Saturday, June 28, 2008

Harper Goff

Of all the brilliant artists, designers, colorists, singers, and actors to have worked for Disney it's possible all pale in comparison to the lasting impact that Harper Goff imprinted into Disneyland's DNA. From Main Street USA, to the Jungle Cruise, Golden Horseshoe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Haunted Mansion, the 'Firehouse Five Plus Two', and later Epcot, Harper Goff would've been the founder of Walt's famed 'Nine Old Men' had such a group existed for the parks.

Harper Goff was born and raised in Fort Collins, CO just after the turn of the 20th century. His childhood home, while no longer on the edge of the western prairie, nonetheless was full of small town, main street buildings and visages that later found their way into Disneyland's Main Street USA. Harper's father was a newspaper editor and one can only surmise Harper's days were full of trips down the city's sidewalks and streets where these buildings became indelibly etched into his mind. In fact, Harper would later send a team of photographers to both Ft. Collins and Marceline, MO, to take pictures for use in the creation of Disneyland's own Main Street; this link shows one such building that many of us immediately recognize as located in Anaheim and not Colorado.

Harper met Walt in, of all places, a model train shop in London in the early 1950's. The two men quickly found themselves interested in the same engine and by the time the two left the store Walt had both the engine and a new set designer. Harper had, by this time, been a successful illustrator whose work appeared in many leading magazines of the day and a set designer for a number of films including 'Captain Blood' (1935), 'Casablanca' (1942), 'The African Queen' (1951), and would soon work on 'Calamity Jane', (as we discussed here). He originally worked on '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1954) shortly after meeting Walt in 1951 and it was Harper's storyboard sketches that convinced Walt to turn this idea from a True-Life Adventure short into a full-fledged motion picture, one that won two Academy Awards.

Harper's work soon transitioned to the Disneyland Park and his work on the films above certainly carried over to the set design and overall feel of many of our favorite Disneyland attractions. A saloon Harper created for 'Calamity Jane' became the Golden Horseshoe; the African Queen herself became the prototype for the many boats we ride each day at the Jungle Cruise, and, of course, the submarines in Walt Disney World's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea were taken right from the movie.

In addition to his work in the parks Harper was a member of the wonderful 'Firehouse Five Plus Two', Disneyland's own Dixieland band, where he played banjo off and on for many years. As evidenced by his window, shown above, that resides on the back of the Golden Horseshoe, facing the entrance to the Jungle Cruise, Harper loved his music. His name as the proprietor of the Tattoo Parlor is attributed in Kendra Trahan's 'Disneyland Detective' as either resulting from his interest in a planned tattoo shop within Disneyland's Main Street USA or one from his boyhood home in Fort Collins. Can anyone clarify this slightly ambiguous reference?

To the end, Harper remained his own man and had a tenuous relationship with Walt and his company; while Harper worked with the Imagineering team for a long time it was largely done as a consultant and he worked with other companies and on non-Disney films. Many researchers and writers have attributed this relationship to the fact that while Harper served as the Art Director for 20,000 Leagues it was the Assistant Art Director, John Meehan, who was listed as the Art Director in the credits and went on to receive the Oscar due to the fact he was a union member while Harper was not. While the politics of this time were quite messy and the inner workings of the film industry were doubly so, it's still not clear why the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences has failed to correct this mistake, one that Disney themselves clearly recognizes.

Nonetheless, Harper's impact on the parks is enormous and all encompassing. Next time you want to see one of the most famous Main Street windows, wind your way, instead, to Adventureland, and look at the Tattoo Parlor window. It might appear to be a small remembrance of this Disney legend but it's not.

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

Monday, June 23, 2008

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room 45th Anniversary

In honor of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room's 45th anniversary (the attraction officially opened June 23, 1963) here are images of the star macaws, shown in their resplendent glory. Much has been written about the first audio animatronic attraction in Disneyland and even more has been written regarding the corny birds José, Pierre, Michael, and Fritz but today I'd like to focus on the voices of the four emcees.

