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Disney Dish 2023-07-24_Shownotes
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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, July 24, 2023.  


On the show today: News! And listener questions!  Then in our main segment, Jim gives us the history of EPCOT’s Magical World of Barbie show.


Let’s get started by bringing in the man who says that advocating for your own needs is the key to a healthy relationship.  So it’s okay to ask to see the candy before you get into the van.  It’s Mr. Jim Hill.   Jim, how’s it going?


Jim Korkis fundraiser at


iTunes: Thanks to new subscribers Noelle Marie, Michelle Brown, Chad Tulumalo, and Mike Stark, and long-time subscribers Z Dobson, Phil Marino, Jean Macindoem and SLSCJK.  Jim, these are the Disney castmembers testing the next level of immersive gags in Disneyland’s Toontown.  They say they’re disappointed that the classic cartoon gag of “pianos falling on guests” was nixed by Disney’s lawyers, but happy that the compromise of falling anvils could take its place.  True story.


Sponsorship: We have a new sponsor for the show’s news segment. And before we announce that new sponsor, I’d like to thank Tammy Whiting and everyone over at Storybook Destinations for sponsoring the show for the last few years.  We’ve done a number of live events with Tammy and they’ve all been great.  They do a fantastic job.

The new news sponsor is  TouringPlans’ travel agency.  Yeah, we have a travel agency too, and we can help book your next trip.  Plus it comes with a free TouringPlans subscription. Check us out at



  • Universal Orlando announced last week the conversion of its old KidZone land in Universal Studios Florida, to a “DreamWorks”-themed land.  Jim, if they don’t call the old Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse coaster the Trollercoaster, an opportunity will be lost.
  • Disney Springs is getting a new Indian restaurant named EET:

    Maneet Chauhan, the acclaimed James Beard Award-winning chef and Food Network star, and Vivek Deora, an international hospitality entrepreneur, are bringing their famed Indian cuisine to Walt Disney World.

    Will likely be in the old Wolfgang Puck Express location at The Marketplace, over by Goofy’s Candy Co?


Listener Questions

Adam from Williamsport, PA:

Gotta say i love the show.  I am from Central PA, where the little league world series is each year, and I saw this snippet in a local facebook article regarding spending in Pennsylvania during a few shows that Taylor Swift had performed.  I think you may be on to something regarding where people might have spent their money.

Also when you did the show about Disney offering Pop Century rooms at a steep discount during the pandemic, my wife and i tried our luck on one of those rooms and scored the awesome deal using the tips you outlined for narrowing the search for a hotel.  We also got a great deal on a flight and had to do an adults only weekend trip and it was one of the best trips we’ve had amongst all the many trips we have made to Walt Disney World.

Scott writes in with this:

In the last Disney Dish podcast, your discussion about lead times for new rides got me thinking about park expansion.  There's no doubt Disney World has issues with its current parks, but what if they decided they wanted to build a new gate perhaps in response to Epically Going to Steal our Businessverse?  So I tried to figure out where it could go.  

I found the Reedy Creek Improvement District Comprehensive Plan from 2020 and there are really only 2 sites that are substantially sized, contiguous pieces of developable land in reasonable proximity to the existing gates.  The first is bordered by the transit center, Fort Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness Rec areas.  I'm guessing that's off limits for potential expansion of any of those areas.  

The second is the area North and West of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  By itself, it wouldn't be enough but you get really close if you start converting fields.  If Disney sells off ESPN, I'll be very curious if the sports complex is excluded from the deal.

Joetv writes in with this:

Hoping you can do a story on the H2o products now that we can’t buy any. What are the new shampoo products in the parks and cruiseline?

>> it’s still H2O, but it’s not the individual bottles anymore - they could be running through existing supply. Our next hotel inspection is August 11, and we’ll do an update after that.  They’re no longer selling H2O in the shops.

Edgar wrote in with this about Lightning Lane:

Hello.  Love the show.  I want to thank you for the Walt Disney World Speedway history.  I participated in the Richard Petty Experience once and it was great.  I had no idea at the time of the track's history, so this was helpful.

On the first episode that contained this story there was talk of Disney wait times ballooning and how lightning lane rate is 4 to 1 regular up to 99 to 1 and how 99/1 is not much different from 80/20.  I think, though, with a normal running ride and flow, Disney does not have 80 lighting lane people to 20 Standby people.  it is more likely the flow is 20 lightning lane for 80 standby.  While the min flow is 4 to 1, I do not believe that they sell that many lightning lanes so typical stand by wait will not be or feel like 80/20.  Hope this make sense.

I recently experienced similar situation where Dinosaur ride had issues, we were not told and they likely went 99 to 1 but Lighting Lane line continued to grow wrapping multiple times outside the ride and they continued to allow new lighting lane windows (checked the app while standing in line) while we sat still watching the lightning lane, well, "lightning".

