by Sam Gennawey
on October 19, 2009
Hello. Sam from SamLand’s Disney Adventures. For the next few weeks I will be looking at the design behind the arrival experience at the various parks. Not long ago, I was privileged to be a guest on the world famous WDW Today Podcast. I get my WDW news fix three times a week from Matt, Mike, Mike, and Len. The show topic was the design behind the arrival experience at each of the 4 parks. Making a great first impression is one of the hallmarks of the Disney parks. So let’s try and get into the head of the Imagineers and figure out why each entrance is unique but distinctly Disney.
It is a well-known fact that Walt Disney didn’t like sequels. After the huge success of Three Little Pigs, theaters were clamoring for a sequel but Walt hesitated. He even said, “You can’t top pigs, with pigs.” But he also knew he had a growing studio to support and this could be a great way to raise the money needed for Snow White. So did the sequels.
Thirty years later Walt found himself in the same place. He used the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair as a test to see if Disneyland style entertainment would work on the East Coast. The results were a box office smash. Now that Walt knew that the “sophisticated” people of the East Coast would accept his brand of entertainment. With this knowledge, he knew he had the sequel would be the money making machine that would fund what he really wanted to build – EPCOT – the city of the future.
Sadly, Walt passed away before any of his most ambitious dreams could be realize. Roy Disney, near retirement, decided to stay and to make sense of Walt’s ideas and to create something he would be proud of. He wanted the world to whose dream it was and renamed the project Walt Disney World.
In the first phase, they built the Magic Kingdom, three resorts, a multi-mode transportation network, and all of the infrastructure to turn wetlands into a small city. They applied many lessons learned in the operation of Disneyland to facilitate guest comfort and high capacity. The hotels and the monorail plus the other resort infrastructure would be just the way Walt would have wanted. Now came the real challenge. How to build EPCOT. What to do next?
The Magic Kingdom was an updated Disneyland. I will be writing about that experience on November 9. This new park had to be just that, new. It had to be different than the Magic Kingdom. That is a lot of pressure.
So the popular story is that Imagineers John Hench and Marty Sklar pushed two models of two separate projects together – Future World plus a permanent Worlds Fair called the World Showcase. They turned the two projects into one massive 260-acre park. More than twice as large as the Magic Kingdom and three times as large as Disneyland.
The gateway would perform the same function as that for the entrance at the Magic Kingdom. The portal becomes a time machine. To illustrate my point, you might recall that at the Magic Kingdom you pass below the railroad tracks and enter an idealistic American town around 1900. The tunnel is like a time machine. At Epcot, no matter how you arrived, whether it be by auto, bus, or monorail; you always entered into the future.
Everybody passes under the unifying theme element – Spaceship Earth and they share that experience as a community. People are entering a park that celebrates our interdependence between our minds, body and Earth. The front half of the figure eight shaped park would teach us about the past and anticipate the future. The back half would celebrate the cultures of the world.
The Monorail is also part of the show. As guests arrive to via the Monorail, they would get an eye in the sky preview of the park. It creates the perfect first impression of this future world. The Monorail was novelty at Disneyland but it would become truly the transportation system of the future and critical to the success of the resort. In the Imagineering Guide to Epcot the authors state that, “It’s no accident that the monorail passes right through the heart of this park. This connection not only transfers riders from the Transportation and ticket center, but also gives them an overview of the Park on their way in. And it provides additional show value and kinetics for those already there”.
At the Magic Kingdom you never get a full look at Cinderella Castle until you are well into the park. Epcot would be different. Spaceship Earth would be right at the front of the park. Like the Castle park, the geosphere would act as a beacon, become the center of attention, and a point of orientation. The familiar shape, the oscillating pattern from the texture of the tiles, and the way the structure captures the light and changes throughout the day set the tone for your adventure that lies ahead.
There is so much more and we will continue this journey tomorrow.
by Kristen Helmstetter
on July 20, 2009
Maybe it’s because of my great-great grandfather owned a beer garden stateside, but Biergarten is climbing up my list of favorite places to have dinner around the World Showcase. While I usually avoid buffets at Disney World, this one is great. There is a wide variety of foods to choose from and the atmosphere can’t be beat. Where else on WDW property do guests be serenaded by an Oompah band while swinging around their stein of beer?
Upon walking into the restaurant, guests can’t help but marvel at the décor. The area is set up to resemble an actual outdoor Biergarten in a Bavarian village at the height of Oktoberfest. Long tables are set up as they would be during the famous Autumn celebration. If you have a small party chances are you will be sitting with another group. To me this is part of the fun of eating at Biergarten! On one of my trips here my friend and I wound up hanging out with the family we dined with for the rest of the evening. Don’t be shy you never know who you’ll meet.
