Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rumor Has It . . .

It seems that there is never a shortage of Walt Disney World cast members willing to share rumors. One week’s tenure in the college program seems to magically unlock from the vaults, all of Imagineering’s secrets from the past two decades. From bus drivers to street sweepers, busboys to lifeguards, so many seem to know with some degree of certainty, what is lurking just around the next theme park corner.

In the past ten years, the Internet has turned Disney rumor-mongering into a full blown subculture. The most active forums on most Disney fan sites are those that focus on rumors. Podcasts reveal, discuss and debate them week after week. Feeding into all of this investigation and speculation has surely been the Walt Disney Company’s very close-lipped approach in recent years to announcing new projects. Since the almost total implosion of the Disney Decade and the cancellation of Disney’s America, Mickey’s PR and marketing gurus rarely spill the beans on anything more than six months prior to a soft opening.

I heard my first really good cast member rumor back in December of 1989. Star Tours was having its soft opening at Disney-MGM Studios. One of the attraction’s workers spun a lengthy and really entertaining tale about how George Lucas, on a recent visit to inspect Disney World’s version of the ride, outlined future enhancements to the simulator-based adventure. Not one, but three different “tours” would soon be available to guests. New films were already in production that would feature excursions to the ice world of Hoth and also the Cloud City of Bespin. And, these versions would only be available at WDW, due to Disneyland having less simulators at its Tomorrowland location.

My reaction? Well, you have to realize I was a lot younger then.

Yeah, I believed every word of it.

Seventeen years and countless cast member conversations later, I have to say I’m just a wee bit wiser about the whole rumor thing. And a lot less gullible.

In fact, the most refreshing exchange I ever had with a cast member came on my family’s vacation in October of 2005. As we were awaiting the rope-drop one morning at Epcot, we were fortunate enough to be picked as the Epcot Family of the Day. This involved being driven up to rope-drop in a special Test Track vehicle and introduced to the awaiting crowd. Our driver was a very nice gentlemen who was also one of the Future World attraction managers. While waiting for our cue, I asked him if he knew any details of what was being done over at the Living Seas, since the pavilion had been closed for extensive refurbishment. Was it going to be ride? Would there be some sort of new movie?

His response?

“Yeah, they’re really banging around over there. But you know what--they don’t tell us anything!”

Trick or Treat for Halloween!

Trick or treat
Trick or treat
Trick or treat for Halloween
Better give a treat that's good to eat If you want to keep life serene

Trick or treat
Trick of treat
Trick or treat the whole night through
Little scalawags with fiendish gags will make things tough on you

Donald Duck gets his comeuppance at the hands of kindly Witch Hazel, in Trick of Treat, the only cartoon short produced by the studios to have a theme specific to the Halloween holiday. Released in 1952, it is a true classic, and one of director Jack Hannah’s very best efforts. When Huey , Dewey and Louie partake of Halloween festivities, the ever malicious Donald prefers tricks to treats. Observing the abuse, Witch Hazel decides to employ some tricks of her own to exact revenge on the nasty mallard.

Music is an integral part of the film, as the song “Trick or Treat” both opens and closes the cartoon, and is woven perfectly throughout.

There are great visual elements, starting right at the beginning with Halloween-enhanced title screens:
The nephew’s traditional costumes:

The jack-o-lantern Hazel brings to life:

And the dark, spooky backgrounds, filled with all the embellishments of the season:

Witch Hazel, brought to life by legendary voice artist June Foray, has some very clever dialogue. When concocting her witch’s brew, she utters my favorite line of the short:

“This is the real thing you know, right out of Shakespeare!”

It is a fast paced, very funny, and beautifully rendered piece of animation.

And it also imparts a very valuable message--

So when ghosts and goblins by the score
Ring the bell on your front door
Better not be stingy or your nightmares will come true!


Trick or Treat: The Next Generation

No one in recent memory has more lovingly paid homage to the original Disney cartoon shorts than Tony Craig and Robert Gannaway. These two gentlemen were the creative forces behind two Disney television shows, Mickey’s MouseWorks and House of Mouse. Both programs aired as part of ABC’s Saturday morning lineup from 1999 to 2001, and episodes have subsequently rerun on the Disney Channel and Toon Disney.

