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House-by-house review of Howl-O-Scream 2014 at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, serving up freaky new favorites

House-by-house review of Howl-O-Scream 2014 at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, serving up freaky new favorites

A curse has descended upon Busch Gardens Williamsburg and anyone who dares ventures into the walls is in for quite a thrill. This year’s events brings back many of the staples from previous years while making a few new additions – some welcomed with open arms and some needing work.

This is the first year Inside the Magic has covered the Williamsburg event, after many years of covering the event of the same name and theme in its sister park in Tampa. Though there are some similarities, it’s largely a very different event.

With a crisp chill in the air and a little less sunlight every night as we inch deeper into fall, Halloween is at full steam at the Williamsburg park, which is celebrating Howl-O-Scream for the 16th year.

Howl-O-Scream 2014 at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

This year, all Howl-O-Scream guests can enjoy six haunted houses, three live shows, five terror-tories (or scare zones), and five specialty bars. For additional cost, park goers can attend two dinner shows offers – Blood Banquet, hosted by a family of vampires at the Vampire Point Hotel, and the newly added Igor’s Fright Feast, in which Igor gets to be the star after living in the shadow of Dr. Freakenstein at the Fiends show and also gets to enjoy the company of the infamous naughty nurses.

Haunted Houses

13: Your Number’s Up

One of the most popular and well-done houses is 13: Your Number’s Up. The house, which is located inside the queue and ride area of Europe In the Air in the Ireland section of the park, plays off of the real fears of its denizens. It each of its 13 rooms lurks a scene that will drill into a common fear, such as claustrophobia – a fear of being close in small spaces, agoraphobia – a fear of heights, ophidiophobia – a fear of snakes, and even dentophobia – a fear of the dentist. 13 has amazing effects and set design that are interesting and original and keep even guests without the fear of the room on their toes. However, the fear takes over some guests and slows them down, which results in the occasional traffic backup in the house. This is especially true in the claustrophobia room, which disorients guests. These backups disrupt the pace of the house and can take away from the experience. Also, the fears addressed in each room are not identified as you walk through, which can leave some guests confused and wondering what fear they just witnessed.


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One man connected EPCOT Center from The Land to The Living Seas to Norway

One man connected EPCOT Center from The Land to The Living Seas to Norway

If you know EPCOT, you know the three headlined pavilions here all contained a film. What you might not know is that the films in all three of these pavilions are connected by something more; all were directed by the same person – Paul Gerber.

When I started working on the EPCOT Center project in my role as the Post-Production Supervisor, I would occasionally have to log in some film that had been shot in some portion of the world for The Land pavilion film to be called “Symbiosis.”

I did not know Paul, and had never heard of him, but I would schedule dailies so that the executive producer, Randy Bright, and the rest of the WED Film Production team could see the raw footage. It was some beautiful cinematography, filmed at locations all over the world – from rice paddies in Asia to forests in America. It seemed like the production team was travelling around the world, which I later found out they were – two times during the shooting of the film.

Eventually, Paul and his team came to the Disney Studios in Burbank on one of their trips home to look at their footage, and I met him in late 1981. He did not really have a script for the film, as he was still shooting it. He was basically following an outline, so I could not really have an editor start working on the film. All he asked me to do was have the footage logged, and a copy of the logs sent to him so he could start working on a script for the documentary.

After meeting him, I asked Don Henderson, the manager of WED Film Production, about Paul’s background. Don informed me that Paul was the brother-in-law of Marty Sklar, the Vice President of WED Enterprises Creative Division, and my future boss.

Eventually Paul finished his filming schedule, and came back to Burbank to write and edit his film. Paul was very demanding, he wrote and rewrote his narration as he edited. His first rough cut came in at a length of nearly 25 minutes. Operations wanted the film to be able to be shown three times an hour for capacity reasons, meaning the film had to be cut down to approximately 17 minutes long. Back to the edit bay he went. He also wanted a music track that would be distinctly different from the standard Disney theme park music others were contemplating, and brought in Patrick Gleason for the music that would play behind the necessarily wordy narration track.

Other than being in 70mm and being projected at 30 frames-per-second (standard film is projected at 24 frames-per-second), the post-production of the film went fairly smoothly after that. Though, like most other things for EPCOT Center, the film was way over its original budget. Unlike “Magic Journeys,” the film was shipped to Florida in plenty of time to get programmed for running in the Land Pavilion.

After EPCOT opened in 1982, and I transferred to WED, I would periodically chat with Paul, usually when he would want to have a screening of “Symbiosis” for a producer he was hoping to work with. Meanwhile, at WED, development was proceeding for The Living Seas pavilion.

