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

Next Week (May 2 through May 10, 2020) at Walt Disney World

The parks and hotels are closed until further notice.

My best guess today–and it’s just a guess, and just for today–is that the earliest we might see partial operation of the parks (along the lines noted towards the end of this post) is Monday June 1–which is also when (as of now) Disney is accepting bookings.

 

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April 29, 2020   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Marc Davis In His Own Words

YOUR PERSONAL DISNEY LIBRARY (28)

By Jim Korkis

Disney related books are getting more and more expensive, with several costing over a hundred dollars each. For those of us on a very limited discretionary budget for such purchases, the question is always whether such a book could possibly be worth the cost even with a discount on Amazon. My personal opinion is that this book is.

Marc Davis In His Own Words is a massive two volume set that totals 750 pages at the large size of 11 x 2.7 x 12.5 inches. Previous books that included Davis focused on his work in animation as one of Disney’s fabled Nine Old Men. For instance, I also have in my library Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man (2014) that showcases some of his amazing art work on characters ranging from Princess Aurora to Tinker Bell to Maleficient and Cruella De Vil.

What makes this book unique is that other than a brief introductory chapter on the animation done by Davis, it focuses completely on his work in WED/Imagineering for the Disney theme parks worldwide.

Although Davis had designed the Chicken of the Sea mermaid figurehead for the pirate ship in Fantasyland that opened in 1955 (since a desperate Walt pulled from his animation crew to do work on the park before it opened), it was not until late 1960 that Davis was officially pulled out of animation and into WED where Walt Disney wanted him to “plus” the Jungle Cruise attraction. It was the start of a career that saw Davis making major contributions to such attractions as the Pirates of the Caribbean, Country Bear Jamboree and Haunted Mansion, among others.

Marc Davis In His Own Words overflows with beautiful artwork done by Davis from all of those attractions and many more including some proposals that never developed like Thunder Mesa and The Enchanted Snow Palace in large, colorful images.

The two authors spent five years researching and designing the book because they didn’t just want to include art that has never before been shared but they wanted the text to be in Davis’ “own words” so they had to search hundreds of interviews done by Davis over the decades. In addition, there are short supplemental quotations from those who worked with Davis to add some insight into the artwork.

The authors are both highly talented and beloved in addition to being internationally recognized as authorities in Disney history. Pete Docter is perhaps best known as a director for Pixar animated features like my favorite, Monsters Inc., as well as winning Oscars for Inside Out and Up along with many, many other awards and nominations.

Christopher Merritt has a background as an art director and production designer for theme parks worldwide and is currently an Imagineer. He is the author of two of the favorite books in my personal library: Knott’s Preserved (2010) and Pacific Ocean Park: The Rise and Fall of Los Angeles’ Space Age Nautical Pleasure Pier (2014).

When Merritt contacted me for permission to use my interviews with Marc Davis, I did not hesitate for even a second. I was not compensated in any way (eg. no free copy of the book) although my name does appear in the acknowledgements along with dozens of others. Just having that small appearance in this magnificent book is pretty gratifying.

My advice is to save your pennies and keep looking for discounts. Just before the Christmas holidays, the book was listed on Amazon for only seventy dollars which is still pricey, but a great value.

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Thanks, Jim! As you note, Marc Davis In His Own Words is quite expensive–but if you can afford it, the value is there.  The only more expensive book in my Disney Library is The Walt Disney Film Archives. The Animated Movies 1921–1968, which I actually bought twice, giving one as a thank-you gift to Josh for putting up with me…

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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April 24, 2020   No Comments

The Pools at Disney’s Riviera Resort

REVIEW: THE POOLS AT DISNEY’S RIVIERA RESORT

Disney’s Riviera Resort has two pools, the Beau Soleil Pool aimed at adults, and the Riviera Pool that families will like best.

Separating them is an activity lawn with games, and both are close to the quick service Primo Piatto and a poolside bar, Bar Riva. Other amenities are just outside the Rivera Pool, including a movie lawn that adds games during daylight, a fire pit, and a beach.

Among them you’ll find pretty much any pool-related amenity you are looking for, but you won’t find much theming, which is my only complaint. This set of pools and amenities could have been at any high-end hotel.  Surely with a Riviera theme something more beachy could have been designed at the family Riviera Pool?

THE RIVIERA POOL AT DISNEY’S RIVIERA RESORT

The Riviera Pool is the larger and more fun of the two pools at Rivera.

Join me on a walking around the Riviera Pool. It includes a zero entry area. (There’s much more pool to the left of this image than the angles suggest.)

A lift chair–the tower in the background incorporates the pool slide, which we will get to.

The zero entry area from the other side of the pool.

The long side of the pool.

The pool slide.

A closer view of the slide.

The long side of the pool from the slide side.

