Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Daily Figment 27: Splash Mountain Tradition

daily_figment_02With the Epcot theme park finished and $300 million over budget, the Imagineers had been targeted for extinction by the previous regime, and it was true that much of their work could be subcontracted much more cheaply. When Eisner and Wells arrived, Sklar and his team were at work on a new water ride, in which guests would ride logs down a hurtling flume, culminating in a thrilling drop down a waterfall. [Ed. Note----AWESOME!!!!!] splash02Dick Nunis had asked for a water attraction, the kind of ride growing in popularity at amusement parks all over the country, but had balked at the proposed $80 million cost. But Eisner loved the scale model of the water chute, and urged Sklar and Nunis to go forward. "Frank and I often favored the more creative (and costly) solution to the problem," Eisner later said, which coincided perfectly with the attitude of the Imagineers, who had long been criticized for ignoring budgets. Sklar showed Eisner the early models for Disneyland and Disney World, took him into the archives, and regaled him with stories of Walt's and Roy's often contentious relationship. Eisner was "blown away," as he put it. The possibility of more theme parks was already in his mind. The Imagineers had saved their very existence. itsthetruth02

-- James R Stewart, Disney War, pgs 61-62.

So, a reason to sing zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Even Eisner was in love with the mythos of Walt Disney. It is amazing to think that a single ride model could save the Imagineers and hurtle Eisner and Wells into the Disney Decade.

Hands down, this is the favorite attraction of the Disney Geeks. We've actually got an in-park tradition that we perform related to this ride. To provide the maximum amount of gloating, whichever one of us in in the queue for Splash Mountain will call the other one. Usually when the other Disney Geek is at work.


When the Disney Geeks are at MouseFest this year, who will we call?

I know, we'll call Grumpwurst!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Daily Figment 26: East vs. West

daily_figment_02East Vs. West

There are subtle but important differences in the area of development of the two halves of Future World. These differences play themselves out in the shapes of the hardscape, the stylistic treatment of planters, the plant palette, and the way the plants are maintained. The East Side, home of the Universe of Energy, Wonders of Life, Mission: SPACE, and Test Track, deals generally with the more technical aspects of modern science. The outdoor spaces are therefore more angular and structured, with hard corners and sculpted plantings. The West Side, where we find The Living Seas, The Land, and Journey Into Imagination with Figment, covers topics more natural and free-form. This leads to a treatment that is softer and more tactile, with curvilinear edges and lots of water. Even the smooth river rock in the various waterways affect this image because they represent real materials and have the softer shapes the designers required.


p. 62, The Imagineers, The Imagineering Field Guide to Epcot at Walt Disney World.

I have always had an affinity for taking pictures of the water and the river rocks in Future World West. Looking through my Walt Disney World vacation photos, I have a lot of pictures of the Imagination and Land Pavilions from across the waterway. I have very few pictures of Future World East.

Do notice in the picture of Test Track that the walkway leading to the attraction is very straight. The pathways on the West side follow the waterway and meander towards the pavilions.

Why do I take so many pictures of the water and the river rocks? Glad you asked.

Mainly, due to the peaceful nature of the scene. The color of the rocks has a tranquil and serene effect on me. And it really just flows very well.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Daily Figment 25

daily_figment_02So, what do you collect?

Specifically when you visit your favorite Disney Park. T-shirts? Figurines? Snowglobes?

Matt at Walt Disneyana World has created a great blog about various different Disney collectibles. Not only does he share a photo of the item, but he will appraise the item and let you know how much you might spend for it on Ebay.

DSC00516There are a lot of different things that we, as a family, collect when we visit Walt Disney World. One of mine happens to be ties. I wear a tie every day at work and it is always fun to throw in a special tie with a lot of character, if I can.

The tie in the left photo I actually acquired when I worked at the Disney Store at my local mall in the mid '90's (Hi, Alane!). It doesn't really fit into the Disney Park collectible area, but it was the first one I bought and kick started the collection. This collection is one of the few that make it out of the house on a regular basis. Also, they will probably not age very well. I'm not sure if my kids will want to wear these ties when they grow up--unless retro Mickey is really cool.


The tie above is from our 2004 trip. We purchased it in the Emporium on Main St. USA at the Magic Kingdom.


This one is from our 2006 trip where we purchased it at MouseGear at Epcot. I am in no way color-blind; I am just color unsure. So, when I attend MouseFest this year without the family, I am going to have to pick out my tie by myself.