José is voiced by the incomparable Disney Legend, Wally Boag. Wally apparently decided to voice José with a Cuban accent as evidenced by the first line in the show where he claims, "my siestas are getting chorter and chorter", using the Cuban 'ch' for 's'. Wally also voiced the famous Barker Bird which sat outside the attraction and caused quite a bit of mayhem in the early days of the attraction. Wally was hired by Walt just weeks prior to the opening of Disneyland and I'm sure no one at the time had any inkling of the indelible mark Wally would leave on Disneyland and Walt Disney World by the time he retired from Disney.

Pierre was voiced by Ernest (Ernie) Netwon, a singer and voice actor with few known credits to his name. Ernie's credits do include some cartoon work for Hanna-Barbera andfilm work overseas.

Michael, on the other hand, was voiced by the Irish actor and singer, Fulton Burley. Fulton found work at Disneyland courtesy of Wally Boag, with whom he was a contract actor for MGM back in the 1940's. Wally and Fulton would star in Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Revue which is remarkable considering Fulton's first gig in the US was on Broadway, apprearing in a show of the same exact name. Fulton Burley, too, is a Disney Legend and an important part of Disneyland's rich history.

The voice of Fritz was provided by the well known bass, Thurl Ravenscroft. Also a Disney fixture, Thurl has enchanted visitors to the Disney theme parks in this attraction, the Haunted Mansion, the Disneyland Monorail, and many Disney movies and soundtracks as a member of the Mellomen. (Thurl also provided tremendous work outside of the Disney repertoire in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, [thank you BigFez] and as Tony the Tiger.) Perhaps my favorite uncredited Thurl moment is his pig's snort in Mary Poppins.

Of the four famous voices only Wally is still with us but all of them will live on in our hearts and minds as the voices of the four macaws in Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room.

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

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shopping on Royal Street

While strolling through Disneyland's beautiful New Orleans Square visitors are treated to a bevy of exquisite baubles. If shopping is your pleasure, Royal Street is sure to deliver as it's home to numerous stores and boutiques.

Tomas and Alfonso, better known to most of us as the Arribas brothers, are purveyors of fine crystal and blown glass; their shop in New Orleans Square is Cristal d'Orleans, located at 32 Royal Street. Arribas Brothers shares a tightly woven relationship with Disney all based on a meeting between the two brothers from the nortwestern Spanish town of La Coruna with Walt Disney during the 1964-65 World's Fair. Shortly thereafter, in 1967, Arribas Brothers opened their first shop in Disneyland and have grown to feature stores at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

If anyone in your touring party either loves Christmas ornaments or you're thinking about your holiday tree for next year, stop by L'Ornement Magique and browse the wonderful selection of holiday ornaments. This shop features items by Christopher Radko who has worked with Disney since 1995 to bring special occasion ornaments to fans throughout the Disney theme parks. The Radko line has collectors everywhere and it's always nice to stop in and see what current designs are for sale.

La Mascarade d'Orleans, located at 28 Royal Street doubles as this area's Disney Pin Trading Station and general merchandise location and is a great place to pick up Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean pins. Located across the street is Le Bat en Rouge where pirates and ghosts also hold stage.

And finally, a re-posted item from July 24 of 2007, Jewel of Orleans. The above sign is one of the best to be found in any Disney theme park; it's truly special. Here's what we wrote about this shop last summer:
The Jewel of Orleans is listed as a fine estate, one-of-a-kind jewelry store located in New Orleans Square. Per Walt's original desire to make New Orleans Square as real as possible, Disney worked with shop owners to relocate their franchises to Disneyland. When Disney closed the original perfume store within New Orleans in 1996 they returned to New Orleans to find a suitable replacement; they were unable to do so and entered into an agreement with an estate jewelery store located in San Francisco. Jewel of Orleans features art-deco and other similar period pieces as well as more standard fare. The shop and its operators are fabulous; please be sure to stop in a take a look next time you're there.
These photographs were taken by the author in July 2007.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Astro Orbiter

Constantly vying with Dumbo the Flying Elephant for one of the longest wait times in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is the Astro Orbiter, located in the middle of Tomorrowland. A favorite of kids and adults, Astro Orbiter mimics Dumbo in pretty much every way except for the fact it features rocket ships. That said, just like Dumbo, every, and I repeat every, 6 year old just has to ride this or they'll just not have any reason to go on living.

