Friday, February 29, 2008

The Liberty Square / Frontierland Visual Bridge

Well, we've discussed bridges, architectural styles, and much more as it relates to Walt Disney World's Liberty Square, located in the Magic Kingdom. And although there are many more pictures of Liberty Square and thoughts we could share, I'm anxious to head elsewhere in the Parks. So, with that said, here's a parting shot of Liberty Square.

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Looking Backwards

Many books have commented on how as you walk the strip between Liberty Square and Frontierland you pass through a nice time line continuum. If you start in Liberty Square the dates on the building facades gradually increase as you move through early American colonial time to the rugged American west that embodies Frontierland. All in all, we can span more than one hundred years' time between the two if we use the benchmark of 1787 at the Hall of Presidents and 1898 at the Country Bear Jamboree.

And while it's a general transition, and the date trend is general, there exists at least one anachronism in this logic: the Trail Creek Trader's shop located in back of the DVC location in Frontierland, towards Liberty Square. This store features a 1771 date.

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Heritage House and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe

Tucked in between Sleepy Hollow Refreshments and the Hall of Presidents, is the Heritage House which offers a wide range of historical items and paraphernalia including colonial reproductions, books, and toys, for purchase.

Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, located across the way, is one of the best places within the parks to find the perfect ornament for the holiday tree and offers personalization; I'm sure quite a few of my readers have one or more of them boxed up with the rest of their holiday decorations. This store is quite large and features a multitude of exterior styles. Above is the entrance via the Liberty Square courtyard area; the opposite side faces the Hall of Presidents and is largely brick facade on one side and stone on the other, which you can see at the far left in this photograph.

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Columbia Harbour House Exterior Signage

Perhaps the thing I enjoy about the Columbia Harbour House most, excluding the great building styles, fantastic interior objects, and the clam chowder on an unseasonably chilly day, are the exterior signs. As previously discussed here on February 10, 2008, the Columbia Harbour House straddles Fantasyland and Liberty Square. While I could understand the need for unique signage for the two 'sides' of this eatery I find it completely mesmerizing that the Imagineers took it one step further and created an exceptionally wide range of signage. Here are three for your viewing pleasure and please stop by this Mouse Planet site for a wonderful look at additional exterior signs (look for the whaling one!) and objects from within the restaurant.

Liberty Square, above

Liberty Square, above, again

Fantasyland, above.

I think it's time to eat. These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Columbia Harbour House

The Columbia Harbour House boasts a bevy of unique exterior styles; this is but one of them. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Liberty Tree Tavern

A very popular character dining experience within Liberty Square, the Liberty Tree Tavern is a mainstay for those looking for an all you can eat dinner experience. (It's important to note the lunch menu is a la carte and does not feature Disney characters.) The Liberty Tree Tavern features six unique dining rooms each of which are highlighted by the decor in that room. The space inside the restaurant is unique and it's worth a peek inside even if you don't have advance reservations to see the main fireplace and items in the foyer. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


My good friend, George, correctly pointed out in an e-mail a mistake I made in Tuesday's post. I said that Liberty Square was unique in that there were two entrances from the hub. Well, as anyone can see after gazing at a MK guide map that's not the case.

What I wanted to say (and this is one of the problems of writing a post and then not carefully reading it before posting it!) is that Liberty Square is unique in that it has two entrances from the hub which include walking over a bridge in order to reach it. What I didn't realize, however, is this wasn't always the case. Take a look below:

Exhibit 1. 2005 Magic Kingdom Guidemap, above

Exhibit 2. 1996 Magic Kingdom Guidemap, above

Amazing, eh? As you can see, a decided difference exists between the two and I had no idea until my good friend told me. Are there any other insane things going on that I'm not aware of? Should I check and see if there's a conspiracy report about this? What in the name of Michael, Pierre, José, and Fritz is going on?

These photographs were not taken by the author in November, 2007.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sleepy Hollow Refreshments

Located to the right as you enter Liberty Square from the Magic Kingdom hub is Sleepy Hollow Refreshments. Known as a great spot to pick up a funnel cake if you're running low on sugar, Sleepy Hollow also serves as a visual anchor to this area of the park. As you leave the hub and begin your journey to colonial America you pass one of two entrances from the hub, the most common of which is shown below.

On the opposite side of this gate is a plaque which reads:
Past this gateway stirs a new nation waiting to be born. Thirteen separate colonies have banded together to declare their independence from the bonds of tyranny. It is a time when silversmiths put away their tools and march to the drums of a revolution, a time when gentlemen planters leave their farms to become generals, a time when tradesmen leave the safety of home to become heroes.
Liberty Square is unique in that there are two entrances from the hub. The traditional one, as depicted above also provides for a great Kodak photo spot as seen below; the second funnels folks into a courtyard area which currently serves as a designated smoking area which we'll discuss later.

I say that Sleep Hollow Refreshments serves as a visual anchor because of the fact it sets an expectation of what the rest of Liberty Square will look like as you enter. One of the least discussed elements of the hub and spoke entry model is that each land takes you over a waterway/bridge, with only flora to make the transition. Granted you can see Cinderella's Castle and that's the beauty of the concept, but there's little else to sell you on the transition. As such,the first item(s) you see are critical in selling the concept. I think it's safe to say this model, widely adopted in each of the Disney theme parks, works best in WDW's Magic Kingdom.

