Saturday, September 26, 2009

Out of this World Clocks

One of the more interesting items found within or on Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is visible in plain sight on tower 10, an Astronomical Clock. There is precious little information about this rather unique timepiece looking over the central hub and it's a shame as this clock is wonder to behold.

Astronomical clocks are loosely defined as clocks that, in addition to telling time, display information related to the movement of the sun and moon in the sky and other astronomical information. A telltale component of these clocks are the interior dials. As seen in the image below there are two dials visible on the clock's face.

The larger dial represents the zodiac and is a representation of the earth's ecliptic which is a way to depict the path of the planets through the sky and the earth's orbit. The sun, found on the end of the hour hand, passes through or across a corresponding zodiac sign to indicate the time of year, or month. (Please see this diagram for an explanation.) Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to apply to the clock on Cinderella's Castle as the image above the sun here corresponds with a December-January time frame and not the late November date this photo was taken on.

The second dial, located inside of the ecliptic dial, depicts the nine planets. Based on the readily available research sites it's not clear if the path of the moon is represented here compared to orbit of the other planets or if something else is taking place. PFTP submitted a question to Dave Smith, the ultimate Disney archivist and hopes to hear from him in a future Insider mail. (User 'wdwmemories' on photobucket has a fantastic close-up image located here. Place your mouse over the image and choose the zoom feature to have a great look at the clock.)

For those of us who frequent the Happiest Place on Earth you also have an astronomical clock at your disposal. This slightly smaller and non-illuminated clock graces the walls in back of  Sleeping Beauty Castle directly above the Once Upon a Time store, on the large turret. This clock also displays two inner dials (more clearly visible here) but like its counterpart in Florida, the date depicted above by the sun is off by a month or so. (The image above was taken in February and the clock shows Sagittarius, which is Nov/Dec.)

Regardless, these are truly interesting items within the parks and given the dearth of information online it's unknown to us if similar clocks exist at TDL, TDS, and DLP. Does anyone know? Finally, many thanks to our favorite Dave on the web, Davelandweb for his assistance in learning more about these clocks and finding out the astronomical clock in Disneyland has been there since day 1. Thanks, Dave! Be sure to visit his link for more pictures of this clock in Disneyland.

These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2008 and February, 2009.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PFTP Technical Update

PFTP has recently introduced several new technical features on the site we hope will make your reading experience more interactive and enjoyable. Over the past few months we've added a custom Google map at the end of each post. Featured in the center of each of these maps are icons that indicate the relative position the PFTP staff were in when they took the photo(s) in that post.

These maps are interactive with an incredible amount of built-in features. You can move them around, click on icons to open the corresponding PFTP post(s), and much more.

To begin, click on one of the icons found inside the map. One particular icon, the green arrow with asterisk, is our default icon. (Other icons include trains, first aid, food, hotels, and more.) When you click an icon a text bubble will appear. Inside this bubble is information related to the post including a hypertext link to the post and Google features such as zoom and directions.

If you select the hypertext link directly beneath the embedded map (it usually says 'View Photos from the Parks in a larger map') the parent map will open. This customized Google map serves as the central repository for all PFTP posts. (Please note not all historical posts have been added to these lists; it is a continued work in progress and our goal is to have all posts added by the end of 2009.)

A much larger map is now visible in the main portion of the page. To move around and within the map, click into the map and move it with the left mouse button depressed. You can also move around by selecting a link from on the left hand side of the map. Here you'll find a chronological listing of our posts; just click on a link to learn more. Feel free to use these maps to either become more familiar with our posts or to explore the parks. (Please note there are two distinct maps; one is for WDW and the other for DL.)

Let's look at one of the chronological links in more detail. Click on the 'Magic Kingdom Train Station at Night' link on the left hand side, PFPT's very first post from January 2007. The map at right will move to that area and open a text bubble.

