Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Astro Oribter Hidden Mickey

One of my many crutches as a Photos from the Parks photographer remains the Astro Orbiter attraction in Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland. This particular image is in keeping with the 'Hidden Mickey' concept.

This photograph was taken by the author in November 2008.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Illusioneering: A Yale Gracey Tribute

One of the more interesting stories regarding Disneyland involves the shift of human capital from animation to park attractions. In an age where Imagineering is a common word, one might not realize how radical Walt's plan - of taking people who were extremely talented at one thing and asking them to do another not listed on their CV - truly was. True, Disneyland was built by general contractors and engineers but it was made by a group of highly talented artists who became Imagineers; Imagineers who were allowed to stop generating revenue for Disney and make what is affectionately known as the 'Happiest Place on Earth'.

Copyright, Disney Co.

As FoxxFur has pointed out in a series of posts, one such artist was Yale Gracey. Yale, by trade, was a layout artist for Disney known for his prolific work on the Donald Duck series of shorts and motion pictures. Below is evidence of that work. (Rob Richard's Animation Backgrounds just began a series of Donald Duck work; I would bet you'll see some of Gracey's work in the months to come.) Gracey, however, had a love for special effect gadgets that would become his lasting trademark as the granddaddy of all 'Illusioneers' based on his work on The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the 1964-65 World's Fair.

Copyright, Disney Co.

Yale has a window on Main Street and his work lives on in terms of special effects, film, and storyline. (Yes, he's that Master Gracey.) Be sure to read the Passport to Dreams Old & New link above for more information. In retrospect, it's amazing to think that Disney would be willing to take such risks in the creation of Disneyland; Yale was one of many who made it look like genius in the end.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Parade Sign

While traipsing through Liberty Square, looking for as yet untagged building photos, I stumbled across this gate somewhere between the Golden Horseshoe and the Liberty Tree Tavern. Interestingly enough, the gate was open (no doubt a CM point of entry) and I snagged this quick image of a sign therein.

Does anyone know if this sign is used in the Holiday Parade(s)?

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2008.

Editor's Note: Based on the comments received, the staff at Photos from the Parks decided to addend the original post with FoxxFur's explanation of the sign.
It's actually a sign put up in the glass windows just inside the Diamond Horseshoe for their holiday overlay; during the Christmas parties the horseshoe houses "Woody's Hootin Hollerin Holiday Open House", where food and beverage is sold, Toy Story characters appear and Jim the pianist from Casey's plays holiday tunes on the stage. It's one of the best things about the parties.

Anyway, the glass dividers right inside the doors to the Horseshoe which usually are etched with "DH" and little fleurs are overlaid with signs like the one you see which are made to look like wood. They say "Happy trails to All... ...And To All a Good Night!" and face in, towards the stage.

Right now, by the way, the Horseshoe is open as an adjunct to the Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner. Not only has it been beautifully restored, but the massive Wurlitzer player piano from the Main Street Penny Arcade has been brought in and outfitted with a Christmas roll. It warms my heart to see it.

....Since I know the gate well from my tenure in Adventureland Operations, I'll go on and say that this hallway leads between the Tavern and the Horseshoe, twists around past the Tavern kitchen and a utilidor stairwell, and twists around past the Shootin' Gallery to end inside the Adventureland Veranda. It's called the "Horseshoe Gate" and he neatest thing about it s that the themeing from Liberty square extends back into it, with a slate wall and themed door (not seen in your picture) so that from the road it just looks like a small interior courtyard!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fort Wilderness Christmas

Disney's Fort Wilderness is an excellent place to experience the holiday season. The rustic and relaxed atmosphere is always welcome and the decor is always a plus.

Pioneer Hall is gorgeous at this time of year and the general grounds are a treat.

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2001.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Flash Guilt?

There are many attractions within the various Disney themeparks and quite a few have specific guidelines restricting the use of flash photography. It's quite a reasonable request as a poorly timed flash can ruin the 'magic' and I am loathe to ever use a flash when not asked to with the exception of one specific spot in Walt Disney World's Pirates of the Caribbean. For those of you quite familiar with the ride, it's not uncommon for the boats to back up at the end (only It's a Small World is worse) and, when they do, this is the image that you take home with you. Is there a particular place where you 'break the law' on a regular basis?

