Friday, April 27, 2012

Monorail Fun Facts

Who doesn't love the monorail?  It's iconic, timeless and just screams Disney.

Disney Monorail

Call me crazy, but one of my favorite places the be is in front of Magic Kingdom under the monorail as  it goes overheard.  It's just an awesome sight!  The "whoosing" sound is unique and unlike anything else.  I love it!!!

Here's some facts about the Monorail:
  • The Monorail isn't just a form of transportation, but is considered to be an attraction.
  • The Walt Disney World Monorail operates over a span of 14.7 miles (23.7 km), with around 50 million Disney guests traveling on the monorail each year.
  • The monorail beams are made of concrete with a special polystyrene core to lighten their weight.
  • The Disney employees that operate monorail trains are called pilots.
  • The system opened with the rest of the Walt Disney World Resort on October 1, 1971. It initially featured four stations: the Transportation and Ticket Center, Disney's Polynesian Resort, the Magic Kingdom and Disney's Contemporary Resort. The Epcot line and station were added during that park's construction, opening officially on October 1, 1982. The most recent addition was the Grand Floridian station, which was opened in 1988 along with the resort hotel.
  • The current train identification colors include:
    • Red
    • Coral (white deltas)
    • Orange
    • Gold
    • Yellow
    • Teal (white deltas)
    • Peach (white deltas
    • Lime (white deltas)
    • Green 
    • Blue 
    • Silver 
    • Black
    • Retired colors:  Purple & Pink
  • The modern trains that have been in use since 1989 are each 203' 6" long (consisting of six cars) and can carry 364 passengers. 
  • Maximum speed during normal operations is 40 mph, with several speed zones throughout the system with limits ranging from 15 to 40 mph.
  • There are 3 distinct monorail lines – Express, Resort, and Epcot 
  • The track beam is a only 26 inches wide.
  • Approximately 50 million guests travel on the monorail annually.
  • WDW has three diesel powered “tow tractors” to move monorail trains in case of an emergency or power failure.
  • The monorails use commercial grade truck tires for their drive wheels.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    The Return of the Orange Bird

    The Orange Bird returns to the Magic Kingdom! 

    Along with the Original Citrus Swirls (yum, yum), a variety of new merchanise featuring this adorable fellow is now available at the parks.  Disney Parks Blog features just a few of them.  I'm also told that his likeness is being show on a marquee under the train station at the front of the park.  This little guy is one of my earliest memories of the Magic Kingdom and I just adore him.  It warms my heart to see him back in the park where he belongs.  I think it may be time for research trip to check him out, don't you? 

    In case you are asking "what is this Orange bird?  I've never seen him before", I'll provide a little history.  In 1967, Walt Disney and the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) put together a plan for a FCC sponsored WDW attraction (a tropical bird show).  In the following years, WED Enterprises created the Orange Bird character to serve as the official mascot, and into the 80's he was a citrus icon available to meet in the park at the Sunshine Tree Terrace.  Merchandise and advertising were built around the Orange Bird and the campaign to have tourists buy more oranges and orange juice.  At one time, this character even had his own record (vinyl for you old-timers!), featuring a song composed by the Sherman Brothers.  If you ever went to the park in the 70's/early 80's, you can't help to not forget the orange bird.  Back then, Orlando was but a mere small town surrounded by orange groves.  The prescence of the Forida Citrus Commission and the Orange Growers was obvious. 

    So what happened to the Orange Bird?  In the late 70's, the Florida Citrus Commission's spokesperson (Anita Bryant), feel into some controversy and the FCC quickly ended it's relationship with her.  And even though, the Orange bird survived the controversy unscathed, ultimately, the FCC and Disney ended their partnership is 1986 and the Orange Bird ceased to exist. 

    "Orange Thought of an Orange Bird" by Richard and Robert Sherman
    Little Orange Bird in the Sunshine Tree,
    Won't you think of something sunny just for me?
    Think funny thoughts or sunny words,
    That will make me happy, little Orange Bird
    He thinks beautiful orange pictures and beautiful orange words,
    Though his little feet can't even make a squeak
    All the thoughts he ever spoke appear in orange smoke,
    That's what makes Orange Bird unique
    When you're just about green with envy
    Or gonna be feeling blue, And you could use
    An orange thought or two, When you start in blushing pink
    Or your temper turns you red, That is when the Orange Bird, Can see you through
    With his beautiful orange feathers, And beautiful leafy wings
    He's a fluffy little puffy sight to see, He can turn your frown around
    When you see him looking down, The little Orange Bird up in the Sunshine Tree

    Monday, April 16, 2012


    In the 70s and 80s, my Dad collected miniature liquor bottles.  I have since inherited his collection.  I remember much of his collection came from our trips to Disney World, specially from a shop in the Polynesian Resort and a shop in the Walt Disney World Village (what is now Downtown Disney).  I remember going over the Poly resort just to pick out miniature bottles.  As a kid, the bottles seemed so cool.  They were colorful and in all sorts of unique shapes, plus they were miniatures which I believe every child has some sort of fascination with (my kids seem enthralled by the small bottles, too).  I vividly remember the shop in the Polynesian -- I believe it was called Trader Jack's Grog Shop and was located upstairs on the second floor approximately where Somoa Snacks is today.  I don't remember the shop in the Village, but my brother did but couldn't remember the name.  After a little research, we were able to figure out that is was Village Spirits.  Village Spirits in a guide map during that time was billed as having a "Purveying a wide assortment of spirits, liqueurs, and ales from around the world, along with the perfect mixers, and such bar items as decanters, glasses, serving trays and related gifts.  An outstanding selection of fine wines-from California Zinfandel to French Bordeaux."  I believe it was located where The Art of Disney and Disney Design-a-Tee are today.  I searched the web for pictures of either shop from the day, but couldn't find anything.  So, alas, it only exists in my memory these days.  

