein with the image of Ichabod on one side and the Headless Horseman on the other.

When the shop building opposite the Hall of Presidents was converted and reopened February 1996 as Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, one of the new stores was devoted to music.

Outside the music shop was a sign stating “Music & Voice Lessons by appointment, Ichabod Crane, Instructor”, a profession that Ichabod did to earn some additional money from his regular teaching assignment.

The spooky Headless Horseman rides from Frontierland to Main Street U.S.A. in advance of each performance of Mickey’s “Boo To You” Halloween Parade as part of the separately ticketed Mickey’s Not-So Scary Halloween Party.

Over the decades, the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground has offered several different experiences where guests can have an encounter with the Headless Horseman during the Halloween season.

So images from Irving’s most famous short story are in evidence throughout Liberty Square, and elsewhere in Walt Disney World, for those who care to take the time to look.

*  *  *  *  *

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

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

 

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October 23, 2020   No Comments

Next Week (October 24 through November 1, 2020) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: OCTOBER 24 TO NOVEMBER 1, 2020

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, Extra Magic 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 10/24-11/1/20

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-8p 10/24 and 10/25, 9a-6p 10/26 through 10/29, 9a-8p 10/30, 9a-9p 10/31, and 9a-8p 11/1

Epcot will be open from 11a-9p 10/24 and 10/25, 11a to 7p 10/26 through 10/29, 11a-9p 10/30, 11a t0 10p 10/31, and 11a-9p 11/1

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 10a-7p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 8a-6p 10/24 and 10/25, 9a-5p 10/26 through 10/29, 8a-6p 10/30, 7a-6p 10/31, and 8a-6p 11/1

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/24-11/1/20

There will be no Extra Magic Hours until further notice.

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/24-11/1/20

There will be no parades until further notice.

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/24-11/1/20

There will be no evening shows until further notice.

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/17-10/25/20

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

 

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October 22, 2020   3 Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Who Was Master Gracey?

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

WHO WAS MASTER GRACEY?

By Jim Korkis

Yale Gracey was called an “Illusioner” in the days before the term “Imagineer” was officially coined. Many of the more prominent special effects in the Haunted Mansion were the work of Gracey.

Today, if his name is known at all, it is because it is mistakenly believed that “Master Gracey” was the master of the haunted house—thanks to a tombstone in the outside graveyard written by Imagineeer X. Atencio, show writer for the attraction, that declares: “Master Gracey, laid to rest, no mourning please, at his request.”

As X. Atencio has continually pointed out including to me when I talked with him, at the turn of the century, the term “master” meant a boy too young to be called “mister.” There are many examples in literature including “Master Lord Fauntleroy.”

Atencio was trying to offer a tribute to his friend, the boyish Yale Gracey, not make him the owner and master of the house. He was also trying to honor Gracey’s many contributions to the Haunted Mnasion project, especially the fact that his boyhood fondness for magic resulted in some of the illusions in the attraction.

Yale Gracey joined the Disney Studios in 1939 as a layout artist working on Pinocchio and then later animated features including Fantasia. He continued to work on Disney animated films, including doing layouts and backgrounds on most of the Donald Duck shorts directed by Jack Hannah.

Walt Disney had noticed Gracey spending time during his lunch hours with making little gadgets and illusions. Walt was so impressed that Gracey was given a pair of rooms to develop new effects for Disneyland attractions.

Gracey was teamed up with Rolly Crump around 1959 and the two worked on several projects together including early concept work for the Haunted Mansion.

The famous ghosts in the ballroom scene of the Haunted Mansion owe their magic not to holographic projections or, as Imagineer Tony Baxter loves to quip “real ghosts,” but to the “Pepper’s Ghost” illusion that was refined by magician Henry Pepper in 1862 for his stage act. Gracey first encountered this amazing yet simple illusion in his copy of the book The Boy Mechanic, Volume 1, page 52, from 1913.

To demonstrate the effect and how it worked for Walt Disney, Gracey built a working miniature model. It was a box about three feet square. There was a slot at the top of the front side where a viewer could look. Pushing a button the lights come on and the ghosts sweep through the scale model. The model is now housed at the Magic Castle in Southern California.

