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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Disneyland's PeopleMover (video)

One more nostalgic post before we move on: the Disneyland PeopleMover. An absolute fan favorite, it ranks among the top things people miss in the Disney parks today. 



This PeopleMover opened in 1967 (before Magic Kingdom itself opened in Orlando) and closed in 1995. Like Orlando's present version, it roamed Tomorrowland, but the Anaheim version went out into the Autopia area, and it went up and down more rather than stay on a level surface. It was powered by tires in the floor, the same thing that gives a boost to bobsleds in the Matterhorn. Both systems had been inspired by the Ford factory, where Disney workers touring the place (prepping for the Ford-sponsored 1964 World's Fair attraction) saw a similar system for moving materials, and realized it could be used for Moving People... and the placeholder name stuck. The Ford pavilion used a similar method of moving people... in Ford cars. When the ride came to Orlando, a new direction for propulsion was taken that was tire-free and more constant.

Here's my video from 1994, about a year before this ride closed.



The PeopleMover track was vacant for a while, then it was replaced by the faster Rocket Rods, which developed tire problems and track stress issues, and the track is again unused.

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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, June 29, 2012

The Disneyland Skyway (video)

The recent post about Norway's lost ship has made me nostalgic, so I'm going to dwell for a couple of posts on things I miss (and have ready video access to).

In 1994, Disneyland removed its Skyway attraction that connected Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.



I happened to be working at Disneyland at that time, and was working that morning. So when I heard that day was the last day, I bolted home, grabbed the 1994-era video camera (let's just say it was shoulder-mounted and contained a VHS tape), and came back to document the very last day of operation (and probably not too many hours of daylight left, either). The result was this video you see here:



The audio, needless to say, was dubbed in later.

People would get up to mischief on the Skyway (it had a minor Mile High Club cachet, among other things), and it was labor intensive. People would get hurt on the thing, others would sue, and kids would spit on people below. But what did the Skyway in finally was the ADA law, which required wheelchair access, and none of the platforms, stations, or cars were equipped for wheelchairs, so the ride could not be renovated without hefty costs (with any refurbishment, the ride has to come up to ADA requirements).

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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, June 28, 2012

The lost Norway pavilion Viking ship

Since we just looked around Norway, I was feeling nostalgic, so I looked in the photo archives for a few pictures of the Viking ship that used to be here.



It was a playground, and you could climb aboard to pretend you were sailing the high seas. I think there was a very minor climbing net here too, but that was it in terms of playground equipment. It was mostly a prop you could climb on. Then, in the mid-2000s, they blocked access to it, and you could only look at it.






Finally, the prop was removed entirely, and the area was nothing but bushes for a little while in 2008.




Happily, some of the pieces came back as props for the Kim Possible Adventure.





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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, June 27, 2012

Norway Pavilion - A few pictures

Here's a "just because" look around Epcot's Norway pavilion. I picked it at random (and no, I'm not about to start on a tour of all the pavilions).



This pavilion strikes me as ever more photogenic, the more you look at it and examine it. I have a further cache of pictures in the kitty already, but I'll reserve those for a later time. In the meantime, this is just a quick glance around to confirm the pavilion is much more than just the Maelstrom attraction or the Akershus restaurant. Do you take a photo with that giant troll every visit?











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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.

R&B Legend Al Green at Uni on Saturday

Press Release:


“LET’S STAY TOGETHER” WITH R&B LEGEND AL GREEN, PERFORMING LIVE THIS SATURDAY AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO’S 2012 SUMMER CONCERT SERIES
Summer Concert Series Runs Every Saturday Night Through July 14



WHAT:                        Universal Orlando Resort guests can “boogie down” this weekend as R&B music legend Al Green performs live at Universal Studios Florida.
                                   
Since the late 1960s, soulful star Al Green has topped music charts with classic hits like “Let’s Stay Together,” “You Ought to Be with Me” and “L-O-V-E (Love),” producing more than 20 million albums sold worldwide during his career.  Green was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” Green’s most recent album, “Lay It Down,” features collaborations with other popular artists, such as John Legend, Erykah Badu and the late Amy Winehouse.

Universal Orlando’s Summer Concert Series is included in admission to Universal Studios and gives guests the opportunity to add a major concert to a day of theme park thrills.  This year’s star-studded lineup features top-name talent that will appeal to fans of every music genre.  The full list of upcoming acts is below.
SUMMER CONCERT SERIES 2012 LINEUP
Date
Headliner
June 30
Al Green
July 7
Lupe Fiasco
July 14
Miranda Cosgrove
                                     
Guests can also experience Universal Studios’ brand-new entertainment experiences – Universal’s Superstar Parade and Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular – 100 Years of Movie Memories.   Before the concert, Universal’s Superstar Parade will roll through the streets and transform into a theme-park-wide performance stage as today’s most beloved stories and characters bring new adventure and excitement to guests.  After the concert, Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular – a nighttime show that takes guests on a journey filled with powerful movie moments – will unfold across the park’s central lagoon.

For more information, visit www.universalorlando.com.

WHERE:                     Universal Studios Florida

WHEN:                       Saturday, June 30, 2012
                                    8 p.m.: Al Green Concert at the Music Plaza stage

MORE                        Media Site: http://media.universalorlando.com
INFORMATION:      RSVP to the Event: http://www.facebook.com/events/356059881117780/


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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, June 26, 2012

Turtle Trek at SeaWorld - A Belated Review

Turtle Trek is SeaWorld's newest attraction, and it's been open for several weeks now, but I was simply late in making it out there (apologies!) What is it? Short answer: it's a 3D movie. But wow, what a movie. Two big thumbs up!



The attraction replaces the manatee exhibit in the back corner of the park. Previously, you'd descend down a curved slope, passing by manatee pools on the side as you do. From here you can see the manatees from above. Then, we entered a small movie theater for the preshow video, and we were released to the main attraction: the manatees, this time seen from a side angle, since their whole tank was visible due to giant windows. The animals were the main star of the show.





Increasingly, SeaWorld has turned that formula on its head. The animals are now the frosting on the cake rather than the whole point of the exhibit. The rays welcome you to Manta, but you're most likely there for the coaster. Ditto the smaller aquatic denizens at Atlantis and Kraken, seen only briefly in the exit areas.

Turtle Trek does it by reversing the order of things. You pass by the very same tanks and side-angle exhibits on the way in--the animals are now preshow--and the film is the star. The sloped ramp that was once the entrance is now the exit ramp.

One of the exhibit rooms in the preshow is still home to manatees, but the second is for sea turtles. And seeming millions of colorful reef fish--it's a great display. There's a cheesy spiel here with a sea turtle stuffed animal, but the message about not throwing plastic bags into the ocean is a pretty appropriate one.

Finally we are ushered into the theater, but it's changed. Gone is the standard theater concept--this is a dome. It's like a smaller version of the "overhead IMAX" they use at Kennedy Space Center, where the screen curves over you more than a standard IMAX. Here it's a complete dome. A worker welcomes us, tells us we'll experience the journey of a turtle from hatching until returning to the same beach years later to lay new eggs, and then we put on 3D glasses.

The movie shines, sparkles, and scintillates. I'm a jaded 3D viewer, and this one impressed me. The film really does go all over the dome, so it's not just a Circle-Vision 360, it's also the ceiling portion. The result is way more immersive than a typical Circle-Vision experience. The theater is smaller too, and the effect is to make the show more intimate (in a good way).

On screen, the action is just right. It's close to you--closer than you'd think, and seemingly larger than life, but we are just young baby turtles, after all. It moves around the dome fluidly and naturally, so you'll be swiveling and rotating. There is no "front" view.

It took me a second to realize the projectors were actually BEHIND the screens, and obviously there were many of them to make the experience go all around. That was a gutsy move from an art-direction point of view, but it didn't really distract or detract from the immersiveness.

The movie is snappy in plot, featuring ups and downs, and a few danger points. It ends on a happy, up note, with an exhortation for all of us to be heroes now (this is their new slogan) and for us to "journey on" (which is also the name of the song playing at this point. All the music was custom-written for this attraction, and it's all pretty good!

There's a family-sized game on the exit ramp to enjoy, and the turtles and manatees can also be seen from the top up here.

Overall it was a very well-done addition to SeaWorld. Like Universal, they have really stepped up their game lately, and it makes me all the more happy to be a theme park fan living in Orlando. This is the dream, and we're living it!












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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, June 25, 2012

Bye Bye Travel Guide

Until recently there was a big sign hanging on one wall in the street-level area under the Main Street Train Station. Labeled the Magic Kingdom Travel Guide, it provided a graphical representation of the WDW Railroad's stops.



I assume one of the driving reasons to remove it was that there no longer is a stop for Mickey's Toontown Fair.



Now, there are signs honoring the trains Lilly Belle and Walter E. Disney. They match the signs on the other side of the breezeway (which refer to the trains Roy O Disney and Roger E. Broggie). These are the four trains at the MK.




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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.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Disney Shadow Boxes

At several of the WDW parks (especially MK and Epcot), there is one store that specializes in upscale merchandise, perhaps with a Disney twist. My family has become slowly obsessed with the shadow boxes in those stores. 



They first caught our collective eye some weeks ago, and each time we ogle them further, we feel the need to buy one! They cost around $85 each, and are lit by long-lasting LEDs. The boxes are powered by three AAA batteries, which made me happy (I'm not a fan of the kind of specialty batteries you have to buy at Radio Shack).

Each box is about the size of a large coffee cup.

It's hard to spot sometimes, but there is an on/off toggle button on the front of each box (it's one of the leaves).

We *had* to buy one, so we got the hitchhiking ghosts (you can see other Mansion-related merch behind it, since they live together on a single shelf of the display case at home).



What do you think? Worth the price? Do you want one?



















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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.