Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Diamond Horseshoe: A Rootin' Tootin' Good Time!!!

Stepping back in time, once again, we find ourselves at a Magic Kingdom Show that was always a family favorite back in the day, The Diamond Horseshoe Revue.
Situated on your left hand side, as you rush from Liberty Square toward Frontierland's gate-buster attractions, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon now sits quietly, often empty, with most Magic Kingdom visitors not even noticing it is there.

That was not always the case, when I was a kid, I can remember Dad rushing ahead to the building on Main Street USA, where The Art of Disney is now situated, to be sure that he was able to get a reservation for the family to attend the show. While tickets were complimentary, popularity demanded that you reserve them early so as not to miss this extravaganza.

The original show was called The Diamond Horseshoe Revue, and while the name (as well as the performers) changed a few times over it's 22 year run, the show was esentially the same. A wild west saloon show, with comedians, Can-can girls and musical performances.

When the Magic Kingdom, in Florida, first opened, Wally Boag, "The Clown Prince of Disneyland", was brought in and performed for the first three years of the show's run. Wally was the star of Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Revue and while I do not personally remember his performances, his portrayal of Pecos Bill was always once of my parents' favorites.

My family always looked forward to the Revue, as a kid I can remember my youngest brother Jimmy, being brought on the stage be part of the show.

The look on his face as the drummer's rim shot signaled the opening of a trap door beneath his feet (which was just a joke) will be etched in my mind forever. He did, however, get some nice (and highly coveted by his two brothers) parting gifts for being part of the performance. A certificate stating his participation as well as a huge, Mickey head, topped pencil.

This wild west style show, in one or another of it's various forms, ran through February of 2003.
I will always remember it fondly and think about it each and everytime I walk through Frontierland, it was a huge part of my Magic Kingdom experiences as a kid and will be missed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Character Meals..."Where it all began"

What Walt Disney World Vacation would be complete without at least one visit to a Character Meal?

If you are looking to sit down and have a meal in the company of Live Disney Characters, choices abound! There is a meal to suit nearly every taste...from dining at Cinderella's Royal Table in the presence of princesses to an African Style Safari with Donald and the gang at the Animal Kingdom's Tusker house, the choices range far and wide.

Today's trip back in time will take us to where it all began, the character breakfast that is, on a fun filled journey aboard The Empress Lilly Riverboat.

Located on the banks of Lake Buena Vista, The Empress Lilly, currently home to Fulton's Crab House, was at one time home to four restaurants and five separate lounges.

The Baton Rouge Lounge, had a full bar and live entertainment, performed by The Riverboat Rascals, who brought Dixieland Jazz and singalongs to guests.
Other lounges included, The Starboard Lounge, The Promenade Lounge, The Texas Deck Lounge and The Empress Lounge.

The restaurants were known as "The Steerman's Quarter's", a steak house which was located on the aft section of the Main Deck, "The Fisherman's Deck", obviously, a seafood restaurant, forward on The Promenade Deck, The Captain's Table, where private groups would be able to hold their events and the flagship restaurant known as The Empress Room was also located on the Promenade Deck and offered a more lavish dining experience.

While I remember quite a bit about the Empress Lilly, lounges not withstanding as I was just a boy at the time, the thing that we loved most about dining aboard her was the "Disney Character Breakfast"!

Located in what I believe was The Steerman's Quarter's Restaurant, this was the very first character meal available at Walt Disney World. Not a buffet, like so many today, it offered a plated, served meal available at either one of two seatings each morning.

The atmosphere, at least in my recollection, was for more festive than the character meals of today. Perhaps it was the fact that it was a one of a kind experience back in those days...or perhaps it was just one little boy's perception of the experience.
Mickey shaped balloons were everywhere, we would each receive a felt Disney Character Breakfast pennant as well as souvenir cups emblazoned with Captain Mickey himself.

The following photos are from back on August 26th, 1981, while we were aboard The Empress Lilly to celebrate my brother Frankie's 8th birthday.

The characters seemed to spend a bit more time " getting to know you" back in those days. Walt Disney World was a much smaller place and with only one park to visit during a 10 day stay, we certainly seemed to take more time to enjoy the little things The World had to offer.

Now, don't get me wrong, I still absolutely love to take my little ones to the character meals...heck, even before my little ones showed up, I always made time for at least breakfast with Mickey.

I will, however, always have a special place in my heart for the meals I had aboard the beautiful Empress Lilly. Meals that took place in a simpler world, in simpler least for me!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Traveling back in time with Fellow Readers...

Since the debut of The WED Page, back in July, I have been lucky enough to receive many incredible photos from readers of the blog.

I have decided to make my job a little easier this week, taking a break from writing and sharing some of these fantastic photos with you all. (With permission of those who submitted the photos, of course.)

Some of these pics show lost characters, unseen in the parks for years, others were submitted to coincide with a past article. The fact of the matter is, no matter what the photo is actually of, they represent wonderful, fun filled memories of the place we all love, Walt Disney World.
The very first photo that we ever received here at The WED Page came to us from Missy Bowser Sexton of Alaska, in response to the article on Fort Wilderness Campground...and she wrote:


Thank you for inviting me to be a fan of The WED Page.

