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Keane's September/October 2012 "This Is Too Good To Pass Up" Trip Report - Part 3


The text of this trip report was posted to the Usenet group rec.arts.disney.parks on October 21, 2012. This is an expanded version with pictures. If you are reading this someplace else than rec.arts.disney.parks, or on my site keanespics.com, it was copied without my permission.

Downtown Disney
Characters in Flight and the West Side, from the Downtown Disney Water Shuttle.
Who: Me, Keane. Disney Junkie and obviously a glutton for punishment...
     Mom, aka "Miss Marie". Mobility impaired. Memory impaired, too.
     Jenny. Fellow Disney Junkie, and du...kind enough to help.
     Karen. My GPS. (A Garmin nuvi 1390)
What: An opportunistic trip to Walt Disney World.
Where: Walt Disney World, Art of Animation Resort, Little Mermaid Room.
Why: D23's Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration, D23's 2012 Sip & Scream, and a dinner in Great Movie Ride.
When: September 29 thru October 6, 2012

All Disclaimers from Part 1 still apply.
Thank you.

Day 2, Saturday, Sept. 29
Downtown Disney

Got up after about 6 hours sleep, worked on the small final things that weren't working on the laptop. It's a new laptop, a Dell Inspiron 17R with a 240GB SSD. I've got no problem running Canon's DPP, Adobe Photoshop, Thumbs 7, and my other host of mail/web/news programs. Just have to do some tweaking for life on the road, software or accounts I normally don't use on the laptop at home.

Finally decide to go to breakfast. I brought the scooter into my room last night. It is easier for me to go forward with the scooter and drive through the adjoining doors than to try to back it up out of my room.

It's the first time Mom's been back on a scooter, and we take the walk (okay, I walked) to the food court. She actually recognizes the Lion King theme, but doesn't know why. We arrive, and take a look at the menus, then park the scooter off to the side and sit her down at a booth.

Mom wants the Belgian waffle, and I want the World of Flavors breakfast platter, which is a bounty platter with Portuguese sausage instead of pork sausage, and Naan bread instead of pancakes. Since I'm getting both meals, I get my breakfast, then have to stand in line *again* for the Belgian waffle, and by the time I get the waffle (since they don't have enough machines for the demand), my breakfast is cold. This is a serious flaw in their food court design...

The place is LOUD. Every noise seems to be reflected off the walls, and seems to re-concentrate itself. Even noises halfway across the room seem to be magnified.

The Portuguese sausage of my meal is excellent. The bacon is okay. The eggs, now cold, are disgusting, hard little rubbery overcooked lumps. The Naan bread is better than a pancake. Whatever happened to those Mickey waffles that came with the breakfast platter, anyway? Unpeeled red potatoes are the potatoes for this dish, and taste like concentrated Orlando water. (Mom liked the waffle, though.)

Clean up is a learning experience. Landscape of flavors uses real plates and silverware, so there are open bins for the plates and the silverware. However, the slots for the garbage is only as wide as a plate, and three or four inches high with a door, so you can't even turn the plate upside down, and have to resort using another utensil to scrape the garbage off the plate, which will inevitably get crap (usually maple syrup) on your hands. You need one hand to hold the plate, one hand to scrape the plate, and one hand to hold the door to the garbage slot open. What a stupid system.

We then went back to the room for a few minutes, then back to the bus stops to go to Downtown Disney.

It's about this time that another problem begins to rear its ugly head. The distance from the Little Mermaid rooms to the bus stops. It's about 1/4-1/3 of a mile walk, each way. And if you follow the shortest route from our rooms to the bus stops, which is around the parking lot, it's a shadeless walk that broils you with that brutal sun...

Thus, if you get a value room at Art of Animation, you are *guaranteed* a long walk from your room to the main complex and the bus stops. Only the suites have close access to Animation Hall.

We get to Downtown Disney via a bus that has a lift instead of a ramp. All the rules that I went through with Mom on how to get on the bus goes out the window. Don't get off the scooter. Stay on the scooter until you're on the bus. I ask the Bus Driver CM what he did to get such an old bus, and he laughs and says they save the old buses for the old bus drivers... (We will get a similar bus of the return trip, so maybe the older buses got put on the DTD route... Or the bus drivers changed at 10am...)