The area between the tower and the zero-entry part of the pool, looking towards the Skyliner and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

There’s also a hot tub here (another one is at the Beau Soleil pool).

Back behind the tower is a separate space with a great kid’s water play area. Themed to Hannibal’s Crossing of the Alps, it includes a spilling water bucket at the top, and in the center right of the image, a water cannon.

Here from the other side you can see the two slides in this area, plus play fountains.

Other play opportunities are both inside and near the Riviera Pool. This cornhole set up is inside the pool fences. I’ll get to some other play opportunities down the page.

A Gelato cart was available during both of my stays at Riviera, but was not always open.

There’s a lot of varied seating options at the Riviera Pool. Note the couches and shaded tables.

Plenty of standard pool chairs are available too.

Here’s the Riviera Pool at night.

THE BEAU SOLEIL POOL AT DISNEY’S RIVIERA RESORT

The Beau Soleil pool at Disney’s Riviera Resort is much less interesting than the Riviera Pool. This is intentional, as it makes it operate a bit more like a quieter adult pool.

On the other hand, its typically longer hours–during my stays, the Beau Soleil pool was open from 7a to 11p, while the Riviera Pool was open from 10a-8p–mean that it may be filled with kids in the evening.

The Beau Soleil pool is essentially a featureless near-rectangle surrounded by seating.

It does have a hot tub…

…and some nice seating options besides lounge chairs.

THE ACTIVITY LAWN AND OTHER NEARBY AMENITIES AT DISNEY’S RIVIERA RESORT

Between the two pools are an “Activity Lawn” and a bocce ball court. These are in the red oval above.

The Activity Lawn is sometimes set up for games…

…and has a permanent outdoor chessboard.

The bocce ball court saw much action during my stay.

Between the Riviera Pool and the water are a fire pit for s’mores and a Movie Lawn–both circled in gold above.

Movies are shown in the evening at the Movie Lawn–check your activity guide for shows and times.

During the daytime, various play events happen here, also on a schedule.  Above is “Foot Snooker.”

Both pools are very close to the counter service offering, Primo Piatto, and the pool bar, Bar Riva (above).  A refillable mug station is outside and to the right of Bar Riva.

Poolside service is also available.  The poolside menu from my visit is above. The Primo Piatto menu is here, and the Bar Riva menu is here.

Finally, although it is not on the resort map, it is worth noting that there is a beach along Barefoot Bay.  Walk past Riviera Pool on the kid’s water play area side to find it. You cannot swim in or even enter the water, but you can play in the sand or lounge on the beach chairs.

 

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April 21, 2020   No Comments

Next Week (April 18 through April 26, 2020) at Walt Disney World

The parks and hotels are closed until further notice.

My best guess today–and it’s just a guess, and just for today–is that the earliest we might see partial operation of the parks (along the lines noted towards the end of this post) is Monday May 4, with later than that much more likely.  On April 9, Universal announced its close would extend through May 31, so Monday June 1–which is also when (as of now) Disney is accepting bookings–would be a good guess.

 

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April 17, 2020   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Lost Disney-MGM Studios Comic Book Story

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 STARSTRUCK DUCK

By Jim Korkis

Donald and Mickey: The Magic Kingdom Collection (Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories), published by IDW in 2017,  is a collection of seven Disney comic book stories drawn from various sources (including some foreign publications) over the last 60 years that have the Disney cartoon characters exploring Disneyland.

Between 1955 and 1960 Dell produced ten giant-sized twenty-five cent Disneyland comic books containing over ninety pages each of new, original content in each issue. The 10 giant-sized issues were Donald Duck in Disneyland No. 1 (1955), Mickey Mouse in Frontierland No. 1 (1956), Mickey Mouse in Fantasyland No. 1 (1957), Uncle Scrooge Goes to Disneyland No. 1 (1957), Walt Disney’s Christmas in Disneyland No. 1 (1957), Donald and Mickey in Disneyland No. 1 (1958), Walt Disney’s Vacation in Disneyland No. 1 (1958), Disneyland Birthday Party No. 1 (1958), Walt Disney’s Vacation in Disneyland Dell Four Color 1025 (1959, only 36 pages), Walt Disney’s Disneyland U.S.A. (1960).

However, Walt Disney World never received the same attention (unless you count the 1985 Exxon giveaway Mickey Mouse and Goofy Explore the Universe of Energy) except for one issue of Walt Disney Comics Digest, #32.

Walt Disney Comics Digest #32 is the only comic book ever published that has the Disney characters exploring the newly opened Magic Kingdom in Florida, and is 160 pages long.

For that collection of reprinted stories (some of which are actually from Disneyland), there is a new opening splash page drawn by well-known Disney comics artist Tony Strobl (with the realistic backgrounds most likely done by artist Dan Spiegle who drew some of the more realistic live action Disney comic book adaptations).

