June 2005
WDW Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the May 31, 2005, Issue #297 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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STEP BACK IN TIME
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Ever wonder what Walt Disney World was like way back when? We went to Lou Mongello, author of the "Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History&Fun Facts Behind the Magic," to help us out for this edition of Step Back in Time. This month, Lou takes us back on a trip through the history of Treasure Island, a.k.a. Discovery Island a.k.a. Riles Island a.k.a. Blackbeard's Island a.k.a ...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... oh, sorry wrong story...

Well, a long time ago, in a swampland in central Florida, there sat, well, swampland. But in the middle of that great, murky muck sat a large island. Legend around these parts states that it was this island that solidified the location for Walt Disney's secret new theme park project.

The story goes that as Walt Disney was flying over the land he was interested in purchasing (reported to be on November 22, 1963, around the time that President John F. Kennedy had been shot), it was the sight of this island in the center of Bay Lake that convinced him this was the ideal place to build.

Currently known as "Discovery Island," it shares that moniker with its "distant cousin" in Disney's Animal Kingdom. However, this Discovery Island is not man-made, and has a long history that predates the arrival of Disney.

From the early 1900s, it was known as Raz Island, named after the family who lived there. In the late 1930s, it was purchased for $800 by a man named Delmar "Radio Nick" Nicholson, who renamed the island "Idle Bay Isle" and lived there for 20 years with his wife and pet crane. It was later purchased, renamed "Riles Island," and used as a hunting retreat long before being bought by Disney (under a fake name, of course) in 1965.

Disney originally planned to add a pirate "theme" to the island and call it "Blackbeard's Island," but that name was discarded, and was eventually changed to "Treasure Island." (However, the Blackbeard Island name was recycled and given to one of the three man-made islands of the Seven Seas Lagoon).

Although the name of this new island attraction was changed to "Treasure Island," the original concept for a pirate-themed adventure would remain, as it would take elements from the 1950 Disney film of the same name. A unique diversion from the theme park attractions, the island was planned to be a retreat for exploration and relaxation, with wrecks of pirate ships, "Ben Gunn's Fort," the "Benbow Inn," and lakes and waterfalls to enjoy.

In 1974, however, plans to add a wide variety of tropical birds to the island emerged, thereby putting the pirate theme on hold. In order to accommodate the more than 600 feathered friends that were going to take up residence here, more than 50,000 cubic yards of soil and 500,000 tons of boulders were brought onto the island, increasing the size of the island to almost 11.5 acres, as well as a variety of flowers and trees from around the world. New, man-made bodies of water were created, and the one time flat, scrub brush filled island was transformed into a tropical paradise...

Want to read more on this little piece of real estate's storied past? You'll find the rest of Lou's article here: http://allears.net/tp/di.htm

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Souven-EARS
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With the kick-off of the 18-month Happiest Celebration on Earth proclaiming the 50th anniversary of Disneyland in California, Souven-EAR Shopper Linda Mac noted a lot of related merchandise popping up around the Walt Disney World shops. Although we usually try to find out-of-the-ordinary items for our Souven-EARS featurette, we thought this month we'd give you a run-down of the typical anniversary memorabilia you'll find to take home to friends and loved ones.

To be sure, there are commemorative mugs ($12.95), pins ($6.50 and up), ornaments ($12 and up), photo frames and albums ($6 to $32), and snowglobes (from miniatures at $12.95, up to full-size musical globes that light up for $95). They all bear variations of the HCOE logo, which prominently features the famous Disneyland castle image and Mickey Mouse with a baton (obviously leading everyone in the Mickey Mouse March!). Apparel galore includes caps and visors (starting at $16) and waist packs ($16). And what would a Disney celebration be without t-shirts of every size and color to mark the occasion? Beyond all the ordinary t-shirts, there are some standout designs, particularly the black-sleeved "Golden Celebration" tee, with a gorgeous, dreamy water color version of the pink and gold Sleeping Beauty castle poster ($25).

In addition to apparel, you'll find inexpensive memorabilia for all kinds of collectors, notably collectible spoons ($9), key rings ($7), and six-character pen sets ($11). The plush-lovers aren't neglected, either, with special, formally dressed editions of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy available in a wide price range. Of course there are the Golden Mouse Ears ($9.95) we mentioned a few weeks ago. And don't miss their antenna ball counterparts -- cute black Mickey antenna toppers ($4) sporting their own set of glittery golden Mouse Ears!

There's an assortment of sports balls, tinged with gold accents -- the blue-and-gold mini soccer ball and football are $9 each. There are even Happiest Celebration golf balls ($3.50)!