Gracey built another model of a skeleton ghost playing a pipe organ using the Pepper’s Ghost illusion that was showcased on the Disneyland 10th Anniversary January 3,1965 episode of the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

Yale Gracey experimented with using film of Hans Conried’s talking head from the Magic Mirror on the 1956 Disney television show episode Our Unsung Villains and projecting it on a bust of Beethoven. While it didn’t sync exactly, it appeared as if the bust came to life and began talking and encouraged Gracey to develop it even further into the four singing busts in the graveyard.

Imagineer Rock Hall told me in a 2010 interview: “He always said that the best effects were simple effects like finding out that a sculpted face when vacuum formed and viewed from the back seems to follow you. This was an accidental development that Yale discovered and ended up using in the hallway at the Haunted Mansion.”

Yale Gracey was the master of creating things that had never been created before like the fireflies in Disneyland’s Blue Bayou and the fire scene in Pirates of the Caribbean that was so realistic that the fire department insisted it be toned down and have a shut-off switch in case a real fire ever broke out building. It is a shame he is not better known for his many contributions to the Disney theme parks.

*  *  *  *  *

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

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

 

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

 

October 16, 2020   No Comments

Next Week (October 17 through October 25, 2020) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: OCTOBER 17 TO OCTOBER 25, 2020

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, Extra Magic 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 10/17-10/25/20

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-8p 10/17 and 10/18, 9a-6p 10/19 through 10/22, and 9a-8p 10/23 through 10/25

Epcot will be open from 11a-9p 10/17 and 10/18, 11a to 7p 10/19 through 10/22, and 11a-9p 10/23 through 10/25

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 10a-7p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 8a-6p 10/17 and 10/18, 9a-5p 10/19 through 10/22, and 8a-6p 10/23 through 10/25

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/17-10/25/20

There will be no Extra Magic Hours until further notice.

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/17-10/25/20

There will be no parades until further notice.

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/17-10/25/20

There will be no evening shows until further notice.

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 10/17-10/25/20

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

 

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October 15, 2020   No Comments

Theming and Accommodations at Disney’s Old Key West Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Old Key West Resort, see this.)

THEMING AND ACCOMMODATIONS AT DISNEY’S OLD KEY WEST RESORT

Disney’s Old Key West Resort is one of many Disney Vacation Club options at Walt Disney World. These resorts are available not only to DVC members, but also to everyone else, just like any other Disney World offering, through the regular Walt Disney World website or resort reservations phone number at 407-939-7675.

Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can also book them for you. See the form near the bottom of this page for how to contact her.

The DVC resorts like Old Key West also are sometimes available to the general public at a discount through renting points from a Disney Vacation Club member or point broker. Check, however, the cancellation terms of such a rental very carefully.

Because the two sets of options at the Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Saratoga Springs are so different, for review purposes I count thirteen options among the Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World.

The overall ranking among them for first time family visitors is as follows:

  1. Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows (studios only)
  2. Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  3. Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  4. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Jambo House
  5. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Kidani Village
  6. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  7. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  8. Disney’s Riviera Resort
  9. Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  10. Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  11. Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  12. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, main resort
  13. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, Treehouse Villas

The next DVC offering to open perhaps will be Reflections, located on grounds that were formerly part of Fort Wilderness, although COVID-19 has created uncertainty about this.

Disney’s Old Key West Resort comes in near the bottom based on my criteria of kid appeal and transportation convenience.  That said, its One and Two Bedroom Villas in buildings numbered 30 and higher have a lot going for them, and the theming can be quite appealing to adults.

THE THEMING OF DISNEY’S OLD KEY WEST RESORT

At Disney’s Old Key West Resort, according to Disney’s website, you will

“experience the romance of the Florida Keys at this tranquil community of Conch Flats—a sprawling island hamlet with shimmering waterways, swaying palm trees and manicured golf-course fairways. Delight in sun-soaked pools, casual dining and such amenities as fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes. A peaceful tropical paradise, Disney’s Old Key West Resort is also just a boat ride away from the excitement of Disney Springs.”

This is mostly true–Disney’s Old Key West Resort is tranquil, sprawling, and does feature absolutely lovely landscaping and views.

But other than some names, some menu items, and the pool lighthouse, it has absolutely nothing to do with, nor is it at all reminiscent of, Key West, young or old. The original name of this property was “The Disney Vacation Club Resort,” a name which went away after there was more than one of these.  The changes that map to the Old Key West name are slender.

ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS AT DISNEY’S OLD KEY WEST RESORT

All Disney Vacation Club resorts except the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows have studio rooms, One Bedroom Villas, and Two Bedroom Villas.

