The Mouse Knows Best Podcast

Friday, July 28, 2017

Marty Called - Wants Changes: Remembering Marty Sklar

LA Times
The World has lost another legend.

Marty Sklar passed away on Thursday, July 27, 2017 at his home in Hollywood Hills.  He was 83.

The Magic in Pixels
He spent over five decades with The Walt Disney Company and worked tirelessly to bring Walt Disney's dream to life around the globe.

I was lucky enough to get to meet Marty Sklar in September of 2013 during a book signing at Downtown Disney.  We talked about Hollywood Studios - my home park - and he thanked me for carrying on Walt's dream.

According to the Disney Parks Blog, Marty was "(b)orn in New Brunswick, N.J., on February 6, 1934.  Marty was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper when he was recruited to create The Disneyland News for Walt’s new theme park in 1955. After graduating in 1956, he joined Disney full-time, and would go on to serve as Walt’s right-hand man—scripting speeches, marketing materials, and a film showcasing Walt’s vision for Walt Disney World and Epcot. During this period, he also joined WED Enterprises, the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering, and he would later become the creative leader of Imagineering, leading the development of Disney theme parks and attractions for the next three decades. He retired as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador on July 17, 2009, Disneyland’s 54th birthday. Disney marked the occasion by paying tribute to Marty with the highest Parks and Resorts recognition, dedicating a window in his name on Disneyland’s City Hall."

Oh My Disney
Following the news of Marty's death, The Mouse Knows Best Podcast released the following statement:

"We are deeply saddened and heartbroken over the passing of Marty Sklar. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.
A true legend, Marty's passion for creating magic for each and every Disney Parks guest was truly unrivaled. His infectious enthusiasm was irresistible, and the joy he always exhibited was contagious. His incredible, uncontainable imagination will continue to inspire future generations to dream it and do it.

For so many, Marty was much more than merely an Imagineer or an ambassador for Disney. He was our Imagineer and our ambassador. He was one of us, humble and endearing throughout his illustrious career and life. He made us believe that it really is fun to do the impossible.
There will never be another Marty Sklar.
Our crew was scheduled to interview Marty Sklar on our podcast this upcoming week. We received the news about his passing last night just moments after we finished recording our next episode. His passing has shook us to the core due to our immense admiration for the man who left us too soon.
 In our email exchanges over the past couple of months preparing for the interview, Marty was always so benevolent and gracious, leading to an authentic enthusiasm to talk with our crew. He even suggested this week in particular so we could react to the D23 Expo announcements together. No doubt he had done countless interviews similar to the one we were preparing to conduct, but his genuine excitement for our show made you believe he had never done anything like it before."
To honor Marty, we will pay tribute to his amazing life and career on episode 78."

Jewish Journal
Thank you for everything, Marty.  You will be miss by the entire Disney Family.

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

D23 Expo 2017: Star Wars and Mickey and Tron, Oh My!

The D23 Expo took place last weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. Numerous announcements were made regarding TV, movies and parks, but today, I just want to focus on the announcements for the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.


Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

We’ve known about the Star Wars land for a few years, but now, it officially has a name: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.  It seems Disney is taking a cue from Pandora: The World of AVATAR with this name choice.  The lands of Galaxy’s Edge are said to be - as you could guess - at the edge of the galaxy far, far away.  Scott Trowbridge, a Walt Disney Imagineer told fans, to some confusion, about “galactic credits” that will come their way - or not - in this new land.  “This is a living place,” Trowbridge said, “a place where your choices matter.” Although it’s unclear exactly what galactic credits are and what you can do with them, I am very excited to find out in 2019.  I am also very excited that Rex, the haphazard star speeder pilot from Star Tours, has a new job!  Rex has found his new career at the cantina serving as the DJ.  The cantina will also be serving the famed blue milk from the Star Wars franchise.

Disney Parks Blog

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway

This news is bittersweet for me.  Although I think The Great Movie Ride needed to be updated, I wasn’t prepared for a complete overhaul.  With the news that GMR would be closing in August, that leaves only four attractions open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and of those four, only one - Toy Story Midway Mania - does not have a height requirement.  But with that being said, I am cautiously optimistic about the new attraction featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  As Walt Disney always said, "It was all started by a mouse," and I am happy to see what this ride has in store for our favorite mouse.  Especially considering the announcement that the ride would be an all new experience that Imagineer Kevin Rafferty referred to as “2 ½ D.”  This mean the ride will not require 3D glasses - a fact that got a cheer from the audience and myself - and yet the flat cartoon world would still come to life.


