Monday, March 28, 2011

Ever Wonder...

...why it's called the Electric Umbrella?

That is NOT a giant, upside-down lemon!
Originally, this restaurant was called Stargate and resided in Communicore East from 1982 to 1994. It became the Electric Umbrella in 1994 when the area was renamed Innoventions East. In 1982, Stargate served the Stargazer hamburger (word is that it tasted like a Big Mac). My youngest let me know that the chicken fingers served here are the best he has ever tasted.
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October 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Vacation Kingdom has seen a lot of changes over the past four decades and the editorial staff at Imaginerding wants to celebrate the unique and rich history of the resort with a series of posts. A very special thanks to Celeste Cronrath for designing the series of logos. Make sure to follow her on Twitter.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fifinella the Gremlin Mascot

The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum is a fun, interesting and educational diversion during our long trips down I-95 as we head towards Walt Disney World. The gigantic B-17, The City of Savannah, is being restored and is one of the focal points of the museum.

In one of the multitude of exhibition areas, I was surprised to see a mascot logo that looked familiar. The Fly Girls of World War II tells the stories of the women that served as pilots and as part of flight teams during the second World War.

Fiflinella the Gremlin!
Fifinella was the official mascot of the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and was designed by the Walt Disney Studios. Fifinella is a character from the 1942 Roald Dahl book, The Gremlins.

To learn more about the insignias that the Disney Studios designed during the war, visit David Lesjack's Toons at War and Jeff Pepper's 2719 Hyperion.

Friday, March 25, 2011

100 Years of Magic: 1982

We continue our series Celebrating 40 Years of Walt Disney World History with one of the trading cards that was released to celebrate the 100 Years of Magic campaign in 2001. Let's step back in time and see how the Disney Company celebrates one of the most important milestones in their history.

Calling upon WaIt’s vision, Epcot® (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was created with the help of hundreds of scientific and historical experts to ensure accuracy of the technology used and displayed. With its fiber optics, lasers, computers, and water controls, the park opened on October 1, 1982 with five times the amount of special effects used in the MAGIC KINGDOM® Park.

1982 - Columbia completes its first mission in space; it is the first space shuttle, which allows vehicles to be reused in space missions.
1982 - An Audio-Animatronic walks for the first time.

October 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Vacation Kingdom has seen a lot of changes over the past four decades and the editorial staff at Imaginerding wants to celebrate the unique and rich history of the resort with a series of posts. A very special thanks to Celeste Cronrath for designing the series of logos. Make sure to follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Tangled Up in Blu-ray

Tangled (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Did you see this film in the theaters?

I really hope so. If not, then the Blu-ray release of Disney's fiftieth animated film is a definite add to your personal library.

After the disappointing response to The Princess and the Frog, Disney hops back into the territory that they know best with a film about a lost princess, a bad boy, a horse, a chameleon and villains that you love to hate. Alan Mencken returns with a superb soundtrack and the digital artists have produced one of the most gorgeous Disney films ever. And if you need another reason, both of my boys saw the film in the theater and have watched it multiple times on blu-ray. This is a great family film.

After watching my first blu-ray film, I was hooked on the format, especially for animation. The digital, high-definition reproduction is one of the best I have seen. Whereas Bambi was spectacular in its blu-ray release, Tangled shows off the medium perfectly.
Surprisingly, this scene was much better in the theater.
Tangled is a perfect example of how Disney can make a film with broad appeal without resorting to pop culture references that will be dated (uh, yeah, I'm talking to you Shrek). Disney's artists have found the happy balance of presenting their characters realistically and as human caricatures. With animating people, we (as people) are the harshest critics. Innately, we know how a human is supposed to move. Unlike the debacle of Mars Needs Moms, where the realism was creepy (a la Disney's A Christmas Carol), Tangled presents a classically animated form that is able to show profound emotions and action.

Maximus was a fantastic character!
With the amazing extras that Disney has included on their recent release, I was really surprised at the lack of bonus features included with this disc: a few extended songs, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and the two alternate beginnings. Really? That's all? Maybe they are waiting for the HD Holographic Smellovision release for some of the extras. Seriously, imagine how good Rapunzel hair smells after being wet and dragged through the forest! I will have to admit that this is one blu-ray that does merit purchase simply for the film.
You will buy this movie, or else!
So, ultimately, Disney has crafted a wonderful film that does its best to stand alongside the greatest company classics. Truly, a modern-day, fairy-tale classic that you will enjoy for years to come.

