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 — w. Most Recent Stuff

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: An Epcot Comic Book with Mickey and Goofy

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

MICKEY AND GOOFY EXPLORE THE UNIVERSE OF ENERGY

By Jim Korkis

Mickey Mouse and Goofy certainly were very concerned about energy. Thanks to the Walt Disney Educational Media Company, they were able to satisfy their curiosity and appeared in an unusual early Epcot Center collectible.

Starting in 1945, the Disney Company established an official 16mm film division to rent out its movies to schools and community groups. By the 1960s, the division was making well over a million dollars a year renting films and selling educational filmstrips and related material to schools, and expanded into the Walt Disney Educational Media Company that was especially active during the 1970s and 1980s.

The division produced original material ranging from filmstrips to comic books to kits with audio cassettes and workbooks, to even short new videos on a variety of subjects including Figment for elementary and junior high schools. For instance, WDEM created the thirty-six page full color comic book Mickey Mouse and Goofy Explore Energy (1967) included in its Wide World of Energy multimedia kit made with information assistance from Exxon.

The popularity of that comic and kit led to another comic book Mickey Mouse and Goofy Explore Energy Conservation (1976). Both comic books were written by Carl Fallberg and drawn by Tony Strobl, who were also producing the regular newsstand Disney comic books. Both these comics were available “in limited quantities without charge” from the Exxon Public Affairs Department in Texas, so they are not difficult to locate and obtain at a reasonable price.

When the Universe of Energy pavilion originally opened at Epcot in 1982 it was sponsored by Exxon, who made sure the attraction downplayed the value of alternative forms of energy like wind and solar power.

To help reinforce the proposition that oil was the most important source of energy, and that Exxon should be actively encouraged to develop methods like off-shore drilling to make sure there would be enough, the company partnered with Walt Disney Educational Media to produce the comic book Mickey and Goofy Explore the Universe of Energy (1985).

This comic was illustrated by Jack Manning, another Disney comic book artist, and was sixteen pages long plus covers. For awhile, it was given away free at the Epcot Energy Exchange in Communicore East to children. It could also be obtained for free directly from Exxon.

The cover features Mickey and Goofy standing in front of the pavilion and a pink dinosaur is peeking out and motioning them to come inside. The book itself does not really feature the attraction itself but is just a springboard for Mickey to lecture Goofy on the importance of oil as the primary source of energy.

There is a brief glimpse of the pre-show circular theater screen, the vehicles (where all the males are wearing bow ties and hats as if they had stepped out of a 1950s comic book), a brief encounter with a cartoon brontosaurus and at the end a prompting for guests to go to Exxon’s Energy Exhange to learn more.

The Energy Exchange (which closed in 1994) had dozens of interactive exhibits, videos, models and more on energy. The Video Bicycle allowed guests to pedal a stationary bicycle to generate electricity. A video monitor displayed how much power the guest was generating through their pedaling. (Nine days of pedaling was needed to generate the same amount of energy as one gallon of gasoline.) How many Walt Disney World fans recall that location?

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

 

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December 13, 2019   No Comments

Next Week (December 14 through December 22, 2019) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: DECEMBER 14 TO DECEMBER 22, 2019

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

For more on December 2019 at Disney World, see this.

OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/14-12/22/19

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 8a-12MN 12/14, 8a-6p 12/15, 9a-11p 12/16, 9a-6p 12/7, 9a-10p 12/18, 9a-6p 12/19 and 12/20, 8a-11p 12/21, 8a-6p 12/22

Epcot will be open from  9a-9.30p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 7a-9p 12/14 through 12/219, and 7a-10p 12/20 through 12/22

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 9a-8p 12/14 through 12/21, and 9a-9p 12/22

