Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Disney Holiday Blast from the Past

When the holidays come around each year we have many things to look forward to and be thankful  for.    Our families, the colorful decorations, and of course the expected visit from our Jolly old friend, St. Nick.  One of the most dear yearly traditions over the holiday season is watching the over abundance of Holiday themed TV shows.  I have re-arranged many a schedule going back to from when I was 6 years old.  Always making sure I was able to watch "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"  or "The Year Without a Santa" or "Frosty" or "It's a Charlie Brown Christmas" and there are so many more. 

Many of these great shows were released in the 60's and 70's with a lot of wannabe's that are still coming out even today.  What you might not know is that there was a definite precursor to this fun family tradition that goes back to the 1930's.  Walt Disney and Silly Symphonies came out with two great little Christmas themed shorts that really did set the bar for the holiday animation to follow.  "Santa's Workshop" (1932) and "The Night Before Christmas" (1933).

Silly Symphony shorts came about after Walt and his Mickey Mouse short music director thought how well the public would receive great music synched with animation.  With the creation of the Skeleton Dance (1929), they were off.  There were 75 Silly Symphony shorts produced by 1939 and many follow up shorts similar, up through 2000.  One of the things that stands out when you see the title cells is that all of the Silly Symphony are presented by  Mickey Mouse.

"Santa's Workshop" was released in Dec. 1932 and was directed by Wilfred Jackson and runs about 7 minutes.  Of the animators listed some more well-known names stand out;  Les Clark, Norm Ferguson and Fred Moore.  Art Babbit was also was listed and although I know he was an animator, I really only heard his named mentioned as a big organizer when the Disney Studio went union.   It was not the first animated short in color, but it was one of the first.  The Disney company had released their first color short that same year, "Flowers and Trees".
Santa's Workshop starts out as almost everyone's childhood dream of what Santa's North Pole headquarters would look like with the bundles of mail from the kids being delivered.  What's more important to my history degree trained mind is this is how the people of 1932 viewed Santa's workshop.  This becomes apparent pretty quickly as we view Santa's Elves getting the reindeer ready for their flight.  As one Elf is shoveling hay into one stall, another is shoveling Reindeer manure out of another.  As we watch this today we get the giggles from the kid once they figure out what is going on.  A child in 1932 would have overlooked this as the norm and in fact being odd if that did not happen.

As we watch Santa's elves getting ready in the stables along with the reindeer the sled needs a good cleaning.  "The Merry, Merry men of the Midnight Sun", they sing.  Then onto the Who's Good or Bad room where Santa gets to read the various letters from the good and not so good little boys and girls.  Then onto the Toy Factory which is filled with all kinds of wondrous machinery and other goodies.  We could really have used the checkerboard paint a couple of months ago.  
The tour of the factory continues until we catch up to Santa and the perhaps only iffy point of the short.  As Santa is testing dollies, a black faced version of a doll comes down and gives Santa a "Mammy " before stamping herself OK and moving on.  Again, the mindset of the '30's.  I also liked the World War 1 version of the toy tank as opposed to the more popular turret version we are used to seeing as it  had not been invented yet in real life.  The parade into Santa's sack does have a couple stereotypical race moments but I don't think they detract from the effect.  The final scene has Santa waving goodbye to his elves as he guides his sleigh into the sky.  This almost matches the Polar Express in it's Santa departure scene.  As we see Santa and his reindeer fly past the Man in the Moon, we can only wonder how his night is going to go.

Well, Walt was not one to wait long for a sequel and almost to the day one year later, "The Night Before Christmas" (1933) was released.  Wlfred Jackson also directed and the usual list of animators were listed in the credits.  This wonderful short is a little over 8 minutes and picks up where we left off above. 
With the musical version of Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem playing in the background we enter a house of the day.  We follow the lyrics of the song as they describe what we see.  There is not a lot of straying from the script until Santa enters the house. There were some great scenes and some gags certainly stick out.  It appears that Santa is given the job of bringing the Christmas tree and all it's fixin's.  Just as we saw the parade into the bag in "Santa's Workshop", we see the toys on the way out of the bag and to the tree.  None match what was loaded in the first cartoon, but some the new Toy gags are great.  I especially like the way the soldiers are using cannon to put ornaments on the tree.

