Monday, December 31, 2007

Postcards from Mexico

Tucked inside of the Mexico Pavilion marketplace, to the left as you enter, is a ubiquitous Kidcot Fun Stop and an e-mail kiosk. Many of us are familiar with the stations located in the Journey Into Imagination Pavilion in Future World but this kiosk takes your picture and then allows you to insert it into a video postcard which you can send to friends and family.

Located next to the kiosk is a beautiful collection of photographs and maps of Mexico. On my most recent visit I stopped and lingered here to look at the items; take a look for yourself. These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mexican Pavilion Art

One of the many draws of the pavilions in World Showcase for the frequent visitor are the ever changing art exhibits, in particular the China and Mexico pavilions. Each pavilion provides the Epcot visitor with a chance to view items that truly embody the varied landscape and culture of the host country. The 'Animales Fantasticos: Spirits in Wood', currently on display in the Mexico pavilion, is an excellent example. All items in this exhibit are of hand carved animals and persons crafted from artisans from Oaxaca, Mexico, and persons are on hand inside the pavilion creating items for sale. While not as thorough as a typical museum , these exhibits provide visitors a chance to learn something new and take home a greater appreciation for the art and culture of a land less familiar than their own. These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Into the Sunset (A Cowboy Ending)

Much like the signs that say goodbye in other Disney theme park attractions (think Small World) the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros takes a moment to say so long! The larger stars on the map refer to places visited during your boat trip to Mexico. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Three Cowboys

Released in 1994 as Walt Disney's 7th animated film, The Three Caballeros is a Donald Duck lover's dream. Continuing Walt's penchant for animation combined with live action, the film's plot centers on Donald receiving two birthday gifts which turn out to be tours of Brazil and Mexico. Donald is treated to these visits by a green parrot, José Carioca, and a rooster, Panchito and treats the viewer to beautiful scenes of the two countries.

The newly renovated boat ride within Epcot's Mexico pavilion, formerly called El Rio del Tiempo and now The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros, features the three feathered friends and melds the older ride with this older Disney release. In an era where the Imagineers have been quick (and rightly so) to tie-in Pixar releases with theme park attractions it's nice too see something from the archives make an appearance. For those interested, the ride mechanism is largely the same; the scenes have been updated but the ride itself remains fairly true to the original. Think of it as Mary Blair meets 'The Three Caballeros' - if you've ridden the previous incarnation of the attraction you get my drift. These photographs are of items in the ride queue and were taken by the author in November 2007.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Music everywhere

Other than my preoccupation with Disney Theme Park photographs I'm a rather normal kind of guy. Well, except for my other rabid preoccupation which is collecting Disney Theme Park music. What kind of music, you ask? Well, mostly what's known as background or area music loops.

One of the most important features of any Disney park is the constant stream of music you hear as you make your way through the park. For example, as you enter any of the parks, you're immersed in both a visual and aural experience from the outset. Just think of what you see and hear upon entering the Magic Kingdom or Epcot; the story is not complete without the music. Alright you say, I can appreciate that. Now take that entrance music and multiply it by each land and then each attraction and then each park. While many similar lands, such as Main Street USA, share music between the parks, not all do and the theme and variation concept is lovely.

Today's picture is of a speaker located in a flower bed in Epcot's Future World East. Speaker placement is critical in many areas as no one wants to detract from your visual experience so whenever possible they're imagineered to blend in with their surroundings. Take a careful look during your next visit - you'll be amazed where you'll find them! This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holiday

Merry Christmas and best wishes for a safe and Happy New Year from all of us at Photos from the Parks.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Enchanted Tiki Room Lanai Garden

Today's post concludes our visit to the Lanai Garden outside of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. I hope you enjoyed the tour and my thoughts regarding Rolly Crump's juxtaposition of whimsy and accepted myth. This is the last of the signs in the garden; the only other deity no longer in the garden is Uti who has been missing since 2000. This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tangaroa

Tangaroa, as shown in the lanai garden, is the father of all gods and goddesses. In Maori myth stories Tangaroa is the the guardian of the ocean and offers protection to all living things within the water and was the son of the sky father and earth mother. In Samoan myth, Tangaroa was the first of the uncreated gods who existed in human form and was the creator of the islands and humankind. In Mangaian myth, he was the younger, twin brother of Rongo and instructed his brother in the arts of agriculture. In Tongan myth elements Tangaroa was the great diety in the sky and was considered, along with Rongo, to be too sacred to have a physical form. In Tahitian stories, Tangaroa dwelt in the enormity of space and was the demi-urge, or, the father of gods and men. In Hawaiian and Marquesan myth, Tangaroa represents the evil side of all things, a marked change from the other island cultures.