Hmmm, maybe Mickey can help me out!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Daily Figment 24


When Dick Huemer suggested that they hire Stravinsky to write something, Walt countered, "Those guys don't work that way," though he was so confident of his efforts that he told Huemer he could foresee the time when composers would write for animation as they wrote for the stage.

p. 310, Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: the Triumph of the American Imagination.

[Dick Uemer was an animator at the Walt Disney Studios. Walt was in the planning and production stages for The Concert Feature, which would evolve into Fantasia.]

Friday, July 27, 2007

Daily Figment 23

daily_figment_02People often use Disneyland as a synonym for the facile, shallow, and fake.  It just doesn't wash:  This incredibly energetic collection of environmental experiences offers enough lessons for a whole architectural education in all the things that matter- community and reality, private memory and inhabitation, as well as technical lessons in propinquity and choreography.

-Architect Charles Moore

The City Observed: Los Angeles

What an awesome statement.

I am an avid (and sometimes rabid) armchair architect. In our Meet Our Neighbor section, we ask what Disney employee you would want to trade places with and my first thought is Wing Chao. Before recent promotions, Wing was executive vice president, Master Planner, Architecture and Design for Walt Disney Imagineering. Basically, he has had his hand in every major building decision: land use, hiring architects, approving designs and overall master planning.


When I read the statement from Mr. Moore, I marvel at how much he says about Disneyland with just two sentences. He infers that Disneyland is, perhaps, one of the greatest shared architectural and social experiences of our time. Although Mr. Moore is talking about architecture, specifically, he does lead us down the slope (willingly) that Disneyland is more than just a theme park. It is an encapsulation of architectural styles from around America, Europe, the Pacific and the future (sort of). When we visit Disneyland, we can relate to parts of it: small-town America (home), Fantasyland (far-flung European motifs--and cherished films), Adventureland (the great unknown and excitement), Tomorrowland (the big city and exhilaration) and Frontierland (the old West).

There is something there for everyone. You can take whatever you want from the park, figuratively, of course. Oh, yeah. Disneyland is art--and simply amazing architecture!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Daily Figment 22

daily_figment_02While entertainment will continue to be a highly visible attraction of Epcot Center, it is the underlying educational value of Future World that is its most important contribution. Exciting, amusing, and fascinating as each pavilion is in itself, it is but an element of a project that may well be viewed as a springboard to our discovery of new worlds.

--page 39

Walt Disney's Epcot Center

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Daily Figment 21


Can you tell us who said this?

Companies like Disney are always founded by creative entrepreneurs but eventually the founder dies or gets pushed out, or moves on to something else. Inevitably the business people take over- the managers- and they focus on preserving the vision that made the company great in the first place. They don't have any creative ideas themselves and they end up surrounding themselves instead with analysts and accountants to try to control the creative people and cut costs. In the process, they discourage change and new initiatives and reinvention. In time, the company begins to ossify and atrophy and die. It's important to have financial parameters and never to bet the house, which is how we always protected [a certain studio]. But in a creative business you also have to be willing to take chances and even to fail sometimes, because otherwise nothing innovative is ever going to happen. If you're only comfortable running a business by the numbers, I can understand that. But then you shouldn't get involved in a creatively driven company like Disney.

Tune in tomorrow to find out. In the mean time, post some of your thoughts and answers.


Eisner to Sid Bass (Disney Board of Directors and the single, largest shareholder) over a speaker phone in 1984, to make his case for the position of CEO of Disney. Sid agreed and gave Eisner his vote. The studio in question was Paramount.

-Disney War, James R Stewart, pg 53

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Daily Figment 20

daily_figment_02In May of 1994, my wife and I made our first trip to Walt Disney World. It was my first trip and her 6th or 7th. My memories of planning the trip were simply thinking about going to Disney and reading the Official and Unofficial guides to WDW. The Sehlinger book was a little more daunting to me. I was really not familiar with anything in Orlando and relied on the guidebooks to give me all of the information. Since the Official guide had pictures, I have always had a soft spot for it and still recommend it to newbies.

Walt Disney World 1994My wife handled most of the arrangements for the trip. She booked it with the travel agent and kept up with most of the details. Most of that has flipped. We make the decisions together, but I handle all of the bookings and other travel related chores. She just comes along to make sure I don't leave the kids behind or take them on rides they don't like.

