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Disney Dish Nov 2023-11-06_Shownotes
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The Disney Dish with Jim Hill Ep 452:

This episode of Disney Dish is sponsored by Betthelp , and Agent of Excellence .

OPENINGS

Normal Open: Welcome back to another edition of the Disney Dish podcast with Jim Hill. It’s me, Len Testa, and this is our show for the week of Shmursday, November 6, 2023.  Happy birthday to our friend Cameron.

ON THE SHOW TODAY

On the show today: News! And listener questions, where I attempt to answer ‘When is Liberty Square?’! Then in our main segment, Jim tells us how Disney Imagineers make those awesome water effects like the jumping fountains at Imagination and Journey of Water..

JIM INTRO

Let’s get started by bringing in the man who says conspiracy theorists should talk to project managers about how large organizations really work. It’s Mr. Jim Hill.   Jim, how’s it going?

SUBSCRIBER ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

iTunes:  Thanks to new subscribers Chase Brock, English Pitt, Thomas Rodgers, and Mikey Lindsey, and long-time subscribers Nate Brown (hey Nate!), Karen Pearsall, Goat Cheesy, and MCKatt1995.  Jim, these are the cast members who build the gingerbread houses we’re about to see all around Walt Disney World. They say that it’s a year-round job that leaves them smelling like holiday spices every day, and whatever do you, do NOT ask them about the “open concept gingerbread kitchen” incident from 2018. True story.

DISNEY UNPACKED / PATREON

We’re moving the show off of Bandcamp and on to Patreon beginning with our show on January 1, 2024. Don’t forget to close down your Bandcamp subscription and sign up and see all of our new stuff over at at patreon.com/jimhillmedia.

NEWS

The news is sponsored by TouringPlans’ travel agency. TouringPlans can help book your next trip.  Plus it comes with a free TouringPlans subscription. Check us out at touringplans.com/dish.

                 

News

  • In the Magic Kingdom, the Jungle Cruise has gone through its annual holiday makeover and is now the Jingle Cruise.  That includes new decorations throughout the ride, and a new holiday script for skippers to … well, to completely deviate from, but c’mon, they’ve been in the jungle for a really, really long time.
  • Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course returns to its 18-hole format later this month. It’s been trimmed down to a 14-hole course for a while, due to construction.  And when it returns, it’ll be a par 70, with holes #15 and #16 shortened a little bit.
  • Passengers on Disney’s monorail Yellow had to be evacuated last week after a flat tire resulted in the monorail getting stuck near the EPCOT toll plaza.  The Reedy Creek and Orange County fire departments evacuated everyone safely, and no injuries were reported.
  • Jim, if you had the choice of being evacuated from the monorail way up high near the Contemporary, or being evacuated from the Skyliner over Hourglass Lake near Pop Century, which would you pick?
  • Speaking of EPCOT, some construction walls have been pushed back in World Celebration, showing new flooring and other details. Jim, Disney’s said this’ll all be open in a few weeks.  I’m still skeptical that they can finish on time, but give Disney credit for making this push.
  • This one didn’t get much attention, but Universal Orlando seems to have quietly raised the price of its cheapest tickets, the one-day/one-park pass, by $10, from $109 to $119.
  • Last week Comcast, which owns Universal Orlando, said on its latest quarterly earnings call that UOR attendance was quote “relatively in line with 2019”, which I take to mean “slightly below 2019 levels.”
  • AECOM says that UOR's two parks had this level of attendance in 2019 and 2022:
  • Universal Studios Florida
  • 2019 10.992MM
  • 2022=10.750MM
  • Islands of Adventure
  • 2019=10.375MM
  • 2022=11.025MM
  • Both parks combined
  • 2019=21.367MM
  • 2022=21.775MM
  • I'm reading "relatively in line with 2019" as "slightly below 2019". Let's say it's 21MM. That's a decrease of around 3.5%.


