Monday, March 31, 2008

House of Blues

Your intrepid Disney Photos from the Parks blogger is a long-time blues fan and the eponymous House of Blues is a sentimental favorite of mine at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney.

House of Blues Orlando opened in 1997 and quickly established itself as a bona fide establishment for live music and Southern style cuisine that celebrates a rich tradition of African-American culture. The world famous HOB Sunday Gospel Brunch is the zenith of lunch and listen experiences: the catfish, chicken, rice and beans, greens, and cornbread alone are worth the price of admission. In addition to paying homage to a culture's music and food, HOB also focuses on folk art; take time to view both the outdoor and indoor works of art.

These photographs were taken by the author in March, 2008.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Downtown Disney's West Side - Cirque du Soleil

When Downtown Disney's West Side opened in 1997 visitors and Orlando residents alike were intrigued by the rather avant-gardé building under construction in on the far western end of the property. Just one year prior Walt Disney signed a contract to bring Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal based artistic circus company, into residence at West Side and the agreement brought with it Cirque's first freestanding, permanent theater.

When the first showing of La Nouba premiered in 1998 the show opened to critical fanfare and has done reasonably well in the following 10 years considering the show has remained the same (the power trampoline act is my personal favorite) and many guests and residents have witnessed it. There's quite a bit of interest in Tokyo Disneyland's new Cirque show and one can only hope a successor to La Nouba is in the works and that Orlando's "grand chapiteau" continues to host this wonderful troupe.

These photographs were taken by the author in March, 2008.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Downtown Disney's West Side at Twlight

Another great place to visit at twilight is Downtown Disney. This section of the Walt Disney World Resort is a great place to spend time without using theme park admission tickets and offers a wide-range of shopping, eating, and entertainment. Located at one end of Downtown Disney is the West Side, which features an eclectic combination of entertainment. Both Cirque du Soleil and Disney Quest are seen in the image below.

This photograph was taken by the author in March, 2008.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Photos of the Parks

I've been in Orlando this week for a trade show and this was the view from my hotel balcony. While it's not the 'usual' type of photo for this blog I thought it may be of interest to many of you. Enjoy!

If you'd like, feel free to mark it up with even more place names and I'll post an updated image later.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Best at Twilight

As Jeff Pepper's posts and photos can attest, and as George has commented, Disney's Hollywood Studios really shines at the twilight hour. The combination of art-deco style and neon lighting really stands out at this time of day and this park screams out to be seen at night.

The Legends of Hollywood store is one such sight to behold; the facade, which is patterned after the Fox Academy Theater in LA, is a feast for the eyes. You can spend quite a few idle minutes watching the 'pretty colors' move through their motions. (Please check the corresponding 2719 Hyperion post linked to above for more information about this landmark.)

An equally fun, and festive, establishment for film fans is Sid Caheunga's One-of-a-Kind, located at the entrance to the park. There's not much left to say about this curio shop except that it's always a pleasure to walk in and see so much memorabilia related to film and music. While the vast majority of WDW shops are dedicated to only Disney merchandise, Sid's always has items related to Hollywood and the movie industry.

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

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sunset and Hollywood Boulveard Billboards

After Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard is probably the best place to see the 'Golden Era of Hollywood' reflected in buildings and signs. I am particularly fond of the billboards found in this area of the park. I consider them to be a visual treat and it's fun to catch a glance of them throughout your day. If at all possible, take some time to investigate the various billboards; you might be surprised at what they're advertising. And, perhaps if you're lucky, you may find these products or services available to you.

One of the first billboards you see after entering the park is on your left, above Mickey's of Hollywood. The sign references the Big Red Cars of the Pacific Electric Railroad; be sure to check out the map of the Pacific Electric at the tip board, located at the junction of Hollywood and Sunset. You can also reference an earlier post on this blog, here. (Please check the links to the right for other posts sorted by label.)

On the other hand, to the right as you walk in, above The Darkroom shop, you'll see a billboard touting the new real estate development of 'Hollywoodland'. You may recall the world-famous HOLLYWOOD sign in LA; not everyone knows this sign originally said HOLLYWOODLAND and was constructed in 1923 as an advertisement for a housing development in the hills above Hollywood. Additionally, Hollywoodland was conceived as a sort of second gate at Disneyland in the 1990's, as part of the Disney Decade. While this idea never got far off the drawing board, it did generate some early press material and some of its ideas found their way into Disneyland and California Adventure.

If you're looking for a coffee, why Nescafé is right up your alley as this billboard atop the Sunset Club Couture shop suggests. What a great billboard!