Most have Grand Villas as well.

Old Key West has all four types, with a couple of significant variants among the One Bedroom Villas, and no less than four variants among the Two Bedroom Villas.

At Old Key West, Studios sleep 4 and include a kitchenette with a microwave and a mini-fridge. Most DVC Studios come with a queen and a fold-out sofa or a fold-down bed behind the sofa; at Old Key West, all have two queens. Most will find two queens more comfortable to sleep on; many will miss the living flexibility created by the couch that you will find in other studios in place of the second queen.

They are the third largest Studios at Disney World, with only those at Riviera and the Polynesian larger. However, there is–other than the two queens–nothing special about these studios. In particular the extra interior space compared to many other DVC studios does not translate into any extra livability.

See this page of this review for multiple photos of a Studio/second bedroom of a Two-Bedroom Villa.

Old Key West One-Bedroom Villas come in two types. The more common type, shown above, includes a doorway from the laundry room into the full bath. This type is found in all buildings numbered greater than 29.

The second type, in buildings 11-29, has no such door. Its absent presence is marked by the red circle.

What this means is that folks not in the master bedroom must walk into the master bedroom, and then past the soaker tub, in order to access the full bath.

Your family likely is quite different than mine; in mine, this would be a problem. One Bedroom Villas in buildings 30 and higher don’t have this problem, as the door through the laundry room avoids the master bedroom and soaker tub areas.

All Old Key West One Bedroom Villas of either bath access type sleep 5, including three on fold-out beds in a full kitchen/dining/living space. The living/kitchen/dining area of One and Two Bedroom Villas at Old Key West is by far the most livable and homelike among the DVC resorts. I’ll comment more on this when we get to Two Bedroom Villas, below.

They also have large porch or balcony, and a separate master bedroom.

See this for more images of the master bedroom, and this for more images of the combined kitchen/living/dining space.

Two-Bedroom Villas add a second four-person bedroom to the amenities of a One-Bedroom, and sleep 9. This second bedroom may be a simply a Studio accessed through a connecting door, in which case it is called a “lockoff”–shown above–or it may be part of an integrated design, in which case it is called a “dedicated” Two Bedroom Villa, the floor plan for which is shown below.

Dedicated Two Bedrooms differ from lock-off Studios in three ways:

  • They don’t have a patio or balcony off the second bedroom
  • They don’t have a separate entry to outside, putting a second closet here instead
  • They don’t have the microwave or minifridge outside their bath

In each case, the full bath by the master bedroom may or may not have the door through the laundry room. As with One Bedroom Villas, buildings numbered 30 and higher have it, and those lower than thirty don’t.

Both One and Two Bedroom Villas have much more livable living/dining/kitchen spaces than most such villas at other DVC resorts. For example, the living area comfortably seats six on the couch, love seat, and easy chair…

…and the dining table comfortably seats four, and you can either seat four more on the balcony table or grab a couple of chairs from it and squeeze in six at this table.

Neither of these matches the nine person capacity of a Two Bedroom Villa, but you will find plenty of DVC One and Two Bedroom Villas where the living room seats only three or four, and the dining table as few as two.

See this for more images of the kitchen/living/dining space in both One and Two Bedroom Villas at Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

Grand Villas at Old Key West sleep 12 in almost twice the space of a Two-Bedroom Villa, in three bedrooms plus sleeper sofas. At Old Key West, Grand Villas are two-story spaces.

Grand Villas hold three more people in space almost twice as big as the 9-person Two-Bedroom Villas. The extra space downstairs comes from doubling the already commodious size of the kitchen/dining/living area, and moving the second bedroom to the upper level–where it is joined by a third bedroom, also sleeping four.

These spaces are also about twice as expensive as Two-Bedroom Villas…

That said, from a floor plan point of view, many other DVC Grand Villas are more livable. Most don’t waste the space of the two story living room, and many have more seating options in their living areas.  The virtues of Grand Villas at Disney’s Old Key West Resort appear to be price and availability–there’s more than two dozen of them–not livability.

(To each of the capacity figures above, you can add one more kid under 3 at time of check in who sleeps in a crib.)

STUDIOS/SECOND BEDROOMS AT DISNEY’S OLD KEY WEST RESORT

This review continues here.

 

MATERIAL IN THIS REVIEW OF DISNEY’S OLD KEY WEST RESORT

 

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October 12, 2020   No Comments