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Archive from October 2007

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Monday, October 22, 2007 12:02AM
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12:02 AM - 1200-ish photos from Epcot, including Oct 1st 25th Anniversary. (posted by Allen )
Check out the latest batch of Epcot photos, taken a few weeks ago:
Saturday, October 20, 2007 4:22PM
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4:22 PM - Haunted Mansion sequence in the Boo To You parade at TMK. (posted by Allen )
And just for fun, here are two short videos of the Haunted Mansion sequence of the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party parade:

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4:18 PM - Video of Epcot's Gran Fiesta Tour (posted by Allen )
Just for fun, I posted my video of the updated Mexico boat ride from Epcot:

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4:07 PM - 2500 photos from Epcot, including the 25th Anniversary... (posted by Allen )
I am currently generating and uploading nearly 2500 photos taken at Epcot this past month, including hunndreds from the 25th Anniversary celebrations on October 1st. New additions to the gallery will include:

Epcot museum
Mexico Gran Fiesta Tour
Food & Wine Festival
Woners of Life being used as a food location
...and tons more.

They are generating and uploading now, so by tomorrow they will be there. BUT, they will not be linked in to the main gallery until I get through the other parks. I will post a direct link to the photos on the mailing list.
Thursday, October 11, 2007 6:23AM
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6:23 AM - Photo index updated. (posted by Allen )
While at Disney World last week, we were in line at Rock N Roller Coaster checking out their new queue. I couldn't remember what the old queue was like, so I popped on this site from my iPhone only to find I didn't seem to have the D/MGM 2006 photos in the index. They were there, and by manually entering the path I could get to them, but for whatever reason, I never publicly linked them in. So, the index was regenerated so all the 2006 photos are now linked in properly. (Previously, I guess the only folks who knew about them were those on my update mailing list, and those who caught the announcement and link on the front page here.)

I spent hours last night rotating photos from this year's trip, and hope to begin sorting them soon.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007 10:58PM
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10:58 PM - WDW's Pirates of the Caribbean "talking boxes"... (posted by Allen )
If you get out to Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney World's Magic Kingdom, here's something to look for. It appears their sound system is shot and they've rigged some speakers up throughout the attraction. I noticed audio was off during our visit last week, particularly in the burning village scene where you couldn't hear the dog barking, and the singers were almost inaudible.

Later in the ride I noticed a box wrapped in canvas and tied with rope -- a very plain looking prop to be sitting in such an elaborate attraction. I then noticed more boxes, sitting next to various pirates, or scattered around scenes. There are even boxes IN the two jail cells at the end -- very out of place :-)

So, these are speakers that have, for whatever reason, been placed in the attraction and disguised somewhat. Once you notice them, they become real obvious. There is a box next to pretty much every pirate in the ride, and many others sitting in various places around the show scenes.

I have pictures of many of them, and I'll post an article with these pics soon.
Sunday, October 7, 2007 10:42PM
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10:42 PM - The secret to those cheap/free attraction tickets in Orlando. (posted by Allen )
For years I've seen all those discount ticket booths all over the Orlando area, offering cheap tickets to Universal, Disney, SeaWorld, etc. Now, up until the 80s, when Disney changed from coupon books to an all-inclusive admission, you could sell your unused coupons to these places then they'd mark them up and sell them to others, still at a price less than what you'd pay at Disney. This worked fine. Once Disney moved to multi-day tickets with a signature, you could still do it, but there was always risk that Disney would reject you for using something signed by someone else (and it was always a violation of their policy).

With the biometric systems (two finger "camera" and now one finger scanner) that tied multi-day tickets to the user, it's even more risky to use discount tickets. First, they may be rejected if you aren't the proper owner, and second, there is no way outside of Disney to know if a ticket truly has days left. So those can be considered risky or scams, depending on your experience. I have always avoided them because of this.

Next were the timeshare booths. They are everywhere, offering "Universal for $11" or whatever. These are far from scams -- they are just playing odds. If you agree to spend 90 minutes (though it may run twice that long) to tour a timeshare resort and sit through a presentation, you get your discount tickets even if you don't buy. I've heard horror stories of some companies doing things like sending you the tickets by mail (so you are less inclined to sit through the presentation if you are just trying to get tickets, and don't plan to buy). Well, after years and years of seeing these things and being aware of them, I finally had a vacation that was laid back enough I decided to take one of these tours (thanks to a booth located right in the Howard Johnsons I was staying at).

