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

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Magic Kingdom Skyway

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

MAGIC KINGDOM SKYWAY

By Jim Korkis

While Walt Disney World guests have been enjoying the gondola lift system called the Disney Skyliner since it opened in September 2019, Disney fans like myself who are older than they would like to admit clearly remember another such system that operated in the Magic Kingdom.

The Magic Kingdom Skyway was an opening day attraction at Walt Disney World in 1971 that closed in 1999.

Built by Von Roll of Bern, Switzerland, who had provided similar sky rides for over 100 amusement venues, it offered one-way transportation to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland so it was billed as two separate attractions. No round trips were allowed.

Each colorful, open-aired gondola could hold four adults or roughly 700 pounds. Two guests faced forward and two faced backward as the gondolas lifted up and rocked back and forth on overhead cables for less than five minutes.

The gondolas traveled above the main area of Fantasyland and the crystal clear 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction lagoon while providing a wonderful photo opportunity before the vehicles made a sharp right turn near the Tomorrowland Speedway. The journey continued with the gondolas passing Space Mountain before touching down at the Tomorrowland Station.

Guests could even enjoy distant views of the Contemporary Resort, Splash Mountain, and the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Pinocchio’s Village Haus was designed so that the view looking down from the gondolas mimicked the opening overhead shot of Gepetto’s village from the animated feature.

In February 1999, a park custodian at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was killed when the skyway started up expectedly while he was cleaning one of its platforms. Raymond Barlow, 65, was sweeping off a narrow skyway platform inaccessible to park guests an hour after the park’s 9:00 A.M. opening when other cast members, unaware of his presence, started up the ride.

Barlow, startled by the approaching gondola, grabbed onto it and tried to climb inside and fell forty feet into a flower bed, hitting a tree on the way down, and died. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration later ruled that the area in which Barlow had been working violated federal safety codes and fined Walt Disney World $4,500 for a “serious” violation of safety standards

The last day of operation for the attraction was in November 1999, because the cost of operating and maintaining the attraction was high in relation to its hourly capacity as well as the need to upgrade it for disabled access and structural repairs. There were also increasing concerns about liability with guests rocking the gondolas, spitting and throwing things out of them onto the guests walking below.

“It’s part of our ongoing efforts to phase out some of the older attractions and introduce new things to keep our parks exciting for our new and repeat visitors,” Walt Disney World spokesman Diane Ledder told the media. “It’s just something whose time has come.”

When the Fantasyland Station closed, the pylons and wires were removed from the park, but some of the equipment remained in the building. The Bavarian-style Alpine building that featured a large clock still reflected the village theme of the area. The front area was used for stroller parking.

The station was eventually removed and replaced by the Tangled Restrooms as well as a wider path to Liberty Square.

The Tomorrowland Station was two stories high with a waterfall on one side. When it closed, the top half of the building and the waterfall were eventually removed and a bathroom was installed on the ground floor.

The DisneyStyle store at Disney Springs has a blue Skyway gondola hanging from the ceiling just above the Mad Tea Party teacup photo-op.

*  *  *  *  *

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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August 8, 2020   No Comments

Next Week (August 8 through August 16, 2020) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: AUGUST 8  TO AUGUST 16, 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 8/8-8/16/20

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-7p every day

Epcot will be open from 11a-9p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 10a-8p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 8a-6p every day

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 8/8-8/16/20

There will be no Extra Magic Hours until further notice.

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 8/8-8/16/20

There will be no parades until further notice.

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 8/8-8/16/20

There will be no evening shows until further notice.

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 8/8-8/16/20

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

 

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August 7, 2020   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Walt Disney World Hacks

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 (30)

By Jim Korkis

As Walt Disney World re-opens, the experience will be significantly different than it once was. Those of us who have visited WDW multiple times over the decades have learned certain “tricks” of what to do and what not to do that make the time spent there easier and more enjoyable.

Those “tricks” or “hacks” may no longer work immediately, although some things will remain the same and some things will slowly return to the familiar routine over time. When that happens, this book will still remain helpful even though some of the things may not relate to your particular situation.

It has been quite some time since I have accompanied young children into a park so those “hacks” were meaningless to me other than an opportunity to perhaps share them with friends who have children.

One of the things I especially enjoy about this book is that the “hacks” are not illegal, do not put other guests at a disadvantage, and demonstrate a good deal of common sense. One of the other things I like is that the book is well-organized so that the information is not lost in a clump of text, so it is easy to locate that one thing you may want to find and there is a good index in the back of the book.

While the subtitle of the book claims over 350 “park secrets”, there are actually 429 items each divided into short paragraphs and it may be stretching things a bit to consider most of those things “secrets”. An advantage is that some of the items are identified specifically for new visitors to the vacation destination and some are identified for the seasoned pro who is the Disney expert for their friends and family.

Despite my supposed expertise, there were things I had not known or never thought about like one way to avoid having your melting Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar drip down onto your hand or how to get an autograph from Lady and the Tramp. Sometimes I would read an item and just nod my head as it was something I already use which means that it is something that works consistently.

