Monthly Archives: November 2011

Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms

Walt did everything he could to help people escape from the real world for a little while and spend some time in a place where wishes do come true. Two prime examples are the fact you do not walk right from your car into the Magic Kingdom. Instead you board either the monorail or the ferry boat. Thus even before you get to gates of the park you begin to leave the world behind.

This is all part of Walt’s magic and vision. That vision could not be nearly as complete at Disneyland as it is at Disney World simply because of space. Walt and the imagineering crew also learned a few things from the California park.

Walt’s vision can be explained in a lot of the terms they use at Disney World. Some of those terms are onstage, backstage, cast members, costume, audience,utilidors, imagineering.

Onstage refers to anything the audience can see. Walt did not just want a theme park he wanted to create the illusion that the audience was in another world. To make sure that the onstage area is always in good order Disney spends a load of money on maintenance. Streets are steam cleaned nightly. Things are constantly being repainted. To give some scope to the onstage idea and how important it is to Disney consider the following facts taken from wikipedia:

In a March 30, 2004 article in The Orlando Sentinel, then-Walt Disney World president Al Weiss gave some insight into how the parks are maintained:

  • More than 5,000 cast members are dedicated to maintenance and engineering, including 750 horticulturists and 600 painters.
  • Disney spends more than $100 million every year on maintenance at the Magic Kingdom. In 2003, $6 million was spent on renovating its Crystal Palace restaurant. 90 percent of guests say that the upkeep and cleanliness of the Magic Kingdom are excellent or very good.
  • The streets in the parks are steam cleaned every night.
  • There are cast members permanently assigned to painting the antique carousel horses; they use genuine gold leaf.
  • There is a tree farm on site so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available to replace it.

Backstage is something that is not intended for audience viewing. Anything that would lessen the Disney illusion must be kept backstage. In fact, at cast member entrances to the onstage area there are verbal reminders that the cast is about to go onstage. There are also mirrors for a last minute inspection to make sure your costume is in order.

Cast member is the Disney name for employees. They are called cast members because they are not just doing a job they are staging a show for the audience. They are meant to be part of the illusion Disney is trying to create.

Costumes are the uniform that cast members wear. Sure its a uniform no matter what you call it just as cast members are employees. But by constantly reminding the cast members that they are staging a show they reinforce the idea that they need to be in character all the time. Personally I think they do a great job!

The man who started it all was obsessed with creating a grand show, an illusion that would keep people coming back for generations. Judging from ticket sales he not only succeeded but the dream is still going strong.

The audience, put simply, is anyone who is in the park but not part of the cast. They are the guests and are sometimes referred to as such. Either term you use they are still the beneficiaries of a lot of work Disney is putting into making sure we forget our troubles for a while and can dream about a better world.

Utilidors are part of how the illusion is maintained. Story goes that Walt saw a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland as he headed to his post in Frontierland at Disneyland and did not like how it ruined the staging of his illusion. There wasn’t much he could to about it at Disneyland but he filed the thought away for his new project in Florida.

To make the Seven Seas Lagoon a lot of earth had to be moved. Of course even Walt could not make it disappear but the imagineers came up with a use for it. As the Magic Kingdom was being built the entire first floor was designed as a system of tunnels dedicated to utility functions. The dirt was then piled over the the tunnels. Therefore what most guests consider the ground level at the Magic Kingdom is actually the second, and sometimes third, floor. Some of the tours at Walt Disney World will even let you catch a glimpse of these Utilidors. Note you must be 16 or older to get in! For more information on the tours click here.

Imagineering (or Imagineers) is a term originated by the Alcoa company. Put simply it is two words slammed together. Those words are imagine and engineering. Walt adopted the term and the philosophy. He wanted people who could not only engineer he wanted people who could imagine! The sky was the limit. In fact in the creative process of Disney Imagineering the first stage of the project is called the Blue Sky phase. So Walt may not have originated the term but he sure came nearest to perfecting it and we are still reaping the benefits, smiles and memories today.

So now you know some of the terms. Look for grumpy’s follow up articles on the Magic of Disney in

Making Disney Magic Part Two: Plus Is a Verb and Making Disney Magic Part Three: The Tricks.


Disney World Top Seven Must Sees Part Three (Conclusion)

Number 1: Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

At the watering hole

This should come as no surprise to fans of I have posted several stories already on Kilimanjaro Safaris. It is quite simply, in my grumpy opinion, the best ride Disney World has to offer.