There are many more billboards, buildings, and ads in Disney's Hollywood Studios, some of which we'll see over the next two weeks, but my absolute favorite is one for the Hollywood Tower Hotel. This sign promises fashionable dining and modern accommodations at this new landmark. I wonder what they could be referring to?

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

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Golden Era

At the very least, the recent name change to Disney's Hollywood Studios certainly evokes a certain feel to what you should encounter. (After all, Disney-MGM Studios sounded more like a marketing agreement than a Disney theme park, right?)

With the new name some of the architectural styles so prevalent with the golden age of Hollywood can finally have their day in the sun. Or, in this case, sunset, as Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard the cream of the crop. Let's begin with Hollywood Boulevard today.

There are a host of shops located on the southeast side of the street (right side, that is, as you exit) all of which should make you think about the furniture in your high school. At least, it should if you're of a certain age and your high school was much, much older than you. If you know what I mean, drop me a comment below and we'll commiserate together. Seriously, this style should make every man want to don a fedora, every woman a nice hat, and each and every child a set of mickey mouse ears or a coon skin cap. Disney & Co. is a prototypical Disney theme park shopping opportunity; in addition to being a continuation of one large store on this street is also a close duplicate to a real-life building located on Santa Monica Boulevard, in CA.

This trend continues as you reach the exit. Adrian and Edith's Head to Toe, likewise, is very reminiscent of an existing building known as the Chapman Park Market.

The list goes on and on; above you'll find Mickey's of Hollywood which, yes - you guessed it - is a replica of something else, The Blaine Building located on the 'real' Hollywood Boulevard in CA.

While I learned these facts courtesy of a CM during my last trip, you can also read about it courtesy of Werner's Weiss' fabulous Yesterland site. Link here and here. As always, thanks to Werner for his information.

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Hollywood Brown Derby

The Hollywood Brown Derby, a favorite of many visitors to Disney's Hollywood Studios, is a treat for both the eyes as well as the belly. Modeled after the cultural landmark in LA, the 'Brown Derby', the Disney incarnation provides a glimpse into the original and pretty much hits the mark. In addition to the famous caricatures, the derby icon outside, and the Cobb salad, (and the grapefruit cake!) there's a feast for your sense of sight.

Whereas the original in LA is known for its signature 'hat' appearance, the Disney version blends in seamlessly with the art-deco style prevalent on Sunset Boulevard. Combined with the 1920's background music, it instantly transports you to the golden age of Hollywood.

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Walt's Office

Walt Disney: One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios has a host of artifacts from Walt's life and career. I especially love the multi-plane camera display; what a treat to see the technological advance that made the Disney Studios stand out at that time. One particular display always gives me pause and I find myself standing there like a lemming just to drink it in - Walt's office.

Of particular interest to me are all of the objects within: the map of the Walt Disney World property on the board juxtaposed with the aerial photo of Disneyland; the scripts in back of his desk; and the photographs on the wall. If I squeeze my eyes I can almost see Richard and Robert Sherman talking with Walt in this very sport. (Just about where a Cast Member's reflection was captured, above!)

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

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Project X

The attraction, Walt Disney: One Man's Dream at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios (that's a mouthful) contains one of my favorite mental images of Disney: the Project X conference room. Long a fan of EPCOT Center, I can remember seeing the EPCOT video only in pieces prior to its release on the "Tomorrowland" Disney Treasures DVD set.

This section of the attraction concerns itself with the plans for what we know today as Walt Disney World and really hits the sweet spot for many of us who consider ourselves fans of Walt's great ideas for modern, urban planning. While the world of tomorrow largely passed with the maestro himself, it's always great to see him remembered in the light he so richly deserves.

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

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Disneyland at Disney's Hollywood Studios

In a bit of 'west' meets 'east', this reproduction of Sam McKim's Herb Ryman's (thanks Viewliner!) first Disneyland map greets guests inside Disney's Hollywood Studios' attraction Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. For fans of Disneyland and Disneyanna, this is a must see at the Florida parks and complements a visit to the original happiest place on earth.

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

Trains Everywhere

Walt's love of trains permeated the original park, Disneyland, and followed suit at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Fortunately, the Imagineers responsible added similar touches throughout the other parks. One of my favorites is the Pacific Electric Railway map located inside Disney's Hollywood Studios, at the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards.

If you look closely at the lower right corner of the image you'll see the Pacific Electric boasted 1,000 miles of standard trolley lines and more than 2700 scheduled trains, daily. (Another detail map may be found here.) The Pacific Electric's heyday was between 1911 and the beginning of WWII; the service was largely dismantled in the 1950's and was part of the 'Great American Streetcar Scandal' which found General Motors, and others, guilty of conspiracy to replace streetcar service with bus service.

