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MousePlanet Mailbag for January 30, 2003

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish all of them, the following may be of interest to other readers.

Regarding our Park Update: Disneyland column

In our January 20 edition of Park Updates: Disneyland, we said:

From the unsubstantiated rumor file – A cast member tells us that Disneyland has sold the Parade of the Stars floats to Tokyo Disneyland, and the Electrical Parade will return to Main Street this year. Juicy scoop, or urban legend? Only time will tell…

Well, the votes are in, and this was apparently just a rumor. A Disneyland Parades and Show Support cast member writes:

I found it interesting that there are rumors that Electrical Parade is supposed to come back to Main Street.

I can tell you that this will never be. Not long after E.P. came to Disney's California Adventure (DCA) park, the (powers) that be were told by the city that the tents that the floats were stored in backstage behind California Screamin', must be taken down by the end of December of that year. Not long after, the construction of a brand new float warehouse was constructed behind Pacific Wharf. This new warehouse is large enough to hold all of the floats and then some, it is also home of the Monsters Inc. stage.

Basically, E.P. is now a permanent resident of DCA. There are no plans to move it back no matter how much the annual passholders complain.

As far as the Parade of the Stars floats, it is possible that they were sold to Tokyo. But that could not happen for another few years… that is right folks, we are doomed to have that parade until the next park anniversary.

The floats were just repainted and reworked during this last off season.

Thank you for your note, and your clarifications. This one sounded too good to be true, but you never know with Disney.

Feedback for Brian Bennett (WDW)

Ron writes:

Loved your Monday column but hate the new format. Is this the way it's going to be now? If so too bad. We lost something good. Loved your Monday column.

Thanks for the kind note, Ron.

Actually, we've made two changes. First, the new Park Updates: WDW is provided every Monday. Second, what e-mail I get now is shared on Thursdays as part of MousePlanet's site-wide mailbag.

I am now able to spend more time on updating and improving the Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and providing more photo tours.

I'm sorry that you're disappointed with how things are now, but I personally think the changes make MousePlanet a much better resource.

Kris writes:

OK, a fast question: I am staying at the Marriot in Downtown Disney, and I will need to get from the hotel to the Grand Floridian Resort and the Contemporary Resort. We are not renting a car, and the hotel offers a shuttle only to the parks not the resorts. Can I take the hotel shuttle to TTC and then take a bus or monorail to the resorts, without paying entrance into the parks. We are going on a day that we are not going into the parks? So can we get to the TTC without paying to get into Magic Kingdom?

Kris – The buses that run from the Marriot drop off and pick up at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) and not directly at the Magic Kingdom. Once at the TTC, you can walk over and take the resort monorail to go to the Grand Floridian. You will not be charged to enter the TTC.

Heather M. asks:

This site used to provide a map (not to scale), of all the hotels surrounding the Disneland Park. I am looking for that kind of map to decide which hotel to stay in when I next travel to the Park. I try to stay at different hotels each time to get the full experience of Disneyland.

Heather,

I think the map you're looking for is in our Disneyland Trip Planning Guide. The Anaheim/Orange County Visitors & Convention Bureau also has some wonderfully detailed maps of the area that you can print out.

Karen D. asks for help with her upcoming trip:

I have just started reading your site, and have found it to be helpful. My question is, About how much money should I plan to bring for extras? I am staying in the Ft. Wilderness cabin, so I am cooking our meals. It will be just me and my 6-year-old twins and my 4-year-old. I see where a lot of the extra things at this resort cost extra.

We are staying March 10 to 13 with a four-day spring pass. What will the weather be like for that time of the year? I am hoping also that the crowds will be less. It has been 16 years since I have been there, and it is my children's first trip.

Also, should I use the WDW buses or drive my car to the parks? Thank you for any information you can give me.

Karen – In MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide, you'll find all kinds of information on planning a trip to Walt Disney World. I'll do my best to answer your questions, but in some cases – when the answers are right in the WDW Trip Planning Guide, I'll just refer you to the appropriate page.

Regarding your question about money, I suggest you look over the "Estimating Vacation Costs" page. In addition to giving a lot of information on what kinds of things you need to consider when setting up your trip budget, this page gives hints, tips, and some other Web references that can be very helpful in saving money on your trip. Don't miss my plug for MouseSavers.com, a site that provides a ton of information on saving money for a Walt Disney World vacation.

