Editor's Note: This column was set to run last week, but was bumped to today. A second video slideshow was added to help catch you up on Orlando happenings. - Al

Two new entities began operation recently at Walt Disney World: a remodeled (and relocated) Harley Davidson store at Downtown Disney, and a beads stand in World Showcase at Epcot. Both have signature souvenirs for $20-$25, which seems to beg for a head to head comparison. (Well, OK, it doesn’t “beg” for a comparison… but it’s more than mere contrivance!)

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Let’s start with the Bead Outpost. This new stand in the “Africa” section of World Showcase (between China and Germany – not an official section but themed nonetheless) looks like a simple enough affair from the outside. It sells beads—no surprise there.

The sparkling new Bead Outpost stand.

A large sign on the back wall explains the premise: these aren’t just any beads, they are magical beads! Er, wait, no, not magical, but they are special. They were made from recycled paper—specifically, recycled Disney park maps. The process is done by shipping unused maps to Uganda, where they are rolled into beads and then treated with a liquid to make them water resistant (but not quite waterproof), and sent back. It’s $10 for a bracelet or $20 for a necklace.

As I see it, it’s possible to have a few distinct reactions to this business model, perhaps even more than one at a time:

View #1 – Recycling is good! Who could be against recycling? It takes waste paper off the streets (as it were), keeps the material out of landfills, and allows the pulp to do double duty and live another day. More trees survive, and everyone wins, right?

View #2 – Waste is bad! Like everything, the rosy view of recycling above has a flip side. It costs money and energy to ship products to Africa and back again. If the idea is to be kind to the environment, surely the burning of fossil fuels constitutes a pretty big waste. If the goal is to save the environment, a $10 (or even $3) cash donation to a good environmental charity would do much less harm. If the goal is to help African women (see below), the same principle applies—cash would do less harm. So let’s remove the environmental argument here from the equation; it’s mostly a red herring.

You can string your own necklace or bracelet for the same price.
That’s a long journey for these former trees.

View #3 – Disney is greedy! It doesn’t take much imagination to picture a tourist doing a double-take: “These maps are free today, but tomorrow they will charge me $20 for a souvenir made out of these maps?! Only at Disney!”

View #4 – Helping those in need is good! About 50 women in Uganda perform the actual work.

It’s fun to imagine which maps these came from.

View #5 – As a Disney fan, I kind of like the souvenir concept. When I heard about the idea of the beads, I was in the cynical camp at first (emphasis on “Disney greed”), but there’s something ineffably cool about the beads when you’re looking at them side by side with some of the maps they came from. The beads are not artificially colored; those are the paper (map) colors you see in the finished bead. So if a map has a theme, that will show up in the coloring of the beads, too. I was particularly keen on the Typhoon Lagoon beads. It’s my Disney geek showing, I know, but I like the idea of wearing a piece of the water park on my wrist.

Let’s switch our focus now to the other offering, the revised and relocated Harley Davidson store. They were previously in Pleasure Island, not far from Mannequins. The new location straddles what was once two shops next to the AMC theaters (facing the Pleasure Island entrance).

Bright, shiny, modern.

The store features all-new decor and artwork, as far as I can tell, so it’s got a different vibe. Previously, you had eagles and flags on hand-drawn art murals; now, there are fewer visuals; the ones that remain are photographs. The overall look is more modern. I hadn’t realized until now that the previous shop was kind of 70s in its outlook and decor; obviously, the idea is to make Harley seem more contemporary and approachable.

The store is chock full of merchandise I didn’t pay much attention to (sorry; I’m just not into that sub-culture), but I was drawn to a green-screen in the corner. Turns out there’s a Harley here you can sit on and pose for pictures, and they’ll insert the background later. There’s no sign posted for the price, so I asked: $25 for a print picture, $10 more if you want it framed, and $5 more if you want to be able to download the file digitally.

That struck me as... well, expensive.

Did they have a green screen at the old location? I can’t remember it if so.

“In the old location,” I said to the clerk, “there was a bike you could sit on for free,” and I asked if this replaced the free bike. “It’s still here,” she replied, pointing to the center of the room, where indeed the bike sat against the window, “but you don’t get custom backgrounds—just the windows.” I missed this somehow on my (admittedly-quick) walk through the store, perhaps due to the way the store curves right here.

Say cheese! (for free)

So now you can choose between a free pic on the bike, or a $25 pic with a background. I know that if I had $25 to spend, I’d do it at the Bead Outpost instead. Those beads may not be environmentally friendly (but is a Harley? It gets better MPH than a car, but the noise of such bikes on the street has always made me feel they “waste” gas), but the beads have the advantage of helping reduce extreme poverty in Africa (who could be against that?) and have a certain Disney geek coolness I wasn’t expecting.


I’m still using Facebook for the daily “Where in WDW” photo quizzes, but I’ve also joined Google+. Add me if you like: http://gplus.to/cafeorleans

Video Slideshows

We have two slideshows today, catching up on the last two weeks. As always, check below the embedded video if you want to see a bullet point list of topics discussed.