Transverse all of DTD from the Marketplace bus stops to Cirque, then took the water taxi back to MP and to the buses, so it was good practice for later in the week. Without Jenny there, I found it's actually easier and less stressful for both of us if I drive her through a lot of places. I've become quite good at controlling the speed and steering the scooter walking beside it. So not only do I not have to communicate to her which way she should go in crowded, noisy areas, but probably less dangerous, too.

Once back at AoA, we went to food court to get a couple of smoothies. Good idea on a hot day, yes? I had the strawberry-banana, Mom had the Mango. Too much ice, no flavor. Oh well, I won't be doing that again. Maybe the Mango was better.

Downtown Disney
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Adventures with Pre-Registration

Rested a while in the room (95 degrees outside, which fell to a cold 88), downloaded pictures, then left Mom in her room and headed out to pre-register for the D23 events in Epcot.

As I approach the bus stop (third time I've taken this walk today), I see a Epcot bus go by. sigh.

So I wait the 10-15 minutes for the next one. As I'm waiting two couples, one with a kid shows up. They are together. An Epcot bus finally arrives, and I'm not moving since passengers on the bus still have to disembark. Stupid Guest Mom and her kid don't feel they have to wait, and push past me to get on the bus, only to have to wait until the current passengers disembark. I look at the other three, with a What-the-F--- look. They all apologize for her. Third party apologies not acceptable. Way to teach your kid manners, lady...

I get to pre-registration, and I see the table they're doing it at. At least it's in the shade near the ticket booths, but it's behind bag check! So I have to go through bag check. There is a line, and I stand in it. I discuss with a CM who's on hand to answer questions, about D23's goal. Obviously, to make more guests stand in lines. My turn comes up, and I am checked off a list, and given some material, and asked to stand in another line.

So I'm in back of another line next to the same CM again, where we once again discuss lines. I relate my experience at Magic and Merriment, where we were lining up to go backstage in Frontierland, and was asked several times by other guests what the lines were for. So I surmised that you could get some guys together and form a line, and have other guests standing in that line for no reason at all... I also relate that just staring up into the sky at nothing will have other people staring up into the sky to see what you're starring at. He liked that one. So if you come across a CM that's starring up into the sky to see how many other will try to see what he's looking at, it's that CM.

Well, okay, what would you rather do standing in line. Read?

It is finally my turn in the second line, and am given Epcot 30th badges and lanyards, a couple of "We Can Do It!" bumper stickers, agendas, and have the souvenir thing explained. There is a limited amount of D23 Epcot 30th souvenirs. Three t-shirts and three pins, limit of two each on the pins. I am given an order form for the merchandise. Order forms will be collected at the event in sequence, and D23 will fill orders on a first-come, first-served basis until they run out of merchandise. So, when D23 figures out what they have left, and what they can fill your order with, they will call/e-mail you and tell you what you owe...

(Postnote: And D23 screws it up. If you ordered more than one of something, the sub-totals they had were incorrect. But they did get it right in the end...)

We Can Do It

I'm also distracted with a question about the buses after Super Scream. In the descriptions given, including the agenda I got today, they don't say where the buses go. After Magic and Merriment, they all went to the TTC. If that's the case, I'll drive. No one knows. They'll find out and have the info available at the Epcot 30th conference. Good enough. Back to the resort, and AoA is Epcot bus stop 14. You know the first set of bus stops you get to coming out of Epcot? It's not those. Stop 14 is at the *next* set of stops, the ones waaay down there. I am on the AoA bus (which arrived immediately, I might add) and as I read the agenda for Sip and Scream, realize I don't have my S&S badges. sigh.

I've done the LM9 - Animation Hall/Bus Stop round trip 2.5 times already, it's 10 degrees hotter that they said it was going to be, and the thought of walking from Epcot Bus Stop 14 back to the entrance to Epcot and then back to the bus stop and wait for another bus then walk from the bus stop to the room...

