Monday, April 28, 2008

Epcot's Bus Depot

One of the less frequented sites on property, as far as transportation goes, is the Epcot bus depot. I've not conducted a formal study by any means but an informal sampling has aligned with my gut feeling that less people arrive at Epcot via bus than any other means of transportation (Disney or personal) available. And, although the depot area was still under renovation during my visit this past November, while it's not the prettiest place within the happiest place on earth, it does have its charms.

I, for one, would love to score some of the banners shown above once they've made their way to eBay. (For those of you following along at home, it's touches like this that make me believe someone remembers just how 'cool' the original EPCOT Center theming was.)

The short stroll to the main gates offer lots of subtle views and a chance to look at Epcot landscaping neither extreme or exciting but still in keeping with the park and the resort area in general. Even in November there's something to see here if you just take the time.

I have to think the bus depot is a bit jealous of the fame and fortune afforded the transportation stud of WDW, the monorail system, as this sign alludes to. Come to think of it, just how many people would actually take the bus to Epcot only to then catch the monorail to the TTC?

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

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Epcot's International Gateway

The International Gateway, the 'back door' to Epcot and specifically World Showcase, is a wonderful concept. Home to a shop, transportation service via ferry to the Yacht and Beach Club Resort, Swan and Dolphin Resorts, and Disney's Boardwalk Resort, and turnstiles into Epcot, the International Gateway is truly lovely in that it provides a viable admission point with relatively few people in sight when entering Epcot in the morning.

As most know, World Showcase typically opens two to three hours later than Future World and entrance via the International Gateway is a great way to take those shots of France, the United Kingdom, and Canada pavilions as you make your way to Future World.

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

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Give the boy a chance!"

Common to both Walt Disney World's and Disneyland's Fantasylands are the 'Sword in the Stone' statues, located next to Cinderella's Golden Carrousel in WDW and King Arthur Carrousel in Disneyland. (Note, not even Disney can decide whether the French spelling, which is used in the guide maps but not on their website, is the way to go. Reference this page on the WDW Magic Kingdom website.)


This was/is the focal point for the Merlin appearances and shows (I've a wonderful video from the late 1990's showcasing a WDW CM's talents) and is one of the most common photo spots in either park.

This photograph was taken by the author, in Disneyland, in July, 2007.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tomorrowland Terrace

The Tomorrowland Terrace, located in Disneyland's Magic Kingdom, marks an interesting tale in Disneyland lore. Suffice to say, new is old again; or, in this case, sometimes a return to the original is the best rehab of them all.

In 1967, as part of Disneyland's 'New Tomorrowland' rehab, the Tomorrowland Terrace opened. The way of the future apparently rested on a riser as the Tomorrowland Terrace featured a stage that revealed itself as the attraction had the ability to slowly ascend and descend when the need arose. The attraction was the focal point for live music in this area of the park for 31 years until the new, 'New Tomorrowland' arrived in 1998. In a span of eight years this area underwent two facelifts and after one grammatical mistake finally returned to something very much like its original 1967 form, as shown above. The Tomorrowland Terrace is no longer home to live music but does serve as the location of Disneyland's Jedi Training Academy and looks fantastic at night.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Don't Spit on Me!

The various Disney theme parks are full of 'plusses': items that exist purely for your enjoyment and to enhance the overall quality and theming of an attraction or area. One of my favorite is captured below, and in full chicanery. Located within Adventureland of WDW's Magic Kingdom, situated in between The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management and the Jungle Cruise are the most recent incarnation of Marc Davis' tikis.

The original tikis, according to 'The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World', pg. 45, were made of wood. When it became necessary to replace them Imagineering decided to plus them by adding water and steam features in their new, fiberglass bodies. I often find adults and children alike enjoying this feature the hot summer days that define the Orlando weather and always chuckle when someone gets a bit too close.

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's for Breakfast?

A question, no doubt, the vast majority of readers face when vacationing at the Disney theme parks. While tongue-in-cheek, if I'm in WDW's Magic Kingdom, I prefer a large helping of Space Mountain followed by the TTA and then some coffee. However, if I'm in Disney's Hollywood Studios, then it's a double order of Tower of Terror and Rock 'n Roller Coaster, sunny side up, followed by coffee at Starring Rolls. What's your favorite?

