Unofficial WDW Earbook 2012

Living in Central Florida (since 2004) and visiting WDW every weekend as I do, it becomes easy after a while to see just how much the place changes.

So I started chronicling those changes with an eye toward history into a book series. Since these are like yearbooks you knew from high school, I called them ‘Earbooks and stuffed them full of my own photographs snapped that year. I made a first book in 2010, which was probably priced a little bit too high. The second year, 2011, was even longer and so it had to be priced even higher. It’s clear now that this was not the best strategy.

I’ve changed a few things for 2012. The format changed from 8.5 inches x 5.5 inches to a larger format, now 10 inches by 8 inches. That enabled me to keep the page count down, so the book could be cheaper. I also removed a few sections and stopped trying to include EVERY last change of decorations, walkways, and planters, which also kept the book shorter. Instead, I’ve focused on the events, the new additions (rides, shows, shops, and restaurants), and any removals.

The result is that it’s now 62 pages, and I’m able to offer it for sale for $9.99 — significantly cheaper than previous years. I really think this is the right formula: much more affordable, but still in color and still long enough that it’s much more than a simple brochure.

As before, we chronicle in photos those things which are NEW during the year, and those things which were REMOVED at some point in those twelve months.

Like all other years, there is careful attention paid to dates and details, the idea being to give future historians something meaty and accurate to refer to. For similar reasons of posterity, the book includes a few prices of events, tickets, room reservations, and food items as recorded in 2012. There’s a full accounting of the entertainment and shows of a single Saturday in the summer season, as well.

An index in the back of the book makes it simple to find what you’re looking for. One thing that HAS changed is that the organizing structure of the book is no longer “additions” and “subtractions,” followed by a chapter on timeline. Instead, the timeline *is* the organizing principle. Everything that happened in March, for instance, is grouped together in that chapter, and the timeline for the month is included here as well.

I dearly love writing Earbooks each cycle, partly because I exult in simply owning them. I look forward to having twenty years of these volumes on my bookshelf, ready for me to take a trip down memory lane whenever the whim strikes me. And now you can too!

In previous years, I also distributed Kindle versions of the Earbook, but the process is manual, lengthy, irritating… and seems to have not satisfied all readers at the end of the day. The “jumbled pictures” format of the print version doesn’t port over to Kindle, and the workaround – a straight scroll of pictures – doesn’t end up feeling much like a book. For now, therefore, this volume will be available only as a print book.

Check out the book at Amazon (or, if you would like to maximize the author’s royalty, you can buy it from CreateSpace, which is a subsidiary of Amazon). For those of you in Europe, here are a few relevant links: color edition color edition color edition

Mardi Gras at Universal

Every theme park in Orlando has its signature events. Epcot has the big festivals, MK has the upsell private parties, and Universal prides itself on Grinchmas, Halloween Horror Nights, and this one: Mardi Gras.

The experience is three fold: free (included) concerts by bands like Lifehouse, Kool and the Gang, and the Steve Miller Band; booths selling unique foods with a N’awlins bent; and a signature parade with floats, stiltwalkers, and beads. Lots of beads.

You don’t have to show your stuff to get free beads. In fact, that would probably get you in trouble. There are everyday Guests on the floats tossing out the beads, and it’s great fun to get involved and just try to snag some. Certainly my kids love it, but there’s something infectious about the environment here that would make it hard for anyone to be jaded.

Bands, Brew, and BBQ

SeaWorld began its late-winter festival this past weekend (disclosure: I was invited as press and received a free meal, though no free alcohol). Since this is Central Florida here, late winter means 79 degree temperatures, outdoor bands, and a search for shade even in February. Amazing.

I’d not seen this exact event before, though it’s at least more than one year old (my fellow bloggers assure me). What I have done is attend beer and food/wine type events before from SeaWorld. There are differences and variations each time, but they usually take place in the pathway from the Bayside Stadium back toward the dolphin nursery, with shacks and stands scattered about on the way. That held true this time as well. With the decorations around and a few theme additions (Harley Davidson motorcycles), the area took on a character of its own that reminds me of the Christmastown stuff they do in the same spot, but with enough color changes that it has its own tenor and rhythm. If nothing else, the blaring rock (or country) music sees to a different vibe than you saw here in Christmas.

There are numerous local vendors here with BBQ foods–Tony Roma’s, Cecil’s, and Sonny’s leap to mind. SeaWorld also has its own booth. I had pulled pork from both Cecil’s and SeaWorld (the latter one had more spice and added flavors), and I sampled other things from the SeaWorld booth: grilled chicken (moist and tender, but not overly meaty) and sausage (spicy and my favorite).

