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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dick Tracy movie tribute in Backlot Tour warehouse

Just a few moments after you enter the warehouse on the Backlot Tram Tour, look to your right to find a display case on the wall. 

First, ogle with me the park map displayed here, which shows the park back when it was called Disney-MGM Studios... a true remnant lying around in plain sight.



Then, let your eyes travel upward to a poster above the display case.



Who is district attorney (John) Fletcher? It turns out this is a character in the Disney movie Dick Tracy (1990) - and the photo here shows the same actor/character, so it's the sort of "all in" tribute Disney does best!

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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Monday, January 27, 2014

WDW Clicks #13 - Spice Road Table, Smokehouse, All Star Sports dining area

WDW Clicks #13 is now online!


We visit the new counter service Smokehouse at House of Blues, then also drop in to finally sample (and photograph) Spice Road Table, which opened a couple of weeks ago. We tour the new dining room of All Star Sports, which includes a very cool tribute to a Disney fan (rather than a Disney insider) for a change. Finally, we unveil a (small?) spoiler about the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, so skip the last part of the video if you don't want to hear of something I assume they want kept as a surprise.

Direct link: http://youtu.be/LI1sBZzB-gA

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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Spoiler: An unexpected ride feature on Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster confirmed by photo

As construction has proceeded on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster over the months, I've come to suspect that the big drop from the mountain (which faces the Be Our Guest castle) has a double drop to it. My telephoto shots of the area, taken while holding the camera over my head many yards back from the construction wall, seemed to imply that the visible drop coming out of the tunnel was preceded by an earlier, short drop while still inside the tunnel. But the light was always tricky and it was hard to see inside the tunnel.

This last weekend I finally happened to be there when the interior work lights were on, and it was clear to see even without the telephoto lens that indeed, we're looking at two drops for this thrilling moment of the attraction.




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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, even in the world of Disney park tributes

When you're a Hidden History hunter, practically every anomaly gets you to question whether there's an inside connection. After all, there are no accidental "71s" in the Magic Kingdom, and all those random numbers you see on pipes usually look like some variation of birth dates and years. Photos of kids have to come from somewhere - is it a stretch to think maybe the Imagineers used pics of their own kids?

When you get to an attraction rich with inside jokes like Carousel of Progress - lots of Hidden Mickeys (sorcerer hat, abstract painting, nutcracker, sorcerer plates) and at least one Imagineer call out (to Herb Ryman, whose name can be seen through the window in the 1920s scene) - you're on high alert.

You know especially that the bulletin board and dry erase board in the finale scene are full of insider things.

On the dry erase board, you've got a reference to 1401, the address on Flower Street in Glendale where Imagineering is based.



There's the famous post-in note saying "Marty called -- wants changes" in reference to then-head of Imagineering Marty Sklar.



So when you take your zoom lens and locate a business card on the same corkboard, the tendency is to think you've hit upon another reference and homage. Take this business card from just below the Marty reference:



Perhaps your first thought, like mine was, is that Roger Everett must be an Imagineer associated with the project, who found a way to make himself timeless! But it doesn't appear to be. I couldn't find evidence of Roger Everett having worked at Imagineering (this is not conclusive, btw), so I turned to an open Google search.

What I found online is that "Roger Everett" is the name of someone who actually does carpentry work in the Orlando area. In other words, probably there is no Imagineering connection, but this could be a tribute of sorts. One assumes Mr. Everett assisted in the 1990s refurbishment of the attraction, and got to include his calling card as a kind of... er, calling card... in the finished experience.

So it's not a smoking gun connection to an Imagineer. That makes this a red herring search in a way, but as the title of the post says, sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.


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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Diagon Alley details - from the Universal webcast on Jan. 23 (pics)

Mark Woodbury, President of Universal Creative (which is like Imagineering for Universal), gave a briefing from a Gringott's vault set today and revealed some details about the upcoming Diagon Alley expansion to Universal Studios Florida:


  • Opening is "months away" (this summer)
  • "Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott's" is the official name of the attraction.
  • There will be not just Diagon Alley, but also Nocturn Alley










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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WDW Clicks #12 - Diagon Alley, CityWalk, Monster Jam, More

Diagon Alley updates at Universal (including a tiny peek at Leaky Cauldron), plus CityWalk construction, Falcon's Fury construction at Busch Gardens Tampa, Monster Jam truck event at Citrus Bowl in Orlando this Saturday, and a new Walt Disney World Earbook (for calendar year 2013) is now on sale!



Direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOOXuVR-TiA

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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Diagon Alley photo update

I dropped by Universal on Monday and saw that the construction scaffolding was mostly down, though there is still some fine detail work to be done. The insides are nowhere near done. But check out this telephoto shot through one doorway:



Enjoy the rest of the photos!

















