An End of an Era: Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat

By Ryan Reed

As most of you know, the Sorcerer Mickey Hat has been in the news over the last few months.  As it turns out, Disney has decided to dismantle the magical icon in what seems to be related to the rumored changes to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  As I’ve said before when talking about other changes in Walt Disney World, we should appreciate it evolving right before our very eyes.  I feel the removal of a park icon is bigger than an attraction (sorry Maelstrom) because it means much more to each and every guest that sets foot in a park.  You can avoid an attraction; you can’t avoid a park icon.  So for this post I just want to share some of my opinions on why this upsets some folks and what direction Disney may be going next. Continue after the page break for more…

Why is there such a polarizing view on the removal of the Sorcerer’s Hat?  Not being able to avoid a park icon means we make associations with said icon even if it’s purely on a subconscious level.  I feel this comes down to the age or generation of any given guest.  If you were born in, let’s say, 1960 and have been visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios since its inception; chances are you directly associate the Chinese Theater to this park (originally named Disney’s MGM Studios).  Having said that, this person might also associate the park with the Earful Tower.  Disney used both of these icons in park maps at the time but I would say the Chinese Theater was the icon Disney planned to represent their newest park.

We will soon see the original sightline down Hollywood Blvd.

Now, under the same set of criteria, a person born in 2000 has only ever known the park with Mickey’s Sorcerer hat.  It’s an immediate connection as Disney decided to completely cover up the original park icon and make it seem nothing more than their usual incredibly well themed attractions.  Also, the Sorcerers Hat has long been featured in park maps, brochures, merchandise, etc. – furthering its connection to the park.

A sight we’re all used to and some have only known.

You can go either way on someone who was born in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Me, for example, only remembers the Studios with the Sorcerer Mickey Hat and I was born in 1988.  I visited Disney World the most during the 90’s, so I’ve been in the Studios without the hat more often than not.  Now, when the Hat was constructed, I was only about 12 years old, leaving all my experiences prior to the hat to a young child.  As I visited at an older age, I was able to remember the hat more than anything else. 

No matter what your opinion is of Disney removing this icon, I feel we can all look at the silver lining of the situation: the growth and change of the parks.  Walt said it himself: “Disneyland will never be completed.  It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”  Walt Disney Imagineers have stuck to this principle ever since, leading to a popular quote: “Disneyland is not a Museum.”  Clearly this motto has left California and made its way to the other Disney parks throughout the world.  It’s a principle of the company and one we can see as the Hat is dismantled.  I think we should look at the positive side of all this and revel in the fact that change is coming to the Studios.  Some, probably most, will agree that this change is much needed.  Who knows where Disney is going next and I can’t wait to see what they have planned.

An MGM Program from 1989 – clearly showing the prominence of the Chinese Theater and Earful Tower.

 What do you think Disney has in store for us?   What is the next icon?  Will it be something that captures the rumored re-imagination of the park?  We have all heard the Star Wars, Pixar Place and Indiana Jones rumors by now; will these plans be on a grand enough scale to result in a completely new icon?  Or will we see a familiar structure take over as the new icon?  Maybe the Tower of Terror will be the face of the Studios from here on out.  It makes sense on a lot of different levels.  Even when the Hat was the icon, the Tower of Terror arguably drew more association with the park.  It’s a large structure, a “Weenie” that Walt himself would be proud of.  If you aren’t familiar with this term, it is one Walt coined.  It’s basically a structure that would lead guests to certain parts of the park.  Think Cinderella’s Castle, Expedition Everest or, as I said, the Tower of Terror.  Lastly, the Chinese Theater or the Earful Tower could take back their original roles as park icons. 

 
 
 
Concept Art for Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat.  Originally intended just for the 100 Years of Magic celebration.
 
 
 
So, what do I think of all of this?  I never was a huge fan of the Sorcerer Hat.  Although I draw a stronger connection with it to the Studios, I knew it wasn’t the original icon and that it was simply placed right in front of the Chinese Theater.  It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the hat itself; I didn’t like why it was there or how it was done.  It just seemed out of place.  To me, it was like putting a massive structure in front of Cinderella’s Castle or the Epcot Ball – like, why are you there?  Having said that, I’m also a very sentimental person.  I know I’ve said I like that Disney is in a state of change but it’s still tough to see something go that I’ve enjoyed for such a long time.  At the end of the day, though, I’m ok with it going.
 
Finally, above all else, we need to embrace the period of change we are witnessing.  This doesn’t happen often, especially on the level it is happening right now.  For better or worse, this is an exciting time.  Obviously I want to hear what your opinion is of all of this now that we can actually see the Hat coming down.  Do you feel it’s the right move?  Are you upset now that you can see an era coming to an end?  Make sure to let me know in the comments below.