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

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pinocchio's Daring Journey

As part of Disneyland's Fantasyland rehab in 1983, Pinocchio's Daring Journey replaced the Fantasyland Theater and ushered in a new dark ride to the park. Pinocchio is a west coast only attraction (excluding the worldwide Disney theme parks) and does an excellent job of condensing the 88 minute feature into a 2 3/4 minute journey through Stromboli's Puppet Theater, Pleasure Island, Tobacco Road (my favorite part), Monstro, ending with Geppetto and the lovely Blue Fairy.

As in keeping with the other exteriors of the 'New Fantasyland' attractions, Pinocchio's Daring Journey features incredible architectural design with lots of detail and color that really sets the guest into a position where they can appreciate the story inside. John Hench, legendary designer and art director for the parks, goes a bit further in his book, 'Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show', and specifically states this color palette and design helps fuel the viewer's tendency to purchase souvenirs in the adjoining area due to the fantastic wood carver's workshop sequence at the end of the ride.

Inside, the ride has a reputation of being a bit scary for little ones but is in keeping with Snow White's Scary Adventures. I think it's important to note the story for his attraction hearkens back several generations where more sinister material was quite acceptable and realistic. Nonetheless, the ride interior is a visual treat for adults who are familiar with the storyline and have an appreciation of squandered youth.

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

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Future World West Green Space

This photograph, at first glance, may not seem like much. However, for each great shot you or I could take at the various Disney theme parks there are just as many shots like this; shots that tell a story based upon what's missing from the photograph itself.

Future World West is truly a spectacular part of Epcot. As we've explored previously, this part of the park is devoted more to the natural sciences and really speaks to our interaction with water, land, and ourselves. As the Imagineers intended, Future World West is more organic in it layout, with fewer sharp angles compared to Future World West, and a heavy emphasis on water and green space.

This photograph is of a green space located between The Land pavilion and the Imagination! pavilion. As said earlier, it doesn't appear to be much to this space but it's one of the many spots tucked away here where special things can happen. I distinctly remember a Flower and Garden Festival item here many years ago but it's not part of this year's festival; does anyone else remember seeing something here?

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2005. For those of you who are reading this post via a reader, be sure to visit our blog site to see it and our new artwork.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Cleaning 2008

Well, as you might have noticed, the intrepid staff at Photos from the Parks just finished a round of spring cleaning. In addition to solving our label problems (you can now see them at the end of each post), adding a Google search feature within the site, and adding new subscription methods, our good friend Amy at monamidesigns.com was kind enough to create a new header and footer for us. This looks really cool and marks an important transition for the site. Thanks, Amy!

We decided to focus on icons which are found in just about each and every Disney park location for the new header. Can you guess what they are both from a generic perspective (i.e., castle) and from the park the photo was taken?

As we strive to get better at Photos from the Parks it's important thank you to our readers, loyal blogosphere friends, and to those who stop by to get a quick Disney theme park photo fix. As such, thanks to all who stop by.

All the best,
Richard

Friday, April 11, 2008

100 Years of Magic

While we're certainly not Gorillas Don't Blog, Stuff from the Parks, or Daveland, every once in a while we'll run across a 'way back when' photo in our collection that begs to be shown the light of day: even when it's just a few years old. Today's shot is of (what else?) the entrance to the Magic Kingdom during WDW's 100 Years of Magic celebration. I don't remember much from the 100 Years of Magic period other than the 'Share a Dream Come True Parade' in the Magic Kingdom (put the characters in bubbles!), the 'Tapestry of Dreams' parade in Epcot, and the opening of 'Walt Disney: One Man's Dream' in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2002. A special thanks to Major, Matterhorn, and Dave for their blogs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shopping at Pleasure Island

One of two shopping venues within Downtown Disney's Pleasure Island, Curl by Sammy Duval, is a Quicksilver on steroids; lots to see and it all costs plenty. The other shopping opportunity is the Orlando Harley Davidson store (see my post here for a photo) and is the best place I know to get your photo taken on a hog. The only hybrid 'shopdinetainment' establishment is the new Fuego Cigars by Sosa. I've not stopped in yet; would anyone care to comment?

