Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Way Back Japan

Take a break and enjoy the dance performance from the Japan Pavilion in this shot from our 1985 Way Back series.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Book Review: The Disney War by James B. Stewart

Disney War by James B. Stewart. 580 pp, 2005 (Afterword 2006).

Andy published this review on August 7, 2007. I recently finished the book and realized that I could not say it any better than Andy did over a year ago. My contribution is the Bottom Line.

There has been so much talk lately about the rekindled flame between Disney and Pixar with some even referring to Lasseter as 'Uncle Lasseter'. I am a true Lasseter believer but have so much caution for coronating him after reading Disney War, by James B Stewart. The references to Eisner being the second coming of Walt early in his tenure at Disney are prevalent in the media at the time. Certainly the buzz on the internet recently has often fallen in the vein ofJohn the Saviour. This book serves as the grandest of cautionary tales, carefully laying out the history of failure at its most visible levels.

Those who know me well know I have been obsessed with this book recently. At over 590 pages, it felt like a relationship. Admittedly, one of my longer relationships.

In the past few months I have read five or six books about Disney, ranging from biographies to field guides, and none of them has captivated me like this book. James Stewart displays an amazing ability to make the non-fiction seems like fiction. Chapters flushed with facts and details are steadily crafted in a digestible and organized manner, sometimes a problem for non-fiction works. Most of all though, the sheer volume of insider information that you feel privileged to read is overwhelming. In the end, the book serves as a scathing indictment of Michael Eisner. Stewart completely reveals the arc of Eisner, painting him early as the genius that saved Disney, and then as any tragic Shakespearean character, as one who lets power intoxicate judgment. The following passage illustrates some of how deep this feeling of coronation ran in Eisner as Stewart recalls a conversation he had with him in his final years as CEO and Chairman:

After some more conversation, and just before we leave for dinner, Eisner gets a pen and a piece of paper. "Disney is a French name, not Irish," he reminds me. "Now look at this." He writes "D'Isner," "Deez-nay," as the French would pronounce it, "is Eisner without the D."

Uh, Mr Eisner, Walt is tired of turning over in his grave. Would you please refill your prescription for crazy pills and stop playing Boggle with the alphabet to tie yourself to the Disney family? Thank you....Oh yeah, back to the book.

The book is divided into three sections: The Wonderful World of Disney, The Disenchanted Kingdom, and Disney War. No explanation needed to reveal the general tone of each section. This is the simplest way to describe the arc of Eisner's career. As a testament to Stewart, I felt each section was more addictive than the previous. The deep, detailed accounts of his relationships with Katzenberg and Ovitz dominate the landscape and present him as neurotic and uncontrollable.

What made the deepest impact was the pointed way in which Stewart revealed the flaws of Eisner as he became more entrenched in defending himself. Earlier Daily Figments have pointed to some of the brilliant things he did, such as saving the Imagineers from the chopping block. (Ed. note- Splash Mountain is the Thriller of attractions) The following passage does the opposite, truly showing how Eisner failed to consider any threat to his throne:

In the course of renegotiating the Disney relationship with Pixar, Roth presented Eisner with a proposal that would both solve the issue of succession (Ed note- Eisner would not name a President to succeed Wells and therefore, no successor to himself.) and address the faltering performance of the animation division. It was admittedly bold: Disney should buy Pixar (as it could have done years earlier) and merge its own animation division into it. "Make it all digital," Roth urged. "That's the future." As part of the deal, Eisner should make Steve Jobs, Pixar's chairman, president of Disney. "Jobs is a darling of Wall Street," Roth argued, "And you'd get John Lasseter, the greatest creative mind to ever come out of Disney."

The idea went nowhere.

At any time in the buildup to Eisner's ousting, any person could see the merit in this idea. Eisner could have written himself another ten year contract based on this move alone. But as all tragic characters falter, so goes the phrase, "L'etat, c'est moi".