It was ... just amazing. This company had their act so far together -- it was a one-on-one presentation (not a room with a slideshow, like I imagined), and the place was just amazing (leather sofa, plasma TV, jacuzzi tub, etc.). We were expecting to spend 90 minutes there, but ended up spending quite a bit more time just enjoying the tour. The breakfast they included was LUSH -- hot meats, eggs, pancakes, French toast, and all the rest. It was better than any of the high end hotels I've stayed at. (Again, your milage may vary -- some are literally a room with a slideshow and a small bar of pastries and juice/coffee).

Anyway, at the end of the presentation, we received our set of two 2-day SeaWorld tickets for just $22 -- as promised! Everyone was nice, treated us well, and ... well, I'll share more later.

Anyway, there's a link at the top of ever page on this site now. It's a chance to actually STAY at this high end resort, just a few mile from Disney, at a price BELOW to a cheap motel in the area. It sometimes even includes attraction tickets! The catch? That 90 minute presentation, but trust me -- it was really, really cool.

If you are going, and can check it out (using my referral link), I'd appreciate it. I get credit for it and that helps me keep this site going.

A full review of my timeshare tour, with photos, will be added in coming weeks. Until then...

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2:04 AM - WDW 2007 recap - Epcot (posted by Allen )
The new Canada film was great fun! The crowd giggled and laughed a number of times, rather than being bored as with the old film. It seemed to present alot more about Canada than the old movie did.

The new Mexico boat ride is a true DIsney ride with Disney in it, not just a Mexico travelogue. I miss the carousel at the end, and the street vendors trying to sell us stuff as we boated by, but there's no arguing that this "it's a Mexican small world" is now a Disney ride. I think it's better and more entertaining to see Donald going nuts in scenes from Mexico, rather than just seeing scenes from Mexico. It's worth re-riding a few times to catch all the little gags in the variations of the video that play as you go by.

The Food & Wine event was expensive but fun. I am told samples used to cost less than the $3-$5 they do now. Pity I missed it. My favorite is some kind of Plum Wine Cooler in China (I think), as well as some Ireland Mead (honey wine). The Oklahoma area is great -- pecan pie! They feature Route 66 (classic highway that goes through OK) and a teepee, indicating the massive native American heritage of the state, which is now celebrating it's 100th. There's some good stuff there, and nicely done. (I'm from Texas, and dated a girl from OK for awhile so I was glad to see them actually work with the OK tourism board about getting things accurate; there's even a 100+ year old wagon on display.) Neat.

The 25th was fun (October 1). It's easily apparent that folks don't have the emotional attachment to EPCOT as they do to Disneyland. WDW is more tourists and foreign visitors than locals who grew up with it. Showing up half an hour before 9am was met with a few hundred folks, not thousands (as for Disneyland's 50th) who lined up the night before. The special limited T-Shirt of 1982 (count) was still available HOURS later in the day at various shops. At Disneyland, limited items like this were gone when a line of thousands formed early on. I guess Disney did the right thing by not making too much merchandise. Folks don't seem to care as much, though I believe they did sell out of all the limited stuff during the day. The pin stand had lines, of course, but don't they always when a new pin comes out?

I was glad to be part of it. The fireworks finale they added was mind blowing and well beyond what I was expecting. THey even projected old logos and such on Spaceship Earth via laser at the end. I have full video of all of this that I'll post at some point.

The Epcot exhibit, which will remain for awhile (they were specifically plugging it on the tram ride to D/MGM) was a great look back at the history of EPCOT. Very cool stuff there, from models to uniforms to posters and even a 1982 opening year map. I wish they still sold those maps. I used to collect park maps (wall maps) but no one does them any more it seems :(

Pictures of all of this when I get the time - I just wanted to post some thoughts while I was thinking.