However, there were also two original stories included in the issue. One featured Scrooge McDuck going back to the Main Street of his youth, drawn by Disney comics artist Pete Alvarado.

Alvarado also drew a nineteen page Frontierland story where Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck go to enjoy the Country Bear Jamboree except three of the bears (Ernest, Big Al and Teddi Barra) have disappeared and must be found for the show to go on. This is the only comic book appearance of these beloved audio-animatronics characters.

I recently discovered there was yet another comic book story, this time about Donald Duck and his nephews trying to get Mickey Mouse’s autograph at the newly opened Disney-MGM Studios that was written and drawn by Don Rosa (to help promote the park) but never published. It was done in 1989.

The story opens with Donald and his nephews in the car driving past the Mickey-eared water tower at the new park. Huey exclaims: “Wow! What a great Florida vacation this is! Disneyworld is the neatest place on earth!” Dewey replies: “I can’t decide which was more fun…the Magic Kingdom or Epcot Center!” Donald interrupts by saying: “Today, we visit Disneyworld’s brand new Third theme park. The Disney-MGM Studios! It just opened!”

Fortunately, Rosa’s complete pencilled script for “The Starstruck Duck” was printed in Walt Disney Treasury: Donald Duck Volume 1 (KaBoom 2011), but I bet few if any WDW fans like myself knew it even existed.

Donald and the nephews visit the Sid Cahuenga One-of-a-Kind shop that also figures into the finale of the story. Donald runs around both onstage and backstage trying to find Mickey. He gets set on fire in Catastrophe Canyon, knocks over the forced perspective scenery on New York Street, tosses out free ice cream bars from the top of Gertie’s head, destroys the ships in the backstage tram tour show (“This isn’t a Duckzilla movie! Grab that guy!”) and more.

Amusingly the stunt show is the traditional cowboy saloon fight done at amusement parks rather than the Indiana Jones show.

For WDW or Don Rosa fans, this is definitely an interesting oddity worth tracking down to add to your collection.

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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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April 17, 2020   2 Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Eastern Winds

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 EASTERN WINDS

By Jim Korkis

When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, it was planned that the principal means of travel from the parking center and main entrance to and from the theme park and hotels would be aboard the Walt Disney World-Alweg Monorail trains. However, during that opening month, only four monorails were operating and could not handle the capacity crowds.

Emergency trams that frequently broke down were immediately put into service to transport guests from the parking lot to the entrance as well as any water craft available, including the keel boats from Frontierland, to ferry guests across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the main entrance.

That included calling into service two specially built temperamental side-wheeler steamboats, “The Southern Seas” and the “Ports-O-Call” that had been built for leisurely Moonlight Cruises through the waterways or special evening charter parties.

When the Magic Kingdom closed for the night, there wasn’t much for adults to do other than the Top of the World musical show on the top floor of the Contemporary. The plan was to have some watercraft for adult evening cruises to offer guests who still wanted to do something on property. Probably the most significant such water vehicle was The Eastern Winds.

The Eastern Winds, a cocktail lounge aboard an authentic 65-foot Chinese Junk, was docked at the Polynesian Resort from 1971 to 1978. It was available for charters, and took a crew of two to operate: a pilot and a deckhand.

The ship included a galley on board for dining as well as a full wet bar. Often during charters, the crew would also include a chef, a server, a bartender as well as a cocktail waitress. The large wheel was located in the stern of the 50,000-pound boat and took 22 turns from lock to lock.

It was built in Hong Kong in 1964, and was later purchased by a Texas oil baron. Football legend Joe Namath owned it at one time as well.

As Sully Sullivan, who helped open WDW in 1971, told me, “There was a real Chinese junk out there in the lagoon and people could rent that boat and take it out for parties. I remember one of the problems was the Disney art directors wanted to paint it, but the wood was teak. You can’t paint teak because then it can’t breathe and the whole thing just rotted. It just stunk to high heavens.

“Pete Crimmings bought that boat down in Miami somewhere, I think. It was somebody’s personal playhouse and there was just a big mattress on the top deck. We had to change all that but it looked great.”

And the end? Ron Cooper and his partner Court Glanadorp were flying in a private plane over Florida and spotted the junk sitting anchored in the Seven Seas Lagoon. Disney had discontinued the cruises and left it in the lagoon as a decoration because it was too much trouble to remove. Cooper made an offer to buy it and within a month, Disney accepted.

However, time and weather had taken its toll on the craft and it was in terrible shape. All the incidentals had been stripped and the varnish was off.

The ship could not be floated anywhere so a trailer had to be positioned under the craft and it was transported along the interstate with much fanfare. When it arrived at its new home, it was launched off the back of the trailer because a crane operator refused to lift it for fear of further damage.

After two years spent refurbishing the boat, it was used for pleasure cruises in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Thanks, Jim! Note that the the image is from Tikiman’s material on the early history of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

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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April 10, 2020   No Comments