Click on the date link in the text bubble (in this case January 3, 2007 post) and the map will open the corresponding PFTP blog entry with the small, embedded version of the map at the bottom of the post. If you look closely, you'll see the same icons as in the larger Google map. It's important to note these maps are rendered in real time each time you visit so as more locations from past posts are added you'll see more and more icons within the Google maps.

If we look back at the larger map, you'll notice several unique features at the upper right-hand corner of the screen. If you select the 'More. . .' button you can view content Google users have added in other Google maps including photographs, videos, Wikipedia entries, and more. If you select the 'Map' icon, the page is displayed in a standard 2-D map view. 'Terrain' provides a graduated shade view that depicts elevation. (Not so useful for the parks!) The default view is 'Satellite' and if you wish to remove the map overlay, just deselect the 'Show Labels' option beneath that button. You can select the RSS feed for this map (to alert you of updates), print the map, send it to others, and link to the map from here as well.

Perhaps the coolest feature is the 'View in Google Earth' link. If you select this link, Google will download to your desktop the PFTP .kml data to be viewed inside of Google Earth, Google's desktop application for viewing the globe. If interested, you'll need to download the application from Google and open the .kml link generated from Google maps, as depicted above.

When the .kml file is opened in Google Earth, you will be taken to that location. The image above shows the data from the PFTP Google map and other information from Google including the great 3-D rendering of the WDW park. (To download the 3-D .kml data, visit Professor Von Drake here.)

Click on one of the white text lines to view the corresponding PFTP post in a text bubble.

Once you become familiar with the Google Earth application you can look at each photo in a scale representation and explore the entire park in 3-D. Please note this feature only available at this time for Walt Disney World and our corresponding posts for the WDW Resort. Hopefully a Disneyland version will be released soon.

However, there is a separate map for Disneyland Photos from the Parks; it operates in exactly the same way but features only posts from Disneyland and California Adventure.

There are a couple of other new features in our blog. Underneath the embedded map you'll find the Comment area with labels beneath. Labels have always been part of our posts but it's worth noting anything we list in italics in the post is featured as a label.

If you click on a label beneath a post you'll be taken to a listing of posts with that assigned label. You can also access labels on the right hand side; they are the white hypertext links with a green background. We try to create labels for each post that reference the location (WDW or DL), park (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, California Adventure, etc.), land (Frontierland, Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Hollywood Boulevard, etc.), attraction/shop/restaurant (Spaceship Earth, Cranium Command, Mad Hatter, Bippity Boppity Boutique, Bistro de Paris, Columbia Harbor House, etc.), and any persons associated with the post. Each link on the right hand side of the page is listed by frequency, with the most referenced labels at the top of the list. You can also tell us whether or not you liked the particular post through the use of the stars at the very end of each post.

We love your comments and have decided not to require the use of CAPTCHA. This is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to leave your thoughts as you like. We try to answer all comments, especially if you've answered one of our many questions. (We've got lots of them.)

At the top right of our main page is a search box to help you find items with PFTP. The query text 'security at disneyland' will first open results from within our site with dates and a sample of the corresponding text. Additional results are listed beneath the top search results.

The next area, 'Linked from Here', includes all external blog related searches for the entered text.

The last area, 'Disney Blogs of Note', looks for the text entered into the search box from our blog roll list on the right hand side of the PTFP blog. If you'd like to be added to our list just send us a note and we'll be happy to oblige. 

There are a couple of other interesting items towards the bottom of the PFTP main page. We're a big fan of music from the Disney theme parks and whenever we can locate needle-drop or other music we try to link to those tracks. In the image above you can listen to some of the old WDW Tomorrowland background music tracks; those are our very favorites from the parks.

Lastly, many of your posts serve as the basis for our entries. When we reference your material or infer knowledge about your site from one of your posts, we directly link to you and the post as seen above by the hypertext links to the Main St. Gazette and Imaginerding. If we reference a previous PFTP post, we link to that also, as seen by the 'As we've explored before' link above. You can also see the use of italics inside the post to reference labels.