Walt Disney World 1994It had been a lifelong dream to visit WDW since I was about four or five. I remember that a friend came back from a family vacation to WDW and had viewmaster slides of the vacation kingdom. I remember the exact moment I saw the slide for the Haunted Mansion and thought how amazing it would be to see it. It would literally haunt me for the next 20 years. We had friends that moved to Florida (can't remember where) and my parents always regretted not taking us. Me, I'm not so sure. Without any planning, visiting Walt Disney World between 1982 and 1986 might have caused us not to enjoy the vacation and therefore, not instilled a love for the Disney theme parks.

Walt Disney World 1994 Port Orleans 1994But back to the 1994 trip. I was a very inexperienced traveler and we weren't sure what to think about our trip. We stayed at the Port Orleans (when it was just Port Orleans) and we really enjoyed the food court and the Bonfamille's restaurant (hey Andy, want some strawberries and cream?). To us, the rooms were amazing and the grounds/theming were meticulous. I still think about those wonderful beignets!

Our first thing after checking in was to drive to the Magic Kingdom. We had a rental car and it was about 3:00 in the afternoon. As we were pulling out of the Port Orleans resort, the sign said "All Guest Areas" with an arrow pointing left. Well, being a guy, I knew we hadn't seen the Magic Kingdom during our drive to the resort, so it must be to the right. We drove past the security at Ft. Wilderness, under the water bridge at the Contemporary and suddenly noticed that we were behind Space Mountain. Teresa exclaimed that she had never parked behind Space Mountain before and that maybe we should turn around. We did. It only took us a few extra minutes to get there.

Walt Disney World 1994After parking and riding the ferry (which was recommended for the first time visitor--one of the guidebooks), we entered the Magic Kingdom. It was awe-inspiring. We were both starving and had dinner reservations for the Liberty Tree Tavern at about 5:00. So, we got popcorn and ate it while strolling down Main St. USA and into Liberty Square. I do remember being amazed and excited about finally being there. Teresa did mention how my excitement was contagious. We didn't ride anything. I wanted my very first ride to be the Haunted Mansion.

Walt Disney World 1994We ate at the Liberty Tree Tavern and we both agree that it was a perfect meal that has not been replicated since. We still talk about the fried cheese platter that Teresa got as an appetizer. They have changed the menu since then and each succeeding visit has paled in comparison. Our experiences at the Tavern have gone downhill.

After the meal, we walked across to the Haunted Mansion and got in line. I have to admit, the ride was phenomenal. It is still one of my favorites. Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion and MuppetVision 3D are the big three for me to this day. I remember standing in the queue, laughing at the tombstones and then entering the stretching room. Ahhh. My life would never be the same.

The only other things I remember about that first day:

  • getting caught in the horrible exodus from the Magic Kingdom. I know that it must have taken us a good hour to get back to the hotel,
  • ordering pizza from the Sassagoula Express and confusing the operator by ordering a cheese pizza with cheddar cheese (and getting one with only cheddar--no mozzarella), and
  • being overwhelmed and thrilled at the same time.

And if you have to ask why I posed under the Prince bathroom sign...you obviously don't know me that well.


I know this is a different Daily Figment, but I wanted to share some of the memories from the first time I ever set foot on Disney property. As much as I had been dreaming about visiting Walt Disney World, I was not prepared for it. It truly changed my life, as I am sure many of you can relate. It started me on this journey and over the years I have devoured every single book I can find. It has also led me to this incredible online community and given me the opportunity to meet and share my passion with so many of you.

So, what are your first Disney theme park memories?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Meet Our Neighbor!

 For our second Meet Our Neighbor interview, we decided to tap one of our favorite bloggers, podcast guest (what do you call him, Lou?), font of insane Disney knowledge and all around great guy: Jeff Pepper.

I remember the first time I heard Jeff on the defunct Mousetunes podcast. Lou had him on the show and they did an early verion of a DSI--Disney Scene Investigation--about the MuppetVision 3D attraction at the Disney-MGM Studios. I remember it vividly because it was the first time that a podcast made me laugh while driving home from work. Thanks goodness I don't drink milk and drive!

If you read the Disney Geeks blog, I am sure you are well aware of 2719 Hyperion. Theme Parkeology, Lost Imagineering, Snapshots and What a Character are just a few of the topics about which Jeff rhapsodizes. He is a Disney animation buff and a great writer. And if you listen to the WDW Radio Show, you will often hear Lou bow in deference to Jeff's knowledge (but not too often).