If you're looking for something a little more unusual, though, there are a few items we found that fit the bill -- if you don't mind opening your wallet a little wider. One item in particular that caught our eye is the "Golden Edition" playset. This isn't just for the kids, believe us -- complete with sounds and lights, the playset features Disneyland's gilded Sleeping Beauty Castle, and comes with 10 character figures: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, Princess Aurora, Prince Phillip and Maleficent. There are also accessories like a sword and shield, thrones, flags, and banquet table. One other thing the playset comes with -- a hefty price tag. It's $70! There's also a stunning "Golden Edition" Walt Disney Railroad set, which comes with a shiny gilded engine and three cars, along with conductor Mickey and figures of Donald and Goofy for $75.

For nostalgia buffs, there's a special Disneyland Monorail Game ($15) in a box that's designed to look straight out of the '50s.

And finally, our favorite HCOE item so far, the "Then and Now" Barbie doll. Not only does she feature a complete outfit from the original Mickey Mouse Club, she comes with another that dresses her as a more modern Mouseketeer -- she's a bargain at just $28.

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DCL GOES WEST
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ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills is on the Disney Cruise Line's inaugural West Coast Cruise this week, with the Magic stopping at ports of call like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Have you been reading Deb's daily reports? Yesterday, she shared her schedule:

Three shows of Twice Charmed. We plan to go to the 2:30 p.m. show.

Experience the Magic Series
Art of Entertaining
10:15 a.m. - Dazzling Desserts
2 p.m. - Cake and Plate Decorating

Navigator Series
1 p.m. - The Making of Disney Magic
2:45 p.m. - Art of the Theme Show Tour

Behind the Scenes
11 a.m. - Don Ducky Williams, senior character artist for Disney, will be giving a talk.

There is also another Park West Art Auction, the Mickey 200 race, a Beer Tasting, Bingo, a Wine Tasting, Learn Latin Dancing and much more on the schedule...

Tomorrow we get to our first stop at Puerto Vallarta... It's a huge excursion day! Linda and Sharon of my travel party are doing the canopy excursion (zip lines through the rainforest). I am doing the Rainforest by Horseback! Look for reports tomorrow evening... It's been a wonderful cruise and I'm so glad to be here. I keep meeting folks and everyone is great! If you are on board and see me, please say hello!

To follow along with Deb for the rest of the cruise, which concludes this Saturday, June 4, visit: http://www.allears.net/cruise/dcl_west.shtml

Also, make sure you don't miss the wonderful reports submitted by our friends who took the recent 14-day DCL repositioning cruise: http://www.allears.net/cruise/dcl_repo1.shtml

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NEW HCOE DESSERTS
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A few weeks ago, we mentioned that Disneyland's 50th anniversary had inspired special desserts, many of them with the "Happiest Celebration on Earth" logo in an edible form, all around Walt Disney World. Here are just some of the specialties you'll encounter -- have fun discovering even more at many other eateries, both in the parks and at the resort hotels:

Contemporary Resort: California Grill -- The California Grill celebrates Soarin' with Satsuma Tangerine Sorbet, Orange Jelly, Vanilla Cream, and Citrus "Salad"; Food and Fun Center -- Lucky the Dinosaur Cookie Decorating with Lucky cookie, icing, and green sprinkles for decorating

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa: Citricos -- Citricos Cinderellabration (Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Tart with Orange Sauce surrounded by a Chocolate Crown); Grand Floridian Cafe -- Happiest Celebration on Earth Sampler (Chocolate Mousse Cake, Tiramisu, Lemon Cheesecake, Key Lime Tart); Narcoossee's -- Narcoossee's Everest Expedition (Brown Sugar Tart in a Chocolate and Raspberry Sauce with Vanilla Ice Cream); Victoria & Albert's -- Victoria & Albert's Soarin' (Orange Centered Mascarpone in a Chocolate Nest with Grand Marnier)

Yacht & Beach Club Resorts: Cape May Cafe -- For the Kids: Tinker Bell Chocolate Puzzle with Cupcake; Make Your Own Celebration Cake with "Happiest Celebration on Earth" logo; Yacht Club Galley -- Maple-infused Creme Brulee with "Happiest Celebration on Earth" logo dusted in chocolate on the plate

Disney-MGM Studios: The Hollywood Brown Derby -- Orange Chocolate Impression of the Stunt Show Spectacular: Orange-Bavarian Milk Chocolate with Grand Marnier Cake and a Rich Pinot Noir Reduction

Epcot: Fountain View Espresso & Bakery -- Soarin' Orange Creme Brulee

Magic Kingdom:Cinderella's Royal Table -- The Royal Engagement (a chocolate slipper filled with rich chocolate mousse, served on a pillow of angel food cake and a fresh fruit compote); For children: Royal Crown Sundae (two scoops of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with chocolate syrup and Mickey sprinkles and topped with a chocolate crown).