Screw it. I get off the bus at AoA, I walk all the way back to Little Mermaid 9, and get in my car and *drive* back to Epcot in air conditioned comfort. Surprisingly, they are allowing me to park wherever I want, so I park close enough to walk to the entrance. The lines that were there earlier are gone. Get my S&S badges. There's a CM looking up into the sky. Comedians. I get back to the car and am back in the room in minutes. My total walk the second time at Epcot was less than a single one-way walk from my room to the bus stops. I will learn from this.

Well, this simple little pre-registration task took a couple of hours, two trips to Epcot, and I didn't even enter the park! But I'm going to rest up a couple of hours, I have to pick up Jenny at the airport tonight.

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Jenny Arrives

I am tired, and end up driving to Animation Hall for food. I'm getting it to go and bringing it back to the room, since it was easier to bring food to Mom than Mom to the food. She just wants something like a burger. It's dinner time, and all the lines are long, and I'm not waiting in two lines, so I pick up a Bacon Cheeseburger for me and a kid's meal burger for Mom. It's a Disney burger with Disney fries. It puts food in you with minimum discomfort. But it is better with bacon. Everything is better with bacon.

I am actually able to get a couple hours of sleep before I have to go and pick up Jenny at MCO. I give myself a half-hour to get there, she is supposed to arrive at 9:15pm. AoA is right off Osceola, which connects directly to the Greeneway. Half hour should be plenty. As I pass the first toll booth, I realize I never added more funds to my SunPass. Crap. At least I know the amber light on my transponder still works. I cracked the LCD screen that tells me my account balance a long time ago.

At 9:01, she texts me that her plane is on the ground. I seem to recall she has done this to me before. At 9:10, she is waiting for her bags. I am in the cell lot for all of 30 seconds trying to program a waypoint into Karen so she directs me down the Greeneway instead of the Beeline, and I get a call. She is waiting at arrivals. Sheesh.

I pick her up at Arrivals, and this time I actually tell Karen where to go before I'm on the ramp leaving the terminal. We go back to AoA, and stop in at the food court so Jenny can get a smoothie. She says her strawberry-banana was okay. Well, she lied to me about Tower of Terror, too.

We get back to the room and I get on-line to find my SunPass balance is 40 cents. And I haven't been charged for today's tolls yet, so I add a bunch of dollars to my account.

Need sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day.

Epcot 30th
The Event Badge. Tomorrow would be Epcot's 30th anniversary.

Day 3, Sunday, Sept. 30
D23's Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration, Morning

Woke up at midnight. Then 4:30. Then 6:30, and I'm suddenly in a rush. The doors to World Showplace opens at 8:15.

Today is D23's Epcot 30th anniversary event. We will be gone all day. We'll get mom some food from the food court for lunch, then call her every couple of hours. We'll be back by evening, and go out to dinner.

Get to the food court by 7:15. Jenny pays for everything (a half-truth, since the room charge gets charged back to my credit card) since she's the one with the Tables In Wonderland card. I am glad to see they don't charge the 18% gratuity at counter service... We are back to the room by 8:10. I notice there are stuffed animals and other sundry Disney things in many of the windows, something you don't see as much of at moderates, and never at deluxes.

We are going to drive to Epcot. We're a little late, and if some emergency comes up, it will probably be faster to get across Epcot and drive back to AoA, than walk to the AoA bus stop and then from the AoA bus stop to the room. Besides, parking is free for me...

I park in Journey 5 at 8:20. There's a line, but we don't have to wait in it because I pre-registered yesterday. We go through the princess breakfast gate. Arrive at World Showplace by about 8:30. Forgot my order form. Crap. Fill out another one.

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I did remember the itinerary. This was the morning session.

8:15 Doors Open
9-9:10 Welcome, with Steve Clark
9:10-9:30 Epcot: The Dawn of a New Disney Era
9:30-10:20 We Can Do It!
10:30-11:10 Looking Back at Tomorrow
11:10-12:00 Makin' Memories: Epcot on Film

The conference opened with one of those very cool 3 minute videos showing the highlights from Walt announcing his little Florida Project to the building, opening and operation of Epcot. Then a general introduction by Steve Clark, head of D23.

