More Secrets of the Disney Dream

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

As I mentioned last week, I once again got a chance in January to take a voyage on the Disney Dream as a guest of some students from Buena Vista University from Storm Lake City, Iowa, who wanted to tap into my knowledge about Disney.

I am certain that, as in years past, they have already completely forgotten the gems of wisdom I shared with them during the trip about Disney storytelling, while clearly remembering multiple trips down the AquaDuck.

It's a 765-feet long translucent acrylic tube, and there is a loop that actually goes out 13 feet or so beyond the side of the ship at a height of about 150 feet over the surface of the ocean. The water flows at a rate of 10,000 gallons per minute, so the trip is only about a minute, but it is a wild, unforgettable minute with the person propelled at about 20 feet a second.

According to the Imagineering back story, Donald Duck's nephews (Huey, Dewey and Louie) built the ride, but Donald insisted on trying it before it was completely finished and ended up stuffed in one of the ship's funnels with only his rear end visible to guests. In actuality, it was inspired by the Walt Disney World Resort's Typhoon Lagoon.

"AquaDuck combines a water blaster with the Lazy River," said Imagineer Peter Ricci, "and we elevated it, so it wouldn't take up too much deck space."

The original idea of just a Lazy River, like at the WDW water park, was rejected because water is heavy and it would have put too much weight on the very top of the ship. Aqua Duck is a reference to the ancient Roman aqueducts that populated the European landscape and were used to transport water.

For the maiden voyage of the ship, a costumed character Donald Duck christened the Aqua Duck during a special ceremony where water was added to the Aqua Duck from both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

As always, I took along one of my little notebooks and took multiple notes and asked the staff multiple questions (often receiving contradictory answers as I do when I ask cast members at a Walt Disney World theme park). I tried my best to verify the following information but Disney is often very secretive about sharing this type of information because it does not want to inhibit the "fun of discovery". For me, I like to know what is there so I can go find it and look.

So, beware that there are spoilers in the following article that you may wish to avoid. Anyway, here are some more observations I discovered that I am sharing with those who might take a cruise this year and who, like me, would like some sort of guidance of where to look and what they are seeing.

Enchanted Art

There are 22 pieces of Enchanted Art on the Disney Dream, but only 13 of those pictures are used in the Midship Detective Agency, so it will take some searching to discover them all. There are an additional 200 pieces of non-Enchanted Art displayed, as well, so that quest is not as easy as it might initially appear. I did, in fact, stand for a longer period of time than I expected in front of something that I thought might spring to life suddenly and unexpectedly.

The Enchanted Art can look like a painting, an animation cel, a poster or even a photo but will magically spring to life for several seconds if you stand directly in front of it.

There is a "rule of three" in animation. For instance, in terms of an animation gag, a good gag is done three times: first in its original form to get a laugh, then repeated later to get a laugh of recognition that the audience knows what is going to happen before the characters do, and then finally done with a twist at the end to get a laugh of surprise that it was different than expected.

Something that most people who discover a piece of Enchanted Art never realize is that each piece has three different variations and they walk away after just seeing one of the versions.

For instance on Deck 2 on the Port (left) side near the entrance to the Enchanted Garden restaurant, there is what looks like a painted cel from the classic Disney animated feature, Bambi (1942).

Thumper the Rabbit is on a tree log looking at the young Bambi. One version has a butterfly land on Bambi's nose making Thumper laugh so hard he rocks backward. Another version has the butterfly fly off of Bambi's nose and tickle Thumper's tummy and then land on Bambi's tail. The third version has Flower the skunk pop up from the underbrush while Bambi blows off the butterfly from his tail and it ends up on Flower's nose. (A laughing Flower falls back into the underbrush at the start of the next scene.)

Some of the art is actually programmed to interact with a piece next to it as with the paintings of the pirate ship and the fort on Deck 5 aft where the pirate ship opens fire on the fort which returns fire. The sound, by the way, is taken from the actual Pirates of the Caribbean theme park attraction that mirrors the same scene.

The technology was inspired from the "Magic Mirrors" that were in use in Disney stores.

Estefania "Stef" Pickens, associate interactive show producer for Disney Imagineering, stated in 2010: "You've never seen anything like this before. They look just like just another painting on the wall but they can recognize that you are there and trigger something special for you. It's definitely unique."

"It's storytelling with technology," explained WDI Principal Concept Designer Greg Butkus. "It gives you a deeper level of immersion."

Jolly Roger Steering Wheel

On the starboard (right) side on Deck 5 atrium and near the entrance to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (and on Pirate's Night, the location becomes the Pirate's League for pirate make-overs) is a steering wheel for Captain Hook's pirate ship, the Jolly Roger. In front of the wheel is an Enchanted Art painting of the Neverland Lagoon.