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/14-12/22/19

  • Saturday 12/14 Morning: Animal Kingdom Evening: none
  • Sunday 12/15  Morning: none  Evening: Hollywood Studios
  • Monday 12/16 Morning: Animal Kingdom  Evening: none
  • Tuesday 12/17 Morning: none Evening: Epcot
  • Wednesday 12/18 Morning:  none Evening: Magic Kingdom
  • Thursday 12/19 Morning: Epcot Evening: none
  • Friday 12/20 Morning:  Magic Kingdom Evening: none
  • Saturday 12/21 Morning:  Animal Kingdom  Evening: none
  • Sunday 12/22 Morning:  none  Evening:Hollywood Studios

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/14-12/22/19

Magic Kingdom: Afternoon parade: 2p every day

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/14-12/22/19

Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom:  9p 12/14, 12/16, 12/18 and 12/21

Epcot Forever at Epcot:  9.30p every night

Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 8p 12/14 and 12/15; 9p 12/16 through 12/21; 9 and 10.30p 12/22

Star Wars Show and Fireworks replaced for holidays by next item

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9p 12/14 through 12/19; 10p 12/20 thorough 12/22

Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 6.30 and 7.45p 12/14 through 12/21; 6.30 and 8p 12/22

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/14-12/22/19

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

 

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December 12, 2019   No Comments

Theming and Villages at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, see this.)

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is themed to Caribbean islands, their beaches, and the pirates who once voyaged among them.

Rooms in the resort are found in five “villages” ringing a lake, each of which has three or six two story, 64 room buildings. All the villages are named after Caribbean destinations: Barbados, Trinidad, Martinique, Aruba, and Jamaica.

Each colorful village has palm-tree lined beaches, and each has its own pool and bus stop. The central Old Port Royale area includes another bus stop and the main pool at the resort, the pirate-themed Fuentes del Morro Pool—the best pool of the Disney World moderate resorts.

All rooms were refurbed in 2014-2015. Pirate rooms (in Trinidad) got a light makeover, retained their full beds, and sleep four.

Rooms in all other villages got a major makeover.  Full beds were replaced with queens, and many rooms now have in addition a fold-down Murphy bed, suitable for a person five feet or shorter, increasing the capacity of these rooms to five.

In all villages you can book water-view rooms (some of the “water” views are of the pools). In all villages except Trinidad, you can book king rooms.  Also in all villages except Trinidad, you can book a room with a third sleeping spot–these rooms previously were reserved for families of five, and any left over were randomly assigned.

You can also book “preferred” rooms in Barbados (and perhaps in Martinique), where for an extra cost you can get a room closer to the central services of Old Port Royale.

There’s much similarity among the villages, but also some key differences, especially in access to the central services of the resort and the new Disney Skyliner.

The Skyliner is a gondola system that connects Caribbean Beach with two parks, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and also with Pop Century and Art of Animation). The Skyliner has two stations at Caribbean Beach, one south between Jamaica and Trinidad that serves all destinations, and another north between Aruba and Martinique that in one direction goes to Epcot and in the other goes to south station.

This part of my review of Caribbean Beach will discuss the villages one by one, starting with Martinique and going clockwise.

Note that in May 2017, the former village Barbados and half of Martinique were leveled.  In October 2018 the village formerly known as Trinidad North inherited the name of the demolished Barbados, while Trinidad South became simply Trinidad.

MARTINIQUE

Martinique is a three building area (it used to have six, but three were leveled in May 2017). The three buildings that remain here have recently been priced as both preferred and regular.

A re-orientation of bus routes in late June 2017 means that park buses pick up and drop off Martinique guests first. Martinique is the furthest of the villages from the main Skyliner station, but in the middle of the villages in its distance from the Riviera station–where you can pick up the Epcot line. Martinique and Aruba are the two villages closest to Riviera and its new dining options.

Beach Martinique Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Each village has a beach.  At Martinique the beach, shown above, is near Old Port Royale.

Pool Martinique Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Each village has a pool–all are similar. Here’s the one at Martinique.

The view from the Martinique area is of the lovely beaches across Barefoot Bay in Aruba…

…and, at the right, the somewhat jarring Riviera building.