D23's Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration, Opening
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Epcot: The Dawn of a New Disney Era

This was a 20 minute video of Marty Sklar, who won't be able to attend the 30th celebration until tomorrow. He's attending a fundraiser, which happens to be at his home...

It was his recollection of Walt's EPCOT. He might be one of the last Imagineers around that worked with Walt on the original project. After Walt's death, Roy just couldn't grasp the concept, it was too foreign to what the company had done before. It wasn't until 1974 that Card Walker called Marty, asking what to do about Epcot. Marty worked on the project for the next 8 years.

They held the Epcot Forums, with people from academia, government, and industry. Disney held six of them, trying to predict the future. The end of all of it, Disney was told that people don't trust industry, people don't trust government, but they do trust Mickey Mouse, and that Disney had a responsibility to communicate the issues of the future, no matter what the future would be.

The first concept of World Showcase were two half-circles, one industry, one countries, and every pavilion had a equal entrance. It could go farther back than any of the other pavilions, but all the entrances would be the same size. It was supposed to be near the Ticket and Transportation Center. Future World was another park. Disney couldn't get enough sponsors for both Future World and World Showcase, and that's when the models were put together to form EPCOT Center.

American Adventure was supposed to be where the World Showcase Plaza is, and as you went through America, it opened up into the rest of the world. Dick Nunis stepped in and said the castle of EPCOT needed to be on the other side of the lagoon, or no one would ever go there. So American Adventure, the "Castle" of Epcot, was put at the far end of World Showcase.

He related that the land pavilion was one of the gems of Epcot, and probably one of the closet concepts that Walt had for Epcot. They contacted Carl Hodges who was the head of the environmental research lab in Arizona, and doing advanced work in growing crops. They did a 1/4 scale mock up of the ride, and he asked where were they going to put the bees. Marty replied "Carl, there are open boats coming through here. You can't have bees!"

"How are you going to pollinate the food?"

"Well, look, we're in show-biz, *you're* the scientist. You figure it out."

The staff at the land pavilion still spend about 15 hours a week hand pollinating...

When he went back to the studio, Card Walker asked him what the entertainment of growing food was. Marty replied, "Card, watching lettuce grow? That's exciting!" Card didn't like the reply, but we still have The Land...

Here's an interesting one. The reason there's such a large void between Future World and World Showcase, it there's a huge sinkhole there. They had trucks and bulldozers there that would start to sink, and would have to pull them out. They were able to get a couple of monorail pylons there, but couldn't build on it. (More on this later.)

In the end, Sklar still thinks Epcot is a viable and necessary project, with the necessity to plan for the future. Good luck with that Marty. Dreamers like Walt are gone.

Epcot: The Dawn of a New Disney Era
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We Can Do It!

We Can Do It involved a gaggle of Disney Legends, Howard Roland, Duncan Dickson, Jim McCaskill, Bob Matheson, Tom Nabbe, Charlie Ridgeway, Bill Sullivan and hosted by Jason Surrell.

Stories were related during the planning, that Walt slammed his fist on the desk and said an unprintable word (we're talking the 60's after all) and said he didn't want plans and concepts for the *current* project, but one's that went far beyond it. The Imagineers, who were struggling to keep up just with the concept, were floored. But of course you never told Walt you couldn't do it, because Walt would always tell you that he could find someone who could!

Planning was never complete. It was apparent they couldn't get all the planning done before construction began. For instance in Italy, one of the questions was "Which way do we lean the Tower of Pisa?" Everyone looked at John Hench, and his reply was "When we get out there, we'll decide which way the people will look at it, and lean it in the direction it should be leaned." Maybe they could never figure it out, since Italy doesn't have a leaning tower.

Another problem was the ground. At one place they drove 7 120' pilings into the ground and they all disappeared, so they had to lay a large platform down to support the monorail. That's one of the reasons the World Showcase Lagoon exists. (Someone added they lost more pilings than that while building the Contemporary...)