Be sure to visit 2719 Hyperion. We were going to confer upon Jeff the title of Disney Geek Cum Laude, until we realized that we had no real authority. And that it wouldn't gain him any more credibility (or cash).

On with the questions!

  • What is your earliest Disney memory?

My earliest memories are of watching the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday evening and reading Disney comic books. My first trip to WDW was in 1973 when I was twelve years old. 

  • What is your single favorite attraction?

Sorry, I can’t pick just one. While it’s now definitely showing its age, Star Tours totally blew me away when I first experienced it at Disneyland in 1989. All of the first generation Future World attractions are favorites and I’ll no doubt be predictable by singling out Horizons. The original Magic of Disney Animation tour that debuted with Disney-MGM Studios and featured Walter Cronkite and Robin Williams was akin to a religious experience—seeing Rollercoaster Rabbit go through its various stages of production was simply amazing. I have to say that Soarin’, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Gran Fiesta Tour and Everest are among my current favorites. I first rode Pirates of the Caribbean in 1976, and it is still my hands-down favorite Magic Kingdom experience.

  • What is your favorite Disney and non-Disney movie?

Again, can’t pick just one favorite Disney movie. Snow White, Fantasia and Pinocchio represent the pinnacle of Disney animation. Personal favorites? Three Caballeros, Melody Time, The Rescuers Down Under. Live action? The Parent Trap. Mary Poppins is brilliant and in a category all too itself, as is Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And Toy Story 2, for my money, is one greatest movies ever made, animated or otherwise.

Non-Disney—that’s a lot easier. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. And John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath.

  • What is your least favorite park?

Apple and oranges. 

  • What is your favorite park?

Again, apples and oranges. But EPCOT Center is definitely a sentimental favorite.

  • Who is your favorite Disney character?

Goofy, especially in his Sport Goofy and George Geef incarnations.

  • What is your favorite Disney song?

Baroque Hoedown from the Main Street Electrical Parade. Pure magic and it encapsulates so many other classic Disney tunes. 

  • If you could switch places with any historical or living Disney employee, who would it be and why?

Roy Williams, the big “Moose-keteer,” for everything he was witness to. He started at 2719 Hyperion in 1930 and was a key studio animation talent. He continued in television with Mickey Mouse Club, and hung out an awful lot at Disneyland during its first decade. 

  • What is your must eat food at WDW?

The BBQ ribs at Flame Tree Barbeque at Animal Kingdom.

  • Favorite place to stay at WDW?

Wilderness Lodge, IMO the single best themed resort on property.

  •  What is your favorite place to be at WDW?

The lobby at Wilderness Lodge.

  • What is your favorite restaurant?

For food—Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

For fun—Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary.

  • What is the first thing you want to do on your next trip?

See Spaceship Earth without the wand and experience the new version of the attraction.

  • What is your favorite fireworks show?

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.

Daily Figment 19

daily_figment_02I've been away for a few days. Got caught up in the Harry madness. I have never read a book so quickly in my life.

But things like that happen. Take you out of that loop. Occupy your brain. Make you step out of the real world. Even if only for 759 pages. And...

Make you weak in the knees.

What Makes You Weak in the Knees?

What makes your heart skip a beat, what invigorates you, what ignites your passi0on, what gives you your edge, what keeps you in the game, and what makes you say it is good to be alive?


Allow yourself to see beyond what is in front of you, read between the lines. strive for personal greatness and betterment, challenge yourself, and push your envelope. Nurture and above all protect "what makes you weak in the knees."

--Becky Bishop (Landscape Architect), pp 188, 189.
The Imagineers. The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity, 2003

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Daily Figment 18

daily_figment_02This is what the Benton classmates remembered: Walt Disney drawing. He drew constantly. He drew even though it was not always socially acceptable to draw. "It was kind of sissy for a guy to draw, "Walt Pfeiffer admitted, but that did not deter Walt Disney. He drew and drew well for a boy his age. He drew until it became the primary source of his identification at Benton: Walt Disney, the artist. "Even in our old 7th grade in Miss Beck's room," a classmate recalled, "we all knew you'd really be an artist + genius of some kind...& when I heard that you couldn't draw I sure set some of them straight. Because even in the 7th grade that's all you did."

--Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: the Triumph of the American Imagination. p. 29

It is all about passion, isn't it? What would people say about you from the 7th grade?

Me? I was tall, skinny and just a little geeky. Imagine that. Hmmm...I was probably talking about The Empire Strikes Back. Not even dreaming about a Disney filled life.