You're right, though. Some of the activities at Fort Wilderness and the other WDW resorts require extra fees, such as boat rentals. I can only suggest that you set aside some portion of money for such activities if you wish and ration it appropriately. Frankly, though, I think you can keep everyone very happy in the parks without spending that additional money, especially for a shorter trip like you have planned.

The "When to Go - Year-at-a-Glance" page has the information you're asking about regarding weather and crowds.

Since you'll have three kids in tow, I'd suggest you take the WDW Tranportation. For one thing, it's really easy to use once you get the hang of the routes. Second, it really does add to the "magic" of being at WDW to not have to deal with parking lots and such. In my opinion, using the buses, boats, and monorails is the way to go. I'd suggest you read over the "How to use the Walt Disney World Transportation System" page.

I'll share one last page, too, but this is just my own advice and isn't an answer to any of your questions. At the "Walt Disney World with Kids" page, you'll find information on all of the issues around taking youngsters on a trip to Walt Disney World. There's information there on how they might react to the various attractions, what the age and height restrictions are, and lots of helpful information on how to adjust your daily plans to accommodate the younger ones.

Hope I was helpful.

Julie asks:

Hi Brian,

You always answer my questions so let's try this one....do you have or where can I find current info on the opening schedule of Pop Century and room rates?

Julie – Walt Disney World has not yet announced the actual opening dates. I can only suggest that you contact the Central Reservations Office (CRO) and ask.

The room rates will be the same as those of the All Star Resorts as both resorts are in the "value" category.

Glenn V. asked:

Brian and Kevin,

I wonder if either of you can give me some background on a video version of Song of the South, and if we will ever see Disney release it again. I see expensive bidding for it on eBay, but have gotten the idea that it is no longer considered politically correct, and Disney will wipe it under the rug. I recall enjoying the movie sometime on the big screen, in a re-release I'm sure. Thanks so much for any input.

Brian replied:

Glenn – It is my understanding that Song of the South is available in the international market. What you're problably seeing on eBay is a DVD that is coded for a different region, or other format video tape formats such as PAL.

I have no idea whether or not Disney's self-imposed hiatus on releasing the film in the U.S. will continue or not.

Kevin Krock added:

Hi Glenn,

Song of the South is one of those home video titles that has more underground publicity and rumors than any other movie I know. We are coming up on about 3+ years of DVD, and every nine to 12 months, I hear that Song of the South is being released. However, shortly thereafter, stories abound about how we'll never see Song of the South – it's just too racially sensitive an issue. I've asked Disney representatives on a number of occasions, and they simply reply, "We have no current plans to release that title," or "No. Never."

Based on what I've heard over the last few years, it is clear that there is a portion of Disney that wants to release it in a restored state with contextual/historical commentary of some type. Then, there is Disney upper management, who would rather not deal with the potential backlash – if it ever materialized. It is kind of like Disney releasing the War Time animation. That was supposed to happen last December as part of the 2002 Walt Disney Treasures according to Leonard Maltin, but for one reason or another, the DVD set was not released. Maybe it was politically motivated because of the extreme stereotyping of Germans and Japanese in the animation (even though Maltin purportedly provided considerable historical context). Or maybe they just hadn't completed its production. I've heard both. Regardless, I think in time we may see Song of the South on DVD, but it may still be a while. I think the political climate and Disney management need to be perfectly aligned for it to happen.

As for eBay, there are both Japanese laser disc versions as well as pirate VHS copies available on the site, and they are usually pricey. The VHS copies tend to be low quality, though, so if you are looking to buy one, be cautious.

Until something more concrete comes along, keep your fingers crossed.

Feedback for David Koenig

In response to last week's article on the Fantasia Gardens that never was, Bryan wrote:

Fantasia Gardens was also a portion of Beastly Kingdom before it was put on the shelf. Concept art actually showed a swan boat moving through a scenic Fantasia landscape. It's pictured in the Since the World Began WDW book.

As well, JimHillMedia.com magnate/MousePlanet alumnus Jim Hill added:

I'd never heard about this particular version of this ride concept before. An earlier version, I had. The "Fantasia Gardens" that Marc Davis and Claude Coats had actually proposed for building at Disneyland back in the early 1960s as a retheming of the Fantasyland Motor Boats. Marc himself showed me the concept art for that particular version of the ride back in January 1993 when Michelle and I were visiting he and Alice at their home in Silverlake.