This blu-ray was provided as a review copy by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011


This update puts my personal book collection at over 400 books (408, to be exact). As always, I am thrilled to get anything theme park-related but I really enjoy when some of the stranger titles show up.
  • Disney's America On Parade A History of the U.S.A in a Dazzling, Fun-Filled Pageant by David Jacobs. This is an interesting title that mixes US History with the creation and development of the 1976 parade that took place at Disneyland and Walt Disney World during the bicentennial.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Geek-End Update, Saturday, March 18, 2011

Theme Park

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Runnin' O' the Green! Celebrating 40 Years of Walt Disney World History

Long before there were Princess half-marathons, Everest Weekends, Tower of Terror 13Ks, Wine and Dine (and stumble) half-marathons and ten years before the inaugural Disney Marathon, there was the St. Patrick's Day Fun Run!

We just received the results for the 1984 St. Patrick's Day Fun Run!

According to the Walt Disney World Eyes & Ears (March 29, 1984) over 70 people participated in the two-mile fun run held at Epcot Center on Saturday, March 17. The winners of the fashion show are presented below:

  • Most Original: Mike Bishop and Pete Krajnak, WED
  • Best Epcot theme: George Gorman, Central Shops
  • Most colorful: Carol Rayhill, MIS
Congratulations to everyone that participated!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bob-A-Round Boats at Walt Disney World: Celebrating 40 Years of Walt Disney World History

I am obsessed with Walt Disney World ephemera. 

What's ephemera? Well, I'm glad you asked!

In most cases, ephemera is defined as transitory material (usually printed) that is not designed to be kept. Think of brochures, postcards, buttons and maps. Early Walt Disney World history is bursting with physical examples of how this term could be applied to include attractions, restaurants, lands and many other gone-but-not-forgotten Disneyana. Back in August 2008, I stumbled across a flyer at Vintage Disneyland Tickets and I was perplexed at what I saw.

What in the (Walt Disney) World is that round thing?

I had no idea what the round boat was. It wasn't in any of my souvenir guides nor could I find it in any of the PR material that I have. I was stumped! Besides, how do you do a Google search for round boat at Walt Disney World and not go insane?

I e-mailed a few of my friends and Foxxfur from Passport to Dreams was able to provide the answer. She told me to visit the pages at Widen Your World and Walt Dated World for the bob-a-round boats.

Alison, at Walt Dated World, had this to say:
Rub a Dub Dub. Three (or four) people in a tub. These bizarre-looking striped boats had what looked like a lightening rod on top of them. (Florida is home to a lot of lightening, you know!) They were only around a short time after Walt Disney World opened. Apparently the boats were often the victim of dead batteries, which prevented them from Bob, Bob, Bobbing Along.
And Mike, at Widen Your World:
Another aspect of the resort [Polynesian] that has seen much change is the range of watercraft made available to guests over the years. Gone are the days when as many as eight people piled into a 40-foot Polynesian War Canoe and took off across the Seven Seas Lagoon toward real islands. And before those craft sailed into the sunset, the circular Bob-A-Round boats (each with an independent stereo system!) had already long since been retired.
Since then, I have seen the bob-a-round boats in other promotional material. Big Brian's WDW A History in Postcards lists the following image as 01110261 THE POLYNESIAN VILLAGE.
Early postcard of the Polynesian Village with a Bob-A-Round boat!
October 1971 Eyes & Ears
In this scan from the inaugural October, 1971 Eyes & Ears, you can see a list of all of the prices for various recreational watercraft. The Bob-A-Round is listed at $8.00 per hour. Not the cheapest, but still, a pretty expensive way to traverse the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Click on me!!!!
I found this photo on one of the large two-page spreads in The Story of Walt Disney World: Commemorative Edition. Seven boats are shown, with an additional one on the other side of the fold (my scanner wasn't quite large enough).

