Sunday, September 30, 2007

EPCOT 25 - Do You Remember . . .

. . . the original EPCOT Center icon?

Most folks still do. But do you know what it represents? From a 1994 EPCOT guidebook:

"The Epcot logo is a graphic representation of its philosophy. It symbolizes unity, fellowship, and harmony around the world. The five outer rings form the shape of a flower - a celebration of life.

The heart of the logo is earth embraced by a star, symbolizing hope - the hope that with imagination, commitment, and dedication we can create a new tomorrow."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

EPCOT 25: Do You Remember . . .

. . . Surprise in the Skies?

From a 1992 EPCOT Center guidebook:

"A breathtaking airborne extravaganza over World Showcase Lagoon. High-flying aerobatics, colorful kites and majestic water-craft perform in an intricate production celebrating 20 Magical Years of Walt Disney World fun. Incredible giant-sized cold-air Disney Character balloons magically appear, along with Mickey himself, flying in the blue!"

Friday, September 28, 2007

Everything Old is Old Again . . . (And Better)

Live from the World--

Upgrade, plussing, refurbishment. Whatever you want to call it, this was a good one.

The Haunted Mansion has certainly regained its stature as one of the crown jewels of Walt Disney World. Imaginative new show scenes and some figurative spit and polish have combined to create an experience that begs to be revisited numerous times before you take your leave of the Magic Kingdom.

Enhanced audio and some unexpected sound effects bring a whole new level of enjoyment to the "stretching room." What had become a somewhat tired and occasionally muddled auditory mix with a clear emphasis on comical, has been reborn into a genuinely eerie and somewhat disquieting vignette.

The Mansion's famous wallpaper literally extends itself in a simple, yet wholly satisfying effect. Lighting is much improved throughout, especially in the ballroom ghost mash and also in the seance room, where the Mansion's resident (if disembodied) spiritualist, Madame Leota, is not quite as grounded as she used to be.

The most notable and dramatic additions to the attraction involve the addition of the "stair room" and the very distinct re-imagining of the attic. The giant spiders, inarguably the weakest elements of the Mansion's original design, have been replaced with a visually dramatic Escher-esque room of juxtaposing staircases. It's a jawdropper.

Likewise, the attic has evolved away from loud screams and funhouse scares to a very different experience. Expanding on the "bride" theming, it is a more subtle but still undeniably chilling presentation that takes the Mansion's bride mythology in an entirely different direction. The room's set design is stunning in both aesthetics and detail.

While the movie-related enhancements to Pirates of the Caribbean generated more fanfare than this Haunted Mansion makeover will likely enjoy, it still represents a hopeful continued trend of classic attraction upgrades. And in this case, it not just the grim ghosts who come out grinning.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

EPCOT 25 - Do You Remember . . .

. . . Mickey and Friends in their Future World outfits?

Quintessentially 1980s in style and design, these pseudo-rainbow spacesuits defined the Fab Five when they finally arrived in EPCOT Center after an initial character moratorium when the park first opened.

EPCOT Bound!

Today, my family and I are heading south for our annual Walt Disney World fall vacation. Due to work and school scheduling, it is going to run a little shorter than our normal autumn excursions, but that is happily offset by the fact that we'll be there to join in the celebration of EPCOT's 25th Anniversary on Monday. I hope to update the blog as time and opportunity permits.

I am also one of the sponsors of Celebration 25, which has meets and activities taking place on both Sunday and Monday. We will be attending many of the planned events and will also be enjoying the Illuminations dessert party Monday evening. We will likely be decked out in either 2719 Hyperion or EPCOT 25 apparel, so if you see us be sure and say hi.

The Interstates await! If you are also World-bound this weekend, we hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Snapshot! - Cosmousepolitan

Here's a Snapshot! from Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom that connects back to the Hawaiian Holiday post of two days ago. This magazine rack can be found in Minnie's house at Mickey's Toontown Fair. Somewhere between cartoon and Cosmo cover, Minnie acquired a cute little sailor hat.

Souvenirs: The EPCOT Mint

Another fun category of Walt Disney World souvenirs is the commemorative coin. Roughly the size of a half dollar, they are typically themed to individual parks or special occasions and are often quite detailed in their sculpted surfaces.

