Friday, January 30, 2009

Merchant of Venus and Mickey's Star Traders

While the Emporium takes the cake as the largest shopping venue in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the Merchant of Venus and Mickey's Star Traders occupy, together, some extensive frontage in Tomorrowland and, both inside and out, offer some interesting visual components compared to other stores on property.

Merchant of Venus sits on the north side of the main entrance into Tomorrowland from the hub, just around the corner from Stitch's Great Escape. If you continue to walk towards the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway you'll pass by Mickey's Star Traders, with only Auntie Gravity's Galactic Goodies, a set of restrooms, and a CM access door separating the two. That said, the two anchor close to 150 linear feet of space (straight line) which is a lot of room.

Mickey's Star Traders, we believe, is also an theater exit location and merchandise site for Stitch's Great Escape. (After all, what's an attraction without a corresponding place to purchase a souvenir?) Both it and Merchant of Venus offer an impressive array of Tomorrowland items and, to the PFTP staff, is the best location to purchase swag in this area of the park.

Both shops were renovated to coincide with Stitch's opening in 2004, but Merchant kept it's slightly unsettling 'plus'; a simulated air vent that rattles and shakes to remind guests of the former Alien Encounter attraction it's connected to. Mickey's features an impressive mural painted all the way around the store, above eye level. This mural, in the estimation of the PFTP staff, is much like the old Epcot store that preceded MouseGear, and more enjoyable than the merchandise inside it. An added bonus to Mickey's Star Traders is the upper pass through of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Next time you frequent the store, be sure to gaze upwards and wave a friendly intergalactic hello to the TTA above you.

Mickey's Star Traders also features one of the oldest corporate relationships between Disney and a third-party, Coppertone. Prior to becoming Mickey's Star Traders in 1991, this space was known as Mickey's Mart where it featured Coppertone skin care products since the opening day in 1971. This relationship is marked by two Sun Care Center signs and are a must have photo from the park.

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


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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Crossroads of the World

Magic hour is, perhaps, best experienced in Disney's Hollywood's Studios, located at Walt Disney World. There's something special about the quality of light towards the end of the day here; it might be the neon or it could be the combination of a lovely rose sunset with the pale blues and warm browns so prevalent in the Hollywood Boulevard section of the park.

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


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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Walt Disney World Emporium

The Emporium at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom currently runs almost the entire length of Main Street USA's west side of the street and is, perhaps, the very best place to find that something special you can't live without until your next trip to WDW. (Conversely, it is the worst place on earth to be during a parade or fireworks show.) The official WDW website lists the Emporium as having more than 17,000 ft² of retail space; that's lots and lots of merchandise, folks, and lots of picture taking opportunities for the exterior facade.

Of particular interest to the PFTP staff is the 2002 addition/renovation which extended the Emporium into what was formerly called Center Street where the Flower, Card, and Clock Shops formerly resided in days gone by. The new architecture, shown below, is quite different from the rest of Main Street and the windows on display are stunning. The supporting back story (yes, there's always a back story) goes something like this. Our shop's proprietor, wanting to expand his enterprise, wanted to showcase his travels abroad and the modern style in Europe, at the turn of the 20th century, was Edwardian as opposed to the prevailing Victorian style. The 'Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom' also points out the change in interior design which, we must admit, is hard to see when you're packed inside like a proverbial sardine. That said, we have loitered during times other than peak traffic times and the contrast is quite noticeable.

The addition's windows focus more on the goods sold than Disney luminaries; "Offering the Latest and Greatest" decries the glass and, indeed, the latest and greatest souvenirs can be yours within. Be sure, however, to look closely at the windows to the right of the expansion, in today's first photo from the park, and to the windows on the left of the expansion in the second photograph. I'm especially fond of chimney sweeps.

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


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Baby Care Centers

Tucked into a small garden, just outside of the The Crystal Palace, is this appropriately themed Victorian sign pointing the way to the Magic Kingdom's Baby Care Center, in Walt Disney World.

The Baby Care Center is a boon to parents and a testament to the overall facilities in the Magic Kingdom. A welcome sight for parents with young children, the center provides rooms to change, feed, and nap and sells various sundry items for babies. All in all, a godsend!

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


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Mousehole Covers

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

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island

The view from outside the Golden Horseshoe, located in Disneyland's Frontierland, offers a wonderful panorama of Tom Sawyer Island and the departure area from the island back to rest of the park.

Today's picture features a simulated tilt-shift filter. Tilt-shift photography is of extreme interest to PFTP staff members and the affect causes people to think the image is of a model. We've included the original, below, to serve as a point of reference. While we'll try not to abuse this filter, we do plan to highlight some of our stock in this manner in the months to come.

This photograph was taken by the author in June 2007; the edited image originated from the original.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Wherefore art thou, Adventureland Sign?

With the new year comes yet another time to petition the good folks at Imagineering in Orlando to right a grievous wrong, repudiate those who besmirched a cherished landmark, restore peace and order to the world, all through the return of one of PTFP's favorite signs in Adventureland.