Len says: A number of folks wrote in about the use of Lightning Lane. And we’ve gathered more data since then.

  • At Big Thunder on July 9, around 1,230 people joined the LL line between 11 a.m. and noon.
  • The average number of guests we’ve seen in an hour on BTMRR is around 1,500, and it’s been as high as 1,900.
  • At 1,500/hour the 1,230 guests in LL is around 82%, or that 4:1 ratio that we hypothesized
  • At 1,900/hour it’s about 65%.

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


We’re going to take a quick commercial break.  When we return, Jim tells us about the Magical World of Barbie show that ran at EPCOT in 1994. We’ll be right back.

MAIN TOPIC - iTunes Show

Barbie Feature Story

Len starts intro by talking about how – as he & I were planning out this week’s Disney Dish – we agreed that the feature piece should be based on a highly anticipated film that’s about to arrive in theaters. Which is why he just can’t wait to hear about all of the Disney theme park attractions that have direct ties to Robert Oppenheimer.

I interrupt. Not the new Christopher Nolan movie. But – rather – Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.” The new Warner Bros. movie starring Margot Robbie & Ryan Gosling.

Len expresses disappointment. Was really looking forward to hearing about that early-early version of “Universe of Energy” which – instead of ending with an image of one of the Apollo moon rockets blasting off – we would have gotten to see footage of one of the bomb tests out at Los Alamos.

First one of those was held on June 16, 1945. Barbie didn’t come along ‘til nearly 14 years later. March 9, 1959 was when this 11-inch-tall doll made her debut at the American Toy Fair in NYC.

Disney & Mattel’s relationship actually predated Barbie’s debut. The “Mickey Mouse Club” TV show debuted on ABC on October 5, 1955. And Mattel was among the very first companies to license that show. Put products out on the market in an effort to capitalize on the enormous popularity of this Monday-through-Friday kiddie show.

In fact, Mattel’s first big hit toy had direct ties to Disney. It was the “Mousegetar Junior,” which was modeled after the Mousegetar that Jimmy Dodd played on the TV show. Four stringed instrument with Mickey’s face on the front. If you turned the crank of the side of the Mousegetar Junior, a music box inside then played the “Mickey Mouse Club March.” Sold like hot cakes in the Spring of 1956.

Over the next 15 years or so, Disney & Mattel’s relationship had its ups & its downs. It hit an especially rough patch back in September of 1972. This was when Mattel announced its plans to build Circus World, a $50 million theme park & resort just 20 miles down the road from Walt Disney World over in Haines City, FL.

Now you have to understand that – when Circus World was announced – Disney World had only been open for 11 months at that time. And given that Mattel (at that time, anyway) was flush with cash thanks to the success of its Hot Wheels toy line, the Mouse was absolutely terrified of the idea of its brand-new, still-deeply-in-debt destination resort suddenly having to deal with a well-funded rival being built a short drive away along I-4.

So it’s not a coincidence that – just 5 weeks after Mattel officially announced Circus World – Disney held a press conference of its own. Where it then announced that – over the next two years – Disney World would see a $50 million expansion of its own. Where attractions like Space Mountain & an East Coast version of Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride, not to mention Disney World’s Golf Resort, Tom Sawyer Island, The Walt Disney Story.

This was theme park poker on an epic scale. “I see your $50 million and I raise you $50 million.” Really need to do some stories about Circus World at some point. Especially the early-early version of this project, which Imagineering Legend Rolly Crump had a hand in designing. Actually had a lot in common with that “American Heartland” project that just got announced for Oklahoma. $2 billion theme park / resort complex supposed to open there in 2026. Let’s see if that actually happens.

Back to Disney & Mattel now … If we jump ahead to the late 1980s / early 1990s (which is when Disney had that string of hit animated features which all featured Disney Princesses – Ariel, Belle & Jasmine), Mattel was desperate to wrestle the Disney doll making license from Tyco (its direct rival at the time).

Just so you know: Since October of 1987, Mattel had had a deal with the Mouse to produce infant & preschool toys based on the classic Disney characters (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, etc.).  But given how huge “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty & the Beast” and “Aladdin” had been at the box office, Mattel now wanted in on that part of the Disney toy making business as well. And they were willing to offer up anything in order to get it.

