January 2006
WDW Bits and Bites

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 3, 2006 Issue #328 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? Each month we visit a time gone by in Walt Disney World history. We travel now to the beginnings of Epcot with author Lou Mongello, who talks about three World Showcase pavilions that never came to be:

Walt Disney World is, as we all know, in a constant state of change, growth and expansion. One of the places that was designed with that type of expansion in mind was Epcot's (or should I say, "EPCOT Center's") World Showcase.

While some countries may have shown interest in World Showcase, others actually were planned to be a part of this new endeavor, one which was distinctly not another "World's Fair." According to a 1976 "Walt Disney World Showcase News" release, unlike a traditional World's Fair, which by treaty must close after six months, World Showcase was (and continues to be) an opportunity for the tens of millions of visitors to the Walt Disney World Resort to visit a variety of countries in just one afternoon.

There were three notable locations that took steps toward becoming part of World Showcase. These were Israel, Spain, and Africa. In fact, these not only had plans on the drawing board, but "Coming Soon" signs on the World Showcase promenade.

That's right -- Israel was set to take its place on the World Showcase lagoon, complete with a menorah in the courtyard, and an outdoor fine dining restaurant surrounded by cypress and olive trees. Although this pavilion obviously was never built, for a variety of reasons, Israel was well represented in the 1999 Millennium Village, with more than $1.8 million contributed by the foreign ministry of Israel in an effort to encourage tourism.

In 1986, a sign was erected near the Germany pavilion with the promise of an upcoming Spain pavilion, including a film and attraction. Once again Nada. Zip. Zilch. Hasta la vista, baby.

Finally, there was to be the much-heralded Africa pavilion, which was to be located between Germany and China. But unlike Spain and Israel, Africa looked like a done deal. When Epcot opened in October 1982, entertainment legend Danny Kaye hosted a CBS television special celebrating the new park, and promising a reunion with his co-host (and of course, you the viewer) at the pavilion in about one year. During the show, he and Roots author Alex Haley teased viewers with a scale model of an Africa pavilion planned for World Showcase. In fact, they stood right in front of the pavilion's proposed location.

Read the rest of Lou's article here: http://allears.net/tp/ep/ep_africa.htm

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Lou Mongello is the author of the Walt Disney World Trivia Book and owner of DisneyWorldTrivia.com. You can purchase Lou's book through our Allears.net bookstore: http://allears.net/books.htm

Meet the Author - Lou Mongello: http://allears.net/ae/issue322.htm

Read Lou's other Bits and Bites articles:

The Summer of 1986: http://allears.net/tp/stepback1.htm
Treasure Island aka Discovery Island: http://allears.net/tp/di.htm
Epcot's Person of the Century: http://allears.net/tp/ep/century.htm
Test Track Coming... not so soon: http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_tt2.htm
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: http://allears.net/tp/mk/toad.htm
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: http://allears.net/tp/mk/20000.htm

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HIDDEN MICKEYS ALERT
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Steve Barrett, author of "Hidden Mickeys: a Field Guide to Disney's Best-Kept Secrets," and webmaster of www.hiddenmickeysguide.com suggests looking for these two fun Hidden Mickeys when at Walt Disney World:

1) I'd been searching for this Hidden Mickey for years. Other folks had spotted it, but directions to it were hard to come by. Recently, an anonymous benefactor slipped me precise directions. So one morning, a group of us hiked off through the Animal Kingdom (excuse me, Disney's Animal Kingdom) to corral this elusive Hidden Mickey. Following the written directions, we walked along the Maharajah Jungle Trek until we passed the tigers and made a left turn to the Elds Deer exhibit. We looked to the left, back toward the tiger area, to a huge mural painted on a wall that separates the tigers from the deer. Parts of the mural have crumbled away, forming vertical cracks that expose red bricks. Mickey was said to be hiding in the right center of the mural, below the third (from the left) of four brick cracks and about three feet to the left of the middle bird of some birds in flight. We looked for some orange flowers in green leaves. Five minutes into the search, a bright-eyed member of our group, Sheri Ondercik, shouted, "I see him!" She had to point and describe his location until we all had finally spotted Mickey with his right hand up and waving at us! It's as if he was acknowledging us for a job well done! http://allears.net/btp/hm100.jpg