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2008.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tiki Graffiti

Upon exiting Walt Disney World's Enchanted Tiki Room (I can't bring myself to say, 'Under New Management') one normally sees the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the pseudo-Arabian shopping bazaar to the north. During Photos from the Parks' recent visit the cool night air caused two members of our staff to stop at the always wonderful Sunshine Tree Terrace for some cocoa, a cookie, and a coffee. As we sat down, my eye was drawn to the exit from the Tiki Room where I found the following stencils on the wall. I had the odd sensation of newness and familiarity at the same time; does anyone know if these are relatively new to Adventureland?

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2008.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Liberty Square Riverboat (cont.)

The Liberty Belle Riverboat, in addition to being a first-class attraction itself, is a great place to see unique views of other icons in the park; namely, The Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Tom Sawyer Island. Today's post focuses on these attractions, plus a shot at the end, which isn't nearly as good as restroom photos, but is a peculiar fascination of the staff at Photos from the Parks.

After departing the riverboat landing the first major sight on the river is Harper's Mill, located on Tom Sawyer Island. The mill encompasses quite a few references: to the character Joe Harper in Twain's books; Disney's 'The Old Mill' (1937); and, in the opinion of the PFTP staff, a thank-you to Harper Goff. The view of the Mill and the windmill are both excellent, from aboard the Liberty Belle.

The next major view is of Fort Langhorn (once again, why not Langhorne?) on the right hand side of the boat. Guests are treated to great sight lines of the fort; be sure to look for young soldiers 'firing' the guns at you from within the fort as you paddle by.

As soon as the fort slides past, move to the left to take in a few great views of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (The sun is often a challenge here!)

This section of Big Thunder really underscores the concept of a 'good show' in that the only people within the park who see this vantage point are either on the Liberty Belle, looking afar from TSI, or inclined to sit on the right hand side of the WDW Railroad a look right at this point on their circuit. It is one of the best detail shots of the attraction and a real treat for each and every guest.

Coming up next, and back to the right, is the curious case of Wilson's Cave Inn. Documented by many with excellent detail, Wilson's Cave Inn is an ultimate insider's gift; the set piece has a long and treasured history that spans a long period of time and blends truth with fiction. A great sight and one that should be in everybody's photo library. (On a slightly sadder level, Disneyland has the Gullywhumper on display at a similar point in the journey.)

Alternating sides, take in the spectacular view of The Haunted Mansion as we bend back towards the hub. At this point in the riverboat narration, we are advised the mansion is built on ancient Indian burial grounds; an interesting point but hard to swallow from a continuity standpoint. Where exactly are we, geographically speaking? The 'Imagineering Field Guide' tells us The Haunted Mansion is representative of New York's Hudson River Valley in the early 1700's, but does the attraction tell us the same? Although I've been in, through, and around since the most recent refurbishment I can't tell if the timeline matches all the way around. Can anyone comment? Nonetheless, be sure to look at the weather vane and the 'gingerbread' at the top of the mansion.

Before disembarking, we catch another good look at the now closed Aunt Polly's Dockside Inn and the barrel bridge on Tom Sawyer's Island. What a wonderful trip.

Oh - on the way out, be sure to see yet another Cast Members Only sign; this one is great!

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2008.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Liberty Square Riverboat

At Photos from the Parks we've highlighted our fascination with WDW's Liberty Belle Riverboat and how wonderful this attraction is. We've also wondered why the attraction is named Liberty Square Riverboat; can anyone tell us why?

This attraction continues to show a side of the park very few witness. The seventeen minute ride, a respite from the crowds and noise, offers guests a chance to steam down the Rivers of America and catch a glimpse of a time long ago. It's a bit Mark Twain meets the Jungle Cruise; FoxxFur has information for those of us who appreciate the larger subterfuge at work here. One wonders if sacred burial grounds carry the same fascination for today's youths as they did 40 years ago but the tie in to the Haunted Mansion remains a insider's piece of intel.

The beauty of the scenery pales in comparison to the steamboat itself. There is nothing like the sound of the steam whistle just above your head nor is there anything like the sound of the Liberty Belle marking its presence while the Walt Disney World Railroad does the same on the far northwestern edge of the park.

Listed and classified as a working replica, the Liberty Belle is a traveling museum of sorts. The main deck features the salon and a wonderful collection of maps and images for those who like to loiter below decks. (Or, perhaps, become seasick.) Nostalgia for a time none of us can remember comes fast and furious at this point on the river.

