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The WhimsiMagical Mousecast – Episode# 6 – Part 2 of the Story Of EPCOT and October Events in Walt Disney World

Florida in winter..no, no, no. Winter Florida, No that’s not it either. It’s Winter something or another and I know it has to do with Florida…Ahh, that’s it Project Winter which soon would come to be known as Project Future..

On our last episode of the WhimsiMagical Mousecast we left off with Walt Disney making the decision that Central Florida would become the home of his newest dream. But before the first children smiled, before the first ride was run, before the first of what would be millions of yards of dirt could be moved, before the 52 months of what would become in 1970 the largest private construction project in the United States and, of course before the very first Mickey Mouse Hat could be sold in the Magic Kingdom the land had to be acquired in a top secret manner befitting the CIA. Why all the secrecy, you may ask? Well, had anyone found out that it was Walt Disney and the Disney Company that was interested in buying land for what was to become, Walt Disney World the land prices would have skyrocketed so high, we would be trudging through swamps and watching cattle graze on the same land we now enjoy as “The Happiest Place on Earth”. There were secret trips researching the best place to build the City Of Tomorrow and The Magic Kingdom. Land deals taking place with multiple owners and companies such as Latin-American Development and Management Corporation, Reedy Creek Ranch, Inc., Bay Lake Properties, Ayefour Corporation and Tomahawk Properties, Inc. buying up massive quantities of land the acquisition of underground mineral rights, land successions, and many other legal challenges that had to be conquered to construct something, and believe me it wasn’t too long before the public and the local news organization were asking what?

In a situation that surely had Disney executives pacing the floor reporters were complicating things by speculating on who was behind the acquisitions of the options and what would ultimately come of them. To quell the rumors, at least temporarily, Paul Helliwell, a Miami Lawyer who was instrumental in ultimately helping the Disney Company in acquiring the land, was sent to speak with Billy Dial, an Orlando Banker and businessman on the growing potential of information being leaked. Dial, in turn, suggested that he speak with Martin Anderson, who was then publisher of the Orlando Sentinel. Fortunately for Disney, Mr. Anderson made a critical decision to meet with and tell his reporters and editors not to publish the true identity of the owners of the “dummy” corporations that had been acquiring all of the lad options even if the discovered it. This was the break Disney needed to finish several major purchases before the news came out.

Amazingly, by June of 1965 the Disney company, through it’s various “front or dummy” corporations had acquired the actual title or options to purchase twenty-seven thousand acres of land, that’s roughly forty-three square miles of land for a little more than five million dollars, in other words for an average of under two-hundred dollars per acre. Incredible!

Although some other parcels of land were purchased after the news was released that it was indeed the Disney Company that was purchasing the land, they as expected had to pay premium prices for the remaining land.

No with all of the cloak and dagger secrecy and manipulation of circumstances that were involved in actually obtaining the land, you would think that the hard part was over. But as everyone involved on the inside of the Disney Company knew since the beginning of this project, this was just the beginning of lots of planning, legislation to be created and adopted, hard work, millions of dollars in investment, sleepless nights and unforeseen challenges such as the loss of their visionary leader that had brought everyone to this point.

Yes, this was just the beginning and even though many of them had gone through the similar challenge of the creation of Disneyland, this was something new, something fresh and something that would come to change the future of what a theme park was considered to be…More than a destination, more than an experience, and more than just a resort.

Walt and Roy Disney and the other visionaries that followed them and worked with them had turned the Amusement Park industry on it’s ear in past years and set a standard that many other companies were still racing to catch up with and now just 10 years later they were at it again. This time creating something that the world had never seen. The future, here in the present, attractions that would astound generations of the young and young at heart. Creating a world where one could fully immerse themselves in a world of magic where anything was possible, where you could forget the cares of the outside world for at least a time, a  world that has never stopped growing, expanding, enchanting us with what imagination, ingenuity, and innovation can accomplish. 

In the summer of 1965, the world was wide open for Disney and as they looked forward towards the coming years in anticipation of the fruition of Walt’s dream, magic was indeed in the air and despite the challenges that everyone knew would come, Walt’s words reflected the mood of those who would come to create the most magical place on earth…It’s Kinda Fun To Do The Impossible!