2) A new Hidden Mickey is in the right section of the background of the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Disney-MGM Studios. A full-body drawing of an early rendition of Mickey Mouse is near a chair in the lower right side of a window, which is under an "Antiquites" sign and near a large "Cafe" sign. ("Antiquites" is also printed in the window). Thanks to Lou Mongello (that's right, Lou -- the WDW trivia expert) for finding this unique Hidden Mickey. http://allears.net/btp/hm101.jpg

Meet the Author -- Steve Barrett:
http://allears.net/ae/issue214.htm
http://allears.net/ae/issue217.htm

Purchase Steve's book in the Allears.net bookstore: http://allears.net/books.htm

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JANUARY CHANGES
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January often brings change to Walt Disney World. Here are a few of the Grand Openings and not-so-grand closings from past Januarys:

January 16, 1970 - The Preview Center officially opens to the public in Lake Buena Vista.

January 15, 1975 - Space Mountain and Carousel of Progress open as Tomorrowland attractions in the Magic Kingdom.

January 1978 - Mickey's 50th Birthday Parade debuts in the Magic Kingdom.

January 1979 - Dumbo's New Circus Parade debuts in the Magic Kingdom.

January 1985 - Mickey's Street Party Parade debuts in the Magic Kingdom.

January 15, 1986 - The Living Seas Pavilion opens in Future World at Epcot.

January 30, 1988 - "IllumiNations" officially debuts at Epcot.

January 1989 - The Magic Kingdom's "If You Could Fly" attraction closes (later reopens as DreamFlight).

January 7, 1992 - Voyage of the Little Mermaid opens in the Disney-MGM Studios.

January 1994 - The Walt Disney World Marathon debuts.

January 30, 1995 - "Circle of Life" film officially opens in the Land Pavilion in Future World at Epcot.

January 2, 1996 - World of Motion in Epcot closes to be replaced, eventually, by Test Track presented by General Motors Corporation.

January 1996 - The first Indy 200 car race sets pace at Walt Disney World.

January 10, 1999 - Horizons Pavilion in Future World at Epcot officially closes to be replaced by Mission: Space in 2003.

January 15, 1999 - Disney's All-Star Movies Resort opens with 768 rooms.

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WDW MARATHON
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The 2006 Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Marathon will be run this weekend, on January 7 and 8, respectively. Among those participating in the half-marathon are Allears.net Team Members Cathy Bock and Amy Warren Stoll, MousePlanet's Mike Scopa, our friends Pam Texeira, Patt Sheahan, and a huge group from Tagrel.com, along with many other Disney fans! Allears.net's Disneyland Correspondent, Laura Gilbreath, who ran in the half-marathon last year, is running the full marathon this year, along with her husband Lee Zimmerman. We hope they keep their eyes peeled for celebrity marathoner Kyle Petty, a 26-year NASCAR veteran and son of racing legend Richard Petty.

We wish everyone great weather and success in their efforts!

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GOOD *AND* BAD?
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We often wonder as we read through the dining reviews our readers submit -- how can some places receive such conflicting reports? One of the dining experiences we seem to get the most mixed reviews on is the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall - Princess Storybook Character Dining in Epcot's Norway. Here is a sampling of some very different reviews that we recently received:

Bonnie Varcoe: We had a Princess lunch at the Norway pavilion. While the princesses where plentiful (Ariel, Belle, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and even Cinderella) the time spent with our children was minimal. Ariel was "in waiting" so as you entered the castle you got a picture with Ariel in her dress (no fins, in case you wondered), and then while you were eating, they came around to sell picture packages. The princesses barely had time to say hello. I had 5- and 8-year-old girls, and a 2-year-old boy. My 5-year-old was shy and wouldn't get her picture taken (normally she doesn't have a problem). Not one of the princesses tried to coax her or even lean in so I could "steal" a picture. None of them offered to take a picture with our son. The whole thing seemed very rushed and they barely spoke to my children except to say hello and take a picture. This is the fourth character meal we've had in recent years; all others were with Mickey or Pooh and friends. I thought that the face characters would interact more, but we had much better luck with other character meals on previous occasions, notably Crystal Palace. The food was just OK at best. The kids thought the pasta looked weird and two of them didn't eat. Certainly for what we spent I was very disappointed. I would possibly try the breakfast, as breakfast food is "safer." On the plus side, if your kids are not shy you can get some adorable pictures of all the princesses in one place; just don't expect much interaction.

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Pam Falkner: We just returned from an early December trip. This was our third trip in two years. We wanted to try a different Princess dining experience. We decided to do Akershus in Norway for lunch. The atmosphere was wonderful. When we came through the door, the Little Mermaid was waiting to be greeted. We took pictures with her and then were escorted to our table. During the time we were there, Cindy, Jasmine, Belle and Sleeping Beauty came around for pictures and autographs. The food at Akershus was delicious. They have a cold buffet with some "normal" things and some Norwegian food. Everything I tasted (which was a lot) was delicious. All of my three children ate from the cold buffet, also. The meal that we each picked from the menu was very tasty. My 5-year-old son finished his entire meal, which is a huge compliment in its own right! Did I mention that we had the BEST server for this meal? She was by far the nicest we have had ever! If you are willing to try different foods and you want to see most of the princesses, then I highly recommend this restaurant!

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Jack: Avoid the Akershus Princess Breakfast. Recently only three of the five princesses appeared and left the building abruptly thereafter. The server brought drinks, fruit, cinnamon buns (put in front of children BEFORE the other items), and later a frying pan with scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes and bacon. That was all that was offered at a price of over $20 per person. The server did not explain anything. There were no pancakes, rolls, french toast, waffles or crepes. There were also no egg options or omelets. For the price charged there should be numerous options! The server had to be queried as to whether pancakes were available. When asked she said, "For how many?" When we said, "Five," she brought five silver dollar (small) pancakes. In summary, the waitstaff was ignorant, the menu limited, and the princesses in short supply.

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Anne: This review may be heartening to those adults who've gone to Restaurant Akershus in the past specifically because they like the food: Akershus has reinstated the koldbordt after many guests begged for it to return! When I heard that Akershus had become a character dining experience and that the cold appetizer buffet had been reduced to a limited plateful of appetizers, I was terribly disappointed. But we decided to give it a try anyway, and were so happy to find the koldbordt was back. Because it's a character dining experience now, reservations have become hard to get. We were a party of two adults and are used to being able to make a reservation at Akershus a day or two before without any trouble, but we were lucky to get a slot five days in advance at an "off" time (2:55 p.m. for lunch). The food experience is almost exactly as it was a year ago, with nearly everything back on the koldbordt -- the various herrings, the ham-and-egg salad, shrimp salad, etc. I missed the cold meat salad, but was otherwise too happy to be all that disappointed over that one dish. The hot entrees listed on the menu and brought to the table looked to be the same -- plus dessert's included now. Being Disney-minded adults without kids, we don't put a priority on character dining, but we did find it enchanting all the same. Our experience began with us waiting in line to meet Belle (and the Cast Members took our picture with her with their own camera -- if you want this particular picture you will have to purchase it extra, but of course you can take all the pictures you want with your own cameras), and during the meal, Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella and Jasmine mingled throughout the room and visited every table (even ours, where there were no children!). The children in the restaurant loved it, of course, but we loved it, too -- we thought it added to the dining experience. So for us the change to a character dining experience is fine -- the food has not changed for the adults who liked it that way, and though one has to make reservations well in advance now, we can work with that, and can remind ourselves we get the magic of the princess experience to make up for it.

