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MousePlanet Mailbag for January 20, 2005

Romance and the Disney parks

Did you propose to your fiance while watching Illuminations at Epcot? Was your most romantic dinner at Victoria and Albert's at the Grand Floridian?

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and we want to hear from you! Send us your stories (or suggestions) about Valentine's Day, love or romance in the Disney parks! We're particularly interested in Walt Disney World, but we'll be happy to hear about any Disney theme park. If we run your message, we'll be glad to dedicate it to your loved one as well.

Please send e-mail soon!

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

Feedback for Mark Goldhaber

Ursula LeDesma-Kietzke writes:

I have heard through the grapevine that the old submarine ride is being renovated to become a new ride with the them of Finding Nemo. Could this possibly be true, if so I think that is a wonderfule idea. I have been a longtime Disneyland fanatic. Although I remember the Submarine as a young child, a new ride is always looked forwward to with great anticipation.

Hi Ursula – Yes, that is the current thinking, and there is coverage of the story at most of the web sites that cover Disneyland. There is a sub at the dock in Disneyland fitted out to review potential show effects, though I don't know that the project has received the green light yet. You may want to check out our weekly Disneyland Park Updates on the site for the latest information. There are also bits of information to be had from threads on our discussion forums.

Gregory Chin writes:

Wow, if they're removing the “Exxon” signage from The Universe of Energy" pavilion, then that's the end of a great era, for sure…

A stroll down memory lane (about Disney Particpant Partnerships):

I remember when I started at WDW, in 1977, Gulf Oil was the participant gasoline company, on property. The Gulf Care Center—the only place to get car repairs done. I could drop off my car, and get the repairs done, and pick up the car, later, after work.

When plans for EPCOT Center were finally announced at the International Commerce Convention (the ICC, held in the Contemporary's Fiesta Fun Center area, in late 1978) (I was there, working that night, in Watercraft. We had all 3 ferryboats docked at the Contemporary's T-dock), and after that grand annoucement, “Exxon” suddenly emerged as the gasoline participant, on property!

EPCOT was to be opened in 1982, 4 years away.

It seemed like a long time off, but in retrospect, in was a short time, as Walt Disney World underwent an amazing transformation from “Magic Kindom – day trip visits,” to “EPCOT Center – and international visitors, and possible week-long vacation stays.” Walt Disney World's and Disney Imagineering's (known as WED Enterprises at the time) manufacturing capabilities increased exponentially, to get certain EPCOT Center attractions built, on site.

Next thing you know, Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, Kraft, and Kodak, and The Bell System (later as AT&T) all signed up for EPCOT pavilions in 1978.

Eastern Airlines was still the Official Disney Airline, until they severed their participants contract, years later, (maybe 1986- 87) and then they were aviation company history, after they left the Disney Participant deal.

Delta took over that role, henceforth the “Delta's Dreamflight” rehab, by 1990.

Same thing happened to Premier Cruise Lines, during the mid 1990's. I think the cruise line was dreaming of having Universal Studios and Sea World characters, aboard their Big Red Boats, and not just Disney characters, exclusively.

When Metropolitan Life annouced plans to sponsor the “Wonders of Life” pavilion, in 1986, WDW cast members had their medical and life insurance policies, switch to MetLife Insurance policies.

Today, it would seem that Disney Co. is equally hurt by the loss of each participant, as the Disney attractions and participant names are no longer instantly identifiable.

When United Technologies Corp., didn't renew “The Living Seas” sponsorship, that was a steep loss, indeed. The UTC Lounge, overlooking the 5.7 million gallon saltwater environment, was definitely, the best one of all, hands down!

I miss those days, when The Living Seas Pavilion was the latest and greatest achievement, at EPCOT.

Gregory Chin
Ex-Disney Cast Member and Walt Disney Animation Artist (from 1977 thru 1995)
Later, at FOX Animation Studios, in Phoenix, AZ. (1995 thru 2000)
Now living in Reno, Nevada.

Hi Gregory – What a great recap of Disney theme park history! It's amazing how much has changed since the days when Walt's E.P.C.O.T. became EPCOT Center. The company and the parks have changed so much. Thanks for writing! (And if you have any inside stories, please feel free to pass them along!)

A MousePlanet reader who forgot to include their return email address or name writes:

The new Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Kit video, which focuses on Magical Gatherings, refers to Disney-MGM Studios as “Disney Studios.” Guests refer to it with the MGM redacted, and the video even shows the archway entrance to the animation area with the MGM removed, either physically or digitally. Disney's web site still lists it as Disney-MGM Studios, however.

Is this an official name change for the park? Of course, the other studios parks all don't have MGM in their name, but is the Orlando park changing?

