First, a quick note about the following Haunted Mansion photo. This image was taken out of a second story window from the seafood restaurant in Liberty Square. Since I really like the clam chowder you can get at the Galley House food shack just outside Disneyland's Haunted Mansion and I decided to try the Florida moral equivalent this trip. The chowder was good, as to be expected. I wandered up to the second floor (where I'd also never been). Virtually no one was up there due to it being a low-crowd time of the year. In fact, part of the area was roped off. I noticed a decent view of the walkway leading up to the Mansion and wanted to take a picture. I asked one of the cast members there, named Scott, if I could pop over the ropes and take the picture. He let me and we got into a conversation about working for the park. It turns out he is a former Universal Studios employee and it seems he keeps tabs on alot of the stuff going on in the Orlando area. I always find it refreshing to bump into someone who is willing to do a more than just their "job" (such as talking with guests, or assisting with a camera shot like this one). So, thanks, Scott, for letting me take that picture. It must be pretty cool having worked for Universal and now Disney. (Now if I could just find out what happened to the Tomorrowland rollerblade guys that were hamming it up so much last year when I visited. One of them clued me in on the coming of the Buzz Lightyear attraction -- wow, a rumor than panned out!) Anyway, on to the reports...
10/18/98 - Another visit to the Magic Kingdom. Unlike Saturday, the park didn't fill up by 2pm and turn guests away. Crowds were decent, with the longest wait times I saw being around an hour for things like Splash Mountain. After 1pm, most of these lines died down considerably.
I spent most of the day wandering around looking for changes. Pecos Bill Cafe is new at the exit of Country Bear. They removed the three animatronic animals that used to sing at the exitway, darnit! That was a favorite of mine from childhood. Perhaps they can send them to Disneyland and replace the non-animatronic ones at the Mile Long Bar in Critter Country? That would freak out the locals... During the weekend of the 22nd, Liberty Square featured wrapped light posts (corn stalks) in honor of the fall season. The outlying area of Frontierland (near Splash) also featured a display of bails of hay and pumkins.
There is a Sleepy Hollow caramel popcorn shop now in Liberty Square (think Cracker Jacks) that sure smelled great. The Jungle Cruise was closed (but opened back up on Monday) and I was told no talk of change was expected until 2001 or so. The Tree House didn't seem any different, but did look in excellent shape. I checked out the new Tiki Room again and noticed a few more details: When Iago gets "poofed" by the Tiki God and pulls back into the ceiling with a cloud of smoke, a few feathers drift down from his perch! Great stuff.
What else? Oh, the battery display at Buzz Lightyear had "Made in Glendale Califorina" on it. Cute. Hmmm. I took some aerial photos (from the Skyway) of the closed Mr. Toad and it looks like nothing external has been done, but construction workers were seen going in and out. Small speakers were sitting on top of the former ride building playing music piped in from the carousel.
On Main Street, the Magic Shop is gone, but I can't remember where it used to be. I did take a few shots of a storefront which was blocked by an ODV cart. That must have been it. At least the park looked like it was in pretty good shape. It seems they recovered from the 25th just fine. Oddly, the anniversary parade still goes on, but they renamed it :-)
The castle was closed on Friday and they started shutting it down on Sunday in preperation for the taping of a Trisha Yearwood special. Crews were everywhere, and the "stay out of the area or you may be taped and shown worldwide" signs were up. Fun stuff. Pity I didn't get to hang around and get some shots that night when it was actually happening. The park was scheduled to close at 7pm, but anyone who was still in the park could stay for the 7:30 concert (free) and also some rides would remain open. Did anyone go? How was it?
10/15/98 - Today I arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 4:00 p.m. My mission was to see all the new things before the park closed at 7:00 p.m. I headed into Tomorrowland to check out the all-new Buzz Lightyear Spin attraction.
WOW! What a neat idea. Envision yourself in a slow moving dark ride with blacklight targets all over the place. Each buggy has a joystick that will rotate you in 360 degrees (slowly, and automatically unlike Roger Rabbit at Disneyland where YOU spin it...) There are two "guns" that have thumb triggers to fire lasers at targets throughout the ride. A score is kept, which is really neat too. The theme is that the bad guy is stealing all the batteries and Buzz is recruiting Space Rangers to get them back.