Astro Orbiter does have its advantages over Dumbo the Flying Elephant especially at night as the entire universe of moving parts around the attraction come to life. I had hoped to share a photograph with you taken while on the ride but the fact is the end result was just too blurry to post. There's a tremendous view to drink in so the next time someone pleads and begs to go, do it; it's worth the wait just to see the Magic Kingdom from this perspective. (Just make sure you know when your riding partner plans to take the joystick in hand and move you up and down. Trust me on that.)

Through a convenient trick of space planning, the Astro Orbiter is located underneath and above another Tomorrowland favorite, the Tomorrowland Transportation Authority or TTA for short. If the line for Astro Orbiter is too long or it just doesn't strike your fancy, the TTA is another great way to see Tomorrowland from the air, albeit at a much more leisurely pace.

A newer ride with the same basic mechanism exists in Adventureland, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. However, the only thing that attraction carries out is the destruction of the visual isolation between Adventureland and Frontierland besides the occasional spitting camel. Suffice to say the original two are the ones to wait for in a line.

Like its similarly themed but differently named counterpart in Disneyland, Astro Oribiter has undergone at least one significant refurbishment. The attraction originally opened in 1974 as Star Jets and remained that way for twenty years before succumbing to the very nice New Tomorrowland redo in 1994. The signature rocket left town and the pseudo-Tesla coil, shown a few photographs above, took its place and a wonderful kinetic planetary sculpture came along for the ride. Like much of Tomorrowland, this attraction really hits the spot at night and is a favorite of this amateur photographer.

These photographs were taken in November 2004 and November 2007.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Guest Relations

An oasis of information for those who have lost their car keys or traveling companion, need an advance reservation (priority seating) at the last minute, want to know what piece of music plays in a certain area of the parks, must have some currency exchanged or converted into Disney Dollars, etc., Guest Relations plays a vitally important role in the day-to-day operations of the various Disney theme parks.

At the heart of the Disney experience is conducting business the Disney way, where guests always feel their needs have been attended to and have access to cast members with knowledge about a particular topic. In order to provide specific access to CMs with such information, Guest Relations locations are found in each of the parks including Downtown Disney and are easily recognizable in the Disney Guidemaps by the information icon: a lowercase 'i' in a bright blue rectangle. If you're not sure about anything while visiting a park chances are Guest Relations will set you on the right path.

The Magic Kingdom has two Guest Relations locations; one is located outside of the turnstiles so you can 'freely' ask your questions and the other is located within City Hall, shown above. I have personally visited both of the Magic Kingdom locations during my many visits to the parks. Once was for information about a guided tour and the other was for a special annual passholder pin.

Guest Relations at Disney's Animal Kingdom is located immediately to your left as you enter the park and is in the same building that houses locker rentals and washrooms. Easy to spot with the 'i', this Guest Relations location is the only one in the park and can be quite busy at times throughout the day.

Similarly, Disney's Hollywood Studios has only one Guest Relations location and this one is tucked in between the turnstiles and Sid Cahuenga's One of a Kind along with a Baby Care Center and First Aid. The photograph above shows the entrance into the building from inside the park; can anyone verify you can also access Guest Relations here from outside the park? Also, can anyone tell me why this 'i' is red? Curious minds want to know!

On the other hand, likely due to long and narrow layout of the area, Downtown Disney sports two Guest Relations locations. One is located underneath the Downtown Disney West Side spire, shown above. I last visited this spot in March of this year when the batteries in my trusty Canon PowerShot A-540 died and I didn't have my usual camera case with me. (If you're curious, the only place to find batteries here is at the Virgin Mega Store.) This is one of my favorite Guest Relations spots as it offers a great place to view Village Lake and like its counterpart in the photo below are the only Guest Relations on property to feature a special 'Lost and Found' icon. Check it out on your guidemap; it's an odd umbrella and gloves rectangle with a question mark on top. (I know, an umbrella I could understand but gloves? Who thought this one up, I'd like to know.)

Above, you'll see a snapshot of the other Downtown Disney Guest Relations; this one is wedged in between Team Mickey and the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. For those of you who remember the location where you could purchase the Walt Disney World Forever CDs, it's right there.

