Monday, January 30, 2012

Lots To Do In Line: Disneyland, a Book Review

A Book Review of Lots to Do in Line: Disneyland by Meredith Lyn Pierce
Since the beginning of time (July 17, 1955), the biggest issue that Disney and guests have struggled with is what to do while in the queue for an attraction. In most cases, the wait to board an attraction can be 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the season. The Imagineers have always done a great job of themeing the queues to make it a more enjoyable wait, but sometimes it is hard to just stand by and wait.

Meredith Lyn Pierce has written a fantastic and handy book to take with you to Disneyland that will help alleviate the anticipation and restlessness that can accompany waiting in queues. Lots to Do In Line measures 4" X 9" and will fit easily into a backpack or bag. It is a great size for holding while in line; it won't interfere with other guests' enjoyment of the area and it is easy to access

The book is divided into two major sections that cover Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. The focus of the book is presenting trivia questions about the queue of each attraction at both parks. Every attraction (at the time of printing) is presented with anywhere from three questions to over fifty, depending on the length and details ascribed to the queue. In order to dissuade thoughts of cheating, the answers to the questions are at the end of the chapter on each land.

In order to provide more variety (and for things to do while walking or waiting outside of queues), Meredith has created a scavenger hunt for each park. The scavenger hunt will have your party looking for random elements throughout out the park, but not in the queues. Some are well-hidden and some are more well-known. It is a great way to have the kids looking around and finding details they many not have seen before.

Meredith also suggest that you collect things while in the park. Not that she is recommending that you take things, but that you note when you see things that can be grouped together, like character t-shirts or a specific type of shoe. It is a way to engage all the different people in your group, especially the younger children. They can look for something easier to spot and keep track of it throughout the visit.

The book is a nice addition to your touring plan of Disneyland. It is easy to carry around and will offer hours of enjoyment and fun while waiting in lines at Disneyland. Meredith also asks for your help in updating the book at her site

Intrepid Traveler provided a review copy of the book.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Geeky Disney Links

A shot of the Italy Pavilion from November 2001. The covered stage was set up for various musicians to play throughout the day. At the time, these performers were playing an Italian-inspired classical set.

I've got some Disney Links for you!
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Communicore Weekly Episode 2 Featured on Boing Boing

Episode 2 of Communicore Weekly was released late Tuesday evening and the next day we had a mention from Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.

Here is the link for the video:

We introduce a new segment this week and we have some fantastic musical segments by Steve Williard and Andrew Taylor from Amplify This Music.

Communicore Weekly Episode 2 topics:

  • This Day in Disney History
  • George's Book of the Week
  • News Round Up
  • Bathroom Break! (Special thanks to Melissa from Disney On Wheels for the photo help!)
  • The Five Legged Goat

And as the theme songs says, "It's the greatest online show!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Len Testa Live and North Carolina Geekfest!

I was able to attend a program at the Eva Perry Regional Library in Apex, NC (close to Raleigh) last Saturday. Len Testa from was the speaker and he spent over an hour discussing how to make the most out of your vacation at Walt Disney World. In addition to sharing great advice, he spent time answering questions and autographing copies of the Unofficial Guide. He tried to sign my copy of the Lines app on my phone, but it just didn't work out. If you ever get the chance to see Len Testa live, do it. He is a great speaker and will answer any question!

There is another Disney event scheduled for Saturday, February 18 at the Cameron Village Library in Raleigh and it is being co-hosted by Ryan Wilson of the MainStGazette. This should be an all-out geekfest, so make sure to put it on your calendar right now!

A Disney Documentary and A History of the Parks 
A screening of the film Disneyland Dream about a family winning a trip to Disneyland in 1956 with Marsha Orgeron, head of N.C. State's Film Studies Dept. 
Plus, Disney theme Park history with (the awesome) Ryan Wilson of 
Saturday, Feb. 18 @ 2 p.m.
Cameron Village Library
1930 Clark Avenue, Raleigh
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Too Funny For Words, a Book Review

This book was a surprise for me. Too Funny For Words was actually a Disney-related book that I had not heard of. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston should be familiar names to most animation fans. They were both members of Disney's legendary Nine Old Men and pretty much had a hand in every animated feature from Disney before they passed away. Thomas and Frank wrote the Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (1981) and it is considered the primer on animation.