 
 
 
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Ryan Reed is from Upstate New York and grew up in a suburb just west of Rochester.  He graduated from the College at Brockport with a Bachelors of Science in Philosophy; he also plans to go back to school to acquire his MBA within the next couple of years.  For hobbies, Ryan spends his time staying active and just recently ran the 2014 Boiler Maker 15K for the first time.  Also, he is a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan who thinks every year is “our year”.  Basketball is, without a doubt, his favorite sport and shares the same interest with his father.  They both bond over being Boston Celtics fans and regularly make trips to the New England area to watch them play.  Ryan’s interest in craft beer is shared amongst his friends and girlfriend; they enjoy touring, learning, and experiencing everything brewers have to offer.  His ties to Walt Disney World started before he even was a year old.  As a child, his family took him back year after year and has continued to go back almost yearly.  At first, his love for Disney World was due to the attractions that he had never experienced elsewhere.  Then he began to be intrigued with how the parks, rides, and restaurants came to be – the sheer size of what they were able to build fascinated him.  In his sophomore year of college Ryan took part in the Disney College Program.  He worked at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Fantasmic! as well as Rock N’ Roller Coaster.  This experience allowed him to see a whole new side of Disney and gained an appreciation for what they do more than ever before.  Now Ryan looks for any information he can to understand the history of Disney World and how it came to be.  He has witnessed Disney go through a lot of changes but his interests and appreciation for the parks evolved along with it.  His favorite ride is the Haunted Mansion but a close second is Tower of Terror.  Epcot has become his favorite park; there are so many different things to experience – each visit seems like a new adventure.  His favorite time at Disney is dusk; each park transforms into something completely different once the sun sets.  His favorite Disney movie is Toy Story and favorite Disney character is Tigger.  Ryan’s articles will discuss tips about Disney World, some “best of” pieces, as well as history of both the parks and resorts.
 
 


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Things I Haven’t Done: Christmas in Walt Disney World

By Ryan Reed




Continuing with this series of posts, I want to talk about Christmas in Walt Disney World.  As I stated in my previous post, I will cover what makes me want to experience these things I’ve missed in Walt Disney World so badly.  Some are shocking, as they are staples for every Disney fan.  Having said all that, there is one major Christmas event (or Spectacle, if you will) I was lucky enough to experience: the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at what I’m most excited about seeing in Walt Disney World during the holiday season…

 Magic Kingdom
 

A look down Main Street USA during the Christmas season.



Seeing the Magic Kingdom laced with Christmas lights, strewn with wreaths, and our favorite characters dressed in holiday spirit has to be an incredible sight.  As we all know, the park itself will astonish you every time you walk in; add in hundreds of lights to celebrate such a joyous holiday and you have the makings of an amazing event.

Cinderella’s Castle with its “cool” Christmas decorations.



Cinderella’s Castle gets to be center stage (as it often is) for a holiday version of Wishes.  With it being decked out with “icicles”, white fireworks light up the sky forming a wonderful backdrop to the newly decorated castle.  Wishes is always a spectacle; I cannot wait to see it with a holiday twist.


Mickey and Minnie make their way down a “snowy” Main Street USA



As I’ve stated before, I’ve never been a parade guy but looking at some of these pictures make me really want to make an effort to see what Mickey has in store.  One of the coolest Disney touches that I’ve noticed is the snowing effect they have used on Main Street.  I’ve seen plenty of snow in my life – being from Upstate New York – so this isn’t new to me, however, seeing this effect in Magic Kingdom sounds, well, magical. 




Holidays Around the World at EPCOT

Sportsman Shoppe of the United Kingdom Pavilion in World Showcase.


 
Now this is something I just became aware of when searching for material for this article: wow!  This is right up my ally.  I can’t get enough of World Showcase let alone having it decorated for the holidays with each country celebrating in their own unique customary way.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say this will be my favorite part of a Disney vacation during Christmas.

 

Resort Hopping


I’ve always loved the Wilderness Lodge.


Seeing the Wilderness Lodge decorated in holiday spirit, complete with a giant Christmas Tree makes it look even more warm and cozy than it normally does.  I haven’t been able to experience every resort, or make time to do so.  I figure a wonderful time to explore these great places would be when Disney has them decorated for the season.  From the pictures I’ve seen, they all look unbelievable.  Making it a point to go around to each resort, taking in the sights and taking advantage of what each has to offer sounds like a unique way to relax.
 
 
Another shot of Wilderness Lodge.

 

Of course: the Gingerbread House.
 
 
 

Everyone has heard about the Grand Floridian’s infamous gingerbread house.  The house is 16 feet high and takes about 10,000 gingerbread pieces to complete!  What a sight to see it must be. 

 

 
Gingerbread Carousel at Disney’s Boardwalk.

 

Animal Kingdom Lodge has gingerbread decorating in the lobby of Jambo House.
 
 
The Food
           

The food found throughout Walt Disney World during the holidays is all about the decorations.  Some specialty treats will pop up here and there for the given holiday/time of year but what I love is the unique decorations found throughout the parks.


 
 
Any Disney candy apple is fantastic.

 

A fun Christmas twist to a classic Disney treat.

 

Disney never disappoints with their cupcake decorations.
 
 
 


As with everything in Walt Disney World, there’s so much offered during the holiday season.  I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be found on property during Christmas; leaving some experiences left for the unknown excites me even more though.  I hope to hear some of your favorite Disney traditions during the holiday season; let me know in the comment section below!


