Wednesday, April 30, 2008

California Zephyr...

Parked between Condor Flats and the Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure is the Western Pacific 804D, also known as The California Zephyr.

The California Zephyr has a storied past and this particular engine was traded back to General Electric for credit after a crash in 1972. I wasn't able to verify if the train at DCA was the original--does anyone know for sure?

The California Zephyr was a passenger train known for its domes, which held an additional 24 passengers on a top level. The CZ operated from 1950 to 1970 and traveled from Chicago to San Francisco with stops in Denver and Salt Lake City. It was a two and a half day trip covering over 2,500 miles. At Disney's California Adventure, they have modified a few passenger trains to serve in some new retail capacities.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pont des Arts

As you cross the recreation of the Pont des Arts bridge between the UK and France Pavilions, there is a small detail that relates directly to the actual bridge from Paris. Les Pont des Arts is a historic bridge on the Seine River. It was rebuilt in the 1980's after having stood for almost 200 years. Besides being a tourist destination, it is often used for picnics, by artists (due to its location and point-of-view) and for art displays.

Jessica from If We Can Dream It covered the painting in an earlier post.

As you cross the Channel from the UK to France, you will notice a tableau on your right. A portrait left by an artist frames the view of World Traveler shop at the International Gateway.

It is one of those great details!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wave Machine Specialty

A few months ago, I posted about Dick Nunis' Window on Main St. USA at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

During my recent trip to Disneyland, I spied the West Coast Window for Dick Nunis.

It says:
Coast to Coast Peoplemoving, World Leader in Leisure Management, Dick Nunis Proprietor Started 1955, Offices Anaheim, Orlando,Tokyo. Wave Machine Specialty.
Dick Nunis was responsible for opening every theme park until his retirement in 1999. When I saw the tag line Wave Machine Specialty, I was reminded of a story from Van Arsdale France about Dick Nunis and his wave machine.

Before opening, Dick Nunis fought for a $400,000 wave machine for the Seven Seas Lagoon that would lap waves on the shore of the beach at the Polynesian. Dick hoped that professional surfers would be able to put on shows and that children and body surfers would be able to enjoy the inland ocean experience. The wave machine worked, although it mostly eroded the Polynesian's beach.
At a Club 55 meeting, Roy and Dorothy Eno were discussing Dick's wave machine, when Roy winked at Dorothy and said, "That young whippersnapper will get his wave machine." Note: Dick never gives up. In 1989, 17 years later, there was a beach and a working wave machine at Typhoon Lagoon, and Dick, the President of Walt Disney Attractions, expertly surfed on the first wave at opening.
-p. 92, Window on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Book Review: The Making of Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park

The Making of Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park by Melody Malmberg (1998, 160 pages)

For Animal Kingdom fans, there isn't a lot of published information that focuses on the theme park. Malmberg's book is a rare gem for several reasons: it is an in-depth look at the creation of the park; a thorough look at the team, the political process and environmental issues; and most importantly, it is one of the few resources that looks at the step-by-step development of a Disney theme park--how it grew from a small team led by Joe Rohde to a cast of thousands.

This book reflects the Animal Kingdom in so many ways. The park was shepherded by Imagineer Joe Rohde, who had the vision and the desire to keep the project moving forward. Ms. Malmberg was able to collect the stories of the Imagineers, follow their progress and take us behind the scenes of the park. She interviewed key people that were there from the beginning: Joe Rohde, Rick Barongi and Zofia Kostyrko. You get the feeling that you were there, day-by-day, watching as they create the park.

You learn, early on, that the Imagineers knew they needed one thing to make the park a success; their rallying cry was Proximity Equals Excitement! During one budget and planning meeting, the Imagineers, unbeknown even to Marty Sklar, brought in a 400 pound female Bengal tiger that walked around the conference room while Rohde spoke. The executives got the point and let the group move forward (p. 25). They were able to try and develop new means of getting the guests closer to the animals--safely, of course.

You get a detailed look at how the art (re: buildings, details, interiors, roofs, painting) was constructed using as many local and foreign talents as available. Sculptors, thatchers and artisans were brought in from all over the world. Malmberg spends a lot of time looking at the backstage care and living areas. Since Disney was creating a park that would, inevitably, be compared to zoos, there is a focus on how Disney treats the animals. The first two animals to arrive, the giraffes Miles and Zari, were greeted with tears and cheers. Malmberg goes into great detail explaining how the animals were procured, transported and acclimated to the park.