In celebration of EPCOT Center's 25th Anniversary, here are three different coins, each from a different decade of EPCOT's operation.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hawaiian Holiday - September 24, 1937

Even though it didn’t achieve statehood until 1959, the romance and exotic nature of Hawaii permeated stateside popular culture for much of the first half of the 20th century. It reached a crescendo of sorts just prior to World War II, and it was in this paradise-worshipping atmosphere that the 1937 Mickey Mouse cartoon Hawaiian Holiday was born.

Hawaiian Holiday likely owed some of its inspiration to another island-themed Hollywood production that preceded it into theaters by six months. The Bing Crosby musical Waikiki Wedding was a huge hit for Paramount Pictures, and featured the now classic tunes "Blue Hawaii" and the Oscar-winning "Sweet Leilani."

Hawaiian Holiday opens with the song "On the Beach at Waikiki," immediately establishing its exotic island setting. That famous tune by G. H. Stover and Henry Kalmai was one of the most popular songs of the 1930s and was introduced here by Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. Pluto was also on hand, rounding out one of the rare occasions when all of Disney’s “fab five” shared the screen in the same cartoon short.

We are quickly presented with many of the era’s romantic conventions of Hawaiian popular culture. The characters are enjoying a beachside luau. Mickey plays the traditional slack key guitar while Minnie and Donald alternate between ukulele strumming and hula dancing. In a distinct foreshadowing of his later Sport Goofy persona, the Goof engages in a pratfall-filled surfing vignette. At the time, surfing was still generally considered uniquely Hawaiian, and was just beginning to make its migration to places like Australia and California.

But alas, this many stars is two or three stars too many. Shortly after Mickey, Minnie and Donald are featured in a comical musical interlude, the rest of short settles into focusing mainly on Goofy with his surfboard and Pluto’s antics involving a crab and a starfish. This somewhat disjointed approach is fortunately offset by the short’s wonderful details (including outrigger canoe and little grass shack) and amazing watercolor backgrounds, both hallmarks of the Hyperion Avenue studio era.

One particular subtle and ongoing gag that I really enjoyed involved Goofy’s trademark hat. It is a well-crafted bit of plausible impossible. Despite pratfalls, high waves and underwater submersion, it, for the most part, remains firmly attached to its owner’s head. On the occasion when Goof and hat are separated, carefully orchestrated choreography reunites the two in short order.

Another subtle yet interesting detail is Minnie’s portrayal as a topless hula dancer. While replete with standard white gloves and oversize shoes, only a lei adorns her upper body. Sixty years later she would again travel to Hawaii at the conclusion of Runaway Brain, but would opt for a more conservative two piece suit for that trip.
Author DeSota Brown notes in the book Hawaii Recalls, “Films used Hawaii for all sorts of celluloid action, from tap dancing hula girls and angry volcanoes to murder mysteries and communist plots. These weren’t strictly intended to promote the islands as such, but they helped to do the job nonetheless. The fact that these movies were usually utterly unrealistic bolstered, instead of diminished, their selling abilities.”

To a similar extent, Hawaiian Holiday equally served to portray and promote that romantic notion of an unspoiled island paradise of a now bygone era, albeit in animated form.

Images © Walt Disney Company

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The EPCOT Pre-Opening Postcards - World Showcase

As promised, here are the postcards featuring conceptual artwork from World Showcase pavilions. These cards were sold at the Magic Kingdom's EPCOT Preview Center prior to the park's opening in October of 1982. As noted in the prior post, these cards had a back-caption that read The Newest Wonder of the World Opens October 1, 1982. Missing from this specific series but later released were cards for Italy and Canada.

MEXICO IN THE WORLD SHOWCASE Within the Mayan pyramid of the Mexico pavilion, guests will sail along "Rivers of Time" from the pre-Columbian era to Modern Mexico.

WORLD SHOWCASE In the People's Republic of China pavilion, CircleVision 360 will surround guests with extraordinary images and sounds of that vast nation.

GERMANY IN THE WORLD SHOWCASE Fairy-tale charm and Oktoberfest revelry will be captured in the platz and biergarten of the Germany pavilion.