Disney and More

Alain Littaye, author of Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality, also runs Disney and More.

Alain has a great post about some behind the scenes artwork of the Haunted Mansion and shares a few links from YouTube about the creation of the ride.

Alain's blog will take you a while to get through. He has articles on all of the parks, including concept art, tours, photos and a lot of behind the scenes information.

And if you're interested in your very own Tiki Room, make sure to check out this article --and bring your checkbook with you!

Head over to his site and share some Disney Geeks love with him.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Daily Figment 17


No Daily Figment from me today!

(My wife made me take this pose--she said it looked more heroic. But she did make fun of me for smiling. Who smiles when they read? I do!)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Daily Figment 16

daily_figment_02With Snow White winding down at the time, The Sorcerer's Apprentice seemed to strike a nerve with Walt. If the former was the story of Walt's youth, the latter was the story of his new power and his vexed relationship to it. Bill Tytla would draw the sorcerer with Walt's famously cocked eyebrow and had named him Yen Sid, "Disney" backward, to make the connection between the sorcerer's magic omnipotence and Walt's. In the animation universe Walt Disney did control the elements as Yen SidYen Sid did in the cartoon. He was the master, the only one with the "whole equation" in his head, while his minions were the apprentices, helpless without him. But another possible interpretation may have been in Walt's own mind as he awaited the reception to Snow White: that he was not the sorcerer but was himself the hapless apprentice who dons the sorcerer's hat and summons the elements only to discover that they overwhelm him.

--Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: the Triumph of the American Imagination. 2006. pp 295-296

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Daily Figment 15

daily_figment_02After the death of Walt Disney the man, something happened to Walt Disney the company. You see, Walt Disney was a three-time rifter. He was one of the few people who have successfully managed to find a rift in the continuum of life, to bet everything on it, and to make a profit by doing so. And he did it three times.

What's a rift? It's a big tear in the fabric of the rules that we live by. It's a fundamental change in the game, one that creates a bunch of new losers -- and a handful of new winners.

Most people who build important businesses build them on a rift, usually one that they find by accident, and usually only once. Sometimes, after they've succeeded once, they fool themselves into thinking that they're so gifted that everywhere they look, they can see a rift. But Disney was different: He really was rift gifted. After all, he did it three times.

"Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, my mom -- and now you -- have shared the secret of rifting." Seth Godin, FastCompany,  Issue 32, February 2000, Page 258.

Seth wrote this seven years ago. It is interesting to see his take on what he feels are really Walt's rifts. In the article, he looks at Steve Jobs (before the iPod and iTunes--probably one of the biggest rifts ever) and his mom. All from different perspectives.

Have you experienced a rift? Have you bet it all and come out a winner?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Daily Figment 14

The Daily Figment: Dedication, Dreams, Discussion and DiscourseFor a long time, many years in fact, The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing the Disney Theme Parks could never have happened. In the first place, traditional museums have not often regarded the world of theme parks, or the artworks and artists behind them, as "legitimate" subjects for their sacred halls. Personally, I never quite understood this attitude, because World's Fairs and International Expositions have traditionally "showcased" great art and artists.

--Marty Sklar, The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing Disney's Theme Parks, 1997. Page 13.

For more discussion and thoughts, check out Keep the Light On For Me by Foxxfur over at Passport to Dreams.

So, is the Disney theme park art?

Grump Alert!

There are lots of great posts on the interweb today. I wanted to share two articles by Ray over at Grumpy's Hollow.

What Would You Do with a Billion Dollars?

What Would You Do with a Billion Dollars (Addendum)?

Ray shares his thoughts on the much discussed and vaunted Disney's California Adventure and he weighs in on the battle between Disney, Anaheim and some of the citizens.

Make sure to check out his blog. Ray is often grumpy, but he loves Disney and provides a great opinion.

Excitement Brewing on the West Side!

Honor Hunter over at Blue Sky Disney has a great post about the future of Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure.

Run over there right now! (And make sure that Blue Sky Disney is in your aggregator!)

Learn about Star Tours 2.0, a new Indiana Jones possibility and a lot of general theme park goodness!

This Disney Geek is very excited about the possibilities. But I am not sure I can wait until 2010 to experience this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Daily Figment 13

daily_figment_02First Time Live Internet Broadcast from Walt Disney World?

Over at Explore the Magic, we did a live Internet radio broadcast from the Boardwalk. Our man on the scene, Michael, found a free wireless hotpsot. He pointed his webcam over the ESPN Zone and we saw and heard Illuminations. Later, we actually could kinda see Wishes!