The book is filled with photos, artwork, and concept drawings. One of the final sections looks at the next few years of the Animal Kingdom. Asia is the next land planned with the river ride and the Maharajah Jungle Trek opening first. The possibility of a new hotel called the Animal Kingdom Lodge, with savanna views, is even mentioned! The very last section is a listing of all the Imagineers that worked on the Animal Kingdom. Eight pages of names.
The park has come a long way in 10 years.

Bottom Line: This is a one-of-a-kind resource for Disney fans. There is not another work that takes such a detailed look at the making of the Animal Kingdom or a Disney theme park. There is a lot of discussion about conservation and animal care--this is not a negative, but the whole work is a balanced look at the creation of the park. There are chapters dedicated to the creation of the attractions and lands, but equal attention is paid to the zoological needs of the park. There is a lot less of the geeky stuff and more a look at the animals and their care. Ms. Malmberg is able to capture the passion of those involved and it translates very well to the written word. You will enjoy this work for the vast detail dedicated to the creation of a Disney theme park.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Geek-End Update, April 26, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Andrew and I were introduced to Restaurantosaurus at the Animal Kingdom by Jeff and Jessica during MouseFest 2007.

We were completely bowled over. The backstory is that the restaurant is really the dormitory for the graduate students at the Dino Institute. Being a raucous and rowdy group of paleontology students, they decorated their new home with found items and a wry sense of humor.

Naturally, since they are surrounded by dinosaurs all day, the brought some of their work home with them. Some items lent themselves quite naturally to the dinosaur theme.

Arctic Boyosaurus



The trend also continues over at the Boneyard play area:


Pictures taken by Georgeosaurus and Andrewosaurus.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Foreign Exchange Point

Princess Fee at DF'82 wrote to share what the Kodak Picture Spots are called at Disneyland Paris:

I have to say that you & your brother would like the ones in Paris. They say 'Point Photo' - or something like that - and I have a great picture of me pointing at the photo spot. Well, that's what you're supposed to do, right?

Plus I thoroughly liked the princess one! Maybe I can take that home with me next time...

Since Princess Fee lives in Scotland, I thought it would be a great foreign exchange post--and she agreed! Here are her pictures of the Point Photo. And it's not every day that we get royalty to post at Imaginerding!

I can't imagine wearing a winter coat at a Disney Park.

Make sure to check out DF'82. Princess Fee has been posting a lot of great Disneyland Paris pictures.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


One of my favorite theme park activities is Spot the Kodak Picture Spot. It has become one of our favorite games at Imaginerding. Andrew and I will hold competitions to see who can nab the most during each trip. Here are some from 2008 and 2007.

The spot in Morocco has great design details and beautiful arches.

The UK sports a spot fit for a king.

Outside of Big Thunder is a more rustic spot.

A welcoming round spot outside the Rose Garden at the Magic Kingdom.

A rather ornate spot in a famous spot.

A spot fit for a princess.

Outside of the Jungle Cruise.

Can you find this spot in FutureWorld.

A Belle spot, non?

Nice spot, eh? Or pass the syrup-y spot.

One of the newer one-piece spots in...ASIA!

A spot of extinction!

In Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World And America, the author talks about the Kodak Picture Spot and how it confused people at first. Were you supposed to take a picture of the sign? Were you supposed to gather your family around the sign to take a picture? Eventually, Disney decided to add the picture of what you are supposed to be photographing. I love the looks I get, now, when take a picture of a Kodak Picture Spot.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Animal Kingdom!

We exit [the] Oasis via a pair of rockwork portals that are reminiscent of the forms of the train station at the Magic Kingdom. We come around a corner, pass through the archways to the bridge, and are presented with our first view of the Tree of Life--much in the same manner as the first time we see Cinderella's Castle. Over the course of this journey, we have made our way from the elevation of the parking lot--roughly that of the original Park site prior to construction--slowly but surely up to an elevation nearly twenty feet higher. By entering Discovery Island at that elevation, we are ensured of a clear vista, over the heads of fellow Guests up ahead, and we are able to see the Tree of Life in all of its glory--without allowing it to tower completely above us.
--p. 25, The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Photograph Courtesy of Ray at Grumpy's Hollow.

Concept Art for the Beastly Kingdom from The Making of Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

Happy Anniversary, Animal Kingdom!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review: Working With Walt

Working with Walt: Interviews With Disney Artists by Don Peri (2008, 246 pages).