THE AMERICAN ADVENTURE More than 30 Audio-Animatronics figures, including "hosts" Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, will bring the triumphant story of America and its people to life.

JAPAN IN THE WORLD SHOWCASE The towers of an ancient fortress will rise above delicately sculpted gardens and colorful koi fish ponds in the Japan pavilion.

FRANCE IN THE WORLD SHOWCASE A new "Eiffel Tower" soars above the boulevard shops and guests wills thrill to a cinematic tour in the "Impressions de France" film at Palais du Cinema.
UNITED KINGDOM IN WORLD SHOWCASE In the "Rose & Crown" pub in the United Kingdom pavilion, guests will enjoy authentic British fare and toast Her Majesty with ale.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The EPCOT Pre-Opening Postcards - Future World

Among the souvenirs made available at the EPCOT Center Preview Center prior to the park's October 1982 opening was a series of postcards that featured concept art from nearly all of the attractions and pavilions. The now-famous aerial view painting featured above was distinct in that it carried no tag-line on the reverse side. The cards themed to Future World featured the line The Future Begins October 1, 1982 (pictured above), while the World Showcase cards stated The Newest Wonder of the World Opens October 1, 1982. Featured today are the Future World postcards with their corresponding back-of-card captions.

FUTURE WORLD THEME ATTRACTION Contained within a 17-story "geosphere," Spaceship Earth features a ride through the evolution of our communications networks.

PARTNERSHIPS WITH THE LAND Covering nearly six acres, The Land will offer guests some food for thought about nutrition, and a chance to set sail for "Tomorrow's Harvest."

WITH A SPARK OF INSPIRATION. . . Colorful realms of creativity will be explored when guests board ride-vehicles for a Journey Into Imagination.

"FREEDOM OF MOBILITY" In World of Motion, guests will ride through more than 30 Audio-Animatronics scenes about transportation's evolution, shown here in artwork and models.

UNDERSEA ADVENTURE The Living Seas, opening during Phase II of EPCOT CENTER in 1983, will reveal the wonders of our aquatic frontier at "Sea Base Alpha," a working research station.A LOOK A TOMORROW . . . TODAY In Horizons, guests will ride into three-dimensional future habitats, including a cityscape and space colony.

Universe of Energy was not represented in this The Future Begins October 1, 1982 series of cards. A card featuring concept art of the pavilion's exterior was subsequently released, but displayed the line Discover the Newest Wonder of the World.

Universe of Energy in Future World A gleaming array of 80,000 photovoltaic cells of the building's roof help guest to "ride on sunshine" through Universe of Energy, where they explore energy choices and challenges for tomorrow.

I was able to feature this particular card here with the much appreciated assistance of Brian Martsolf. Brian has the best online resource for Walt Disney World postcards. Check out his very extensive and comprehensive site. You won't be disappointed. Thanks, Brian!

Coming up: World Showcase!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Time of Unprecedented Choice and Opportunity

It was just over a year ago that a very good friend encouraged me to live out my passion by putting words to virtual paper in the form of the blog you now read. As much as I recognize anniversaries around here, I did not feel inclined initially to even mention that September 20th would mark the first birthday of 2719 Hyperion.

But Walter Cronkite changed my mind.

Well, not directly. It was actually a Walter Cronkite of twenty years ago. Let me explain.

While waiting in the daily agony of what is typically known as the after-school car pool line, I decided to dig into my iPod and listen to an mp3 file of the late 1980s incarnation of Spaceship Earth, which featured veteran journalist and famed network news anchor Walter Cronkite as the attraction’s audio host. It was Cronkite’s concluding comments from his SSE narration that suddenly made a persistent muse materialize and land with a loud ker-plunk on my left shoulder and subsequently begin to whisper in my ear. My son ultimately jumped into the car with much fanfare, breaking me away from my sojourn to the EPCOT Center of 1987, but not before I was able to briefly reflect on the other Uncle Walt’s then very prophetic words:

"Today our search for understanding is unbounded by space and time. Centuries of information stand ready to reach us in an instant. Our link with the past; our hope for the future. In the information age, our knowledge and tools of communication will continue to grow and improve. We’ll discover new ways to share our ideas and dreams, to create a better world for today, tomorrow and tomorrow’s child.