Guardians of the Galaxy

Several big announcements were made for future projects in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort in 2021.  Among those announcements was the news that Ellen’s Energy Adventure would be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy themed attraction. Tom Fitzgerald, an Imagineer who worked on the originals plans for EPCOT Center, said that Epcot will “always be a place where the real becomes fantastical and the fantastical becomes real.”  It was also revealed that Peter Quill - also known as Star-Lord - visited Epcot as a kid and the new E-ticket attraction would be rooted in Epcot's story.  Although I know some are weary to changes at Epcot, I am all for it.  And besides, nothing can be bad if Groot and Rocket are involved.



Although little was said about the two new Epcot attractions, we do at least know that a Ratatouille-inspired attraction will be making its way to the France Pavilion.  It is said to be similar to the attraction in Disneyland Paris, but it is unconfirmed if it is the same attraction.   The Disneyland Paris attraction seems to be a huge hit in France, so one can assume that would transfer over to the US as well.  It would also bring more Disney characters into the park as well as target a younger generation of Disney fans.


Mission: Space Update and Restaurant

The last Epcot announcement was about the refurbishment of the Green Mission part of the attraction to make it more family friendly.  I truly hope they update all the computer screens in the attraction as the display and overall feel of the attraction could drastically be changed with some minor upgrades.  It was also announced that a new space themed restaurant would open near the attraction - maybe in the Wonders of Life Pavilion?  I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.


Tron Coming to Magic Kingdom

Because we need an indoor roller coaster beside an indoor roller coaster.  I’m on the side of the fence that isn’t really for this attraction, if you couldn’t tell.  I’d have been way more excited if they announced they were using cleaner fuel for the Speedway or replacing Stitch’s Great Escape, but instead, we’re getting a Tron roller coaster.  I’ve heard great things about Shanghai Disneyland’s TRON Lightcycle Power Run, but Tron has never been a movie that has sparked my attention.  Maybe that will change once this ride opens.  Again, we shall see.


New Theater Coming to Magic Kingdom

It was also announced that in addition to a new roller coaster, Magic Kingdom would also be getting a new live entertainment theater that will be based on the Willis Theater in Kansas City in the 1920s.  Although it’s exact location is still unclear, my guess would be the end of Main Street to the right going toward the Tomorrowland Terrace or in the parking lot behind Main Street to the right and use the cut through to get there.  Another mystery to the theatre is what would go there?  Maybe a brand new Tangled-inspired show?  Maybe the Aladdin show that ran at Disney’s California Adventure?  As long as it’s not Frozen, I’m really game with anything.


Star Wars-Themed Resort

I’ve already started my savings account for a week long stay at the new Star Wars-themed resort.  “It’s unlike anything that exists today,” Bob Chapek, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman, said at the Expo. “From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story.  You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire.  Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you.  It is 100-percent immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day—and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”  I MEAN HOW CAN YOU NOT BE EXCITED ABOUT A COMPLETELY IMMERSIVE STAR WARS RESORT EXPERIENCE?  Will I even want to leave my resort???


Minnie Vans Coming to Walt Disney World Resort

From a business standpoint, this makes sense.  With companies like Uber and Lyft becoming more successful, it makes sense that Disney would roll out their own car service.  For a fee, the Minnie Vans will take guests from one point to another without having to wait in line for a bus, monorail, or boat.  Hopefully, the Minnie Vans can be scheduled with the My Disney Experience app.

Disney Parks Blog

Gondolas Return with Disney Skyliner

Lovers of the Skyway, rejoice!  Gondolas are back!  Except this time they are character themed gondolas that will connect Disney's Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Caribbean Beach to other locations such as Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot’s International Gateway.  I’m curious to see how these operation, especially in the unpredictable Florida weather.  But you better believe I’ll be riding a Grim Grinning Gondola when it opens.