In some cases, Tangaroa is synonymous with the diety Tane; it is Tane who is commonly related to the protector of the forest and trees; perhaps it is this association Rolly used for the Tangaroa we know and love in The Enchanted Tiki Room lanai garden at Disneyland. Tangaroa's sign reads, "Tangaroa took the form of a tree (a tree that no one ever did see); and so each spring the legends say new life comes forth in wondrous way." As the script says, "From his limbs new life falls; it marks the end of the lanai garden show and it's always fun to watch unsuspecting visitors sit underneath Tangaroa's limbs only to find something in their hair. These photographs were taken by the author in July, 2007.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Maui

Our good friend, Maui, is the most common of all the Polynesian deities. In various New Zealand myths Maui: stole fire for humans; sought immortality for humans; fished all the life out of the sea; slowed down the sun. Rolly and company chose the story of capturing time for the lanai garden and you can see the sun within Maui's grasp, just above his head.

Maui's first exploit as a young demi-god was to figure out how to slow down the sun as it moved through the daytime sky. Maui and his brother built a trap out of ropes and as the sun rose it became ensnared in Maui's trap. After some physical manipulation (read a good old-fashioned beating) Maui convinced the sun to move slower so humans could complete their daily chores in the daylight.

In our garden Maui sports a clock on his face which is keeps time in partner with the water fountain also located in his body. Because he's so punctual, he's the official timekeeper of the Enchanted Tiki Room. His sign says, "Through his special mystic powers he made the sun keep regular hours. Maui tells us time to go - time for wondrous Tiki show." This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Koro

Koro, the midnight dancer, has quite a complicated story to tell. Mangaia myth (Mangaia is the southernmost of the islands in the Cook Islands chain) holds that Koro was born to Hina, who we've already met, and Tinirau, the god of fishes. Late one night, under the light of the moon, Koro hid on the beach and watched his father communicate to the fish in the sea through a special dance. After watching many times, Koro learned the words and movement to the dance and gave it to humans as a gift. This dance, the Tautiti, is noticeable for its form, where the hands and feet move together in unison. And that's how Koro received his associated name of 'midnight dancer.'

Koro's sign reads, "In the moonlight he loved to dance, natives who watched fell into a trance. Then under his spell all ladies and men learned to dance to the tropic top ten." (I love the alliteration!)

Over time and space it is generally accepted that Koro became Oro, the Tahitian god of war. However, many anthropologists contend it is our friend Rongo who transmogrifies into this greater deity. And to think you knew him when he was just a little guy in the lanai garden! This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ngendei

In appearance, perhaps the most playful tiki god of them all in the lanai garden is Ngendei, the earth balancer. Given the geological and seismic activity common to a large portion of Polynesia it shouldn't be surprising to discover that a god of earthquakes exists.

For this tiki, Rolly Crump looked to Fiji for inspiration. Fijian mythology holds Ngendei to be the supporter of the world; when he moves, earthquakes happen. In this culture, Ngendei is also a protogod, much like Tangaroa is to Polynesian cultures. He is sometimes depicted as half-snake and half-rock; let's just say Rolly made him 100% fun with his upside-down antics in our relatively earthquake free garden.

Of particular interest to this author is the fact another Ngendei exists; this one is roughly 3,000 miles away at my favorite WDW resort, the Polynesian. (See picture evidence here courtesy of Steve Burns and his site.)

Our Ngendei's sign reads, "A legend comes from the tropic sea, it may be true-or-fan-ta-sy. 'Tis said when Pele shakes the lands Ngendei rocks and rolls upon his hands." This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rongo

Now this guy's got it good. Because the fertile land is so good to Rongo, he's assured of a great harvest each year. So, what does the tiki god of agriculture do with the rest of his time? He flies kites! Imagine that. Perhaps Rongo should spend some time with his wardrobe consultant because the Chiquita Banana look is sure to give him a headache. Careful observers will note the contents in Rongo's fruit basket change from time to time. Does anyone know how often the contents are switched?

Rongo, the god of agriculture, is a recurring divinity in many Polynesian cultures. While many of the names used by Rolly Crump in the lanai garden occur in multiple myth stories, it's rare that the name remains a constant; Rongo is one such god and his name is always associated with agriculture. Interesting to many is the connection between Rongo and kite flying. The Maori culture embraces Rongo as a patron of the arts, especially kite making, which was a sacred event to the Maori, as it connected heaven and earth.