That's about it for today. Sorry for the information overload but we wanted to provide insight into our posting process and ask for your feedback. Do you like these new maps and features? Are they helpful or a pain? Let us know in the comments section below and we'll get back to you.

Gepetto's Workshop Marionettes

A recent post by Princess Fee regarding Pinocchio wood carvings and murals brought to mind the stunning marionettes formerly located inside the storefront window of Geppetto's Holiday Workshop / Wishing Star Magic Crystals.

The small display window at the front of the store featured wonderful marionettes in keeping with the nearby Pinocchio's Daring Journey attraction.

While it's easy to place Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio side-by-side, it's a bit odd to see them represented at the same size; we're accustomed to our conscience a bit smaller in scale. Also, who is the fetching lass to the right?

Not part of the shop but located just to the left is the attraction itself. From the exterior queue you can look inside the ride and see the painting of Geppetto's workshop with Figaro and Cleo nearby. Also interesting in this mural are the three Disney princesses depicted; I think I see Aurora and Cinderella but cannot identify the princess to the far right, on the bronze pedestal. Is it Snow White? Any ideas?

Lastly, the shop itself is shuttered now following the transition from the image above to Wishing Star Magic Crystals in August 2008. The store closed in January of this year after the third-party vendor departed from Disneyland. An image of just how small this shop really was, when open, is visible here; PTFP has never been inside but hopes something takes its place in the near future, one that keeps these great signs in place in some way, shape, or form.

These photographs were taken by the author in February. 2009 and November, 2007.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Photographing WDW's Haunted Mansion

Photographing Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion often yields just one shot. You've seen it; it's the image that immediately springs to mind. Much like the 'weenies' found within the parks this is the photograph you wind up taking each and every time you visit the park. As guests within the confines of Liberty Square, there's not much you can do about this fact; while guests are able to take varied pictures of the story elements such as the tombstones, carriage, mausoleum and the ring in the pavement, the attraction's exterior provides limited options when viewed through your camera lens.

However, once you leave Liberty Square, helpful tools are provided by other attractions located in the western edge of the park notably the Liberty Square Riverboat and Tom Sawyer Island.

A trip on the Liberty Square Riverboat provides the unexpected benefit of unobstructed sight lines to the Haunted Mansion. As the Riverboat leaves the landing, climb up to the Texas deck and walk towards the stern. From here, you have a beautiful view of The Haunted Mansion and Aunt Polly's on Tom Sawyer Island as you look over the paddle wheel.

Similarly, visitors to Tom Sawyer Island have intriguing views of the western side of The Haunted Mansion. (The best views here, though, are of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.)

Next time you're in the park and looking for a new picture of this Disney classic, think outside of Liberty Square. These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2008.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Walt Disney World Tomorrowland Skyway

Concurrent with the Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Theater, and TTA refurbishments either underway or completed at WDW's Magic Kingdom is the removal of the Tomorrowland Skyway structure. The southeast terminus of the long defunct Skyway attraction, this building had become an oddity of sorts. Best known for its restrooms at the edge of the berm this structure served as a seating area for family members waiting for their loved ones to return from Space Mountain.

Many will remember the building for the small waterfall that collected the odd coin or two and the flower planter. Conventional wisdom holds this real estate will feature a new sit-down restaurant in the months to come and, like many, we are looking forward to seeing this space put to use.

This photograph was taken in November, 2008.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hollywood & Vine

Disney's Hollywood Studios is home to many of PFTP's 'second-bests'. DHS is home to what we consider the second-best Disney park attraction, second-best themed land, and second-best bakery in all of WDW. (Anyone care to venture a guess as to what these are? Leave your thoughts below.)

Unfortunately, DHS is also home to some real stinkers in our opinion when it comes to sit down eateries and it has everything to do with the acoustics. (In the immortal words of Ted Giesel, 'Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!') PTFP staff have eaten numerous times at the Sci-Fi Dine-In, ABC Commissary, Toy Story Pizza Planet Arcade, and '50s Prime Time Cafe which are all loud but the restaurant below takes the cake when it comes to mind numbing noise.

