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49: Learn About the People Behind the Names on the Main Street, U.S.A. Windows

When you first step into the Magic Kingdom, it’s hard to take your eyes off Cinderella Castle straight in front of you, or you may make a beeline for Space Mountain. Even if you do spend some time on Main Street U.S.A., there are many tempting shops to browse in and goodies to savor.

Rainy Day on Main Street, U.S.A.

Rainy Day on Main Street, U.S.A.

But if you have a moment or two, you may want to take some time and look up. You’ll see names on the windows above the shops around you… names of people that are significant to Walt Disney World. When Walt Disney imagined Disneyland, he wanted guests to experience a show, and these names roll out like the credits of a movie, honoring the people who helped bring it to life. Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom “rolls the credits” in the same way.

My tool on the quest to learn more about the people behind the names was the book Windows on Main Street by Chuck Snyder.

Windows on Main Street Chuck Snyder
Guests can find it all over Disney World, but may find it especially handy to pick up in the Magic Kingdom’s Emporium to dig in right away. The book is a guide to the windows in Disneyland and Disney World, and I’d like to share a little bit of what I learned. You will find more detailed information in the book, along with a map letting you know where you can find each individual window. There is also a terrific foreword written by Imagineer Marty Sklar (who now has his own window) explaining the history and tradition of the windows.

Buddy Baker wrote the well-loved music for the Haunted Mansion, as well as orchestrations for Disney’s Carousel of Progress and “It’s a Small World” (the Sherman Brothers composed the songs themselves).

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World (1)
Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World (19)
I have a special appreciation for anyone involved with the creation of the Haunted Mansion in any way (it’s my favorite attraction). Yale Gracey was a special-effects artist known best for his work on the effects in the Haunted Mansion. You’ll find nods to “Master Gracey” in the attraction itself as well.

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Yale Gracey (3)
Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Yale Gracey (4)

"Master Gracey's" grave at the Haunted Mansion

“Master Gracey’s” grave at the Haunted Mansion

“Sully” Sullivan (his given name is Bill) was very actively involved in the creation of Disney World, after having started his career as a ticket taker in Disneyland. He oversaw the management of three lands including Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, and Liberty Square.

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Sully Sullivan (36)
Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Sully Sullivan (37)
Card Walker began his Disney career in 1938 in the Disney Studio. He started in the mailroom, and eventually made his way up to President of the Disney Company in 1971.

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Card Walker (8)
Tony Baxter came up with concepts for several favorite attractions including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Star Tours. My favorite tidbit about him, though, is that he began his Disney career as a sweeper and scooper of ice cream :) .

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Tony Baxter (15)
Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Tony Baxter (16)

I wanted to learn about this next window, honoring “Miss Joyce, Dollmaker for the World,” primarily because it was one of the few women’s names that I found. I suppose much of that has to do with the era when Disneyland and Disney World were developed.

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World (43)
I didn’t find Joyce in my book, so I did a little digging online. I found (thanks to this great post at allears.net from “The ‘World’ According to Jack” column) that Joyce Carlton played a major role in the creation of the “It’s a Small World” attraction, which makes her “Dollmaker” title especially fitting. Ms. Carlton was also the first woman Cast Member to reach 50 years of working for the Disney company.

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World (42)

And there are windows for the Disney men themselves.

Elias Disney, father to Walt and Roy:

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Elias Disney (7)
Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Elias Disney (6)
Roy Disney, Walt’s brother who played every bit as important a role in the creation of Disneyland and Disney World as Walt:

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Roy O Disney (31)
Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World Roy O Disney (30)
The panels pictured below are from the attraction Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream. Click to enlarge to read a little about the role Roy played in Walt’s life, Disneyland, and Disney World.

“Walt recalled, ‘Roy was one of the kindest fellows I’ve ever known in my life.’ “

One Mans Dream Roy Disney (2)
“When the idea for Disneyland at last solidified in Walt’s mind, it was Roy who took the concept to New York bankers and secured the funding to make Walt’s dream a reality.”

