Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Countdown to Disney--30 Days

If asked to identify the things about Walt Disney World which I find to be awesome, my answer would be quite simple..."Uh, EVERYTHING."

Sometimes someone will say something about not liking WDW that much or, worse, liking something like Six Flags better. I try to be forgiving because obviously these people have suffered some sort of blunt force trauma to the head. I have actually heard someone make the statement that WDW and Six Flags are pretty much the same thing. Ok, step back, Captain Crazypants. That's just not right. In addition to anything Disney being about eleventy-thousand times cleaner, one is more likely to encounter a Cast Member who is a functional human member of society while at Disney, as opposed to Six Flags where all manner of barely functionally literate juvenile delinquents will be performing equivalent tasks. (If you think I'm exaggerating, please ask me sometime to relate to you the story of "Definition of a Bowl at Six Flags Great Adventure). So, anyway, there are many, MANY differences.

And the way that WDW, and for that matter ALL Disney Parks the world over, CLEARLY stand out is the intricately detailed theming pervasive in every nook and cranny of the park. And nowhere is it more beautifully done than on Main Street, USA ("Gateway to the Seven Themed Lands of the Magic Kingdom").

It was inspired by Marceline, MO, one of the towns Walt Disney lived in when he was a child. The buildings look like they are three stories tall, but only the first story of each is actually a full story and the other floors are built using forced perspective.. The second floor is 2/3 actual size and the third is 1/2. Forced perspective is also used on the actual street. It's wider at the entrance in Town Square and narrows as it approaches the Hub in front of Cinderella Castle. This has the effect of making Cinderella Castle look more distant when guests enter in the morning, but also makes the exit look closer when tired guests are exiting in the evening. The distance between trash cans is exactly 20 paces. Traffic flow engineers working for Disney Imagineering studied extensively to find out how far the average person carries a piece of trash before they throw it on the ground and placed all trash cans accordingly. The sidewalks along Main Street are a unique shade of red which was developed in conjunction with Kodak. Imagineers and Kodak scientists experimented to find the specific shade of red which makes the sky look most blue in contrast, at least on Kodak film, which in the days before digital cameras, was the only film sold in the park.

All of the names on the windows on the second (and in one case, the third) floors are real people who were in some way instrumental in the creation of or continuing development of Walt Disney World or the Walt Disney Company. The businesses of which they are the "proprietor" has something to do with their role within the Company or with some hobby or outside interest they loved. The only third floor window honors Frank Wells who was the president of the Walt Disney Company from 1984 until his death in a heli-skiing accident in 1994. He was an avid mountain climber and had climbed the highest mountain on each continent except Asia (he attempted Everest more than once but was forced to turn back each time). His fictional company is Seven Summits Expeditions and to honor him and his memory, is the highest of all Main Street Windows. Roy O. Disney's window is a tribute to his determination to complete Walt Disney World after Walt's death--his business is "Dreamers and Doers". A single window does not look down on Main Street itself, but rather faces Cinderella Castle and that is the window honoring Walt, himself.

It's really too bad that the majority of guests barrel down Main Street, intent on reaching the Castle or a certain attraction. Main Street is amazing. There are a million things to see, hear, taste, FEEL. So next time you're there...take some advice from Baloo, and slow down and enjoy.

Here's a picture of my brother and I taking time and enjoying Main Street in September of 1981. This is literally five minutes into our very first trip to WDW ever. Mother forgot to bring her camera--Dad was the family photojournalist and he stayed at home while we made the trip with Mother, our grandparents and our great aunt and uncle--so she raced across to the Camera Shop as soon as we got there and rented one for our three day trip. This is my favorite picture of my brother and me. EVER.

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