I have heard other Geeks say they have hesitated on reading this as they are uncomfortable with the Disney dirt. Please, read away as this book only made me understand the depths of stewardship we have in protecting Disney. As brother Roy campaigned for "Save Disney" to out Eisner, he was exercising his ability to shepherd Disney back into the greener pastures of creative content that had become barren under Eisner in his later years. I know you will enjoy this read, although you may be sad when it ends its relationship with you. After 590 pages, this is how you treat me???? Another relationship ended.

Bottom Line: This book should be required reading for anyone interested in deciphering the Eisner years at the Walt Disney Company. I never had the feeling that Stewart had an agenda, per se, but that he was amazed at what happened within the board room at Disney. It does read like a corporate thriller with very familiar characters throughout. Some of the decisions that Stewart discusses boggle the mind--you wonder what was Eisner thinking? This is a title that most public libraries will have on their shelves.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ray at Grumpy's Hollow has posted his extensive trip report from Mousefest. He has some great pictures, too. Ryan at the Main St. Gazette reminisces about his MouseFest experience. Doc at the Disney Obsession posts his thoughts on MouseFest.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Book Update and a reminder...

While so many people are enjoying time at home, I wanted to remind everyone about Fromage Homage. I talked about the site here. It is a great wiki site where you can document the little tributes, crates, windows, gags and other ephemera in the parks. Make sure you sign up and contribute today! Foxxfur has been adding a lot of content for the Liberty Square area of the Magic Kingdom.

Three titles arrived this morning fresh from Santa's sleigh!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Way Back Big Thunder

This 1985 photo is remarkable for two reasons: a great view of an awesome attraction and a view of the crate at the bottom.
You can see that Imagineering and/or Park Operations can and will change things!

Now, who is Rolan A. Long, Operating Lineman, anyway?

Check out the other Way Back posts here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review: The Magic of Disneyland and Walt Disney World

The Magic of Disneyland and Walt Disney World by Valerie Childs. 1979, 96 pages.

Valerie Childs wrote this picture-laden look at Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 1979. Although it was not an official publication, it was endorsed by Walt Disney Productions and WED Enterprises. She wrote another edition in 1982 (but dropped the Walt from Walt Disney World).

The real strength of this book is the photographs that appear on every page (except the introduction). The book is presented much like the souvenir guides to the theme parks; lots and lots of pictures. The first seven pages present a very generic version of the company history outlining the major events that led to the creation of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The rest of the book is comprised of photographs that alternate between Disneyland and Walt Disney World. If nothing else, it will test your historical knowledge of the parks.

I liken the photographs to a time capsule from the late 1970s; not to mention the fashions, but the fact that many of the attractions and features have changed over the past 30 years. A few of the photographs would seem to be stock photos, but many are taken from such unique vantage points, that you might wonder where the photographer was standing. The photographs are dated and the work does have the look of a book from the 1970s. Many of the pictures are clear, but some have that grainy, yellow look to them. I think the images speak for themselves.

Tom Sawyer Island (Disneyland)

The Olde Worlde Antique Shop (Magic Kingdom)

The Walt Disney World Railroad

A majority of the pictures feature guests and characters, almost like your own vacation scrapbook. You do get some interesting glimpses of carpets, finishes and areas with much less vegetation than today. It also seems that Disney was not as scrupulous in the images that were allowed to be presented. This book is a great resource for us park detectives that spend time analyzing each photo for various details. 

Tomorrowland (Disneyland)

The Admiral Joe Fowler (Magic Kingdom)

Bottom Line: There is nothing revolutionary about this title but it is a fun trip down memory lane. If you were never able to visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World in the 1970s, then you will love the visions of the parks from that time period. I would recommend this book if you can find a copy for a relatively cheap price or in the bargain bin. It is a must-have for the enthusiasts interested in what the parks looked like in the 1970s.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getchor Bearings

Inside one of the battlements of Fort Langhorn on Tom Saywer Island is a barrel from the Getchor Bearing Co.