Martinique guests will find two bus stops to use–one at Old Port Royale is closer to some rooms especially in building 26, and most other rooms will be closer to the other bus stop.

BARBADOS

Barbados was known until October 2018 as Trinidad North. All buildings here are at “preferred” prices. Because many of its rooms are not far from the central services, dining and pool at Old Port Royale, and also among the closer rooms to the Skyliner, rates are $85-120 per night higher than standard rooms in non-preferred buildings. The other dining venue at Caribbean Beach, the Spyglass Grill in Trinidad, is also fairly close.

It has just three buildings and two beaches, and thus is overall with Martinique the most compact of all the Villages, and is by far the most convenient.

Beach at North End of Trinidad North Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

One of the beaches–near Old Port Royale.

Beach Trinidad North Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The second beach, further south.

Pool Trinidad North Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The pool at Barbados is at the end furthest from Old Port Royal–if this were a six building village, it would be right in the middle. This means all rooms are close to both the main pool and this smaller “quiet” pool.

Buildings here are a brown pink that adults probably call “coral.” We’ll get a better view in the same-color Trinidad material coming next.

The view from Barbados is of the great beach of Jamaica.

The bus stop is in the center and convenient to all rooms. The main Skyliner hub is just across the bridge between Barbados and Trinidad and Jamaica.

TRINIDAD

Up the road–in a dead end–are the six buildings of Trinidad, known until October 2018 as Trinidad South.

In this somewhat inconvenient area of Caribbean Beach, you’ll find the expensive Pirate rooms.

 

Pirate rooms are full bed rooms with special decorations meant to make them nautical and piratical. More on these is here.

Here’s the beach at Trinidad.

Pool Trinidad South Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and here’s the pool.

In March 2018 a new quick-service venue, Spyglass Grill, opened here.

Spyglass Grill provides interesting, though limited, dining options that are much more convenient than what is in Centertown/Old Port Royale.

Trinidad North Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

A better view of the insipid colors it shares with Barbados.

Trinidad is on a separate lobe of Barefoot Bay–Barefoot Bay Bay? The hub station of the Skyliner is just across the bay. On average, both Barbados and Jamaica rooms are closer, but Trinidad is the next closest village to the Skyliner.

The Spyglass Grill and gondola stop make Trinidad a better and less isolated choice than it had been in the past.

The bus stop is in the center of the village.

JAMAICA

Jamaica is my favorite among the Caribbean Beach Villages. Most of its six buildings are near enough to Old Port Royale via the bridge across Caribbean Cay, and those that aren’t are still a reasonable walk via the road bridge and Barbados. Along with Barbados, on average its rooms are closest to the Skyliner among the five villages.

Some southern rooms are close to the new Spyglass Grill in Trinidad, and Jamaica is just north of the Caribbean Beach hub of the Disney Skyliner transportation system to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Jamaica Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Jamaica also has a great color scheme…

Pool Jamaica Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…a pool similar to the rest…

Beach Jamaica Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…a huge, gorgeous beach, and a nice view of Barbados and Old Port Royale.

The bus stop is in the center. It’s the second to last stop.

ARUBA

Aruba is the next best choice after Jamaica for those unwilling to pay for a preferred room.

Aruba Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

It has a so-so color scheme, and its bus stop is at the far end.  Some rooms will be closer to the footbridge to Caribbean Cay and Old Port Royal, others will be closer to the bus stop. The Riviera Skyliner stop to Epcot is close, and the rest of the Skyliner stops are on the other side of Jamaica.

Pool Aruba Village Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

It has the usual pool…

…and a beach second only to Jamaica’s in extent and loveliness.

Aruba View Disney's Caribbean Beach from yourfirstvisit.net

It has a nice view of Martinique and Old Port Royale.

Buses stop here last.

The best overall village, almost regardless of what you are looking for, is Jamaica.

PHOTO TOUR OF A FOUR PERSON QUEEN ROOM AT CARIBBEAN BEACH

This review continues here.