Too Funny For Words was published in 1987 and is a light-hearted and completely serious look at the evolution of Disney animated gags. This book is more than a primer; it is a look at how a gag works. Any animation student or scholar needs to own this. Thomas and Johnston have an easy and affable writing style. It is very obvious that they loved what they did and want to share it.

Presented in two sections, the book looks at what a gag is, how it evolved and what are the quintessential gags. Part I focuses more on how gags changed over the years and how different Disney characters fit different gags. It also deals more with the technical side of creating the gag and animating it.

Part II is all about the gags. Thomas and Johnston discuss the nine types of gags in detail with copious and beautiful illustrations, sketches and rough animation.
  • The Spot Gag
  • The Running Gag
  • The Gag-That-Builds
  • The Action Gag
  • The Tableau Gag
  • The Inanimate Character Gag
  • The Funny Drawing
  • Specialized Gags (Color, Effects and Caricature)
After finishing the book, I was surprised to watch a modern animated short and noticed in one scene that the animators used five of the gags mentioned above.

An sample page of tableau gags featuring Donald Duck.
The Tableau Gag
The tableau gag is a held picture at the end of an action, in which the character is left with a ridiculous appearance due to some foreign substance or object having been placed on, around, over, or in his face or figure. This is not an action gag because the humor is in the still picture or final tableau that results from an action rather than the action itself. (p. 30)
This book really has a specific audience in mind, but can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in animation or Disney animated films. More than just a book on gags or animation, it is a celebration of more than fifty years of Disney animators. Thomas and Johnston share some of their favorite gags from some of their favorite animators. It is a little humbling to see where two giants of animation gush over their contemporaries. As instrumental as Thomas and Johnston were to animation, they still profess their love and admiration for their fellow artists.

Special thanks to Scott Otis for providing the picture of the book jacket. You can follow him on twitter @otisney.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Disney Links, Links and More Links!

This a photo from 2001 details the water tower and steam funnel vent-off grate for the former Toontown stop on the Walt Disney World Railroad. The steam funnel is an effective way of removing the engine steam from the area to protect the cast members and guests I can't wait to see what the 2012 Fantasyland refurbishment is going to do to this area and how they will theme all of the details.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Communicore Weekly VideoCast 01

In association with Jeff Heimbuch from Mice Chat (The 626 and From the Mouth of the Mouse), we are bringing you Communicore Weekly!

(Imagine massive amounts of festoonery and trumpet fanfare.)

So, what is Communicore Weekly?

Glad you asked!

We are producing a weekly web series that focuses on some of the geekier sides of Disney.

This weeks show includes:
  • This Week in Disney History! 
  • George's Book of the Week! 
  • Sorcerer's of the magic Kingdom! 
  • The Five Legged Goat!

Enjoy and let us know what you think!

Here is my article on the Bob-A-Round boats:
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Walt Disney World Books

I've added more titles to the Walt Disney World bibliography. A more recent listing can be found at Mice Chat.

A frequent request at Imaginerding is for books about the history of Walt Disney World. While there isn't one book that covers it completely, there are several titles you can digest that will give you a very good picture. There are a lot of titles available and they come from different sources; check out the ones that look most interesting.

The definition of a bibliography is:
a complete or selective list of works compiled upon some common principle, as authorship, subject, place of publication, or printer.
This bibliography is by no means a complete list of books available on Walt Disney World; I have only added books that I own. Feel free to leave a comment if I have missed something good!

General Interest
The books included in this set focus on more than just Walt Disney World. I consider each title an essential part of any Disney enthusiast's library.

  • Smith, Dave. Disney: The First 100 Years. 1999. An essential part of every collection, Disney Archives Head Smith has put together a chronological look at the Disney Company.