All the toys and Santa make so much noise that the children all wake up, all 8 of them.  As soon as the toys heard the kids awake, they did the familiar Toy Story scramble to get back into their original positions and boxes.  As the children begin to play with their new toys we see Santa flying off into the distance again and hear the famous line that end that really great poem, "Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night."  Perfect.
If you're looking for something so old that it's new to you and your kids I really recommend these two great Silly Symphony shorts.  You could make these two shorts the opening shorts on your next holiday movie night.  It'll be a fun, holiday, blast from the past.

I want to thank the people over at the Disney Wiki for some of this great information.  Thanks also to Bodolydia over on Facebook.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Disney Cruise Line Tortuga Rum Company in Nassau, BI of the parts of the Disney Cruise line you don't hear too much about are the activities and locations in Nassau for cruises that have that stop on their itinerary.  I'm guessing it's because this experience is shared by many cruise lines and general vacationers.  Well whatever it is, I just wanted to tell you about a place that in our two trips to Nassau was a must do for us.  The first time by request, the second time the only reason we got off the ship.

 Our first cruise on a Disney ship was in 2011 and we were on the Disney Dream, it was a blast.  We had never been on a cruise before and on this itinerary we stopped in Nassau for a day and Castaway Cay for two days and one day at sea.  We also had never been on the island of Nassau before so we did not have any set plans.  In fact the only thing we had set was a visit to the Tortuga Rum Cake factory.  Lesley's friend at work almost insisted.  He wanted a bottle of the flavored rum.  So we figured that and the Straw Factory, a local tourist stop for gifts would be our Nassau excursion for the day.

I did some research and the Tortuga Rum Cake factory is well know chain in the Caribbean.  They've got bakeries in the Caymans, Jamaica, Barbados and of course Nassau.  We were asked by a friend to stop there and get them a bottle of rum which they only sell at the stores.  They've got some great flavored rums.  Pineapple, vanilla, mango, pineapple and more.

The store itself is not far from the boat.  Maybe 3/4 of a mile as the crow flies.  It is on the corner of Frederick and Bay, right next to the Burger King.  You won't be able to walk past the Pirate standing outside their door.  It's amazing how many rum based products you can find in there.  Along with the rum cake, there was, of course, rum.  Many bottles of different flavors.  We bought Vanilla flavored rum for Lesley's friends and the sampler pack of rum and rum cakes for us.  They also had coffee and various marinades, barbecue hot sauces.   A real foodies destination. 

We just had the last Rum Cake the other day, so sad.  But it lasted well.  As the added bonus, the shop is very close to the Straw Factory as well.  So your day is not a total waste if you head out to the Rum Cake Factory.  If we end up back in Nassau, you can be sure we'll be stopping here.  Or at one of their other locations; Miami, Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Lucia.

If you've been at any of these locations or received this as a gift, leave a comment below. I really want to hear about it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Disney Park Details. Disney Hollywood Studios, Unclaimed Luggage.

