Just when you think you do know everything there is to know about Walt Disney World, here comes Jim Korkis with a new book full of stuff you won't easily find anywhere else. From the theme parks and resorts to "beyond the berm", this is the Disney that Disney forgot.
Coming on the heels of the bestselling original Secret Stories, Korkis has declared no secret off limits in this new volume. Delving into his treasure trove of lore compiled over the decades from sources both inside and outside the Disney company, and from official Disney documentation long since lost or destroyed, Korkis mainlines the most potent blend of mouse tales this side of Main Street, USA, including:
NO DECODER RING REQUIRED!
Part 1: The Walt Disney World Parks
Magic Kingdom: All Aboard the WDW Railroad!
Magic Kingdom: Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café and Sonny Eclipse
Magic Kingdom: McDonald's in Frontierland
Magic Kingdom: Liberty Square
Magic Kingdom: The Liberty Bell
Magic Kingdom: Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe
Magic Kingdom: The WDW Dapper Dans
Magic Kingdom: Cinderella’s Coach
Epcot: Mexico's The Three Caballeros
Epcot: The Norway Pavilion
Epcot: Norway's Maelstrom and Frozen Ever After
Epcot: The Rose and Crown Pub
Epcot: Japan's Candy Wizards
Epcot: Japan's Goju-no-to Pagoda
Epcot: O Canada!
Epcot: Mission: SPACE
Hollywood Studios: Sorcerer’s Hat
Hollywood Studios: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Hollywood Studios: The Madison Mermaid Statue
Hollywood Studios: The Creation of Muppet*Vision 3D
Hollywood Studios: The Brown Derby
Hollywood Studios: Rock’n’ Roller Coaster with Aerosmith
Hollywood Studios: Chinese Theater Handprints
Hollywood Studios: Sunset Boulevard Theaters
Hollywood Studios: Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
Animal Kingdom: Kali River Rapids
Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safaris
Animal Kingdom: McDonald's and DAK
Animal Kingdom: Restaurantosaurus
Animal Kingdom: It’s Tough to Be A Bug
Animal Kingdom: DINOSAUR
Animal Kingdom: Horticulture
Animal Kingdom: The Forbidden Mountain
Part 2: The Walt Disney World Resorts
Grand Floridian: The 1988 Opening
Fort Wilderness: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Fort Wilderness: The Tri-Circle-D Ranch
Dolphin Resort: The Original Artwork
Wilderness Lodge: Raven Totem Pole
Wilderness Lodge: Eagle Totem Pole
Wilderness Lodge: Carolwood Pacific Room
Old Key West: Olivia’s Café
Contemporary: Mary Blair Pueblo Village Mural
Yacht and Beach Club: Robert Stern’s Design Concepts
Part 3: The Rest of Walt Disney World
Celebration: Original Proposal
Celebration: The Early Years
Disney Springs: The Story Behind the Story
Disney Springs: Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar
Disney Springs: The World of Disney Store
Disney Miscellany: WDW Team Disney Building
Disney Miscellany: STOLport
Disney Miscellany: Walt Disney World Topiaries
Disney Miscellany: Oak Trail Golf
Disney Miscellany: Snow White House in Florida
Part 4: The Rest of the Story
Men Who Made WDW: General Joe Potter
Men Who Made WDW: Richard F. Irvine
Men Who Made WDW: Thurl Ravenscroft
Men Who Made WDW: Joe Rohde
Men Who Made WDW: Admiral Joe Fowler
Things That Never Were: Disney World International Airport
Things That Never Were: Roger Rabbit Toontown
Things That Never Were: Lake Buena Vista New Orleans Square
Things That Never Were: Yesterday Hotel
Things That Never Were: Muppet Studios
Things That Never Were: Germany Rhine River Cruise
WDW History: First Families of WDW
WDW History: WDW’s First Disneyana Convention
WDW History: Pardoned Turkeys
WDW History: Walt Disney World Christmas Parade
WDW History: Why WDW Is Not in St. Louis
WDW History: Disney Dollars
WDW History: Mickey Mouse Tax
WDW History: Florida Neverlands, Part One
WDW History: Florida Neverlands, Part Two
WDW History: Main Street Music 1971
WDW History: Hurricanes
WDW History: First Participants
Things That Disappeared: Hidden Handprints at Magic of Disney Animation
Things That Disappeared: Lawnmower Tree at Fort Wilderness
Things That Disappeared: Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Part One
Things That Disappeared: Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Part Two
Things That Disappeared: Whatever Happened to Minnie Moo?