 

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 Ryan Reed is from Upstate New York and grew up in a suburb just west of Rochester.  He graduated from the College at Brockport with a Bachelors of Science in Philosophy; he also plans to go back to school to acquire his MBA within the next couple of years.  For hobbies, Ryan spends his time staying active and just recently ran the 2014 Boiler Maker 15K for the first time.  Also, he is a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan who thinks every year is “our year”.  Basketball is, without a doubt, his favorite sport and shares the same interest with his father.  They both bond over being Boston Celtics fans and regularly make trips to the New England area to watch them play.  Ryan’s interest in craft beer is shared amongst his friends and girlfriend; they enjoy touring, learning, and experiencing everything brewers have to offer.  His ties to Walt Disney World started before he even was a year old.  As a child, his family took him back year after year and has continued to go back almost yearly.  At first, his love for Disney World was due to the attractions that he had never experienced elsewhere.  Then he began to be intrigued with how the parks, rides, and restaurants came to be – the sheer size of what they were able to build fascinated him.  In his sophomore year of college Ryan took part in the Disney College Program.  He worked at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Fantasmic! as well as Rock N’ Roller Coaster.  This experience allowed him to see a whole new side of Disney and gained an appreciation for what they do more than ever before.  Now Ryan looks for any information he can to understand the history of Disney World and how it came to be.  He has witnessed Disney go through a lot of changes but his interests and appreciation for the parks evolved along with it.  His favorite ride is the Haunted Mansion but a close second is Tower of Terror.  Epcot has become his favorite park; there are so many different things to experience – each visit seems like a new adventure.  His favorite time at Disney is dusk; each park transforms into something completely different once the sun sets.  His favorite Disney movie is Toy Story and favorite Disney character is Tigger.  Ryan’s articles will discuss tips about Disney World, some “best of” pieces, as well as history of both the parks and resorts.


 

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What I haven’t Done: Halloween in WDW

By Ryan Reed


Obviously I am obsessed with Walt Disney World – it’s what has driven me to blog about it on a continual basis.  You know something is a passion of yours when you can’t keep your feelings inside and need to share them with whomever will listen.  I’ve vacationed in my favorite place in the world over twenty times and each time I leave I want to go back more than the previous time.  It’s a sickness (but in a good way).  Having said all that, I have barely scraped the surface on what this amazing place has to offer.  I like to consider myself a Disney aficionado but that certainly doesn’t mean I’ve done everything.  In fact, what I haven’t done has driven me to become infatuated with this place.  I want to know more and more about it and I look forward to experiencing something new each time I visit.  When I started to blog I only focused about things I’ve done myself; I felt like I wanted to share my feelings on what I know I love.  But now I think it’s time for a little self-deprecation and admit to things I haven’t done (and probably should’ve done by now!) and share why I can’t wait for my next opportunity to experience them.  I really hope to hear from some of you who have done what I haven’t in each one of these posts! Continue after the page break for more…



In this segment, the first of many, I want to focus on something I’ve missed out on my entire life and plan on experiencing soon (hopefully next year!).  It’s my favorite time of year in my favorite place in the world: Fall, or more specifically, Halloween in Walt Disney World.

 
 

I know, I know, the timing of this post is a little late but who is upset about extending Halloween just a little bit longer?  I’m specifically talking about Halloween because Autumn is way too broad of a time period; that includes a few other things I haven’t done that need posts specifically for themselves.  Anyway, back to Halloween!  This time of year has such an awesome vibe as it is.  I mean, it’s so much fun up here in Upstate New York, it has to be incredible in Disney World.  I love the spooky decorations, the scary movies, and (obviously) the food that comes with the season.  So lets take a look at some of the offerings Disney has for its guests during the Halloween season that I have, painfully, never experienced.

 

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
 
 
 

This is obvious.  How can you be in Walt Disney World during this time and not take advantage of this??  Just reading about it sounds like an amazing time.  I’ve only heard great things from friends of mine who go every single year.  So you apparently you dress up (typically as your favorite Disney character) and go trick or treating around a beautifully decorated Magic Kingdom while eating Reese Cups? TAKE MY MONEY, I’M IN!  The best place in the world throws a ridiculous Halloween party every year and I haven’t experienced it yet.  I should be ashamed of myself; believe, I am. 

 

The Entertainment
 
 

This is one parade I’ll set aside time for.
 


From what I understand, the entertainment is only Halloween themed during nights of Mickey’s Not So Scary but that doesn’t mean I can’t look forward to it.  I’m not usually a big parade guy but Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” looks way too cool.  Headlined by the Headless Horseman and appearances by your favorite Disney characters in costumes of their own make this one unique parade.  Not to mention the gravediggers making their way from my favorite attraction: the Haunted Mansion.  This is one parade I will gladly wait for in order to get a good spot and enjoy every second of it.  Oh, I have heard part of the “Boo-to-You” song and already can’t get it out of my head.