The outdoor sign is a 2D painting, as is most of the artwork on the walls inside. This seems tacky, but I know Disney spent some money. Near the loading area is an animatronic Buzz with a fiber optic projected face using the same technique done for Madam Leota at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. This is the next generation in application. Buzz's face can be seen from ALL sides and is fully animated. It looks like a living 3D cartoon! There is another Buzz towards the end of the ride, less animated, but with the same type of face. AMAZING! The ride itself features "Z" targets throughout, many of which do something when you shoot them, from flashing lights to triggering animations. This is alot of fun. I rode it twice ;) just to get the hang of target shooting. I must say, this is one fun ride! (And yes, there are some targets that are just painted on the walls and which do not contain sensors that give points.)
During the queue/pre-show, the theme song plays in dual channels. One channel seems to be mainly military sounding drums while the other is a synthesizer playing "You've Got a Friend in Me," which serves as the ride sound track. Neat. Some lights/alarms go off during Buzz's presentation and near the loading area is an illuminated "control panel" done in a comic book-style.
Next stop, Adventureland, to check out what the "new management" has done to our beloved Tiki Room. I've already read about the addition of the bird from Aladdin and the one from Lion King, and even heard the audio on someone's web site. I wasn't too impressed. Seeing the show, however, really was something. First, the outside barker bird is no more (sigh), but the preshow is still there. Voices of (apparently) Phil Hartman and Don Nickles (what are you looking at, hockey puck?) act as managers -- each claiming that their bird now owns the place! Co-ownership? Wow.
The show is all-new, but starts out more or less like the original (with the missing "Hello seniorita..." at the start, since guys run the attraction now). The initial song is ended abruptly by Iago (whatever his name is ;) being all loud and obnoxious. He is comes down from the ceiling next to where the white birds are. Soon, a more soothing Zazu steps in. Ziago wants to make the show hip, and there is even a joke as the birds explain they have been doing the same show since 1963. "Get a life!" is the reply. At some point, one of the gods rises out of the place where the fountain USED to be. She is a wooden carving with color-changing glowing eyes and she threatens to zap Iago. Great stuff, acutally, with alot of nods to the historical aspects of the show. Pop dance numbers of "Hot, Hot, Hot" are done, with the Tiki Gods getting angered and striking Iago with lightning. Poof! The Gods then take over and perform many songs, such as the talking wall faces doing a doo-wap number (Still of the Night) and many other things. Disco lights abound! It's hilarious. Even the former Hawiian flowers have glitter on them and sing along. It's GREAT! Hopefully I'll fill in more details later, but they end with a dance version of "Get On Your Feet" to get folks up and out, then go into an updated "Hi Ho, It's Out the Door You Go" in another tribute to the original. This was very well done, even though the two new starts are more "full and fluffy" than the older birds. I came prepared to hate this, and ended up loving it. It was alot more fun than the stale 1963 version.
The Photo Shop is gone (but I failed no notice what replaced it) and the cinema is now a shop. Sigh. They did keep one projector screen running, so I guess it is not THAT bad. The former 25th Anniversary greeting area (Walt Disney Theater) is now a much-expanded photo shop, not only selling film and batteries, but having tons of interactive picture studios where you can be inserted into Disney scenes and put on t-shirts and the like. Neat stuff, and some interactive computers are coming soon. They had Kodak (of course) digital cameras hooked to them, so we'll have to see what they do with that.
The castle is now restored, and has been retrofitted with thousands of color changing lights. I can't wait to be there after dark to see it!
The wooden tiki statues that play the bongo-sounding music (just outside the entrance to Jungle Cruise and down from the Tiki Room) have been modified to randomly squirt water and mist. They still make the music, but this will no longer be a great place to take photos at unless you want to get wet. It appears Disney is turning alot of things into water squirters lately. It really suprised me to see this classic fixture turned into a children's water play area, though.
Look for pictures at my FTP photo archive site from today as well as more posted Saturday and Sunday night, then a new batch the following weekend. Follow the link into WDW and then NEW to find them.