Things That Disappeared: The Story of Discovery Island
Appendix: The Vacation Kingdom
February 8, 2008, was one of those perfect days at Walt Disney World. The temperature was around 80 degrees, with a breeze keeping things comfortable. But what really made it perfect was walking around World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot with Jim Korkis.
At that time, Jim worked at the Epcot Learning Center, an educational resource for Disney cast members. Jim and I had been reading each other’s online articles for quite some time and had occasionally traded emails, but we had never met in person. Although our time was limited to Jim’s lunch period, we made the whole loop of the lagoon, stopping at the old Yakitori House for lunch and at the American Adventure lobby to listen to the Voices of Liberty.
As we passed the countries of World Showcase, Jim pointed out details that lend authenticity to each of the pavilions, even though guests seldom know their significance. He mentioned plans proposed for the areas that were never built. Jim wasn’t reciting trivia or statistics. He offered genuine insight that would increase a guest’s appreciation of the park.
When I read the first volume of Secret Stories of Walt Disney World, I was reminded of that day at Epcot with Jim. Once again, Jim made Walt Disney World a more interesting place.
Jim has spent a lifetime collecting historical details about Disney parks, Disney animation, Disney live action, Disney merchandise, Disney publications, the talented people who created them, and the life of the genius who started it all, Walt Disney.
He has absorbed this information from many sources, including directly from the people responsible. Perhaps Jim doesn’t know everything about Disney, but that’s not from lack of trying. There might not be anyone who knows more about such a wide variety of Disney topics.
Jim is generous with his knowledge. His articles and books are a reflection of who he is. As a columnist, author of books, and speaker, Jim shares stories about all things Disney with appreciative audiences.
It’s not just the quantity of Jim’s knowledge; it’s also the quality. Jim knows the difference between real back stories and the myths that only seem real. Jim knows the historical context that gives meaning to how things are today. And Jim knows the stories beyond the carefully crafted corporate Disney versions.
Since we first met at Epcot, Jim and I have walked around other parts of Walt Disney World. Somehow, we haven’t yet made it to Disney’s Animal Kingdom together. (Hey Jim, when can we change that?)
As you read this book, think of it as walking all over Walt Disney World with Jim. You’ll find yourself in corners you never knew about. Sometimes, you’ll travel back in time. You’ll meet some of the people who created the “World”. You’ll experience places that never escaped from the planning process. And you’ll see familiar spots in a new way.
In this book, Jim gives you succinct, fun-to-read, two-page articles. There are far more secrets than you would get from a week of walking around with Jim. And you don’t even have to bring an umbrella in case it’s not such a perfect Florida day.
In these days of the internet, there are so many sites devoted to Walt Disney World that few things are really secret to the diligent fan with plenty of time to explore. The Disney Company is deeply concerned that these people are able to discover detailed information about changes at Walt Disney World before Disney is ready to officially announce them.
However, there are just as many, if not more, fans and even cast members out there who are unaware of most of these sources but still love knowing more about the stories behind the stories. They are interested not just in the newest additions but the stories behind them as well as the stories behind the things that they have enjoyed for years or that have disappeared over time.
Unfortunately, over the last forty-five years, many of the stories about Walt Disney World have become a muddle of half-truths, obfuscations, marketing malarkey, and outright falsehoods.
Repetition of these familiar stories that “everyone knows” introduces unsuspecting new generations to the same Disney myths and misunderstandings. The internet can be a good source of information but only if you know what information to completely ignore because it is sometimes merely opinion, conjecture, or simply a repetition of false information without attribution.
Unfortunately, the Disney Company was never too diligent in recording the background information about Walt Disney World. It is not always trustworthy to depend just upon the memories of those who experienced something at WDW because what is remembered has been forever altered, sometimes slightly and sometimes drastically, by the filters of subjectivity, self-interest, and emotion.