Ever wonder about the World Showcase Lagoon? It was a pool of "muck" in the center of the property. It was a 5 acre root mass, about 4-5 feet thick. They put sand on it, then slurried the muck underneath and pumped it out from below, letting the weight of the sand sink the root mass until the lagoon was formed. Then they took the sand away. What did they do with "the muck"? It was pumped over to the Southeast, and filled in some big holes that were there, and is now the Caribbean Beach Resort...

Contrary to popular belief, the Monorail beams were not all made in Tacoma, they did build a pouring facility near the US Steel site, and most of the beams were made only a few miles from their final resting place. Of course, they weren't sure the beams would actually fit until the beam was placed on the pylons, but fit they did.

For the Groundbreaking ceremony, they had to build a road into the middle of nowhere, mostly with sand, rock and pine needles, built a 180 foot diameter circle made of Christmas Garland in a geodesic shape, and hung it from two cranes. They got GM to send their biggest dirt hauling truck they had, got former President Nixon and former governors to the site, along with several buses of the press. They set off a stick of dynamite, raised the truck, showed the EPCOT Center sign, and they were underway in a year.

At about the same time, dual concords from France and England landed simultaneously at MCO. The only time a French and English Concorde landed simultaneously. Disney got good press at that event.

Then they started relating how they had to meet with foreign dignitaries Disney was courting for sponsorships to many of the pavilions. The Romanian Ambassador refused to attend because the Russian Ambassador was there. They had 32 Ambassadors show up. Disney immediately took their coats off, put name badges on them, and started calling them by their first name. Protocol? What's that? The second night they were there, they were taken out to Fort Wilderness, and to Hoop-Dee-Doo at Pioneer Hall, and everything fell into place when they got one of the Ambassadors on the stage. By the end of the week they were patting each other on the back, calling each other by their first name and you'd have thought they were good friends for a hundred years. Who knows how many diplomatic back doors were opened up between countries because of Disney's want of sponsorship back in the 70's. It's interesting to think about.

They had an etiquette coach, some Washington socialite, who was supposed to cure them of their... informalness... and sort of succeeded. They had a practice dinner in their formalwear, and there was a faked heart-attack, where they were taught not to scream or shout, but to sit quietly until the emergency personnel took the victim away, and then pretend nothing happened. You could hear the irony in their voices. It's a pretty good joke now, but back then it was business. Walt Disney World was still only a few years old, and the future of the resort would be Epcot.

They moved away from dealing with dignitaries and talked about the satellite uplink they provided during the opening.

Disney wanted a way for the corporate dignitaries who participated in making Epcot to be there on opening day, but from their boardrooms. Disney *really* wanted them there for the Grand Opening three weeks later. They thought about cable. Too expensive. Someone suggested satellites. Satellites? At the time, stations all over the country were beginning to install dishes for the game shows, national news programs, etc.

With three time zones, they could accommodate 5 minute segments for 35 different stations during the 6pm news hour.

The first night of broadcast, Cleveland was picked for the number one slot. It was also the night the first nationwide report of the Tylenol poisonings in Chicago, which literally changed the way everything is packaged today. Cleveland delayed their report of the poisonings five minutes...

But the result of it was, people were lighting up switchboards because they wanted more information. It was really one of the first times a live remote broadcast was done, and set the tone for later events. On a BBC live broadcast the Imagineer being interviewed mentioned Disney would be recruiting in the UK for the Pavilion, and so many calls came in to their London office that they crashed the phone lines, which included the nearby Ministry of Defense, which happened to be in operations in the Falkin Islands at the time...

Other tidbits:

The Universe of Energy... The vehicles are floated on cushion of air. The first time they laid the concrete, it was too porous and it wouldn't hold the vehicles up. They had to lay a denser concrete to make the vehicles work.

The Imagination Pavilion wasn't opened until spring because the computers wouldn't work. Heh.

In the parking lot of Epcot, there is a medium stand of decaying, long leaf pines. When they were laying out the parking lot, they discovered there was a small protected woodpecker living there, and they couldn't take the trees down. And there's even a backstage street called Woodpecker Lane that commemorates it.