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What do you think? Do you have a review you'd like to share? Previously, we've posted our Reader Dining Reviews here: http://www.allears.net/din/reviews.htm

Soon, though, we'll be unveiling a new feature on Allears.net that will enhance the way you can share your dining experiences with others. Look for more information on this new feature next week.

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BOOKISH THOUGHTS
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ALL EARS(R) friend Jack Spence recently read the book "The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World," written by the Disney Imagineers. Since we often get requests for our opinions on such publications, we thought we'd share a few of his comments the new book which, according to the cover, contains "facts, figures, photos, stories, concept art, and more":

If you're a total Disneyphile and must own everything published about the company, then I suppose that $9.95 is worth the price to add one more book to your collection. However, I personally wish I had put the money toward a Colony Salad at the Liberty Tree Tavern it would have been money better spent.

The book is written for the general masses, not for anyone who is seriously interested in the fine details of the Disney parks. I knew 98 percent of the information presented in this book. Birnbaum's yearly guide provides more trivia than this book did. This book is also physically small. It measures 71/2" x 4". So when the book cover says it contains photos and concept art, you better get out your magnifying glass if you want to see it...

I love the idea of this book: Have the Imagineers present the details that make a Disney park great. And if you are a newbie to the Disney hobby, I suppose it accomplishes this task. But for me, most of the information presented was just a rehash of the same old material that has been circulating for years. There were some interesting facts presented, but not nearly enough. If you're a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World, I think you're going to be disappointed in this book. I know I was.

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MONTHLY REMIND-EARS
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The biggest news this month is the special preview of Animal Kingdom's Expedition EVEREST: The Legend of the Forbidden Mountain for Disney Vacation Club Members and Annual Passholders January 26-29, 2006. The new thrill attraction, opening officially in April, sends riders on a high-speed train adventure into the Himalayas for a face-to-muzzle encounter with the legendary Yeti. Each DVC Member who presents his/her Disney Vacation Club Member ID during the sneak preview may bring along as many as three other guests, but only current Annual Passholders are eligible -- no guests for Annual Passholders. As an added bonus, DVC Members and guests, and Annual Passholders, will each receive a complimentary Expedition Everest lanyard and pin (limit one set per person during the four-day event). Disney's FASTPASS will be be available during the preview.

ALL EARS(R) Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills plans to be there on the 26th! She'll have Allears.net goodies to give out (while supplies last). http://allears.net/tp/ak/ak_ee.htm

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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Live Taping: Meredith Vieira, host of the syndicated TV show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," will be taping episodes at the Disney-MGM Studios' version of the show January 12, 13 and 15. You can request tickets for the tapings at www.millionairetv.com. Tickets include complimentary parking plus entry to Disney-MGM Studios. Everyone in your party must have a ticket to attend a taping.

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Rehabs and Closings:

If you haven't seen the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights yet, you still have time -- until January 8. Head over to the Disney-MGM Studios for a walk along this spectacular light display.

January is a typical time for rehabs and refurbishments -- this January is no exception:

'50s Prime Time Cafe at the Disney-MGM Studios will be closed January 9 - 27, 2006.

Test Track will be closed for refurbishment from January 9 through February 14, 2006. http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_tt.htm

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin will be closed January 4 through February 8, 2006. http://allears.net/tp/mk/mk_buzz.htm

Country Bear Jamboree will be closed to remove the holiday show from January 3 - 7, 2006. http://allears.net/tp/mk/mk_bears.htm

Liberty Square Riverboat will not be sailing until April 2006 due to an extensive rehab. http://allears.net/tp/mk/rboat.htm

Splash Mountain will be closed for refurbishment January 23 - 27, reopening January 28, 2006. http://allears.net/tp/mk/mk_splash.htm

Typhoon Lagoon closed for annual rehab December 25, 2005, and will reopen February 25, 2006. http://allears.net/btp/faq_tl.htm

The Fantasia Pool (main pool) at All-Star Movies will be closed for a monthlong rehab beginning January 3, 2006. Shuttle service will be available to the All-Star Sports and All-Star Music resorts for use of those pools. Shuttle will run 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Work continues at the Contemporary on both the South Garden Wing and the Towers.