Tony and Robert essentially created Disney cartoon shorts for a new generation of viewers, revisiting the format, characters and spirit, if not necessarily the visual style, of those earlier studio shorts. They also cleverly included theme park icons and references throughout both series. They clearly did their homework when creating the shows, and their love and enthusiasm for classic Disney fills every frame.

One of their most entertaining efforts is the Donald Duck short Donald’s Scary Halloween. A slightly hipper version of the duck’s 1952 Trick or Treat, it once again pits Donald against Huey, Dewey and Louie in a new series of Halloween misadventures. Mickey, Goofy and Minnie all make appearances as the boy make the rounds of the neighborhood.

After Donald scares them and steals their candy, the nephews set about exacting revenge on their malicious uncle. The images of the boys rising from graves in undead form, and chasing a terrified Donald, would likely have never made it to the screen back in 1952.

Here’s hoping Mickey's MouseWorks and House of Mouse arrive on DVD sometime in the near future.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Kracking Up at EPCOT Center

"Okay Krackpots! Let's get cookin'!"

While that cute little purple dragon has withstood the sands of Epcot time, the Kitchen Krackpots have not been quite so lucky.

The early days of EPCOT Center were devoid of the stock Disney characters. Disney wanted EPCOT to develop its own identity apart from the Magic Kingdom, so Mickey and company were largely absent form Future World and World Showcase those first few years. This however left the merchandisers and souvenir-creators in a bit of a spot. T-shirts with a big silver golf ball were clearly lacking in character. Their only options at the time? Figment and Dreamfinder from Journey Into Imagination, and the Kitchen Krackpots from the Kitchen Kabaret attraction at the Land Pavilion.

The Krackpots did not get quite the souvenir saturation that Figment experienced, but they were featured on quite a few items including postcards, placemats and other various household products. They even had a line of plush.

Sadly, the band was dissolved when Food Rocks replaced the Kitchen Kabaret in 1994. And while Figment made a miraculous return from the beyond (albeit sans Dreamfinder), it appears the Krackpots are destined to reside in theme park heaven on a more permanent basis.

VMK Insider Tour - Haunted Mansion Cards

At the not-so-gentle urgings of my two kids, we did the Virtual Magic Kingdom Insider Tour at the Magic Kingdom on our last Disney World vacation. We were all rewarded with a series of trading cards depicting VMK design components. The kids quickly used the codes on the backs of the cards to claim their virtual prizes. I just thought they were some really cool trading cards. Since Halloween is fast approaching, I thought I’d display the VMK cards from the Haunted Mansion.

Here they are:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

EPCOT 1939 - Part Four: The Road of Tomorrow

Okay folks, it’s a beautiful sunny day back here at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Let’s continue our tour of the Transportation Zone . We’re going to leave the Chrysler building and walk across the Avenue of Transportation to the Ford Exposition.

While the Focal Exhibit at the Chrysler pavilion, like Epcot’s World of Motion, told the story of the history of transportation, Ford’s main attraction, the Road of Tomorrow, drew parallels to Motion’s successor--Test Track.

A stainless steel sculpture of the god Mercury towered high above the entrance to the Ford building, representing one of the four Ford brands that also included Lincoln and Zephyr. But the more striking feature of the building’s exterior was the half-mile spiral ramp on which visitors rode in Ford-model vehicles as a part of the Road of Tomorrow attraction. The ramp surrounded the Garden Court, a beautifully landscaped courtyard where fairgoers could partake in a picnic lunch, listen to a musical performance, or just relax and people watch.

Let’s take a look at our guidebook for a quick description of the exhibits inside:

The "Exposition" has four main divisions: the Entrance Hall, the Industrial Hall, the Garden Court, and "The Road of Tomorrow." Each of the first three demonstrate in graphic style some significant phase of the company's work, showing how mass production of automobiles at moderate cost has contributed to a new way of life. The Entrance Hall is dominated by a series of striking exhibits. The first car Henry Ford built will be seen with current models of Lincoln-Zephyr, Mercury and Ford V-8 cars. "Everytown" is a large three phase map activated on a series of synchronized prisms, depicting the changes the automobile has wrought in our country. A huge activated mural by Henry Billings shows how the basic sciences are utilized by industry. Outstanding in the adjoining Industrial Hall is the "Ford Cycle of Production.'' A revolving turntable 100 feet in diameter, it contains 87 exhibits showing the progression of raw materials from earth to finished cars. Industrial Hall also offers various exhibits demonstrating Ford manufacturing methods.