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1:56 AM - WDW 2007 recap - Rock N Roller Coaster (posted by Allen )
Over at the Disney/MGM Studios, which I will call by that name since that is still the correct name even though others are trying to jump the gun and call it Disney's Hollywood Studios which is not what it will be called until next year (but I digress)... The Rock N Roller Coaster reopened with a major redo to the queue area. Single rider, FastPass and standby are now separated and a whole new inside queue has been created. It's very different. Gone are the museum displays (though standby still has one of recording equipment). I have to compare my photos from the past to really say how it was changed, but it's majority different.

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1:54 AM - WDW 2007 recap - Haunted Mansion (posted by Allen )
A few interesting things from our Walt Disney World visit this past week:

The new Haunted Mansion is fantastic. It's finally better than the Disneyland version. Now, because of the extra scenes, it should have been better from day 1, but Disneyland's started getting updates and enhancements ten years ago that the Florida version just never got. Back in the mid-late 90s, the Florida version moved the singing busts in the graveyard to a laserdisc projection system, but the audio would drift and not sync with the background music -- and it remained that way, still messed up nearly a decade later when I visited in 2006. Just amazing that they wouldn't fix something as major as that (it was a mess of sound, that's for sure).

The new stretch room audio is amazing -- and, notice that when the door closes, there is audio for that, though none of the big website reports I've read mentioned it. Very nice.

The removable of the portrait hallway is kind of a bummer, since it was unique to the Florida version. Versions of several of those portraits now line the wall behind the doom buggies, but if they are the same ones with "eyes to follow you," it doesn't work. They aren't illuminated so the effect is lost. (I'm thinking they may have been redone prints, without the sunken in eyes.) In it's place is a new hallway with the storm windows on the left and portraits on the right that change with the lightning, finally giving FLorida the load area scene that only Disneyland had. Nice.

The new stairway scene is great -- it's hard to believe that was just a darkened void with some spider webs before. You can watch footsteps walk up and down the stairs, blowing out candles and lighting up others. Sadly, just weeks after opening, the projection of the steps on the left side was already off causing the effect to be spoiled (which is how I figured out they were projections).

Candles have been updated in many places as well -- they are a type that uses a flickering element as well as a moving "flame" effect so it looks very convincing. I ran across these a few years ago when researching fake candles after Disneyland got the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay. The DL candles used multiple LEDs with a flickering patter than looks REALLY good, but these moving ones look arguably better since they move like flame, not just flicker like flame. For the life of me, I can't find the link now but if I do, I'll post it later.

UPDATE: Here is the link I was trying to find.

The Leota sequence is like Disneyland's now, though the candles are updated and I've read it's using a different technique to project her face. At Disneyland, I believe it's a large front projection where the face image of the projection moves in sequence with the floating ball. You can see a dark square outline of the projection area on the wall behind it. In Florida, no such outline, and I've read they are using a rear projection technique, possible the fiber optic system that Disney has a patent on. This was first used int he USA by Leota at Disneyland so her table could "wobble" (though they later switch back since it wasn't as bright). Buzz in the Buzz Lightyear queue also uses it, and I think it's used in one of the overseas park (probably why it was first developed). This would mean they had to bring a fiber optic bundle down to the floating crystal ball but I guess that's doable. It looks great, regardless.

No extra audio in this sequence was added, like at Disneyland in the doorway hall and the Leota room.

The new attic is like Disneylands, though there may be some differences. Two days at the park the portraits were doing nothing -- just headless grooms. The final night I saw it work and it worked great. The new bride has been the subject of great speculation on how it works, but to me it seems to be nothing more than a form with a projection -- head and arms are simply projected on it so it looks like a real figure, but it's not. The second and third viewings still make me think this is just a basic projection. Still, pretty nice, but nothing groundbreaking like I originally thought.

For the rest, just basic cleanup everywhere which really helps.

But why did they not fix the audio after the stretching rooms? There's a bit of dialog that used to play there, saying something like "and now a carriage approaches." You can hear it at Disneyland but it's been missing in Florida for at least 10 years that I can recall. There is a planter on top of a large box on the right past the chicken exit where the Doom Buggies roll out. Years back, you could listen and hear the audio playing VERY QUETLY from that box. Maybe it still is? Maybe they just didn't realize it was broken?

Overall, a great update -- the only arguable things now are the extra dialog that California has that Florida doesn't.

