Monday, November 25, 2013

My Top Tens - special effects

Continuing with my "Top Tens" series.  Next up, special effects at Walt Disney World.  Disney uses special effects on its attractions to enhance the guests experience and make you feel like you are part of the attraction itself.  This immersion into the storyline is something that Disney is extremely good at.  The special effects below range from the simple to the complex, but each creates a unique experience that always leaves me saying "Wow!", even if I know how they do it.

10 - Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom) Space Warp.  A simple effect of using lights and sound to feel like you are being accelerated at warp speed into deep space.

9 - Space Ship Earth (Epcot) Infinite Stars.  Towards the end of the attraction, you reach a show scene which is pitch black except for the twinkle of an infinite number of starts.  The illusion of endless stars is created with mirrors and pinpoints of lights.

8 - Voyage of the Little Mermaid (Hollywood Studio) under the sea effect.  Using a spray of water from above, coupled with fog effects, and the laser lights give the impression that you're truly below the waves.

7 - Pirates of the Caribbean (Magic Kingdom) Davy Jones image in the waterfall.  Davy Jones invites guests to proceed if "they be brave or fool enough to face a pirate's curse". The riders pass beneath the waterfall and emerge into the next scene seemingly dry.  The waterfall is really a curtain of mist projected with Jone's image.

6 - Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (Epcot), Now Captain EO, moving theater.  In both attractions, the theater feels like it's being moved.  The effect is so much better in Honey, I Shrunk the Audience when Dr. Solinsky's son picks up the box the audience, after being shrunk, is in.  The slight movements in the floor really give the guest the perception that the theater is being picked up by a child.  In EO, the effect is used for the crash landing of the ship and fighting scenes.

5 - Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios) The First Ascent Scene - After the first ascent of the elevator car, the doors open to reveal a long, dimly-lit hotel corridor with a single window at the opposite end. A violent thunderstorm is raging and lightning flashes outside the window. Ghostly images of the five doomed guests from 1939 appear for a moment, then vanish in a burst of electricity. (These ghostly images, while thought to be holograms, are actually a classic example of a Pepper's ghost effect. Other Pepper's ghost effects at the Walt Disney World Resort include ones inside the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom). The guests disappear in a burst of lightning. The corridor then fades away, but the window remains and morphs into a creepier black-and-white version and shatters in the now star-filled hallway, like in the opening segment of each episode.

4 - Turtle Talk with Crush (Epcot) Interactive Crush - The show is a cutting-edge blend of sophisticated computer graphic techniques, image projection, and live, interactive, quick-witted improvisation.  The "Window to the Pacific" is in reality a large rear-projection screen portraying an animated undersea environment. The image of Crush is a digital puppet controlled by a backstage actor/puppeteer whose performance is translated in real time into 3D computer animation. Crush's movements and voice-activated lip synch are rendered realtime and are projected at 60 frames per second, so that the turtle's mouth moves in synchronization with the actor's words.  Digital puppetry techniques allow the puppeteer's movements to control the body motions of the projected turtle, enabling Crush to maneuver about naturalistically with real-time human control. This technology enables every show to be different than the one before as Crush responds uniquely to each individual audience.  Thanks to a system of hidden cameras, the invisible actor is able to see the audience, and respond particular questioners, as well as their location in the theatre.  But I like the alternate theory, that you are really talking with Crush.

3 - Journey into Imagination (Epcot) Disappearing Butterfly.  As your omnimover passes through the sight lab, you will see a caged butterfly that disappears before your eyes.  Magic?  No, there is a simple answer.  There's only half a butterfly held right up against a mirror. As you approach you are looking at it and the mirror, giving you a whole butterfly. As you pass by you are looking at the other side of the mirror which is reflecting the empty cage.

2 - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Magic Kingdom) floating Pooh.   The floating Pooh is seen after the Tigger bounce scene where Tigger tells an impressionable Pooh about Heffalumps and Woozles.  Once in Pooh's house, Pooh falls asleep, and magically floats up into the sky, as the room blackens (Pooh's floating is achieved with a Pepper's Ghost illusion).

1 - The Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom) Ghostly Ballroom Scene - It has long been rumored that the ballroom scene, which features multiple ghosts merrily carousing, was created with holograms. This is not the case. In fact, the Ballroom uses a visual trick developed in the 1860s to show realistic ghosts in theatrical productions called Pepper's Ghost.  In the Pepper's Ghost illusion, there are two identical rooms separated by clear glass. One is kept dark and is not visible to the audience, but it contains the item which is to appear in a ghostly manner in the visible room. When it is illuminated, the item will be reflected in the glass and will "appear" in the visible room. The audience sees only the reflection, which can interact with whatever is in the visible room.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Top Tens - background music

I've been busy lately and light on the blog topics, so I thought I would pull out a series that I've been thinking on for a while.  It's call "My Top Tens" of Disney World.  I'm still thinking of topics, but these are going to be more than favorite resort or attractions.  It's light and it's fun.  I have always enjoyed reading other's "favorites" lists and got my inspiration from WDW Radio's top ten that Lou Mongello does on his podcasts occasionally.  They are always fun to listen to.  So, without further explanation because there's really not much to explain, here's the start of my top tens
My Top Tens - Background Music

disclaimer:  I exclude ride-thru, parade, and show music from this category because I can.  :)  Actually, what I'm focusing on is the background music that you don't pay attention to but adds to the environment or show.  You'll see what I mean when we get started.

10 - Fort Wilderness area music.  This is the country/folk stuff they play around the trading posts and near the Hoop Dee Doo Review.  Reminds me of growing up and spending summers at the Fort.

9 - Magic Kingdom Entrance music.  Really, who does love this?  It's like the opening track for a lovely show.