Wishes is amazing every single night of the year and I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying it on multiple occasions.  What makes this sounds even better is the takeover by Disney Villains and an eerily lit Cinderella’s Castle.  Disney doesn’t just throw things together; this spooky nighttime event has the makings of something incredible. 

As Usual, the Theming and Ambiance

 


Mickey enjoying his own not-so-scary party.



As I’ve mentioned above, I love this time of year.  There’s something about the spookiness and general vibe about this holiday.  I’ve also talked about, on a few occasions, how much I adore the Disney theming.  The thought of having these two things combined and having Disney decorate the Magic Kingdom in Halloween fashion makes me giddy.  I’ve only seen pictures, but the pumpkins, the spooky yet fun spirited decorations, and the attractions now decked out in Halloween garb make this a must do at some point. 

 
 



I love the Halloween decorations with a Disney twist.


This must look so cool as you approach the Magic Kingdom on the Monorail.


The Haunted Mansion some how manages to get even better during Halloween.



The Food!
 
 

A Halloween inspired treat on Main Street USA.

 
 

Now, let’s be honest with ourselves: we get just as excited for the food as anything else in Walt Disney World.  In the spirit of Halloween, Disney offers some specialty treats that cater to your sweet tooth more than anything else.  I’m not one to rave sweets (unless it’s a Reese Cup) but some of these offerings look incredible. 

 

 

Halloween themed Candy Apples.

 

 

The Candy Apples in Disney are out of this world.  I had my first one back when I participated in the Disney College Program and since then they have been my favorite guilty pleasure to enjoy while vacationing there.  It’s the perfect mixture of sweet (and sometimes salty), crunchy, chocolate, and caramel to create this ooey-gooey mess.  Take that and turn it into a Mickey Jack-O Lantern and you’re talking the perfect treat. 

 
 

I’m now craving a visit to Epcot and a Disney cupcake.

 
 
I’ve always been in awe of the detail Disney puts into its attractions, themed buildings, and hotels.  The way they obsess over the most minute information and the way they cleverly pay homage to their history make this place special.  I look for this detail every single time I’m down there.  What I didn’t realize, however, is I was constantly overlooking something they pour detail (and sugar) in on a daily basis: their cupcakes.  I mean, look at these things!  You can find these specialty cupcakes year round and some exhibit great detail.  They certainly don’t scale back the detail when it comes to their Halloween inspired cupcakes either. 
 
 


This could be the first time I wouldn’t be disappointed by Candy Corn.


How great is this?



I’m sure I’ve missed some pretty great parts of the Disney/Halloween experience but these are a few specific things that get me excited.  As I mentioned, I have a few more posts in mind that touch on Disney experiences I haven’t had and cannot wait to cross off my bucket list.  In the mean time, I’d love to hear from some of you that have been lucky enough to visit during the Halloween season.  Leave me your thoughts, experiences, and opinions in the comment section below!



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Ryan Reed is from Upstate New York and grew up in a suburb just west of Rochester.  He graduated from the College at Brockport with a Bachelors of Science in Philosophy; he also plans to go back to school to acquire his MBA within the next couple of years.  For hobbies, Ryan spends his time staying active and just recently ran the 2014 Boiler Maker 15K for the first time.  Also, he is a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan who thinks every year is “our year”.  Basketball is, without a doubt, his favorite sport and shares the same interest with his father.  They both bond over being Boston Celtics fans and regularly make trips to the New England area to watch them play.  Ryan’s interest in craft beer is shared amongst his friends and girlfriend; they enjoy touring, learning, and experiencing everything brewers have to offer.  His ties to Walt Disney World started before he even was a year old.  As a child, his family took him back year after year and has continued to go back almost yearly.  At first, his love for Disney World was due to the attractions that he had never experienced elsewhere.  Then he began to be intrigued with how the parks, rides, and restaurants came to be – the sheer size of what they were able to build fascinated him.  In his sophomore year of college Ryan took part in the Disney College Program.  He worked at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Fantasmic! as well as Rock N’ Roller Coaster.  This experience allowed him to see a whole new side of Disney and gained an appreciation for what they do more than ever before.  Now Ryan looks for any information he can to understand the history of Disney World and how it came to be.  He has witnessed Disney go through a lot of changes but his interests and appreciation for the parks evolved along with it.  His favorite ride is the Haunted Mansion but a close second is Tower of Terror.  Epcot has become his favorite park; there are so many different things to experience – each visit seems like a new adventure.  His favorite time at Disney is dusk; each park transforms into something completely different once the sun sets.  His favorite Disney movie is Toy Story and favorite Disney character is Tigger.  Ryan’s articles will discuss tips about Disney World, some “best of” pieces, as well as history of both the parks and resorts.