While at Boardwalk, Michael was able to ask people questions and survey them as they walked by. We talked to a group of visitors from Liverpool! Live from the Boardwalk!

Tim Devine from The Magic in Pixels stopped by to relieve Michael for a few moments. Tim shared several of the highlights from his trip so far: his grandfather getting to be the veteran of the day at the Magic Kingdom, being the first family of the day at the American Adventure and using his brand new iPhone to update his forums and keep in touch.

So we were wondering, has anyone else done that? A live streaming radio cast from Walt Disney World?

Live Radio Show

From Michael at ExploretheMagic.com

That's right, we are going to attempt to do a live show from Disney's Boardwalk!

Tonight at around 9ish... but probably closer to 10 pm EST.

This is completely experimental, we don't know if it work using a broadband WiFi hotspot so cross your fingers and spread the word!


Sorry for the short notice, but this will be fun so join us!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Daily Figment 12

daily_figment_02In Walt Disney's worlds, architecture was a mesmerist's task of spinning gold from paint and turning stucco into stone. Walt watchers -- those who worked with him or studied him closely -- will assert that he never intended Disneyland or Walt Disney World to be "real," but, at the same time, they will talk about his preoccupations with making it all completely believable, a pretend world with no jarring intrusions; the oxymoron of totally authentic inauthenticity. "Imagination is the model from which reality is created," Disney once said, showing that he knew exactly what he was doing when he turned fiction into fact, making myth and legend part of everyday life. (Page 14)

Building a Dream: the Art of Disney Architecture. Beth Dunlap, 1995

Imagine that--authentic inauthenticity. So where does that lead us? That Walt saw (due to his death in 1966) as architecture as the final art form? Although he was planning EPCOT before he passed, he was never able to instill the confidence of creating the actual city. No one but Walt could have pulled off that one.

The next time you are at Walt Disney World--whether it is in the parks or the resorts--notice the authentic inauthenticity. How does it make you feel to stroll down Main St. USA, even though you know the buildings aren't truly to scale? Or taking a trek around World Showcase, where you know that you are only sampling the countries like an appetizer. Have you checked into the Wilderness Lodge and been awed by the grandeur?

That is the point. Feelings and story. Attachment. Nostalgia.

Close you eyes and imagine that you are walking down Main St. USA.

Pretty nice, eh?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Daily Figment 11 - Masters Rolly and Yale

Rolly and Yale created and tested an entire mansion's worth of special effects, including gags in which in which it appeared that portraits and marble busts followed guests' every move, and an eerie projection illusion that would come to be known as the "Leota Effect." "Yale and I were roommates for the year of 1959," Rolly recalls. "Most of the stuff was his idea and I'd expand on it. Yale was kind of like a Geppetto, always tinkering with stuff. We were like a couple of kids just doing whatever we wanted to do."

Rolly relates one of the humorous side effects of their work. "Yale had all his ghosts and magic strewn throughout the room. Once, we got a call from personnel, asking us to leave the lights on because the janitors didn't want to come in if it was dark. Well, we did, but we rigged the room. We put an infrared beam, and when it was tripped, the room went to blacklight and all the ghost effects came on. When we came in the next morning, all the effects were running and there was a broom lying in the center of the floor. Personnel called and said, 'You have to clean up your own room because the janitors won't go in there anymore.'"

-The Haunted Mansion; From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, Jason Surrell, page 20

Ever get the Sunday blues about having to go back to work on Monday? I get the feeling that the early Imagineers probably didn't mind so much. In reading the aforementioned book by Jason Surrell, it becomes clear why the Haunted Mansion has become one of the most endearing attractions at Disney. It's longevity is a function of the YEARS of planning that went into the concept and design of the attraction and owes much credit to an amazing group of contributors such as Rolly Crump, Yale Gracey, Ken Anderson, Marc Davis, Claude Coats, X. Atencio, and Walt himself before he passed away. The Haunted Mansion was well over a decade in development and has the most essential element of connectivity that Walt preached in his early days of animation: fear. Three act serendipity from a potpourri of scripts, storyboards, and treatments have given many of the people who will read this some of their best memories of trips to the parks.

Enjoy and happy Sunday!