To understand why you have to understand some things about me. First I am not only grumpy I am a nerd at heart. Second I love animals. this ride combines both of those parts of my personality into one ride. The nerd gets to learn about animals!

The ride premise is nothing spectacular. You are leaving Harambe Village for a tour of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. The tour is scheduled for two weeks. I have taken this safari numerous times and though it is one of the longer rides at Disney World it has never been two weeks! During your tour you will be in constant contact with warden Wilson Matua who is patrolling the reserve for poachers. Your particular tour has the call sign Simba 1. Okay its not an original name but the theme behind the ride is not the impressive part. It is the ride itself.

Your ride vehicle is a rather large open-sided truck. All seats are bench seats that hold up to six people. Unlike many of the rides at Disney World, including even the Liberty Square River Boat which actually runs on a rail, these trucks are true trucks. The driver can take them anywhere he or she wants. Don’t bother trying to bribe them into taking you off the prescribed course though. I have tried and it doesn’t work. For the best view, of course, try to get a seat on the outside.

There may have been some set up to this picture. Okay there was! But the zebras and the giraffes really are that close to each other and too you! And nothing keeps them from coming up for a better view of you! At least one guest has even been licked by a baby giraffe.

Disney has pulled out all the stops to recreate Africa on this one and it is very much appreciated by me! You get to see a lot of different animals some of which I had never heard of before. Having been to Africa myself, the real one I mean, the road is especially authentic. There are bumps and potholes everywhere and the ride can be a little rough at times but don’t be discouraged it is worth it.

The animals are the stars of this ride and they are not hid behind cages as they would be in a zoo. Many of them roam quite freely through their designated area. On more than one occasion the entire system has had to be shut down because an animal has chosen to stop right in the middle of the road. I had the unique experience of staring at a giraffe’s butt on one trip because he was blocking our path. He eventually tired of eating leaves and moved out of the way as if he really had no where else to go. Even white rhino’s are allowed some freedom to roam. They can come right up to your truck!Dangerous animals of course cannot get close to you! Ignore the rumors about guests being lost to the great cats. It never happened. At least not to me. The dangerous animals are kept separated from all the guests by trenches and other systems that have been built into the environment in such a way  you never see them!

Even keeping the animals in their respective areas has been tackled with typical imagineering skill. You will notice from time to time that you come to what looks like a gate. In fact it is but it is always open when the ride is running. As you pass through the gate you will notice chains on the road. For whatever reason the animals do not like the chains and will not cross them!

I wish I was on that truck right now. How about you?

Keeping animals separate and guests safe is not the only way the imagineers outdid themselves though. Many of the bushes and plants you see are actually feeders only pretending to be normal plants. Keeps the animals in better range for your viewing pleasure!

One other fact you may not know. The animals do not actually sleep on the open savanna. They are brought each night to their respective homes, which are much more like the zoo you might expect. There is no ranger who goes out to gather them up though. Each of the different animals has been trained to respond to sound and when they hear the appropriate sound for their species they head in all on their own! For the most part that is!

Of course all those little imagineering tricks go unnoticed for the most part and the ride is exceptional. Keep your camera ready for some excellent shots!

If you missed part one of the Disney World Top Seven Must Sees click here.

If you missed part two of the Disney World Top Seven Must See click here.

Exciting News For Grumpy

I have now taken the step of registering a domain name! Now it is even easier to find the page. Just type in and you are there friend!

Help me not be so Grumpy! Spread the word about

Space Mountain

Within that building resides Space Mountain. This ride was not an original E-Ticket Ride only because it was not added till after the Magic Kingdom opened. Once Space Mountain opened it certainly became on though and is arguably one of the biggest rides at the Magic Kingdom.

Space Mountain is one of three roller coasters in the Magic Kingdom. Unlike the other two, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain, the exterior of Space Mountain is not designed to resemble a real mountain. Instead it is a futuristic building designed to resemble a base on some distant planet or a space port on a future earth.

Space Mountain is also different from its Magic Kingdom Counterparts in that it is a completely enclosed ride. Riders enter the building and will not see the light of day again until they have completed their intergalactic journey. There are two two different tracks for Space Mountain, Alpha and Omega. They offer nearly identical rides but Alpha is slightly longer.