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


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Adventurer's Club

When all is said and done there's just one club within Pleasure Island that deserves a return trip and that's the Adventurer's Club. There are dozens and dozens of Adventurer's Club denizens who are more than willing to share their love of this place and it's well deserved. The Adventurer's Club is quite unlike anything else at PI and manages to blend the familiar with the exotic each and every show. As Deb says over at allearsnet, it's much like the Enchanted Tiki Room, you're either going to love it or hate it and I happen to love it but it still creeps me out a bit.

Just a few words of advice. First, remember 'Kungaloosh!' is also a drink, and a very good one at that. Secondly, remember to yell 'Hoopla!'. And, lastly, if you know the creed you're guaranteed a good time.

We climb the highest mountains,
Just to get a better view.
We plumb the deepest oceans,
Cause we're daring through and through.
We cross the scorching desert,
Martinis in our hand.
We ski the polar icecaps,
In tuxedos looking grand.
We are reckless, brave and loyal,
And valiant to the end.
If you enter here a stranger,
You will exit as a friend.

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


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Rest of the Pleasure Island Line Up

Much has been written in recent years regarding the drop off in attendance at Pleasure Island, located in Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney location. While the mouse has had its hands full regarding how to keep the concept fresh, keep the right mix of guests, and overall relevance of the attractions therein, it has managed to stay true to most of its original concepts for this nighttime entertainment complex. Of the remaining clubs, most are now commodity products only, with the exception of one 'club' we'll examine later in the week.

8TRAX is the disco place to be on Pleasure Island and it stays true to the beat with the exception of Thursday nights when the '80s sneaks in and dethrones the disco king. If Donna Summer, the Village People, the Bee Gees and the like are your preferred dance backgrounds then this is the place for you. If you're claustrophobic you might want to think twice about this spot as it feels awfully small for such big music. If you're game, make sure to stay past midnight, when 'YMCA' blares from the loudspeakers and everyone dances.

On the other hand, the BET SoundStage Club features the sultry sounds of R&B and percussive hip-hop beats. Like Mannequins Dance Palace, the BET SoundStage Club is open to guests of 21 years and older only; if you purchase a bottle of Hypnotiq you'll get access to the VIP lounge. While I've never been inside this club I have been known to pass time inside its predecessor, the Neon Armadillo which was quite different, to say the least. (Don't ask - it was a long, long time ago.) Look for this club to close soon, due to limited appeal and a contract with BET that expires this year.

The Comedy Warehouse is a tried and true veteran of Pleasure Island. The concept is simple: improvisational comedy with lots of crowd input. Shows are continuous throughout the night (four to five per evening, 40 minute sets) and the house always seems to be close to full. It's one of the many anomalies throughout Pleasure Island: while the streets might appear empty, Comedy Warehouse is always full. Seating inside is a bit odd so be prepared to sit quite high in the back of the building. While skippers of the Jungle Cruise are usually labeled as having the lamest gags at WDW some of the set pieces here come close. That said, it's worth a shot and I'd love to see the return of the early shows that really poked fun at visitors and WDW in general. And, finally, yes; I once yelled out "water bed salesman" which became the gag for the constructed story. (Don't ask - it was a long, long time ago.)

Motion is the newest entry in the stable of clubs at Pleasure Island and one I've never visited; well, at least in its current form. This space used to be the Wildhorse Saloon (line dancing, anyone?) and, prior to that, the Fireworks Factory Restaurant. This club is dedicated to Top-40 music and videos, a market segment which passed me long ago. This is a wildly precious piece of real estate so look for this to become something new in the next year or so to come.

Still visible from the outside but shuttered on the inside is the Rock 'n Roll Beach Club, an idea that still has value and leaves me scratching my head wondering why it closed in February of 2008. This club was huge, had a great view of Village Lake, featured live music, and offered something for just about everyone in the family. Much like the space Motion occupies, this square footage is quite valuable so look for the construction signs to pop up soon.