The longhouses at the Polynesian are undergoing a slow but extensive rehab also.

Roaring Forks Snack Bar will close for rehab on January 9. It will reopen late March 2006.

To see our entire Calendar of Events, visit http://allears.net/pl/events.htm

Bookmark our frequently updated list of WDW Rehabs at http://allears.net/tp/rehabs.htm

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MAGICAL MOMENTS
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jacksonpru: We recently returned from a trip to Disney World with some close family friends. One of the magical moments we experienced happened as soon as we walked through the turnstiles at the Magic Kingdom! A Cast Member stopped our two oldest children (5 and 4) and asked them if they would like to trade pins. (As one-income families we had not mentioned pin trading to the children. We were saving all available money for the tickets and food!) Our children looked a little confused, then sadly said they didn't have any pins to trade. This wonderful Cast Member then got down on one knee and asked our children to select any pin they wanted "to start their collection." My son chose a Buzz Lightyear pin, and our friend's daughter chose Belle. The Cast Member then removed the pins from his shirt while explaining the process of trading with other Cast Members. The kids were stunned and so excited as they asked, "You mean we can keep these?""Absolutely," he said, "Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!"

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Marty Jeffries: Every member of our family is a veteran cell phone user. On the way to WDW just before Christmas one year we surprised our teenage daughters with cell phone covers of their favorite Disney characters, Minnie Mouse and Goofy. On our first morning (at the Disney-MGM Studios) we decided to attend the character breakfast at Hollywood & Vine. Goofy spotted my youngest daughter's phone on the table and became very excited. He motioned for her to hand it to him and made a fuss over it in his best Goofy way. My other daughter showed him her Minnie phone and that did it. He had them go across the restaurant with him to show Minnie her phone. Then both characters hugged and danced with their "fans" and took them around to more than a few tables to show the other diners the phones. They spent about 10 minutes making our daughters feel like the most special guests at the park!

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Character meals are no longer offered at Hollywood & Vine.)

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Michele Cardona: Last year, while on vacation at Disney World, we were lucky enough to have secured the great dining plan for free! It was an amazing offer and we really enjoyed our meals and snacks, sometimes unable to eat all the food we were offered. On our last day, as we prepared for check-out, we dropped by the Mara at our hotel, Animal Kingdom Lodge, to grab a quick bite. Our cashier informed us that we still had some more food vouchers left on our plan. Knowing full well we'd never use them, we returned to our table and waited. When we saw a woman loaded down with two trays filled with food approach the counter, we sprang into action. As the cashier gave her the total due, we jumped right in on their conversation. "This is your lucky day!" We told the lady that her meal was on us and Mickey, and gave our dining plan card as payment. The cashier smiled broadly, and the woman stood there dumbfounded. A tourist from England, she had no knowledge of the dining plan so she just stared at us with her mouth open. We explained that she was having lunch on us today, and to enjoy! The look on her face was priceless, and we were also stunned when an elderly woman on a cane approached us shortly thereafter at our table -- it was her mother who was coming to give us her thanks for the lunch gift as well! They were so grateful to us, and we were beaming with happiness. I explained to my kids that sometimes giving makes you just as happy as receiving. Maybe it was Pixie Dust or Magic, but it was a great feeling!

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Amy Fitch, Virginia: The last time my family (my daughter age 3, my mom, my sister, and I) visited WDW was in the summer of 2000. I was pregnant with my son at that time. We (the four above and my son) returned December 16-22, 2005, so that my son could experience the "magic" of WDW. Each child was allowed to select a character meal. After looking at the pictures from our last visit, my son was sure that "breakfast with Pooh" was the meal of choice. While having our breakfast, my son asked, "Mommy, is this a dream?" What a fabulous magical moment that was. It truly was a "dream" being able to return to WDW.

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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.