Hi there. I'm answering this in the mailbag, since I couldn't respond to you directly.

This is a common topic of discussion on Disney-related message boards, and the generally held belief is fairly consistent. Basically, the deal that Disney signed with MGM gave Disney the rights to use the name on the theme park (along with using some of the movie scenes in the Great Movie Ride), but Disney did not get the right to use the name on electronic media. Don't look for the name to change until the contract ends.

Jerry writes:

I am going to Walt Disney World in December. I have gone many times and stayed at the Polynesian in the '80s and '90s. I am having trouble communicating with them about the room, and building I want. do you know how to find out who I can e-mail to get help so I get the right building?

I have had my AAA agent call several times and get differant answers. When I email disneyworld customer relations they prefer I go through my AAA agent because they booked my trip. Catch 22.

Part of the problem is they changed the names of the buildings at the Polynesian. I stayed at the Tonga with concierge service before. Now they said the name is the Hawaii, which on my map is not the right building. Is there a manager or higher up I can contact?

Hi Jerry – The Tonga building was indeed renamed to Hawaii in 1999, when just about every building was renamed for a true Polynesian island. For reference, a map with the current name of each building is located at MousePlanet here (link).

For reference purposes, here are the current and former names of all of the buildings:

  • Tonga (formerly Bali Hai)
  • Aotearoa (formerly Tahiti)
  • Fiji
  • Tuvalu (formerly Samoa)
  • Hawaii (formerly Tonga)
  • Samoa (formerly Hawaii)
  • Niue (formerly Bora Bora)
  • Rarotonga (formerly Maori)
  • Tokelau (formerly Oahu)
  • Tahiti (formerly Moorea)
  • Rapa Nui (formerly Pago Pago)

If you'd like to contact the Polynesian directly, their phone number is (407) 824-2000 and their fax number is (407) 824-3174.

Enjoy your vacation!

In response to “Disney vs. Reality,” Mark's comparison of Disney's new Saratoga Springs with the real thing in New York, Lori Connors writes:

Hey Mark! We stayed at Saratoga Springs for 2 weeks this summer in one of the 1 bedroom villas. It is an amazing place for a vacation! The grounds are beautiful and constantly kept up with, the cast was unbelievable, the location is awesome (quiet but still Disney and so close to Downtown). I cannot say enough good things about our experience here, we would advise everybody to try it! They will come back! Have a great day!

Hi Lori – I'm looking forward to taking a look around the resort when I'm down for MouseFest in December. It seems to be most reminiscent of Old Key West in its room size and layout and building configuration. I agree that the DVC resorts are a great place to stay. Thanks for writing!

Jason Williams writes:

A couple of weeks ago I was riding in the front Monorail car with my son, and the driver told us, “Mike Eisner is deciding now” on whether the new underwater attraction would either be a tie-in to Atlantis or Finding Nemo.

Certainly Nemo would make more sense in terms of visitor appeal, but would that be making too much of a nod to Pixar? Then again, the driver may not have known what she was talking about. Does Eisner really decide that sort of thing?

Hi Jason – Our best information is still that they're looking at a Nemo-inspired attraction. Many times, cast members will pass along information that is strictly hearsay, or even just wishful thinking. If we hear anything different, we will indeed publish it.

And yes, Michael Eisner does indeed get that involved in the decision regarding attractions. He had the original opening of the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter delayed at Walt Disney World so that they could rework the attraction. He made the decision to redo the Journey Into Your Imagination attraction at Epcot immediately upon riding it right after it opened. He is known as a very hands-on executive.

Lindsay writes:

Someone told me there might be a Buzz Lightyear ride taking the place of the old Rocket Rods ride. Is that true? Do you know? If so, please E-mail me!

Hi Lindsay – Yes, Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters will be going into the old Circlevision theater in Disneyland. We've been following the progress of the attraction for a year now in the weekly Disneyland Update. You might want to look through the last year's worth of Updates for all of the information.

Jeffry Jauken writes:

Hi Mark,

I read your site daily, im going to Disney in Florida in early December. I know this is probably a weird question but does Disney offer any perks in the park for Disney stockholders? If i mention it to a cast member, can I expect anything special?

Hi Jeff – Sad to say, there have been no shareholder perks for at least 10-15 years now. There used to be free or discounted Magic Kingdom Club membership and discounted hotel rates, but no more. I doubt that you'd get any reaction from a CM, either. Sorry.

Mark ran a two-part in his Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda series of his World View column, in which former Imagineer Paul Torrigino wrote about the cancelled project for Animal Kingdom's planned Beastlie Kingdomme land (part 1, part 2). As you can imagine, the articles generated a lot of interest, and our feedback reflects this.