Surveys

Listener Questions

Last week: VOTLM from Nic Dris

And this inspired a number of folks to write in, many of whom worked for Disney, with various stories.  I’m keeping everyone anonymous, because some of these folks still work for the company:

Regarding Ariel on the Fantasmic riverboat: “At least once or twice a year there would be multiple bolts of clear plastic/vinyl (like shower curtain material) with multiple textures that would have to be dyed into a variety of colors and then cut to the shape of the scales in Ariel’s fin. This vinyl material had to be pliable, yet sturdy enough to handle being quickly vacuumed into her rock to reveal her legs.

Jim, I didn’t know that this is how that effect worked.  But I love that anyone performing the role of Ariel has to get a debrief and warning about industrial vacuums.

And from another anonymous source:

I was working at Animation Courtyard when we came back from the pandemic closing.  Something about Voyage of the Little Mermaid that a lot of people forget is that the show used a “water curtain” during certain scenes. So you have to imagine: all of that equipment and water sitting stagnant for three months.

My understanding was when we came back from furlough, they discovered water damage and/or mold damage- possibly even extending to the puppets stored there, like the giant Ursula. So at this point, I’m not even sure a deep clean would do them any good. They probably need to gut that entire building and rebuild from scratch.

From Glenn Bucek, following up on our show last week about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure on the Liberty Belle Riverboat:

Why is the riverboat in Liberty Square?   In terms of the timeline of steam technology, a steamboat would make more sense in Frontierland and there would have been plenty of room to build a dock between the Country Bear Jamboree and Pecos Bill Cafe.  Although very primitive steamboats were being experimented with in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, nothing of the scale of the current Rivers of America steamboat would have seemed likely to exist until two or three decades into the 1800’s and that does not fit in with the Liberty Square time frame.

Len says: Glenn has a point.  The first Mississippi steamboat was the Orleans, launched in 1811.  And the Orleans was, like the Liberty Belle in Frontierland, a paddle steamer with the paddle in the back of the ship.  But the Orleans didn’t have decks like the Liberty Belle riverboat, and so didn’t look anything like it.

I went through the Library of Congress’ photos for American riverboats.  The earliest image I can find of a Mississippi riverboat that looks like the Liberty Belle riverboat - with the paddlewheel in the back - is an 1844 drawing by Edward Sachse titled “Jefferson City”:

So a good initial question is “When is Liberty Square supposed to exist?”  The Liberty Bell itself dates to around 1755, so that’s pretty early.  And we’ve got the Hall of Presidents, and we know George Washington was president from 1789 to 1797.  (I know that all the presidents are in the Hall of Presidents, but the HOP focuses on the revolution, creation of the Constitution, and Washington a lot, so if we have to assign a time, that’s a good choice.)

The other big thing in Liberty Square is, of course, the Haunted Mansion.  And so we have to ask When is the Haunted Mansion?”  For this I consulted Foxx Nolte’s excellent book called “Boundless Realm: Deep Explorations Inside Disney’s Haunted Mansion.”  And Foxx notes that the style of the Haunted Mansion is a Gothic Revival Castellated manor, because it has architecture features reminiscent of castles.  And that style was introduced to America around 1837.  So if that’s at least 1837, then a riverboat from around 1844 is not that far off, and would work in the Liberty Square timeline.

To Glenn’s point, 1844 is right on the edge of Frontierland:

  • Town Hall: 1867
  • Frontier Trading Post is run by Texas John Slaughter, trail boss. He was a trail boss in 1874
  • Pecos Bill’s: 1878
  • Country Bears: 1898

But I don’t think we’ve ever said that Liberty Square and Frontierland are separate timelines. And if you think about it, putting the Diamond Horseshoe, which Disney says is in Liberty Square and whose architecture dates to 1840’s St. Louis, is a nice transition to Frontierland.  

So if we say Liberty Square exists in a period from roughly 1789 to 1845, that seems to work.

From Alex Stephen on Patreon:

We all know that Disney leans hard to their own IP for the parks. But this year’s movies from Marvel, Lucasfilm, the live-action remakes, and Pixar, have underperformed.

Can you see a world where Disney chooses to make an attraction not based off an existing IP?

Research/Patents (use query "disney enterprises".as AND "theme park".ab)

COMMERCIAL BREAK

We’re going to take a quick commercial break.  When we return, Jim tells us how Disney does awesome water effects like jumping fountains.  We’ll be right back.  