This book tries to offer a more accurate accounting of the actual stories even with the constant changes happening at Walt Disney World. Elements of the parks are constantly and quietly disappearing piece by piece, often with no advance warning or announcement. If we don’t start documenting this material, one day that background information will be gone forever along with some favorite treasure that vanished between vacation trips.
One of the things that make a Disney theme park a different experience is that it tells stories that link with other things to create an overall immersive narrative. When newly installed CEO Michael Eisner was introduced to this concept by Imagineering, he coined the term “Everything Speaks” meaning that everything in the park should have a story.
That was never Walt Disney’s intention. He never meant for everything to have its own individual story but that it should all help contribute to telling the same story and not contradict that story. Some things like trash cans were merely necessary and functional but were designed to reinforce the overall theme of an area with decorations relating to a specific land.
Sometimes a popcorn cart is just a popcorn cart.
Mr. Mulligan, a local farmer, had a season where he harvested an exceptionally large crop of corn. It was so much that it spilled out of the silo into the nearby barn where Mulligan had a large collection of wagons that he used to rent to neighbors.
He had purchased the famous cow from Chicago’s Mrs. O’Leary, a distant relative, and one night the bovine again carelessly knocked over a lighted lantern and the barn caught on fire. It was so hot that the kernels of corn popped and the wagons in the barn were filled with popcorn before the flames could be extinguished.
A desperate Mulligan drove his wagons, now filled to overflowing with hot popcorn, to the market where he sold bags of the treat to recoup some of his financial losses and get rid of the damaged corn. The activity was so popular that Mulligan repeated it the next year and several years following and this tradition is represented by the popcorn cart at the front of Main Street, USA
Is that a true Walt Disney Imagineering back story?
Well, it’s true that it is a story, but, no, it is merely a fanciful anecdote I just created on the keyboard. It seems to makes sense with the elaborateness of detail giving it more credibility.
WDW cast members do the same sort of thing all the time to fill in the vacuum of not knowing the real story.
Imagineering even has a term for this type of story invention created by cast members and guests: “logical erroneous conclusion”. Basically, the term refers to adding two and two together and getting five or seven or something other than the real answer. It seems to make sense from observation or imagination, but it has no basis in what was actually intended.
For instance, the architectural structures on top of WDW’s Haunted Mansion are not chess pieces even though they might remotely resemble them.
In the early days of Eisner’s management to reinforce his “Everything Speaks” concept, Imagineers were encouraged to create convoluted backgrounds for the simplest of things, from a new cart serving early morning coffee in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge to a broken-wheeled wagon in Frontierland selling French fries.
Disney Archivist Dave Smith actually stopped collecting those tales because they didn’t seem to come intrinsically from the item but were just awkwardly overlaid and were often too excessive and long-winded.
Neither guests nor cast members understood or accepted that the Rock’n’Roller Coaster attraction was in 1940s Hollywood because it was actually a popular recording studio in the 1930s that closed because of the disaster at the Hollywood Tower Hotel in 1939. It struggled for many years to survive its “bad omen” reputation associated with that incident but finally re-opened.
It never seemed to bother guests that it was there at all nor occur to them that it exists where it is today simply because that is where land was available to build and operations needed some other attraction to handle the crowds being drawn down to the dead end Sunset Boulevard.
Often times, even in Walt’s era, decisions about the park were based on finances and not necessarily storytelling. Adventureland got moved to a different location than originally planned because there were existing trees in an area and that would cut the costs of landscaping.
Drunk partiers at Pleasure Island had no interest spending their evenings in learning the complicated story of Merriweather Adam Pleasure by reading the many plaques installed outside of the nightclubs. As venues closed and were replaced by other entertainments, it became even more complicated to try to integrate the new additions into that muddled storyline.
Disney needn’t have tried to bother because guests didn’t care. Guests may care about some obvious contradictions like a spaceman walking through Frontierland, but many other things are just not important enough to be on their radar.
Cast members have created a faux atmosphere in some areas because they were never trained about the intended story. During Walt’s era, standard operating procedure handbooks included the historical and story background of the attraction. The one for the operation of the Submarine Voyage had a lengthy introduction written by Admiral Joe Fowler himself.
To save money and try to prevent possible future legal issues that cast members were not following approved procedures, those training manuals no longer physically exist.