Epcot has two spots for guests with questions. Long gone are those wonderful interactive kiosks (those were the days!) and locations with the familiar 'i' have taken it place. Found underneath Spaceship Earth and to the right as you enter the park is the spot shown above. This is a heavy traffic area due to the fact it's so hard to obtain a last minute advance registration to any of the World Showcase restaurants but one of the nicest locations around. Step inside and take a look at the wide range of information available and the art on the walls.

The other official location is outside of the park, in between the Disney Resort Bus Facility and the turnstiles. Out of all the Guest Relations on property, this is the only one I've never visited and have precious little information about it.

Finally, and this is just to my way of thinking, there's one 'unofficial' Guest Relations building in the parks and it's located at the International Gateway entrance at Epcot. Long recognized as a great back door into Epcot, the International Gateway has boat transportation, a gift shop, stroller and locker rental, washrooms, and turnstiles. The only thing missing is the official 'i' but I've never had to go without an answer when asking a question typical of a real Guest Relations CM.

These photographs were taken by the author in November 2007 and March 2008.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Horse Drawn Excursions

Picking up the thread on our conversation on what makes a resort, another great recreation concept at the Walt Disney World Resort is the horse drawn excursion. Guests interested in wagon rides and horseback riding can experience these wonderful resort amenities at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch, located at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, and elsewhere on this resort's grounds.

Daily adventures and prices are posted outside of Pioneer Hall; the meeting location varies depending upon which you choose. Personal carriage rides embark halfway between Pioneer Hall and the Crockett's Tavern, wagon rides depart also from here, horseback rides depart from Tri-Circle-D Ranch, and pony rides are located at the ranch as well.

When the weather's just right there's nothing like a personal carriage ride and this relaxing, meandering tour for your party of four is best experienced here although Disney's Port Orleans Riverside and Disney's Saratoga Springs offer similar enchanting rides. Can anyone comment on the carriage rides at those two resorts?

Horseback riding is available only for those ages nine and up; if your little pioneer is hankering for a ride fear not as pony rides are the way to go. Located at the ranch, these rides are quite sedate and appropriate for children of all ages.

Depending upon the day and season, special wagon rides are available. Fireworks wagon rides are a real treat and depart from the same location as the normal wagon rides. Halloween and Christmas wagon rides are also on the menu if you visit at the right time and reservations may be made for these special events.

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2007 and sometime in 2004.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Never Land Club

A staple of the resort experience is the ability for parents of children large and small alike to spend time away from their progeny. And, in keeping with a place where the only things you need to bring are medicine and money, Walt Disney World's Polynesian Resort offers one of the best childcare options on property, the Never Land Club.

Located in what's currently called the Tangaroa longhouse just to the east of the Great Ceremonial House, the Never Land Club offers sitting services for children between the ages of four and twelve between the hours of 4pm and midnight, daily. Children who visit the Never Land Club have access to arts and crafts, video games, and a dinner buffet. Unlike any of the other childcare facilities on property, the Never Land Club is a themed 'attraction' and children enter via and open window in Wendy's bedroom just as we do in the Magic Kingdom's Peter Pan's Flight attraction.

These photographs were taken by the author in March 2008.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Epcot's China Pavilion

The China Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase is a beautiful sight to behold both during the day and at night. The color palette used in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, featured at right in the above image, highlights rich reds and blues in a concentric circle pattern and makes for a striking view at night.

This reproduction of the Hall of Prayer is listed by many sites and references as a 1/2 scale model of its namesake, located in in the Temple of Heaven complex outside of Beijing. The original building was completed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty and is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The number of columns on the outside of the building, twelve, are symbolic of the months and the four internal columns represent the seasons while the circular pattern is symbolic of heaven.

This photograph was taken by the author in 1999.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mikala Canoe Club

It's common for someone to say they're headed to Walt Disney World. However, it's a unusual to hear someone say they're going to the Walt Disney World Resort, and for good reason. When WDW opened in 1971 the idea behind it was an all-encompassing vacation destination, something quite different than Disneyland which even today remains primarily a single day destination. But ah; 45 square miles of space - think of what you could do with that much room! And, so, the concept for WDW was staged as a resort destination where a family could do more than visit the Magic Kingdom.