One Mans Dream Roy Disney (5)
After Walt’s death, Roy oversaw the development of Disney World, “changing the name to ‘Walt Disney World’ so that, in Roy’s words, ‘people will always know that this was Walt’s dream.’ “

One Mans Dream Roy Disney (1)
And, of course, Walt Disney himself:

Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World (16)
Main Street Windows Magic Kingdom Disney World (18)
Walt also has the highest window at the train station overseeing everything at the Magic Kingdom which you can see even before entering the park.

Walt Disney Window Magic Kingdom Train Station
There he is credited with “Keeping Dreams on Track.”

Not a bad way to spend a life :) .

54: Meet the Walt Disney World Horses

You may have seen them on Main Street, U.S.A., pulling an old-fashioned street car or maybe even Cinderella’s coach during an evening parade.

SWW 006
They are the Walt Disney World Horses, and I was so excited to visit them at their home… the stables of Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds!

Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch (1)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Stables(117)
From the Walt Disney World website:

“Stroll through the stables to see Cinderella’s Ponies and the majestic horses of Main Street, U.S.A.. You can watch the blacksmith make horseshoes and affix them to horses’ hooves, and discover the Dragon Calliope—the horse-drawn musical instrument that Walt Disney purchased for the Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade at Disneyland Park in the 1950s.

Animal lovers of all ages will delight in the variety of breeds that live at Tri-Circle-D Ranch, including Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales, paint horses, Percherons and quarter horses, plus Shetland ponies.”

Upon entering the stables you’ll see a small room to the right, dedicated to Walt Disney’s love of horses and a pictorial history of horses in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch (41)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Walt Disney (50)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Walt Disney (142)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Walt Disney (141)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Walt Disney (145)
And if you caught that mention of the Calliope in the quote above… here ya go!

Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Calliope (73)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Calliope (72)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Calliope (71)
I’m happy to introduce you to a few of my new friends :)! You’ll find their names in the caption boxes for each picture. How did I learn their names? Well, since these horses are official Cast Members, they receive the iconic Cast Member name badge!

Cast Member Name Badge for Beau

Cast Member Name Badge for Beau!

JAKE

JAKE

JOHN

JOHN

BEAU

BEAU

RALPH

RALPH

SULLY (and Jake) :)

SULLY (and Jake!)

BLAZE

BLAZE

TOM

TOM

You can learn a bit about the horses from some facts included with their Name Badges.

Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch (151)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch (39)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch John (164)
Just outside the main building, you’ll find the home for these pretty ponies who pull Cinderella’s coach in parades and Disney Weddings.

Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Cinderella Ponies (67)
Disney World Horses Tri Circle D Ranch Cinderella Ponies (105)
Like so many other things at Fort Wilderness, visiting the horses provides a very peaceful change of pace from the bustling Parks. Boat and bus service for Fort Wilderness is offered to and from the Magic Kingdom (bus service is available to and from Downtown Disney), and you do not need to be staying at the Campgrounds to visit this special place.

Tri Circle D Ranch
What other ways can you get to know these beautiful animals? (Pricing/height & age requirements for these experiences is available via the links below)

  • Ride a Horse-drawn Carriage! In addition to Fort Wilderness, you can also enjoy a picturesque ride along the Sassagoula River from Port Orleans – Riverside. (During the Holiday season, carriages at Fort Wilderness are converted to festive “Sleighs”!)Disney Horsedrawn Carriage Ride
  • See Fort Wilderness on horseback! Horseback Trail Rides at Fort Wilderness are welcoming to beginners.
  • “Pint-sized cowpokes” can enjoy Pony Rides at Fort Wilderness. (Cute saying borrowed directly from the Disney website ;) )Tri Circle D Ranch Pony Rides (106)
  • Wagon rides at Fort Wilderness are available for families as well as large groups.

Saddle up :)!

2: Take “The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains” Tour

“In some way or another, I have always loved trains.”
Walt Disney

Who doesn’t love this sight?