It frustrated me that there were no instructions and that I had to stumble through figuring out what was happening and how to make it work, although I suspect young children just enjoy the thrill of turning the wheel and seeing the ship move around.

Turn the wheel and animation in the picture shows you maneuvering Hook's ship around the lagoon. Your goal is to move the ship to touch the glowing treasure that is on the edge of the shore. Once you touch it, it will spring into the ship and you have completed that scene. As with the other Enchanted Art pictures, there are three variations (including treasure inside a giant clam shell over toward the right hand side).

Making the ship match your steering the wheel is harder than you might imagine (and my lack of coordination often got the ship "stuck" on the shore which requires some finesse to get back moving in the water) and to make it more difficult, one scene introduces the snapping crocodile (retroactively named officially Tick-Tock by Disney) from the animated feature popping up out of the water to block your progress. If you attempt to go around the menacing reptile, he merely pops back up in your new path. I can see why Captain Hook got frustrated by the persistent creature.

I found that I had to bump into Tinker Bell (who doesn't appear on any regular schedule) who would then pixie dust the entire ship and it would glow and briefly fly and if you were clever enough you could fly over the crocodile to get to the treasure. I know because I did it more than once but was unable to do it with any consistency.

There's even an authentic-looking brass throttle lever on the left-hand side that you can use to control speed.

Despite spending quite some time at the wheel, there were other things that I still have not figured out. At one point, there were people on the left-hand side moving toward the pier. Was I supposed to go pick them up? Tiki torches started to flicker. Was I supposed to go toward them to trigger some new effect?

At one point, the eyes of Skull Rock started to glow red and there was also a red star in the sky. What does that all mean? Were they beckoning me to do something or were they sparked to life by something I had unintentionally done? Another guest told me they saw a rainbow appear, but I never did.

Grumble. Grumble. Let me get out my grumpy old man cane and wave it wildly in the air while complaining. But it was a lot of fun and if I get a chance to go on another cruise I will try to explore the possibilities.

Elevator Art

While we are all pretty familiar with elevator music, elevator art seems to be something unique to the midship elevators on the Disney Dream. Regrettably, I saw guests ignoring this wonderful attention to detail and, while they all rushed to enjoy Castaway Cay, I stuck around on the ship and spent some time in the elevators recording the following information.

Yes, I punched every button for every floor and rode it both up and down but nobody else was in the elevator at the time. One crew member looked at me oddly that I had not immediately rushed over to Castaway Cay, not knowing I had already explored that location several times in the past.

The midship elevators with their clear sides facing the Atrium offer a fascinating view of the lobby. However, what happens when that clear view is blocked after Deck 5 as the elevator continues to ascend?

Well, there are painted images of Disney animated characters who are also ascending or descending, depending upon your point of view.

On the Port (left) side elevator:

  • Mickey Mouse and Goofy are in a homemade helicopter. Mickey is sitting comfortably sipping pink lemonade and wearing sunglasses. Goofy has on flight goggles and is pedaling.
  • Donald Duck is floating in a deck chair attached to a red and yellow checkered balloon. There is a wild looking bird (not the Aracuan) sitting on top of the balloon.
  • Elastigirl from The Incredibles is in the form of a parachute as she holds on to her children: Dash and Violet.
  • Dumbo (with Timothy the Mouse in his hat) happily flies in the air while being fed from a bag of peanuts by the crows from the movie.
  • The three Sleeping Beauty fairies (Flora, Fauna and Merryweather) chase after Maleficient's black raven Diablo turning him blue and red.
  • The floating house from Pixar's UP (2009) has both Carl and Dug, the talking dog, hanging onto a rope.

On the Starboard (right) side elevator:

  • There is a black and white picture of Mickey and Minnie kissing in the plane from Plane Crazy (1928) with heart-shaped white exhaust.
  • Zazu the hornbill and Timon the meerkat from The Lion King (1994) battle over a screaming green worm who is in both their clutches and is being stretched.
  • Tinker Bell is in the air sprinkling pixie dust on the nursemaid dog Nana and little Michael Darling clutching his teddy bear who also float in the air.
  • Jasmine and Aladdin are bouncing atop the magic carpet they are riding and the turbulence is caused by the Genie underneath blowing upwards on the carpet.
  • The Three Caballeros (Donald Duck, Jose Caricoa and Panchito) are riding on a magic serape. Jose and Panchito are playing on guitars but Donald is reaching down to try to grab his fallen guitar that has somehow fallen into the clutches of 10 baby Panchitoes who are singing and playing.
  • Woody from Toy Story (1995) desperately holds on to the flying Buzz Lightyear but in the process Woody loses his boots and hat.

The Ship's Horn

My traveling companions, as so many other guests on the ship, were overjoyed to hear the ship's horn sound off the first musical line of the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" as it left Port Canaveral.