So, cast members at Twilight Zone Tower of Terror act as if they are dead which irritates Imagineers constantly. An Imagineer responsible for the attraction told me:
The host and hostesses at the Haunted Mansion are dead. They are part of the ghosts that inhabit the building. At the Tower, they are trapped in time and space, another dimension of time and space like the Twilight Zone itself. They are trapped in 1939 so the eerie thing is that they act as if it is 1939 at the time of the accident and treat you as if you were a guest coming to stay at the hotel. That is what is supposed to make them scary.
When I asked him why he didn’t simply go over and tell the cast members, he replied, “They have to pay for that now.” Once Eisner became CEO, he insisted that every department show a double-digit percentage profit each year, even Imagineering.
So how does something like maintenance show a profit since it is not selling anything? By eliminating hours or staff. How did Imagineering show a profit? By shredding material they had in storage to save insurance and storage costs, especially for items that were never built like the Matterhorn attraction proposed for World Showcase or things that were removed because it was felt that information was no longer necessary.
Only items relating to currently operating buildings needed to be saved and even in those cases perhaps only the paint chips in order to recreate the proper color rather than the documentation of why certain things were there.
I saw it happen when the Disney Institute closed its physical location and was replaced by the Saratoga Springs Resort.
Things like early concept sketches, curriculum guides, documentation video tapes of presentations done in the Cinema and Performance Center, and other items were tossed haphazardly into a dumpster and cast members were warned that it was an immediate dismissal offense to remove anything because it was Disney property.
So, the wonderful two-hour show by film restoration expert Scott McQueen talking about animated projects Disney never made and showing examples of some of them that he found mislabeled in storage was destroyed.
The huge book kept by the Animation Department with original artwork by visitors like Ward Kimball, Marc and Alice Davis, and John Canemaker was vandalized and the surviving artwork thrown away.
It was simply not cost effective for the Disney Company to treasure all its heritage and the Disney Archives always had only a tiny budget and limited storage space to preserve the most important things, with priority always given to items from the West Coast.
In addition, to show that it was a revenue-generating division, Imagineering began charging an exorbitant hourly rate to talk with an attraction area. That rate included time for research, preparation, visual materials, travel, the actual presentation itself, and in some case, compensation for the “lost” work time of the Imagineer on that particular day. It became quite expensive.
Two years ago, I asked a question at Guest Relations at the Magic Kingdom in Florida about the exact length of Main Street, USA They spent over an hour looking and couldn’t find the answer. I asked if they might phone someone at Imagineering to find out. They replied that they would have to pay Imagineering for the answer and it might take days for a response and that since I was the only person who had ever asked that question, they couldn’t justify the cost of asking.
What I hope makes this book different from all the others that are out there is that I worked at Walt Disney World in a variety of different departments, had access to company libraries (some of which no longer exist), interviewed Imagineers and original cast members, and one of my roles was to share Disney heritage in over 250 different presentations and tours that I researched, wrote, and presented not just to cast members but to many of Disney’s corporate partners like Kodak.
It never occurred to me that one day I might be among the last men standing that actually knew certain information. Some of that knowledge was considered commonplace and others knew it as well. That is not the case today, as so many people have passed away, left the company, or been laid off.
In addition, I am sharing these “secrets” differently. They are not just a short paragraph of trivia but a two-page story filled with quotes, measurements, facts from official documents, and descriptions. All of this information is greatly distilled from much larger and verified source articles I have written over the decades.
As I tell people, no one can know everything…especially about Disney. I am constantly learning, and many things I thought I knew, I will discover that I didn’t understand the whole story as new material is uncovered.
It is hard to find these stories and even harder to verify them from multiple other sources. Sometimes Disney no longer has the information. Sometimes Disney has quarantined the necessary information so it is unavailable to outside researchers or even interested cast members. Sometimes Disney never had the information in the first place.
The Disney company was always a company of oral history, passed along but not written down by the people who worked on a particular project because there was always so much pressure to get work done. Once a project was completed, there was the rush to get to work on the next project which was always somehow already behind schedule.
One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from a young lady who wrote to me and said that what she enjoyed most about my writing is that she felt smarter after reading it. I hope there are others who feel the same way.
Walt Disney World always seems to be the neglected “orphan child” when it comes to books telling that history. Everyone wants to write about Disneyland which has its own intimate charm and often childhood connections.
