Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tom Sawyer Island

On this last trip to WDW we did something that we have never done before, we went to Tom Sawyer Island. This is probably the only part of the Magic Kingdom that we have not seen. On our third day we had breakfast reservations for Crystal Palace at 8:00. Since the park opened at 9:00 we decided that this would be the day to go to Tom Sawyer’s Island(TSI). Everything that morning worked out well. We got to the entrance to the dock of the raft that would take us to TSI at around 9:15 and discovered something else we did not know about TSI, it opens at 10:00. No problem though as Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain were open. We rode both twice and came back around to the raft dock a little after ten. We waited a couple of minutes and then began to load the raft. This raft is about 30 feet long by about 20 feet wide. There are a couple of crates and supplies that are stored on deck for show. Afterall, this is a raft found on the Mississippi. With all the items on deck it’s like a maze as to where you can stand for the ride over. The raft is powered by an inboard motor and steered with a big branch looking rudder. It only takes a couple minutes to cross the river and then we are there. At the dock are a small refreshment stand and some benches. From here there are a couple of paths that move out in different directions. We went left and slightly up first and came to the entrance of Injun Joe’s cave. Very dark and narrow until you come out to the treasure room. This room has a pile of lit up treasure, jewels and gold separated by a small guard-rail to keep you away. Here we found a surprise. One of Tom Sawyer’s white-wash brushes. I had read about this before going. The Cast Member’s(CM) at the beginning of the day hide 5 to 7 of these paint brushes all over the island. If you find one of these, you can turn it into a CM and get a family Fastpath for either Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Splash Mountain. More about this in a little while as we needed to wait to get back to the dock on the other side of the river to get it. After finding our way out of Injun Joe’s cave we moved our way up toward the windmill and further onto the island. As we kept walking we could see other parts of the park from the island. We did not know that there was a dock on the far side of BTMR. There was another raft docked there. We saw this better when we took the train around the park later on in our trip. After a couple minutes of walking we came to Fort Langhorn. It is amazing how thick the vegetation on the island is. We did not see the Fort until we got close to this. Also, as an aside, we found out where the Fort got it’s name from a couple of days later. Does the name Samuel Clemens ring a bell, well his full name is Samuel Langhorn Clemens. The Fort is amazing. A true western fort as you have been taught to remember. Four corner turrets and the walls that combine them. We went up into the palisade and went into the turrets and there were guns mounted ready to defend. Another pleasant surprise, when you pulled the trigger, they made an authentic firing sound. They were electric, but still cool. Before we left this level we actually found another paint brush. As we already had ours, we gave the brush to a boy that was near by and told him what to do with it. The floor of the fort had a couple of buildings including a storage shed, a stable, complete with men and animals and a stockade with a prisoner sleeping it off. There was even a doorway that led to the basement of the fort and an escape tunnel to get out in case of an attack gone bad. As we wandered back toward the dock, we continue past it and went around the island on the other side. This is where Aunt Polly’s snack stand, but it was closed. Past Aunt Polly’s is the barrel bridge. Just like it sounds a bridge mounted on barrels. Pretty fun. As we were crossing it I heard the howl of a wolf and looked around and there was the Haunted Mansion and on the edge of the river was a sign naming the bend in the river as Howling Wolf Bend. Another aside. A couple of nights later we were walking on the grounds of our hotel which is across the lake from the Magic Kingdom. I coulda swore I heard the wolf howl again. A couple of seconds later my son confirmed it by asking if I heard the wolf howling. After this we hiked across the middle of the island and back over to the dock and got a ride over to the main dock. The CM asked us to follow her around the side of the dock and she then filled out and gave us the Family FastPass. Very Cool. The down side was the guy on the line of BTMR did not let us keep it. We asked him to cross off the side where it mentioned us riding, but he would hear none of it and he kept it. Oh, well. Tom Sawyer island was a very cool experience that had been there for as long as I had been going to the parks and we have never been there. It makes me wonder how many other places are waiting for us to explore. Make the time and check out the island when you can. It took us only about 2 hours. If you have any experiences from TSI, add a comment and let me hear about it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Enchanted Animation Director Interview

I am a Disney Podcast listener to the core. I can listen to a dozen or so podcasts each week. This week I justified it once again. Even though this is Mousefest week and most of the Disney Podcasters are down in WDW, I still downloaded a couple of shows this past weekend. Nathan Rose of the Magical Definition Podcast was the cause of this post. He had an interview with the Asst. Animation Director from the movie Enchanted.
"On this week's show, the MDP Crew truly has an enchanted treat for you! Nathan is joined by Animation Director Chris Sonnenberg as they discuss the production of Disney’s holiday hit, Enchanted. "
This is one of the reasons I listen to these podcasts, for the other side of the Disney company. We can talk about the parks all we want, but it's animation that built the Disney Company. It was all started by a mouse after all or so they say. Nathan and Chris discuss all aspects of Chris's background leading up to the movie Enchanted. He has worked on projects with Disney such as Pocahontas, Mulan, Hercules and more. He has also worked on TV's the Critic and Futurama. Chris right now works for a company that did the animation in Enchanted for Disney. The bonus to this interview is Chris gives a quickie description of the animation process. Very educational.
One of the key points that comes across in the interview is that they had the amount of time that would be spent on a feature to create the 15 minutes of animation in Enchanted. I have convinced my daughter to see Enchanted again so I can go ands check out the animation a little more closely. Click on this link to the Magical Definition Page and download the Decmeber 9th show. It's worth your time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Animal Kingdom Dream FastPass

This was on of our Year of a Million Dreams prizes we had won. We were in the Animal Kingdom on the second to last day of our November trip. We had just rode the Kilimanjaro Safari and went on the Pagani Forest Exploration Trail. This is a nature walk that educates as you walk along. We were able at one point to track and determine what kind of animal it was we were tracking by it's tracks and dung. Yeah, dung. Fake and plastic, but dung. After that we went through the nature guide hut that was kinda closed for re-habbing. As we left the hut, I had gotten ahead of rest of the family. As I went around a corner there was a Cast Member waiting for me to pass. I grabbed the boy and said that the wife and daughter were also with me. I still did not know what was going on, I just wanted to keep us together. As we passed the CM, she told the people behind us that it would be nice if they would wait a couple of minutes as the line ahead was getting crowded. Around the next bend were the Dream Team Cast Memebers. Standard issue Khakis and blue oxfords. They stopped about 20 of us and told us that we were to get the Animal Kingdom Year of a Million Dreams FastPasses. They passed out the lanyards and passes. Wow, how cool was that. We had already been on the safari and had our Fastpasses for Everest and the lines were not that big. So mine stayed intact. The rest of the family used their Kali River Rapids tab in the afternoon.