 

PAGES IN THIS REVIEW OF DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

OTHER KEY PAGES FOR WHERE TO STAY AT DISNEY WORLD

 

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December 11, 2019   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Fantasmic!

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 1986 FORT WILDERNESS ALLIGATOR ATTACK

By Jim Korkis

The origins of Fantasmic! go back to September 1990 when Robert McTyre, vice president of Disneyland Entertainment, got a phone call from CEO Michael Eisner.

McTyre recalled, “He said, ‘We don’t have anything big and new and fabulous for Disneyland in 1992 and we need to come up with something’. Basically, it was an interim step to keep interest in Disneyland high before the 1993 addition of Mickey’s Toontown. We got the troops brainstorming and someone suggested a nighttime river spectacular like the IllumiNations show at Epcot.”

Artistic creator and director of the show (and later of the Walt Disney World version as well) was Barnette Ricci, who started as a performer at Disneyland and then became the choreographer for the Kids of the Kingdom performers when they debuted in 1968.

She went on to direct and choreograph the original Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade in 1972, as well as multiple other shows for Disneyland, Walt Disney World and other venues including the 1985 Radio City Music Hall presentation with 82 Disney characters and the Rockettes.

In August 2019, she was made a Disney Legend at the D23 Expo. She retired from the company in 2013 after forty years working in a variety of capacities.

“We were asked to create something spectacular for Disney using the Rivers of America,” Ricci said. “We wanted something truly unique that combined a lot of spectacular effects that people hadn’t seen before and with a story about Mickey Mouse that would really involve people.

“The core for the show was the water screens. It would be unique to project Disney animation onto one of those screens. Mickey Mouse’s imagination creates these images and the audience gets involved with Mickey. We were given only twenty months, far too little time.

“I spent months of research studying all the Disney classics. I wanted to find just the right scenes that could be edited together successfully. One challenge was that the new lyrics had to match the mouth movements of the original animation in which characters were often saying far different lines. Originally the show was going to be called Imagination but Disney found it couldn’t copyright or trademark that word so created its own unique word.

“Particularly challenging were synchronizing the movements of the performers with the computer controlled animation and special effects. It’s timed to the 30th of a second (the number of frames per second of the films being projected) and if things are two frames off, you can tell. They must be exactly on.”

The show was so successful that a second version was developed for Walt Disney World for 1998 with Ricci once again in charge. The Disney animated feature Pocahontas was released in 1995 and was supposed to be a prestige box office hit.

While it was very successful financially, it was still considered a disappointment in comparison to The Lion King (1994) that had been rushed into release to allow the better animators more time to finish Pocahontas.

At the time the WDW version of Fantasmic! was first developed, the expectation was that Pocahontas would be a major success, which influenced the design of the show. An onstage battle scene from the movie has Governor Ratcliffe and his fellow Englishmen fight against the Native Americans. John Smith attempts to help Pocahontas’ tribe.

There are several other significant changes in the Walt Disney World version, including the finale with the boat from Steamboat Willie loaded with Disney characters rather than the Mark Twain steamboat.

The Hollywood Hills Amphitheater stage in Florida is significantly larger than Disneyland’s waterfront version, featuring a man-made, 50-foot-tall mountain as the centerpiece backdrop. The moat around the island itself can hold 1,900,000 gallons of water.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

 

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December 6, 2019   No Comments

Next Week (December 7 through December 15, 2019) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: DECEMBER 7 TO DECEMBER 15, 2019

Update: HS now opens at 7a 12/14 and 12/15, and EMH on 12/15 have moved to the evening.

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

For more on December 2019 at Disney World, see this.

OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/7-12/15/19

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 8a-12MN 12/7, 9a-6p 12/8, 9a-10p 12/9, 9a-6p 12/10, 9a-10p 12/11, 9a-6p 12/12 and 12/13, 8a-12MN 12/14, and 8a-6p 12/15

Epcot will be open from  9a-9.30p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 9a-9p 12/7 and 12/8, 8a-9p 12/9 through 12/14, and 9a-9p 12/15

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 9a-8p 12/7 through 12/9, 9a-6p 12/10 and 12/11, and 9a-8p 12/12 through 12/15

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/7-12/15/19

  • Saturday 12/7 Morning: Animal Kingdom Evening: none
  • Sunday 12/8  Morning: Hollywood Studios  Evening: none
  • Monday 12/9 Morning: Animal Kingdom  Evening: none
  • Tuesday 12/10 Morning: none Evening: Epcot
  • Wednesday 12/11 Morning:  none Evening: Magic Kingdom
  • Thursday 12/12 Morning: Epcot Evening: none
  • Friday 12/13 Morning:  Magic Kingdom Evening: none
  • Saturday 12/14 Morning:  Animal Kingdom  Evening: none
  • Sunday 12/15 Morning:  Hollywood Studios  Evening: none

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/7-12/15/19

The Magic Kingdom: Afternoon parade: 2p every day

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/7-12/15/19

Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom:  9p 12/7, 12/9, 12/11. and 12/14

Epcot Forever at Epcot:  9.30p every night

Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 8p every night

Star Wars Show and Fireworks replaced for holidays by next item

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9p every night

Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 6.30 and 7.45p 12/7 through 12/9 and 12/12 through 12/15

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 12/7-12/15/19

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

 

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December 5, 2019   No Comments

Review: Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a multi-offering area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom accessed by the Wildlife Express Train in Africa. The area closed in October 2018, and despite rumors that it was permanently closing, re-opened in July 2019. New with the re-opening is the opportunity to follow along with a Disney animator and create a drawing of a Disney character.

Here’s the review of the re-opened Rafiki’s Planet Watch from our book, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020:

Until the opening of the Animation Experience, I viewed Rafiki is quite skippable.

The petting zoo, Affection Section, while darling adds little to what you can find in even the smallest zoos.

The Conservation Station can be fascinating to those with an interest in nature…

…and, for the non-squeamish, the times it is actually being used for procedures can be fascinating.

But frankly not many folks come to Disney World to learn—I honor of course those who do, and they can learn a lot from many aspects of the Animal Kingdom.

The Wildlife Express train that you must use to access Rafiki’s Planet Watch is both a feature and a bug.

Train rides are always fun. This one has an odd layout of seats with a blind side to the coaches…

…that hides the fact that much of its route is up one side and back down the other of a service road.

From the train you can see a few backstage areas, especially animal holding areas where the animals of Kilimanjaro Safari stay overnight—but during visiting hours these are largely empty buildings.

There are three locomotives and two train-sets, but most of the time I’ve been at Rafiki, just one train has been operating. This means that with a bit of bad luck you can spend as much as 45 minutes waiting of the train and traveling on it (there’s one station in Africa, and the other at Rafiki’s Planet Watch).

This potential time committed to get to and from the area, when combined with the past slender appeal of its attractions, was my biggest reason why I had classed Rafiki as skippable. If you could simple walk into Rafiki’s Planet Watch and immediately leave if it’s not for you–like Gorilla Falls–then testing its appeal would be fairly costless. But with the train, it’s not.

The new-in-2019 addition of the Animation Experience changes things a bit.

Here you sit in a small amphitheater…

…receive a sheet of paper with some special drawing guidelines…

…and following a Disney animator’s hands on a big screen, draw your character.

It may not turn out all that well…

The whole thing is similar to what we’ve seen in temporary settings elsewhere, but this is the first time (at least that I can recall) that such an experience is available on a regular everyday basis.

FastPass+ is available for the Animation Experience, and it is a good use of a third FastPass+ if you really want to experience it, as it would be unfortunate to make the commitment the train ride involves and find the Animation Experience already full.

I’d still skip this if you are a first time visitor and don’t have a lot of time devoted to the Animal Kingdom. But if you are a returning visitor who is intrigued, or as a first-timer are planning more than one Animal Kingdom day, then Rafiki’s Planet Watch may be worth a visit.

 

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December 2, 2019   No Comments