Rongo's sign reads, "In tropic lands the legends tell astounding pioneers did dwell. This wise fella began all flight for Rongo flew the world's first kite!" This picture was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wind and Rain (Tangaroa-Ru and Hina Kuluua)

The dynamic duo of the east wind and rain in Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room Lanai Garden consist of the tiki goddesses Tangaroa-Ru and Hina Kuluua. These two travel together quite a bit, wind and rain, and are located side by side in the garden. Rolly Crump was careful in associating mythical gods and goddesses to the figures he created for the garden area and with little authoritative listings we must assume Rolly did a bang-up job in getting them right. Nonetheless, it's hard to determine what the source was for Rolly's names.

Noticeable in Tangaroa-Ru's design is the hand-in-hand symbolism of wind and birds and while Hina wears a rain hat, I'm not exactly sure what's on top of that. Tangaroa-Ru's inscription reads, "Her gentle breeze on a tropic isle makes flowers sing and tikis smile. And casts a spell on flying birds whose joyous songs speak wisdom words." Hina Kuluua's reads, "In island world there is no gloom for Hina's mists make orchids bloom. And when this goddess is at play a magic rainbow ends each day."

Familiar to those who are fans of the music played in the lanai garden are the words spoken by Hina Kuluua, "Come closer so that you may see, what magic there is in fantasy." The voices of Tangaroa-Ru and Hina Kuluua are attributed to, respectively, Ginny Tyler and Ann Bazam. (I cannot confirm if Ann's name is correct. Can anyone assist?) Ginny is most noticeably famous for her storybook recordings for Walt Disney Records, for being a hostess Mouseketeer at Disneyland, and her body of voice work in animation. (I do love her ensemble work in Mary Poppins - listen to the animated barn scene when Mary, Bert, and the children jump through the chalk painting.)

Oh, can anyone guess who wrote the rhymes and supplied the scripts for the tikis? None other than Marty Sklar. These photographs were taken by the author in July, 2007.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pele

Living on the east coast has some advantages; the fact you're roughly 3,000 miles from Disneyland is not one of them. As an ardent collector of Disney Theme Park music I was always confused by the many recordings I picked up of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. After all, the WDW version had no pre-show garden full of tiki gods and goddesses. And so, it was with glee I witnessed the tikis in their 50th anniversary splendor this past summer. Pictured at right is Pele, goddess of fire and volcanoes.

As with most of the attraction stories at DL this one is steeped in ancient myth. The story goes, roughly, like this. Pele, banished from Tahiti by her father due to her hot temper, settles in Hawaii where she creates volcanoes. It is here where she and her sister, Na-mako-o-Kaha'i, the goddess of the sea, after many cycles of fire and water, have a tremendous battle. As a result, Pele's soul was split from her body and took residence in the Kilauea volcano, one of the most active in the world.

The garden inscription reads, "Jealous Pele's angry scorn is known to every native born. With mighty blast or simple cough she blows her bloomin top right off!" Designed by Rolly Crump, this garden amuses guests to this day. This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

For Heather

I'd like to write a post specifically for Heather today before we continue our Disneyland tiki tour. Heather, our thoughts and prayers are with you this holiday season and we sure hope you get to feeling better soon. As Heather knows, Walt was keen on looking ahead for inspiration. In keeping with that general idea today's photo embodies the concept of looking forward and remembering a great, big, beautiful tomorrow is always just around the corner. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Alice's Church

Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland', of course, was the source for Disney's Alice in Wonderland. But what, pray tell, is the source for the Alice portion of Disneyland's Storybook Land Canal Boats? Lewis Carroll was the pen name for Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson; 'Lewis Carroll' was a pseudonym created by anglicizing the Latin forms of his mother's last name, Lutwidge, and his given name, Charles. (Trust me, it's better than many of the other pen names he submitted to one of his early editors.) Carroll, a brilliant mathematician and amateur photographer, was the son of an Anglican Clergyman and was born in the parsonage of Daresbury in Warrington, Cheshire. (He attended Christ Church at Oxford for University and after receiving his master's degree was required to enter studies for a divinity degree, hence the Rev. honorific.)