As you either walk or wait your way through the queue there are glimpses into space. They include stations, astronauts and celestial bodies such as stars and planets. When your wait is over, it can be a very long wait on busy days, you are selected for either the Alpha or the Omega train. Each train holds up to six people riding single file. Your “ship” then moves to the launching area. Strobe lights that increase in flash frequency and a humming “warp” speed sound effect emphasize you are about to be hurled into outer space as  you climb the hill. Then you are blasted into the void of space.

Like space, Space Mountain is very dark. Stars can been seen shooting overhead and one never really sees very far ahead. The track twists a lot even for a roller coaster. The darkness and the rapid twists create an illusion you are travelling at great speed but the truth is you really only reach 28 miles per hour. You will occasionally encounter other ships, the Alpha train will see the Omega train for example, as you wind your way through your journey.

I have ridden Space Mountain many, many time but Goofy has never ridden with me!

After your rocket has landed you will find yourself on the moving walkway, known as the speed ramp, and several scenes of what life might be like on the surface of planets with atmospheres that are not human friendly. You will even notice a robotic dog.

Space Mountain is definitely a must see at the Magic Kingdom. Fastpasses are available. There is no single rider line. This ride is open during Extra-Magic Hours.

Back to the Magic Kingdom.

Back to the Magic Kingdom

Do you blog Disney?

Just wondering how many Disney obsessed or Disney deprived bloggers are out there. I am looking to add some links to Disney content so if you want to link up with grumpymickey and are willing to link back let me know and we can make it happen.

Disney World Top Seven Must Sees Part Two

Number 4: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Yes you really do go upside down! And you will be rockin out the whole time you are going!

This one is a no-brainer for me. I love Aerosmith. I love roller-coasters. Put the two together and what could be better!  The ride premise is simple and is established in the pre-show. Aerosmith is inviting you to attend their next concert which is across town in LA. To make sure you get there in style they are providing a super-stretch limo. You leave the pre-show and head to the final queue before climbing into your limo.

Your limo is, of course, the roller coaster car and the cars look the part. Unlike any other roller-coaster at Disney though, these cars come complete with a rocking sound system. You pull up to the launch which is also unlike most roller coasters. There is no steep hill to climb. You go from sitting still on a flat track to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds. When they say get ready and push your head back, you better listen!

Then your tour of LA begins accompanied by blaring Aerosmith. The ride is inside, similar to Space Mountain, but is far more energetic. You blast by traffic signs at high speed and even do some inversions before finally arriving at the concert. Unfortunately the concert turns out to be a gift shop. I guess the driver made a wrong turn somewhere.

Even though I have always missed the concert I never miss Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. In fact, my wife and I usually use the single rider line and we have ridden it up to five times in one hour.

Number 3: Wishes Nighttime Spectacular at the Magic Kingdom

An amazing shot of the fireworks with Walt and Mickey in the foreground. For the official Disney page click the picture.

Wishes Nighttime Spectacular is the closing ceremony for the Magic Kingdom. It is an amazing fireworks show with a story. Jiminey Cricket is the narrator of the story that revolves around good triumphing over evil. Not real unique for Disney World but hey we are looking for a happy ending to our already glorious day in the Happiest Place on Earth right?

Story or no story the fireworks are amazing. There is something primal about the lights and the sounds, some of which will reverberate through your body, that brings out the kid in all of us. And what kid doesn’t love fireworks? Okay Elijah, my son was scared by his first fireworks display and it was on the backyard variety but he was young. Most kids love fireworks and this display puts the average Fourth of July display to shame. Maybe its the music. Maybe its Cinderella’s castle serving as the backdrop. Oh and did I mention you get to see Tinkerbell fly? That’s pretty impressive too.

During special seasons of the year the show changes up a little bit and on the Fourth of July rumor has it that the number of rockets shot increases to almost double. The best viewing is in front of Cinderella’s Castle but you can see the show from all over the park. There is a special dining package which includes reserved seating and also a special package that allows you to watch the show from the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Number 2: Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Festival of the Lion King is an acrobatic musical extravaganza featuring most of your favorites from the movie. Click the picture for a sneak preview from the Disney website.

I am going to admit up I might be one of the few people to include this one on a list of Top Seven Must Sees but I offer no apologies. This is not a ride. It is a show. As the name suggests it is loosely based on the Lion King. The key word being loosely. Many of the primary characters from the movie make appearances, namely Simba, Pumba, Timon and of course Scar do make appearances though.