The following titles are specific to Walt Disney World and cover more than just an attraction. The Kurtti, Koenig and Beard titles are a must!

  • Beard, Richard F. Walt Disney's Epcot Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow. 1982. This is the book that every fan of Epcot should own. An amazing amount of conceptual artwork and photos of the park during its first few months. In-depth information on the pavilions and anecdotes from the Imagineers. There are three editions: a pre-opening, post-opening and a short version. The difference in the post- and pre- is whether some of the pictures are in-park photos or close-ups of models. You can read my review here.

  • Gennawey, Sam. Walt and the Promise of Progress City. 2011. An urban planner by trade, Sam is uniquely qualified to trace the development of EPCOT Center. This books looks at how Walt evolved his plans and what EPCOT Center might have looked like if plans had progressed. You can read my review here.
  • Gordon, Bruce; Kurtti, Jeff. Walt Disney World Then, Now, and Forever. 2008. Theme Park Exclusive. Gordon and Kurtti have written a history/souvenir guide for Walt Disney World. It does act more like a family scrapbook than a history book, until you delve into its pages. You can read my review here.
  • Mannheim, Steven.Walt Disney and the Quest for Community. 2003. This book could almost be considered a biography of the Epcot that could have been. Mannheim writes a very through-provoking and enjoyable work on Walt Disney's plans for EPCOT Center and how they germinated and became reality (or didn't, in some cases). You can read my review here.
  • The Story of Walt Disney World, Commemorative Edition. Various Years (1971, 1973, 1976). An official publication that looks at the first few years of Walt Disney World. It focuses on the building of the Magic Kingdom, the resorts and the rest of the vacation kingdom. It has a great stylized map and lots of pictures.
Attraction Specific

  • Jacobs, David. Disney's America On Parade - A History Of The U.S.A. In A Dazzling Fun-filled Pageant. 1975. It is hard to believe that Disney released a book that focuses solely on a parade! This is a wonderful mix of history, concept art and photographs of the long-running and well-loved parade at Disneyland and Walt Disney World during the country's bicentennial. You can read my review here.

  • Leaphart, David. Walt Disney World Railroads Part 1: Fort Wilderness Railroad. 2010. David has compiled an monumental and magnificent look at the Fort Wilderness Railroad. A must for any fan of Fort Wilderness, trains or early Walt Disney World anecdotes. Visit the author's website for more information. You can read my review here.
  • Leaphart, David. Walt Disney World Railroads Part 1: Fort Wilderness Railroad Gallery Companion. 2010. A companion guide to David's work on the Fort Wilderness Railroad. More pictures than you can shake a stick at!
There would be no Walt Disney World without these artists.

Detailed-inspired travel guides, academic treatises and amazing photographic titles. Usually more of a time-capsule than a history title.

  • Burns-Clair, Pam and Peri, Don. Walt Disney's First Lady of Imagineering Harriet Burns. 2010. Harriet's daughter Pam and Disney Historian Don Peri craft a fascinating and beautiful collection of anecdotes and tributes to Harriet Burns, as told by her family, friends and co-workers. You can read my review here.

  • Childs, Valerie. The Magic of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. 1979. This work is mainly a pictorial essay about Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Geared mainly for park detectives and people who visited the parks in the 1970s. You can read my review here.

  • Fjelmman, Stephen J. Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World And America. 1992. Vinyl Leaves is a rare book in the fact that it takes a detailed look at Walt Disney World from 1988-1992 and details almost every attraction. It is presented as a sociological/anthropological look at Disney and America, but the descriptions of the parks are the strongest points. The index is astounding and will be referenced for years to come. You can read my review here.
  • Hannaford, Dee. The Gardens of Walt Disney World Resort. 1988. One of the most beautiful coffee-table books ever produced about Walt Disney World. Amazing photographs of the gardens and natural areas help to create a snapshot of Walt Disney World Resort in 1988. Absolutely gorgeous and belongs in every collection.
  • Imagineering Field Guide Series: Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdomand Disney's Hollywood Studios. 2005-2009. Written by The Imagineers (Alex Wright is the main author), this series of guidebooks discusses some of the details and histories of the parks. They are designed to be taken into the park with you; hence the artwork can be fairly small, but exciting.