While not sharing the same theme, these exhibits were very similar in design to the Fountain of Information display and the Age of Information animated mural that were a part of Communicore West’s FutureCom area at EPCOT Center.

The popular highlight of the exposition was The Road of Tomorrow, demonstrated by the long queue lines that overlooked the Garden Court. Here’s how our trusty guidebook described the attraction:

From a broad mezzanine you embark on your wondrous trip over '"The Road of Tomorrow." The winding course takes you through a tunnel lined with murals depicting ultra-modern highway construction, circles the top of Industrial Hall and through still another tunnel high in the nave of Entrance Hall. Descending at last to the second floor level, you circle Garden Court and return to the mezzanine and the end of a thrilling and delightful adventure.

Granted, this “thrilling adventure” did not rival the 65 mph speed of Test Track, but it was certainly entertaining in its day. In fact, Test Track would have been far cooler had the speed ramp circled a public area much the way “Road” surrounded the Garden Court. Instead, it exposes guests to some fairly unattractive backstage scenery.

Up next: In Part Four, we’ll take a quick look at some of the other Transportation Zone Buildings, then make our way over to General Motors and Futurama.

Lost Imagineering: WESTCOT Center

When Disney announced their initial plans for creating "The Disneyland Resort" in late 1991, Disney's California Adventure was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a more compact version of EPCOT Center, dubbed WESTCOT, was the second gate. An article in the Spring 1992 issue of Disney News provided no details about the park's attractions, beyond saying that "The glittering golden sphere of Spacestation Earth will beckon visitors to The Disneyland Resort day and night."

The same article also said near it's end, "Of course, it's still early in the game, and plans can-and usually do-change."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Snapshot! - A Little Corner of Italy

One of the more quiet and relaxing locations in Epcot's World Showcase. I've heard small children identify the statue as "Ariel's father."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

EPCOT 1939 - Part Three: Chrysler Motor's World of Motion

In 1939, the most readily accepted hallmark of progress was the automobile. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the Transportation Zone was the most popular destination at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Many of the longest lines at the Fair were to exhibits and attractions belonging to General Motors, Chrysler Motors and the Ford Motor Company. And many of these crowd pleasers would distinctly foreshadow EPCOT Center attractions created some forty-plus years later.

Looking across the Transportation Zone from the Fair's Corona Gate entrance.

The Chrysler Motors Building was at the forefront of the Transportation Zone and was home to the area’s Focal Exhibit. It embraced the very same theme as EPCOT’s World of Motion--the history of transportation. It however approached the subject with a much more serious tone, and a distinctly different presentation. Let’s flip to page 199 of our Official Fair Guidebook for a description:

“Within the rotunda of the building, the FOCAL EXHIBIT—-a part of the Chrysler Motors presentation—tells its graphic story of Transportation by means of moving pictures projected upon a great map of the world, and by the "Rocketport," a display that seizes upon your imagination and projects it into the future. The show consists of three parts—The Early Period, The Middle Period, and The Mechanical Period.”

Like World of Motion's cast of animatronics, these periods chronicled the history of transportation from foot and animal power all the way through to the arrival of automobiles and airplanes. The show culminates in the following dramatic finale:

“As the airplane finishes its flight across the screen, lines shoot out and harness the earth with other planets. Twinkling signal lights, the hum of gigantic motors and the warning sound of sirens indicate that the Rocketship is loading passengers for London. You see futuristic liners unloading at nearby docks; sleek trains glide to a stop, automobiles whisk voyagers to the spot, high-speed elevators rise and descend as the Rocketship is serviced for the coming journey. The moment for departure arrives. A great steel crane moves, a magnet picks up the Rocketship and deposits it into the breach of the rocketgun. A moment of awesome silence. A flash, a muffled explosion, and the ship vanishes into the night.”