Tom Nabbe was the warehouse manager that got all the stuff being made in California and shipped to WDW. One of his responsibilities was to get everything off the trucks without breaking 'em. Christmas every day. He related how they had to get all the Spaceship Earth sets to the building, and they were raised to the top floor via an elevator and stored there. The bottom of the sphere was completed, and the elevator closed off. Then the sets were brought down from the top floor as needed.

One of the last stories related told of the really hot summers in Florida, and one of the things you have to have for the crews were portalets. Some of them got "kinda strong". So the construction crews would take a roll of toilet paper, douse it in lighter fluid, and toss it in the plastic building. It was never a problem since they were away from the construction, but during the course of the day, Reedy Creek would make 2 or 3 or 4 runs a day to put out what became known as "Flamers"...

We Can Do It
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10:30-11:10 Looking Back at Tomorrow

Steven Vagnini and Michael Crawford looked at the early development ideas and concepts for Epcot, well as some of the early attractions that no longer exist. No photography or video was allowed, so my notes are a little sketchy...

They had a memo from Vince Jeffors, a marketing executive from around '72 or '73. The company was thinking about building an international shopping area. His memo said "What you should do is build it in a circle, and have a bunch of international pavilions with exhibits and shows and restaurants, make them really themed and they'll be around a river or plaza." It was to be built across from the Contemporary Hotel.

In '77 or '78, Future World and World Showcase were merged together, American Adventure was over the plaza, a Space Pavilion where Test Track is today, a life and health pavilion where Imagination is, and a large lagoon in back of World Showcase for a second set of pavilions and possibly internationally themed hotels.

We were shown the different concepts and the evolution of the Epcot logo.

They had a tribute to "The Astuter Computer Revue" in Communicore, the shortest lived attraction in Epcot (closed in 1984), featuring Earlie the Pearly, and The Computer Song by the Sherman Brothers. There's a reason it closed in 1984...

They had early concepts of the Energy Pavilion that didn't make it, and one storyboard started with someone sitting down to watch their favorite TV show. This has got to be one of those "Good ideas are never thrown away, just saved until they can be used later" things.

An early concept for the Transportation Pavilion had a test track on the outside of the building in which guests could ride futuristic vehicles.

The Land. It was originally going to be centered around a farmers market.

Horizons was supposed to be a direct sequel to Carousel of Progress, and one of the original names was supposed to be Century 3... Another name was Future Probe, until a memo was written that said, "There is agreement that the name 'Future Probe' is somewhat unpleasant and therefore should not be used as the name of the pavilion..."

At about 11am, I get a call from Mom. Oh good. I go to the back of the room, and after several attempts, find that the reception at AoA is so bad I can't get a connection to Mom's room. Later I find she heard me say to stand by the window, but it still didn't help. sigh.

11:10-12:00 Makin' Memories: Epcot on Film

Disney Imagineer Bob Garner and Disney author and historian Tim O'Day. Bob Garner produced/directed a series of films documenting the production of Epcot. The first film he was involved in, was only the conceptual drawings. His second, was using a small camera panning around the model of Epcot at WED. He documented construction, and the time-lapse construction of Spaceship Earth was from one of his films.

He did many of the films in Epcot, including the original Circlevision films. Whenever he sees 'em, he can see all the crew hiding behind trees and rocks due to the 360 degree vision...

He was the one who did the famous shot of the helicopter flyover of Mickey on Spaceship Earth. They put Mickey through a hatch on top of Spaceship Earth tied down with a rope, and flew the helicopter over him.

At the time, Eisner didn't want any Disney Characters in Epcot at all, and one of the iconic shots is The Boss on Spaceship Earth. Eisner called Marty Sklar and said, "I think Bob Garner should be fired." When Marty asked him why, he replied, "He almost killed Mickey." (He also related a story of how Mickey saved his life. He was doing circlevision in Guatemala, and they were stopped by some guerilla group that were going to kill them until they saw the Disney Company and Mickey's logo on the film canisters. Then they started smiling and laughing, and were eventually let go. Then he added he probably wouldn't be here today if it said "Knott's Berry Farm".)

Makin' Memories: Epcot on Film
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End Sept 2012 Trip Report - Part 3.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

  • 11/08/2012 - Page Added
  • 12/31/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 09/01/2014 - Update to v3.2