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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Tribute on Space Mountain to movie Armageddon

Somewhat-new video screens at the exit upramp to Space Mountain (in Orlando) show astronauts in posed scenes with some fake quotes. The names attributed to those quotes - Commander Dan Truman and Grace Stamper, are characters from the Disney movie Armageddon (1998)--played by Billy Bob Thornton and Liv Tyler, respectively. 

Click any image for a larger version:





These screens are likely part of the personalization effects that will come from MagicBands in the near future.

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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Matterhorn tribute in Expedition Everest (explained)

There's a somewhat-new (added in 2013) series of videoscreens at the very end of the queue for Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom. This will presumably become part of MyMagic+ and give personalized shout-outs to visitors, courtesy of MagicBands.



One screen shows a fanciful yeti product. But look closer. There are two references here to Disneyland's yeti attraction, the Matterhorn, which opened decades before Expedition Everest.



First, the fake quote by Klaus Wesselhoft is a clear reference to a character in the movie Third Man on the Mountain (1959), played by Lee Patterson. That movie was about the real Matterhorn, but in filming it, Walt realized he wanted his own Matterhorn at Disneyland, so that was built concurrently.



Then, examine the tin of yeti meats and you'll see yet another representation of the mythical creature. That alone is no surprise; the whole conceit of the queue is that we don't know exactly what he looks like, so there are lots of different images. But THIS image looks a lot like the Abominable Snowman from Disneyland's Matterhorn (added years after Walt died), which would make it a second tribute on the same poster!


Yeti tinned meats.



Disneyland's Harold; photo copyright Disney.


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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Monster Jam coming to Orlando this weekend (preview pics and review of same event from Tampa)

This Saturday in Orlando is Monster Jam, a monster truck event held in the Citrus Bowl. I was recently invited to nearby Tampa to see the same show a week early, so I could write up the experience here in this blog. 

I should preface this review by pointing out that I have never in life before attending a monster truck event (my brain wants to call them monster truck "rallies" but I suspect that word has been out for a few decades.) I kind of vaguely recall the era of Bigfoot in the late 70s or early 80s but don't know much at all about this sport. I brought along my wife and two boys (10 and 7) who were all equally naive about what to expect.

Let me just jump to the punchline: by the end of the night, my entire family felt we had a GREAT time and we will be going next year - the only question is whether we buy the cheap seats or spring for the closer ones. Neither are that expensive, really, especially when compared to baseball and football seats.



The event starts at 7pm and doesn't finish until a while later (9:30, maybe? Or was it 10:00?) so young kids expecting an early bedtime might be cranky for a bit. But the last half of the show is likely to be gripping for most of them.

The show is split into roughly two parts: racing and then "freestyle." Racing is time trials (two trucks on the course of obstacles and ramps/jumps at the same time), and whoever has the lowest score advances to the next round. Eventually there's a winner, but this takes a while, and for a novice it stretches just a little long. My seven year old was getting tired by this point.

A short intermission separated the two halves, and then the Freestyle began, which meant each truck would do what it could to impress the judges in a minute and a half--jumps, smashing cars laid on the course, spinouts and doughnuts, and so forth. This part was way more entertaining. Some of the trucks, you see, end up trying to do more than they could handle, and tip over. The excitement of watching almost-tips was way more than I expected. And if someone managed to pull OUT of an expected tip-over, that was cause for a great wave of euphoria rippling through the crowd. Eventually, a couple of the more experienced drivers pulled off a few backflips off the steep ramps, which I have to admit were pretty darn impressive.



This is the sort of event that introduces fireworks during the National Anthem. Two kinds, actually. One for the "rockets' red glare" and a different, louder variety for "the bombs bursting in air." There are pyrotechnics when the trucks first arrive also, and an even bigger show, all around the arena, when the show reaches its conclusion.



The trucks and drivers are all in a competition for points, which gives the event drama. The fan favorite (and playbill headliner) "Grave Digger" seemed to always score the highest marks, but I'm too ignorant here to know if this is intentional. They inject a lot of info about the drivers - it was father and son in the Grave Digger and Grave Digger Legend trucks on our visit.

Press photo - click for larger version


The cheapest seats in the house cost less than what you'd pay per person for the most expensive movie tickets (IMAX and 3D), yet this stadium event is almost 3 hours long, so it's roughly in line with what "amusement" costs in Florida.

It's pretty far afield of the kinds of amusements we usually discuss here in Orlando and Central Florida, but it *is* still an attraction, no doubt about it. We really will be back for this!

We did wander the Pit Party before the show, and now that we know the trucks a little better, next time it will be even more of a treat to take pictures with them before the big event.







The show on Saturday Jan. 25 takes place in the Citrus Bowl.