Do you get it, or are you lost?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Way Back 20K

Another shot from 1985. This time, we are aboard the Skyway headed over the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lagoon. 20K ran from October 14, 1971 to September 5, 1994. Currently, Pooh's Playful Spot and a large grassy area reside on the lagoon area.

You can see from the two shots above, that a lot of land was cleared after 20K was removed. The top photo is a recent satellite image and the shot on the bottom is a circa 1999 aerial photo from:

For more information, visit the 20K site at Widen Your World and Walt Dated World.

You can see all of the Way Back posts here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The E-Ticket Update

The E-Ticket began publication in 1986 by Disneyland fans and brothers, Leon and Jack Janzen. Leon passed away in September 2003 and issue #40 was their last one together. Jack has produced 5 issues since then, with the final one on the way.

The E-Ticket is one of my favorite publications. The Brothers Janzen were obsessed with Disneyland--in a good way, of course--and their proximity to Disneyland allowed them to reach many Imagineers throughout the years. The magazine is filled with interviews, ride histories (and layouts), collectibles and wonderful photographs. One of my favorite recurring segments is Wings-Over-Disneyland where they feature an aerial shot of the park.

The articles are a step above most books and blogs due solely to the level of research. Besides a handful of bloggers, no one has written anything that comes close to the level of the Janzens for their research and academic style. The E-Ticket is a treasure to the hardcore Disney Geek. It is truly a one-of-a-kind resource.

Over the years, the early issues have become very scarce and very expensive. The Janzens have released two CDs that cover the first 16 issues and they are still available through their website. Various issues are still available in print (starting with issue #25) and well worth the cost. I am very excited to get my hands on volume one of the CD and five additional back issues. I own volume two, as well, and it is a treasure.

Visit The E-Ticket web site to order available back issues and the two CD-Roms.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday, December 12, 2008

Live from Walt Disney World:
Ray from Grumpy's Hollow and Ryan from the Main Street Gazette are live blogging at this weekend's MouseFest celebration. Check out their posts and see if you recognize anybody.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Discovery Island and Miscellanea

Gator Chris at Yet Another Disney Blog has posted an article with scans of a 1979 Discovery Island Map.

Check it out and leave him some Disney Geek love.

I had a request from a reader for information about the upcoming The Art of Walt Disney World book by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon.

Anyway, I'm wondering if you'd happen to have any info on that "Art of Walt
Disney World" book that was supposed to come out a while ago. I haven't been
able to find any info on it anywhere. I know it's supposed to be exclusively
sold in the parks, but I've yet to see it anywhere. Any idea what the status is?

I contacted Jeff Kurtti about the book and he responded that the book was waiting to go to the printers and should be available soon. As amazing as The Art of Disneyland is, this book should be amazing. The only drawback is that it will be a theme park exclusive, like Walt Disney World Then, Now and Forever.

Author Adam Goodger sent me a note about his new book called Imagineering The Way: The Unofficial History Of The Magic Kingdom.

This is not a guide book, although it would be a great resources to take to
the parks. It is designed to be an accessible look at the history of the Magic
Kingdom. The book begins with the creation of Walt Disney World. How it came
about, how Walt bought the land and why the idea for Walt Disney World came
about in the first place. We visit Disney World's first press conference, the
preview centre and the park opening days. As well as the history of how the park
came about it also looks back at admission and how that has changed, from the
original admission price, the ticket books all the way to the multi-day tickets.

As well as the history of Phase 1 the book takes an in-depth look at
each land, ride, show and attraction including a specific chapter on
Cinderella's Castle. Each chapter focuses on a specific land with each of its
rides, shows and attraction, both past and present, given a detailed overview.

Each ride, show or attraction that warrants a ride-through or show
transcript is given one (including Big Thunder Mountain). These include both
past and present attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

The book is available in electronic download or as print-on-demand.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Way Back China Construction

In this shot from 1985, it is obvious that we are inside the China Pavilion. Check out the construction on the Nine Dragons restaurant that opened on October 23, 1985. The workers on top have an interesting view of World Showcase.

