Monday, January 28, 2013

Attractions: Disney Traditions - Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

     Disney is known for adherence to traditions.  They pay homage to their past, reuse or plus ideas possibly more than any other company.  This is one of the things that makes the Disney Archives so vitally important to what Disney does.  In fact, Disney University conducts a class for all new cast members titled "Traditions" where Disney history and culture serve as the core topics during this on-boarding process.
Many of these traditions go unnoticed to most of us, but some can be fun for a real Disney enthusiast.  So, since we have received such interest in our series of posts on the Art of "Plussing", we've decided to add a short series of posts on Disney Traditions.  Once such tradition or nod to the past involves placing homage's to extinct Disney attractions, in or around their previous location.  Such is the case with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
Mr. Toad:  Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was a Magic Kingdom attraction adapted from the Disney film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  It appeared in Walt Disney World from opening day 1971 until 1998.  Once the ride was replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mr. Toad had no home.  However, Disney Imagineers found a new home for Mr. Toad in the pet cemetery located at the exit of the Haunted Mansion.  Look in the top left corner for a peek at Mr. Toad.  Paintings of Mr. Toad are also found within The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction as well.  One such painting shows Mr. Toad handing over the deed to the Owl, proving that Imagineers are not only creative, but have sense of humor as well.
How many references to old attractions can you locate?  Let us know which ones you have found and send us a photo

Monday, January 21, 2013

Attractions - Splitsville Downtown Disney

 Last month at Downtown Disney Westside Splitsville Luxury Lanes opened, taking over the spot formerly held by the Virgin Mega Store.  Splitsville is a retro style bowling venue that features 30 lanes of bowling, billiards tables, 5 bars, a full menu and live entertainment.
 Splitsville is opened from 10 am to 2 am.  The prices range from $15 per person for 1.5 hrs of bowling before 5 pm and $20 per person for 1.5 hrs of bowling after 5 pm.  Splitsville is a great place that the whole family will enjoy.  
 Don't expect typical Bowling Alley food when you go to Splitsville, the food is of a much higher caliber, though everyone in the entire family should be able to find something they like.  The menu includes Sushi, Burgers, and seven kinds of Pizza.  There is also a childs menu that includes burgers, chicken tenders and mac and cheese all for $7.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Attractions - Fountain of Nations

You may find our choice of subject matter for this week’s post a bit odd; considering that it is only a few days until the 20th Anniversary of the WDW Marathon, there are a lot of topics we could focus on.  However, the marathon is the precise reason that this week’s topic has been chosen. 

Think about it for a moment, you have run 26 miles, your lungs heaving breath in and out like a freight train for several hours, sweat dripping down your limbs, your legs tired, your feet sore, your mind fatigued more than your body itself.  Though this experience is exhilarating, it is far more exhausting.  You are only 0.2 miles from the finish line for the WDW Marathon or Half Marathon, and you look deep inside for that little something extra, that something which no sports drink or performance enhancer can capture fully – that spark of adrenaline laced desire that fuels perseverance and fortitude.  Your feet now moving more out of habit from perpetual motion than athletic ability perhaps, you’ve crossed the bridge connecting Future World to the World Showcase and you’ve entered Innoventions Plaza - so close now.  If there was only a sign to signal triumph was upon you.  Then, you hear it. 
A roar liken to a cannon blast, followed by the thunderclap of water slamming against itself.  Did your ears deceive you?  Were the elements themselves cheering you on to finish this race?  Or was the park itself celebrating the arrival of first-time or long-time guests, the delight of the moment uncontainable?  No, it was indeed something elemental, and yet so simple in beauty that it seemed you and you alone may be the recipient of a water dance which rivals the most impressive fireworks displays at any location other than Disney.  Your eyes gaze toward the direction of the finish line which lies ahead, and there you see it, the Fountain of Nations. 

Designed by the same person who created the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, this water fountain provides an astonishing display for guests every 15 minutes throughout the day.   A ballet of water uses 200 jets to propel up to 50 gallons at a time skyward at a distance of approximately 150 feet; before it returns to the remaining pool below with a thunderous clap.  Only then to have the excess cascade gracefully down the stepped sides of the retaining area.  Even more impressive is the fact that, originally, the water within the fountain was comprised of water gathered from all over the world.  Absolutely beautiful, and in more ways than one.  This attraction welcomes newly arriving guests to the worlds beyond and wishes those leaving a magical evening as they exit.  And, as attractive as the display may be during the day, it is even more so in the evening as a variety of ever changing lights enhance the spectacle.  And, in either event, the robust sounds of the accompanying soundtrack help to complete the simple, yet memorable experience.