  • Justice, Bill. Justice for Disney: Animator, Director, Imagineer. 1992. Bill was a pivotal person in the development of animatronics and a few early Walt Disney World attractions. It is a very charming memoir and offers something for everyone. You can read my review here.

October 2011 marked 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 for our posts. Make sure to follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers, a Book Review

Outside of Walt Disney and his Imagineers, no one did more to revolutionize ride design than Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon. Through their company, Arrow, they were responsible for developing and building a majority of the rides at Disneyland. They would have gone down in amusement park history just for their invention of the mine car roller coaster, the log flume and the first looping coaster. Arguably, their most admired contributions consist of the following:
  • Creators of the Autopia;
  • Developed and designed the water propulsion systems for it's a small world and Pirates of the Caribbean;
  • The tubular steel roller coaster design and fabrication for the Matterhorn;
  • Execution and development of the much beloved Flying Saucers.

Ed relates his first coaster building experience when he was a teenager:
The summer I was sixteen, my father was out of town on a job, and my brother and I and a couple of friends needed a summer project. Someone suggested we build a roller coaster, it seemed like a good idea at the time, and our lot was ideal, in that it was very deep from the street in front to the alley in back. Demonstrating a total lack of planning, we started out with an eight foot folding step ladder. The first drop started at the top of the ladder. The track bed was of 1 x 12 inch pine with side boards nailed to it. The coaster car was a short plank supported by four roller skates modified for this purpose. 
In operation, we pulled the car to the top of the ladder, climbed in, and took off. Great fun, but think of how much better it would be if it were higher and longer! The next step was to add 2 x 4 inch legged supports progressively higher up. We saw right away that they were unstable, and had to add diagonal bracing. We were learning fast, but not fast enough to sit down and plan and consider the consequences. 
This stage, when finished, required an extension ladder to reach the top. it provided a fast ride--too fast at the end of the track. Our solution to this was too add track with a small hill. (Pages 17-18)
One of Ed's friends ended up rocking the car, derailed it and ended up breaking his collar bone. Ed's father ended the coaster episode.

Walt Disney tests the flying saucers at the Arrow Plant.

Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers was published in 1999, long before the recent influx of memoirs and interview-style books. Reynolds spent a lot of time interviewing people through email and talking with Ed and Karl. he presents a majority of the book in interview form with Ed and Karl directly relating their stories. Reynolds sprinkles in historical details and outlines the full story of Arrow Development between the interviews.

Beyond the work that Arrow did for other amusement parks, you still come to sense that Disneyland would not have been completed on time or with as many attractions without Arrow. Also, the major development of ride design allowed Disney to offer attractions that no one else could compete with.

Ed and Karl relate their stories of working directly with Walt Disney, Admiral Joe Fowler and Dick Nunis. At points, they discuss some fairly technical engineering feats, but it is never overwhelming. Arrow was at the forefront of developing almost every new technology for rides. The water propulsion for most boat rides, the guided rail of the Autopias, the Matterhorn and so many more. Imagine seeing the full build-out of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the Arrow parking lot? And Disney executives in their suits riding the attraction for the first time. Fans of the famed Flying Saucers attraction will love hearing about the development of the ride and the issues that Arrow had with keeping it operating.

Most of the book focuses on Dineyland and the evolution of Arrow. There is one chapter devoted to Walt Disney World and the work that Arrow did. Arrow was hired to build almost every attraction at the Magic Kingdom, especially the Fantasyland rides. They built both of the omnimover attractions and Peter Pan (although they didn't build Peter Pan at Disneyland).