When I started to work at Walt Disney World, I learned more about the vacation kingdom and began to appreciate it in a much different way. For some people, it is their first connection with a Disney theme park and it has its own unique history needing to be shared.
This book and the previous volume are a good start, but there are so many other stories that were unable to be included for a variety of reasons. I hope you enjoy the tales on the following pages. I hope they encourage to search for additional information as well as enhance your appreciation of Walt Disney World.
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for over three decades. He is also an award-winning teacher, a professional actor and magician, and the author of several books.
Korkis grew up in Glendale, California, right next to Burbank, the home of the Disney studios. As a teenager, Korkis got a chance to meet the Disney animators and Imagineers who lived nearby, and began writing about them for local newspapers.
In 1995, he relocated to Orlando, Florida, where he portrayed the character Prospector Pat in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom, and Merlin the Magician for the Sword in the Stone ceremony in Fantasyland.
In 1996, Korkis became a full-time animation instructor at the Disney Institute teaching all of their animation classes, as well as those on animation history and improvisational acting techniques. As the Disney Institute re-organized, Jim joined Disney Adult Discoveries, the group that researched, wrote, and facilitated backstage tours and programs for Disney guests and Disneyana conventions.
Eventually, Korkis moved to Epcot as a Coordinator for the College and International Programs, and then as a Coordinator for the Epcot Disney Learning Center. He researched, wrote, and facilitated over two hundred different presentations on Disney history for Cast Members and for such Disney corporate clients as Feld Entertainment, Kodak, Blue Cross, Toys “R” Us, and Military Sales.
Korkis has also been the off-camera announcer for the syndicated television series Secrets of the Animal Kingdom; has written articles for several Disney publications, including Disney Adventures, Disney Files (DVC), Sketches, and Disney Insider; and has worked on many different special projects for the Disney Company.
In 2004, Disney awarded Jim Korkis its prestigious Partners in Excellence award.
If you have a question for Jim Korkis that you would like to see answered here, please get in touch and let us know what's on your mind.
I was about 15 when I interviewed Jack Hannah with my little tape recorder and school notebook with questions printed neatly in ink. I learned to develop a very good memory because often when the tape recorder was running, people would freeze up. So, I sometimes turned off the tape recorder and just took notes which I later verified with the person. I always gave them a chance to review what they had said and make any changes. I lost a lot of great stories, although I still have them in my files for future generations, but gained a lot of trust.
I was very, very lucky. I was a kid, and it never occurred to me that when I saw their names in the end credits of the weekly Disney television show that I couldn't just find their names in the local phone book and call them up. Ninety percent of them were gracious, but there were about ten percent who thought it was a joke and that maybe one of their friends had put me up to phoning them.
It was like dominoes. Once I did one interview and the person was pleased, he put me in touch with others. After some of those interviews were published in my school paper and local newspapers, it gave me some greater credibility. Later, when they started to appear in magazines, I got even more opportunities.
JIM: You know, one of the proudest things for me about my books is that not a single factual error has been found.
To do my research, I start with all the interviews I've done over the past three decades, some of which are some available in the Walt's People series of books edited by Didier Ghezz. When necessary, I contact other Disney historians and authorities to fill in the gaps. And I have amassed a huge library of books, magazines, and documents.
When I moved from California to Florida, I brought with me over 20,000 pounds of Disney research material. The moving company that had just charged me a flat fee was shocked they had so severely underestimated the weight, and lost thousands of dollars. That was over fifteen years ago and the collection has only grown since that time.
About The Vault of Walt Series
JIM: I was fortunate to grow up in the Los Angeles area at a time when I had access to some of Walt’s original animators and Imagineers. They shared with me some wonderful stories. I wrote articles about their for various magazines and “fanzines” of the time. All of those publications are long gone and often difficult to find today.
As more and more of Walt’s “original cast” pass away, I realized that their stories had not been properly documented, and that unless I did something, they would be lost. Everyone always told me I should write a book telling these tales and finally I decided to do it.
JIM: She actually contacted me. Her son, Walter, loved the Disney history columns and articles I was writing and would send them to her. I was overwhelmed that she enjoyed them. She was appreciative that I tried to treat her dad fairly and not try to psycho-analyze why he did what he did.