 

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A Rainy Day in Walt Disney World Beats a Sunny Day At Home

 
By Ryan Reed



There’s a pretty funny meme I’ve come across a few times now that sums up my exact thoughts: A rainy day in Walt Disney World beats a sunny day at home.  This is absolutely true for the obvious reason: you’re in Walt Disney World!  Beyond that though, I’ve actually found even rain can add to your trip instead of ruining it.  No matter what the weather is, it gives you a unique experience of the parks and resorts.  Atmosphere is huge in Walt Disney World, how else can you explain the instant sense of ease and relaxation once you step foot on property?  I know I’m not the only one who could go to Disney for a week, not ride a single attraction, and still have the time of my life.  Sure, this can speak volumes for vast amount of things to do, but I think it also shows that NOTHING needs to be done to enjoy yourself.  A walk down Main Street USA, a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, or a seat in the France Pavilion are things we all dream of doing when we aren’t visiting.  Due to this amazing atmosphere, it can absorb a seemingly bad weather day.  Not only can it allow you to still enjoy your trip, but it also gives you an entire new experience in the parks and surrounding resorts. Continue after the page break and see why a rainy day at WDW is beats a sunny day at home…

 
It’s an overcast day and the rain hasn’t come… yet.  Will it? It sure could but enjoy the current weather for what it is.  Back home, no one likes an overcast day.  It puts us in a negative mood when all we really want is a day to enjoy ourselves, but in Walt Disney World, a gloomy day means a new way to look at the parks and resorts.    
 

 

Tower of Terror in the perfect setting.

An epic backdrop to Disney’s most intimidating Mountain.
 
Is there a better fit for an overcast day than the Haunted Mansion?
 

 
 
There are so many reasons not to rush out of the parks when the weather isn’t working with you.  Stick around because when most guests head to the exit, the lines for your favorite attractions will be shorter allowing you to get more done!  As soon as the heavy rain subsides, you will have a good hour of low attendance at the park.   Orlando storms are famous for their violent yet quick attacks; wait it out.  Finally, put your Mickey poncho on and enjoy the parks in a completely different way.  The overcast skies mixed in with the light rain allow you to capture some memorable pictures from the newly created atmosphere.

 
 



Paris Pavilion after an evening of rain.
 
 

A look at a Christmas decorated Magic Kingdom during a light drizzle.
 
 

Walt Disney’s Boardwalk glistening following an evening of rain.

 

 
 

I’ve shared my thoughts on Disney at night; a rainy evening takes the atmosphere to a whole new level.

 

In the parks or not, strong rain can also add to your Disney experience.  Even if the rainfall is too much, it doesn’t mean the rest of your day is ruined. This is when you want to find a nice spot to have a couple of drinks and get some food. On our most recent trip, my family and I headed over to Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney for a late dinner and some drinks.  Due to the long wait inside the restaurant, we sat out in the Lava Lounge.  While sitting on the deck we were treated to a light rain eating right next to the water.  We ended up staying longer than we had originally intended just because of the great atmosphere.  A relatively quiet Rainforest Café (rare, I know) and beautiful views of a soaked Downtown Disney was a perfect way to end our first night in Walt Disney World.

 

The Lava Lounge offers a great view overlooking Village Lake.



The United Kingdom Pavilion is home to a perfect restaurant to weather (ha) the storm.
 
 
The Rose and Crown Pub is a perfect example of a nice spot to hunker down, wait out the storm and grab a pint or two.  Not only does it offer a great atmosphere, tasty food, and a nice beer selection, but the outdoor seating is the main attraction here.  Getting to enjoy everything Rose and Crown has to offer all while taking in a storm over World Showcase Lagoon makes this an ideal spot.
 
 
 
The outdoor seating area at The Rose and Crown Pub.
 
 
 

I’m such a fan of the ambiance the Disney World Resort offers to its guests.  It’s the first thing I miss when I’m not down there and the first thing I fall back in love with when I’m visiting again.  I truly feel I can be down there for a week without riding one attraction and I would have an incredible time.  No matter what the weather is when you’re visiting, soak everything in!  Stop, look around and marvel at the detail all around you.  Never write off a poor weather day; look at it as a new experience.  After all, you’re in Disney World and a terrible day in Disney is better than any day at home.  So enjoy the rain and overcast skies!  They can add to the beauty of the parks.  Oh, and if you’re lucky and wait out the storm, you may be left with something like this:

 
 
 
 
Find me a happier picture.
 
 


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An Ode to Maelstrom

By Ryan Reed

The loss of the Maelstrom has affected every Disney fan, young or old. With the news of Frozen coming in and replacing a classic, and somewhat underrated attraction, the announcement has been met with an overwhelming amount of opposition. I could go on and on with the politics, opinions, and traditions people have raised when arguing against this decision but I want to avoid that. So much negativity has come from this, and I understand why. Disney fans are passionate about this wonderful place; the negativity is spawning from this passion. The opposition isn’t all negative, the fact that so many people care tells me it’s coming from positive intentions. Today, though, I simply want to go back and take a look at Maelstrom and why it was on my “Must Do” (multiple times) list every time I made my trip to Disney World. Continue after the page break for more…

Originally titled “SeaVenture” as shown here during construction.

My sister and I always got a kick out of the kid in the blue knit hat.