Another popular attraction at the Chrysler Motors Building was in fact the first Technicolor 3D film ever made. After donning special Polaroid glasses, audiences were entertained by singing and dancing auto parts that magically assembled into a fully built automobile. EPCOT connection? Picture Journey into Imagination’s Magic Eye Theater dropped into World of Motion’s Transcenter.

Other points of interest in the pavilion included the standard showroom of new model Chrysler-made vehicles, and an exhibit featuring a talking car that answered questions, gave interviews and demonstrated its many then high-tech features.

Special Note: Readers of the first two parts of the EPCOT 1939 series may be now asking, this is great, but didn’t you say Futurama was your next topic? Well, yes that was my intention. But when I began to research the Transportation Zone, I realized there was much, much more to cover than just the popular General Motors attraction. Especially considering the numerous other similarities to EPCOT Center that continued to become apparent. Fear not; Futurama, and other elements from the Transportation Zone, are on the way. Stay tuned.

Cured Duck - October 26, 1945

When it comes to our favorite mallard, the title Cured Duck is clearly an oxymoron.

Released on this day in 1945, Cured Duck features Donald Duck attempting to reign in his out-of-control temper so to get back in girlfriend Daisy’s good graces. He responds to a newspaper ad from the Tootsbury Institute of Temperism, and soon finds himself at the mercy of the company’s patented insult machine. The machine guarantees a “cured duck” if Donald can withstand ten minutes of the physical abuse and verbal provocations it dispenses. The duck survives and ultimately displays to Daisy his new powers of self control, only to ironically fall victim to Daisy’s own explosive nature.

The opening scene is notable in that Donald is puffing away on a large cigar. It was a sequence that was edited out when the short appeared on the Disney Channel’s Vault Disney block of programs in the 1990s. This was at the same time Pecos Bill was having his cigarette digitally erased in the DVD release of Melody Time, and the Martins and the Coys were being extricated from Make Mine Music.

The highlight of Cured Duck is a Donald Duck temper tantrum of epic proportions. After being frustrated by an obviously latched window, he goes on a destructive rampage, of which Daisy’s house is the primary victim. It’s an incredibly rapid sequence of events. Witness when Don rips a telephone from a wall, and then subsequently drags a lamp and washing machine through the plaster as well, followed finally by the phone pole itself:

An interesting bit of 1940s pop culture: when Donald symbolically transforms into a heel after his initial tirade, it bears the Wingfoot brand name.

Cured Duck is available on Walt Disney Treasures Chronologial Donald Volume 2.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Remembering Jack Hannah

Prolific animation director who worked for the Walt Disney Company from 1933 to 1959. Key animator on the classic Silly Symphony The Old Mill. Principal director of Donald Duck shorts throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. Responsible for introducing such characters as Chip n’ Dale, Spike the Bee, Humphrey Bear and Ranger Woodlore. Director of fourteen episodes of the Disney anthology television show. Founder and director of the School of Character Animation at CalArts.

Quite a resume wouldn’t you say. Yet Jack Hannah, the man responsible for all those accomplishments, remains relatively unknown, despite contemporaries such as Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball becoming household names among even the most casual of Disney animation fans.

Jack brought wackiness and irreverence to his work, traits not normally associated with Disney animation. He was a spirit more akin to Chuck Jones and Tex Avery than to his fellow Disney Studio co-workers. His films certainly did not move at the leisurely pace common to the Pluto, Mickey and Goofy shorts. Gags came fast and furious, and were often laugh-out-loud funny.

Two of Jack’s most notable efforts were 1949’s Toy Tinkers and 1955’s No Hunting, both of which were nominated for Academy Awards.

Christmas-themed cartoons of the era were typically gentle, sentimental outings. Toy Tinkers takes that premise and essentially turns it completely upside down. Donald Duck’s warm and happy holiday literally turns into an all out war when Chip n’ Dale invade his festive household. Christmas trimmings become battlefield components. The results are over the top violent yet nonetheless hilarious.