Press Release about this Saturday's show:

About:                        MONSTER JAM® is one of Orlando’s most popular and largest single-day stadium events, attracting capacity crowds of over 60,000 fans. A huge field of sixteen monster trucks will compete in side-by-racing and the fan-favorite freestyle competition. One of the many highlights of this year’s event is the return of fan favorite Dennis Anderson (originator and driver of GRAVE DIGGER) to the city and stadium he calls his favorite. The annual motor sports spectacle is the final event before demolition begins on the Florida Citrus Bowl.
One show only: Saturday, January 25th
Gates Open at 5 pm. Opening Ceremonies at 6:30 pm. Racing Starts at 7 pm.
Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, 1610 W. Church Street, Orlando, FL 32805
Advance purchase SuperValue Tickets are ONLY $15. $35 VIP / $25 Sideline.
& Purchase:             Tickets are on sale now at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Amway Center Box Office, or charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com. Tickets will also be available day of show at the Citrus Bowl.  All seats reserved. Subject to facility fee, plus convenience and handling charges. Don’t wait – buy tickets in advance as prices go up $5 more the week of show. Get more show information at www.MonsterJam.com (click on “Tickets” and search for Orlando January 25th).

  • Discounts:                       Fans can save $15 with a Buy 3 Get 1 FREE 4-pak ticket voucher deal at area Metro PCS locations while supplies last.    
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  •                                     Fans can save up to $5 on individual tickets with a Coupon available from area McDonald’s restaurants.


Show Details:            Central Florida will heat up this January when 1,500 horsepower, 10,000-pound monster trucks compete in side-by-side racing and the fan-favorite freestyle competition where each monster truck gets up to 120 seconds to “wow” the crowd with huge jumps, wheelies, truck-spinning donuts, flips, and the destruction of cars, vans, buses, motor homes and more.  Four-time World Champion, Dennis Anderson, returns to his favorite city driving the legendary monster truck he created 32 years ago, GRAVE DIGGER.  After his sensational 2013 debut, Ryan Anderson will be joining his father driving SON UVA DIGGER
The event will also feature 11-time and reigning World Champion MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION, plus Latino favorite EL TORO LOCO, MOWAWK WARRIORICE CREAM MANMONSTER MUTT ROTTWEILER, the Orlando debut of Nicole Johnson driving SCOOBY, and more yet-to-be announced motorsports competitors. The official title of the event is Metro PCS, McDonald’s, 1-800-Ask-Gary, Budweiser & Your Southern Ford Dealers present MONSTER JAM®.
Preview                     
Fans can go behind the scenes, meet the drivers for autographs and 
photo ops, and see the monster trucks up close at the World’s Ultimate Pit Party at Tinker Field from 1:30-5pm. Purchase a pit pass for only $10 more when buying tickets at Ticketmaster or the Amway Center Box Office. Or, pick up a free pit pass at participating Orlando area Southern Ford Dealers beginning January 6th (while supplies last).  Pit Passes, along with a valid event ticket, get fans into the Pit Area. Fans can also have the opportunity to ride in a real monster truck before the show between 1-7 pm in the lot across from Gate D.  Monster Truck Rides are $10 per rider. 

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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Friday, January 17, 2014

2013 WDW Earbook now on sale!

Since 2010, I've published an annual book chronicling the changes, additions, and significant alterations to Walt Disney World over the course of that year. It's a little bit like the high school yearbook, and it is meant to work like that in real life (pick one up five years later, and marvel at all the memories). As a result, it bears the name Walt Disney World 'Earbook

The 2013 version is now ready and available for sale online: http://www.amazon.com/Unofficial-Walt-Disney-World-Earbook/dp/149489887X

The retail price is $12.99 but Amazon often discounts from there (today, it's $11.69).

There was a lot added to Walt Disney World in 2013, including Princess Fairytale Hall, A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas, Villas at Grand Floridian, Limited Time Magic, Jingle Cruise, Long Lost Friends, MagicBands, Wilderness Explorers, Norsk Kultur, Princesse Plass, Rapunzel Bathrooms, Prince Eric’s Village Market, L'artisan des Glaces, Lava Lounge, and several Starbucks shops.



We bade goodbye to Apricot Lane, Bamboo, Beastly Bazaar, Cap’n Jack Restaurant, Club 626, Countdown to Fun, Disney Channel Rocks, Fuego, Haagen Dazs, National Treasures at the American Heritage Gallery, Sid Cahuenga’s, SmarterPlanet, Sound Stage, SpectroMagic, Stave Church Gallery, and Wetzel’s Pretzels.

Re-live the special events, additions, removals, and alterations with this yearbook-style volume designed to show, using hundreds of pictures, how rapidly the portrait of life at Walt Disney World changes. An index at the back will make finding information even years from now a breeze.

The book is 66 pages, with hundreds of full color photos inside. Here is but a small sampling:




















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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.