The soundings of 'Mark Twain' might not be accurate in FL but the practice of determining the river's depth was a critical fact of life as was the marking of shoals, bends, and sandbars. On the Rivers of America, they appear on each bank and the names are worth remembering. Does anyone have a complete list?

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2008.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thirst Rangers

Every once in a while you'll encounter something in the parks so nondescript you'll have no recollection of it after you leave the park. Surprisingly enough, something as large as a bright red spaceship falls into that category, as evidenced by the Thirst Rangers Cool Scanner, located in Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland.

Located in between the Astro Orbiter and the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, the Coca-Cola sponsored drink shack and coolspot is easy to overlook as most people have their eyes set on Space Mountain (rope drop, anyone?) or Astro Orbiter. Be honest: could you have placed this item if I hadn't told you where it was?

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2008.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tomorrowland Trattorias

All alliteration aside, (and assonance, also) WDW's Tomorrowland features some fairly standard and out of the box eating options. First up is the staff's favorite, the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station. Located on the edge of Tomorrowland right at the juncture of Main Street USA, the Noodle Station is the newest of the Tomorrowland offerings. Located at the former Plaza Pavilion site which served burgers and dogs, the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station opened in 2004 with an exciting new addition to the grub all of us had come to know - noodles! The menu has shifted numerous times, as have the times at which it's open, but, on the whole, this is a most welcome addition to WDW's MK in terms of what to eat. My personal standby is the Chicken Noodle Bowl (great way to replenish your liquids) and I miss the Pad Thai offerings which were introduced early and taken away almost as quickly.

The Lunching Pad is the most visible of all Tomorrowland eateries. Located at the base of the Astro Orbiter and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, the Lunching Pad offers pretzels, smoked turkey legs, and slushies. Watch out for the stroller parking area but take note just how cool this location is.

Auntie Gravity's Galactic Goodies is the spot for ice cream and smoothies. This establishment occupies an interesting spot in Tomorrowland - smack dab in between one of two sets of restrooms and our next restaurant, Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe.

(Look at all of the fresh paint!)

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe is the largest of all eateries in Tomorrowland and, as befitting its size, offers the largest menu in this land. As you enter, pay attention to the three queue areas and please, please look at the menu before making your line choice. The seating area is vast and if you want to catch Ray's performance it's best to have a 'designated seater'; allow most of your group to find seats where you can see Ray (and stay in the AC) while you gather up the grub.

These photographs were taken by the author in January, 2005 and November, 2008.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Main Street Gazette

Our good friend Mr. Wilson has established one of the best newspaper reads in town; the staff at Photos from the Parks ran across these items in Downtown Disney and weren't sure if the Gazetteers knew about this. Is this an homage to Ryan from the Mouse?

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2008.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Special

Perhaps the best recent addition to WDW's holiday theming is the light redux of Cinderella's Castle. Prior to last year, WDW would gobo the daylights out of the castle, resulting in something like the image below taken during the Christmas 2004 season. While not bad, it wasn't exactly right as the patterns projected upon the castle would shift and caused, at times, an odd feeling of vertigo as the colors transformed and the gobos moved around.

November 2007 brought with it the first WDW incarnation of the Disneyland Paris castle lighting scheme; according to a Disney Co. press release dated November 11, 2007 this lighting spectacle entails:
15 miles of cables, cut and dyed castle colors, supporting:
32,000 square feet of fishing nets, supporting:
200,000 energy-efficient LEDs, interspersed with:
500 strobes
The effect is quite different than the previous holiday wrapper on the castle. Completely unobtrusive during the day, the castle is transformed into what you see below; a stunning, lit icicle structure which will cause you to stop in your tracks and stare long enough to make your neck ache.

Originally conceived and executed by François Leroux at Disneyland Paris in 2005, this transformation might be the very best ever foisted upon Florida's castle: it surely beats the Pepto-Bismol Castle (what wouldn't) and, in our opinion, is the best representation ever of an Imagineering idea for this structure.

The lighting is also visible from Fantasyland and is quite beautiful in person as it plays off the subtle lighting emanating from within Cinderella's Royal Table. If you've not seen this castle treatment, make plans to visit and prepare to be pleased with the result.

These photographs were taken by the author in January 2005 and November 2008.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Season

The intrepid (and highly underpaid) staff from Photos from the Parks recently undertook a one-day excursion to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on the day after Thanksgiving. The next few months of posts will largely detail this visit. Happy Holidays!

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2008.