The pavilion was designed to have a film that would be seen before boarding the “Hydrolators” that would take park guests to “Sea Base Alpha.” The original concept for that film was going to involve Neptune in an animated form talking about the origin of the Seas, and how it impacted all life on the planet. Due to budget concerns, that concept was tabled.

It was decided that the film would take a more documentary approach, and would have a very limited budget of less than $1 million. Paul was brought in to write a new approach to the film that would be live action, I was told to work with the projection engineers to come up with a format that would not be costly, and that would enable Paul to use existing stock footage as much as possible. So we specified the projection system to be a standard 35mm 1:85 Academy ratio.

I remember having a conversation with Don Henderson, who was still a consultant with WED, and joking that Paul’s script would require him to go shoot new live action film all around the world. My joke was prescient, sure enough Paul’s first script had him shooting in seas and oceans all around the world, and would not use as much stock footage as had been indicated.

Well, Paul came down for meetings on the film script and Don was directed by Randy to “talk with Paul” about the budget issue. The talk did get a bit loud at times, but after a couple days, Paul came to see me and asked about seeing some stock footage that had been gathered for potential use in the film. Paul rewrote the script, and though it still required some new filming, it was a much more limited shooting schedule, and did not need the production company to go around the world.

Paul did bring the film in for the budget, and it was completed with plenty of time for programming the theaters where it would be shown in the pavilion, in conjunction with the United Technologies preshow. It also had a much less wordy narration, something Randy and other WED creative executives were looking for.

Shortly after The Living Seas opened, word came down to work on concepts for the eventual Norway Pavilion. The concept was for a boat ride, but the sponsors (a consortium of companies from the country) wanted something that would show off modern Norway. So it was decided to add a film to the concept, only instead of being viewed before going onto the boat ride that would become known as “Maelstrom,” it would be viewed after riding the ride.

They also wanted a high quality image, so we decided to go with 70mm for the film, only this time projecting it at a standard 24 frames-per-second. I was managing film production at Walt Disney Imagineering by then and when I was told to use Paul Gerber, I joked with him that he wouldn’t be going around the world for this project, just halfway around the world. By then the engineers had worked out that the length of the film would have to be no more than five minutes long, matching up the theater’s capacity to the hourly capacity of the ride.

The production went smoothly and efficiently, and Paul was also very efficient in his narration, letting the film, which was a commercial for Norway, tell the story visually.
Paul was still very demanding, but the budget constraints, which were severe, kept his demands in check, as I had a performance clause inserted into his contract that he would get a slight bonus if he brought it in on budget. He did.

“Norway” was the last film Paul would produce for Disney. The company’s direction for future projects was to use more talent from Hollywood stars and directors that Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted for the films.

But Paul stands as the only film director to, at one time, have three films running for park guests at EPCOT Center at the same time. Of course, over time the Symbiosis film was changed, though the new one used some of the footage Paul had shot. The Living Seas was changed, ditching the preshow, film and hydrolators all together for a ride that incorporated the characters from “Finding Nemo.” Norway lasted the longest, though the film frequently ran with the doors open so that guests would not have to watch the film.

Now the ride is being converted into an attraction based on the highly successful film “Frozen.” What the future plans are for the theater in the pavilion, we shall see when it reopens. Paul Gerber’s films are frozen in the past as part of the history of EPCOT.


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“Frozen” inspired wedding dress by Alfred Angelo revealed in New York fashion show from Disney Fairytale Weddings

“Frozen” inspired wedding dress by Alfred Angelo revealed in New York fashion show from Disney Fairytale Weddings

A “Frozen” wedding dress inspired by Queen Elsa was revealed last week by Alfred Angelo and Disney Fairytale Weddings.

Influenced by Elsa’s “Snow Queen” dress in the scene from “Let It Go,” the dress designed by Alfred Angelo features a fitted bodice and flared hemline with a flurry of sparkling beads and crystals that taper off toward the bottom.

Frozen wedding dress reveal from Alfred Angelo

Frozen wedding dress reveal from Alfred Angelo

Frozen wedding dress reveal from Alfred Angelo

Frozen wedding dress reveal from Alfred Angelo

Also announced is a new feature that will be added to the 2015 Disney Fairytale Weddings by Alfred Angelo line. Each gown will be available not only in traditional white but also in a color inspired by the individual princess. For instance, the Elsa dress will also be available in ice blue, Rapunzel’s in lavender, and Snow White’s in deep apple red.


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Walt Disney World names 2015-2016 ambassadors in special ceremony to represent thousands of cast members

Walt Disney World names 2015-2016 ambassadors in special ceremony to represent thousands of cast members

Walt Disney World Resort has presented two Cast Members with the opportunity to serve as the next Disney Ambassadors as the program celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The ceremony was held at Epcot on Friday, October 10, where 2 out of 5 finalists were to be selected as the 2015-2016 Disney Ambassadors. Caitlin Busscher and Nathaniel Palma were selected to represent nearly 70,000 Cast Members in sharing the magic, inspiration and optimism of Disney throughout the resort and community as ambassadors of Walt Disney World Resort.