"Yes, tomorrow’s child. Embodying our hopes and dreams for the future. A future made possible by the information age. The technologies of this new era with extend our reach, expand the capabilities of the human mind, and help us shape a better tomorrow.
"Ours is a time of unprecedented choice and opportunity, so let us explore and question and understand. Let us learn from our past and meet the challenges of the future. Let us go forth and fulfill our destiny on Spaceship Earth."

So how does an old EPCOT attraction spiel somehow relate to my waxing sentimental over the first anniversary of 2719 Hyperion? Hang in there folks, I promise the dots will all connect in the end.

But first I need to do a little Meet the Robinsons quote highlighting.

Today our search for understanding is unbounded by space and time. Centuries of information stand ready to reach us in an instant. Our link with the past; our hope for the future. In the information age, our knowledge and tools of communication will continue to grow and improve. We’ll discover new ways to share our ideas and dreams, to create a better world for today, tomorrow and tomorrow’s child.

Yes, tomorrow’s child. Embodying our hopes and dreams for the future. A future made possible by the information age. The technologies of this new era with extend our reach, expand the capabilities of the human mind, and help us shape a better tomorrow.

Ours is a time of unprecedented choice and opportunity, so let us explore and question and understand. Let us learn from our past and meet the challenges of the future. Let us go forth and fulfill our destiny on Spaceship Earth.

Since that very exciting day in 1987 when I first visited EPCOT Center, and more specifically Spaceship Earth, I have certainly experienced this wonderful future made possible by the information age. But while in the last ten years or so since I became a traveler on the World Wide Web and have used that connectivity to great benefit, I had never perceived an opportunity to pursue my passion for all things Disney in any type of online incarnation. My own total (and likely genetic) ineptness at anything HTML-related always pretty much put a damper on any Internet-related endeavors I might have considered.

But in 2006, two significant events happened to me: I purchased an iPod, and, my aforementioned friend introduced me to the world of blogging.

Via iTunes, I was quickly introduced, not to just the world of podcasting, but Disney podcasting. In short order, I discovered a very tangible, albeit one-sided link, to others as equally passionate about the Mouse and who led very similar Disney-centric lives. Somehow the actual voice connections seemed to provide a more direct contact than the often impersonal and generally anonymous communications found within forum-based Internet communities. Suddenly, I wanted to be involved. I wanted to in some way meet and interact with all these other like-minded individuals. I wanted to share my love and passion and accumulated Disney knowledge, and even engage in a debate or two. But how?

“Why don’t you start a blog,” my very good friend Jennifer casually suggested one evening last September. My HTML fears immediately charged forward, to which Jennifer quickly reassured, “Don’t worry, it’s easy.”

And to my surprise and delight, it was. I was suddenly able to share my ideas and dreams, extend my reach, and even resurrect a bit of destiny fulfillment that I had long ago abandoned. It was just like Mr. Cronkite promised some twenty years ago. See, I told you I would connect the dots.

To employ an overused but still appropriate Disney cliché, the last year has been one wild and exciting E-Ticket ride. And one with many unexpected twists and incredible surprises. The most recent being the evolution from a blogger url to

I have met so many friendly and welcoming individuals within the Disney online community, and have been recognized and acknowledged by both esteemed Disney scholars and well known enthusiasts whose works and efforts I have long admired and respected. I have forged what I consider to be lasting friendships, and was especially fortunate in meeting many of these new friends in person when I attended the MagicMeets fan gathering this past July.

My deepest thanks go out to all the faithful readers here who have supported and encouraged me these past twelve months. Heartfelt gratitude is also extended to my fellow Disney bloggers. We have formed a community of sorts within the larger Disney online community, and the support and camaraderie we often share is something I enjoy and value very much.