Looking toward Hollywood Blvd.
One of my favorite things to do in the parks is to take pictures of everything.  My thinking is that once your home you can take a look at all of those pictures and catch some great detail or fact or a piece of the story.  Well here is a great detail.  As we were walking down Sunset Blvd. at the Disney Hollywood Studios we came across some luggage in front of the Villains Vogue shop.  That place has some really great stuff.
My first thought about the luggage as I tried to move it was that perhaps this was a permanent prop for the Streetmosphere performers who often do shows around there.  I've seen their version of the dating game show here and I've also seen the guys from Public Works set up near here.  There were labels on the bags so I shot a picture of that also hoping that I would have time down the road to figure out if there is a story here or if it is random. 
     I'm happy to say we've got a winner here.  A definite tie in to what is going on further down Sunset Blvd.  As you can see from the luggage tag we've got a gentleman with the name of Gilbert London.  Well, with a little research I found the connection. "Caroline Crosson was a glamorous aspiring actress, and Gilbert London was one of her many male admirers." And both were at the Hollywood Tower hotel that fateful night. 
That's right, Gilbert was the well dressed gentleman on the Fated Elevator.  I was only able to find one source on this that gave more information than just naming the characters.  That was a USA Today article, so you can take that with a grain of salt.  If what the article says is true, this was a really bad night to finally get that date with Ms. Crosson.
     Now the question; why is Mr. London's luggage down the street from the hotel?  This is close to the Cab stand, could they have been behind that night?  Your guess is as good as mine at this point.  Here is an extra bonus.  Note the Phone #, 4-1031.  I'm not sure about the 4. Maybe # 4 of 5 people in the elevator that night.  1031 makes sense in that it was on October 31 that those 5 people perished.
    When I find these details I like the satisfaction of knowing how well facts and details are laid out around the parks.  It's kind of the thrill of the new discovery.  What have you seen or found while at the Disney parks that ties into a story?  Leave a comment and let me know.  This stuff is great and Jackie, I'll abstain when you use your version of this picture in your Where in the Parks game.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Staying On-Site or Off-Site, That is the Question...

One of the biggest questions I'm asked about going to Walt Disney World is where do I stay, on or off property.  Well this trip I did both and I thought it would be a perfect time to do the comparison.  I stayed three nights at the Disney Value resort All-Star Movie resort.  The last two nights I stayed at the Gateway Ramada located on 192.
Let's start with location, check out this map.  Note how you can see both hotels in the same shot.  At the bottom left of the picture is the Ramada and it is about 1/4 mile down from the exit onto World drive from 192.  The   All-Star Resort is the hotel at the top right of this picture.  So as the crow fly's very close location wise. If you have a car it's a wash.  If not, then you are kind of limited if your staying off-site.  They do have a shuttle, but it only goes to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  The thinking there is that you can take bus to other parks from those two parks.  At the resort you have the buses.  However, at the All-Star movies, you are at the end of the stops for the busses from all parks except for the Magic Kingdom.  So they do get crowded and sometimes take a little while.
Next category is room size and accessories.  I'll let the pictures do the job here.  The first two are, of course the All-Star Movies.  The room was nice and well decorated.  There was a slight smell, but eh. I
did not get a picture of the bathroom, but it is past the TV, through the curtain.  This was my first night so the room is still in good shape.  Fridge is under the TV.  The rooms at the AS Movies are all outside entry.  The food options are pretty large.  From a full service food court that has cooked to packaged food options.  Also a selection of snacks in the gift store.
Before I go any further I have one note to make about the Ramada Gateway hotel.  There are really two hotels in one on this property.  There is the tower and the motel.  The motel itself is a little run down and truly shows the age of the place.  The tower was renovated about 8 years ago and is great.  Where the motel has your door opening to the outside, the tower has hallways.  The room itself is really nice.  Here are a couple pictures.  The TV here had 3 HBO's and Comedy central and of course both had Stacey.  There was also a ton of outlets in the Ramada.  They have a Restaurant in the lobby, a BBQ place.  And they had a snack bar/Ice Cream counter where you could get cereal, chips, and other snacks.  The other big difference was the kitchen area that had a small sink and fridge and a microwave.
There is always something about taking leftovers back to the room but not being able to heat them up.  Very conducive to only taking desserts back and that does not bode well for the diet.  And to keep the comparisons going the towels were much bigger and softer at the Ramada.  The same goes for the soap and shampoo at least in my opinion.  The Front Desk staff is somewhat limited at the Ramada as opposed to the AS Movies, so you need to be a lot more self-sufficient.  There are a lot of fast food and mini super markets right nearby and getting on and off 192 is no issue.  
So I've left the biggest difference for last.  The price per night.  The AS Movie was, for me this trip, due to Jimmy working his magic, $119 a night.  The Ramada was $58 a night.  The determining factor for me is how long will I be in the hotel.  A trip like this one where I was meeting up with different people throughout the trip meant  I would be spending very little time at the hotel.  Although, it made it much easier to coordinate meets we were running by being on site.  So it was worth the extra price.  If I had no events like that I would have stayed the whole time off-site.  True, I do not get to take advantage of EMH, but I can work around that easy enough.
It all comes down to doing your research and reading all the reviews you can about the off-site hotels.  I like the Disboards and forum boards like the most, but Tripadvisor is not bad.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Country Bear Jamboree CSI