Toy Story Land to Open in Summer 2018

In a rare turn of events, Toy Story Land will open earlier than anticipated.  Although the land never had an official opening date prior to the D23 convention, it was assumed it would open around the same time as the new Star Wars land.  But it looks like we will be going to the land of Buzz and Woody before we go to the land or Luke and Leia, which is exactly what Disney’s Hollywood Studios needs since, as I mentioned earlier, it only has four attractions right now.  This themed land will hopefully bring in more parents with young kids to the least visited Walt Disney World theme park.  I’m also excited about this land because it’s in my home park and features my favorite Pixar movie.  

So those were the announcements for the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts made at the 2017 D23 Convention.  What was your favorite announcement?  What announcement are you least excited about?  Tweet us at @TMKBPodcast and let us know!

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

On This Magic Night: Top Five Nighttime Spectaculars, Past and Present

After a long day at the parks, it is time for the best part of the day.  As the sun sets, people begin to hunt for the perfect spot to catch the parade or fireworks show that is probably still an hour away.  The excitement and anticipation builds as the crowds form along the parade routes and in front of Cinderella’s Castle.

And then it happens.

The music from the parade or fireworks show begins to play over the loudspeaker and for a few minutes, crowds watch entranced at the magical display happening in front of them.

There have been numerous parades and firework shows over the years, but I have narrowed this list down to my personal top five list of past and presents spectaculars.

Walt Disney World

5. Happily Ever After

Although I haven’t seen this one in person yet, I’ve watched the replay of the Disney Parks live stream several times. I love the incorporation of lesser known movies - such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame - along with smash hits such as Frozen. Happily Ever After encompasses all of Disney, and for that, I think it will stand the test of time just like Wishes did for so many years.

Disney Tourist Blog

4. HalloWishes/Boo To You

Anyone that knows me knows that my favorite time of year at Walt Disney World is fall for two reasons: Food and Wine and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.  MNSSHP has been a favorite of mine since it’s debut almost a decade ago.  The HalloWishes fireworks show is narrated by the Haunted Mansion Ghost Host, which as everyone knows is my favorite attraction.  And the Boo to You! Parade is hands down the best themed parade out there.  Between the music and the Haunted Mansion grave diggers, it’s a spellbinding Halloween treat that I look forward to every year.  When attending the party, I like to plan my night so I can watch the parade from my favorite spot, make it to the castle to watch the fireworks, then catch the second parade wherever I can find a spot.  And let’s not forget all the candy. Overall, I think the Halloween party is the best special ticket event at WDW.

The Laughing Place

3. SpectroMagic

Ahhhh Spectro.  This parade has been a favorite of my brother and I for as long as I can remember.  It ran for nearly two decades at WDW and although it had a long run, I feel like it could have gone on forever and I wouldn’t have minded.  At the time of its debut, it was a replacement for the Main Street Electrical Parade and was definitely an upgrade in my opinion. And although I’m all for nostalgia and keeping originals the same (#WeWantsTheRedHead), I don’t think that replacing SpectroMagic with the Main Street Electrical Parade was the way to go.  But that’s just one girl’s opinion.  Either way, I think we can all agree that SpectroMagic was truly the best nighttime parade, past and present.

Disney Tourist Blog

2. World Of Color

I have only seen World of Color live once in 2014, and it was amazing.  When I went to Disneyland for the first time, I had tried my best to not watch any ride through videos or videos of the shows on YouTube so that I could experience it all for the first time live. This was hands down the best way to go about that trip for me because I had no idea what to expect as I stood on Paradise Pier and watched the water come to life.  I loved the fact that, like Happily Ever After, it pays tribute to films from all eras, as well as Pixar.  But the main thing I loved about this show is it’s tribute to Walt Disney.

Mouse Hints

1. Wishes

When I became a cast member in the fall of 2012, Wishes Nighttime Spectacular was the first show I watched with my blue ID tucked into my pocket.  I had seen the show countless times before, but as I stood on Main Street that August night, I saw the show differently.  It was like the rest of the crowd had melted away and Jiminy Cricket was talking directly to me about all your wishes coming true.  To me, Wishes perfectly embodied Disney.  The music, the story, the effects - they were all perfect Disney Magic.  Because if I’ve learned anything from Walt Disney, it’s that wishes really do come true.

