It's the Little Things

by Steve Russo, staff writer

It’s the little things, isn’t it? We all go to Walt Disney World to ride beautifully themed rollercoasters, see superb live shows and 3D films, enjoy wonderful resorts, and experience some of the fine and exotic dining available. That’s all part of what makes Walt Disney World a special place but… is it the only part? Is it the best part? Is it even the biggest part? Would it even be Walt Disney World without the little things?

I’ve often said that some of the best times we’ve had at Disney World have come outside of the attractions; enjoying the ambience and the little touches the Imagineers have placed there for our entertainment. Too often, we miss them entirely as we race past trying to get into the queue for the next ride. Sometimes, it’s just nice to take things a bit more slowly and try to enjoy all that the World has to offer.

So what are the “little things?" I certainly don’t have them all but I try to accumulate a list of these “little things” to explore on my next trip. Some I’ll get to and others will have to wait until next time. What you’ll read below are some things that you may have overlooked on your last visit to the World. For some of you, these may be old hat; for others, some of this may be brand new. Please enjoy them if you haven’t already and, in any event, I’d love to get some feedback on some other little things of your own.

Let’s begin where it all began… the Magic Kingdom. By now, everyone is probably aware of the significance of the names painted on the Main Street windows. If not, Mark Goldhaber has written an excellent three-part series, appropriately called Main Street Windows (read Part 1, Part 2, Part3). It’s only slightly out of date but I’d recommend reading it before your next visit. I think it will make scanning those Main Street windows a lot more fun.

While you’re scanning those buildings, it’s a good time to admire the Imagineer’s use of “forced perspective”. That’s the technique used in constructing the buildings to trick the eye into believing the buildings are taller and/or larger than they actually are. It’s typically done by using smaller and smaller materials (bricks, windows, doors, etc.) as construction moves from bottom to top, creating the illusion of size. You’ll find evidence of forced perspective almost everywhere, but Main Street is a favorite of mine—second only to the Canada Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase.

Have you heard about the wedding ring in the pavement outside the Haunted Mansion, supposedly thrown through a Mansion window and, now, forever imbedded in the pavement? I’ve heard that it's actually the top of a metal pipe, placed in the ground to accept a metal rod once used to lock a gate. I’ve looked for it, unsuccessfully, and I’m now hearing it may be gone forever.

The Haunted Mansion - was the wedding ring really there? Photo by Steve Russo.

Have you been to the American Adventure in Epcot’s World Showcase? When you visit, try getting there a bit early and spend a few unrushed minutes in the rotunda. The paintings around the room were done by various Disney artists and one in particular is an optical illusion. The picture hangs in the corner to the left as you first enter the rotunda. It’s a painting of a World War II-era B-17 bomber. In front of the picture is a grey strip of tiles on the floor. Look at the picture as you walk back and forth on the gray tiles. The nose of the plane seems to swivel to follow you.

In World Showcase’s Japan pavilion, be sure not to miss the “Candy Lady”. Miyuki is a Japanese candy artist from Tokyo who creates some magnificent pieces in front of a crowd. She’s not to be missed.

Miyuki, the Candy Lady. Photo by Steve Russo.

If you find yourself in the United Kingdom area and see a few folks wheeling a wooden cart, stick around for a performance of the World Showcase Players. You’ll get lots of humor (or is it humour?) and audience participation as the perform King Arthur and the Holy Grail. If you can spare 15-20 minutes, it’s really worth seeing.

Where else will you find a towel animal waiting in your room? Photo by Steve Russo.

Have you ever wondered why the Hollywood Tower Hotel (better known as the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror) is painted that color? Yeah, me neither. But I heard or read somewhere that you can see the Tower as you walk south on the World Showcase promenade, toward Canada, and look toward Morocco. The color allows the Tower to blend in with the Morocco pavilion so it’s at least partially camouflaged. Because of that, you are prevented from seeing an attraction in another park. Is it true or an urban legend? I’m not sure.

Is that why it's pink? Photo by Steve Russo.

There was a “little thing” in Future World that might have fallen victim to budget cuts. There are restrooms across from and between the Land and Imagination pavilions on Epcot’s west side. Alongside the restrooms are two drinking fountains. There was a time when getting a drink from the taller fountain would elicit some funny comments from the fountain itself. I loved bringing first-timers by for a drink to watch their reaction but, unfortunately, the past couple of times I tried, I heard nothing.