And while Jessica's no longer featured and the story of Merriweather Pleasure is largely unknown to most, Pleasure Island still ticks on and every night, while not quite New Year's Eve, is still a lot of fun. These photographs were taken by the author in March, 2008.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Mannequins

Ah; Mannequins. Strangely enough, I remember when this place was way cool. (That should give everyone in the audience a really good approximation of my age.) Mannequins was the place to be for dancing back when Pleasure Island opened and its revolving dance floor proved to be a hit. When PI opened in 1989, in part, to stem the tide of dollars leaving WDW for Church Street in the late evenings, this was the hot spot and according to urban legend has been voted the best dance club in the US. (Hey, I don't make this stuff up.)

The strobes and wire caging inside is a bit much for me, well at least it is now, but the evening light still makes this old bird look good on the outside.

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


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fulton's Crab House

Better known to older Disney fans as the Empress Lilly, Fulton's Crab House sits in permanent anchor at the intersection of Downtown Disney's Marketplace and Pleasure Island. The Empress Lilly occupies a special place in many hearts as it was the first restaurant to feature character dining and was home to three separate restaurants and a lounge from 1977 through 1995. As a part of cost-cutting/outsourcing initiatives, the restaurant was turned over to Levy Restaurants who holds a lease which runs to 2015. While Fulton's Crab House is a great place to eat, it doesn't come close to what the Lilly meant to many.

As an added trivia bonus, can anyone remember the name of Empress Lilly entertainer who played the kazoo?

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


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Disney Quest

In what seems, at first, like a match made in heaven, Disney Quest sits within Downtown Disney West Side in a five-story building across from the House of Blues. Disney Quest, which opened in 1998, offers guests a broad range of virtual reality, video, and arcade style games. The experience is laid out in roughly four main zones which are: explore; create; score; and replay.

There are certain height restrictions but on the whole the experience is pleasant for all age groups and there are a few big time attractions inside. Lots of news has escaped lately regarding the future of Disney Quest (the operator of the food areas inside has recently reverted to Walt Disney Operations) and while it's never been the run away hit Disney hoped for, it does provide a unique experience, which West Side is somewhat known for.

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


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Downtown Disney Marketplace - World of Disney

On the far eastern end of Downtown Disney is the Marketplace, a property formerly known as Disney Village Marketplace that now serves largely as an excellent way to shop without paying park admission. The anchor for this section of Downtown Disney is the World of Disney, a store so large that it has the title of the world's largest Disney store - a title I cannot substantiate but feel it must be true!

World of Disney is, in a word, huge. Well, huge and crowded. This is the place where you go to find pretty much anything you failed to purchase in the parks. It is important to note, however, that not everything sold in the parks is available at the World of Disney, as evidenced by my attempt to find an Expedition Everest t-shirt two weeks ago.

Perhaps the best way to think about World of Disney is to consider it the largest Disney Store (the shopping mall kind) known to humankind. The Downtown Disney Marketplace location is the first of three (the others located at Disneyland and in NYC), having opened in 1996, and occupies more than 51,000 sq. ft. of retail space. Inside, you will find a wide range of merchandise, nicely laid out by these following areas:

- Great Hall
- Rotunda
- Magic Room
- Wonderland Room
- Villians Room
- Map Room
- Bird Room
- Carnival Room
- Princess/Snow White Room
- Enchanted Room
- Exotic Animal Room

Quite a few shopping choices; yes. And, with the advent of Bippity, Boppity, Boutique there's now the opportunity to transform your child into a princess, complete with makeup and the like. (Thanks be to God we have a son.)

Even if shopping's not your thing, you can find yourself entertained just by looking at the behemoth. Just watch out for Stitch (as usual) and find a nice seat outside while your traveling party is swallowed up and spit out more than an hour later. As you wait, have your camera ready and enjoy some down time at Downtown Disney, especially at twilight.

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


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

House of Blues (cont.)

Most are familiar with the picture, above, as the entrance to the House of Blues Orlando but there is an equally unique entrance on the far western edge next to the Sassagoula Steam Boat water taxi and an intriguing design aspect of the rather large restaurant seating area.

More a focal point for the House of Blues focus on folk art, this entrance offers both a beautiful view across Village Lake to Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and the opportunity to see -- surprise! -- an undeveloped tract of land between it and the "O-P-Q" parking area.

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