The horn is also able to play the second line of the song ("Makes No Difference Who You Are") as well as several measures from "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)," "It's a Small World," "Be Our Guest," "Hi Diddle Dee Dee (An Actor's Life for Me)" from Pinocchio (1940) and "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes." In October 2015, the Disney Dream added "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" from Frozen (2013) to the horn's musical repertoire.

Ron Cohee

Individual artists working at Disney today no longer get the recognition for the work they do as was more common during the great Animation Renaissance of the 1990s. Some of the most talented artists work for Disney Design Group (which is now transitioning to a new name of Disney Creative Group). DDG is responsible for merchandise design, signage artwork, gallery art and much more.

The AquaDuck's backstory by Ron Cohee dots the path leading to the top of the slide.

Ron Cohee started his Disney career as a Disney animator for Disney Feature Animation Florida before moving into DDG. He worked on Pocahontas, Mulan, Lilo and Stitch, The Princess and the Frog, John Henry, The Little Matchgirl, and many others before Disney unwisely decided to eliminate the Florida studio. Cohee is a passionate Disney fan, as well as an artist and has nothing but gratitude for his time at the Disney Company. He's worked on a ton of illustrated books for Pixar.

Regarding his career path, Cohee said, "I attended the California Institute of the Arts from 1992-1994, and then worked at Disney Feature Animation for 10 years, transferring to the Florida studio at one point along the way. After the studio closed in 2004, I worked at a smaller studio started by former Disney artists and added to my skills.

"I also kept busy freelancing for Disney Publishing and Walt Disney Imagineering; some of the buses at Walt Disney World are wrapped with my art, as is much of Disney's Art of Animation Resort," he said. "DDG graciously added me to their team in 2011."

You can see some of his art on his website, including his work on Little Golden Books. I am a huge fan of this humble and talented artist and hope this short blurb may make others aware of his contributions.

Why I am spotlighting him in this particular column is because he did the artwork for the Goofy mini-golf area on the Sports Deck (Deck 13 aft) of the Disney Dream. In the area is a basketball court, ping pong tables, digital sports simulators and the nine-hole miniature golf course that include comical "lessons" by Goofy and his son, Max. For instance, Pluto's dog bone will guide you to the hole, but try to avoid the fire hydrants in Handling a Dog Leg. You grab a club from "Max's Country Clubs".

In addition, Ron did the series of murals in the queue on the way up to the AquaDuck. He was instructed that Donald Duck needed to wear swim trunks, which presented a challenge. The end gag is Donald getting stuck in the ship's forward funnel on Deck 12 with his naked rear end and orange webbed feet clearly visible.

So he had to figure out a way for Donald to logically lose his trunks in the last panel. Basically, the nephews increase the force of the water pushing him out of the tube and it apparently pulls off his swim trunks.

The mural states: AquaDuck: Duck In - Fly Out: "Donald's nephews built this slide…and uncle wanted the first ride. They were worried he'd get stuck…but he sailed like an Aquaduck."

Jennifer Hudson

Traditionally, ships were "christened"—or officially named—by "godmothers" who launched the ships from their building blocks into the sea for the very first time. The godmother of the Disney Magic is Roy E. Disney's first wife, Patty. Tinker Bell is the godmother of the Disney Wonder and Mariah Carey is the godmother of the Disney Fantasy.

Actress and singer Jennifer Hudson is the godmother of the Disney Dream. She christened the ship January 19, 2011. The bottle, according to the Disney press release was filled "with dreams of adventure, fantasy, friendship, romance and fun".

Supposedly, the then 29-year-old Hudson was selected because she began her career in 2003 as a singer on the Disney Wonder that started her on her award-winning career. On the January trip, I discovered that among other things, she performed as Calliope, one of the muses in the onboard nighttime musical Hercules: The Muse-ical.

Hudson said, "I was on a Disney cruise line the year I decided to audition for American Idol. I was Calliope the muse in Hercules: The Muse-ical and I was also the Circle of Life soloist in a Disney's cruise show. And in that show, I narrated the show, I did a lot of singing and we had a lot of choreography, as well. It's part of how I got Dreamgirls because they took that as an acting credit."

For the christening she sang "Who Knows Where a Dream Might Lead" from the DCL show The Golden Mickeys because apparently she played the role of Rona Rivers in that show that originated on the Disney Wonder in 2003.

There is a clip from the 2003 Disney Wonder Crew Talent Show featuring Hudson at this link

I haven't had a chance to transcribe and verify all the notes I took on the Disney Dream, so expect at least one more column about some "secrets" in the future.

Yes, a Disney Cruise vacation is a great value but it is so overwhelming an experience that most of the guests miss a lot of these wonderful details. I must admit that it wasn't until I was safely back home that I discovered that there were things that I had missed as well.