Club Cool. Beverly. Enough said.

Have you ever had the opportunity to take in a show by the Jammitors? They’re a very entertaining percussion band that entertains guests in Future World. The gimmick is their instruments are the metal trashcans they’re pushing. They’re well worth a few minutes of your time to stand and be entertained by these funny, and talented, performers.

Jammin' at Epcot. Photo by Steve Russo.

Most people have heard of the Electrical Water Pageant but I’m often surprised by how few have actually seen it. A suggestion would be to stop by the Polynesian Resort about 15- minutes before the listed time for Wishes. Head down to the beach area and take up a spot in a chair, hammock or just a seat on the sand. A better idea is to bring along some snacks and drinks. You can enjoy a very nice view of the Wishes fireworks and the soundtrack is broadcast via speakers around the beach. Enjoy Wishes and hang around an additional 15-20 minutes. The Electrical Water Pageant will begin a circuit around the Seven Seas Lagoon, passing in front of the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian, the Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness and the Contemporary.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, along Echo Lake, right around the entrance to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular you will see what looks like an abandoned well. There’s a weathered sign above a rope that reads, "Do not pull!" but the “not” is crossed out. Have some fun and try it.

As you exit the Star Tours shop, Tatooine Traders, look across the walkway. There’s a life-size speeder bike, identical to the ones used by Luke and Leia in Star Wars Episone VI - Return of the Jedi when they chased after the Stormtroopers. It comes complete with a background that looks like the Moon of Endor. Climb aboard for a great photo opportunity.

Chasing the Stormtroopers. Photo by Steve Russo.

Here’s a little thing from the Studios that I’ve never been able to verify. As I walked through the gift shop after riding the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, one of the cast members, in bellhop garb, asked me if I looked up while on the elevator. "Why?" I asked. He only smiled. Anyone?

Let’s stay in the Studios for another moment and visit the Great Movie Ride. I’m often surprised when I talk with someone who is not aware there are two possible hijackers within the ride: a gangster and a cowboy. You’re only hijacked once on each trip so it’s certainly believable that one could be aware of one, but not the other. Personally, I had heard of the “gangster side” many times but only saw the cowboy hijacking for the first dozen or so years of riding. I finally saw the gangster and, for the next several years, saw only the gangster. The law of averages apparently does not apply here.

While they don’t seem to be as prevalent as a few years ago, Streetmosphere still exists in the Studios. I truly enjoy running into an impromptu comedy skit in the middle of the street. They’re that much more enjoyable because they are mostly ad lib with lots of guest interaction.

Have you ever been walking through Disney’s Animal Kingdom, taking the path that runs from Africa to Asia, and come upon a group of people that are seemingly staring into the lush foliage just off the path? You stop for a minute or two but, because you can’t quite figure out what they’re looking for, you move on. If you answered, “Yes”, you probably missed a performance by De Vine. Try to describe this to anyone outside Disney fandom and they will look at you as if you have three heads but… it’s not to be missed.

DeVine. Photo by Steve Russo.

Then there’s Wes Palm, the talking palm tree that you can often find outside Animal Kingdom’s turnstiles just before park opening. It’s worth hanging around there just to watch how easily guests can be surprised and then end up carrying on a conversation with a tree. There’s similar entertainment in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland with Push, the talking trashcan.

The little things—they’re just one of the many items that make Walt Disney World what it is; and my favorite place to vacation. There are certainly more little things:

  • Asking for catsup at Whispering Canyon;
  • Finding the Hidden Mickeys in the Haunted Mansion or the Wilderness Lodge lobby fireplace;
  • Learning about the “little girl chairs” or the elephant hotel in the Boardwalk lobby;

It's an interesting story but these chairs still creep me out. Photo by Steve Russo.

  • Finding the key under the mat at Muppetvision 3D;
  • Watching the little ones playing on Future World’s lighted sidewalk;
  • Interacting with your server at the 50s Prime Time Café;
  • and so much more...

So… that’s a partial list of the “little things” I’ve noticed and enjoyed over the years. What are yours?