I was especially impressed with the many references throughout the book to the various ways of thanking cast members including the often forgotten custodial staff. As my dad always told me, “Be kind to everyone because you have no idea what they might be going through” and we often forget some of those visible cast members who are so important in making the magic memorable.

The book is the work of Susan Veness, who is described as “an international travel writer, researcher, online content provider, and itinerary planner specializing in Florida, Disney, Orlando’s theme parks, and cruising.

“She is the author of four books in The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World series, and coauthor of The Brit Guide to Orlando. She has been visiting Walt Disney World since it opened in 1971 and with a home just minutes from the Mouse she continues to tour the parks on a regular basis.”

For regular readers of Dave’s website, many of the items in the book will already be known and probably already used. However, there are enough other “hacks” that may be unknown that make the book a possible purchase. In some cases, it may be a nice reminder of things that have been forgotten to use. If you buy it with adjusted expectations, I think you will enjoy it.

*  *  *  *  *

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.

 

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

 

August 2, 2020   No Comments

Next Week (August 1 through August 9, 2020) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: AUGUST 1  TO AUGUST 9, 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 8/1-8/9/20

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-7p every day

Epcot will be open from 11a-9p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 10a-8p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 8a-6p every day

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 8/1-8/9/20

There will be no Extra Magic Hours until further notice.

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 8/1-8/9/20

There will be no parades until further notice.

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 8/1-8/9/20

There will be no evening shows until further notice.

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 8/1-8/9/20

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

 

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

July 30, 2020   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Dinosaur Jubilee

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

DINOSAUR JUBILEE

By Jim Korkis

DinoLand U.S.A. was supposed to feature a roller coaster similar to Big Thunder Mountain called The Excavator, referencing a left over piece of equipment in a sand and gravel pit.

The Excavator was meant to look like a series of ore cars used to haul up the sand and gravel from the bottom of the pit to dump trucks. The paleontology students who were working in the area had reconfigured the unsafe device that had fallen into disrepair to transport the dinosaur fossils they were finding.

The marketing publicity described it as “a rollicking coaster ride through a section of the dig supposedly too dangerous to enter”. At one point, the ride would have zoomed through the inside of a dinosaur skeleton.

It appeared clearly on the original concept painting of the area. However, it was felt that the Countdown to Extinction (now DINOSAUR) attraction since it re-used existing technology would be easier and less expensive to build, yet still attract guests wanting a thrill ride. So no Excavator.

Added was Dinosaur Jubilee, a quickly produced and relatively inexpensive addition to provide an additional experience for guests. It looked temporary and sparse but it was also one of the few attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that had air conditioning. It disappeared in early spring 2001 to be replaced by Chester and Hester’s Dino-rama.

On Dinosaur Jubilee, the guide map stated, “Meander through dino artifacts – see casts of spectacular real dinosaur skeletons!”

It was located in a large white plastic tent around the corner from the Cretaceous Trail, opposite of Chester and Hester’s shop. It was a museum-like exhibit of fossils and skeleton casts that supposedly represented some of the fictitious Dino Institute’s findings in the area.

In addition, comical guided tours of the displays four times a day by some of the Institute’s grad student interns were offered for about the first year.

The displays, featuring casts supplied by the Black Hills Institute and Triebold Paleontolgoy, included among other prehistoric animals one of the most complete Tyrannosaurs Rex skeletons in existence at the time, two triceratops, a Edmontosaurus, a Pachycephalosaurus, two Tylosaurus with a Pterandon in one of its jaws, and an Archelon.

There was even an elaborate area devoted to the Ice Age. The full skeletons were positioned in poses similiar to what might be found at a Natural History museum, and there were ferns and other plants from the era mixed in with the models.

In 2000, the name of the attraction changed to Dinosaur Jubilee 2000 in honor of the milleunium.  The exhibit added some interactive versions of an audio-animatronics mammoth and a sabre tooth tiger. These creatures were not skeletons, but covered with fur.

As a precursor to the forthcoming Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama, a series of simple carnival style games were setup outside of the Dinosaur Jubilee area.

A giant, rather tacky looking, purple inflatable T-Rex as well a banner at the entrance to Dinoland were put in place to direct more guests to the Jubilee.  The background story to explain these new additions was that the Dino Institute grad students were putting on a carnival in order to raise money.

In December 2000, the exhibit was themed to Christmas with a huge Santa hat on the T-rex skeleton and large candy canes in the Ice Age section.

Dinosaur Jubilee and the Fossil Preparation Lab that also disappeared are still featured on a hand-drawn map of DinoLand featured on one of the bulletin boards in the area. The Triceratops head from the exhibit ended up at the Wilderness Explorers.

*  *  *  *  *

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.

 

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

July 24, 2020   No Comments

Next Week (July 25 through August 2, 2020) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: JULY 25  TO AUGUST 2, 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 7/25-8/2/20

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-7p every day

Epcot will be open from 11a-9p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from 10a-8p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open from 8a-6p every day

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/25-8/2/20

There will be no Extra Magic Hours until further notice.

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/25-8/2/20

There will be no parades until further notice.

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/25-8/2/20

There will be no evening shows until further notice.

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 7/25-8/2/20

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

 

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

July 24, 2020   1 Comment