This was such a unique attraction. It’s a classic Disney dark boat ride but it has such an original feel to it. Stumbling upon this ride as a kid made it something special to me. I never knew of it; I didn’t think there were rides in World Showcase. It quickly became a must do on every visit. It offered a breathe of fresh air, something exciting instead of walking around and looking at things; as a kid, Epcot didn’t excite me too much. It was a ride not many first, second, third, or even fourth time visitors knew about. To me, it felt like an unknown attraction that only us Disneyphiles really appreciated.
The waterfront village was so well done.
Like so many places in Walt Disney World, Maelstrom offers a sense of nostalgia for me, just as Space Mountain or Haunted Mansion does. I get this because of the great memories created with my family on this ride. We loved the trolls, we loved the Polar Bears, we LOVED the little village at the end, and, my personal favorite, the scene with the Oil Rig. We shared so many laughs exiting through the gift shop. Between the Viking hats and big-nosed Troll, we captured some priceless pictures that I’ll always cherish.
My favorite scene.
I wanted to have my sister share her thoughts on the attraction as we have always loved it and have talked about its closing in depth. She echoed many of the opinions I have….

 

“Maelstrom was such a unique ride that was achieved through its environment and setting (which Disney excels at in all of their rides and parks). It was almost a hidden gem that many Disney fanatics knew about but new Disney fans may miss. Just walking up to Norway, seeing the waterfall and the back of the passenger’s boats as they turn around was something I was excited to see. Even things as little as the voiceover throughout the ride and the little town you’re in when you exit the boats was awesome. I’m sad to see it go.”
This used to terrify me as a child.

The polar bears will be missed.
Opened on July 5th 1988, Maelstrom was added just a month after the official opening of World Showcase’s newest pavilion, Norway. With its closing date set for October 5th 2014, it will have been in operation for just over 26 years. It’s not the longest ride, with a duration of about five minutes. It’s not the tallest, the highest drop is 28 feet, and it isn’t an E Ticket attraction but it’s one of the most unique in Walt Disney World. These original attractions, versus attractions based on an existing franchise, are something I hope Disney keeps around. I won’t get into this now, as it is a topic I would like to save for another day, but the closing of Maelstrom for a movie franchise only adds to my concern. For now, those of you who can experience this great attraction before it closes, do so! It will soon just be a memory, a picture, and a legend of Walt Disney World. The closing of an attraction has never affected me as much as this one; it will truly be missed. I’d love to hear your favorite memories, or parts of the ride in the comment sections below. But now, let’s raise our School Breads, Mickey Bars, or Dole Whips and toast to an attraction that will never be forgotten or duplicated: to the Maelstrom!

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Unofficial WDW Attractions: Transportation

By Ryan Reed
We all go to Disney World with so much excitement for Tower of Terror, Pirates, Test Track and the countless other Disney attractions. But what about the other “attractions” found in Disney World? The ones that were never meant to be something we all look forward to experiencing. I want to take a quick look at some guest favorites that were meant to serve a purpose rather than something special we miss when we aren’t vacationing in the happiest place on earth. Continue after the page break for more…

The Monorail
 
 
The Monorail sets up what’s to come with an amazing experience heading to the Magic Kingdom.

“Please stand clear of the doors. Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas.” Who can’t hear the tone and cadence of this perfectly? Hearing this, no matter where you are, instantly puts you on the monorail heading towards the Contemporary. For so many people, this is the first “wow factor” after arriving in Walt Disney World. After you arrive (by the services of another guest favorite that will be discussed very soon) at the Ticket and Transportation Center, you make your way up the ramp and wait in line for the last step before heading down Main Street USA. The familiar voice in the famous spiel adds to the excitement as you take in the sights as if it was your first time ever visiting Walt Disney World. Next thing you know, you see it: Cinderella’s Castle. To me, this has to be a large reason why people hold the monorail close to their hearts. Yes, it’s a shining example in use of technology, but it gives you your first sight of the Magic Kingdom before you even step foot in the park. No matter where you are on this ride system, you have a great view of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the incredible hotels Disney has created. This is a must for every Disney guest and one that most have experienced on every trip to Disney World.
 

The Tram
 
You’ve waited this long; now you’re just a tram ride away from your favorite park.
 

Next on our list is something most guests will experience before making their way to each of the four theme parks on property. Those who park get to enjoy a leisurely tram ride to the entrance. This was created to simply transport guests from their vehicles to the entrance in the fastest, easiest, and safest way possible. Not that Disney didn’t put extra effort into the vehicles, it’s just they were never meant to be a fond memory of a Disney vacation. That’s exactly what they turned out to be. I think of riding the Tram and immediately get that feeling of finally “being there” again. It’s an experience that is just as much a part of a Disney vacation as Space Mountain.

Disney’s Magical Express
 
 
This is the very beginning to a great Disney vacation for so many guests.
 
 
 
I’ve never had the pleasure of taking the Magical Express from the Orlando International Airport as we have always rented a vehicle on our trips down to Disney World. Having said that, the general consensus is it’s part of the entire experience of going to Walt Disney World for many guests. I’ve only heard great things and people say it is a must do on each of their trips and it wouldn’t be complete without it. I mean, who wouldn’t want their luggage brought to their room for them? Again, this bus service is well done by Disney but not meant to have the lasting memory of an “attraction” but that’s exactly what it does.
 