So negotiators from Mattel drove down from Hawthrone (That’s where Mattel’s corporate headquarters were located at the time: Hawthorne, CA) to Burbank and said “Here’s what we’re willing to do in order to get into the Disney Princess business …

    • We’ll start building toys that are based on Disney theme park attractions

    • We’ll double-down on this effort by agreeing to sponsor certain attractions at the Disney theme parks

    • And – to prove we mean business here – we’ll offer you guys the rights to use our most popular characters in your theme parks

It was the last part of Mattel’s offer that really got Michael Eisner’s attention. He knew – from his days of being in charge of ABC Television’s Saturday Morning division (i.e., the arm of that network which decided which animated series then ran on Saturday morning) – that Mattel (every year, on average) sold 58 million Barbie dolls. Just in case you’re wondering: That translate into roughly a 100 dolls sold every minute ‘round the globe.

It was also in this very same window of time that a report about Epcot’s continuing attendance problems came across Eisner’s desk. And it stated that – of all the demographic groups that visited WDW’s second gate – the one that least liked this science & discovery park was … You guessed it. Young girls from 6 to 12 years of age. The prime Barbie-buyers.

So Eisner was willing to make this deal (which was officially announced in November of 1991. And would then extend Mattel’s original deal with Disney – which, again, had been signed back in 1987 – out to the early 2000s) with the understanding that WDW Entertainment would then be able to build a live show for Epcot around the Barbie brand.

This was a very big deal for Mattel because – as you might imagine – they were (and still are) very, very protective of the Barbie brand.

Case in point: The original “Toy Story” movie. When Pixar was working on the third act of its first-ever feature length animated film, John Lasseter, Pete Docter & Andrew Stanton had what they thought would be a really great idea to juice this section of this movie.

Okay. So we all already know “Toy Story.” But let me just set the scene here. Sid has just taken Buzz Lightyear out to the backyard. Where this weird little boy is then going to strap a fire cracker to Buzz’s back and blow this space ranger up.

Woody is desperate to rescue his fellow plaything from Andy’s room. But what can he do? The door leading out of Sid’s bedroom is locked. Likewise the window. Things are looking pretty bleak when … Outside Sid’s bedroom door, Woody hears the roar of a speeding car engine. And then – as the door to Sid’s bedroom bursts open – who comes speeding into the room and then screeches to a halt millimeters away from Woody but Barbie in her pink Cadillac.

But this is no Barbie that we’ve ever seen before, Len. She’s wearing a black leather jacket and dark sunglasses. And as Barbie throws open the door to her Cadillac, she turns to Woody and says “Come with me if you want to live.”

That’s right. This is Barbie by way of “The Terminator.” A total bad-ass. She then drives Woody from the top floor of Sid’s house (pursued most of the way by Scud, the family’s pitbull) all the way out to the backyard. Barbie then tells Woody “You stall Sid. I’ll go get reinforcements.”

Okay. So this would have obviously changed the third act of the original “Toy Story” (i.e., making Barbie now being the character that rescued Buzz, rather than Woody). But here’s the thing: Pixar needed Mattel’s permission to portray Barbie in this way. And Mattel executives – in no uncertain terms – told John Lasseter and Co. that there was just no way that they’d allow that toy company’s marquee character to be portrayed as a “Terminator” -like bad-ass.

Then – of course – “Toy Story” arrived in theaters in November of 1995 and then became this monstrous hit. Which is when Mattel then learned the error of its ways. Which is why – when development of a “Toy Story” sequel began in 1996 – Mattel now agreed to let Pixar use their marquee character in this film.

But even then, Mattel was hesitant to let Pixar really have fun with Barbie. You’ll remember that – in “Toy Story 2” – we don’t get “Terminator” bad-ass Barbie driving a fast car. But – rather – tour guide Barbie. Who drives Rex, Slinky Dog, Hamm & Mr. Potato Head slowly & safety around Al’s Toy Barn and then reminds this characters (in English & Spanish, mind you) to “ … please keep their hands & arms inside the car at all time.”

It wasn’t ‘til “Toy Story 3” was released to theaters in June of 2010 that executives at Mattel finally said to the filmmakers at Pixar that “Okay. We finally trust you guys. You can do whatever you want with Barbie in this ‘Toy Story’ sequel.” Which is why Barbie AND Ken play such a huge part in the storyline of this Lee Unkrich movie.

Anyway … Let’s now get back to the “Magical World of Barbie” stage show. Which debuted at the  American Gardens Theater in Epcot in January of 1994.

Okay. So the folks who worked in WDW’s Entertainment office knew that it was something of a stretch to build a show for WDW’s science & discovery park around this 11-inch-tall doll. So the official explanation was (this comes from the press release announcing the “Magical World of Barbie” show in the Spring of 1993) that

… because Barbie had played so many roles & represented so many cultures over the past 34 years, it was felt that World Showcase would be the perfect venue for this new stage show.

So okay. In this new show for Epcot, Barbie would be an "Ambassador of Friendship" and – in a 20 minute-long stage presentation – travel the globe through dance & song.