The noise level inside Hollywood & Vine is largely due to the addition of character dining at this establishment at certain times and when The Playhouse Disney characters arrive the decibel level goes up - and up. The restaurant 'Where Famous Stars Shine' is also home to one of three Fantasmic! dinner packages so it's always a full house. And while the buffet is singularly good, the noise makes you want to exit the restaurant, turn left, step inside the Tune-In Lounge, and start drinking. (Yes. It's that loud.)

On the bright side, the interior has a wonderful 1920's themed mural inside showing off the LA scene and the exterior; well, the exterior is a dream. More beautiful at dusk than any other time, Hollywood & Vine's building facade drips with style and the windows above are great tie-ins to 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'. (To find three references, turn around and look over your left shoulder from the above point to view to find a Maroon Cartoon billboard.) Above Eddie Valiant's window (the windows in DHS are not as sacrosanct as those in the Magic Kingdom) you will find an appropriate homage not to Roger but to Mickey: his date of birth.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Street Addresses

As we've explored before, 'The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World' tells us the address numbers affixed to the storefronts in the Magic Kingdom's Frontierland represent the year of their overall architectural style. (Thanks, Ryan!) Furthermore, it helps paint a story for us; a story that goes from east to west and from the colonies to the gold rush. In keeping with WDI's standards, this concept adds tremendous depth to the park and while it may be overlooked by the casual guest, it provides food for thought for Disney Geeks. (Apologies to George!)

The above image was taken from the parade route, looking to the southeast, and focuses on the Hardware Store and Prairie Outpost and Supply. To me, this style of building most closely emulates the Harper Goff sketches from 1951 that served as the basis for Disneyland's Frontierland area today.

This close-up demonstrates how WDI manages to make the constantly new look constantly old on the Prairie Outpost and Supply sign; it's this particular skill that makes the Disney parks shine. Look closely at the horseshoes and the rifle (.22?) in between the Hardware Store second story windows.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Disneyland Railroad Station Signs


These beauties greet you as you board the Disneyland Railroad at the Main Street and New Orleans Square stations. The classic Disneyland Railroad logo in brown, gold, red, and blue is a classic. I especially enjoy the 'wait' times feature in each of these signs; I always want to reach out and see if I can spin the wheel inside to read another time but can't bring myself to do it. The sign above looks as if a bit of paint was applied to fix a minor issue but the result brings more attention than probably anticipated. Let's hope a proper color match was found soon after this shot was taken.

The New Orleans Square sign tells a greater story as it combines three in one. (Has anyone ever gone to City Hall and asked to examine the aforementioned certificates of compliance?) It too features a 'wait time' sign which I couldn't bring myself to spin around. The signs themselves have changed slightly over the years. This image from wikipedia shows a similar overall style sans certificate compliance (what a blight those are!) but with a focus on wheelchair access instead of the storyline. As an added bonus, the wikipedia image shows the sign as the Frontierland station and not New Orleans Square, as shown above.

The usually diligent PFTP staff realized today it doesn't have photos of the signs at the Mickey's Toontown and Tomorrowland stations; can anyone confirm if the same style sign appears in those locations? If we remember correctly (and this image confirms) the signs at Mickey's Toontown Station are in keeping with the overall architectural style of this land. For the life of us, we can't remember one at the Tomorrowland station, because we've never boarded or disembarked here, but imagine it looks a lot like this.

These photographs were taken by the author in February 2009.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aladdin's Oasis

In our last post we discussed one of many locations in Disneyland currently unused but with a rich history. Another such location in the park is Aladdin's Oasis, located on the northeastern corner of Adventureland.