MAIN TOPIC - iTunes Show

EPCOT Center fountains

Feature Story

You’re familiar with the phrase “If – at first – you don’t succeed … try, try again.” Or “Third time’s the charm,” right?

Okay. So say you’re someone who dreams of someday becoming an Imagineer. And you submit an application for a position at 1401 Flower Street only to then get a rejection letter. Do you apply again?

And – if you were to then be rejected a second time – do you persist? And – if so – for how long?

I ask this question because – today – we’re going to talk about Mark Fuller. A guy who spent six years trying to find a way into Imagineering. Who – once he finally got hired by the folks at 1401 Flower Street – Mark faced some pretty stiff headwinds. Some pretty powerful people who were flat-out against the project for the Parks that Fuller was championing.

“What sort of project?,” you ask. “A water-based one.”

Now just to be clear here: The Imagineers love water. They use it as a decorative element (i.e., the moat in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle). They regularly take advantage of its physical properties (EX: how it can be used to push a ride vehicle along. Like in “it’s a small world” or “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Or slow a ride vehicle down. Like with those “splashdown” pools at the base of the Matterhorn at Disneyland Park in Anaheim. Which act as a braking mechanism for those bobsleds full of Guests before they roll on through to this attraction’s off-load station).

But today’s story … It starts in the mid-to-late 1970s. Which is right after the Company first explored the idea of building an entire new area for the WDW Resort around water. And that was – of course – River Country. Which first opened to the public in June of 1976.

That – of course – was an enormous success right out of the gate. Which is why the folks in Florida quickly began making plans to expand Disney World’s very first water park. It’s also in this same window of time that Dick Nunis – who was Executive Vice President of both of Disney’s stateside parks (There were still only two of them at that time) – began asking the Imagineers to come up with some sort of flume ride for California or Florida. Which eventually led to the creation of “Splash Mountain.”

So at this time in the Company’s history (Again, this would have been the mid-to-late 1970s), water was suddenly something that excited a lot of people in upper management at WED. And it was at this exact moment that – after six years of pursuing a position at Imagineering – the door suddenly cracked open for Larry Fuller at 1401 Flower Street. And he slipped on in.

Now what had – of course – helped Larry finally land his new position at Imagineering was that he had the right set of job skills at the right time. In this case, Fuller had just graduated from Stanford with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1978.  And since Disney was gearing up for the construction of EPCOT Center at that time (The Company wouldn’t officially break ground on that project ‘til a year later. October 1, 1979, to be exact) … They were scooping up every mechanical engineer they could get their hands on at that time.

And Larry … His thesis work at Stanford had especially fascinated the folks at Disney. You see, Mr. Fuller had been experimenting with laminar flow technology. Which involved moving water at the molecular level, channeling this fluid in one direction under an equal, steady pressure. If you did that – controlled the laminar flow -- water suddenly took on some amazing new qualities. It could appear to be stationary or even solid, like a clear tube of glass. From a distance, I mean.

And since Fuller – as part of his master thesis in mechanical engineering – had built the world’s first permanent laminar fountain in Salt Lake City, Utah (Perhaps “permanent” is the wrong word to use here. This 10-foot-by-20-foot water feature was located at the Conquistador Apartments at 3300 South and was beloved by neighboring residents. The guy who actually owned that apartment complex? Not so much. He tore out the world’s first permanent laminar fountain a few years later when he renovated that building. Turning those apartments into condos).

Anyway … Larry’s initial assignment (when it came to EPCOT Center) was the fountain that was slated to be built at the center of Communicore. Which was – in & of itself – the center of Future World.

And since this fountain was going to be located at the very heart of Future World … Well, to fit the theme of that part of EPCOT Center, it needed to be sleek. More to the point, powered by a computer.

So Fuller and his team constructed an oval 180 feet long and 120 feet wide. They then rigged 328 individual nozzles which could then send 29,000 gallons in all sorts of directions. Including 30 feet straight up in the air.

