Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Disney Stoveworks

I have a matter of a little mystery on my hands and I was hoping for some help. I recently read an interview of Richard Todd talking about Walt Disney curtousey of Didier Ghez of the Walt's People books fame. Richard was Robin Hood in the Disney live action movie, The Story of Robin Hood. Based on the interview he had a close relationship with Walt Disney. He tells many funny and moving stories. One of the most touching was how Walt would send his kids gifts each Christmas and how Richard had to explain to the kids why they stopped getting them after Walt's passing. Another comment of note in the interview is the way Todd talks about the Disney studio process of using story boards. Also, how unlike studios like MGM, Paramount and 20th Century Fox, the Disney studios were run by one man...Walt.

There are other stories in the interview, but the one that really caught my attention had to do with Walt's more private side. Richard talks about knowing Walt very well and going to his house in the Holmby Hills often and about the 'big barn shed' that Walt had in the backyard for working on his trains. He mentions that Walt had another hobby, creating miniatures "...and he started a thing he called the Disney Stoveworks." I have seen the exhibit at the Disney Hollywood Studios, One Man's Dream, with the house scene that Walt had built in scale form. I also remember hearing mention of a traveling exhibit of Walt miniatures so this comment made sense. But then Richard went on, " one of the things that he'd always rememberd from his boyhood was pot-bellied stove. So he start making pot-bellied stoves himself on his lathe, and they were all hand painted and they were like little Dresden pieces. I've still got my pot-bellied stove. They were about four to five inches high and everything worked; the little riddle worked and the laid worked and they were beautifully painted, such pretty little things, as I say, like little pieces of Dresden china from the Walt Disney Stoveworks."

I thought that was such a cool little item that I had not heard about Walt. The idea of him taking the time to create something so small but fully functional and then giving it to close friends was a really nice way to envision Walt. Where would he have gotten the time to do this and why have I not heard of or seen one of these stoves? I needed to find out more information about this and did the regular searches as follows:
  • I went out and googled the Disney Stoveworks and got nothing except the usual commercial adds for New Disney company items to buy.
  • The next thought was let me try going with a search on the Workshop. There was a lot of information about the shed and the trains and the move to the new location by the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, but again nothing about the Disney Stoveworks or the pot-bellied stoves.
  • I reached out to various Disney boards and Blogs with no luck.
My next thought is to start hitting the Disney Biographies. There are so many of such varying quality. Please comment here or send me and email at if you might have an idea as to where I should look next for more information on the 'Disney Stoveworks'.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SpectroMagic from Around the Magic Kingdom

Our favorite parade in Walt Disney World is Spectromagic. We've seen it from many places in the park and are totaly enthralled by it.
Here is the official Disney description:
"SpectroMagic" Parade is a dazzling nighttime procession filled with brilliantly lit Disney Characters and floats at Magic Kingdom theme park. Your heart will glow along with the brilliant lights and joyous music of this gleaming parade that celebrates scenes from Disney films. Disney Characters are magically transformed into living ornaments of light in this magical, glittering spectacle.
Half a million lights and miles of fiber optics cables light up the night during the "SpectroMagic" Parade to create miles of smiles for Guests of all ages.
I can’t agree more. My heart glows every time I even hear the music, let alone attend in person. We have seen this parade many times from many different places. I’d like to go over some of those places in the hopes that you’ll try somewhere new next time you have a chance for viewing Spectromagic. I also have a couple tips and facts about the parade.
I don’t want to be-labor the history and creation of the parade or even the photos. When your done here you can go over to They have a great article on Spectromagic and a bunch of pictures of the entire parade.

Just as an FYI, the parade starts on the circle on Main Street near the Fire Station and ends at the junction of AdventureLand and FrontierLand right underneath Splash Mountain.
The first four or five times we have seen this parade we have watched it from various place
s on Main Street. We did not know any better yet. Usually the place was dictated by the crowds and when we got there to wait for the parade to start. Main Street seems to have more activities run by the cast members as you wait for the parade. My son's first pin trading was done waiting for the parade. We’ve watched from in front of City Hall, in front of the Candy Store, half-way down Main, in Front of the Plaza Ice Cream place and on the Tomorrowland side of the hub. Without a doubt the best experience was sitting half-way down Main Street. We found our spots and camped out maybe 30 minutes until the parade started. The kids and wife played games on the street as I guarded our seats. The Parade was great as always. You get close to the Parade on Main Street but there is some pushing. A new spot we discovered had a back-drop that we did not fully appreciate until
we had gotten home and watched the videos. Cinderella's Castle in the background changing colors added just a little more magic. You can see the bridge to the right. This was a small pathway that takes you from the Crystal Palace right to Liberty Square. You can see how close we were and there was not much of a crowd. The next place that we found to be a very good place to sit is in Frontierland, right across the pathway from Pecos Bills. There is not a lot of room for depth which keeps it pretty free of crowds.

This is about 100 yards from where the parade goes off stage and was a great viewing spot. It also let us get onto Splash Mountain pretty quick and we were able to see parts of the Wishes fireworks show as we went in and out of the mountain and then down the big hill, very cool.
  • If you want to sit on Main Street get there 45-60 minutes before the parade. I would also bring a blanket or towel to put down on your spot on the curb. People setting up for Main Street can get brutal. We usually plan to do our shopping in the Main Street stores as we wait. We take turns reminding people that we were there first and getting our food for the parade and fireworks.
  • Check the times when you check in to your hotel, they can change.
  • If you have a choice always see the second parade if offered that night. Ride attractions while the first parade is going on.
  • If you want your kids (or yourself) to feel part of the parade, bring glow sticks and necklaces with you for the parade.
One last item. Last year I went on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour. It was a great tour and I was amazed at what we were shown and where we were taken. One stop was the SpectroMagic storage warehouses where the parade floats are stored and repaired during the day. Very cool seeing where a lot of the 'cockpits' were for most of the floats. One final bit of info. The parade was originally led by handlers around the parade route who manually kept track of where the parade is and when to start music and such. They had switched to a computer run system that used sensors buried in the parade route. You can see the brass colored circles about 2-3 inches across still today. I say still today, because they are back to the human handlers directing the parade. The sensors, it seems, could not keep up.

If you have not seen SpectroMagic, it is a must. If you have but have not left Main Street, try to watch it from somewhere else next time, you will not be disappointed.