So, the China Pavilion opened without a major restaurant?

Dave Smith writes:

It seemed a little odd that World Showcase opened with China but no Chinese Restaurant, because of the popularity of Chinese cuisine. The omission was remedied three years later, and the resulting restaurant has been honored with awards for its blend of Chinese cuisine from many of the provinces.
--Disney A to Z, the Official Encyclopedia. p 359.
The Lotus Blossom Cafe opened in September of 1985.

You can see the other Way Back posts here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe on the WDW Radio Show

This week on the WDW Radio Show, I join Lou Mongello for an in-depth look at the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square. We also discuss some other Christmas locations, past and present, and share some Christmas suggestions for Disney Geeks everywhere.

Image Courtesy Brian Fee

In researching the segment, I used several resources:

Thanks, as well, go to Foxxfur at Passport2Dreams for some much needed inspiration and background info.

Don't forget to check out my other appearances on the WDW Radio Show.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fountain at the Imagination Pavilion

Another shot from the Flickr collection of Jeff B. This one features the fountain from the Imagination Pavilion in EPCOT Center in 1983.

Don't forget to click through and leave Jeff a comment.

Catch his other photos that I have featured here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Way Back Return to Oz

In 1985, Disney Pictures released the film, Return to Oz--a sequel to the Wizard of Oz that is based on Frank L. Baum's Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. The photo above is the Oz float from the Main Street Electrical Parade from the summer of 1985 (MSEP ran from 1971-1991). The parade float did not last too long, as the movie was not a financial success.
The picture below is the Emerald City from the Storybook Land Canal Boatride in Disneyland Paris. It is the only tribute to the 1985 film that exists. Although, there is rumor that a key to Tik-Tok is hidden in Splash Mountain.
You can see the entire Way Back series here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Magazine Review: Celebrations Premiere Issue

Celebrations Magazine. Volume 1, Issue 1, September/October 2008 (Premiere Issue).

With the death of the Disney Magazine in 2005 and the end of The E-Ticket with the next issue, there is a definite gap in the periodical world. When I first learned of Celebrations, I was excited. I am familiar with Tim Foster's books and Lou Mongello's books and audio products, so I knew that the magazine would be high-quality. As a caveat, frequent readers will know that I am a frequent guest on the WDW Radio show and that I am good friends with Lou and many of the contributors of Celebrations. I am very proud of what they have produced, but I also want to present a look at the magazine for fans of Walt Disney World.

Celebrations is printed on a very durable and glossy paper. The layout is very attractive and contemporary. Tim Foster has a great eye for design and it shines inside the magazine. Celebrations clocks in at 80 pages with something for every level of Walt Disney World fan.

So, the real question is, what is on the inside?

Interspersed are articles to help you enjoy your next Walt Disney World vacation or to relive the memories of vacations past; photographs of attractions, resorts and buildings; and activities for the young and young at heart. Each of the contributing authors offer insider tips, secrets and fun facts in the Mouse Views section. Tim Devine explains photography terminology, Cara Goldsbury discusses choosing a resort, Steve Barrett shares his favorite Hidden Mickeys, John Rick talks pin trading and Allison Jones dishes the best times to visit.

The major articles of the magazine present some special and entertaining looks at the magic of Disney. There is something for everyone: nighttime at Walt Disney World, an interview with Richard Sherman and Halloween mischief. Each article is well-written, informative and fun. Glenn Whelan (from Passamaquoddy) authored the article about the scarier side of Disney, including Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween party. Glenn offers ways to enjoy the party and the Magic Kingdom. As a hardcore enthusiast, I was thrilled to read the first part of the interview that Lou conducted with Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman. I can't wait for the rest of the interview.