One of my favorite old time attractions at the Magic Kingdom is The Country Bear Jamboree.  This, to me, is the epitome of what Walt Disney had in mind for an attraction.  Something that both young and old can appreciate and cramming as much animatronics as possible into one show and making it work and appear seamless.

As I mentioned I really like this attraction and on this last trip there were a lot of changes since my last visit.  Nothing major, but for a Disney Nerd such as myself, enough to have me re-examining the entire show.  That usually is my go to answer when I get asked the question that I'm sure you get all the time, "How do you go back to the same parks and do the same rides all the time?"  They're always changing them up.  However, that will be a later post, we have a more serious question today, that needs an answer.

The crime scene was spotted as we were walking through Frontierland.  As you approach the Country Bear Jamboree (CBJ) building you notice the colorful sign announcing the attraction and as you let your eyes wander up you note a beautiful rack of antlers on the second floor balcony.  As your eyes pan back, you are affronted with what could only be described as terribly grizzly either side of the bone white antlers, splayed out and nailed to the outside of that building, where two full-sized, adult, brown bear skins.

Once you get over the horror of the barbearitty of this kind of display, you start asking the questions.  What is up with that?  Did those bears lose a fight?  Ex-band members?  What in the storyline of the attraction could account for that kind of taste in outdoor d├ęcor?

We interviewed the usual suspects, the CBJ cast members with no luck.  Most were un-committal but one did give us the brush off as in saying, "Don't dig too deep, you won't like what you find." Or it was just that he was busy parking baby strollers.  And as far as getting information from Melvin, Buff, and Max, well, they just kept repeating themselves no matter how many times we came back to talk to them.

So here is the mystery to solve.  Was there fowl play involved? (all chickens refused comment) Are those Bear skins a warning to a Pirate band of Bears out there somewhere?  Or was that something that bear fans of the Country Bears put into their wills for after they're dead?  Kinda like the whole sprinkling your ashes over WDW when super-fans die?  I'll continue my research, but what do you think?  Comment below and let me know.  I really want to hear your thoughts on this.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mickey's Mini Garden, The Dragon Fruit Souvenir

In all the years of going to Walt Disney World parks probably one of the best souvenirs that we've ever taken away has to be something that's actually alive and still is after three years.  What I'm referring to is the Dragon Fruit plant that my son Quinn used some of his souvenir money for at the Land in Epcot.

Right across from the travel desk at the entrance to Soarin' is a small store kiosk.  They always have these really cool clear boxes of what looks like clear gel with a little small plants sprout, that is for sale.  Each plant is cloned from one original plant behind the scenes in the Land building.  Each one goes for about $10.00, at least at the time we bought it, and there were a lot of varieties.  Most of these plants are found in the greenhouse.  They have a binder at the counter that has each of the plants that are for sale on an info sheet so you can get details before you buy your plant.  Quinn really liked the idea of the  dragon fruit plant, so that's what he got. 
One time when we were on the tour of the greenhouse we saw how they created the cloned plants to use for these cool "Mini-Gardens".  The one of the container is a borrowed pic to show what it looks like.  Our pic did not make it due to a bad camera at the time.  Thanks to the Main Street Gazette.
Another good side effect of the nutrition gel that's packed around the plant fragment is that it gives you some time until you need to transplant the plant.  We did not actually transplant it until about three months later.  It survived fine.  Quinn did the transplanting and I watched and all seemed well and the plant took off from the beginning.  It's a really weird plant in that it grows in a lot of different ways and kind of reminds me of an Aloe Vera plant.  We follow the directions, indirect sunlight, water, fertilizer and after a year and 1/2 it was about four or 5 inches tall with three or four off shoots.
Last year we went back to WDW and went on the tour of the greenhouse in the Land again.  Quinn had taken pictures of his plant on his phone and brought them with us.(Could not find them for this post, will keep looking)  In the course of the tour, because he had told our tour guide and showed him the pictures he made it a point two crossed paths with the Cast Member that was responsible for creating those souvenirs.  Quinn was very proud to show her his pictures of the dragon fruit plant.  She actually seemed impressed and then went further to say that most people's plants don't really last more than a year.  She were really made Quinn's day with that comment.

