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.

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Category — w. Most Recent Stuff

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Ghosts of 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.

THE GHOSTS OF WALT DISNEY WORLD

By Jim Korkis

Reportedly at Walt Disney World, a young boy rides in a doombuggy in the Haunted Mansion and leans out to smile at the riders behind him. However, when cast or guests try to locate him, he cannot be found.

WDW’s Pirates of the Caribbean is supposedly home to a construction worker named George who died in the attraction. Cast members say “good morning” and “good night” to him over the PA system each day to prevent him from causing mischief. If they don’t, the ride has been claimed to stop unexpectedly at times or have problems with lighting.

Some even claim that a smiling Roy O. Disney has been seen walking down WDW’s Main Street.

These are just a few of the many ghost stories that have been reported and we all know that at a Disney theme park anything is possible.

Of course, we also know that there are 999 happy haunts in the Haunted Mansion, but few guests who ride the attraction realize that briefly they become one themselves.

In 1957, Disney Legend Anderson developed four story concepts for the Haunted Mansion, all of which feature elements reflected in the final version of the attraction that was eventually opened at Disneyland on August 9, 1969.

According to Anderson’s best known storyline, a well-known and feared pirate captain quietly retired to private life in a seaside community, like the famed Captain Henry Morgan. He changed his name and used some of his ill-gotten booty to establish himself as a respected and prosperous man. To make his life even more complete, he chose a lucky eighteen-year-old to be his bride and bear him many children.

The only restriction he gave her was to stay out of the attic of their magnificent mansion. The curious girl couldn’t resist and, on their wedding day before the ceremony, but dressed in her wedding gown, she snuck up into the cluttered attic and found a locked trunk that she forced open.

Inside the trunk were souvenirs and documents from the man’s previous life. The pirate captain caught her in the attic and, enraged that his secret might be revealed to the community by this foolish girl, he tossed her out the window to her death.

In the Haunted Mansion attraction that was finally built, guests actually relive this experience of being tossed out the window. Next time, look to your right as you leave the attic through the window and you will see that the shingles on the roof of the mansion do not match the ones on the outside of the mansions at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Like a medium, you have become the girl and see what she saw, including the house from which she fell to her death.

That’s also the reason you are falling backward as you drop down just as she did. The caretaker at the bottom is not scared by the graveyard but by you since you are now the final ghost to enter it so that there will be a 1,000 happy haunts. He is looking at you and shaking not the graveyard filled with ghosts.

The girl’s ghost haunted her fiancé so mercilessly that the only way he could find peace was by hanging himself. However, their passions were so intense that their spirits were bound to the mansion for all eternity. Their continuing struggle, even after death, attracted other ghosts, including some who came to celebrate a wedding that will never be held.

Now with the changes to the attic story where Constance Hathaway dispatched her wealthy husbands with an axe, that original storyline has been changed significantly.

*  *  *  *  *

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 30, 2020   No Comments

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 10/31-11/8/20

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.

 

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

 

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.

 

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

October 15, 2020   No Comments