After I visited your blog, I was inspired to dig out some old photos and scan them into the computer. Well, I have uploaded one so far :), my progress with the kiddos around is somewhat slow at times, but hey, I'm moving forward!!!

I uploaded a photo of myself as a toddler in the petting zoo at Fort Wilderness. I grew up near Downtown Orlando and my parents would take us camping at Fort Wilderness at least annually.
Staying there was always a momentous occassion!

When I was a bit older, my parents would bring the bikes along and my older brother and I would spent the whole day biking around Fort Wilderness..and of course, swimming!!!

Thanks for inspiring me to bring back the memories!!


Missy in Alaska

Another reader, Cathy Lord from Ohio, was nice enough to send in a few pics from a trip she took to Walt Disney World back in 1973. (You gotta love the big , fuzzy headed Mickey!!!)

Finally, Christine Jahn from Nevada, was nice enough to send us some amazing photos from back in 1979.

Now I am sure that you all, being the well versed Disney Geeks that you are, will notice that these photos were actually taken in Disneyland.

After thinking long and hard about it, I decided to forgive Christine and post these photos anyhow.

These pics have a little bit of everything I love about "digging through the crates" and pulling out those vintage pics...old parades photos, Long Lost Characters, fantastic, out of style couture on the guests...and so much more!!!

Christine wrote:

Hi Tony,

These are my personal pictures circa 1979. Feel free to use them.

Your Disney friend,

Christine Jahn

I cannot thank Missy, Cathy and Christine enough for sharing these terrific photos with all of us.

I also want to let those of you have sent in photos but did not see them here know, fear not, there are more to come over the next few weeks.

I hope these pics will help to motivate others to dig deep and see what they find in their own box of memories!!!

With the 38 year of memories from Walt Disney World Magic behind us (more if I continue to allow all of you Disneyland Fans to voice an opinion) I am sure that there are vast, untapped caches of memories to be discovered, if only we take the time to look!!!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Another "Out of Disney" Experience...

While the usual "bill of fare" here on The WED Page falls under the heading of vintage, I always enjoy exploring new and exciting offerings on anything Disney.

Today's article is about an event I was lucky enough to take part in this past weekend, Disney's Doorway to the World Event.

Held at t he Garden City Hotel on Long Island New York, this event was presented by Disney's Vacation Club. It was sort of an introduction to the new "Disney's Doorway to Dreams" store, which is soon to open at the Roosevelt Field Mall, also located in Garden City. The event was held over a three day period this past weekend.

I received the invitaion several weeks ago and immediately went to the website to learn more and hopefully sign up, only to find that nearly every spot had already been filled. We did manage to secure a few slots for our group, and I am certainly glad we did!

The event started with a presentation by a couple of DVC agents, and while it initially looked as though it was going to become a sales pitch, it quickly turned into so much more than that.

While it was a bit "sales pitchy" in a few segments, they did an amazing presentation of the DVC's newest offerings at Bay Lake Tower and The Animal Kingdom Lodge's Kidani Village.

While I, and I believe most of the audience, seemed to be well versed in these locations, they continued on to show projects that are currently either, in the works, or in the planning stages, both for DVC as well as the Disney Company in general.

Highlights included, the upcoming addition to Disney's California Adventure, CARS LAND.

Now, I have seen some artist concept drawings for this addition, but in this presentation they elaborated on what we already knew and we got a look at a sneak peek of just what was going to be offered there in DCA starting in 2012... and I for one, can hardly wait to get out there to experience it all first hand!!!

They also showed DVC's Hawaiian Resort Project, which is under construction on the island of Oahu at the Ko Olina Resort...this one also very high on my families list of FUTURE MUST DO's.

After the presentation portion of the event (at which we also scored some very nice DVC swag, might I add) we were led down to the lower level of the hotel where we found a "Night club" style set up, complete with DJ. We were then treated to an wonderful dessert buffet and finally some special guests... Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto were all in attendance.

All of the kids (and kids at heart) were out on the dance floor, cutting a rug with Pluto and Goofy. Over to the side of the DJ booth was a meet and greet where you could take photo's and have some quality time with The Big Cheese himself and his lady love.

Everyone in our group had a blast!!!

While, I think, the presentation had alot of information that "dyed in the wool" Disneyphiles were already familiar with, they did a great job of sneaking in plenty of surprises and never before seen photos to get the blood pumping. Most importantly, it was great to be able to get a quick "Disney Fix" between trips to The World.

I know that this is only the third Disney's Doorway to Dreams Store to be opened, with one in Chicago and one coming to the Greater Boston Area, but if and when a new one shows up in your neck of the woods, I highly recommend that you seize the day, and be sure to get your tickets word gets out, they will fill up quick!!!

And be sure to bring your never know who might turn up at these events!!!
Until next week.....