Mattel – per usual – was very hands-on / very vocal when it came to what that toy company’s marquee character could say & do in a Disney World show. In fact, there was only one performance of the original version of “The Magical World of Barbie.” That opened at the American Gardens Theater the day before Thanksgiving 1994. Mattel execs were in the audience for that premiere performance. And as soon as they got to the Australian section of that show and heard one character onstage tell another to “ … throw another shrimp on the Barbie,” they said “Nope. Shut it down.”

Silly joke. Keying off of the popularity of “Crocodile Dundee.” Mattel thought it was disrespectful to their marquee character. Also weirdly sexual. Gag had to go.

Mind you, WDW’s Entertainment had been rehearsing this new show for Epcot for three months at this time. Didn’t matter. Mattel ordered the whole thing shut down for restaging & rewriting. The new Mattel-approved version of “The Magical World of Barbie” began being presented at the American Gardens Theater in Epcot starting in January of the following year (1994).

Why was Michael Eisner willing to put up with nonsense like this from a toy company? Well, first there was the matter of the “It’s a Small World Toy Shoppe” in Fantasyland in Anaheim. When the West Coast version of “it’s a small world” opened at Disneyland Park back in May of 1966, no one had thought to build a gift shop at the exit of this hugely popular attraction.

Mattel was willing to rectify this error. It not only covered the entire construction costs of “It’s a Small World Toy Shoppe,” it also paid to have the entrance & exit of this Fantasyland favorite swapped. So that – within 15 seconds of stepping off your boat that just took “The Happiest Cruise to Ever Sail the Seven Seas” – the Guest was now standing in the middle of an elaborate toy store that was filled floor-to-ceiling with “it’s a small world” themed items.

Disney science note: Studies show that your sales resistance (especially when it comes to items themed around a theme park ride you’ve just experienced) starts to significantly increase 56 seconds after you get off on an attraction. Which is why it’s crucial to get you in front of those souvenir t-shirts & coffee mugs in 55 seconds. The shop that Mattel had built by the new exit for Disneyland’s version of  “it’s a small world” did that in 15 seconds.

To further sweeten the deal, on the outside of every box holding a Birthday Barbie (this was the version of that 11-inch-tall doll which hit store shelves worldwide in 1994 in honor of the 35th anniversary of Barbie’s debut) was an offer to receive a “Barbie Birthday Party at Walt Disney World EPCOT 94” video for just a single penny.

Remember: On average, 100 Barbies were sold every minute. And on the outside of the box of every Birthday Barbie sold in 1994 was an offer to get a video promoting Walt Disney World for a single penny. You literally can’t buy that sort of publicity. Especially when it comes to a demographic that you’re specifically targeting for Epcot. Which – at that time – was little girls 6 to 12 years of age.

“Magical World of Barbie” went from Australia to Africa to Paris. Ended with a fashion show. Which then ended with doves being released & daytime pyro getting set off. Typically presented 4 times a day in the American Garden Theaters.

Over 300 women auditioned for the title role in “The Magical World of Barbie.” Role was won by one Elizabeth Simmons, who had previously been named Miss Oregon back in 1993.

Final performance presented on May 11, 1995. “Magical World of Barbie” show largely forgettable (You can watch on YouTube, though). What a lot of people remember today is meeting-and-greeting with Ken & Barbie at Epcot. This was typically done in front of Barbie’s metallic pink stretch limousine (which was filled with Barbie memorabilia that you could then look at as you waited your turn to get Barbie & Ken’s autographs).

In a previous life, this very same over-sized vehicle had been Mickey’s LiMOUSEine. Which had traveled the country in 1988 to promote Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday as well as the soon-to-open Mickey’s Birthdayland at WDW’s Magic Kingdom.

And speaking of limos … Remind me at some point to talk about the Barbie-themed overhaul that was once proposed for the short-lived “Superstar Limo” ride at Disney California Adventure Park. I know that we eventually wound up with “Monsters, Inc: Mike & Sulley to the Rescue” at that theme park. But trust me, Len. The “Barbie’s Dreamhouse” ride which was briefly bandied about for this show building in DCA would have been as fun – if not more so – than the Margot Robbie movie that just opened in theaters.


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ON NEXT WEEK’S SHOW: Jim brings on a special guest to tell us about the early days of running Shanghai Disneyland, which was announced on this day back in 2005.


You can find more of Jim at, and more of me at


iTunes Show: We’re produced fabulously by Aaron Adams who’ll be calling the bingo games at the 2023 Pittston Tomato Festival starting at 7 p.m. nightly, from August 17-20 at the Tomato Festival Lower Lot, just off Main Street, in beautiful, downtown Pittston, Pennsylvania.


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.