The show centers around the premise of a festival being held. Scar of course is attempting to disrupt it. This is a show but not a play! There is a lot of excellent singing centered around four characters created for the show. There are also acrobatics including a spirited performance by the “Tumble Monkeys”. The finale of the show even involves a character flying high above the audience as the cast sings “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”.

I am not sure exactly what it is about this show that moves me so much but it does! I love it. I watch it every time I go and sometimes multiple times during a trip. Check it out if you haven’t already and let me know your thoughts.

For the grumpy’s number one Walt Disney World Must Sees click here.

If you missed grumpy’s earlier installment of the Walt Disney World Must Sees click here.


Disney World Top Seven Must Sees Part One

If you have stayed at a Walt Disney World Resort you know that Disney has got it down when it comes to shameless self-promotion. Every time you turn on the TV it defaults to a specific channel. It does not matter what the last channel you were watching was. The TV has been bribed to keep your mind focused squarely on getting you back into the park where chances are you will spend more money. I am not judging. Just saying.

That channel is an endless loop of the Top Seven Must Sees at Walt Disney World. It updates from time to time as new rides open and old ones close but whenever you turn on the TV  you are going to see it first. In honor of the Top Seven Must Sees at Walt Disney World I am going to create my own. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Of course the hardest part of any “top” list is figuring out what belongs there. Sometimes its just hard to find anything that would make the list. Fortunately I do not have that problem at Disney World. My problem is narrowing the list down to only seven. But I am up to the task. Of course there are a few things that won’t make my list simply because I have not done them, like Cirque Du Soleil (an official winner on the Disney generated list.) I have completed almost every ride and experience in the parks though. In fact one of the only thing that comes to mind that I have not done is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I was going to ride it last time I was there but it just did not work out.

So without further delay here is my list. I hope you enjoy it!

Number 7:Flights of Wonder at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Okay so it’s definitely not flashy and the story is especially hokey. A tour guide who happens to be terrified of birds finds his tour group (you the audience) has left him behind and has stumbled into, of all things, a show on birds. The tour guide, the last several times I have seen the show it was Guano Joe, spends the rest of the show learning about birds and at the same time overcoming his fears.

My favorite part of the show. They have never let the eagle fly out over us but I still love seeing it.

This show is not like a lot of animal shows you might have seen. Birds will be flying right over your head. Well that is the hope at least. They come so low you have to wonder if they ever hit anyone in the audience. There are singing birds, birds who can “do” math and a bird who literally takes money right out of an audience members hand and delivers it to the show host. Don’t worry the bird brings it back. Last time I saw the show I made sure I took cash so I could volunteer and low and behold I was picked. Unfortunately my wife was too close to get a good picture.

I really enjoy the whole show but what earns its spot on this list is the closing. They bring out a real bald eagle. Now I have loved the American bald eagle since I was a child. They were once on the endangered list but aren’t any longer. To see one up close and personal like that literally brought tears to my eyes. Don’t skip this one. You will be missing out.

Number 6: Soarin’ at Epcot

The Golden Gate is only one thing you will see as you “soar” over California. Click the picture to watch the video from Walt Disney World

Okay I have to admit up front one of the reasons I picked Soarin’ is location. It’s in EPCOT and I didn’t have anything from EPCOT and I would have hate to have left out a theme park completely. That being said it does not mean this is not a first class attraction.

Guests on Soarin’ strap into what looks like a row of theater seats. In fact you are in front of a large movie screen. But do not be fooled. Once everyone is seated and ready to go your seats get whisked up and into the air and the show begins.

The show is a tour over California and it’s coast. (Soarin’ is a transplant from Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland.) The seats move and tilt. Obviously this show has a visual impact but there are also cool breezes blowing in your face, the smell of pine trees and the salty pacific. The “movie” will drag you in to the point you will lift your feet to avoid clipping the trees.

Number 5: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The story goes like this, years and years ago some people at a hotel were in the elevator when lightning struck it and they disappeared as a whole wing of the Hollywood Tower collapsed. As the name should imply it happened because of the Twilight Zone.

Not for the faint of heart but if you can overcome your fears you might just like it! Hey I refused the first year I was there but now I ride it and ride it often. Click the picture for the official Disney page and a video.