If you’re not here for the food, maybe it’s the bands. Many of them are quite famous: Beach Boys, Third Eye Blind, Hall and Oates, Sheryl Crow, that sort of thing. (A complete list is on the official site.) Concerts are included with admission, so that’s a pretty big draw.

If you’re like me, though, you’ll show up here for the beer. The booths sell individual brewski (for almost $8) but what you really want is the $21 sampler, giving you ten cups of beer (or cider) for a total of about 70 ounces of beer. That’s essentially half off the price of the drinks! There were about 25 kinds of beer to choose from, all of them craft beer (rather than mass produced giants you already know well). It seemed to me that the event was heavy on the ales, pale ales, and Indian pale ales this year. I saw a few stouts here and there, but lagers and ambers seemed more rare. The pricing and portions seemed just about right–this is a good event and we left feeling like we had paid fairly for good quality.

Book Review: Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South?

Jim Korkis has long been on the Internet scene. For many years he’s written articles for websites that probe the rich backstories of the Disney company history (animation as much as anything else). Jim’s stories are always about the casual interactions; the sorts of things NOT found in other books, and the kinds of anecdotes that surface only in oral interviews, long conversations, and even longer friendships with those who lived and breathed the history in question.

People like Jim’s stories and always tell him how happy they are to hear them, since they never hear anything like it elsewhere. As Jim says, this always frightens him. What happens if someday Jim is gone–are these stories gone too? So he resolved the write them down. First came The Vault of Walt, a loose collection of stories united only by the thread of Walt Disney himself who shows up as a character in these ditties about the studio, about the park, and about the company history. The book is eminently readable, either in small doses (since they are short stories) or inhaled whole like your favorite entree.

That book came out a few years ago, but there was a revised edition in 2012, which included new stories:

  • The perilous four-month stint of famed Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones at the Disney Studios
  • Why two women you’ve never heard of were among Walt’s most important influences
  • Walt’s admiration for and brief collaboration with legendary artist Salvador Dali
  • Walt and Lillian Disney’s raucous 30th wedding anniversary celebration in Frontierland
  • How Walt’s early infatuation with polo led to an injury that plagued him for the rest of his life
  • The story of Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel and the Disney craftswoman who tended it for decades
  • Walt’s fondness for chili and cold weenies, with authentic recipes to create his favorite dishes

In typical Jim Korkis fashion, the stories all told in a kind of “fly on the wall” narrative, as if we were right next to the action as it unfolded. The result is layers of details that you never knew, even if you had heard the gist of a particular story before. Jim definitely does his homework.

But what’s really motivating today’s post is another book. More recently, Jim has penned Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South, a book that is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. The first 80 pages are a thesis about the creation and history of this seldom-seen Disney movie. In typical Jim Korkis fashion, the author dwells on minutiae when he can (again: this is where the research shines through and the readability comes from).

There follows several short snippets that were obviously gleaned and gathered during Jim’s research, but could not fit into the “thesis” of the first 80 pages, so he includes them anyway, as standalone ditties. I found the choice brave, and I’m happy they are there for posterity. I’m not sure every reader will devour these as readily (and if they do, they will find the reading experience a bit disjointed), but that’s OK. I’m glad they are there.

Then, as long as he was writing about controversial Disney subjects, Jim apparently thought he might as well include the proverbial kitchen sink. This last section is meaty (150 pages) and it bounces around all over the place, without even the anchor of Walt Disney the man to tie them together, but that’s OK, because the subject matter is likely to interest you. Jim tackles the dark underbelly of the company. There are stories here about Walt Disney’s last (written) words, the Sweatbox documentary, the Jessica Rabbit over-sexiness controversy, the Disneyland character orgy poster from many decades ago, and even Ward Kimball’s fascination with UFOs. These stories will fascinate you if you’ve not heard of them before. If you’re a longtime follower of the Disney product and know of the topics mentioned above already, you are less likely to learn new facts with these.

The final essays in the book rely heavily on already-published sources, so they have a different character than the earlier parts of the book (and the earlier Walt book). They are still highly readable, though, and folks without that deep knowledge or full backlog of E-Ticket magazines will find the collection of stories invaluable.

Disclosure: I received review copies of both books from the author.

More information and updates

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Readers are invited to connect with Kevin online and face to face at the following locations: