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:
Epcot
  • 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

Morocco


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
fountains
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









Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Experience with Mission Space


There are several rides and attractions at Walt Disney World that I don’t care for:  Magic Carpets of Aladdin, TriceraTop Spin, O Canada, Wonders of China to name a few.  Definitely not a fan of Stitch's Great Escape.  But, I’ll go on these if someone in my group wants to do it.  However, there is one attraction that I will not ride…ever again.  “Again” implies that I have done it.  That attraction is Mission: SPACE.  You’re probably thinking “why”; it seems odd to ban such a popular attraction permanently especially now that there is a tamer version.  My dislike of the attraction has nothing to do with the attraction so much as it as to do with my memory associated with that experience.  
In early 2006, my husband and I took our son, then 3, on his first trip to Walt Disney World.  It was a milestone and one marked equally special when we found out two weeks before the trip that we were pregnant.  I estimate I was probably no more than 6 weeks along.  Nothing too significant to change my stamina or energy level.  Didn’t really think too much about it, to tell the truth.  So when we arrived at Epcot, we knew we wanted to go on the newly opened, much hyped Mission: SPACE.  You see, both my husband and I work at NASA and given the attraction’s collaboration with NASA, we wanted to see what it was all about.  

Despite the caution warnings and spiels prior to the ride, I decided to go on it.  The conversion in my head went something like this:  “you work at NASA, you can do this…no problem”.  What I really should have heard was “you work at NASA as an analyst, you dummy, you’ve never been on a motion based simulator, you don’t touch flight hardware…and oh, besides, you’re pregnant and you’re equilibrium is probably really messed up right now”.  I didn’t listen and went on the full-up motion based ride.  I am proud to say that I didn’t lose my lunch, but it was very touch and go for a while.  I couldn’t get out of the capsule fast enough, and when I did, the ground was not so stable.  Once I found my bearings, I met back up with my son and husband (we had done child swap) in the game area (Advanced Training Lab) to rest my head.  That didn’t help.  Ate lunch.  That didn’t help.  I felt like I had just woken up from a night of excessive drinking.  It was like a really bad hangover and I could not shake.  Awful is really the only way to describe the feeling.  Finally, I went back to the room to sleep it off.  Didn’t help too much, and I remained messed up the rest of the day.  

I should have read Wikipedia’s definition of the ride mechanics:  “The attraction is a multiple-arm centrifuge that achieves the illusion of acceleration by spinning and tilting sealed capsules during the four-minute "mission." Fans blow air gently at riders to help avoid motion sickness, and a magnified display in front of each rider simulates a window to space with high-resolution computer-generated imagery. The attraction exposes riders to forces up to 2.5G, more than twice the force of gravity at the Earth's surface (effectively multiplying a rider's weight by 2.5).”  Yep, that explains it all!

I don’t know if my reaction to the experience had anything to do with the pregnancy, or if I am overly prone to motion sickness (didn’t think I was); but in either case the memory of that experience is so bad that I won’t go on the attraction again; even the Green team version which opened a few months after our visit.  As anyone who has ever experienced it, you don’t want to be sick on a Disney vacation.  Even for a day.  It stinks.  

I am disappointed that my experience was so negative, because from what I recall and can review on YouTube, the attraction is amazingly realistic.  I have been very fortunate to have worked in the mission control center complex during many shuttle flights in the last few years of the Shuttle program.  I’ve been even more fortunate to sit on console with one of the most amazing female astronauts in the astronaut corp.  How she described the launch sequence experience from the crew compartment is very similar to what a guest would experience on Mission: SPACE.  I especially like the detail of the birds soaring over the launch platform just prior to launch.  They do that all the time and are recognized as a hazard to launch vehicles.  Big turkey vultures soar over the launch complex, catching the updrafts of wind.  (Did you know a Space Shuttle has impacted with one during a launch before?  Let’s just say, that’s not a good thing for the bird or the vehicle).  Also, the chatter you hear prior to, and during the launch sequence, is similar to the voice loop chatter that is heard in the control centers.  Everyone in the control centers, whether you are in front room or back room, has a headset and can monitor many voice loops at one time which is why you hear multiple conversions just before main engine start and lift off.  At launch, on the screen, a plume of white smoke billows up from below you.  Your ship is mounted on tons of highly explosive solid rocket fuel, after all!  The whole sequence is amazingly detailed and quite accurate.


The Disney Imagineers collaborated well with NASA to get the experience correct and they did hit the mark on many aspects.  It’s a good attraction and one that shouldn’t be missed if you like thrill or motion based rides.  By all accounts, the tamer version appears to appease those less inclined for a thrill, but who still want to experience it.  For me, for now, I’m going to have to pass on it and hang out in the Advanced Training Lab.   

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hoop Dee Doo Revue



The Hoop Dee Doo Revue is one of my favorite dinner shows at Walt Disney World.  The show is like no other on Disney World property, save for the long retired Diamond Horseshoe Revue.  Billed as “an old-fashioned dinner show that includes foot-stompin' music, nostalgic comedy and an all-you-care-to-eat dinner”, the HDDR is the longest running show at Disney World.  I dare anyone to not leave the show without a smile on their face.  It’s corny, silly and fun!


Pioneer Hall
The HDDR takes place in Pioneer Hall at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, just a short boat ride from the Magic Kingdom.  The show opened in 1974 and has run almost continuously since, making it one of the longest running musicals in America theatre history.  The show itself is a Frontier theme vaudeville-style dinner show full of singing, dancing and comedy routines.  Pioneer Hall has a stage at the front of the room, with tables on floor level with additional tables in a balcony that overlook the main floor.  Food service includes an all-you-can-eat salad, ribs, fried chicken, assorted sides and strawberry shortcake served family style at your table in metal buckets which are plopped down in front of you when you least expect it.  Unlimited soft drinks, coffee, tea, milk, beer, wine and sangria are also included.  For the kids that may not like ribs and chicken, typically Disney child-friendly food is available for the asking.

Metal plates, bowls & buckets
It's as big as her head!

HDDR performers
The show consists of the three female and three male character performers: Six Bits Slocum and Dolly Drew (comic relief), Jim Handy and Flora Long (the singers), and Johnny Ringo and Claire de Lune (the dancers).  The entertainers interact with the audience throughout the show, and even serve dessert at the close of the show while singing the Strawberry Shortcake song!

The Hoop Dee Doo is memorable because for me it embodies all things “Disney” - great showmanship in a family friendly format.  The characters are memorable (who can't forget the giggle?), the jokes (while corny) are funny, the actors are talented, and the laughter is contagious.  I’ve seen the show 5 or 6 times, as a kid and an adult, and it never changes but is still just as good as the first time.

For the first time guest, I would recommend the HDDR only if you have time.  The show runs close to 2 hours and with travel time; you can expect it to burn an entire evening.  Have an Advanced Dining Reservation and plan accordingly, but give it a try sometime.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised!