Archive for November, 2008

Beach Club Villas studio room video posted

by on November 16, 2008

We’ve posted video of room 449 at Disney’s Beach Club Villas, a studio, online:

Disney’s Pop Century Resort video now online

by on November 16, 2008

Video of Disney’s Pop Century Resort, affectionately known as “Scopa Towers” to podcast fans, is now online.

All-Star Music Family Suite video now online

by on November 16, 2008

This one should be in high-res by clicking the “Watch in high quality” link in the lower right corner of the YouTube player.

All-Star Movies video now online

by on November 16, 2008

Video from our stay at Disney’s All-Star Movies resort is now online. No idea why the YouTube preview starts with the commode. 🙂

Sample Saratoga Springs room video posted to YouTube

by on November 16, 2008

This is a low-resolution sample of the room video we have, from Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort. Do we need audio commentary added to the video? Send comments and suggestions to

Photo Tours Online

by on November 16, 2008

The first three WDW resort photo tours have been posted online. Resorts include All-Star Movies, Port Orleans Riverside and Yacht Club.Click here to view.

Update: Caribbean Beach was added Sunday morning.

We’re very interested in your feedback on the photos. Send comments to

It’s taken a few years to amass this many photos. We’d like to thank Richard and Lillian for their tireless efforts in photographing the WDW resort. And Dan, our developer extraordinare, did a great job with the multimedia gallery code.

We’re working on uploading the digital video we have of the All Star Movies resort. Should be done shortly.

We could be completely wrong about this. In fact, I wouldn’t even read further.

by on November 14, 2008

We hear from two separate sources that Disney is readying a host of new WDW discounts, to be announced during ABC’s broadcast of the WDW Christmas Parade. Travel dates would be January – March 2009. Pure speculation at this point, and we don’t have details beyond this. In any event, it’s a smart move by Disney to have a backup plan in case the latest Buy-4-Get-3-Free deal doesn’t do enough to boost occupancy. This will put further downward pressure on off-site hotel rates, too.

In related news Disney may be testing two all-you-can-eat counter-service meal plans at the Animal Kingdom:

$15 for one all-you-can-eat meal at any counter-service restaurant

$25 for two all-you-can-eat meals at any counter-service restaurant, similar to Universal’s all-you-can-eat plan

Offers for this test are to in-park visitors and through email, with some of those emails rumored to target previous WDW visitors who used their Disney room cards to charge buffet meals. Ah, data mining at its finest!

Thrify Car Rental offering $1/day one-way rentals to Orlando from select cities

by on November 14, 2008

Urban Design and the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street. And hello to Pittsburgh!

by on November 14, 2008

We’ve posted an interesting look at Main Street USA, from urban designer Sam Gennawey. Read Part 1 here.

Also, hello to everyone in Pittsburgh who may be visiting the site for the first time. Something that didn’t make it in to the KDKA interview: Len is a huge Steelers fan, making sure he reads Ed Bouchette’s column in the Post-Gazette every day.

An Urban Designer Looks At Main Street

by on November 13, 2008

One way to understand how the Magic Kingdom is organized is to think of the park as a virtual reality 3 dimensional cinematic experience contained within the world’s largest scale model train set. Since Walt Disney and many of the original Imagineers came from the movie industry, it was natural that the dimensional design planning would reflect that passion and knowledge. And Walt’s passion for all things train and transportation is legendary. This organizing principle begins even before you reach the main gate.

It starts with Cinderella Castle. Like a marquee on a movie theater, the spires of Cinderella Castle beckon you to visit. This 189 foot tall castle is so tall that it is visible for miles. There is a reason for this. Early visitors to Walt Disney World had to drive 6 miles from the freeway through undeveloped land to reach the park. The height of the Castle is visible for much of this drive and provided a comforting reassurance to visitors that there was a theme park waiting not too far away. Notice that you can see the spires but you can not see the entire castle. By design, that view will come later.

To add to the guest’s anticipation, the Imagineers have made the journey to the park part of the experience. At Disneyland, before the addition of Disney’s California Adventure theme park, guests would drive right up to the front gate. There was no transition from the real world to the magical land beyond the gates.

At the Magic Kingdom, most guests park their cars at the Transportation and Ticket Center. They then leave the real world behind by taking one of the exotic transportation systems such as the monorail or one of the ferries to the front gate. Even the resort buses drop you off the side of the entrance.

The movie going analogy continues as you approach the front gate. It is here that you hand the cast member your ticket and enter the lobby. In this case, the lobby is forecourt in front of the train station. Look down at the red bricks. Those bricks simulate the movie theater’s red carpet. Notice that the train station now blocks your view of everything that is behind it. Once again, the Imagineers are trying to control what you can see and the environment unfolds in a way to keep the story together.

As you enter the tunnel under the railroad, notice how wide and deep they are. The tunnels act like the movie theater curtain and provide a transition from the lobby to Main Street USA.

Once you pass through the tunnel, the first immersive environment is Town Square. Town Square functions as the civic center with City Hall, a barber shop, stores and other services. And just like every other Disney theme park, Guest Services are on the left hand side.

As we walk down Main Street, let’s admire three of Walt’s team great design ideas – the “wienie”, the hub-and-spoke, and the use of scale.

One common design pattern that can be found throughout the Magic Kingdom, and all other Disney theme parks, is the view terminus. In Disneyspeak this is better known as the “wienie.” A wienie is a feature placed on a distant spot to add character or to provide a memorable element as a tool for orientation. Walt came up with the term wienie because he needed a “beckoning hand” to draw people through the park. John Hench wrote that this “beckoning hand” suggests, “Come this way. You’ll have a good time.” Being a big fan of corn dogs himself, Walt knew that a wienie could not be resisted.

The most significant wienie in the Magic Kingdom is Cinderella Castle. Its spires are the first thing you see when coming to the park and it is the one design element that is visible virtually throughout the park.

The idea of having such a strong center was Walt’s way of dealing with “museum feet” which he described as “the ache of having walked too much just to get through the place.”

To avoid “museum feet” he laid out the park as a hub-and-spoke. Just like a bicycle wheel, there is a hub at the center and there are spokes that radiate out from that center. At the Magic Kingdom, the hub is Central Plaza right in front of the castle. The spokes lead to each of the lands.

As you walk down Main Street pay close attention to the storefronts. Here, you will see another design pattern that is used throughout the parks. The concept is known as forced perspective. A common technique used in film, John Hench defines forced perspective as “a form of one-point linear perspective in which receding space is compressed by exaggerating the proximity of the implied vanishing point to the viewer.” Forced perspective is a design pattern that gives buildings the appearance of greater height.

Remember the analogy to the movie going experience and the scale model train set? Virtually all of the buildings in the Magic Kingdom are not built to actual scale. The designers can choose the scale that best helps advance the story. For example, the first-floor facades along Main Street are built approximately ninety percent of full size. The storefront windows are lower than usual so that children have better access viewing the displays. The second floor is eighty percent of full size, and the third floor is even smaller.

The use of forced perspective is what makes the Main Street buildings seem taller than they really are and the Castle seem farther away. If you turn around, the full scale Train Station does the reverse and makes the walk to the exit seem much closer. The results are optical illusions that trick your mind and feet.

Watch for these design patterns as they reoccur throughout the park.