 

 

Now with that we whish ourselves forward it time to the Modern Day World as we talk about what’s currently going on at Walt Disney World:

We’ve felt the cold of winter in January and February, experienced spring in all of it’s blooming splendor, and a spectacular summer. We have now arrived here in August with the last days of summer winding down. Children are returning to school and we are trying to squeeze in as many beach weekends as we can before the cooler winds of autumn and changing color of the leaves sweep in to our lives and bring us ever closer to the holiday season. But…Santa Claus isn’t coming to town quite yet and Jack Skellington is just starting to get ready for his yearly run…. That’s right October, and for that matter Halloween is right around the corner. It has always also been my favorite time of the year to visit Walt Disney World.

Now visiting the world while children are back in school can be a challenge, but if you are fortunate enough for your children to have a fall break in October (as we are here in Louisiana) and you can time it just right with the weekend previous to it, you can squeeze in a 4 to 5 day trip to the house of the mouse with your children missing very little or no school at all. Granted in takes planning, patience and persistence but it can also be a very rewarding time to visit in terms of lower attendance and crowds the earlier in the month that you can go. As far as it being “off season” well as any true Disney fan knows these days, there is no “off season”. There are just times that you may be able to navigate the parks with lower attendance that in the summer months or directly around holidays. That being said, October is still my favorite time to visit as it is a bit cooler in October and it still seems that things are not as “rushed” and move, at albeit, a little slower pace. It seems like you can take the time to enjoy a nice stroll, savor the view or just take in the atmosphere and environment in what I still consider a magical place. We also cannot forget for us foodies and kids at heart that it is also the time of year that you can enjoy my personal favorite the International Food and Wine Festival which is now in it’s 18th year with it’s Eat To The Beat Concert Series and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party during the same vacation. First things first, while I love the chance to sample cuisine and wines from around the world, I always relish the chance to not only watch my children enjoy Walt Disney World, but to only if for a time, be a kid again myself and what a better place to do it than to dress up in costume along with my family and enjoy the tricks and the treat of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Now it does require special tickets to attend this event and they are limited so you need to get them as soon as possible to ensure that they do not sell out on a night (or two) that you wish to attend. Now if you haven’t been to these special nights in years past you may question why you would want to pay for an additional ticket for each of your party to attend. Well much like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in late November and December, it gives you a chance to see the Magic Kingdom in a totally different light…literally!

Each night of the party the Magic Kingdom is lit up in a delightfully “ghoulish” way and decorated to match the festivities. As I said earlier not only should you dress up but one of little pleasures of the night is seeing all of the great costumes that other guests are wearing. Disney does offer trick or treat candy stations around the Magic Kingdom for the little ones but this does take a bit of time to do when taking in to account for the line waiting times. So you may want to consider bring some candy with you for the younger ones and if you have older children or traveling without kids, you can spend the time enjoying the rides, activities, shows and parades going on throughout the evening.

Time for a couple of tips –

·        On the night or nights that you will be attending MNSSHP, even though the party doesn’t officially start until 7:00PM you can arrive as early as 4:00PM to catch a couple of rides or enjoy something to eat until the festivities begin.

·        Bear in mind that the closer to Halloween night that the party starts seeing larger and larger crowds. If you can visit in the earlier part of October you will be able to take advantage of the lower attewndance levels to be able to see and do more while at the party. Typically  week nights/school nights are even slower nights (typically in my experience, Tuesdays are best in terms of lighter crowds) and on some of these nights you can just about walk onto some of your favorite rides (although at this time of year the Haunted Mansion does see normal to higher levels of riders so keep this in mind). 

There’s more fun than you can shake a pumpkin at going on during the evening everywhere you turn including a stage show featuring your favorite Disney villains in front of what becomes a ghoulish version of Cinderella Castle and here’s another tip…want to meet some of the villains, hang out for a bit after the show as they spread out into the crowd to mix & mingle and spread some mischievous fun. 

You can also enjoy Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade but be careful not to lose your head as the Grandmaster of the parade is none other than the Headless Horseman. The parade is great fun and features all sorts of Disney characters in their own Halloween costumes… and of course, the grim grinning ghosts from the Haunted Mansion along with others will be stirring up lots of ghostly delights.

But if you want to attend the party, be sure to get your tickets in advance as your favorite night could sell out, especially the closer to Halloween that you visit.

For more information on Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Ticket prices, schedules and activities check out our show notes page for this episode for the links or you can call Walt Disney World direct at 407-939-5277

We mentioned earlier that the Magic Kingdom would be decorated for the occasion, and it is over the top as all of Main Street and the rest of the Magic Kingdom takes on a Halloween makeover with special lighting, decorations and lots of little surprises around every turn.

