This summer marks twenty years since a seminal time in my life.
For ’twas my first one spent working as a Walt Disney World cast member.
Now, I don’t really ever get into specifics regarding what I did – I often answer that I was in entertainment or that I was a parade performer. The stories of my summer at the Disney-MGM (not Hollywood or whatever they call it next) Studios, while Cinderella’s Castle was being painted pink, are still so vivid. The impression was and is indelible.
At the month of May, I was trained for a role in the Toy Story Parade that in many ways changed who I was in terms of presence. Sure, what I had been trained for previously – both in the Parade and in other areas of the park – required to me to be ‘larger than life’… But this was the finale float of the parade! All eyes on that float! Thousands of fanatics waving over a seven cycle loop, sometimes twice a day, in a very high level of heat.
It was going to be awesome!
There was a routine to learn. And then there were moments where you were free to act on your own. I loved the routine, but I loved the improvised moments more. Sometimes it was connecting with someone in the crowd. Sometimes it was adding a little something extra you picked up the day before from watching a clip of the movie. Sometimes it was creating your own choreography (as if I was qualified to do such a thing).
Every parade was different. No Insanity workout could match it.
The day that you have a pack of high school teenage cheerleaders run from the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular to follow your float and cheer you on – that changes you. It makes you feel like a star – if only until your backstage and the audio stops.
May 1996 was the start of a fantastic summer. A fantastically sweaty summer.
On Sunday, May 1st, the Disney-MGM (we won’t call it Hollywood) Studios celebrated its 27th birthday/anniversary. Just prior to that over the weekend, one of Walt Disney World’s premier identifiers, The Earfell Tower, was removed to make way for the expansion that is the Star Wars & Toy Story themed areas.
130 feet tall and not really a water tower, the punny Earfell Tower was MGM’s true original landmark, trumping replica Chinese Theater and definitely not the Sorcerer’s hat. You could see it on your trip in from I-4 to World Drive long before The Tower of Tweeor made its ominous presence felt on the horizon. It was the button of every episode in the early seasons of the All New Mickey Mouse Club. It was a sign to all of us at home that things were really happening at the Park.
But I won’t shake my fist at its loss the way I might some of the Streetmosphere characters or Osborner Christmas lights. The park is nowhere near its original purpose anymore and hasn’t been for years. The removal of the tower is the official symbol of that.
Just remember that while it’s not good to live in the past, nostalgia is very real element of the Disney Parks. It’s a delicate line for the Diz to walk and serve all generations.
This no blogging for 5 months thing really needs to stop!
We at DillosDiz are long time admirers of the Citizens of Hollywood, aka Streetmosphere, aka Streetmo, aka the reason why Brother Dillo became an interactive theater performer:
Earlier this year, Disney took a machete to their live entertainment budget and hacked into Streetmo. Some say it’s because of Shanghai. Some say it’s because of the the Studios’ expansion into ‘Star Wars’ & ‘Toy Story’ lands. Either way, a great portion of what provided that Disney impression upon entering Studios, and what makes their parks so different from any other themes attraction in the world, has now been diminished. The old time Hollywood Boulevard just past the turnstiles (oops, no more turnstiles) now inhabits fewer citizens.
The big blow to the guests of the Studios is the elimination of the Hollywood Public Works. Perhaps the most identifiable in all of Streetmosphere, this trio of (assumed) union workers drove their truck into comedy gold multiple times a day for a quarter of a century. In the style of The Three Stooges or any other vaudevillian combo you can think of, their work was a lesson, not only in comedy, but in timing & rhythm.
I’ve been lucky to get to know some of the performers who donned the overalls over the years (two of whom appear in the video below). It’s sad to know that their legacy will no longer live on.
The only question I can feasibly ask now that the truck has been parked is —- who’s going to check the water?!?!
This three part series just became four parts!
A question I always pose to myself when daydreaming of being poolside at Disney’s Beach Club Resort (I’m not about to go throwing the Vacation Club moniker in there) is… If I stayed in the Yacht Club first, would I love the Yacht Club more than the Beach Club?
Because the Yacht Club is grey and the Beach Club in the brightest of light blue. A light blue that accentuates the cream colors of the lobby and the chlorinated water. Walking from Yacht to Beach is like unto walking from Kansas to Oz – and the shipwreck in Stormalong Bay was from a tornado…
Wait, was that part of the design? Did I hear that some place before?