Mind you, the back-of-house machinery & infrastructure necessary to power this sort of fountain is considerable. More to the point, it had to largely be out of sight for the Guests visiting EPCOT Center. Which is why this portion of Future World contains the EPCOT Center equivalent of the Magic Kingdom’s utilidors. A network of underground tunnels that then allow WDW Cast Members access to the various pumps & pipes that power Communicore’s central fountain.

And – of course – all of this support stuff needed to be in place before the two huge buildings (i.e., Communicore East and Communicore West) could then be built around Future World’s central fountain. So Fuller had his hands full with this project. It was two solid years of design & then site prep, installation, test & adjust …

But around this same time (we’re talking late 1980 / early 1981), word is getting out within WED that Kodak (who’s agreed to be the sponsor of Future World’s “Journey into Imagination” pavilion) is upset. Well, truth be told, it’s the executives who run that camera & film company who are upset with Disney./ Because they’ve just learned that their ride-thru attraction won’t be ready for EPCOT Center’s opening day.

Kodak makes it clear that they want something to be ready for EPCOT Center’s opening day that the theme park-going public could then closely associate with the Kodak Corporation. And – yes – the “Magic Journeys” 3D movie would eventually be ready for October 1, 1982 (The day that WDW’s second theme park first opened to the public). But back in late 1980 / early 1981, this was not a given.

To explain: There were all sorts of film-based projects already in the works for EPCOT Center (i.e., “O Canada,” “Wonders of China,” “Impressions of France,” the various film elements for “Universe of Energy,” etc.) Each of these claiming resources at the Studios. And let’s not forget that the original “TRON” was also in the works at Disney at this same time (That Steven Lisberger movie would open in theaters in July of 1982, just two months prior to EPCOT Center’s soft opening).

So with all of that on its plate, the Studio could not guarantee that “Magic Journeys” would be ready or EPCOT Center’s opening day. And the folks back in Burbank wanted to keep Kodak happy at all costs. So then word went out … Is there something else that we could have ready for Epcot’s opening day other than “Magic Journeys” or Imagination’s ride-thru attraction.

It was at this point that Larry Fuller stepped forward and suggested the leap frog fountains that would eventually make the Imagination Gardens area at EPCOT Center such a must-see with WDW visitors.

Now mind you, Larry – to get WED management to sign off on this idea – fibbed. A little.

To explain: The technology necessary to power laminar flow (at least on the scale that Disney would eventually need it to be when it came to EPCOT Center’s Imagination Gardens area) just wasn’t there yet. To be specific: The precision water pumping power just wasn’t there to send a solid column of water sailing over a guest’s head if that guest was – say – 5 foot, 9 inches tall.

So to convince Disney’s board of directors (because those folks were the one who were now going to need to pony up the money necessary to fund construction this last minute addition to EPCOT Center) that such a thing was actually possible (i.e., to send a solid column of water over a Guest’s head without then getting them wet), Fuller sought out the shortest WDI employee that he could find (This was a woman who was only 4 feet, 8 inches tall who worked in documents control in this division of Disney) and then shot a piece of test footage in such a way that it then looked like she was a woman of average height (i.e., 5 foot, 4 inches).

Disney’s board of directors liked what they saw. Which is why they then gave Fuller the money necessary to construct the Imaginations Gardens at EPCOT Center. Mind you, Larry then had to immediately turn around and then hire a bunch of engineers. Who then had to figure out how to make laminar flow work for Guests who were of average height.

It took a lot of people (Eventually 100 engineers were assigned to the Imagination Gardens project) and a scary amount of money (Fuller tell the story of basically being screamed at by a veteran Imagineer who personally worked with Walt on the Disney Parks back in the day – Larry never revealed the name of who exactly yelled at him – about how “ … he was wasting a ton of the Company’s money on a project that would never work at a time when EPCOT Center was already 200% over its original $400 million construction budget).

It took a Herculean effort to get the Imagination Gardens over the finish line in late September / early October of 1982. Things went right down to the wire on this project (Fuller recalled that he didn’t sleep for four solid days prior to the official opening of the Park). But then … Wonder of wonders, they did figure out how to make laminar flow work for adults of average height. And people were just dazzled by EPCOT Center’s leapfrog fountains. Where streams of water seemed to come alive and randomly leap between this group of 5 planters that were located right outside of the exit of the “Magic Journeys” theater.