In addition to the festive surroundings, the entertainment is a ton of fun. The oompah band starts swinging approximately every 45 minutes so you should be able to catch at least one of their sets. They play traditional Bavarian music and encourage audience participation. There is even a dance floor set up in front of the stage. Guests of all ages seem to get a kick out of doing a little polka. At Christmas time these talented musicians do a special holiday presentation which I’m partial to.
Before we get to the food we must discuss the beer. When my friend Tom and I last visited he was determined to get himself the liter of beer. It’s a good thing there’s so much food to sop it all up! Our server (who exclaimed “Helmstetter is a German name, you know!”) convinced us to try a selection not readily available elsewhere. We were glad we did! We both got the Franziskaner Weisse and both really liked it. There are several beers and wines to sample on the menu. If you can’t make up your mind you can get a flight of either beer or wine to sample them all! Keep in mind only soft drinks are included in the price of the buffet.
You may be wary of trying German food since it is very sausage heavy. If Wursts aren’t your thing there are plenty of other options on the menu. I’m a bad German girl and I stay away from the sausages, but I still love this place. I could eat spaetzle, schnitzel, and red cabbage all day. If you are a fan of the pretzel bread found at Le Cellier, Biergarten offers its own version. And if all else fails there’s the kids section with the usual mac and cheese, etc. The dessert offerings are also quite tasty; I especially like the berry compote.
For those on a tighter budget, the restaurant also offers lunch with a few less offerings and a bit of a discount.
Here's Tom enjoying his liter of beer!
Next week I’ll discuss the resort I stay at most…
by Recent News
on April 23, 2009
In a strange turn of events, Disneyworld.com’s new website makeover include the follow description of the ImageWorks at the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot.
ImageWorks – The Kodak “What If” Labs features a vast array of hands-on, sensory-themed activities and exhibits where you can exercise your imagination and explore your creative side in exciting exhibits that include:
Dreamfinder’s School of Drama – Become the star of your very own film using greenscreen technology
Stepping Tones – Create your own music by stepping on electronic picture panels
Figment’s Coloring Book – Using electric paintbrush guns, add a little color to Figment and Dreamfinder
Electric Philharmonic – Conduct an orchestra through the use of electronic sensors
Rainbow Corridor – Stroll through an illuminated tunnel where colored lights follow you
Vibrating Mirrors – Watch as your reflection changes right before your eyes
Kaleidoscopes – Spin eye-popping colors in intricate designs via large-size kaleidoscopes
Voice-Activated Lumia – Speak out and behold a bevy of shimmering light effects
Bubble Projectors – Blow virtual bubbles on a circular screen and create colorful colors
Figment’s Melody Maker – Help Figment play an instrument to the tune of “One Little Spark”
The majority of offerings on that list are from the original ImageWorks which became defunct after the refurbishment of the Imagination pavilion and the closure of the second floor of the interactive area. We would assume this was a simple mistake referring to outdated source materials, but the wording is modern and it also refers to some of the currently existing offerings on the ground-level ImageWorks.
Is this a major mistake referencing the past or hint of the future?
by Kristen Helmstetter
on March 30, 2009
There are several groups who perform throughout Walt Disney World, and many of them can be found around World Showcase in Epcot. They provide a glimpse into the customs and artistry of these countries without needing a passport. Although there are so World Showcase performers to pick from, it is easy for me to say which is my favorite; without a doubt it’s the Voices of Liberty. These talented a cappella singers perform before the American Adventure show begins in the building’s rotunda, providing perfect acoustics. They dress in colonial costumes and thrill visitors several times every afternoon.
So why do I love this group so much? Those who know me know that I’m not only a Disney dork, but an American history dork as well. The old time Americana and patriotic songs they sing give me the warm and fuzzies and they have brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion. The American Adventure is one of my favorite attractions in Epcot, and the Voices of Liberty only enhance my affection. Additionally, the talent pool is simply incredible. As someone who can’t carry a tune to save my life, I am in awe of their raw talent. And hey anyone who has sung for five sitting American presidents can sing for me any time. They are definitely something I make to see on every trip.
The Voices of Liberty have been singing at the American Adventure since Epcot’s opening in 1982 and hopefully they’ll continue well into the future. They are truly one of Disney World’s hidden gems. Be sure to pick up a Times Guide when you enter the park for the day for show times.
Next time I’ll share some very exciting news!