What better way to end a special night than with a special fireworks show set to remixes of the Disney Villian’s theme songs. The Happy HalloWishes finale will have you remembering this happy nightmare for a long time to come.

Back at EPCOT as I mentioned earlier The International Food and Wine Festival always makes this my favorite time of the year to visit Walt Disney World. Don’t get me wrong, I love sampling the various international food booths scattered across World Showcase and the wine samplings are always enjoyable as long as I keep a watchful eye on just how many I sample. But there are lots of seminars & demonstrations and other things to do, see, smell and taste. Some of these are free while others may require an additional fee and/or reservations to attend.

Now this can be an expensive and time consuming proposition if you are determined to try everything while you are here. But for most of us who don’t have an unlimited budget, I have found that with a little advance planning you can research and decide what is a “must do” and what you can do without. Also you can use the envelope system to allot so much money per day to experience the great cuisine and activities that EPCOT has to offer during this time.

Now one of the great free things to do at night at EPCOT during this time is the Eat To The Beat Concert Series. Enjoy a bite to eat and a drink while watching some of the great music acts from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s performing live at the America Gardens Theater right across from the American Adventure in World Showcase. For 2013 there are some great acts lined up and to give a quick run down of the acts that will be performing:

STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas

Will be performing from September 27 to September 29, 2013 

The Go-Go’s*

From September 30 to October 1, 2013

Air Supply

From October 2 to October 4, 2013

Sister Hazel

From October 5 to October 6, 2013 

Sugar Ray

From October 7 to October 9, 2013 

Edwin McCain*

From October 10 to October 11, 2013 

The Manhattan Transfer*

From October 12 to October 13, 2013 

Wilson Phillips*

From October 14 to October 15, 2013

The Pointer Sisters

From October 16 to October 17, 2013 

Night Ranger

From October 18 to October 20, 2013 

Boyz II Men

From October 21 to October 23, 2013

Survivor

From October 24 to October 25, 2013 

38 Special

From October 26 to October 27, 2013

Smash Mouth

From October 28 to October 30, 2013 

Spin Doctors*

From October 31 to November 1, 2013 

Christopher Cross*

From November 2 to November 3, 2013 

Hanson

From November 4 to November 5, 2013 

Dennis DeYoung (original member of STYX)

From November 6 to November 8, 2013

 

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

From November 9 to November 11, 2013

 

Want to brush up on your culinary arts or become the wine afficiando in your group of friends? Well you’re in luck. The EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival also offers a variety of seminars and demonstrations that can take your skills to the next level. You can aquire the skill to prepare an amazing dish to ravish your friends eyes as well as their taste buds, spend some time learning about cheese from some of the foremost cheese merchants around the world and learn to mix one of a kind cocktails like a master mixologist for someone you really want to impress.

 

For some simply knowing what wine goes well with fish is enough, but if you really want to know about wine you can enroll in one of three courses offered over the course of the festival and be taught a little more about the art and skill that goes into great wine making by one of three expert instructors. But make no mistake, this is for those who are serious about wine. Discover the art of the grape.

Of all the things that there are to do at the Food and Wine Festival, what attracts me and many others to EPCOT at this time of the year is the food. Food of all types from all over the globe. With over 25 unique market places you can choose from ethnic and domestic dishes to satiate just about any palate and to quench any thirst you develop, there a variety of liquid refreshments in the way of native wine and/or beers at each marketplace available for adults over the age of 21; and of course drinks for the younger ones as well. Just be sure as we said earlier to budget accordingly as refresments and foods from the marketplaces do come at an additional cost and are not included with your addmission to EPCOT.

You know, visiting several countries in a day and sampling food and drink from multiple cultures can be tiring but save enough energy to finish out your day with the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworks and multimedia display. Just be sure to get a good viewing spot early as all the best ones fill up fast. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the WhimsiMagical Mousecast be sure to catch our next show where we will continue with part 3 of our 4 part series on EPCOT from what is was to be to what it is today. You can always listen to this podcast as well as our other shows at our website at ithrivehere.com and at thewhimsimagicalmousecast.com. If you like this show please consider subscribing so you don’t miss a single episode and we also ask that you give us a positive rating on iTunes. Thank you for joining us on The WhimsiMagical Mousecast and never forget that the real magic happens when you pursue your dreams…Godspeed.

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