The Busses
 
 
The bus system is well done but what it adds to your Disney vacation is unexpected and welcomed.
 
 
Although I haven’t taken advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, I have ridden the busses around property countless times. I have so many memories throughout my life of using these busses and it’s another experience that has become associated with my Disney vacations. The busses add to the excitement with the anticipation and atmosphere they bring as you head to the parks. As you finish your breakfast and sip your coffee, you make your way to the bus stop at your Disney resort. You then come to a happy crowd of guests eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next bus. As you board, everyone is buzzing. The energy seems to affect everyone on board. As you travel to your favorite park, you overhear everyone’s plans and desires for that given day. You sit back, take it all in, and discuss what you’re excited to see with your own family. Sure this may just be a means to an end, a mode of transportation, but it’s actually an experience; one you won’t forget. You may not realize it, or even notice it, but your memories will prove that something as simple as the Disney busses bring something special to an amazing vacation.
The world-class attractions found in Walt Disney World are what every guest looks forward to. What Disney has to offer is simply mind blowing due to the attention to detail and over-the-top thrills and experiences. However, the seemingly mundane transportation offerings that Disney provides leave a lasting memory when you think back to your vacation. The services that you didn’t think twice about at first are now something you look forward to on your next visit. So, what do you think? Do you gush over these things as well? Or is their something else like this you look forward to before every trip? Let me know in the comment section below.



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Lighting in Walt Disney World

By Ryan Reed

When the sun sets in Walt Disney World you find yourself in the middle of a complete transformation. The way Disney makes use of lighting is another example of how they pay attention to the details. Just like anything else, Disney carefully thought out how to light everything on property. They do it in a way to compliment each and every attraction within their parks and hotels. This, like so many things in Disney, is something a lot of guests may overlook and not inherently notice but it makes all the difference. So for this post I want to look at some shining examples of how Disney has perfected the use lighting to make the already amazing, incredible. Continue after the page break and let’s have a look…

 
 
Being in Magic Kingdom during Extra Magic Hours is one of the best times to enjoy the park. On our last trip, the day we arrived the Magic Kingdom was opened to guests staying on property until 3:00 AM. This turned out to be our favorite part of the trip. The park was dead; giving you a sense of relaxation while being able to hit any ride you want. The thing is though, you end up enjoying walking around and taking in as much as you can that you don’t take advantage of the short queue lines. Meandering the Magic Kingdom during these circumstances is amazing no matter where you are in the park but I have a few places that seem even more special.
 
 
Time it right and you’ll catch Wishes as you make you decent into the Br’er Patch
 
 
Seeing Splash Mountain off in the distance when you’re walking through Liberty Square will always blow you away. Again, the way they use lighting extenuates everything about the attraction. It’s not just that they’re using it; they use it in the correct way. They think about the type of light, the angle of the light, the color and which would compliment each piece they’re illuminating best. Here we see they emphasized the drop and rockwork of Splash Mountain using neutral lighting. This accentuates the highlights of the exterior and avoids taking away from it with oddly colored lights.
 

 
 
Incredible shot of Main Street

The way Main Street looks at night is incredible. What’s best about this area of the park at night is what it accomplishes. Walt wanted Main Street to capture the feel of small American towns; while successfully done anytime of day, it’s pulled off even better at night. Small details, like lamps in the second floor windows and correct time period street lamps add a whole other dimension.
 
 
 
 
The TTA offers some great views of the Magic Kingdom
 
This attraction, along with the next, is a no brainer. The TTA is a must do for guests and for great reason. It is a classic ride that allows you to escape from the, sometimes, madness of the Magic Kingdom. It allows you to see parts of the park in a completely different way. At night, though, is when you can really appreciate how Disney uses lighting. Seeing Cinderella’s castle and surrounding moat lit up as you whiz by are perfect examples of lighting done well.



Another view of Tomorrowland
The views the TTA offers of Tomorrowland are phenomenal. Tomorrowland is a sight to behold, with so much going on yet it isn’t overwhelming. Using differing bright colors create a much bigger picture when taking it all in. The greens, blues, purples, and reds all combine to bring the section of park to life at night.



Haunted Mansion with great use of lighting

My last, but not least, highlight at night in Magic Kingdom is, of course, the Haunted Mansion. One of the best themed attractions in all of Disney World gets even better once night has fallen. Once it is dark, you are just drawn to this attraction. They use perfect lighting fixtures to give it an even spookier feel. The ominous blues and greens casted on the mansion play perfectly into the theming of the attraction. Sure, it’s a dark ride no matter what time of day, but when you know it’s dark outside and you walk out to the night, it adds to the experience.
 
 
 
 
Hollywood Boulevard comes alive at night
 
Hollywood Boulevard sets the stage perfectly for what guests can expect from the park; attention to detail allows this to be done so well. With the Sorcerer Mickey Hat in the background (love it or hate it), the “Main Street” of Hollywood Studios truly benefits from the strong lighting against the dark backgrounds that the night has to offer. This gives the park more of the 1940’s noir Disney Imagineer’s were going for. With the palms lit from their trunks, neon lights on each storefront along the street and the Sorcerer Hat anchoring it all, it creates a wonderful sight.
 