So now that you know my top parades and firework shows, let me know yours! Tweet us @TMKBPodcast and let us know your favorite!

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263.

Friday, July 7, 2017

FBF: Keys of the Kingdom Tour

This post originally appeared on my Disney College Program blog on September 12, 2012.

I did something today that I’ve never done at Disney before.  This morning, my roommates and I did the Keys to the Kingdom tour at Magic Kingdom, and it was amazing.  I had heard about the tour before but never knew anyone that did it until I met my suitemate, Erika.  She had nothing but great things to say about the tour so I knew I had to take it, and I was definitely not disappointed.

The morning started at City Hall for check in and to get headphones to hear our tour guide over the crowds along with special pins with our names on them.  Then we gathered outside to start the tour.  Our tour guide, Claire, started the tour by talking about the Four Keys Basics, so it felt a lot like my Traditions class from earlier in the Disney College Program.  But it was still cool.

After that, we walked up Main Street and learned about all the names on the windows on the various shops and their significance.  It was so cool to see the small details that are there that everyone just rushes past.  When we walked up to the castle, Claire talked about the Partners statue and how the sculptor made it.  The same guy that did that also did all the sculpting for Pirates and Hall of Presidents, as well as many other projects around Walt Disney World.

Next, we made our way to Adventureland and got to ride The Jungle Cruise.  Claire was our skipper and told us a ton of awesome facts about the ride.  This is one of my favorite rides and I loved seeing and hearing all the small details in the ride, like in the scene when the natives attack the boat and call out random war chants, one of them says, ‘I love Disney,’ but it’s talking so fast you have to listen really close to hear it.

After Adventurland, we went over to Frontierland and got to go backstage to see the parade floats and the Splash Mountain reservoir.  So awesome.  The parade floats are all kept together, according to which parade they are in.  We got to see the Celebrate Today floats up close and go inside when the Spectromagic parade floats are stored.  We also got a glimpse of the Halloween party floats before heading a few yards over to the reservoir.  It was huge and filled with eleven feet of water that cycles its way through the ride.  At night, they drain the ride and the reservoir is filled full and reaches about 22 feet high.

Then it was time for lunch. We walked back onstage and made our way to Columbia Harbor House in Liberty Square.  We preordered our lunch when we checked in so everything was waiting on us when we got there.  I had chicken nuggets, fries, and a sweet tea.  Also waiting at our table was our Key to the Kingdom.  So cool.

After lunch, we walked across the way to the Haunted Mansion.  Claire gave us a ton of facts about the ride before we got to enter the ride through a special door.  We learned that – Disney Magic Spoiler alert – the room actually stretches up instead of us going down.  The original attraction at Disneyland does indeed go down because the railroad track is in the way.  That wasn't a problem at Walt Disney World but the Imagineers wanted to keep that part of the attraction the same.

After the Haunted Mansion, we went back to Cinderella’s Castle before making our way to Crystal Palace.  If you look at the restaurant, you can see that on the left side toward Main Street looks very Victorian while the right side toward Adventurland looks more adventurous.  Just more subtle Disney theming.

Next we got to go into the Utilidors.  I hadn’t really been in the Utilidoors much so it was kinda cool to get to go down there.  It’s nothing too spectacular to look at but when you think about how innovative that was when it was built in the 1960s, it’s crazy to think about. 

In the Utilodors, Claire stopped at old pictures from Walt Disney World’s history and told us the stories behind each of them.  Not gonna lie, I cried when I saw a trio of pictures.  One was a picture of Walt Disney World before anything was really built, another was opening day, and the last was also from opening day when Roy has his arm around Mickey.  The story behind the last one was while Roy was giving his speech, he got too choked up about it and asked someone to bring Mickey up with him because he felt that was the closest to Walt he could get on that day.  The story of Walt is so inspirational and gets me every time.  I’m so blessed to get to carry on his legacy.

Our tour ended back at City Hall where we returned our hearing devices and said our goodbyes to our amazing tour guide Claire.  If you have never done the Keys of the Kingdom tour, I would highly recommend it.  It is amazing and you will love it and you will come away truly inspired by the legacy of Walt Disney.  If it wasn’t for him and his dreams, we wouldn’t be here right now.

My roommates and I after the tour.

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263.