This is a quick and thoroughly enjoyable collection of interviews with 15 different artists that worked with Walt Disney at the Studios.

Mr. Peri states in the Acknowledgements that he was prompted by Didier Ghez (editor of the Walt's People series) to finally collect the interviews and publish them. Thanks both to Don and Didier!

Most of the interviews were conducted in the late 1970's with artists that spent most of their career working at the Disney Studios. What surprised me at first was how the artists were all enchanted with Walt Disney; after reading a multitude of Disney biographies, you do get the sense that Walt was a benevolent dictator--but a dictator nonetheless. A majority of the artists interviewed stuck with Walt during the Animator's Strike of 1941. If you study any work on Disney and animation, the Animator's Strike is often seen as a watershed in the history of the Studio, prompting the mentality that Walt lost a lot of faith in his employees. With the interviews presented by Peri, you get a sense that Walt did favor the artists that stuck by him.

I finished Walt's People Volume 1 (Ed. by Ghez) shortly after this title. There are some similarities in the scope of the two books, but they are both valuable resources on their own. The interviews presented by Peri were done at a time when there was not a lot being written about the artists that worked directly with Walt Disney. After reading the interviews, you come away with a sense of what it was like to work with Walt Disney and to work at the Studios. I feel like I have a better understanding of how Walt worked during the early years of the Studios.

The artists included animators, designers and voice actors:
  • Ken Anderson
  • Les Clark
  • Larry Clemmons
  • Jack Cutting
  • Don Duckwall
  • Marcellite Garner
  • Harper Goff
  • Floyd Gottfredson
  • Dick Huemer
  • Wilfred Jackson
  • Eric Larson
  • Clarence Nash
  • Ken O'Connor
  • Herb Ryman
  • Ben Sharpsteen
The stories and anecdotes that each artist shares are humorous, wistful and passionate. These artists truly loved their jobs and working with Walt Disney.
...he didn't think of himself as Walt Disney. He thought of Walt Disney as an entity, an organization, and he spoke of Walt Disney as an organization, for which everybody worked and not the personal part of the name. A lot of people put Walt down because they didn't get along with him or they got canned or they were chewed out by him, and naturally they probably make more or less severe remarks about him and understandably so. He had a great ego, and because of this ego he could overcome a lot of difficulties and obstacles because he believed in himself. He believed what other people didn't believe, and he was proven right time after time after time, even with the bankers. Snow White was called "Disney's Folly," because what--an animated cartoon to run for over an hour? It's Impossible! Nobody will sit through a cartoon that long. Well that was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
--Les Clark (p. 123, Working With Walt)
Bottom Line: This is a wonderful resource to have at hand. It is not for everyone--you really need to have an interest in animation, the studios or what working with Walt Disney was like in order to fully realize the necessity of a title like this. I give it a high Geek Factor rating because of its focus, even though the book is extremely accessible and easy to read. But if you are interested in learning a lot about the artists, the studio and Walt Disney, this is a great place to start or to add to your collection. This book will foster a greater appreciation for the animated films and shorts. It is also one of the few places you can read the actual words of the artists that never received a lot of acclaim outside the arena of animation fans.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Geek-End Update, April 19, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Meeska Mousska Moms!

My wife entered the Disney Moms contest that was held last year. She didn't win--we think it was because she is married to an Imaginerd. Somehow that disqualified her. Oh, well.

She did receive a really cool package the other day.

Inside the envelope was a MickeyMomsClub folder that had information about the club and some goodies.

  • Mousepad
  • Car magnet
  • Pocket Guide
  • Planning DVD
  • Planning Guide
  • Sticker Sheet

  • The Tinkerbell One For You, One To Give pin trading set
  • And a Disney Visa Card Application (which probably paid for most of it)

As much as we appreciate the free schwag, it does seem like a grass-roots-type marketing plan. They really push you logging into the system, telling all your friends about Disney and signing them up for things. They want you to be the official vacation planer and insider for all of your friends future WDW vacations. It is a pretty cool idea, we'll have to see what other things happen.

You can visit the website here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Old Hollywood and Vine

At the Hollywood and Vine Restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios, there are famous Hollywood landmarks in the pictures throughout the eatery.

I caught these to "older" maps of the Hollywood area on the side wall next to the wait staff's soda station. A waitress was kind enough to get the first picture for me.

The map above points us to the Walt Disney Studios (and some other studios) in the Burbank area. This references the Burbank Studios the company moved to in 1939 and would seem to place this restaurant in the early 1940's. A castmember has obviously taken it upon themselves to add to the map. Do you see what was added below Universal City?