After winding your way through the abandoned hotel you will enter the last stage of the queue. Here you are crowded into a room with a bellhop as you watch a video that could could be an introduction to the original TV show the Twilight Zone. The narrator even sounds like Rod Steiger. Then you have one more little queue till you enter your elevator car to excitement. They give you a seat but you won’t always need it. You are also given a seat belt. You do need this and I highly recommend you use it!

The car then moves along some dark tunnels. You catch glimpses of the missing guests and then the fun starts. You move into final position and are raised and lowered multiple (and a random amount) of times. This is where you will not need your seat and be thankful you are strapped in. It is an odd feeling to be floating in one direction while you realize the car is moving in the other but don’t worry you will come back together one way or the other!  At multiple points in the ride you will be stopped as windows open up and you get a first class view of the rest of the Studios.

Because of its nature I was at first reluctant to try this one out. But my niece was going to ride and I overcame my shame. I am glad I did! You are enclosed for the whole ride for those who do not like standard drop rides and if you are healthy enough I recommend you try it at least once. It’s a must see after all!

Ready to find out what is next? Click here for the next installment of grumpy’s Walt Disney World Must Sees.

Can’t wait to find out what grumpy’s number one is? Click here.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Welcome to Kilimanjaro Safaris, your two week expedition into the wilds of the dark continent.

Deep in the wilds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is what I consider the greatest attraction in the park. In fact my wife and I love it so much it we may consider it the best attraction in the World! True it is not the fastest ride on property. It does not have the big drop of say a Splash Mountain or the animatronics of Pirates of the Carribean. It does not rely on speed, height or technology to thrill. The stars of this show are the animals. If you love animals you will love this. Even if you don’t you have to try it at least once.

True to Disney form there is a back story behind the attraction. You, the guests, are embarking on a two week guided safari of the Harambe Wilderness Reserve on your safari truck, Simba 1. Throughout the ride you will be in touch with warden Wilson Matua who is patrolling the reserve from the sky keeping an eye out for poachers. Thus your ride begins.

Some rides proclaim never to be the same twice. This ride delivers because the animals on the reserve are not in traditional cages. Instead the wonderful imagineers have recreated Africa in painstaking detail. It does not take much imagination to believe you are really in Africa. This of course, leaves you the guest at the mercy of the stars of the show and sometimes they are very shy while at other times some of the more peaceful ones will walk right up to your truck. On some occasions they will even stand right in front of your truck. During these occasions your truck will stop and your experience will be even longer. I have heard that on at least one occasion a baby giraffe was very curious, stuck its head in the vehicle and licked a guest! I am not sure whether that would be a thrill or not but you will come away with a once in a lifetime story.

At the watering hole

Your vehicle will wind its way past various animals. Some of them you will be familiar with such as hippos, elephants and giraffe. Some you might not have encountered before such as the endangered Okapi and the Thomson Gazelle, called Tommies for short. Taking pictures can be a challenge because the vehicles may slow down a little but they never truly stop, unless one of the animals is blocking the way. If you want to take pictures try to get a seat on the sides of the seats and not in the middle. Your driver will help spot animals and educate on some of them. If you are a nerd like me, sit up front so you can ask questions.

As the ride nears its conclusion, which is considerably shorter than the “planned” two weeks but is still one of the longer rides at Walt Disney World, warden Wilson radios in that poachers have been spotted. Your truck jumps into high gear as you help keep them from harvesting elephants to sell their tusks.

Kilimanjo Safaris fills up quick. Head their first thing in the morning to get on quickly or use a Fastpass. The animals tend to be more active during the morning. This is especially true in summer when the heat sets in and many of them hide in the shade. If your first ride doesn’t thrill you don’t be too worried. Try it again and it will be totally different. If you love animals the way my wife and I do, you cannot miss this one!

As you exit the vehicles you will be right at the entrance to the Pangani Forrest Exploration Trail. I recommend not rushing away, unless you have a Fastpass about to expire. The trail offers views of several animals including hippos but the stars of the show are silverback gorrillas.

Back to the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Page.

The Official Disney's Animal Kingdom Page for Kilimanjaro Safaris

Quick Update

I have added new pages for all the themeparks. These pages will become your place to go to for my reviews of all that they have to offer. They are empty now with the exception of my article on Pirates of the Caribbean. I will be working hard on filling them up though. Any suggestions on what rides or attractions to do first?


Ever Wonder Why Disney World Is So Clean

Here is an article from the Los Angeles times on the cleaning at Disneyland in California. No doubt the Walt Disney World crew is equally ambitious and dedicated.

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