Much can be said about Lewis Carroll; there are many resources dedicated to him but I'm merely interested in the Church depicted at left. As you make your way through Storybook Land it's said you can hear the voice of Alice, Kathryn Beaumont, coming from the Church. Alas, I did not hear it during my trip this past summer. Also, does anyone know what the model is for this particular church or did the Imagineers merely create one to suit their concepts of what it should look like?

The photograph below shows the three major elements of this section of the ride: the Church, Alice's cottage, and the rabbit hole. These photographs were taken by the author in July, 2007.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Then and Now

In my opinion, one of the more interesting stories in Epcot's Future World East is the Wonders of Life Pavilion. This pavilion opened in 1989, a full seven years after the opening of the park under the sponsorship of MetLife. Many of the books written on Epcot indicate the designers always wanted a pavilion dedicated to health and life. However, the plans didn't leave the drawing board due to lack of a strong e-ticket attraction. When the ride simulator technology for Body Wars finally became feasible, plans were put into motion and the pavilion started a run of almost 20 years. Unfortunately, sponsorship pull out, rather bland story telling outside of the E-Tickets, and an odd location within the park eventually undermined the pavilion and its fantastic music loop. Now it's pretty much relegated to peak season openings only and, most recently, served as a meeting place for the 2007 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

While there's much to say about what happened here it's better left to your comments. These photographs were taken in November, 2007.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Castillo del Moro (Wait, Where's the Bird?)

Pirates of the Caribbean has undergone two significant updates since it opened in Walt Disney World in 1973. Anchoring the far end of Adventureland, Pirates is not only a guest favorite but, as evidenced by Mr. Depp's addition into the ride, a huge financial success for the company as well in film form. (Don't you think The Haunted Mansion and Country Bears deserved better when they entered this medium?) In 1999, the FL attraction replaced the skirt chasing pirates and caused quite a bit of controversy with purists; the 2006 refurbishment, however, seems to have garnered tremendous praise from traditionalists and advocates. All in all, the ride still remains fantastic and the new effects do enhance the experience.

Outside of the ride, however, is a completely different story. The film elements, while welcome by your author inside, have encroached on some expensive real estate on the outside. The image at the top of this post, highlights, for me, one of the more significant changes. The addition of the Castillo del Moro sign and the 'Yo Ho, Yo Ho' message meant the beloved barker bird was unceremoniously evicted. (Seriously, one would think the audioanamatronic birds would've secured legal representation by now.) The space outside of the attraction, in between the restaurant bordering Frontierland and the plaza leading to the Crow's Nest, was once nice and clean in its design; it did a wonderful job of swallowing up hordes of people moving in and out of the attraction building. The same space now is tight and visually cluttered and seems to have lost its anchor position at the far end of Adventureland. I'll not say anything at this time regarding the new signage outside of the attraction by the clock tower except this - why? These photographs were taken by the author in December 2005 and November 2007. (P.S. With an eye towards detail, one can see a bird left its mark on the Castillo del Moro sign at top; click on the image for a larger view. Is the work of a real bird or an Imagineer who harbors similar thoughts as I?)

River Belle Terrace

The River Belle Terrace Restaurant, located in Disneyland's Frontierland, is a 1955 original. This photograph shows the less familiar rear of the building, which is across the way from The Jungle Cruise, as seen from the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (okay, Tarzan's Treehouse, if you insist). This restaurant is just finishing a major rehab and is scheduled to re-open any day. The guide books tell me this was a favorite Sunday spot for Walt as he loved camp breakfasts here. I hope the new restaurant is able to both satisfy the purists and also provide full-service diners with a quality cook-to-order location, as they are few and far in between. This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Monday, December 10, 2007

At the corner of Royal and Orleans

New Orleans Square, located in Disneyland, is a feast for the senses. The rich architectural style is a tremendous sight as are the many details that set this stage apart from other lands within the Magic Kingdom. When I visited this past summer I found my feet leading me back again and again, mostly just to look. This particular view, at the intersection of Royal and Orleans, is emblematic of the romance element FoxxFur discussed last week. (Link here.) It's not enough to state New Orleans Square is unique; it's the only one of its kind at any of the Disney theme parks worldwide and is far more realistic than any other land, Main St. USA included.

What's so very difficult to make evident in photographs is the physical presence of the facades, the way light and shadow play on the buildings, and the overall 'believability' factor New Orleans Square extends to its guests. This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Really Wide Lens

Today's image is a panoramic shot standing in the France Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My signature

We all have our crutches and calling cards; this one is mine. This particular image is reposted every year or so and I ran across it earlier today while cleaning up my files. This photograph was taken by the author in November, 1999.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tee Time

I couldn't resist.