These photographs were taken by the author in January, 2005 and November, 2007.


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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Countdown to Dinosaur

As Disney's Animal Kingdom's original e-Ticket attraction, Dinosaur (formerly known as Countdown to Extinction), offers guests a familiar formula to Disney theme parks: thrill ride meets education session. Although the approach is similar, the end result is one of the best in the parks as guests are treated to museum quality exhibits, information, and settings.

As you enter the overall pavilion area you can't help but see Aladar, from the Disney film with the same name, who greets you to the Dino Institute. While not nearly as exciting as Lucky, he does make for a fantastic "let's meet here after you're done with the ride" landmark. Unfortunately, that means lots of people typically block the view!

The queue is an elaborately themed and quasi-educational outdoor/indoor area with lots of exhibits to keep you occupied as you wait. The outdoor portion is accentuated with bronzed casts of animal replications, heads, and small statues.

It's interesting to note the simplicity of the outdoor queue in comparison to the indoor exhibits. It strikes us odd this is the case as the area itself is perfectly suited for additional information. We've always thought this is the one thing lacking at this attraction and could be easily rectified. In the wake of many children's museums which have incorporated 'dinosaur' elements additional items should be added to this area.


As you enter the Dinosaur building, the first thing to catch your eye at the end of the hall is this mural; every time the staff at PFTP sees this it makes them think of the first time they visited either the Field Museum in Chicago or the National History Museum on the National Mall. It's not very often the queue backs up at this point and the wonderful working diorama on the right as you enter is a feast for the eyes.


Once through this spot you reach the original crown jewel of the Disney - McDonald's partnership for this attraction, Dinosaur Sue. In the early days of the park, the Fossil Preparation Lab (some of the best and worst improv performances took place here) was setup to showcase the excavation and restoration of the skeleton, a cast of which is prominently displayes, above. The story surrounding Sue is an intersting one and the real thing now resides at the Field Museum, mentioned above.

Soon you're down the chute and into the ride load area. From here on the thrill part of the attraction takes over and is best experienced in person.

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

Monday, January 5, 2009

Storybook Land Canal Boats

There are times where a guest to Disneyland can experience an attraction that exists, in essence, just as it did when the park opened. A great example is the Storybook Land Canal Boats, located in Fantasyland.

We've discussed the Canal Boats before but had a few additional pictures we wanted to share. There's something quite wonderful about this ride if you happen to be a green thumb and/or a model builder; if you're both, then you're in heaven.

The attention to detail for such a low key attraction is a hallmark of the overall Disney theme park experience. Just think of how many hours of upkeep this attraction requires! Hats off to the Imagineering team members who work to keep this attraction looking great.

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


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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cap'n Jack's Restaurant

Ah; Cap'n Jack's. Known for a long time as Cap'n Jack's Oyster Bar, this establishment has been a favorite of many ever since the days of the Walt Disney Village Marketplace. The eatery changed names to Cap'n Jack's Restaurant in 2000 but the menu remains largely the same. A favorite of the PFTP staff (and extended family), Cap'n Jack's is no longer the sure bet for a quick stop at the bar for a drink and some peel and eat shrimp but it's a favorite nonetheless.

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


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Friday, January 2, 2009

Astro Oribter Sights

Walt Disney World's Astro Orbiter is an interesting attraction on several levels. At first glance, the Astro Orbiter is nothing but a copy of Dumbo the Flying Elephant: crazy lines with simple queuing; cranky children; a long wait for a short payoff. Sound familiar?

When a child reaches the age where they're too cool to ride Dumbo but still want to go 'round in a circle make your way over to the Astro Orbiter, especially if that child is a boy who loves spaceships. The queue itself will not impress but the fact you board an elevator to reach the attraction is always the junior member of the Photos from the Parks staff's favorite part of the wait.

Once aboard it's just like Dumbo, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and TriceraTop Spin except for the fact you're moving a bit quicker than its peers and that you're up quite a bit higher in this attraction. While I've not been able to find any specific information on the actual height I would suspect that a rider is at least 70 ft. off the ground and, perhaps, as high as 100 ft. (This is from the 'ground' of Tomorrowland, not the base of the attraction.)

The ride appears faster based on the movement of the spinning planets which are part of the attraction. While fun during the day, it's an absolute hoot at night. If you're really lucky, you'll get to ride during the fireworks.

For the photographer, Astro Orbiter is a real treat. From the deck of the attraction you have great sightlines to Space Mountain and the hub. Be sure to pick a rocket where you can take an image or two towards the hub before the ride starts. If you'd like to just take photographs, ride up with a person in your touring party and opt out of the ride portion; you'll be able to stand on the deck and shoot to your heart's delight.

As an aside, it's interesting to note the wide difference in the typeface used for the signage; the first sign in today's post is the common 'Tomorrowland' font whereas the sign at the queue is quite different. Can anyone think of another attraction where the type is so vastly different? If so, feel free to comment!

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


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