Part of the resort experience includes a wide range of activities outside of the theme parks; some of the most enjoyable (and most nostalgic) would be the various marinas located on property. The Mikala Canoe Club, located on the premises of Disney's Polynesian Resort, is one of my favorites. Here, guests can take advantage of a wide range of recreational watercraft and explore the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.

Still a vital part of the 'resort' experience, the Mikala Canoe Club offers up everything from Sea Raycers (the most popular choice) to pontoon boats and guided fishing tours (highly recommended). While not as popular now, the sailboats are a great way to spend a carefree afternoon and are reasonably priced.

Disney's relationship with Sammy Duvall Watersports now affords guests a wider range of options including parasailing, wakeboarding, jet skis, and more. Located at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre is the place to go when looking for that extra thrill when on the water.

In total, eleven WDW Resorts and Downtown Disney offer marina rentals, making it very much part of the overall 'resort' experience.

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

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Epcot Photo of the Day

There is something deeply satisfying about Epcot Center nighttime photographs. And, as gratuitous as it might appear, I can't stop from posting one or two each month. This photograph tends to speak for my feelings towards this Theme Park-Educational Experience-Cultural Nexus: motion; energy; light; beauty.

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tom Sawyer Island (WDW Style)

Wow, with the heat wave that's gripping the East Coast right now who wouldn't want to take the opportunity to float across the Rivers of America aboard the aptly named Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island from the dock at Tom's Landing and spend some time in the shade on Tom Sawyer Island? A favorite of mothers and fathers who have very active boys, Tom Sawyer Island is one of the many 'pluses' found at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Unlike any other attraction in the parks, Tom Sawyer Island depends in part on the imagination of young and old alike to truly enjoy the experience. The Barrel Bridge is one of my personal favorites as is the view of Big Thunder Mountain. (More importantly, I'm not embarrassed to admit that Injun Joe's Caves are a bit spooky, even to an adult.)

While I don't have a picture of it in my collection, I've noticed that Fort Langhorn, renamed as such in 1997 when it was Fort Sam Clemens, is listed in The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom as 'Ft. Langhorne', p. 62, which makes sense as it's Mark Twain's middle name. (Samuel Langhorne Clemens.) Why is it depicted in the parks as 'Langhorn'?

Harper's Mill, located on the island, is wonderful place for folks to view a working water wheel and to debate whether or not it's named in honor of the wonderful Harper Goff or, as is more likely, after the character, Joe Harper's father, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Regardless of your preference, the Mill is a great place to once again marvel in the details of this larger attraction.

I find this attraction quite beautiful at dusk; however, the rafts stop running at this time of day so night time shots on the island are unfortunately out of the picture. I'd love to see a tour created to celebrate this wonderful island and think the addition of an Imagineer to lead it would set it apart.

In researching today's post, I came across this site; kudos to Robert Niles for his love of Tom Sawyer Island. (Really, how many of you could name all four rafts at WDW? Anyone care to guess before viewing Robert's site? If so, please leave your guesses in the comments section.) Also, the usually reputable The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is a bit disappointing and inaccurate on this subject. The normally dependable Alex Wright seems to be at a loss here and I wonder if he visited the island when researching the topic.

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Orleans Square Dining

Sign of further proof that New Orleans Square is the place to be at Disneyland, three of the parks four full- service restaurants are located here. Blue Bayou, Cafe Orleans, and Club 33 take the cake in terms of sit down dining with wait staff while French Market does an admirable job of feeding those who like to peruse from a buffet.

While Club 33 is more than just a restaurant it certainly does set the high water mark for Disneyland dining; just ask our good friend, George.

Outdoor dining is the key attraction at Cafe Orleans and the seats facing the Rivers of America can be truly worth the wait. On my last visit, the lines started to really queue up in the evening and while I'm not sure what the sight lines are, my guess is you can view Fantasmic! from this location quite well.