Snapshot! - APTS. FOR RENT

If one of your dreams has been to live within a Disney theme park, then this might be the opportunity for you. Tucked in a back corner of Disney-MGM Studios is this quaint and picturesque apartment building. And it appears that they have vacancies. This set piece sits close to the exit of Muppet*Vision and adjacent to the Al's Toy Barn character greet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Snow White Cafe

More a victim of geography than any lack of passion on its author's part, 2719 Hyperion has distinctly displayed an east coast bias over its short history. Longtime supporter, great friend, fellow animation enthusiast and organist supreme Rob Richards helps us rectify that to some extent as he guides us to a not-quite-so-famous Disney landmark right in the heart of Tinseltown:

The Walt Disney Company has a major presence on Hollywood Boulevard, in Hollywood, California.

Its historic El Capitan theatre attracts approximately a half million guests each year with movies, stage shows and live music with its world famous Mighty Wurlitzer.

Less than a block away, a small neighborhood bistro creates a very modest presence by comparison. Yet the Snow White Café has a historic Disney legacy all its own.

The menu has very little to say – just one sentence! (This is likely by design, avoiding any conflict with the legal department of a certain Burbank studio.) The menu states that in 1946, Disney studio artists painted the huge original mural (inside, above the front door). Rendered in a recognizably Disney style, it proclaims "We hope we have pleased you!"

Rumor has it that the animators (and Walt, too) used to frequent the café, meeting there to brainstorm while having a light meal or a “cup of joe.” Supposedly, the mural was a gift given as a token of appreciation for the café’s hospitality to studio personnel.

There are many pieces of artwork throughout the café, yet the menu acknowledges only the front door artwork as original. Were there other original paintings “once upon a time?” Were they repaired? Replaced? Or are the additional paintings just Disney look-alikes? Who painted these? There are more questions than answers.

Even though its provenance is vague, Hollywood’s SNOW WHITE CAFÉ is certainly of interest to Disney aficionados. And for locals and visitors, it still serves a great breakfast for six bucks!

Here is your personal photographic tour of the SNOW WHITE CAFÉ. If you plan a visit to Hollywood, be sure and stop in to see it for yourself.

Thanks so much to Rob for revealing to us this wonderful out of the way corner of Walt Disney's Hollywood. To learn more about Rob and his many interests and endeavors, visit his website, and also be sure to check out his terrific blog Animation Backgrounds.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Souvenirs: Adding a Little Character to World Showcase

Let's do a little more vintage souvenir shopping in honor of the 25th Anniversary of EPCOT Center. This series of character-themed decals predated the 1988 opening of the Norway pavilion. Mickey dominated the mix, appearing on seven of the ten selections. Donald was even then channeling his Three Caballeros persona for Mexico. The decals were part of a larger wave of character merchandise themed to World Showcase that appeared in the mid-to-late 1980s and included plush, novelties and apparrel.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lost Imagineering: Japan's Bullet Train

A high speed ride on the famous Japanese Bullet Train, right in the heart of EPCOT Center's World Showcase? This was just one of a number of attractions that went unrealized for the Japan pavilion. This immersive adventure would have featured an interesting variation of Disney's 360 Circlevision process. Also conceptualized for Epcot's Japan were a Mount Fuji-themed thrill ride, and the multimedia presentation Meet the World, the latter of which ultimately found its way to Tokyo Disneyland.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Freeze Frame! - They're Off

Director Jack Hannah and his crew really appear to have enjoyed themselves when making the 1948 Goofy cartoon short They're Off. Similar to elements in prior cartoons such as The Nifty Nineties and Hockey Homicide, a racing form makes reference to the short's own makers as well as other Disney Studio personnel.

Horse owners include Hannah, Campbell Grant, Riley Thomson, Al Bertino, Yale Gracey, John Hench, John Sibley, Art Babbit, Ken Anderson, Charles Phillippi and Andy Engman. Among the jockeys are Bill Berg, Volus Jones and Hugh Hennesy.

Hannah, Gracey and background artist Howard Dunn are also alluded to on a page of scrawled notes and formulas.

Still mysteries to me are the following names: M. Satterwhite, B. Selk, Toby, M. Greenberg, B. Newman, Bobby N., F. Bresson, R. Carlson, D. Link, T. Witmer and A. Scott. I am hoping that some of the ever so resourceful readers here can help identify any or all of these equestrian notables. I will update the post accordingly.