Is that an Imagineering choice?
No immediate luck (that’s to be continued).
There is something about that New England Cape Codian blue that to this day defines the Beach Club and sets it a part from every single resort in WDW. Every. Single. One.
The Polynesian is hidden within the lush tropics. The Grand Floridian looks out of your league. The Contemporary is an icon. Wilderness Lodge appears to be in a nook. The Boardwalk wants to be a theme park.
The Beach Club is inviting.
That light blue calls to you.
I have to go back!!!
Something I haven’t talked about before is my favorite alarm clock in Disney World. The best sound to wake up to is that of the Friendship Boats while sleeping in your Beach Club bed.
As Brother Dillo blogged previously in: The Beach Club at 25, “Within two years, the Beach Club Resort would surpass the Polynesian as the favorite Dillo Resort (perhaps Sista Dillo thinks that’s a bold statement).”
Bold? Perhaps. But somewhat true.
For me, The Beach Club Resort represents the second half of my Disney vacationing life. The Polynesian represents the first. These two hotels made us fall in love with Disney, with Deluxe resorts and of course, spoiled us for life.
We can walk past The Beach Club and point out which rooms we stayed in. We can tell you about the corner room right next the quiet pool that was probably our favorite because…um, it was next to the quiet pool! We could leave our room through our patio doors and there we would be. We can also tell you how we were sad to see the shrubbery that was planted because it meant that future guests of that room couldn’t do the same.
We can tell you about celebrities we shared the elevator with, the ones we walked behind and the pictures that hung on the wall of Beaches and Cream of all those that stayed there.
Time out for Fun Facts:
- You used to be able to see MGM from the back of the Beach Club!
- It took me years to go down the slide in Stormalong Bay.
- The air conditioning of the lobby…I mean come on.
Beaches and Cream used to connect directly to the game room. We could play basketball and knock hockey and then walk right through for some burgers and ice cream. Now you have to go outside and back in again (its the little things we miss).
We have blogged many times of the serenity of the quiet pool. The place of baptism for my son (Disney baptism). A body of water to cleanse our soul and breathe in the Disney air. A pool where our family came together and relaxed.
Dillos don’t love change and changes have been made at this resort that we don’t love. But it doesn’t take away our love for the resort.
Happy Birthday Beach Club Resort!
Disney’s (Yacht &) Beach Club Resort turns 25 this week, so Brother & Sista Dillo are taking a look back (and into) what has made the Beach Club my (if not our) favorite WDW Resort over the past quarter century.
Without question, one of the perks of steering away from what are now called Magic Kingdom Resorts and towards EPCOT Resorts was the three acre mini water park that connected Disney’s Yacht Club to Disney’s Beach Club. Stormalong Bay presented just enough liquid elements to keep this teen of the 90’s invested when not inside one of the (then) WDW theme parks.
Having never visited River Country and Typhoon Lagoon still on our soon-to-visit radar, the closest experience had with a water themed thrill was the mini Polynesian Village slide at the main pool.
Stormalong Bay was a significant upgrade: a lazy river, a sand bottomed pool, a swirling pool, and a 230 foot slide down the mast of a shipwrecked… Ship.
Back in the day, as the oldtimers say, there was no checkpoint to gain access to the nearly 800,000 gallons of water at your disposal. You could run down and jump in – or run up and slide down. After some time, and multiple visits… and multiple scartches on my back sliding down the mast of a ship, the Resort became more crowded and the Bay area became less inviting.
On top of that, the real perfect storm called to us. An alternative to this mini water park nestled within these New England themed Resorts.
This alternative would change the way we Dillos defined tranquility.
This alternative would change the way we Dillos defined serenity.
This alternative became the chicken soup for our soul.
I was 14 years old walking from the United Kingdom towards France at the World Showcase in EPCOT when I came upon the long, ‘this area is being refurbished for your future enjoyment’, wall. The pictures pointed to the future…
‘EPCOT Resorts?’, my 14 year old self said to myself. ‘That’s ridiculous’, why are you going to break the illusion of the World Showcase, or the whole, entire EPCOT Center (as it was known at the time) theme park for that matter… With hotels?
Within two years, the Beach Club Resort would surpass the Polynesian as the favorite Dillo Resort (perhaps Sista Dillo thinks that’s a bold statement).
All week long Dillo’s Diz celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort… But mostly the Beach Club.