No Hunting is equally funny, and takes satirical aim at the outdoor sporting life of the time period. It is very much in the vein of many of Tex Avery’s classic parodies produced at MGM. Jack’s portrayal of hunters as both battle-weary soldiers and crazed, shoot-at-anything commandos is truly inspired. The laughs are near non-stop, from the panicked farmer painting the word “cow” on his threatened bovine, to a cameo of Bambi and his mother that is nothing short of brilliant.

This was Jack at his peak, but sadly, it was in the waning days of cartoon short subjects. He would retire from the Walt Disney Studios in 1959. He worked for a while with Walter Lantz in the 1960s, and then served at CalArts for eight years from 1975 to 1983. He was awarded Disney Legends status in 1992. He passed away in 1994 at the age of 81.

Snapshot! - Third Place Tiger Lilies

Thought I'd head back over to Mickey's Toontown Fair. Minnie proudly displays her Third Place Ribbon for some very exceptional tiger lilies.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lost Imagineering: Disney's America

Abandoned Imagineering concepts are popular topics among Disney fans. Since many of these “lost attractions” have been covered in articles on other Disney sites and blogs, I thought I would take a slightly different approach when featuring them here. The Lost Imagineering Virtual Trading Cards will be a regular ongoing feature of 2719 Hyperion.

The failure of Disney’s America is sadly compounded by the fact that the company opted not to relocate it to a more receptive community. While I don’t necessarily agree, many felt it would have made a better fourth gate at Disney World than Animal Kingdom. It was also very disappointing when Imagineering recycled most of the park’s concepts for Disney’s California Adventure. The original attraction designs were far more interesting as they were first conceived.

While the protest against Disney’s America wore the noble mantle of being against the commercialization of history, at its roots is was just the local and very wealthy property owners who simply didn’t want Disney in their backyard. The Washington Post lead the charge, and Michael Eisner ultimately pulled the plug.

EPCOT 1939 - Part Two: Icons Past and Present

Like Spaceship Earth at Epcot, the Trylon-Perisphere Theme Center was the visual centerpiece of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. And in the same manner that Disney uses Spaceship Earth, Cinderella Castle and the Tree of Life as marketing icons for their respective parks, the Fair’s promoters spared no opportunity to brand everything they possibly could with representations of these two very dynamic structures.

Disney established Spaceship Earth as the symbol of EPCOT Center well prior to its October 1982 opening. Nearly every piece of pre-opening publicity material featured the distinct likeness of the giant geosphere.

The New York World’s Fair 1939 Corporation was no different with the Trylon and the Perisphere. The terms “trylon” and “perisphere” were specially created to describe these structures. Two years prior to the Fair’s opening, the dual icons were featured prominently on this “coming soon” poster:

It didn’t stop there by any means. There were few types of consumer products in 1939 that escaped Fair licensing. Furniture, cameras, typewriters, watches, radios, china, and countless other items all carried some type of image or graphic of the Trylon-Perisphere.
The Trylon-Perisphere Theme Center was dramatic and imposing to say the least. The Trylon stood some 700 feet high while the Perisphere measured 200 feet in diameter. In comparison, Spaceship Earth’s diameter tops out at 165 feet. The following images can give you just some idea of how large these structures were:

Like Spaceship Earth, the Perisphere also housed an attraction. While the Fair did have a zone that was identified with Spaceship Earth’s communication theme, the Perisphere’s resident presentation, Democracity, embraced the fair’s broader theme of “The World of Tomorrow.”

Visitors entered on what was then the longest escalator in the world. At its top, they were deposited onto either one of two revolving balconies that hung suspended over the sphere’s vast interior. Below was a highly detailed model of a city of the future. The Fair’s guidebook provides this description:

“As the interior is revealed, you see in the hollow beneath the sky, "Democracity"—symbol of a perfectly integrated, futuristic metropolis pulsing with life and rhythm and music. The daylight panorama stretches off to the horizon on all sides. Here is a city of a million people with a working population of 250.000, whose homes are located beyond the city-proper, in five satellite towns. Like great arteries, broad highways traverse expansive areas of vivid green countryside, connecting outlying industrial towns with the city's heart.”