The LA most of us know today is dominated by freeways but it's nice to think about an earlier time where rail/train service was king. Who knows; had the Pacific Electric survived would we all be taking monorails today? At least there's Disney to help with our monorail fix.

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

Saturday, March 8, 2008

What's In A Name?

Quite a bit, when it comes to the trains of the Walt Disney World Railroad. A beautiful section of the Main Street Station is dedicated to the names of the steam trains that make the 1 1/2 mile circuit around the Magic Kingdom. As many know, there are four trains in total at WDW: two are predominately red in color, the No. 1 'Walter E. Disney' and the No. 4 'Roy O. Disney'; two are predominately green, the No. 2 'Lilly Belle' and the No. 3 'Roger E. Broggie'.

Each train is honored in a plaque complete with information about the particular train and a photograph of the trains' namesake. In the photograph above, the story telling is embellished with a listing of fictitious origination points. (Zoom in for a closer look. Recognize any?)

While Roy and Roger occupy one wall, Walt and Lillian are immortalized on the other. The Lilly Belle is not a regular use train and it would be hard to catch a ride on her as she's used only in the morning as part of the park's opening celebration when Mickey arrives at the Main Street Station. As befitting Walt's spouse, she is known as a 'show train'. A wonderful map of the railroad is featured on this side; be sure to check out some of the photographs of the original train stations in Florida's Magic Kingdom.

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

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Railroad Maps

Underneath the station platform and opening up to Main Street USA one will find a wide-range of services including stroller and locker rental, the chance to weigh yourself, a few pressed penny and quarter machines, and the following beautiful maps depicting various rail lines within the turn of the century United States.

The two largest maps, shown above and below, are of the Central Line of the Union Pacific Railway and of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. (I say turn of the century as the UP was only known as the Union Pacific Railway from ~1880 to 1897.) Other rail systems are on display; I especially like the Brooklyn line.

Closer to the center and away from Main Street is a register queue where you can find additional maps and photographs on display.

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

Monday, March 3, 2008

Walt Disney World Railroad - Main Street Station

Consider this: everyone who enters the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World passes through this train station and yet few take the time to explore the wonders inside. While I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to the mad rush past the ticket machines, through the station, and into Main Street USA, I can't help but wonder why more folks don't take the time during the heat of the day to explore this area.

As you walk inside the Walt Disney World Railroad Main Street Station you'll notice the sumptuous detail of the lighting and seating fixtures plus wonderful paintings depicting the building of the transcontinental railroad, two of which are shown below.

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

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Living Seas and its New Inhabitants

As a Disney 'purist' I admit I find it hard to accept certain types of change in the Parks. And while I'm more than happy to protest most of the time there are some changes which I've, for the most part, welcomed with open arms. The Seas with Nemo and Friends is gradually becoming one of them. Let's face it: the hydrolators were cool but really showing their age and overall foot traffic in this area of Future World West was pretty weak. The new overlay, which changed The Living Seas into The Seas with Nemo and Friends, made the best of the Dinsey-Pixar merger and breathed some new life into the attraction. And, to really warm my heart, the return of the omnimover ride is fantastic.

I will miss the '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' feel to the old queue area but the new queue is very nice and quickly brings to bear the fruits of the highly successful franchise, 'Finding Nemo'. I'm a sucker for gobos and the lighting in the walkway portion just prior to boarding the omnimovers is a great touch. For those who have seen the movie, the feel of 'swimming' beneath Sydney harbor amongst the pilings is a lot of fun.

And, as flash photography is not allowed during this portion of your trip, it's nice to settle back and just look for a spell.

(Yes, sometimes I forget to turn it the off position - what can I say?) The special effects are quite good and are much the same as used in Disneyland for the Finding Nemo Submarines. You'll make a general acquaintance with all of Nemo's friends and this sets up nicely for your introduction to the main area of the attraction.

The whole gang makes an appearance, some are a bit more prevalent than others as seen by our friends, the sharks, below.

And, of course, the wildly popular Turtle Talk with Crush continues to be a focal point of the overall attraction. If anything disturbs me about the new layout it's the fact that I witnessed many families enter the attraction, ride the omnimover, visit the Turtle Talk section, and then leave. There's much more to the attraction than Nemo on glass and Crush behind it so don't forget to enjoy the cool blues and greens and see some more fish in one of the world's largest aquariums.

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