She also liked that I revealed things she never knew about her father. As we talked and I told her I was doing the book, I asked if she would write the foreword. She agreed immediately and I had it within a week. She even invited me to go to the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and give a presentation. She is an incredible woman.
JIM: Obviously, the ones about her dad were a big hit. She especially liked the chapter about Walt and his feelings toward religion. She told me that it accurately reflected how she saw her dad act.
JIM: That’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. I tried to put in all the stories I loved because I figured this might be the only book about Disney I would ever write.
One chapter that I have grown to love even more since it was first published is the one about Walt’s love of miniatures. I recently found more information about that subject, and then on the trip to Disney Family Museum, I was able to spend hours examining some of Walt’s collection up close.
About Who's Afraid of the Song of the South?
JIM: I wanted to read a “Making of the Song of the South” book, but nobody else was ever going to write it. I wanted to know the history behind the production, why Walt made certain choices, and as many behind-the-scenes tidbits that could be told. I didn’t want to read a sociological thesis on racism.
Fortunately, over the years I had interviewed some of the people involved in the production, had seen the film multiple times, and had gathered material from pressbooks to newspaper articles to radio shows of the era.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Song of the South. I wanted to get the facts in print and let people make up their own minds.
JIM: I thought I knew a lot after being actively involved in Disney history for over three decades, but writing this book showed me how little I really know.
For example, I learned that it was Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck for decades, who did the whistling for Mr. Bluebird on Uncle Remus’ shoulder. I learned that Ward Kimball used to host meetings of UFO enthusiasts at his home. I learned that the Disney Company tried for years to make a John Carter of Mars feature. I learned that Walt himself tried to make a sequel to The Wizard of Oz. I learned that Disney operated a secret studio to make animated television commercials in the mid-1950s to raise money to build Disneyland. And so much more.
Even the most knowledgeable Disney fans will find new treasures of information on every page of this book.
JIM: Walt Disney was not racist. That is one of those urban myths which popped up long after Walt died, and so he was unable to defend himself.
In my book, I make it clear that Walt had no racist intent at all in making Song of the South. He merely wanted to share the famous Uncle Remus stories that he enjoyed as a child, and he treated the black cast with respect and generosity.
Many people don't realize that the events in the film take place after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction. So many offensive Hollywood films made at the same time as Song of the South, even one with little Shirley Temple, depicted the Old South during the Civil War in an unrealistic manner. Walt's film got lumped in with them, and he was a visible target for a much larger crusade.
With John Cawley:
This is what happened to the tigers that were supposed to prowl the Kali River Rapids...
The Asia area opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1999 and included the popular water ride Kali River Rapids.
Just as Walt Disney originally wanted live animals on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, Imagineers initially developed an attraction called Tiger Rapids Run for DAK. The attraction would be a water safari on large raft-like vehicles giving guests a different view of the tiger habitat as well as encounters with other animals before finishing by shooting the rapids and a drop that felt “like the bottom has dropped out of the river”, according to project director Joe Rohde.
There are still examples of tigers in the final attraction, including multiple references in the queue line as well as carved images on top of the wooden pagoda where guests board the rafts. Of course, the final animal stone sentinel at the top of the ninety-foot lift at the beginning of the ride is a tiger at the entrance to Tiger Bay.
Even though it was planned as a much longer ride than the version that was finally built, Imagineers decided that because of the speed of the attraction, guests might only see animals for fleeting seconds and that the noise and movement from the guests and the vehicles might disturb the animals.
So the attraction was changed into a botanical expedition where guests could enjoy the scenic beauty of the forest and then be shocked at how it is being ravaged and burned by illegal logging, just as Africa’s Kilimanjaro Safaris told the story of the dangers of poaching. Basically, the ride became an ecotourism experience with the sound of wildlife coming from hidden speakers.
All of this is explained in a voice-over during the queue line by the fictional owner:
Hello, my name is Manisha Gurung. I am the founder and manager of Kali Rapids Expeditions. When you board one of our rafts, you can look forward to an exciting, safe and very wet trip down a stretch of beautiful river. My team and I believe that our river rides are more than just an exciting adventure. We believe they help spread a message to visitors about preserving wild places. Like our forest.