Fantasia Gardens, one of two miniature golf courses located on property at Walt Disney World, offers guests an opportunity to play 36 holes of mini-golf on two separate 18 hole courses. Fantasia Gardens is located in the Epcot resort area and is also accessible via the walkway to and from Disney-MGM Studios. (The other miniature golf course is named Winter Summerland Miniature Golf and is located at Blizzard Beach.)

The easier of the two courses, named the Gardens Course, takes its cues from the film; golfers find themselves putting in some of the film's more memorable scenes ranging from the 'Nutcracker Suite' to 'Toccata and Fugue'. On the other hand, Fantasia Fairways is designed for those who consider themselves more serious min-golfers and offers quite a few diabolical challenges. The Starter Shack is the pro-shop for this golf course and a special thanks goes out to the CMs who assisted my little boy back in the summer of 2005.

This photograph was taken by the author in June, 2005.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tea Time

The recently concluded 2007 edition of Epcot's very popular Food and Wine Festival provided guests with the unique ability to sample iced teas at the Twining Tea Bar, located in the Tea Caddy in the United Kingdom pavilion. While Twinings have had a presence here since Epcot opened and our family always purchases a tin of loose leaf tea to take home. (My favourite, you ask? Prince of Wales.)

The particular layout of the pavilion is unique in that a good proportion of the retail and restaurant space has facades on both front/back. While the pavilion does lack a major attraction, the grounds more than make up for the lack of a Malestrom or Rio del Tiempo. Todays' photograph emphasizes those grounds, and the rose garden area in particular. This beautiful space, located directly across the promenade from the Yorkshire Fish and Chip Shoppe, offers visitors a lovely stroll through to the Tea Caddy and, if you continue, to the bandstand and other garden area where Mary Poppins is often found. (Sigh!)

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Say Hello For Me When You Get There

Safe travels to everyone headed towards MCO and WDW for MouseFest 2007. Have a great time, make lots of new friends, and blow Epcot a kiss for me and let her know I miss her, as always. This photograph was taken in November, 2007.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Odyssey Center

Although the quick service restaurant itself has been closed for quite some time, the Odyssey building (referred to as Odyssey Center by WDW) still serves quite a few Epcot guests on a daily and seasonal basis. The building has become a staple for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival as it uses the cavernous room inside for many of the festival's special seminars, cooking demonstrations, and dinners. (On a side note, the Wonders of Life pavilion picked up more of this usage for the 2007 Food and Wine Festival.) This location also houses Epcot's Baby Care Station and First Aid station and is usually a good bet for less than crowded restrooms. The building also features a cafeteria for CMs, the Discovery Diner, (of course, unseen to guests) and has an interesting bit of 'urban legend/truth/remember it used to be a swamp/info' attached to it.

I have always been intrigued by how this building's location is depicted on guest maps and it's location in general. After all, why place a building of this size in a veritable no-man's land between Future World and World Showcase? When looking at a park map, the building appears to be nestled up next to Test Track but, in reality, there's a significant water area between the two, as evidenced in today's final photo.

According to several sources, the Odyssey Restaurant was placed where it is due to a sinkhole discovered during Epcot Center's construction. My question is this: sinkholes have a unique place in Epcot lore (remember all of the talk surrounding Horizons and the fact it was shut down because it sat on top of a sinkhole?) so is the entire water area in between Odyssey Center and Showcase Plaza the result of this sinkhole or was it planned this way?

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Adventure, Excursion, Expedition, Quest, Trek, Journey; no, Odyssey

There are quite a few places within Epcot that make me pause, scratch my head, and think, "Hmm. I wonder what happened here." Case in point, the Odyssey Restaurant, located in between Future World East and World Showcase. While I never patronized this restaurant while open my wife seems to remember a character revue dinner as a child.

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Two for One

Today's picture features Casey Jr. Circus Train and Storybook Land Canal Boats, two original Disneyland attractions. I found it especially interesting that the two attractions intersected and wonder if they were planned this way or if it evolved into this arrangement. Regardless, it's quite interesting to hear the riders on Casey Jr. as they wend their way through Storybook Land. It's said that Walt's original idea for Storybook Land Canal Boats came from a trip to the Netherlands; this idea, combined with the amazing talents of the early Imagineers who focused on models and miniatures, gives us this ride today. In this shot you can see the miniature garden sections that Walt himself contributed to through the addition of a bonsai tree back in 1956. This photograph was taken by the author in July, 2007.