In theme and message, though not in presentation, Democracity is most similar to Horizons of all EPCOT Center’s first wave of Future World attractions. But more striking is the miniature city’s uncanny resemblance to models and artwork of Walt Disney’s original vision of his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, right down to the single imposing skyscraper that tower’s over each concept’s city center. I have never come across any information that documents a visit by Walt to the Fair, but I have to feel it’s likely he attended at some point during its two seasons of operation. One must wonder if he viewed a performance of Democracity, and if he carried away any impressions that later influenced his plans for EPCOT.

Up next in Part Three: Futurama - by far the Fair’s most popular attraction, presented by none other than General Motors, future corporate sponsor of EPCOT Center attractions.

The Future From the Fifties: The Tomorrowland Moonliner

"Look, the future from the fifties."

"A bit far out, don't you think?"

"I guess so, but we always thought the future would be kind of fun."

To me, the Moonliner from Disneyland is a quintessential icon of 1950s futurism. It was sleek and stylish, not unlike the same decade's automobiles. If I had a time machine, Tomorrowland in 1955 would be one of my first destinations.

The description on the back side of the postcard reads:

"Fairy tale castles . . . heroic Indian fighters . . . jungles scenes, and the TWA rocket to the moon--you can see them all in the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland, only a few hours away by TWA."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dumbo - October 23, 1941

Happy 65th!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

EPCOT 1939 - Part One: The World of Tomorrow

Over the course of its 25 years, Epcot has often been described as a permanent world’s fair. It’s an interesting, and very accurate reference that is likely lost however, on the vast majority of guests, especially those under the age of fifty, who walk in the shadow of Spaceship Earth every day.

Built as showcases primarily for industries and governments, these fairs and expos have by and large become anachronisms in these early years of the 21st century. People attended these often massive expositions to view the wonders of technological progress and celebrate the accomplishments of the industrial complex. They also sought to bring themselves closer to other peoples and cultures from around the world, by visiting pavilions hosted by numerous nations. The countless media outlets available today have largely rendered world’s fairs obsolete. People need only go as far as their televisions or their computers to be exposed to the latest hallmarks of progress, or to explore distant lands.

Epcot was clearly designed and built around these very same concepts of progress and international cooperation. But its similarities to one fair in particular are striking. While most associate the Disney company, and Walt in particular, with the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, it is in fact its 1939 predecessor that Epcot most closely resembles. Especially the EPCOT Center that existed from 1982 through the early 1990s.

Both 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs occupied the same location in the Queens borough of New York City. It sprawled over 1,216 acres of former marshland adjacent to Flushing Bay. That’s four times the size of Epcot. An illustration from a 1939 pre-opening guidebook provides an idea of just how large it was:A close examination of this aerial view reveals how Imagineers likely took inspiration from the fair’s extensive layout, when mapping out EPCOT Center. Known as the Theme Center, the Trylon and the Perisphere, like Spaceship Earth for Epcot, serve as the Fair’s focal centerpiece. Immediately surrounding these dramatic icons are seven different zones and focal exhibits, each with a distinct theme: Communication, Transportation, Community, Food, Health, Production, and Science.

Beyond these areas, at the rear portion of the grounds, was the Government Zone. Radiating out from the Lagoon of Nations were over twenty large pavilions featuring the likes of Italy, France, Japan, Great Britain, Brazil and the U.S.S.R. The Hall of Nations surrounded both the lagoon and the Court of Peace, and offered slightly smaller scale pavilions representing an additional forty countries. The nearby Court of States featured pavilions from 22 different states. Centered directly behind the Lagoon of Nations and the Court of Peace was the United States Federal Building, anchoring the area in much the same manner as the American Adventure in World Showcase.
It’s interesting to compare the overall layout of the Fair to this concept art of EPCOT Center, featured on a pre-opening postcard:And the similarities extend well beyond layout and design.

Take for instance the theme of the Fair, as expressed in its official slogan:

“Building the World of Tomorrow with the Tools of Today.”

And then compare this excerpt from Card Walker’s dedication of EPCOT Center--

“Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire, and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.”

--to the following statements from the aforementioned Official Guidebook of the New York World’s Fair 1939:

To the millions of visitors the Fair says: “Here are the materials, ideas, and forces at work in our world. Here are the best tools that are available to you; they are the tools with which you and your fellow men can build the World of Tomorrow. You are the builders; we have done our best to persuade you that these tools will result in a better World of Tomorrow; yours is the choice.”