If you don't agree, let's start a discussion. And, yes, Animal Kingdom uses the same exact system but answer me this - when was the last time you got lost in the Magic Kingdom? And how many times do you routinely get lost in DAK? Exactly. (I suspect CMs even get lost every one in a blue moon in DAK.)

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Hall of Presidents

In honor of the holiday I thought this would be an appropriate post for our current series on Liberty Square. Long a favorite of my family, The Hall of Presidents is a quintessential Disney classic: a sort of mash-up between Americana and audio-animatronics. (Plus, if you've experienced the attraction more than twice, a great place to sneak a nap on a hot summer's day in the parks.)

Here are a few quick facts about this attraction:
  1. Blaine Gibson sculpted each of the President's faces for this attraction;
  2. Abraham Lincoln's figure has been designed to actuate more than 45 unique functions of which 15 are separate head and face movements;
  3. The wide format illustrations presented during the attraction include works by Herb Ryman and others;
  4. The wide format film uses elements of Ub Iwerks original innovations;
  5. Disney's first Abe Lincoln audio-animatronic figure was highlighted at the 1964-65 World's Fair;
  6. This attraction opened on October 1, 1971, making it a Walt Disney World original;
  7. And, of course, there's a weather vane atop the entrance.
These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Liberty Square Buildings

While researching the unique architectural perspective of Walt Disney World's Liberty Square, I came across the following from the cultural anthropologist, Stephen Fjellman. He describes Liberty Square in the following manner:

As we reach the plaza at the end of Main Street USA, facing Cinderella's Castle, the entrance to Liberty Square hives off at ten o'clock. Ahead, across a dark wooden bridge, is a stone embankment overgrown with ivy behind which rise the variegated roofs of urban colonial America. Liberty Square is meant to represent the "idea" of America on the eve of independence from England: "Here life in the Thirteen Colonies and the Spirit of '76 have been reborn." The buildings are small, connecting with each other at odd angles. The facades show red brick and clapboard, and the roofs are topped with colonial weather vanes. These facades are styled as Georgian and federal architecture, although the Haunted Mansion outlier points to Dutch manor houses of the Hudson River Valley, and the Columbia Harbour House restaurant near the entrance to Fantasyland is reminiscent of a New England seacoast town.

Stephen M. Fjellman, Ph.D., Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney and America. Westview Press, 1992. p.64

All in all, I think he's right. These photographs were taken by the author (me, not Stephen Fjellman) in November, 2007.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Haunted Mansion Weather Vane

Liberty Square in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is full of weather vanes; look closely and you'll be amazed at how many there are. This vane is located atop of The Haunted Mansion exterior building. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Liberty Square Weather Vane

There is wide range of subtle touches to the buildings within Liberty Square at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. This weather vane is one such example; it's items like this that really set apart the buildings here and in Disneyland's New Orleans Square. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Liberty Square Transitions

Walt Disney world is full of transitions. The simple act of moving from one land to the next requires you to suspend disbelief, albeit momentarily, in order to keep the intentional deceit intact. While this is easily accomplished via the hub and spoke model it requires a bit of ingenuity when you're on the periphery of the Magic Kingdom; nowhere, perhaps, is this more evident than when you cross between Fantasyland and Liberty Square at Walt Disney World. Not only is it ingenious, it's also immediate.

In the span of less than one hundred footsteps you are transported from this (above) to this (below). What was just seconds prior a European village complete with turrets, Tudor-style buildings, and signage emblematic of the 17th century becomes an 18th century New England style town. And to think, it's all accomplished in the blink of an eye.

In a place where 'magic' seemingly occurs around each corner the transition from Fantasyland to Liberty Square is one of the most magical of all. To learn more about Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Walt Disney World, please refer to the links at the right of this page. These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Liberty Square Artifacts

Continuing our discussion of Liberty Belle daydreaming from last week, here are a few pictures related to the Liberty Square area. The picture above, which may look familiar to many, is of the old Mike Fink Keelboats loading dock superstructure, located in between The Haunted Mansion and the Riverboat Landing. (Reference old 1986 and 1996WDW MK guidemaps here and here, respectively.) Originally the load and unload area for the keelboats (see larger image here from Walt Dated World) this space is now houses stroller parking for The Haunted Mansion and serves as the unofficial start of its queue. However, if you walk into this outbuilding and towards the Rivers of America, you're greeted with a unique view of the river, Tom Sawyer Island, Aunt Polly's Landing / Dockside Inn and beyond, as seen below at dusk.

And, if you look a little to the left when the Liberty Belle is docked, you're greeted with the view below.

I, for one, have wondered why this attraction, which is a WDW Magic Kingdom original known as the Liberty Square Riverboat, hasn't been changed to reflect its current namesake. The paddle wheeler shown above isn't the original; the Admiral Joe Fowler was. Some of you may be familiar with the story but when the Fowler was sent to rehab in 1980 it suffered irreparable damage and the remaining riverboat, which began service in 1973 known as the Richard F. Irvine, was rechristened the Liberty Belle in 1996.