One last audio note -- Florida has some different edits in the Ghost Host speech. I'm not sure if this is still the case, or if they are using the same cut as Disneyland. I'll have to listen to my recordings and compare. There used to be a "hmmmm?" edited out and maybe a line moved, for some reason. That always bugged me -- why was that done? I'm sure there was a reason...

More later...but I'm happy to report the Mansion is in the best shape I've ever seen it in, even with the missing dialog in the load area. (And no annoying fake Ghost Host english/spanish altered dialog right as you get in, like in California.)

To be continued...
Saturday, October 6, 2007 12:17AM
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12:17 AM - Back in Iowa... (posted by Allen )
After a 3+ hour delay in Memphis, we finally made it back home to Des Moines. When I get time in the coming weeks, I'll be adding over 10,000 new photos to the Walt Disney World gallery...

Meanwhile, here are the 202 photos taken by my iPhone during the week-long trip and uploading "live":
Friday, October 5, 2007 12:18AM
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12:18 AM - Disney World, 2007. (posted by Allen )
We have a few hours in the parks tomorrow before heading back to the airport for a return home to Iowa. These things seem to go faster each vacation, though this time the trip was far more relaxed than I am used to, including another visit to SeaWorld and spending half a day at a Westgate Resort timeshare presentation (man, talk about some folks who have their act together -- more on this later, and a way to spend a few nights in an absolutely deluxe room for less than a hundred bucks via a promotional offer).

To get a bit more time in the Magic Kingdom, we spend $97 for two of us to attend the Halloween Party again tonight. We rolled out just past 1am after shopping on Main Street a bit. There's some special merchandise just for the event, like pins, antenna toppers, shirts, and a CD of event music from this and other special events (like Pirates and Princess Party). Nice, but oh so pricey. I'm sure my father thought the price increases in the 80s and 90s were big compared to what he saw in the 70s, and I'm sure feeling that from my over exposure between the 90s and 2000s in the parks. Ghads.

But I digress.

Alot of interesting things going on, some neat people met, some rumors picked up on and more, so I'll have to find time in coming days or weeks to post an update.

And I'm almost embarrassed at how many photos I took this trip. (And embarrassed in the "wow, did I take that many?" way...)
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 7:42PM
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7:42 PM - Disney/MGM Studios... (posted by Allen )
And a half day at Disney/MGM Studios (spent the first half at a timeshare place learning, finally, what the deal is on those -- more on that later).

WDW Day 6 - Disney/MGM Studios GPS tracking

Tomorrow is our last full day here, and we'll spend it at Seaworld (they close at 6pm) thanks to $11 tickets we got for doing the timeshare thing, and then head back to Disney for the rest of the day, and possibly pay $$$ to spend five extra hours at the Magic Kingdom during the Halloween Party.

More to come...
Tuesday, October 2, 2007 9:20PM
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9:20 PM - Another day at Epcot... (posted by Allen )
Our plan was to hit Disney's Animal Kingdom today, but it was pouring down as we rolled out from the hotel this morning so we decided Epcot would handle the rain better and we headed there. We spent the entire day, finishing off World Showcase and sampling far too much food and wine. A good day. The folks in Japan at the sake bar are great. (Hi, Yuki!) It is becoming my favorite place in World Showcase.

The GPS logging continues, but it's not loading in Google Maps due to being too large so this may not work for you:

WDW Day 5 - Epcot

Photo count continues to climb, with another 1200+ images taken today.
Monday, October 1, 2007 10:37PM
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10:37 PM - Epcot's 25th Anniversary (posted by Allen )
Went to EPCOT today. Heard Marty Sklar talk about the history of Epcot and Walt's vision for it. Bought the T-Shirt and limited edition FIgment. Hung out with St. Chris and his ladies, and watched one of them dive at The Seas (and did a bunch of HD video of it). It was a really cool day.

Experimental Live Photo Gallery still working but I was having connection problems at Epcot and didn't get images uploaded when they were supposed to.

Also, GPS testing is continuing though the track for today shows me wandering around I-4 trying to find a nonexistent exit my GPS was trying to send me to ;-) The file is too large (one huge file, no time to split it up tonight) so I'll post it later.
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