The Blue Bayou, conveniently co-located with Pirates of the Caribbean and adjacent to Club 33 at 31 Royal Street, is listed on the Disneyland website as the only 'fine-dining' establishment in the park. While this restaurant does have a nice menu it is the ambiance that truly sets it apart from any other area as you can view Lafitte's Landing and passengers aboard the Pirates of the Caribbean. Everyone says the Monte Cristo is the way to go here - do you agree?

For those who can't get seats at either of the above, French Market is a great way to sample Creole cuisine. Outdoor music is available on the veranda and the jambalaya, while not like mom's, can satiate the biggest appetites this side of Louisiana. As previously mentioned, the Mint Julep Bar is found here on the Disneyland Railroad New Orleans Square station side where the fritters are a great breakfast treat.

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

Monday, June 9, 2008

Is it live, or is it Memorex?

For those of us old enough to remember that ad campaign (and making mix tapes on cassettes!) then the news last week of Google's Walt Disney World in 3-D layer for Google Earth must have caused a few of you to take a look and 'see' just how detailed this new tool is.

Well; in just a day or two of playing, so far, so good. Here's a picture of the Enchanted Tiki Room in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

And here's what Google Earth shows in their 3-D rendering of the same Magic Kingdom attraction. Not to shabby, eh?

This photograph was taken by the author in November, 2007. The second image is courtesy of Google Earth's Walt Disney World 3-D rendering layer, available in Google Earth version 4.3 and higher.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Germany's Leibniz Cakes

Many have taken the opportunity to eat and drink their away around Epcot's World Showcase and I, for one, can think of fewer ways to spend the second half of a day in Epcot. Tucked inside the Germany pavilion's courtyard, sandwiched in between die Weihnachts ecke (the Christmas corner) and Weinkeller (Wine cellar) is the sweet shop, Süssigkeiten. If you have a weakness for Bavarian Creme, then be warned for Süssigkeiten is full of all manner of cookies and pastries.

Once inside, you'll find a tribute of sorts to one of my favorite butter cookies, Leibniz Cakes. Developed by Hermann Bahlsen in 1891 and named for the German (Hanoverian) philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in 1892, this cookie took the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago by storm. Bahlsen sold licensing rights in the US and Russia following the show and Leibniz Cakes soon became an international success. Known by their distinctive edges (show in the first poster, below) these cookies were the some of the first commercial dry-goods to be sold in boxes and to have air tight packages.

Next time you visit this pavilion, be sure to stop in Süssigkeiten, take a look at these great posters in the shop and grab a box of Leibniz Cakes as you drink and eat your way around the 'world'.

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

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Test Track (cont.)

One of the more stimulating and educational queues in Future World is the Test Track queue. I can vouchsafe for the entire Imagineering team in that if it was their goal to make the time pass quickly in this incredibly long line and impart some knowledge they succeeded with abandon. Not only will you learn a thing or two but you might hold a grudge when the line moves more quickly than you want.

Alas, all good things must come to an end and you find yourself at what's become a familiar approach to a safety spiel at Epcot, a video terminal. This video not only alerts to what lies ahead but also sets the stage for a 'special' test to take place towards the end. (Oooh, the suspense; it's killing me!)

Once past the dulcet tones of Bill McKim (John Michael Higgins) you enter the secondary queue and the business of seeing the test vehicles begins. If you were somehow asleep before reaching this point you'll quickly perk up due to the CMs who not only usher you into place but the sounds of machinery begin their nearly continuous rattle from this point on.

The ride, which lasts approximately 5 1/2 minutes, simulates the types of tests a vehicle might undergo while in development. Segments include the 'hill climb', 'braking', 'temperature', etc., and concludes with a proving ground experience unlike any other in the park.

Soon you'll find yourself paused at the 'barrier' test and, depending upon the track ahead, you might wait here anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds where the only thing that hints at the next test is the banged up Vue, pictured above.

Eventually the narration starts again and your test vehicle barrels toward the doors above and into the beautiful Orlando sunshine.

Make sure you're on your best behavior for the final test, the 'thermal imaging' scan. After all, the others in the car might be willing to pay the $49.50 for the moment and you wouldn't want to spoil that, would you?

One last look at the CMs at the go/no-go station and those who check the safety belts and you're on to the faux assembly line, the showroom floor, and the post-show goodies we discussed in earlier posts.

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