A beautifully lit street with a spooky Tower looming in the background

Just like Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard evokes 1940’s Hollywood in a wonderful way due to the great detail put into every inch along the street. The palm trees are lit up along the street, the store fronts are flashing as you make your way to the most impressive use of lighting in the park: the Tower of Terror. Like I mentioned in a previous post, the Tower is the icon of Hollywood Studios. Sure you have the Sorcerer Mickey Hat but what is the first thing anyone thinks of when talking about the Studios? They take its icon status to a new level at night with the use of purple and green lighting; it’s a beacon that draws everyone to it whether you plan on riding or not. The lighting evokes exactly what the ride is set out to: an eerie image combined with its mammoth stature. Just as intended, at night the ride pulls people towards it while instilling fear into everyone as they wait in line.
 
 



One of my favorite locations and time in Disney World

Like every other park I want to say all of EPCOT benefits from the use of lighting; this is true but I want to be more specific. World Showcase looks incredible at night, details immerge that you may have never noticed during the day and makes you appreciate the park more. My vote for the best section of this park at night goes to the International Gateway. Leading you to a bridge right between the UK and France Pavilions, it offers incredible views. With the UK Pavilion on your left, France on your right and World Showcase Lagoon right in front of you the view is spectacular. Being able to see practically every pavilion lit up with each shining off the Lagoon allows you to see one the best views you can get in all of Walt Disney World. Hang around long enough and you’ll be treated to arguably the best lighting extravaganza in Disney World: Illuminations.
 
 
 
 
Arguably the most impressive attraction aesthetically looks even better lit up
 

The second mountain on our list, Expedition Everest, looks epic in the dark. Whenever you see this attraction, day or night, it’s unreal; but the way it’s illuminated at night takes the mountain to a whole other level. A theme of purple seems to be evident when Disney wants to make an attraction become more grand or even intimidating at night; this is no different here. Instead of lights pointing up towards the mountain, spotlights hit the peaks with a purplish hue to show off its large stature and intricate detail.
 



Nothing beats a couple of beers and a stroll down Boardwalk

Outside of the parks Disney still delivers on correct lighting to add to the experience. Disney’s Boardwalk comes to life at night and gives you the experience of something you might find at Coney Island. A few drinks and a stroll down the Boardwalk is a perfect way to unwind after an evening in EPCOT. With rope lights, nearby resorts brightly lit, and carnival games lighting up the area, Boardwalk gives a unique experience to guests.
 



You’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful resort than Riverside

This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one hotel. Selfishly, I want to talk about Port Orleans Riverside, as it has been a family favorite ever since I was a child. As you can see in the picture above, the main building transforms into something beautiful at night. From there you’ll find the paths lit with just enough light, the Sassagoula reflecting each light along the way, and each pool area brilliantly lit. The key part to the lighting at this resort is not having too much. The dark paths give the resort a different feel, almost as if you were in the backwoods of Louisiana.

The lighting in Walt Disney World is a perfect example of little details they take very seriously. As you can see, it plays a large part in the experience and storytelling for every guest. These were just a few of my favorite examples with hundreds more to choose from. Are there any I didn’t list that you would’ve? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Ryan Reed is from Upstate New York and grew up in a suburb just west of Rochester.  He graduated from the College at Brockport with a Bachelors of Science in Philosophy; he also plans to go back to school to acquire his MBA within the next couple of years.  For hobbies, Ryan spends his time staying active and just recently ran the 2014 Boiler Maker 15K for the first time.  Also, he is a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan who thinks every year is “our year”.  Basketball is, without a doubt, his favorite sport and shares the same interest with his father.  They both bond over being Boston Celtics fans and regularly make trips to the New England area to watch them play.  Ryan’s interest in craft beer is shared amongst his friends and girlfriend; they enjoy touring, learning, and experiencing everything brewers have to offer.  His ties to Walt Disney World started before he even was a year old.  As a child, his family took him back year after year and has continued to go back almost yearly.  At first, his love for Disney World was due to the attractions that he had never experienced elsewhere.  Then he began to be intrigued with how the parks, rides, and restaurants came to be – the sheer size of what they were able to build fascinated him.  In his sophomore year of college Ryan took part in the Disney College Program.  He worked at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Fantasmic! as well as Rock N’ Roller Coaster.  This experience allowed him to see a whole new side of Disney and gained an appreciation for what they do more than ever before.  Now Ryan looks for any information he can to understand the history of Disney World and how it came to be.  He has witnessed Disney go through a lot of changes but his interests and appreciation for the parks evolved along with it.  His favorite ride is the Haunted Mansion but a close second is Tower of Terror.  Epcot has become his favorite park; there are so many different things to experience – each visit seems like a new adventure.  His favorite time at Disney is dusk; each park transforms into something completely different once the sun sets.  His favorite Disney movie is Toy Story and favorite Disney character is Tigger.  Ryan’s articles will discuss tips about Disney World, some “best of” pieces, as well as history of both the parks and resorts.