To learn more about the Richard F. Irvine and Rivers of America, please reference the labels located to the right of the page. These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Big Thunder, From Afar

Well, the Nerds, the Dreamers, and the Newspaperman have all seen fit to honor Big Thunder Mountain Railroad this week so I thought I'd submit a shot as well. While this is a bit of a different perspective, Big Thunder Mountain, in my opinion, is best shot from afar in Walt Disney World - in this case, from Tom Sawyer Island. This photograph was taken by the author in October, 2001.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rivers of America and Liberty Belle Daydreaming

I am a fool for many things and late afternoon photographs of the Liberty Belle Riverboat with the sun in the background is definitely one of them. Here she is, photographed from the vantage point of the walkway beside the Rivers of America. This vessel has a very important past, most notably the name change from Richard F. Irvine to Liberty Belle in 1996. The ride still lasts 20 minutes and is a nice respite from the crowds on a busy day in the park.

To learn more about the Richard F. Irvine, the Mark Twain Riverboat, and Rivers of America, please use the labels located at the right. This photograph was taken in November, 2007.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Crow's Nest

A favorite of children everywhere due to the pistols and rifles located outside and a nice place for parents to purchase film (yes, some of us are still wedded to our 35mm cameras), The Crow's Nest is located just outside of the veranda pass through from Adventureland into Frontierland. This location in years past served as a express film drop-off location where you can leave your film here for same day developing but due to changes in the official park maps it's hard to tell if it remains as such. Most importantly, The Crow's Nest provides a brief visual interlude down the back corridor and serves as a nice segue in between the two lands.

Two tidbits of information to pass along regarding The Crow's Nest.

1.) During our November 2007 trip the CM at the counter indicated the wooden pistols and rifles are soon to be discontinued. No firm news but I thought you all should know.
2.) To the right of this building (if you are facing it) is an area 'Under Refurbishment'. Not sure what's going to be placed here but it is fairly underutilized real estate in the MK.

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Tune-In Lounge

The Tune-In Lounge, located adjacent to the '50s Prime Time Cafe in the Echo Lake section of Disney's Hollywood Studios, is a 52-seat bar that I've come to appreciate when cocktail hour arrives on a hot summer's day at WDW. The bar is a tad small, but beautifully decorated and conceived as "Dad's Place" if you buy into the 1950's family style, Formica theme at the restaurant attached to it. The only thing that spoils this place for me are the silly glow in the dark ice cubes they try to upsell in your drink. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Space Mountain: Red

There's something unusual about a photograph of Space Mountain minus people; if you're a fan of this attraction (and who isn't?) this shot should get you excited. This shot is a bit unique in that I didn't have my tripod with me and was forced to use a trashcan to steady my camera. As the wastebasket was located under the TTA neon lighting it created this unusual red cast. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Hungry Bear

The last in our series of Critter Country photos, the Hungry Bear Restaurant is located off to the right of Winnie the Pooh (perhaps it made more sense when the Country Bear Jamboree occupied that space). The Hungry Bear is nestled in between the Rivers of America and Critter Country; be sure to ask for a river watching location if you'd like to see the Mark Twain or Sailing Ship Columbia glide past. The fare is standard park food: cheeseburgers, sandwiches, and salads to provide nourishment and funnel cake to add some sugar at the end. This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pooh Corner

On the opposite side of Critter Country lies Winnie the Pooh and, perhaps the highlight for merchandise in the area, Pooh Corner. This store occupies the traditional post ride exit spot and snares little children and their parents with a wide range of pooh bear plush toys and a candy store, to boot. Next to this spot are several suitable staged areas for photographs; my favorite the 'Thotful Spot', complete with hunny pots.

The building shown above was formerly called the Mile Long Bar and was notable for the fact that as you exited The Country Bear Jamboree, which formerly occupied the space where Winnie the Pooh now lives, the characters of Melvin, Buff, and Max continued their bad jokes after the show was over. (If you look closely you can see the Teddi Barra Swinging Arcade building at the left of the above shot.) Pressed penny fans will be happy to know there are two machines located at Pooh Corner so bring $3.06 to get all six at this location.

As for the Winnie the Pooh attraction, it's standard fare much like WDW's. Children will love it; parents will love it for that alone; purists will hate it. If only we could get a copy of the Tokyo Disneyland version, known as Pooh's Hunny Hunt, then we'd be in business. Here's hoping local position system rides will be created in the US parks in the future. These photographs were taken by the author in July, 2007.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Professor Barnaby Owl's Studio

After you've entered Critter Country and moved past the star two attractions, Splash Mountain to your left and Winnie the Pooh to your right, you find your self in a courtyard or alcove area. To your left is Professor Barnaby Owl's Photographic Art Studio building; this actually serves as the exit queue from Splash Mountain and is where you can purchase your very own souvenir photo from the attraction. The signage entices you with 'Wildlife Portraits' and 'Scenic Views' but unless it deals with characters like Brer Rabbit and and Pooh Bear, you'll be left outside in the rain. Chances are, you're already wet if you find yourself inside. This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.