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MONTHLY REMIND-EARS
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Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival is winding down, and concludes on June 5, 2005. The Flower Power concerts remaining are: Felix Cavaliere's Rascals: May 31 - June 1, and Arlo Guthrie: June 2-5. http://www.allears.net/tp/ep/flogar.htm

Star Wars Weekends continue through the weekend of June 10-12. This weekend actor Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok) and Don Bies (Unit Supervisor/R2-D2 Operator, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith) will be on hand for meet-and-greet sessions and Hollywood-style motorcades in the Disney-MGM Studios. For details visit: http://allears.net/tp/mgm/m_starwars.htm

The National Kidney Foundation of Florida will host the Gift of Life 5K Race for Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness at Epcot on Saturday, June 11. Starting outside Epcot at 7 a.m., racers will loop around the park as they discover Future World, run past Spaceship Earth and explore the 11 nations of World Showcase before exiting the park for the finish line. A special Kids' Race starts immediately following the 5K. For more information visit: http://disneyworldsports.com

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Rehabs and Closures:

The south garden wing of the Contemporary Resort began a long rehab, starting on May 30. It will continue until October 31, 2005.

The Magnolia Golf Course is closed now until September 10, 2005. Work on the course will include resurfacing greens, laser-leveling tees, extending tee boxes and building new tee boxes, all in preparation of the FUNAI Classic to be held in October.

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MAGICAL MOMENTS
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Jana in Illinois: My magical moment started with a hot and tired 7-year-old. My husband and my two girls were waiting for me at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as I got a Fastpass for the Jungle Cruise. As they stood there, the Cast Member asked my 7-year-old if she was having fun. Well, I guess the hot weather and crowds had gotten to her and she just kind of shrugged her shoulders. The Cast Member reached into her pocket and pulled out Fastpasses for the Railroad and said, "Here, maybe this will help." We were able to walk right on to the ride! As we came out, I took the girls over to the Cast Member to get a picture and thank her for making us smile, and as she posed for a picture, she gave us four more Fastpasses for Splash Mountain! Wow!

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Justin: I'm 15 and I just got back from a trip to Disney World. I had a really Magical Moment on Saturday, May 7, at Mama Melrose's in the Studios. When I went to trade a pin with the manager, Shawn, I realized that my favorite pin had fallen off of my lanyard. Well, I got to my table and Shawn came up to me and said that he wanted to know what the pin looked like so he could look around outside. He asked me if I bought it or traded it and I said that I traded it. A few minutes later he came back in to my table and gave me a 4-pack of pins and said that he couldn't find the pin I lost so I could have these to trade! I think that that, right there, is the Magic of Disney World.

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Diane Kuppel: My husband and I, along with my daughter and granddaughter, enjoyed a wonderful vacation to Disney. We were enjoying some delicious food at the food court, located in the Pop Century when, as we were eating, an employee came over and asked if my granddaughter (Lily) wanted to be "chef for the day." We were waiting to see what this was about, as Disney NEVER leaves anything out! Out rolled a cart with a Mickey brownie and many toppings. Lily had fun putting the toppings on the brownie, and most of all enjoyed eating her creation. Also, the chef, manager, and other employees came out to watch -- and topped it off by giving her a chef hat, picture and a magic moment certificate. Not only was that day magical, but each minute spent in Disney is magic for us. You never know when you will be surprised with YOUR SPECIAL MAGIC MOMENT!

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Cathy Koncurat: On the Saturday after Thanksgiving 2004, we got to Animal Kingdom right before opening, along with a LOT of other people. To avoid the hordes pouring into the safari, we decided to grab a Fastpass and take the Pangani Forest Trail first. As we were starting down the trail, I said good morning to a Cast Member and asked her what was the best part of the trail. She replied, "The gorillas, but they're sleeping. We need a family to wake them up -- can you help us out?" She took us backwards down the trail to the glassed in gorilla viewing area, gave my 8-year-old her walkie talkie, and instructed her to ask another Cast Member to "release the gorillas." The gorillas were released right in front of us, my daughter was THRILLED, and we got at least 15 minutes of private viewing before any other guests showed up.

Each month in our WDW Bits and Bites issue we share subscribers' Magical Moments stories. Send your story to allearsnet@yahoo.com


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.