Monday Morning Addendum: Be sure to check out the Ghost Relations Department blog. It is a weekly blog that has new, obscure or just plain odd information about the Disney Haunted Mansions. And it is Disney Geeks approved!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Book Review: Designing Disney by John Hench


Designing Disneyby John Hench is one of my favorite books in my personal library.

The book is divided into four main areas: the Art of Show, the Art of Visual Storytelling, the Art of Character and the Art of Color. Mr. Hench does an amazing job of breaking down these areas by providing concrete examples through artwork, concept art, DSC00489 photographs, stories and personal recollections. One of of the amazing concept art shots is of the proposed Mickey Mouse Hotel. Mr. Hench briefly discusses using forms and symbols that are immediately recognizable to the viewer. Of course, the Mickey Mouse hotel was never built; the original idea was for it to be on the monorail line between the Grand Floridian and the Magic Kingdom.

DSC00490Mr. Hench was also the concept artists for the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. You can see from the picture that he was very much into color and the moods and feelings associated with color. He would use color to set the scene, invite guests further into the attraction or to simply set a mood. Mr. Hench refers to the concept art as enhanced reality. He also talks about the original iteration of the Enchanted Tiki Room. Walt wanted it to be a dining establishment with a dinner show. Once they started planning and designing, they realized that it would limit the audience capacity too much. So, Mr. Hench added the center fountain and created a theater in the round. The rest is history!

DSC00491The most stunning part of the book is the Art of Color section. Actually, I consider it the most interesting and eye-opening part. Not only does Mr. Hench discuss the different properties of color as they would appear in the different theme park locales; but he tackles how the same color will have drastically different effects depending on the sunlight. Disneyland Paris has a colder sun while Walt Disney World has a much brighter sun. Therefore, the color palette has to be very carefully chosen. In planning the Polynesian Hotel, they wanted to make sure that all of the details and the warmth were accessible in the day or evening. To me, the Art of Color is something that I can apply in my life. Whether it is the color of the bedroom walls, the floor tiles in the bathroom or open sky-blue of my children's bedroom.

I started writing this post with just the quote below. Then I started flipping through the book and I realized that there was simply too much inside the pages to leave it as is. I hoped to whet your appetite with three very minor parts of the work. This is not a book review, by any means--it is just one friend telling another friend about an incredible read. I urge you to get a copy of this book. You will never look at Disney the same after devouring reading it. This will be the next book that I loan to Disney Geek Andrew. Only if he promises to not eat Dorito's and ice cream while reading it!

DSC00487When I am asked, "What is your greatest achievement?" I answer, "Disneyland is our greatest achievement. Disneyland was first and set the pattern for others to follow." Disneyland has been an example for many enterprises in the entertainment industry, and its design principles have been embraced by other industries as well. The concept of "themed" environments--places designed so that every element contributes to telling a story--was developed and popularized by Walt Disney. Its influence has been extraordinarily widespread, and can be seen today in many aspects of our daily experience--in shops and shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, museums, airports, offices, even people's homes.

--John Hench, page 1.

Hench, John et.al. Designing Disney Imagineering and the Art of the Show. New York: Disney Editions, 2003.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Daily Figment 09 Disney, Eisner and Lasseter

I have been thinking a lot (maybe too much) about Eisner lately. I guess this has been spurred on by everyone's unbridled love for Lasseter. Don't get me wrong, I think Lasseter is the bees knees, but his sudden coronation as 'Uncle Lasseter' scares me quite a bit. I guess I relate to Eisner's meteoric rise and parachute-less fall to the current situation.

I read the passage below and learned so much from so little. How did Walt really feel about his image; about Disney's image; about his social responsibility?

I found myself imagining Walt in his personal time and the effect sharing that time must have had on the people around him. One of our earlier Figments points out the effect he had on Herb Ryman.

And then came Eisner. A brilliant buffoon. An amicable villain. A tightrope walking bulldozer. His entire existence at Disney is oxymoronic. It's as if he was Superman AND Mytzlplyk, often on the same day according to those he worked with. Bizarre? Bizarro!

Eisner, of course, had a different effect on the people around him than Walt did. I have read tales of creative staff meetings where either noone but Eisner talked or noone disagreed with him. Then I think of Walt's early WED rule: Noone is allowed to say no during a brainstrorming meeting. How creative can a room full of yes men be?

My hope is that Lasseter will inspire the current cast to deliver the best performance of their lives, but we all know what power does to most in those situations. Will we be reading passages like the one below and reminiscing for the good old days when Lasseter was the saviour, before he traded Disney's soul for his own historical immortality?