One of the surprises is the detailed look at an attraction, a resort and a film. If the magazine stays true to form, there will be a different focus each issue. The editors share little known facts about Splash Mountain, Wall-E and the Wilderness Lodge--you will walk away with a new appreciation for each. There is also a closer look at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror with all of the trivia and hidden details that Lou is famous for. The Wayback Machine makes an appearance as Lou discusses Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Of course, I have to mention the article by Ray Harkness concerning the Chef's Table at Victoria's and Albert's at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Ray has been telling me about this restaurant for years and his description of the grand meal is enticing and tantalizes your virtual tastebuds. Now, if only I could find someone to watch my kids and pay for a meal!

I really enjoyed this magazine. Future issues should be even more promising and exciting as the editorial staff and the writers grow in this new venture. I would love to see more photographs, but I do understand that publishing can be a very expensive venture.

Bottom Line: If you are a fan of the Walt Disney World Resort, then you need to add a subscription of Celebrations to your reading list. There is something for everyone contained within the covers of Celebrations. The voices are familiar and it is obvious that everyone involved is passionate about Walt Disney World and passionate about helping you make fantastic vacation memories.

For more information on Celebrations Magazine, visit the website.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Geek-End Update, Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Book Update!

I finally received my copy of The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland. It looks like a solid addition to the series and should provide a lot of enjoyment to casual Disneyland Resort fans.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Way Back World Showcase

One of the Friendships is docked outside of the Morocco Pavilion in this shot from the 1985 Way Back series. I wonder if Big-Brian can tell us which one it is!

I surmise that the shot was taken from the Ponts des Arts between the France and U.K. Pavilions.

Notice the length of the show building and the bump-out for the screens, curtains and scenery mechanics for the American Adventure.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Book Review: That Art of Mickey Mouse

The Art of Mickey Mouse, Artists Interpret the World's Favorite Mouseby Craig Yoe and Janet Morra-Yoe. 1991, 144 pp. (No pagination.)

For this review, I am discussing the 1991 edition. The 1995 edition seems to be more readily available on the second-hand market and is much less expensive.

Craig Yoe has been a toy designer, VP for the Jim Henson Studio, animator and studio owner. He was part of the creative team that created The Muppet-Vision 3D attraction. Janet Morra-Yoe is a photographer, sculptor and fashion designer. The book originated from the Yoes when they thought about Mickey's popularity in pop culture. They took their adoration of Walt's mouse and began asking world-famous artists to contribute unique interpretations of Mickey.

Author John Updike provides the seven-page introduction to the book. Mr. Updike discusses his love of Mickey and shares his thoughts on the Mouse's enduring popularity. The introduction provides the only academic reference in the text--the artwork is really what is important.

It is obvious to the casual observer that the first edition, published in 1991, is really centered on contemporary pop artists. A lot of the artwork contains colors that reflect the times; it is obvious that popular tastes change over the years, especially dealing with pop artists. Much of the artwork is representative of the artists during the late 1980's and early 1990's. What is obvious to me, is that the artists in question have a deep and abiding love for Mickey Mouse and his affect on culture. They have created some amazing pieces of art that showcase our favorite mouse. Yes, some of the art might seem dated, but they still honor Mickey.

Beyond discussing my favorite pieces, there isn't much else to say about the work. About 25% of the art is astounding and looks good over 15 years later. The rest are political, extremely 80's or just strange. Artistic expression abounds! A few of the artists included: Andy Warhol, William Steig, Charles Schultz, Maurice Sendak, R. Crumb (Rolly Crumb) and Peter Max. Over 100 pieces of art are presented.

In reviewing a work like this, the images can say far more than I can.

Untitled by Hajime Sorayama

Model Sheet by Ward Kimball

Mickey, the Dragon Slayer by Michael R. Hague

Mickey's Mission by John Ceballos

The First Temptation of Mickey by William Joyce

Untitled by Keith Haring

Bottom Line: This is a fun book, but offers little for the theme park or animation fan. If you are a hard-core Mickey fan, a fan of 1991 artwork or the artists featured, then you must have this book. If you can find a cheap copy of the book, I could almost see buying a few copies and framing some of the pieces. There are several editions available, make sure you order the large format one.