Walt Disney and Joe Fowler, in the front row, hold on for another drop.
They were asked to design Space Mountain, in 1966, and it was a far different layout than the one that debuted at the Magic Kingdom. "In the original plan there would have been four separate coasters within the structure, The tracks would also penetrate the building and continue outside the mountain for a portion of the ride." Ultimately, Disney wanted Arrow to move their facilities to Walt Disney World but Arrow declined. Disney had enough in-house talent after the opening of Walt Disney World, that they no longer needed Arrow for manufacturing. This signaled the end of a more than 20 year relationship.

Ed and Karl relate other stories of their developments for Knott's, the infamous Freedomland and various Six Flags parks. You realize that Arrow did a lot more than build and design for Disney, but they always saved the best for Walt. Chances are, if you have visited any amusement park in America (or most of the world), you have ridden a ride created or designed by Arrow.

I have read a few other reviews in which the book has been critiqued for the grammar and writing style. Most of the issues I had with the grammar were related to the transcriptions of the interviews. The interviews are related as is, with minimal changes in structure. The anecdotes are still priceless and perfect for the Disneyland fan.

You will gain a new perspective for the development of the theme park and most modern ride systems. Ed and Karl happened to be in the right place at the right time, but they also had the skills and talents to succeed. As I read the book, Ed and Karl reminded me of Walt and Roy in their relationships. They really needed each other to succeed. Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers is a perfect book for anyone interested in theme park history and early Disneyland development.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

More Disney Links

A 1997 shot of Tumbleweed from the train. This is a great tableau that is best enjoyed from the Walt Disney World Railroad. There are some other hidden details that only come out at night, too.

On with the links!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remnants of Pleasure island

On a few recent trips to Walt Disney World, I ran into some remnants of Pleasure Island.

This was that last Mr. Funnmeister at Pleasure island. This photograph was taken in August 2010 and it was not in a very accessible area.

The remaining photos were taken around the Rivefront District of Pleasure island. By the former 8-Trax and the Lombard Promenade. It is where the 14 is designated on the map.

Leftover theming for the Riverfront. The buoy has the logo and PI initials.

A lone person using his cell phone under the pavilion. Being the serious Disney enthusiast, I couldn't resist getting an upshot!

You can see the lighting equipment that is still there.

One of those great details that most people will stroll right by is a reference to Lombard Street in San Francisco. This could have been a regular set of stairs, but the Imagineers chose to pay tribute to the famous road in San Francisco. I imagine that someone was thinking of semi-intoxicated revelers making their way to the bottom.



Designed by Island founder and incurable romantic Merriweather Adam Pleasure after a trip he and wife Isabella took to San Francisco. They both fell in love with the city's back-and-forth boulevard, Lombard Street. Isabella wanted a photograph as a souvenir, but Merriweather insisted on recreating the street itself.  

It later became a favorite site for the legendary, day-long hide-and-seek tournaments organized by the Pleasure grandchildren.  

The fabled follies of Pleasure Island and its founding family are recorded on the histerical plaques at each island entrance.

8-Trax is a very interesting club because of its location and the sign hanging above the door. It took me a minute to explain to my (then) 11 year-old son what an 8-track tape was. The club started off as Videopolis East and was considered the sister club to Videopolis at Disneyland. It also catered to the under 21 crowd, which could explain its rather out-of-the-way location. By 1990 it was known as Cage and had been turned into 8-Trax by 1993.

Artificial Intelligence Lab 
Built for Island founder Merriweather Pleasure's son Henry, the "mad genius of Lake Buena Vista" and Henry's life work, the Pleasure Cellular Automaton. Henry died thinking his experiments in artificial intelligence had failed. But when the building was reopened in 1987, the automaton was alive and thriving. 
In fact, it directed the refurbishing of its home and designed the sophisticated computer hardware that shows itself to best advantage.  
The complete and purely subjective saga of Pleasure Island is synthesized on the ersatz histerical plaques at the Island's entrance.

I included this photo so you could see the coloring on the door. Obviously, 8-Trax catered to the 1970s crowd.

Don't forget to keep an eye out for other pieces of Pleasure Island history. To keep up with the changes, you can always visit Save Pleasure Island blog. In addition to photo updates, the author keeps everyone up-to-date on the latest Pleasure island news.

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