If you look closely at the scanned image, you can see that four of the seven Bob-A-Round boats are docked at the Magic Kingdom. They are the ones in the back that are grouped in pairs.When I studied this image, I wondered if they ever rented watercraft from the Magic Kingdom dock. Obviously, there hasn't been a structure near the water to act as a rental agency, nor is there a cast facility for refueling or recharging. In this case, I would make the assumption that the boats are there for show. This is probably a staged publicity photo. No real guests were harmed in the making of this shot!

I continue to be amazed at the myriad of unresearched and unknown details of Walt Disney World

October 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Vacation Kingdom has seen a lot of changes over the past four decades and the editorial staff at Imaginerding wants to celebrate the unique and rich history of the resort with a series of posts. A very special thanks to Celeste Cronrath for designing the series of logos. Make sure to follow her on Twitter.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Review: The Rat Factory by J.M. Ryan

The Rat Factory by J.M. Ryan (Jim McDermott) 1971

I ran across this title in an article written by Jim Korkis when he announced that he had been writing under the nom-de-plume of Wade Sampson at MousePlanet.

Here is what Jim had to say about the book:
In 1971, the year Walt Disney World opened and Roy O. Disney died (and some felt marked the beginning of the end for Walt’s dreams), a novel was released titled The Rat Factory by J.M. Ryan. This comedic tale is a colorful account of a young artist named Ambrose who works at the Sampson Studios in Hollywood in the 1930s and his various exaggerated struggles. The studio produced popular animated cartoon characters including Ricky Rat, Dizzy Duck and Halfwit Hog. These well beloved icons were the creation of the fictional Wade Sampson, a thinly-veiled and often unflattering surrogate for Walt Disney.

The author, J.M. Ryan, was in fact a pseudonym as well. The novel was written by John Richard McDermott, who worked as an artist at the Disney Studio on Hyperion in the 1930s. Intertwined in an improbable storyline were McDermott’s memories and perspectives of working at the Disney Hyperion Studio.
Jim's mini-review is a lot more positive than I am about the book. It is obvious that McDermott did not enjoy his time working at the fabled Hyperion Studio and saw Walt Disney as a self-absorbed and egomaniacal studio head. Our here in the book, Ambrose, is a Midwestern transplant that was his town's only artistic hope. As Ambrose begins his tenuous (and ultimately short-lived) career, you are proffered a picture of an animation studio that is resting on its laurels and surviving by charging their employees for everything. When Ambrose wants to start dating the starlet-hopeful and former majorette, Darlene Barff, she refuses to acquiesce to his romantics pinings until he gets a car. This leads him to lease a car from the Wade Sampson Studios using the Wade Sampson E-Z-thru-the-Nose Payment Plan. Including cutbacks, firings and reducing salaries, you can sense that McDermott did not feel particularly enamored of Walt Disney.

I had high hopes for this title; I assumed it would be a detailed look at what it was like to work under the neon Mickey Mouse sign during the 1930s. Tales of sweatbox sessions, story meetings and learning the ins and outs of early studio life were running through my thoughts as I started the book.

A perfect example of the book's slant.
It has come to the attention of this command that members of this command have been employing half-dollars as a mechanical aid in drawing Jerky Jack’s head. This practice, being in contravention of the Coin of the Realm Misuse Act, State of California; 1921, will cease immediately. All personnel unable to achieve a pencilled circle free of hand and without artificial aid shall attend evening circle class, Monday through Wednesday in the Annex. Anyone dippy enough to persist in this tasteless practice after this unparalleled warning, shall be dealt with in unstinting fashion.
Wade Sampson,

Overall, the book is a huge disappointment and I would only recommend it to the die-hard Disney book collector. Not to animation fans nor animators. There is absolutely nothing redeeming in The Rat Factory.It was actually quite painful to read and I was glad to finish the book so I could file it away. Besides, it took me over three months to work up the desire to even write this review!

Michael Sporn tackles the book, as well.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Geek-End Update, Saturday, March 12, 2011

Theme Park

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Miyazaki Film Fest! Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service

We have shared a lot of Studio Ghibli goodness this week at Imaginerding as we have celebrated the Blu-ray release of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Let's take a look at some more must-have Studio Ghibli films. The following reviews appeared on Imaginerding on March 3, 2010. And My Neighbor Totoro is one of the best movies of all time!!!