Edit-From Hans Perk:

Around this time (more precise in July 1946), Jack Hannah shared his room 2C-6 with his assistant director Bee Selck. Mary Satterwhite was in 2C-7, and in 2C-5 we find M. Greenberg, Yale Gracey and Thelma Witmer (bg painter) - next door to Howard Dunn, Don Griffith and Eustace Lycett in 2C-4. Frank Bresson in 3D-14, Robert Carlson (animator) in 1F-3 (with Russ Dyson), Dorothy Link in 2F-7 (with Jack Bruner and Chuck Wheeler), Art Scott in 2A-3, Toby Toblemann (ass. dir.) in 2A-7. No Newman at that time...

Also of note is a wonderful background pan near the beginning of the short that features numerous books on horses and racing. Funny bits include authors Pickham and Weep and titles Mother Hubbard's Selections and Know Your Nags.

Images © Walt Disney Company

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Guide to EPCOT Center

This was the EPCOT Center of close to twenty years ago. Norway was forthcoming but signs of the Wonders of Life pavilion had yet to make it into the park's guidebook. Disney Dollars were relatively new, Future World played host to the Epcot Daredevil Circus Spectacular, and Le Cellier was a buffeteria specializing in pork pies and rib roasts.

From the Guidebook's introduction:

More than twice the size of the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center is really two unique worlds in one:

Innovations in communications, energy, transportation, the land, the sea and imagination are yours to explore.

Ten nations open their doors to you, sharing their accomplishments and cultures.

This Guidebook includes general information to help you make the most of your Epcot Center visit. For additional information, WORLDKEY INFORMATION SATELLITES, located in both Future World and World Showcase, put Epcot Center information "at your fingertips." The hosts and hostesses in Earth Station (adjacent to Spaceship Earth) will also be glad to help.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Snapshot! - Of Phones and Foosball

Over the top is certainly one of the best ways to describe the environment that is Disney's Pop Century Resort. This juxtaposition of an iconic Mickey Mouse consumer product with classic table top recreation pays homage to the decade of the 1970s, and is pretty magnificent in its scope and design.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Souvenir Shopping at Centorium

Today we're going to jump in the old time machine and head back to EPCOT Center circa 1988 and do a little shopping in what was then my favorite shop in all of Walt Disney World-- Centorium. This Emporium of the 21st century was the place to find all of EPCOT Center's branded merchandise, including these popular items that have since become by and large extinct in the world of theme park souvenirs.

Pennants were a mainstay of resort stores during Disney World's first two decades, and this EPCOT Center edition (pictured above) is a personal favorite in my collection.

Bumper stickers have become scarcer as well, having been reborn in magnetic incarnations, which can be very cool, but are certainly not as plentiful as were their older and more traditional counterparts. I am a big admirer of the early Seabase Alpha designs and so this Living Seas bumper sticker was a natural purchase.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Imagineer Ralph Kent 1939-2007

Disney Legend Ralph Kent has sadly passed away. Longtime Imagineer and designer, he began his career with Disney in 1963 as a marketing production artist at Disneyland. He was well known for creating the first limited edition Mickey Mouse watch in 1965. Kent's Disney Legends page can be found here.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Scaling the Disney Mountains

“As long as there are still Imagineers left in the world, there will always be new mountains to climb.”

Almost any type of media that allows one to peek behind the elaborate facades and carefully crafted make believe that is a Disney theme park is a welcome entity indeed. Such is certainly the case with Jason Surrell’s newest book that again looks behind the curtain at the wizardry that exists within Walt Disney Imagineering. In The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak, Surrell takes readers on an international journey that details the creation and subsequent impact of some of Disney’s most elaborate and beloved theme park attractions.

In recent years, Surrell has successfully penned extensive histories of Disney’s Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean attractions. With The Disney Mountains, he sheds the obligatory movie chapters that were necessitated by the Pirates/Mansion franchises, and focuses 100% on the company’s theme park endeavors. It is a fun and densely illustrated journey across an artificial mountain range that showcases the creative mountaineers whose names read like a who’s who of Imagineering all-stars.