The same forward thinking idealism that EPCOT Center embodied, was very much alive and well in 1939. Sadly, it would soon be dampened by Germany’s invasion of Poland and the onset of World War II.

For Part Two in our EPCOT 1939 series, we will take a closer look at the Perisphere and determine the Epcot attraction it was most similar to. The answer may just surprise you.

Souvenirs: A Penchant for Pennants

Once a mainstay of Walt Disney World souvenirs, the pennant has all but completely disappeared from resort shops over the last decade or so. Designs encompassed everything from individual parks to specific attractions and characters. Here are two 1980s character-themed pennants from EPCOT Center.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Snapshot! - Which Way Do We Go?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Disney's Animal Kingdom can sometimes be a bit disorienting. Thankfully they have ways of pointing us in the right direction.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Disney Channel - 1986

Remeber the good ol' days? Good Morning Mickey! EPCOT Magazine. Mouseterpiece Theater. Walt Disney Presents.

Yeah, me too. I'd even be willing to pay for it again.

Welcome to . . . Duckburg?

“Duckburg? I thought it was Mickey’s Birthdayland!”

That was a comment I heard more than once when I visited the Magic Kingdom back in 1988 and 1989. As the Mickey’s Birthdayland Express rolled into a newly built train station just beyond Tomorrowland, guests first caught sight of this interesting billboard:

“Duckburg? Mickey’s a mouse! Shouldn’t this be Mouse Town? Mouseville? Mouseburg?”

Even the most out-of-touch tourist in 1988 surmised that Duckburg was clearly the home of Donald Duck. And they were right. Duckburg had sprang from the imagination of comic book writer/artist extraordinaire Carl Barks, over forty years beforeEven the most out-of-touch tourist in 1988 could surmise that Duckburg was clearly the home of Imagineers hastily built Mickey’s Birthdayland to celebrate the mouse’s 60th birthday. In the comics, Duckburg was the home of Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Daisy Duck, Gyro Gearloose and numerous other colorful characters. Except Mickey Mouse. In fact, according to the mouse’s most famous comic book adventure, “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot”, Mickey resides in the town of Mouseville. It’s no wonder poor Donald resorted to vandalism when he first beheld that sign honoring Duckburg’s “most famous citizen.”

It’s likely that Donald fell victim to yet another instance of the famous Disney “synergy.”It seems that the town of Duckburg had just made a comeback the prior year. In September of 1987, Disney premiered a new syndicated daily cartoon show called DuckTales, which took its inspiration from the Carl Barks canon of comic book stories from 1940s and 1950s. While Imagineers certainly could have chosen Toontown from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which had also debuted in 1987, Duckburg was a more G-rated, bright and happy place, compared to Roger’s somewhat dark and definitely PG hometown.

And the Duckburg of the Magic Kingdom was a colorful place indeed. From the kid-size faux storefronts----to Mickey’s stylized cartoon convertible.

Imagineers clearly paid homage to Barks and his creations. They honored the city’s wealthiest resident----and even included a dedication to Duckburg’s founder Cornelius Coot, whom Barks referenced once in the 1952 story “Statuesque Spendthrifts.” The story revolved around a statue of Coot that Imagineers very faithfully recreated.

Coot’s statue was pretty much the only Duckburg element that remained when the area evolved into Mickey’s Toontown Fair in 1996. In fact, Imagineers rewrote history a little. According to The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Coot is now the founder of Toontown.

Street signs paid homage to both Barks and original Donald Duck voice Clarence “Ducky” Nash. Other street names included Tailfeather Trail, Quackfaster Circle, and Cornhusker Lane.

Beyond its odd identity crisis, Mickey’s Birthdayland featured a number of low-tech but very kid-friendly attractions. A quick tour of Mickey’s house ultimately deposited guests inside the Birthday Party Tent. There they participated in the Minnie’s Surprise Party show. Featured next door at Mickey’s Hollywood Theater was a meet-n-greet with the main mouse himself in his personal dressing room. Across the street was Grandma Duck’s Farm, Mickey’s Playground, and the Mousekemaze.