Saturday, January 3, 2015

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from the Magical Mouse Pad!

I hope 2015 brings you joy and magic

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Attraction narration and dialog

Throughout the WDW attractions, you can find a variety of familiar voices providing ride-through narration and character dialog.  Some of these voices are classic Disney staples who worked with the Disney studios on a variety of projects -- animations, promotions, commercials, and theme parks just to name a few.  These folks include the likes of Paul Frees, Thurl Ravenscroft, and Pete Renoudet.  Do those names not sound familiar?  Paul Frees is your “Ghost Host” in the Haunted Mansion.  Some of Paul Frees' most memorable voices were for various Disney projects, although he did work with at least nine of the major animation production companies of the 20th century.  Thurl Ravenscroft is probably most familiar as Tony the Tiger, “They’re Great!”, but his voice can be found in Magic Kingdom in the Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, and Haunted Mansion.  Pete Renoudet was an American voice actor who provided dialog for a variety of attractions in Disneyland and Disney World.  Most notably, he provided Captain Nemo’s voice for the long extinct, but much loved, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  
In addition to the variety of voice actors Disney studio’s employed in it’s heyday, now you may find more and more “famous” actors being used for narration or attraction dialog.  In many instances the actor IS part of the attraction itself.  Some are well know, others are not.  See if you have recognized any of these famous voices:
  • Spaceship Earth- Judi Dench.  In previous versions of the attraction, Vic Perrin, Walter Cronkite, and Jeremy Irons provided the narration.  
  • Soarin’ - Patrick Warburton is your Flight Attendant.  
  • Canada’s Circle-Vision 360 - As a native Canadian, Martin Short provides the narration to this vivid film.
  • Mission: SPACE - Gary Sinise provides your introductory video and dialog during the ride.  I can’t not think of “Lt. Dan” when I see him!  
Magic Kingdom
  • Hall of Presidents - Morgan Freeman narrates and Barack Obama even provided the voice of Barack Obama.
  • Carousel of Progress - You may recognize Cousin Orville’s voice.  It’s Mel Blanc!
Hollywood Studios
  • MuppetVision 3D - Where would muppets be without Jim Henson and Frank Oz providing the voices of some of these memorable characters?
  • Tower of Terror - While it’s Rod Sterling we see in the pre-show video, the voice we hear is actually Mark Silverman.
  • Toy Story Mania - Mr. Potato Head’s voice is Don Rickles.
Animal Kingdom
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug - You’ll hear a variety of familiar voices in this attraction:  Dave Foley, Cheech Marin, Jason Alexander, Andrew Stanton, and French Stewart.
  • Dinosaur - The lobby announcements and descriptions are provided by Bill Nye (the Science Guy!).  
These are just a few of the familiar voices that provide the backdrop to many attractions and show’s throughout Disney World.  Hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I do.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Details

When I talk to people about the Disney World Theme Parks and Resorts, one thing they notice is how emphatic I am about noticing the little details.  It’s the thing that I most enjoy about the parks and resorts and what keeps me coming back for more because every time you look at something you’re bound to see something new.  While most details are bold and grand, like the colors of the castle or the immense look of Tower of Terror, there are millions of subtle ones.  What I find fascinating about these is that to the casual observer they are often overlooked.  But, I wonder if your mind would notice if they weren’t there?!?  

Let me give you an example.  I’m going to take you over to Epcot’s Japan pavilion for this one.  Along the shore of the the World Showcase in front of the Japanese pavilion stands a red torii gate.  A torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine.  This particular one is a replica of the torii of the Itsukushima Shrine, often called “floating shrine” because it sits in the water just off the island of Itsukushima in the city Hatsukaichi, Japan.  This shrine is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Japanese government has designated it as a National Treasure.  The details and significance of this freature to the Japanese pavilion is fairly obvious.  What is not so obvious is what is found at the bottom of the torii.  Take a look...

What do you see?  Barnacles and the appearance of high and low tide water marks.  Hmmm...that’s odd, as the World Showcase lagoon is a freshwater lagoon with no tidal influence.  EXACTLY what I mean!!!  As a causal observer you don’t notice that, but if the torii stood freshly painted, at the water’s edge, would you notice the missing detail?  Probably not, but it’s those little details that make the place seem so much more read and vivid to the imagination.  
What overlooked details have you seen the parks or resorts recently?  

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Koutoubia Minaret
of Marrakesh
Quite unassuming on the outside, the Morocco pavilion at World Showcase in Epcot is often passed by for more familiar countries by many guests.  Morocco doesn’t have an attraction, so most people don’t bother with it and that is a shame.  Just inside the walled city, lies an amazing architecture, adorned with beautiful tile work and impeccable craftsmanship.  A walk through the local bazaar (or market place) reveals delightful treasures.  It’s a truly unique shopping experience.