The book begins with Surrell scaling Disney’s first mountain, Disneyland’s now iconic Matterhorn, by taking us back to the still very early days of WED Enterprises and such notable creative talents as Harriet Burns, Fred Joerger and Bill Evans. In direct contrast to today’s globetrotting Imagineers, Harriet Burns related how their initial research consisted of “ . . . some pictures from National Geographic, a double-page spread from Life magazine, and a couple of postcards.”

The evolution of the Matterhorn is further chronicled with the addition of the Abominable Snowman in 1977, and this would foreshadow a certain Animal Kingdom mountain nearly three decades later. Expedition Everest, with a Yeti of its own, is the subject of the book’s final chapter. These pages effectively demonstrate just how far Disney attractions have developed in scope and sophistication since those early Disneyland days, yet still serve to hold true and valued the efforts of those early WED pioneers.

In between the thematic bookends of Matterhorn and Everest, readers are treated to chapters relating to the various incarnations of Space, Splash and Thunder Mountains, as well as Grizzly Peak in Disney’s California Adventure and Mount Prometheus at Tokyo DisneySea. Also included is a look at water park icons Mount Mayday at Typhoon Lagoon and Mount Gushmore at Blizzard Beach.

Highlights are many. I especially enjoyed the chapter detailing the oft-mentioned Big Rock Candy Mountain, an early concept for Disneyland’s Fantasyland. The book reveals that the ride’s interior would have featured characters from Walt’s then in development “Oz” film project, as envisioned by Disney Legend Claude Coats. The chapter on Mount Prometheus had me wanting to immediately put down the book and reserve a seat on the next flight to Tokyo.

The Disney Mountains adds another satisfying volume to Disney Press’ still expanding Imagineering library of titles. It’s a very happy publishing trend for Disney historians and armchair Imagineers alike.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Previewing EPCOT Center

We visited the EPCOT Center Monorail Preview once before here at 2719, but as we approach October 1st, I thought it would be fun to take another look at what folks were doing 25 years ago just prior to the opening of Walt Disney World's second gate.

Advertised for Florida residents, the preview was in fact open to everyone. An EPCOT preview area had been set up at City Hall on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. Brochures were given out (pictured above) detailing EPCOT Center and its many initial attractions. EPCOT merchandise was also available for purchase. A short film about the concept and construction of the park was shown in the theater that normally played host to the Walt Disney Story. But most importantly, it was where you picked up your tickets for the EPCOT Center Monorail Preview.

You presented your tickets at the Ticket and Transportation Center, and then boarded a monorail that took you to the EPCOT construction site. Much as it still does today, the monorail circled Future World and then allowed its passengers to disembark at the monorail station. There, guests were treated to a close-up view of Spaceship Earth and the entrance plaza, and a host or hostess was available to answer any questions.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Virtual Souvenir: The EPCOT 25 License Plate

We're introducing a brand new feature here at 2719 Hyperion: the Virtual Souvenir. These are the items we wish we could find at the Emporium or Mouse Gear or the World of Disney. First up, and tying into our celebration of EPCOT's 25th, we present an anniversary license plate that enhances and expands upon the popular 25 design we've been featuring since last February.

Excuse me while I go affix it to my virtual Lamborghini . . .

Disney News - Fall 1982

As October 1st rapidly approaches, we're ramping up our efforts here at 2719 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of EPCOT Center. Today we revisit this very interesting and somewhat obscure piece of Disneyana, the Fall 1982 issue of Disney News.

Disney News at that time was still a subscription-only magazine that was distributed to members of the Magic Kingdom Club, an employee benefits program that Disney made available to employers. In an article introducing EPCOT Center to the magazine's readership, editor Stephen Birnbaum described the scope and significance of Walt Disney World's soon to be opened second gate:

Walt Disney's dream has become reality. It's impossible to say whether the Epcot Center that opens on October 1,1982, is consistent in every detail with what Walt himself might have wrought. but there's no doubt whatsoever that it embodies the spirit that its originator intended.

Epcot Center represents a unique combination of innovative imagination and technical virtuosity. Disney's "Imagineers" have created a new dimension of pleasure, excitement, amusement, and education. From Opening Day onward, Epcot Center will be the standard by which all such undertakings will be measured, and future phases will further expand even the current level of appeal. Until now, there's never been anything remotely like Epcot Center; and it's unlikely there ever will be again.