8 - EPCOT Germany Pavillion.  Tubas, accordians, oh my!  Makes me want to grab some lederhosen and dance!

7 - Magic Kingdom Liberty Square.   I bet you never thought about the background music played here?   Much of the music heard in this area reflects music from the colonial times which was less American music and more ballads and folk songs brought from England and other parts of Europe adapted to the American culture with instruments of the time including violins, fifes, recorders, drums and and flutes.  True to Disney form, the music in this area was recorded using only the instruments available during the colonial period.

6 - Polynesian Resort.  This music is just fun.  I enjoy an evening stroll through the Polynesian resort and hearing the music throughout the resort.  The speakers are hidden in nondescript boxes that blend into the bushes and landscaping or disguised as "rocks".

5 - EPCOT Innoventions Plaza.  Usually it's so loud with crowds that you don't notice this music too much, but it's there if you stop and listen.  It's unique and reflects some of the other attraction music in the park.  It's almost like it "glues" together the feel of the entire park.  Hard to explain what I mean.

4 - Hollywood Studio Sunset Boulevard.  It's 1940 and I just want to dance with my sweetheart all night long before he goes off to war.  It's an era dominated by smooth jazz and swing music.  Walking down Sunset Blvd, you could almost imagine yourself in Los Angeles in the 1940s.  I almost expect to see Clark Gable or Ava Gardner.

3 - Hollywood Studio Entrance Music.  What would Hollywood Studio's be like with movie sound tracks? As you walk into the park, past the turnstiles, you can hear music from such movies as Robin Hood, Goldfinger, Chariots of Fire, Ivanhoe, The Magnificent 7, Superman, Towering Inferno, Rocky, and more.

2 -  EPCOT - Future World Spaceship Earth Area Loop.  It's hard not to be awe of your environment standing under Spaceship Earth.  The geodesic structure is like no-other, and a person can feel so small underneath.  This music is dramatic and inspirational, just as Spaceship Earth is.

And my number one, all time favorite, background music is.....

1 - Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror.  I like the music played in the outside queue so much that I have all the songs in a playlist on my iPod and listen to them nearly everyday.  My husband swears I was born in the wrong era.  I adore the music from the 1930's and early 40's.  

Vera Lynn is my favorite songstress.  Vera who? have to google her and find out for your self!  Her voice is amazing.  Two songs of hers are featured in the ToT queue line and it just couldn't be more perfect to the atmosphere.  Below is a sampling of waht you hear while waiting in the queue line.  But it's not just the songs here that make the atmosphere.  It's how they are played; like they are off in the distance but you can't pinpoint the direction.  Very spooky, especially at night.

  We'll Meet Again - Vera Lynn 
  When the Sun Sets Down South - Nobles Singers
  Inside - Fats Waller
  Jungle Drums - Sidney Bechet Ken Burns
  There's A House - Henry Allen
  Sleepy Time Gal - Glenn Miller
  Benny Berigan - Can't Get Started 
  Mood Indigo - Duke Ellington
  Wishing (Will Make it So) - Vera Lynn 
  Uptown Blues - Jimmy Lunceford
  Remember - Red Norvo
  Dear Old Southland - Noble Sissle
  Jeep's Blues - Johnny Hodges
  Pyramid - Johnny Hodges 
  Deep Purple - Helen Forrest & Artie Shaw
  Another World - Johnny Hodges
  Alabamy Home - Duke Ellington 
  Delta Mood - Cootie Williams 

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my first set of Top Tens, as much as I've enjoyed created it.  Music is an essential part of the story line throughout the parks and Disney takes full advantage of your auditory sense to enhance your experience without you ever knowing about it.  Sit back, relax and take a listen sometimes.  I highly recommend these sources for audio tracks of the parks:  Sorcerer Radio, Mouse World Radio, and D-Cot.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Holidays in WDW

It's Christmas Time in Walt Disney World! 
What events are you looking forward to or wish you were seeing/attending

Welcome to those of you joining me from Manda’s Disney Blog and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

This month's topic is:  What events are you looking forward to or wish you were seeing/attending this holiday season?

I confess, I’ve never been to Walt Disney World at Christmas time for a variety of reasons.  I never got around to it before kids, and now that I have school aged children, getting to WDW during their holiday breaks is difficult and a little bit cost prohibitive, plus, I can’t stand crowds.  I know you are thinking: “why would I ever go to WDW if I don't like crowds?”  Crowd levels are a relative term for me.  There are varying levels of crowds I can handle.  Christmas school holiday weeks is not one of them.  In addition, I’ve never been a big Christmas holiday fan, so the desire to go during the holidays isn’t that high.  Maybe if I go, I’ll change my mind.  I do know that if I ever go to Disney World during the holidays, on the top of my list of things to do is to see the monorail resort decorations.  Resort hopping is one of my favorite outside the park activities, and seeing the lobbies of those magnificent resorts all decked out in Christmas attire would be a sight to see.

My brother and his girlfriend recently spent a week prior to Thanksgiving at WDW and Christmas decorations were already up.  He sent me a few to display on today’s blogorail topic.  Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed the photo tour from around the Magic Kingdom resorts.  One day I’ll get there during the holidays and, maybe, seeing the castle all lit up, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights and the resort Christmas trees will be get me jazzed about the holiday season at the World.  Until then, I’ll just watch the specials on TV, read blog postings, and celebrate in the comfort of my own home with a warm cup of hot cocoa.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is The Disney Point.

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 ~ Manda’s Disney Blog
2nd Stop ~ The Magical Mouse Pad <-- you are here
3rd Stop ~ The Disney Point 
4th Stop ~ The Disney Chick

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Lawnmower Tree

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