So, whether you are a guest in Epcot for the day, or a marathon runner who is so close to the reward awaiting you only 0.2 miles ahead – look to the Fountain of Nations.  Not simply for its subtle beauty, but for the inspirational message it provides in either situation or circumstance.  An aquatic microcosm representing the multitude of guests entering in the park, or those running to the finish line just beyond.  The resulting blend of cultures and nations propelling forth as an amazing display of strength, and ending in a graceful, gentle and peaceful cascade of joy and accomplishment.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Attractions - Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor

One of my absolute favorite WDW attractions is located in Tomorrowland.  Though some hardcore Disney fanatics might reminisce of the days when the location served as home to The Timekeeper, and while other real WDW historians may recall American Journeys, Magic Carpet ‘Round the World, or even America the Beautiful (if you are really old school), I think the current occupant of the location in question is the best by far.
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is an interactive experience that will surely tickle your funny bone.  For those expecting to hear a Disney version of the Improv, where you may catch a glimpse of some up-and-coming comedians who stop off for a night of two before they move on, well, you’re a little out of luck.  In fact, if you are hoping to be witness to an ever changing array of one liners, humorous observations, or sharp witted tales, you may be slightly disappointed (because in WDW, the words highly and disappointed cannot be used together).  But, oddly enough, this isn’t the purpose, or the fun of the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.  To be honest, the regiment of semi-stale jokes and running gags is precisely what my kids, my wife, and I enjoy the most about it.  But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  Allow me to tour you through this Disney delight.

Upon entering the outer-queue, located directly next to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, you will notice – along with the normal Disney design details - a few signs urging you to text your own jokes for potential use in the show.  This is the first hint as to what you will encounter; a fully interactive experience made possible by Disney Imagineer Magic.  Please allow me to double down on this invitation – go ahead – text something.  Although my kids have had some of their jokes used, I have yet to be selected – though it may be due to my joke; “What do you call a fairy who hasn’t taken a bath in weeks?  Stinkerbell!”

After a few moments in the outer-queue, you will enter the inner-queue.  This is when your journey into the world of Monsters Inc. truly begins.  Take time to read the posts on the wall, look at the pictures, and enjoy what the Imagineers have prepared for you as you wait.  If you take the time to notice, you’ll find that there are a lot of hidden treasures and good humor in all the attraction queue areas.  A short video will welcome you to the Laugh Floor and provide an overview of what this attraction is all about.  In short, once the Monsters learned that laughter provided more power than screams, the occupants of the Monster world set out to harvest as much laughter as possible – thus, the Laugh Floor Comedy Club. 

A short wait later and the doors to the comedy club will open.  Here’s a tip – don’t just run to your seat as you become or remain preoccupied with your souvenirs, tickets, park map, etc.  Pay attention to what is going on around you.  Your host – Buddy Boil – spends some time greeting you as you enter the room, and this is worth your attention. 

For a brief moment, thanks to the fact that Disney has mastered the art of fully immersing you in fantasy, you might not even notice that Buddy is an animated character who fully interacts with living individuals.  Listen as he speaks directly to guests and even answers as they speak back.  More impressive is the fact that he, and the other Monster Comedians like Sam & Ella, and Marty Wazowski not only interact, they do so with expressive faces and wonderful comedic timing.  This bit of magic is known as digital puppetry, and began in WDW as a part of Disney’s Living Character Initiative.  Live actors perform voices while the digital renderings of the Monster personalities appear on screen.  Only Mike Wazowski and Roz are pre-programmed not to interact directly.  It is nothing short of magic.
Now, take a look at the screen to the left of the stage.  Buddy is a Grade-A heckler and wastes no time getting the audience involved in what is going on.  The object of his humor will be shown on this screen during the pre-show moments.  In the interest of full disclosure, this is my kids’ favorite part of the whole show.  Each time we try to find the magical location (still not sure if there is one) which guarantees your selection by Buddy.  So far, I’ve danced on screen, I’ve played Mike “with One eye/I”, I’ve been selected to buy Churros for everyone, and I’ve even had the honor of being “That Guy” (which by far is the best treat for my youngest son Joshua). 

There may not be magic seats for being selected, but I’ve noticed a pattern after my few hundred visits.  The first seems to be about 1/4 of the way back and on the left side (if facing the stage) of the crowd – if you want to be Mike, Sully, of Boo.  Closer to the front – about the third or fourth row in the right side of the audience (again, facing the stage) seems to be the location where “That Guy” usually is, or the guy who offers to buy churros.  Lastly, the back of the crowd is best if you want to be selected to dance on screen.  Although reflected in the name of the attraction next door, this attraction is the absolute blast in my opinion – which starts from the moment the doors open.

Roz takes a minute to introduce the container that holds captured laughter, and then notes how you are off to a “great start” before giving the show over to the stars.  The show follows the same interactive setup as the pre-show.  The next 10 minutes are filled with stories, gags and jokes by Buddy, or Sam & Ella.  It varies slightly on occasion, but still follows the same basic outline and gag list.  Nevertheless, it’s still funny to me.  Finally, Mike Wazowski’s nephew Marty arrives to tell a few jokes that also include a few which were texted from the audience during their time in the queue. 

Whether you’ve been selected to participate in the show, or whether you are simply taking in the sights – don’t just sit there.  Laugh, scream when the comedians say “Hello Humans” and enjoy it for what it is.  Watch the canister fill with laughter and see how well the comedians, and you are doing - after all, Roz is "watching, always watching".  But, remember, when you go to the Laugh Floor have a good time and don’t be stingy with the laughter – or they may have trouble opening the exit door!