Plus there was that great article that Craig McNair Wilson wrote about the "Fantasia Gardens" concept for the Winter 1990 of "WD Eye" (Issue 7). In the article, John Hench "tells of a plan to convert the motor boats in Fantasyland to a world of character-shaped 'water sculptures.' Marc Davis would provide the character designs for the attraction that was tentatively titled Garden of the Gods. Imagineering would 'figure out' how to carve the characters with water. Eventually the idea was shelved, not because Imagineers couldn't do the character fountains and falls, but because of the unacceptable sound intrusion of the Autopia cars. Music was to play a key role in the Fantasia boat-through experience and there was no effective way to balance the ever-present (and impromptu!) internal combustion 'Freeway fusion' and the 'Pastoral.'

"Then, just a couple of years ago, Claude Coats developed another retrofit concept -- again for the Swan Boats in the canal around the hub of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. This time, though, the classic Fantasia characters would be realized in topiary bushes. Working with Katy Moss Warner of Walt Disney World's Parks Horticulture group, Claude discovered the existence or possibility of flowering topiary (animals and other figures sculpted in bush or other fauna). Although this Swan Boat area was not developed, some consideration was given toward developing these concepts for the gardens at the entrance to Euro Disneyland."

There was also the version of the Fantasia Gardens float-through ride that was supposed to have been one of the three opening day attractions for Animal Kingdom's Beastly Kingdom area (along with Quest for the Unicorn and Dragon's Tower).

I just love how WDI does stuff like this. Never letting an idea die. Always resurrecting promising concepts with the hope that -- someday -- this idea for a new ride, show or attraction will finally find a home at one of the theme parks.

Finally, two skeptics challenged the optimistic outlook for DCA's upcoming Tower of Terror attraction. First, a former Disney World cast member wrote:

Yet more Disney Double Talk has arrived. Regarding the each shaft having "totally separate ride systems with separate towers and control systems" so the ride will never shut down completely: Well, that's not anything new. WDW's Tower already can do that. One side can go down, while the other remains up and running. Even the four-lift shafts can do that. Star Tours can have one sim[ulator] go down while the others are up. How new is that?

Regarding the variable ride programs: Geez, that sounds a lot like the new "Randomizer" program install at WDW currently. No matter what shaft you enter, you never know what program is being used or what to expect. Disney Double Talk!

Next, a former Disneyland cast member wrote:

Regarding Tony Baxter's positive hinting: Unfortunately, any time a Disney executive (or any Disney cast member), in an official capacity, makes a comment at any public function, little can be expected other than the company hype that's expected from them. Even an executive as excellent as Tony Baxter will choose his words very carefully in those situations. If you want an uninfluenced opinion, you need to catch them in informal non-Disney situations. From what I've been given to understand, while the attraction does maintain much of the quality efforts of the original attraction, especially in the pre-show, the cutbacks due to budgetary constraints have definitely reduced the overall quality and content of the ride experience.

The 101 aspect of the attraction is of little consequence. There are a number of attractions that fit that situation. While it is a minor point, it in no way guarantees an unerring operation. Even so, operation benefits are not going to be any sort of draw for guests.

As for claims that the new effects, that they have been touting in DCA's ToT are better than the 4th dimension effect they eliminated, reports that I've heard indicate that they are far from convincing and are in no way a successful replacement.

Also, the claim that the variations to the ride profile are a key element in the new attraction just isn't a worthwhile point. Very few if any will be able to notice. Only those very few who repeatedly ride the attraction will tell the differences. If you didn't notice the differences in the Indy ride variations (outside of the first door sequence, which is fairly obvious when it's actually working), you probably won't notice the differences in ToT.

We'll see what happens on this one. I'm trying to stay as optimistic as possible, since I think so much of DCA's chances for success hinge on this single attraction. As far as the ride never going 101 (inoperable), I disagree that this is of no consequence to the guest. Especially as someone who's spent innumerable hours waiting in the Rocket Rods queue only to see, moments before boarding, the ride go down for the day.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Do you have specific questions about an upcoming trip to Disneyland, Walt Disney World or another park, or do you need help with your trip planning? While you can contact one of the columnists, we encourage you to join our special MousePlanet community on our MousePad discussion board. There, you will find like-minded Disney park fans who can try to help answer your questions.

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