The Morocco Pavilion was the first expansion pavilion to be added to the World Showcase, opening in 1984.  The pavilion is the only one designed with the named government’s aid.  King Hassan II sent Moroccan artisans to design and create the many mosaics and buildings you’ll see in the pavilion.  Due to Islamic beliefs on the content of art, the mosaics contain no representations of people.  To this day, the Moroccan government continues to sponsor the pavilion, while corporations hold sponsoring rights to the other World Showcase pavilions.  

Bab Boujouloud gate
Three cities of this northern African country are represented here:  Casablanca, Fez, and Marrakesh.  Guarding the entrance to the pavilion is a reproduction of the Koutoubia Minaret of Marrakesh.  This intricately carved tower was built by native craftsmen.  As you delve deeper into the pavilion, you’ll see more exquisite craftsmanship in the gate to the Medina (or old city) in a replica of the Bab Boujouloud gate.  Through the gate, you’ll find the bustling bazaar.  All the shops are interconnected to give you the feel of being in a real outside shopping bazaar and it’s easy to get lost in these shops!  The bazaar is a wonderful place to find unique gifts for that hard-to-buy-for person in your family.  Doesn’t your Cousin Tim need a Fez?  How about a belly dancing video for your Aunt Helen? 

Enter the Fez House to see a representation of a typical Moroccan home.  The tile and word work is amazing.  If it’s quiet, I’m certain you can hear children playing in the distance!

One of many
A flower filled courtyard is surrounded by native plants -- citrus and olive trees, date palms, banana trees, and a fountain.  Some of the gardens are irrigated by an ancient working waterwheel.  

Since these buildings were designed and sponsored by the country of Morocco, they hold great religious significant.  As a result the pavilion is the only one not lit up during the nightly Illuminations performance.  

Lunch at Tangerine Cafe

A final fact about the Morocco pavilion you may not know - The Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios is seen at an angle from the Moroccan pavilion.  The top of the Tower of Terror is designed so it blends in with the Moroccan architecture.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Loss of The Lawnmower Tree

I recently found out that the Lawnmower Tree is no more.  Sometime in the last year, it has been removed.  This makes me sad.  I walked past that tree as a kid many times, and showed it to my children.  But, nature has taken it's course as in all things and the tree is no longer.  

I thought I'd publish this article one last time for posterity.  

*****Original article posted in 2012*******

Lawnmower tree, Nov. 2012
On the pathway from the Pioneer Hall to the Marina at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground can be found an unusual item that has been a fixture at the Fort since it's opening in 1971 -- The Lawnmower Tree.  Almost gone now, the lawnmower tree was a prominent fixture at the Fort in the early days, even marking it onto the original campground maps in the 70's.  So what is the lawnmower tree and how did it get there?

Fort Wilderness map, circa 1973

Lawnmower tree plaque
The lawnmower tree is the stuff of "urban legends" of Disney.  According to Disney lore, Bill Bowlegs parked his mower much too close to this tree which quickly grew to encompass Billy's mower.  Don't believe me?  It's written right there on a marker next to the tree.  :)
Too long did Billy Bowlegs
Park his reel slow mower
Alas, one warm and sunny day
Aside a real fast grower

Of course, most Disney lore is a slight stretch of the imagination based on some reality.  Long before Disney World became the theme park mecca it is today, the land was mostly orange groves, farmland, and swamps.  There were a few buildings and some abandoned houses surrounding Bay Lake when the property was bought up by Disney's myriad of shell companies.  Most likely, a farmer leaned an old-fashioned push lawnmower against this tree and left it many years prior.  Why it survived the construction and became a staple of the Fort is classic Disney style.  The designers integrated the tree into the history of the Fort and even crafted the poem you see above.  I often wonder if Disney himself observed the lawnmower tree on one of the early excursion trips to the area.  It is often noted that the decision to build on this particular piece of land was made while viewing Riles Island (now Discovery Island) from the air.  Walt probably did not see the tree before his untimely death, but the allure of that idea is appealing.

Unfortunately, hurricanes and bugs have gotten the best of the tree and it had to be cut down in 1997.  Only about four feet of the original pine tree is left.  You can still see the remnants of the lawnmower at the base of the tree along the quaint pathway.  I'm afraid one day it's going to completely disappear.  I can only hope that it will remain in our hearts much like our beloved River Country, Discovery Island, the Fort Wilderness Railroad, the trams, and the peacocks.
Picture of the lawnmower tree from
early Fort Wilderness guide book