Even then, Disney was already working to extend the EPCOT brand beyond just its incarnation as a theme park. The same issue of Disney News featured an article previewing the Disney Channel which was set to debut in 1983. Among it's interesting revelations:

But there'll also be new faces, such as a wizard named Dreamfinder, who will personify the spirit of imagination and creativity, and his sidekick, Figment, a miniature dragon (both are characters from Epcot Center's Journey Into Imagination).

According to Jim Jimirro, president of Walt Disney Telecommunications, "There will, of course, be a large children's component in what we are doing, but we're not going to stop there. Our goal is to have the Disney Channel represent a force in the family that becomes important to its members not only because the channel presents pleasurable programs but because these programs can make a difference in people's lives.

"The most logical starting point will be Epcot Center pavilion-inspired ideas. But the programming will go far beyond the specifics of each pavilion —be it energy, transportation, or imagination— to the real underlying values of Epcot, such as the need for effective communication and the necessity for people to work together to achieve their goals."

EPCOT Center was featured quite prominently on the Disney Channel during its initial few years of operation, although Dreamfinder and Figment never quite materialized in the way that the article seemed to describe. The channel's most obvious EPCOT connection was EPCOT Magazine, a daily thirty-minute program that debuted in April 1983.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Legacy Continues. The Dream is Alive

"At the very least, we can acknowledge the legacy. Maybe in some small way, it will help inspire the current or future stewards of Epcot to restore the dream."

I wrote those words back on February 2, hoping to inspire other members of the Disney online community to do what the Disney Company seemed to then be emphatically saying they would not do: publicly acknowledge, and in some way celebrate, the 25th Anniversary of EPCOT Center. As it has turned out, I was just a part of what became a grass roots movement that would ultimately embody the very idealism and "one little spark" mantra that EPCOT has come to represent.

For on October 1st, the anniversary of EPCOT Center's opening day in 1982, the Disney Company will, despite the words of then Epcot Vice President Brad Rex some seven months ago, celebrate this very special day with a re-dedication ceremony and related festivities.

They will Acknowledge the Legacy.

Beyond some type of comment or statement from a spokesperson or member of Disney management, there is really no way to gauge what impact the Disney fan community has had on this somewhat dramatic turnaround. But it would be hard to imagine that the very passionate responses and subsequent enthusiast-initiated celebrations and retrospectives did not play some significant part in influencing the planning of the events now scheduled for October 1st.

The efforts in particular of Jenn Waitt and Adam Roth represent a Cinderella story with the happiest of endings. What began back in February as a forum thread, through the hard work and grass roots efforts of Jenn and Adam, has evolved into Celebration 25, a fan-based gathering on October 1st that has received Disney's blessing and assistance. The event currently has registered well over one thousand attendees, myself and my family included.

So then, what is the state of the Dream, that I and so many others have advocated the restoration thereof?

Some of the indications are certainly good. It appears that the Spaceship Earth refurbishment will take on a more Horizons-based theme, restoring to some extent Future World's original mission of forward thinking idealism. Still-unconfirmed rumors of a Patrick Stewart narration and the return of the "Tomorrow's Child" song would definitely support that notion.

The wave of retro-inspired EPCOT Center merchandise that has emerged over the last few months indicates a willingness on Disney's part to revisit and pay homage to EPCOT's first decade of operation.

And more than anything, there seems to be a clear return to EPCOT's original design and aesthetic sensibilities, as demonstrated by the removal of the wand, and the subtle yet still distinct elimination of some of the architectural bling that has cluttered various parts of Future World. The termination of the Leave a Legacy promotion is a hopeful sign that those stark and uninspired monoliths will potentially be removed or relocated, and that the park's entrance plaza will be restored to a more open and welcoming environment.

There are no doubt still cynics who will bemoan these developments as insufficient or too-little, too-late. But like EPCOT itself, I would prefer to hold to a positive, hopeful view of future events and possibilities. There are clearly ideas and elements present in Epcot today that display degrees of incompatibility with the original concepts and themes established by the park's designers in 1982. But recent events and rumored future happenings, indicate at least to me that the original Dream of EPCOT Center still remains alive.