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (4)
Seeing one of the four Walt Disney World steam trains pulling up in front of the Magic Kingdom means you are about to start a day at the Most Magical Place on Earth! But there is so much more to these trains than a way to bring guests to the various lands of the Magic Kingdom. And you can “get to know” these beautiful trains and the Engineers behind them through The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour.

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (28)

The tour started off with an opportunity to see something not many people get to see… an empty Main Street, U.S.A.

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (7)

During the tour, we received an up-close lesson on how these genuine steam trains operate.

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (9)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (31)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (33)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (32)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (34)

We learned about Walt Disney and his passion for trains, how that affection impacted the design of Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, and how trains played a part of the creation of Mickey Mouse.

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (36)

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (3)

“He [Mickey Mouse] popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner.”
Walt Disney

We even went “backstage” to the Round House where the trains are housed and cared for, and had a very unique chance for some cool photo opportunities.

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (13)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (10)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (11)
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Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (15)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (20)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (21)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (24)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (26)
Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (27)

And the best part: we got to know one of the Engineers who shared his expertise and love of the trains with us.

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (17)

Joe, our Engineer Tour Guide, spent part of the tour explaining how much pressure and force you need to exert to pull a train’s throttle.

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (18)
He ended with words I don’t want to forget, so I’ll record them here:

“Sometimes when it’s late at night and I’m tired and I’m doing that last run on the train, I swear I can feel Walt’s spirit pull the throttle with me.”

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (1)
Information regarding Tours at Walt Disney World:

  • For a comprehensive list of all tours offered at Walt Disney World, click here. You may be amazed by some of the experiences offered! Pricing and length of time varies per tour.
  • Most of the tours bring guests “Backstage,” and are restricted to ages 16 and up so as to not spoil the magic for children. However, a few of the tours do welcome families and one even caters to children. Be aware of welcomed ages prior to booking.
  • Discounts for several tours are often available for Disney Visa card holders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and Walt Disney World Annual Passholders.
  • Tours are held rain or shine, as evidenced by my awesome “Florida” rain poncho, purchased at the Walgreen’s just outside of Downtown Disney moments before our tour ;)!

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (5)

Information specific to The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour:

  • At the time of this writing, this tour if offered from 7:30-10:30 am on select days of the week, and the cost is $49.99. Be sure to call (407) WDW-TOUR for the most up-to-date information and for scheduling.
  • Since Magic Kingdom parking may not be open, guests for this tour may park at the Contemporary Resort and walk to the Magic Kingdom entrance (have your confirmation number handy).
  • Don’t have time on your vacation to take a tour? You can still chat with a Disney World Train Engineer! Engineers offer free half hour presentations in the Carolwood Pacific Room at the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Currently offered on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, but you can contact the Wilderness Lodge ahead of time to confirm (407-824-3200).

Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (2)

62: Visit The Disney Wilderness Preserve

The text below is printed on the signs at the main house upon entering The Disney Wilderness Preserve (owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy):

1 Disney Wilderness Preserve (20)

“The story of The Disney Wilderness Preserve begins with the U.S. Clean Water Act – a law that requires wetlands damaged by human activity to be “mitigated” (replaced elsewhere). The Preserve is a mitigation project established in 1992 with the purchase of 8,500 acres. This project was the result of an unprecedented agreement among The Nature Conservancy, Walt Disney World Co. and several public agencies. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and other businesses have since added acreage.

This mitigation project is a creative approach to balancing the needs of the environment and development in an area of rapid growth. Under the agreement, The Nature Conservancy is implementing a program of restoration, stewardship, research and education on a vast tract of former ranch land.

As the story unfolds, together we are discovering and sharing ways to protect our natural heritage for generations to come.”

Click on any of the images below to enlarge.