Most of all, when I read the passage below I think 'When will I have my own home screening room?'

In 1962, he (Ron Miller) and Diane had watched 'To Kill a Mockingbird' with Walt and Lillian at their home screening room, When it was over, everyone was moved and Walt said, "I wish I could make movies like that." Even Walt had felt constrained by the Disney brand. As he put it in one outburst, "I've worked my whole life to create the image of what 'Walt Disney' is. It's not me. I smoke, and I drink, and all the things that we don't want the public to think about." Miller had vowed that someday he would make adult films at Disney.
(Card) Walker had resisted for years. "We have our image," he insisted. But once Miller was chief executive, he'd relented. Miller established Touchstone, and tried to bring in some new blood to run it. His first choice was Michael Eisner.

Disney War, James B Stewart, pages 45-46

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Daily Figment 08 - Orson Scott Card & Ratatouille

In keeping with yesterday's theme of a prominent writer defending Disney (albeit in 1958), I thought I would post something a little more current from a prominent writer that is still prolific today, Orson Scott Card. Mr Card is a prominent science fiction writer (ala Bradbury) that has several texts that are taught in today's schools. He also pens illustrated novels for Marvel as well as recent forays into video game development. He is the winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and John W Campbell awards for achievements in science fiction writing. One of his most distinguished novels, Enders Game, is currently in development at Warner Brothers.

It is no secret that Disney Geek George (no slouch in the world of books himself) rates Mr Card as his FAVORITE author. Here is Mr Card's recent review of Ratatouille as published in the Rhinoceros Times Greensboro from Thursday, July 5th:

The promos for Ratatouille looked funny and cute, and it was from Pixar, which has a record of making even dumb film ideas into wonderful movies. For instance, The Incredibles actually did a better job of the multiple-superhero movie than the supposedly much-more-serious League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Fantastic Four.

But at the same time ... really, folks, a rat that cooks haute cuisine in a French restaurant? Comedy only works if you care. How are they going to make me care about a rat that for some absurd reason has a yen to be a chef?

Here's the miracle: It not only works, it works brilliantly. It's funny all the way through – I joined the whole audience in laughing aloud at bit after bit. But it's also delightfully emotional. I actually found myself caring, about the rat and even more about the charmingly inept would-be chef named Linguini.

The animation is extraordinarily expressive – while there are famous actors playing some parts, nobody was cast for star power. Instead, they were cast because they were exactly right for the part.

Janeane Garofalo, for instance, is marvelous as the hard-as-nails female chef who is ordered to take Linguini under her wing and train him. Ian Holm is great as Skinner, and Peter O'Toole absolutely rocks as the ice-hearted food critic Anton Ego.

The movie not only tells a funny, heartwarming story that makes you cheer at the sight of a kitchen full of rats, it also manages to be smart about the relationship between critics and artists of any kind.

At the end of the movie, you don't really believe in Chef Gusteau's slogan that "anybody can cook." But you do gain a much greater appreciation for those who do it well.

Orson, meet Ray. Ray, meet Orson.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Daily Figment 06 - Live Internet Broadcast

Michael, the owner of Explore The Magic, is hosting a live call-in show on Wednesday, July 11 at 9:00pm (EST).

I will be part of the discussion, along with Tim Devine of The Magic In Pixels and Ray from Grumpy's Hollow. We will be running a chat room and taking questions over the air.

Besides being open to questions, we have compiled a few topics to spur discussion and comments:
  • Disneyland Trip Report from Tim and Ray
  • East Coast vs West Coast
  • Living near Walt Disney World
  • Photopass
  • Picture Tips
  • Planning a short trip?
And a whole lot more!

There will be a live audio stream running from the Chat page on ExploreTheMagic.com. To get into the chat room, scroll down to the gray box and type in a screen name (what you want to be called in the chat room) and click login. A larger window will open and you will be in the chat room. We will be using web cams, so you can click on a chat member's screen name (if there is a little green v) and see the hosts in action!

To hear the live radio broadcast, you will need to open up the audio stream (like listening to a podcast). On the left hand side (next to the gray Userplane box) are two links to the audio stream. The first one will open up a pop-up window in the browser that will play the file from your web browser. The second link will open up the audio stream in your personal media player (Windows Media layer, iTunes , WinAmp, etc).

So tune in, login and enjoy the live radio broadcast. The best thing about the live show is that you will be able to interact directly with the hosts. No more screaming at your MP3 player or computer.