Posts Tagged ‘history’

Happy 32nd Anniversary, Epcot!

by on October 1, 2014

The iconic Spaceship Earth.

The iconic Spaceship Earth.

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the opening of Epcot; or, as it was known at the time, EPCOT Center. The vision of EPCOT was introduced to us by Walt Disney on the Wonderful World of Color television program in 1966 (watch Walt’s video to Florida legislature here), but didn’t become a full-blow project until the mid-70’s. It was to be an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, an actual city with 20,000 residents; however in most respects it changed and morphed into a theme park. The concept of EPCOT went through 19 major design revisions from its beginning until opening day. Throughout all the change it has been claimed to be “…the embodiment of Walt Disney’s last and possibly greatest dream.”

Yes, EPCOT started as a dream. But how did it come to fruition? Manpower and money, and lots of both. The estimate for this project was $600 million, but it ended up costing Disney about $1.4 billion to complete. Not all of these funds came directly out of Disney’s pocket, though. The company solicited pavilion sponsors to foot part of the bill. Each sponsor, such as Kraft and Kodak, reportedly paid anywhere from $10 – $50 million over a ten year period. With this financial backing, each sponsor received use of the Disney name in promotional materials and – depending upon the amount put up - may have received a park lounge named after them (think the Chase Lounge in the American Adventure Pavilion).

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Legoland: Theme Park for Adults?

by on July 29, 2014

Legoland, Florida’s latest theme park, bills itself as “geared to families with children ages 2 to 12”. The park sports attractions, including four beginner coasters, but all are specifically for kids and their parents, so what were a couple of forty-somethings doing there without kids in tow?

Lego-built truck welcomes you to Miniland at Legoland Florida.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Lego-built truck welcomes you to Miniland at Legoland Florida. Photo by Thomas Cook

I’m glad you asked.

Legoland was developed on the grounds of Cypress Gardens, a park that opened in 1936. Often called Florida’s first theme park, Cypress Gardens was a large botanical garden to which water ski shows were added during World War II. Comprising 150 acres, it’s one of the larger botanical gardens in the United States.

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History of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

by on July 9, 2014

Epcot Food & Wine

This year the Epcot Food & Wine Festival will run from September 19 to November 10.

When asked what their favorite thing about travel is, people often respond with a single word answer – food. One way Disney has answered this question is with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The Food & Wine Festival is an annual event that has been taking place each fall since 1996. Disney showcases food and drinks at International Marketplaces, which represent the regular Epcot pavilion countries, additional countries, and specialty food and beverage categories, such as dessert, vegan, cheese, and beer. The Marketplaces serve snack sized plates and various (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) beverages. An Epcot admission give you access to the food and drinks, as well as the Eat to the Beat Concerts. You must pay for the food and beverages, however, some items qualify as snacks on the Disney Dining Plan. Due to increased popularity, advanced reservations and additional fees are required for special events, culinary demonstrations, and wine seminars. As a result of the fees, these events are not as crowded as they have been in the past.

In the fall, Disney World crowds lessen a bit after school starts through Thanksgiving. As a way to attract more visitors to Disney World during this time, Disney introduced the Food & Wine Festival. This year, the festival runs from September 19 to November 10, 2014. I would like to tempt your palate and look back at some of the highlights that have joined the festival over the years.

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Disneyland’s Tomorrowland: A Whale of a Tale

by on October 17, 2013

UGDisneylandHistory

The Disneyland Story

From the publisher of The Unofficial Guide books comes The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey, the story of how Walt Disney’s greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Here is a brief excerpt:

Walt was desperately trying to fill space in Tomorrowland, and an employee suggested that he bring some of the sets and props from the popular 1954 film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea down to the park. Ken Anderson was pulled away from his work in Fantasyland in the last two weeks before the park opening to work on the show. He said, “I was up all night with two other studio artists just before opening day painting the giant squid. Walt was supposed to be at a party his wife, Lillian, was giving for some VIPs at the park, but he was too nervous about everything being ready on time to stay there. He went around from ride to ride and exhibit to exhibit, checking work, helping out. He even came into where we were painting the squid, put on a mask, and did a little painting himself.” John Hench also joined in.

The walk-through display opened on August 5, 1955. Guests entered the exhibit through a 40-foot mural of the Nautilus and the giant squid. Originally, costumed guides would have provided a tour but that idea was scrapped in favor of a prerecorded narration track voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft (possibly best-known for Tony the Tiger’s, “They’re grrrreat!” for Frosted Flakes). As the guests entered the exhibit, the movie’s theme song, “Whale of a Tale” played in the background while they peered through portholes to see a model of the Nautilus in its final resting place. The guest’s point of view was from the stern window of a sunken ship with treasure chests spilled out in the sand in the foreground and the upper deck of the submarine in the distance.

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Disneyland’s Fantasyland: Drama, Humor and Beauty

by on October 13, 2013

The Disneyland Story - The Unofficial Guide to the Building of Disneyland

Sam’s new book is available for pre-order.

From the publisher of The Unofficial Guide books comes The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey, the story of how Walt Disney’s greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Here is a brief excerpt:

More than virtually any other attraction in the park, it was Fantasyland’s dark rides that set Disneyland apart from other parks. Before Disneyland, the typical dark ride would be something like the Tunnel of Love, where boats followed each other through a canal. Coats felt “the big improvement we made over what had been done before was the way we left people with a little two-minute experience within a certain story that they had known from our animated films. Now they got to see it in a more dimensional way, and these were interesting ways of doing it.” Walt wanted each ride to represent a different emotional experience. He wanted drama, humor, and beauty.

The process started with the source material, the animated films. The Imagineers used the original 4-by-8-inch storyboards and concept sketches. Claude Coats credits Ken Anderson with finding a way to make it work. Anderson drafted storyboards that highlighted key elements of the story but focused more on creating the right mood. Then Ken Anderson and Claude Coats designed the interior sets. Fortunately, both Anderson and Coats worked on the films and knew the material well. Once they finished, Bill Martin would make modifications to fit the shows inside the buildings.

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