    Five of the bottles from the collection still have the Disney World ("Walt Disney Productions") price tag labels on them.  No bar codes back then!  I know much more were purchased at the resort, especially some of the more unique ones like the Tiki god pictured below.  These are always fun to look at.  Check out the prices!  

    Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    Favorite Queue

    Welcome to those of you joining me from Mandas Disney Blog and those of you just hopping aboard. I am your Final stop on our Magical Blogorail.

    I was so excited to hear our topic for this month’s Blogorail:  Most Entertaining Disney Line/PreShow.  It’s one of my favorite “hidden gem” experiences in the parks.  I am fascinated by the detail that Disney puts in to their pre-shows and attraction queues; and I think for the majority of guests it is overlooked and that is a shame.  The level of storyline and detail that is put into some of these attractions is really quite amazing and lends itself to putting you inside the “story”, which is really what most attractions are about:  storytelling.  In addition to weaving the theme for an attraction, the entertainment you’ll find in the queues allows your wait time to seem less dull.  No one likes to wait in lines and during peak times, wait times for certain popular WDW attractions can be lengthy, if not down-right crazy (yeah, Toy Story Mania, I'm talking about you!).  The implementation of the FASTPASS system has helped mitigate some of these longs waits, but unless you plan properly, you’re bound to be stuck in a queue at some time or another.  It’s nice to have something to look at besides a sea of humanity entangled by ropes and chains.  
    Because I enjoy this topic so much, I’ve blogged on my top ten attraction queues before, which made this topic was easy for me.  But rather than bore you with my top ten, I’m going to jump directly to my #1 on the list.  Arriving at number 1 on my Top Ten list of attraction queues is Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios.

    The story of the hotel, adapted from elements of the Twilight Zone television series, includes the hotel being struck by lightning on October 31, 1939, mysteriously transporting an elevator car full of passengers to the Twilight Zone and causing an entire wing of the building to disappear.  Disney Imagineers create an atmosphere that transports the guest from the hustle and bustle of Sunset Boulevard to the eerily abandoned Hollywood Tower Hotel in the Hollywood Hills.
    According to Disney lore, the Hollywood Hotel opened in 1919.  It became a famous place for Hollywood and film star elite.  One day, on Halloween in 1939, the hotel was struck by lightning.  Part of the building was destroyed and 5 guests who had just entered the elevator disappeared.  All of the other guests ran out of the building in terror leaving all of their belongings behind. The Tower of Terror is left empty until 1994 when it mysteriously re-opens. To the bellhops and porters that work the hotel, it’s as if the hotel never closed.  While all this is never thoroughly explained during the attraction, you can easily see how the queue and pre-show ties itself into the backstory behind the Hollywood Hotel.  It’s quite an eerie atmosphere.
    Guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel though the main entrance gate. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel.  The outdoor queue takes you through gardens of broken stoneware and decaying plants.  

    An empty fountain and cracked fountain awaits you at the entrance to the hotel. In the background you're listening to haunting melodies from the past by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Vera Lynn, and other notables from that era.  And your eyes haven’t deceived you, that is fog rolling through the gardens.  Once inside the lobby, it is dimly-lit and covered in cobwebs and dust. There is a yellowing copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases, and a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers that appears to be the centerpiece of the room.

    Photo courtesy of Crystal Young Photography
    Photo courtesy of Crystal Young Photography
    Photo courtesy of Crystal Young Photography
    Behind the front desk is a broken elevator, a sign still reads "Out of Order". Everything in the hotel has apparently been left undisturbed ever since it mysteriously closed decades ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready yet. For the time being, guests are asked to simply enjoy themselves in the hotel's library. The library is full of not only books, but exotic antiques, a television, and plenty of Twilight Zone memorabilia. Through the window, you observe that there is a thunderstorm going on outside.  At this point, the pre-show starts with a lightning strike and the television coming on, apparently of its own accord.  The opening sequence of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly "lost" episode. 
    The attention to detail throughout the queue is amazing here.  Even if you can’t or don’t want to ride the attraction, please take time to traverse the queue and watch the pre-show.  Don’t worry, there is a chicken-out door for you.  Just ask any cast member.  As you travel the queue, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered into a hotel that was long since abandoned.  
    So, the next time you are at Disney World, please take a moment to soak up the environment and entertainment of attraction lines and pre-shows.  I hope you will find them as enjoyable as I do.
    Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Black this month. We will be back in May with an all new theme.  Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney news, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.

    Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
    1st Stop ~ The Disney Point
    2nd Stop ~ The Disney Chick
    3rd Stop ~ Mandas Disney Blog
    Final Stop ~ The Magical Mouse Pad