  • The “no stopping” signs at the WDW entrance arches aren’t THAT new, but I love seeing how many there are (and how many cars stop anyway)
  • Several months old now, the WDW toy car/vehicle fleet continues to appeal to me for no real reason. $19 for a set of five vehicles (I forget what the busses cost)
  • The Disney monorail die cast models now have extra tiny figures you can buy
  • There’s a Vinylmation for each of the four parks now – most are kind of ugly
  • Declining by Degrees: no mist turned on at the “rainforest” in the Jungle Cruise
  • Hopefully temporary: one elephant missing in JC; the angry tribe with shields and spears stay “up” all the time
  • Not every line gets swept for trash quickly (example: Snow White)
  • More Fantasyland construction
  • Itzakadoozie replacement at ice cream carts: Nestle triple blast
  • Splash Mtn Imagineers pictured in a framed photo in the store? (help needed!)
  • Iron Man statue for sale in IOA
  • Harry Potter posters in IOA keep up the excitement
  • Universal’s mini-golf under construction at the very end of the moving walkways
  • What is this Aggro Circus at IOA? An extreme sports demo?
  • Lightning McQueen and Mater meet and greet now a Winner’s Circle theme
  • Minor construction at Disney’s Animation
  • New “Let the Memories Begin” sign at entrance to DHS
  • Covered area at Epcot tram loop (International Gateway) was removed some weeks ago
  • Kaki Gori under reconstruction
  • Outdoor shop at exit to Reflections of China  now finished (indoor one was done months ago)
  • New signs and costumes in Mouse Gear
  • Trophy for “most buttons sold” on display at Land store.

The most recent slideshow:

  • Dave & Busters Orlando held a charity private party on the weekend, and is now open. It’s a combination of Vegas and “Chuck E. Cheese for adults” inside.
  • Firehouse on Main St. is closed
  • Fantasyland construction inches forward; rockwork takes shape and color. New structures are popping up for the Dumbo train car area.
  • Minor pavement work at the TTC
  • New Space Mtn. T-shirts
  • Winnie the Pooh queue looks good
  • An empty cruise on Small World
  • Express Monorail might be closed right when the park does
  • Ponchos now sold at some restaurants
  • Trip Report: re-enacting 1955 Disneyland on July 17… but in Orlando
  • Extreme Makeover taping on Main Street results in a parade of American soldiers in uniform and a loud flyover by two FA/18 jets
  • Grand Floridian DVC initial construction has begun

Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

2011 Kevin Yee

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Readers are invited to join Kevin on Facebook, where he offers regular "Where in Walt Disney World" photo quizzes.

On his public page and Twitter feed he also offers regular smaller updates on the parks.

Kevin's Disney Books

Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:

The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.

History was on my mind as I composed this book. As you might expect, there is a section on additions, another on removals, and a third on events. But I wanted to make sure to include some prices from January 2010 in the book, the better to capture in future years (and future generations?) exactly what it costs to buy admission, parking, a night at each level of hotel, or such food items as a turkey leg. I also wanted to provide a bit more specificity to the unfolding of events, so the various additions and removals, as well as smaller alterations and debuts, are laid out in a timeline broken down month-by-month.

In short, the book is designed to appeal to those folks who are similarly history-minded, as well as those who are hungry to know what changed at Disney World since their last visit. Or perhaps it’s a worthwhile keepsake for anyone who DID visit in 2010—it captures what was new, after all.

Also recently issued...

Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes:

As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted. When a ride closes, sometimes pieces or props from that ride are folded into the replacement attraction (think of the World of Motion car seen in the queue of Test Track). Other times, designers intentionally craft a tribute to the previous ride—an example of that might be the carving of a submarine in the cement tree created for Pooh’s Playful Spot where the 20,000 Leagues subs used to be.

The other kind of homage in the parks concerns not rides, but individuals. The designers, artists, engineers, executives, and people important to Disney’s history often provide the inspiration for names and titles used at the attractions. Sadly, these are almost always unheralded. All of these remnants and tributes are normally left for the truly obsessed to spot piecemeal. They are usually not even discussed in the official Disney books and tours. This book sets out to change that, and catalog all such remnants and tributes in one spot.

The final result is 225 pages of hyper-detailed historical factoids. Broadly speaking this is a “trivia” book, but remember that it’s a particular kind of trivia. You’ve known before that the Walt Disney World theme parks wove a thick tapestry of details and backstory into a seamless (and peerless) experience. But armed with the specifics of homages and tributes, you’ll become aware that the parks are even more alive, and layered with meaning, that you could have ever imagined.

Might this be an ideal present for the Disney fan on your shopping list? If so, please have a look.

Also written by Kevin...

  • Your Day at the Magic Kingdom is a full-color, hardcover interactive children's book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
  • Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Member provides the first authentic glimpse of what it's like to work at Disneyland.
  • The Walt Disney World Menu Book lists restaurants, their menus, and prices for entrees, all in one handy pocket-sized guide.
  • Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free for non-speakers of Japanese.
  • Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller story on this place rich with details.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book, namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides and attractions.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages in the four Disney World parks.

More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.