All around Anandapur, logging companies in search of tropical hardwood have bitten deep into the jungle. When this happens, the traditional life of the village and forest is destroyed forever. I created this river rafting experience to demonstrate that there are nondestructive ways to bring revenue to the village because the more people like you care, the better chance our jungle has of surviving. Thanks for choosing Kali Rapids Expeditions. We hope your journey will show you a world that is truly worth saving.
Guring and her family live in a house elevated on stilts near the entrance of the attraction. Since Guring is busy elsewhere, she fails to hear that the logging has gotten too close to the river so is not there to stop guests from being dispatched.
Kali River Rapids was manufactured by Intamin (INTernational AMusement INstallations), a Swiss company noted for thrill rides and roller coasters. It built the very first “river rapids ride”, Thunder River, for AstroWorld in 1980. The company was also responsible for Grizzly River Run at Disney’s California Adventure in 2001.
Each circular raft with colorful individual names like Sherpa Surfer, Kali Bumper Car, and Manaslu Slammer seat twelve people around the perimeter as geysers, waterfalls, statues of water carriers, and squirting elephants soak the guests.
The bobbing up and down and spinning journey goes down the Chakranadi meaning the “river that flows in a circle” in Sanskrit which is why the rafts return to the same place they disembarked. The name Kali refers to the Hindu Goddess of destruction, referencing the smoldering charred tree trunks that originally featured fire effects.
Be warned that no matter what precautions you take, you will get wet but you MIGHT get soaked, depending upon the twists and turns of fate.
Continued in "MORE Secret Stories of Walt Disney World"!
Disney animator Ward Kimball had a wide stance? Well, if you're talking about his fingers, he did...
On May 1, 1989, Disney-MGM Studios officially opened with a dedication ceremony led by Disney CEO Michael Eisner. However, not long afterwards on that same day, there was another dedication ceremony in front of the Magic of Disney Animation building.
Roy E. Disney talked at a podium set up in the front of the attraction where he emphasized that hand-drawn animation was the focal point of the Disney company. He continued to emphasize that animation was the start of the company and that with the newly opened Disney Feature Animation Studio Florida, “a new day for animation will be dawning”. The animated feature film The Little Mermaid would debut in November, just six months later, proving Roy correct.
Joining in the dedication were several Disney animators who had made significant contributions to the field: Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Marc Davis, Ken O’Connor, and Ken Anderson. O’ Connor, who was primarily known for his work on backgrounds in Disney animated films, was there because he had worked as a consultant on the Back to Neverland short film being shown in the pavilion.
The one snag in the ceremony was a literal snag as the cover over the elaborate animation film strip sculpture at the front of the building got caught on a pointy outcropping of the sculpture. Amid the fanfare, releasing of balloons, and applause, several Disney executives struggled in a tug-of-war to release the red cover from its entanglement, and eventually succeeded.
There was also a ceremony where these six animation legends put their handprints and autographs into cement blocks to be placed in an alcove of the outdoor animation courtyard inside the building.
The original intention was that there were would be two handprints per block, as demonstrated on the one featuring Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, longtime friends as well as co-workers. Their hands and signatures are neatly and symmetrically imprinted, along with an impression of their pencils. This was how all the blocks were to look.
But another block features three handprints and signatures—Marc Davis, Ken Anderson, and Ken O’Connor—once again with impressions of their drawing pencils. Anderson’s signature seems crowded and his last name curves downward as if squeezed for space or an afterthought.
The secret is clear on the final block, with the handprint of the exuberant Ward Kimball, an extrovert known for being an unpredictable maverick. Not only did he make sure his pencil was broken before being imprinted, he also spread his fingers wide so he could make a second impression. Close examination will reveal that he has six fingers on each hand, something that most guests missed at a casual glance.
Also, in a fit of high spirits, he filled the bottom half of the block with a quick drawing of Mickey Mouse’s head in the space that was going to be filled by Ken Anderson. Who would be so bold as to wipe out a Mickey Mouse drawing by Ward Kimball? Apparently, no one. So Anderson squeezed in to a space on another block.
Those hidden handprints were available for every DHS guest to enjoy until they were removed when the Star Wars Launch Bay opened on December 1, 2015.
Continued in "MORE Secret Stories of Walt Disney World"!