This spot was for thirty years the home of the Tahitian Terrace, Disneyland's Polynesian dinner show. PFTP is an unabashed proponent of all things Tiki, especially in the parks, and wishes the staff would have visited prior to 1993 as that's when the Tahitian Terrace went dark and Aladdin's Oasis opened. Aladdin's Oasis operated as a dinner theater for just a couple of years and then soldiered on for a while as an outdoor restaurant venue open only on weekends, holidays, and mad AP rush days. The menu attempted to remain true to the overall story; here it is from Walt Hoffman's November 1994 FAQ regarding the site:

Aladdin's Oasis' dining entertainment will be featured (starting November 25th) on selected weekends and holiday periods days for lunch and dinner which features magic, music, song, and dance with Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, the Genie and Jafar from the movie, "Aladdin". In addition to the show, the food offerings are every bit as exotic. Food includes papadom wafers w/chutney (a sort of a chips and salsa), fresh fruit, and main entree (beef, chicken, or vegetable), raisin nut pilaf, and a special dessert. Dinner menu has larger food portions. Children (3-11) can choose from cheese-filled pasta or chicken strips. Prices for adults/children are $19.50/$14.50 for lunch and $24.50/$19.50 for dinner plus tax and gratuity (15%). Reservations are required and must be made in person on the day of the visit at the restaurant entrance or the Reservation Center on Main Street. Payment is required for the confirmation of all reservations.

Unfortunately, it sounds like a menu destined to fail in 1994 SoCal. Eventually the restaurant shuttered and and was replaced in January 1997 with a storytelling show featuring the same, familiar characters from the movie. This show, Aladdin and Jasmine's StoryTale Adventures, became a good spill-over event for peak park attendance days and continued off an on through ten years. In Summer 2008, as part of Disneyland's Indiana Jones' Summer of Hidden Mysteries, the site was only slightly refurbished for use as yet another, albeit more violent, storytelling/action attraction, the Secret of the Stone Tiger stage show. For those of you who remember it was this show that featured Indy hitting a sinister woman and set off a major brouhaha that resulted in the show's rewrite and eventual cancellation. (Yes, the show attempted to tie-into the fourth installment of the popular movie franchise and just followed that story. Nonetheless, it wasn't too smart of DL to write a sympathetic character who then suddenly turns into a bad-girl. Just doesn't make sense to kids or adults.) This maligned show fortunately ended, as did the Random Acts of Indy, and when these photos were taken, the site was opened only for special events at the park (page 3).

Regardless of its current usage, this is a great location in the park. It is situated directly in back of the Plaza Pavilion and one can only assume it could at some point be restored for active dinner usage. While the park's previous emphasis on Polynesia has probably passed (alliteration riff of the day) the Middle Eastern architectural motifs likely prohibit a tie-in back to the old Adventureland. One can only hope it returns to standard use, one more befitting its rich heritage.

Be sure to view Yesterland's fine information on the Tahitian Terrace, its page on the old Tahitian Terrace lunch menu, and Daveland's wonderful Disneyland Adventureland page for more information.

These photographs were taken by the author in February, 2009.

View Disneyland - Photos from the Parks in a larger map

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fairytale Arts

Tucked away behind the northern side of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, in what seems to be a rather unremarkable section of Disneyland Park between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, is a rather remarkable open space with a fair bit of history. Right on the water's edge is an often missed cart; even we at PFTP pass by quickly on our way to Fantasia Gardens.

Fairytale Arts is an open air face painting and name printing opportunity just off the motor boat cruise lagoon. Fantasia Freeze, an outdoor vending cart, is just to the right and is the home of the famous Tinkerbell Twist. (Not a PFTP favorite, this; we prefer the Frozen Apple.)

Daveland's blog recently noticed the addition of a new structure in this area of the park (second half of the post), just to the north and west of Fairytale Arts, which some have suggested might be a new home for Fantasia Freeze (halfway down the page).

This photograph was taken by the author in February, 2009.

View Disneyland - Photos from the Parks in a larger map