With the release of Ponyo on Blu-ray and DVD, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is also releasing Special Edition DVDs of three of Hayao Miyazaki's most adored films.

After watching Spirited Away for the first time in 2001, my family was hooked on Miyazaki's films. We quickly added My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Whisper of the Heart and his other films to our personal library. We fell in love with the rich storytelling, the amazing animation and the focus on children and families.

The three films presented here are Miyazaki's more family-friendly films. Notably absent is Spirited Away; I hope that it gets the Blu-ray treatment very soon. And Howl's Moving Castle.

All three films represent different styles of storytelling for Miyazaki. My Neighbor Totoro is my favorite of the group and is the more family-focused film.
Follow the adventures of Satsuki and her four year-old sister Mei when they move into a new home in the countryside. To their delight, they discover that their new neighbor is a mysterious forest spirit called Totoro—who can be seen only through the eyes of a child. Totoro introduces them to extraordinary characters—including a cat that doubles as a bus!—and takes them on an incredible journey.
This is a movie that everyone in the family will enjoy. It is a touching and sweet film full of charm, curiosity and laughs. You will fall deeply in love with Totoro and wish that you could have adventures with your own forest spirit. Even after repeated viewings, I am still amazed at the brilliance of the filmmakers. There are many scenes in the film that American animation studios would bypass or ignore due to the labor and costs. Miyazaki shines in these areas.

Kiki's Delivery Service is less whimsical than My Neighbor Totoro, but still works in a world of fantasy.
Kiki is an enterprising young girl who must follow tradition to become a full-fledged witch. Venturing out with only her black cat, Jiji, Kiki flies off for the adventure of a lifetime. Landing in a far-off city, she sets up a high-flying delivery service and begins a wonderful experience of independence and responsibility as she finds her place in the world.
Although everyone will enjoy Kiki, I feel like it will be accepted more by tween girls and boys. Miyazaki excels at creating strong female leads and Kiki is no exception. The late Paul Hartman does a wonderful job as the voice of Jiji and adds a lot of depth to the film.

Castle In the Sky will appeal more to the teens and young boys (and us grown-up boys). Miyazaki has crafted an incredibly beautful world that is dominated by flying machines and would make any steampunk or Victorian-era fan very happy. Castle is far more action-packed than the other films, but it is still an amazing story.
This high-flying adventure begins when Pazu, an engineer’s apprentice, finds a young girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky, wearing a glowing pendant. Together, they discover both are searching for a legendary floating castle, Laputa, and vow to unravel the mystery of the luminous crystal around Sheeta’s neck. Their quest won’t be easy, however. There are greedy air pirates, secret government agents and astounding obstacles to keep them from the truth—and from each other.
Disney has taken the opportunity to re-release these films in order to capitalize on the popularity of Ponyo. I am very glad that they have. These are fantastic animated films and deserve to be seen by Disney and animation fans everywhere.

Cory at Voyages Extraordinaire had the wonderful opportunity to experience the Studio Ghibli Museum on his recent trip to Japan. He asked me if the Special Editions were worth picking up if you already own the original releases. The extras on each disc are similar. Each one has the Japanese Storyboards and a large collection of shorts detailing the production of the film.I have to admit that I really enjoyed all of the featurettes, especially the interviews with Hayao Miyazaki and director Toshio Suzuki. Being able to hear the words of these talented authors (and read them in English subtitles) was fascinating. It truly gave you a sense that they love their work and that they put their heart and soul into these films. It is especially endearing to hear Miyazaki profess how he created the characters based on children that he knew. I would have like to have seen more, but they are a great introduction to the characters, the films and the world of Ghibli.

These films are wonderful and need to be in your DVD library. With the addition of Ponyo, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, you have an unbelievable animation collection. My Neighbor Totoro is a frequent request at our house. If only we could find our own stuffed Totoro!

I do feel like I gush a little too much about the Miyazaki films, but most people do, once they see them. And I urge you to see them!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Ponyo by Hayao Miyazaki

As we celebrate the Blu-ray release of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, let's take a look at another must-have Studio Ghibli film and one of my all-time favorites. The following review of Ponyo appeared on Imaginerding on March 1, 2010.