Video: President George Kalogridis Welcomes Walt Disney World’s New Ambassadors


Nathaniel Palma (Left), George A. Kalogridis (Center), Caitlin Busscher (Right)

Prior to their roles as Ambassadors, Caitlin Busscher worked as a costuming leader at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and the Jedi Training Academy while Nathaniel Palma worked as a performer and trainer in entertainment at Magic Kingdom.

Caitlin and Nathaniel will be part of occasions such as Downtown Disney becoming Disney Springs, Animal Kingdom debuting the ‘Rivers of Light’ show and nighttime Kilimanjaro Safari ride, and other special events.

While Mickey carried the scroll which had the names of the new ambassadors, Minnie presented the selected 2015-2016 Disney Ambassadors with the official pins as part of the announcement.

The Disney Ambassador Program dates back to 1965 when Walt Disney selected the first Ambassador, Julie Reihm (below) who appeared on the behalf of the parks when Walt was not available.

We wish Caitlin and Nathaniel best of luck in their roles as ambassadors of Walt Disney World.


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D-Tales #4 – Test Track Tributes and Hidden Disney History harken back to World of Motion, classic Walt Disney World

D-Tales #4 – Test Track Tributes and Hidden Disney History harken back to World of Motion, classic Walt Disney World

Test Track at Epcot holds many secrets, some having to do with this attraction’s rich history and former life as the World of Motion pavilion. Once you start looking closely, you’ll notice tributes everywhere in this ride!

The throwbacks to World of Motion – a slow-moving “OmniMover” ride in the vein of Spaceship Earth that originally occupied the building now used for Test Track – start outside.


Video: D-Tales #4: Test Track Hidden Disney History


Like all EPCOT Center pavilions, World of Motion had its own logo that looked like a backwards “C” in a circular shape. It can be seen today as an oversized background on the banners outside the ride.

The logo is also visible atop the signage for wait times.

Even the trashcans sport the logo on one side.

In the loading zone, the logo is again visible on the backside of this post.

Since the theme of Test Track is about automobiles, it’s only logical that a tribute to the Disney movie CARS would appear here. The phrase “turn right to go left” comes straight from the movie, and appears in the zigzag mountainous scenes in the ride.

Once your car bursts outside, keep a sharp eye out for signs. Several of them hold hidden meaning! The first one reads simply “82″ in recognition of 1982, the year EPCOT Center opened.

The next sign shows a picture of a futuristic city, which echoes a model of the same future city seen earlier in the ride right after the brake test. Both are actually tributes to World of Motion, which included a show scene for CenterCore, a city of the future with spiraling buildings.

The third sign is the most interesting. It hold the familiar World of Motion logo and includes the letters “FN2BFRE.” When spoken aloud, they say “Fun to be Free,” the name of the theme song for World of Motion heard throughout that former attraction.

But the biggest secret in Test Track hides inside, back in the scene that shows riders their own car in a mirror. On the opposite wall is a schematic of a test vehicle, and lights sweep across that wall as if performing a scan. The scanning lights illuminate the background briefly, and visitors can spot words written here. Some of it is basic press release type information about the Test Track attraction, but there are other hidden details in here.

The tires have “WED Performance” inscribed on them, in honor of W.E.D. – not only Walter Elias Disney’s initials, but also the original name of Walt Disney Imagineering, the division of the company that built theme parks.

Near the top is a curious thing: an Internet address given as a URL. You  might think at first it was a careless inclusion of just any old text, but if you type in the whole URL - http://wdw2.wdpromedia.com/media/WDW_NextGen/favicon.ico – you’ll find a small Mickey Mouse icon. In other words, this hard-to-see text is a “Hidden Mickey,” perhaps the most hidden one of them all!


About Kevin Yee

After working for 15 years at Disneyland, Kevin moved to the East Coast, where he has been a weekly visitor of Walt Disney World since 2004. Kevin is the author of the second edition of Walt Disney World Hidden History (2014). This softcover book tracks Disney “hidden history” — remnants of former attractions and tributes to Imagineers as well as other Disney officials — hiding in plain sight in the parks. The second edition of the book has 164 new entries, almost doubling the amount of remnants and tributes discussed in the first edition.

Whether tribute or remnant, each item discussed starts with something visible in today’s parks; the idea is that this is something you could visit and see with your own eyes, and then appreciate the historical thinking behind it. For the first time, this edition now includes a photo of every item discussed so you’ll know what to look for.

The Kindle version costs $6.99. (You can also read a Kindle book on PC or Mac even without a Kindle device – the software itself is free.)


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