Mas Nishimura writes:

Hi. Wow! a terrific ride, but while reading this, I couldn't help thinking about Bilbo and the Dwarves against Smaug in the Hobbit.

Doubt that it would happen, but that would be an interesting tie in.

Thanks for all the intresting stories!

Glenn Vines writes:

Hi Mark,

Wrote a couple weeks ago after part 1 a couple weeks ago. Just wanted to follow up and thank you. Indeed I hope Disney recognizes the unique attraction and adds it. With the undertaking of Expedition Everest, I'm guessing a major addition like this will probably not come around real soon. Anyway one can positively write Disney in support?

Hi again, Glenn – I think that it would be wonderful for Disney to build Dragon Tower, or indeed all of Beastlie Kingdomme, but I doubt that it will ever happen. Between the investment that they've made to upgrade the theater for the Lion King show and the fact that mythological creatures are now being moved into the other lands of the park (the Yeti at Expedition Everest), I doubt that Beastlie Kingdomme will ever see the light of day.

I doubt that any write-in campaign would do any good. It didn't save Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or Horizons from closing, I don't see how it could bring an attraction back from never having been built in the first place. Good thought, though. Ah, well. As Marc Davis used to say, “No good idea ever really dies at Imagineering.”

Dave Parker writes:

Mr. Goldhaber,

I have really enjoyed your recent articles regarding what “would have been” over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, namely that of Beastlie Kingdomme. Just finding out that was the proposed spelling of the expansion as opposed to the often assumed “Beastly Kingdom” spelling was a treat in itself.

I was recently at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and this series of articles got me thinking when I was in the Camp Minnie Mickey section of the Park. In fact, on the bridge leading from Discovery Island to Camp Minnie-Mickey, I was able to spot a rock formation in the shape of a Dragon's head, as well as what appears to be the “teaser” cave used for the early boat tour.

I was wonering if you could have Paul Torrigino elaborate on these items which were actually built, seemingly the only reminants of this never built land.

I can send my pictures to you if you wish to review/use them.

Hi Dave – Thanks for your kind words about the story. I'll forward your note to Paul to see if he has anything to add. At this point, we don't have an upcoming use for photos of the dragon's cave and we don't add photos to stories retroactively, but I'd love to see the pictures anyway.

Former Imagineer Paul Torrigino responds:

Hi Dave,

Thanks for writing. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. It was fun to remember Beastlie Kingdomme, I hadn't thought about it in years.

The Dragon cave you saw originally had dragon sound effects and a burst of flame that was staged for the Discovery river boats to see. I think it was running just when the park opened, but they closed it soon after.

I don't think anything else of Beastlie Kingdomme was actually built except for some suits of armor that were going to be staged around the cave.

Joe Rhode designed the little cave teaser at that point. I was busy over in Dinoland, so I don't know much more about it than what I said.

Thanks again!

Susan Ledging writes:

Wow, I loved this article about what might have been for Animal Kingdom's Beastlie Kingdomme. The whole land sounds really neat, and that dragon tower ride sounds like an awesome one. I think they should go ahead and build the whole land! Animal Kingdom needs more life and more interesting things to do, so it can become a full day park like the others.

I didn't even visit the Camp Minnie Mickey section of the park until three years after I first visited the park, because I was under the impression that there was nothing of interest there. I was right, except for the Festival of the Lion King.

Personally, I believe Beastlie Kingdomme would be a big hit and a major draw to people who might otherwise not even visit Animal Kingdom. I know I would love to spend hours in a Medieval setting with Mother Goose stores and unicorn mazes and cool rides in a castle! Thanks for this article! Maybe we can begin a petition or something to let Disney know that people want this land built!

Hi Susan – I'm glad that you enjoyed the article. I'll send along a copy of your note to Paul Torrigino, who wrote the story.

I think that it would be wonderful for Disney to build Beastlie Kingdomme, but I doubt that it will ever happen. Between the investment that they've made to upgrade the theater for the Lion King show and the fact that mythological creatures are now being moved into the other lands of the park (the Yeti at Expedition Everest), I doubt that Beastlie Kingdomme will ever see the light of day. A real shame. Ah, well. As Marc Davis used to say, "No good idea ever really dies at Imagineering."

Paul Torrigino responds:

Hi Susan,

Thanks for writing. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

I agree with you that Beastlie Kingdomme would have been a great addition to the park, but as Mark said, it's unlikely they will ever do it the way it was originally planned. Maybe they will do a smaller version of it someday.

You know at the time when we were working on it I remember thinking that it was too good to be true - especially because it didn't tie in to any major Disney film (except for the Fantasia boat ride). It was all original. They don't do many of those anymore.

Thanks again.

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