Ponyo (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) 

Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorite modern filmmakers. Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Castle In the Sky are some of our family's favorite films to watch. (How many of you are singing Totoro right now?)

We were fortunate enough to see Ponyo in the theaters during its theatrical release in August of last year. In my mini-review, I expressed my main concern about the film:
...Disney needs to make a film like Ponyo. It is hard to fathom that Miyazaki can create a work that enchants all ages without a major villain. You have to experience Ponyo to understand.  --
At the end of the theatrical screening, my ten-year old leaned into me and proclaimed that Ponyo was awesome. The five-year old thought it was one of the best movies ever. After watching the Blu-ray, my wife thought the work was incredibly charming.

I was thrilled to receive a preview copy of Ponyo on Blu-ray.

Ponyo is the re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. The main characters are voiced wonderfully buy Frankie Jonas (Sosuke) and Noah Cyrus (Ponyo). Sosuke discovers a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle and names her Ponyo. After getting a taste for human life (and ham), Ponyo decides to risk everything to be with Sosuke. This decision creates an imbalance in nature that must be corrected. Filling out the rest of the voice cast are Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett and Tina Fey. All the actors portray strong characters and their voices lend themselves well to the world created by Miyazaki. And what a beautiful world it is.

Miyazaki departs from his traditional animation to create a lush and beautiful world that is realized through gorgeous watercolors. This movie was amazing on the big screen and shines on Blu-ray. Most of Miyazaki's films share common threads and Ponyo is no different. There is a strong female character (more wild and primitive), a heroic boy without real superpowers, a cry from the environment and a reverence for family relations and elders.

During discussions on Ponyo, I always come back to the fact that there is no villain in the entire film. At one point, you sense that a character could become a villain, but he is simply protecting his child. It is an amazing feat that a film has been created that works for everyone that watches it--without violence, entendre or slapstick comedy. The characters are believable and grow over the course of the film. The story is not sacrificed for a laugh--yet there will be plenty of smiles and laughter from the audience. Without resorting to contemporary spins to keep grownups interested.

This is the type of film that Disney should be creating. John Lasseter, chief creative officer at the Walt Disney Company, is a major fan of the films of Miyazaki and has pushed to bring the films to American audiences. Let's hope that Ponyo helps other Studio Ghibli films find shelf space in our homes.

Ponyo is a film that all Disney and animation fans should own. Especially the Blu-ray Hi-Definition version; the images pop and colors are presented beautifully.

You will love this film!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

DVD Review: Tales from Earthsea

Tales From Earthsea (DVD)

Disney has just released another Studio Ghibli production by first-time director Goro Miyazaki (Hayao's son). Tales From Earthsea is based on a series of best-selling fantasy titles by Ursula K. Le Guin and inspired by Shuna's Journey by Hayao Miyazaki.The film was released in Japan in 2006 but was not able to be released in the United States due to a conflict with a (lackluster) television adaptation released in 2004.

This film is rated PG-13 for violent images. The only other PG-13 Studio Ghibli film is Princess Mononoke, which is a stunning, gorgeous and violent look and man vs. nature. Unfortunately, Earthsea doesn't hold a candle to the traditional Studio Ghibli fare. It is gorgeous and the animation is far better than anything being produced in America, but the story seems to lack in some places.

Disney has learned how to do wonderful voiceovers and the included cast (Timothy Dalton, Cheech Marin and Willem Dafoe) is superb. They have done an excellent job of matching the movements of the animated mouths with the dialogue.

Most major critics have panned the film and called it bland. They have also referred to Goro as uninspired and not his father. Still, we enjoyed the film, as a family, and were able to follow the plot fairly easily (sometimes, the Japanese Culture references can be difficult to understand). Several of the scenes were simply breathtaking and I was hard pressed to believe I was watching the film on a standard DVD.

Should you buy this?
If you are a Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli fan, then, yes! If you are a fan of Ursula K Le Guin, then, maybe. If you are an animation fan, then, definitely. If you are new to Studio Ghibli, I would start with My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away or Ponyo. If you haven't ventured any further than Toy Story 3, then, no.