2 Disney Wilderness Preserve (21)

3 Disney Wilderness Preserve (29)

Disney Wilderness Preserve (30)

Disney Wilderness Preserve (40)

Disney Wilderness Preserve (41)

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Disney Wilderness Preserve (63)
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Disney Wilderness Preserve (67)
Disney Wilderness Preserve (68)
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Disney Wilderness Preserve (78)
Disney Wilderness Preserve (79)
Disney Wilderness Preserve (85)
Disney Wilderness Preserve (86)
Disney Wilderness Preserve (87)
Disney Wilderness Preserve (88)
Disney Wilderness Preserve (92)

  • The Disney Wilderness Preserve is located 25 miles southeast of Walt Disney World. Operating hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (the trail closes at 4:30 pm). All information necessary to plan a visit can be found here.
  • Hiking/meandering the full loop (2.5 miles) takes approximately an hour and a half. No big hills or anything to worry about—it’s still Flat Florida :).
  • Do yourself a favor… do NOT wear flip-flops :).  Wear comfortable and protective walking shoes.
  • Be sure to bring sunscreen—the trees are lovely at the Preserve, but there are not many shaded areas.
  • Consider bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy at the picnic tables—I wish I had!
  • There is no charge to enter, but donations are accepted and appreciated :).

My pictures show you some of the lush and unique foliage, but they do little to convey the true beauty and peacefulness of the Preserve. Aside from the very few other guests we encountered, the silence (aside from the sound of the breeze and pretty bird songs) was amazing, especially considering how close it is to one of the most popular vacation destinations on earth. A DEFINITE change of pace—and a refreshing one. I would especially encourage FL locals to stop by.

I know not everyone can take time from their Disney vacation for this experience, but please know that there IS an area like this on Walt Disney World property–you just can’t tour it. Walt Disney instructed that 10,000 acres of the land he purchased in FL remain untouched to preserve it’s natural beauty and wildness. Guests can see this area best from the overlook at Wilderness Lodge–it encompasses Bay Lake and the forested area on the opposite side. But the piece of land that serves as the Preserve is so beautiful and unique that I just wanted people to know that it’s out there, and at least enjoy a virtual tour :). Thanks for “visiting”!

75: Read a biography about Walt Disney

I’ve spent many wonderful hours curled up in a comfy chair in the Carolwood Pacific Room, with a fireplace in front of me…

Carolwood Pacific Room Wilderness Lodge (8)

… and Walt Disney’s train cars behind me.

Carolwood Pacific Room Wilderness Lodge (4)
Carolwood Pacific Room Wilderness Lodge (7)
Carolwood Pacific Room Wilderness Lodge (6)
The time was spent reading Bob Thomas’s Walt Disney biography, An American Original.

An American Original Walt Disney
When Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, the author shares that CBS Evening News anchor Eric Sevareid spoke these words to a saddened nation:

“He was an original; not just an American original, but an original, period. He was a happy accident; one of the happiest this century has experienced; and judging by the way it’s been behaving in spite of all Disney tried to tell it about laughter, love, children, puppies and sunrises, the century hardly deserved him.

He probably did more to heal or at least to soothe troubled human spirits than all the psychiatrists in the world. There can’t be many adults in the allegedly civilized parts of the globe who did not inhabit Disney’s mind and imagination at least for a few hours and feel better for the visitation.

It may be true, as somebody said, that while there is no highbrow in a lowbrow, there is some lowbrow in every highbrow.

But what Walt Disney seemed to know was that while there is very little grown-up in a child, there is a lot of child in every grown-up. To a child this weary world is brand new, gift wrapped; Disney tried to keep it that way for adults…

By the conventional wisdom, mighty mice, flying elephants, Snow White and Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy and Dopey—all these were fantasy, escapism from reality. It’s a question of whether they are any less real, any more fantastic than inter-continental missiles, poisoned air, defoliated forests, and scraps from the moon. This is the age of fantasy, however you look at it, but Disney’s fantasy wasn’t lethal. People are saying we’ll never see his like again.”

Carolwood Pacific Room Wilderness Lodge (1)

If you’d like to get to know the extraordinary man behind the World, I’d highly recommend that you pick up a copy of An American Original: Walt Disney.

Walt Disney One Mans Dream

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