So it's a little over three years later since we've planted the dragon fruit plant and it has grown incredibly.  Unfortunately it has grown horizontally and we're still trying to figure out how to keep it in check.  It seems very fragile where the branches connect so we try not to move it around too much and that's why it has gotten a little out of control.  The girl at Epcot told us that once we make it 5 years the plant should begin to flower.  Once it does then we need to do some research about self pollinating so the plant can eventually grow fruit.

Just to give you an idea of what a dragon fruit, fruit looks like, here is one we got at the store the other day and as for the taste and consistency goes, it tastes like a pear and felt like eating a kiwi.  A very good experience all around.  We discovered the secret of eating kiwi this year and that you cut it in half and use a spoon to spoon out the fruit.  No more messy peeling of the kiwi.  Same process worked well for the dragon fruit.  We can't wait until our plant gives us fruit like this.  Although I am not holding my breath. 

Have you ever bought a Mickey's Mini-Garden while at WDW?  If so please leave a comment and let me know how it went the last time we were down, a much sure if it was that they were just out of them, but there were no fruit plants and I can't remember the exact name, but it was a fern that the leaves closed when you touched it.  Very cool.  So let us know if you tried any of the plants.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lou Mongello's "102 Ways to Save Money For And At Walt Disney World" E-Book

One of the biggest questions I get from the followers of this blog and the podcast shows we do is how to start planning for a trip to Walt Disney World?  I at first smile, and thank the person because they had already jumped their first hurdle, knowing they have to plan.  I would then give them my standard answer, which is a great toolbox of resources.  Get a Park Guide like the Unofficial Guide to WDW, register with Touring, check out the information and especially the menus on and use the services of a free Disney sponsored travel agent to make your reservations.  I’m happy to say that after today I can add Lou Mongello’s, “102 Ways to Save Money For And At Walt Disney World” to that list of must-haves to plan a successful and economical trip to WDW.

For those that don’t know who Lou is, in a word, it all started with Trivia.  The Walt Disney Trivia Books Volumes 1 & 2 to be exact.  Lou also produces and stars in one of the best podcasts for Disney Park fans available today, The WDWRadio Show.  I have been listening since show #1 and am proud to be a Pod-Person and I might sound like a homer, but you only have to see that he’s won the Best Travel Podcast award from 2007-2012 to know other people share my opinion of the guy.  When it comes to traveling to Walt Disney World, Lou’s done it all.  Great story about the name of the book ala Lou.  At WDW, the Cast Members have code numbers they use for radio calls to get important information across fast.  You might have heard that a Code 101 was a ride down.  Therefore a code 102, is the ride is back working and everyone is happy again. 

“102 Ways to Save Money For And At Walt Disney World” is a book that all people travelling to WDW should own.  In a nutshell, no matter your skill level in planning a trip to WDW, this book will save you money.  And that’s also Lou's money-back guarantee.  After reading it, I heartily agree.  The book itself is an E-book which can be downloaded to any of your smart devices.  Lou really takes advantage of today's technology by providing links to his shows that further explain the point he was making in the book.  Not too mention the fact that taking the E-book with you is as easy as taking your phone.  The book itself is broken up into logical sections that  pre-date your trip for the planning process and then up to and into the parks.  This book has clues, hints and money saving tips at every page swipe.  Some really great pictures and trivia also.
I wish I could go over the entire book page by page for you, but I don't think Lou would like that too much.  However, I think I might be able to get away with talking about a couple of the sections that really impressed me.  The first couple chapters will tell you how to get better prices on hotels, airfare and car rentals.  The section on what questions to ask to determine if the Dining Plan is for you is true gold.  As are the bonus 40 tips on true free-bees while your at the parks.  Lou even goes so far as to point out how to save money on souvenirs' by addressing the ample Penny press machines located everywhere. Truly, every page in this E-book will save you valuable time and money.  And who is not made happier by getting a deal and using  you short vacation time to it's utmost. 
In closing, my thoughts are, where was this book 20 years ago when we really began visiting the parks on at least a yearly basis.  All of the tricks and tips I have learned over that time through mistakes, trial and error, and good advice from friends are all in this book.  Every page swipe turned up another trick that I thought I, and only I, had discovered.  Kind of re-assuring in way that I have fine-tuned my trips to make sure we get the best bang of our buck.  If you have a trip planned or are even thinking about it, you should really consider getting your self a copy of this E-book or recommend it to a friend.  Lou is someone that you can trust to make sure you have a great trip to WDW, check out his website, listen to the Podcast and go get “102 Ways to Save Money For And At Walt Disney World”.
Besides, how can you doubt a Face like this?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Youtube Disney Gold: Walt Disney Product Placement...even in 1936?

I am really happy to be doing a Youtube Disney Gold post again.  It's been such a long time, but people keep feeding Youtube videos.  I wanted to talk about a clip I came across the other day.  I was randomly flipping around the TV and came across Buddy Ebson dancing in an old movie and he was wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt.  This was a movie from 1936 called Broadway Melody.  If the name sounds familiar, you might remember it as the movie that Gene Kelly sang Dancing in the Rain in, but you would be wrong.  If you go into IMDB there are a number of listings for Broadway Melody.  Each title supplemented by the date.  There is a movie named Broadway Melody for the years 1929, 1936, 1940 and 1952(This was the Gene Kelly version).  The one I am talking about is the 1936 version of Broadway Melody with the very young song and dance man, Buddy Ebson.  I was lucky enough to find the exact clip I needed on Youtube.  Thanks to GABRIEL ANTINOUS for this Youtube Gold.

The dance scene above is really well done and each of the actors are very good dancers and singers.  This being a Disney Blog however, we need that Disney hook and if you watched the above I'm sure you saw it.  Buddy Ebson is wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt or sweater and for some reason that really caught my eye the first time I watched this.  In three seconds as many thoughts went through my head.  My first thought was how could they have gotten what looks like a modern t-shirt back into a movie like that.  The Mickey pose and artwork is a dead ringer for shirts today.
My second thought was well, Buddy worked with Walt on the Dancing Man animatronic, was that before this movie and Buddy had a souvenir from working with Walt. My final thought in that couple second burst was that maybe Mickey was just that famous in 1936 that they were selling shirts or sweaters even then.  As far as the movie went it was normal in 1936 to see a young man wearing a Mickey shirt.  Hmmm. 
After some light research I think thought number three might be right.  By 1936, Mickey had appeared in over 90 shorts, not too shabby.  You should see the Vintage Disney section of Ebay there are a lot of items that are there and of them about 90 are from the 1930's.  A lot of different items that shows how popular Mickey was.  The items vary from figurines to brushes, from silverware with a mickey them to cereal boxes.  Take a look at this cereal box from 1936.  It's the back of a Post Toasties box with Mickey and the gang in full glory.  Note the figure at the bottom of the box.  It's a cut out figure that you can collect.  They advertise that there were different characters to cut out.  Is this perhaps where the mad dash to the Cereal Aisle at the supermarket started? 
So it really looks like the only reason the Buddy is wearing that shirt is that Mickey was so popular at the time and it was what the common thing for the lounging young guy to be wearing.  This was a nice little trip through some great Vintage Mickey stuff.  I still think there might be more to this, so I'll keep my eyes open and update this down the road if necessary.