Mind you, this aspect of the Imagination Gardens was effectively located on the second floor of this Future World pavilion. All of the pumps & plumbing that powered the 17 different nozzles that made up EPCOT Center’s leapfrog fountains (not to mention this Future World pavilion’s upside-down waterfall) were located just below the Guests’ feet.

None of that back-of-the-house stuff mattered in the end. What did matter is that – when EPCOT Center finally officially opened in October of 1982 – one of the highest rated attractions in the Park. People just raved about … Well, not just Future World’s leapfrog fountains. But also the water feature in the same area that created three-foot-in-diameter jellyfish-like globs 12 feet up in the air. Likewise the other water feature that shoots balls of water up in the air, creating sort of a liquid juggling act.

Okay. So this project was costly & stressful. Especially given that must-be-ready-to-open-by-October-1st-1982 deadline. But Mark Fuller and his team did (And just so you know: That Imagineer who worked with Walt reportedly eventually sought Fuller out and apologized for yelling at him).

The downside of this story is … Once work was completed on EPCOT Center, there were all sorts of lay-offs at WDI. And Mark Fuller – being a smart guy – could read the handwriting on the wall. So he exited Imagineering in the mid-1980s and went off & set up his own company: Water Entertainment Technology. Which is better known in themed entertainment circles by its initials, WET.

Fuller has since gone on to create some of the most spectacular & celebrated water features around the globe. Like – for example -- the Fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

And on the heels of the success of the Imagination Gardens at EPCOT Center, the WDW Resort continued to explore the idea of fun, new water-based aspects of the Parks. Things like “Typhoon Lagoon” (which first opened in June of 1989), “Blizzard Beach” (which opened in April of 1995), and – more recently – “Journey of Water inspired by Moana” (which finally officially opened in the World Nature section of that theme park last month. On October 16th, to be exact).

And all of that happened because … Well, Larry Fuller didn’t stop looking for a way into WDI for six years. More to the point, Larry was the sort of guy who could look at A-L-F (That’s the abbreviation for axisymmetric laminar flow. Which is what happens when water particles all have the same flow rate & direction. Much like photons in a laser).

Anyway … Larry was the guy who could take axisymmetric u flow and then turn that scientific principle into something that would be fun for theme park guests.

We need more Larry Fullers, folks. So stay in school and get a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.  For – as Jim Shull likes to say – there is no one straight path that leads to 1401 Flower Street.

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WRAP-UP

That’s going to do it for the show today.  You can help support our show and JimHillMedia by subscribing over at Patreon.com/jimhillmedia, where we’re posting new, never-seen stuff weekly, including a new Q&A show with Disney Imagineer Jim Shull.  

Patreon: That’s going to do it for the show today.  Thanks for subscribing and supporting the Disney Dish.

ON NEXT WEEK’S SHOW: Jim gives us the behind-the-scenes details on how Disney decides to introduce new character greetings into the park, and why some of them stick around and some don’t.  

NOTES 

You can find more of Jim at JimHillMedia.com, and more of me at TouringPlans.com.

Also, Jim and I will be doing a live podcast from the Theme Park Play Workshop at MIT’s Game Lab, at 6:30 pm this Thursday, November 9, 2023  at the Stata Center, room 32-155.  It’s free and it’s open to the general public.  And by “general public” I mean the various theme park factions of nerds, geeks, wonks, and dweebs, or what we like to call “our people.”  Come out out and we’ll all have fun.

PRODUCER CREDIT

iTunes Show: We’re produced fabulously by Aaron Adams, who’ll be representing the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids to celebrate the solstice at the Ticonderoga Historical Society’s Festival of the Trees on Thursday, December 21, 2023 at Hancock House, that’s on Moses Circle, in beautiful, downtown Ticonderoga, New York.

CLOSING

While Aaron’s doing that, please go on to iTunes and rate our show and tell us what you’d like to hear next.

For Jim, this is Len, we’ll see you on the next show.


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