The second map features some of the sites that you might encounter while sightseeing in the Beverly Hills / West Hollywood area.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Apples to Apples

When I was a much younger lad, my favorite possessions (besides my beloved Star Wars figures--thanks for destroying those, Andy) were a few of the Disney records that were the actual soundtrack to the films (dialogue and everything). I remember Mickey & The Beanstalk and Johnny Appleseed the most fervently. I would listen to them relentlessly and Johnny's Theme (The Lord is Good To Me) and "My, What a Happy Day" sung by the Golden Harp in Happy Valley, are still two of my favorite songs.

My good friend FoxxFur, from Passport 2 Dreams, wrote an article discussing Disney's animated films post-Fantasia. In it, she has a striking look at Johnny Appleseed from Melody Time.

Ollie Johnston was a Directing Animator for Johnny Appleseed and it has always been one of my favorite shorts. After reading all of the beautiful, amazing and emotional memorials about Ollie, I thought about his work and what it meant to me.

FoxxFur graciously allowed me to use her words for this post.

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

The best shorts of the Post-Fantasias are those not encumbered with a complex narrative or a variety of tones; they tell stories simply and quickly, reach their emotional climaxes effectively, and get out the door at the right moment, not required by the traditional three act narrative structure to hang around when they're not wanted.

...Although it's a well known trope of Disney's to use a song to introduce a character's motivations (I'm Wishing, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes, Once Upon A Dream, etc). Johnny's theme is a whistled, catchy little ditty which is one of Disney's simplest and one of their least labored.

The Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun and rain and the apple seed
He's been good to me;

I owe the Lord so much
For everything I see,
I'm certain if it weren't for Him
There'd be no apples on this limb
He's been good to me;

I wake up every day
As happy as can be
Because I know that with His care
My apple trees - they will still be there!
Oh the Lord is good to me!

..."The Lord Is Good to Me" is less a hymn and more a song in the mold of "Whistle While You Work" - a small personal expression by a small man with a big story.

The second time we hear "The Lord Is Good To Me", it is just after Johnny has established his harmony with nature (by extension, God). He heads off into the wilderness whistling his little ditty, but before we can fully enjoy it again he's vanished from sight and the whistling becomes haunting and distant. In auditory terms, we are losing Johnny as he passes into history, and each time we see Johnny henceforth he will have aged significantly, although it is the young man from the opening scenes we still think of. The third reprise of "The Lord Is Good To Me" is by a heavenly chorus after his death, when he leaves to plant the apple blossoms in the beyond we see as clouds from earth:

And someday there'll be apples there
For everyone in the world to share;
The Lord is good to me!

It's the last moment in the short and, backed by beautiful images where the orchard of his place of death becomes billowing clouds and sunbeams, it's very moving. But the effect has been achieved through establishing a likeable song and character, delaying the return of the song, and finally bringing it back as an ethereal echo. The Lord is good to me, indeed. Yet we never once are required to subscribe to Johnny's beliefs: the short is the only one in Melody Time to begin with a book opening and as such has, when combined with Dennis Day's bright youthful vocals, the character of a national fable. As in Benet's The Devil and Daniel Webster, the religious theme is fairly submerged in the patriotic theme, and they keep each other in check, allowing a degree of universality to enter.


I know that Ollie Johnston will be remembered for bigger and better things, but this 1948 short from Melody Time will always hold a special place in my heart.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Eye In the Sky

On our last trip, we spent a lot of time waiting on the parking lot trams since we drove down and had access to our vehicle. I had noticed these funny crane-looking contraptions when Andy and I were down for MouseFest. Andy and I saw a lot of them in the Epcot parking lot. I wondered what it was until I saw one in all of its glory at the Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot. This was the first time that I had seen the cab extended.

At Disneyland, the parking lot was one of the more theft-prone areas. The Disney Security force used the top of the Disneyland Hotel, the Pirates and Indiana Jones show buildings to keep an eye on the parking lots. They could spot car-jackers, muggers and people having vehicle problems (Koenig, Mouse Tales).

With the scale of the Walt Disney World property and the lack of large buildings near and around the parking lots, Disney uses another way to keep an eye on the parking areas. Besides the white Disney Security vans, these Eyes In the Sky help keep you safe, locate your car and call for automotive assistance if needed.

Oh yeah, don't forget to look up the next time you are at Disney!