(I'm not dead yet!)
OK, so I know I haven't really made my name on updating you on various things that have been happening at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, and by and large I see no need to start offering this feature regularly given there are plenty of sources for this kind of content. You can even get updates on non-aesthetic repair work Disney is doing around the resort thanks to permits filed with Orange County these days, so why bother at all? Well, even with all this onslaught of information available online I still find a lot of stuff is remaining unreported, and so now I offer you... some news.
So got that bran muffin unwrapped from it's clingy recycled plastic wrapping and ready to eat? Prepared to consume those seventy wheat germ pancakes carefully arranged to suggest The Smokey Mountains? Then let's begin:
The biggest bit of news is that Muff Potter's windmill on Tom Sawyer Island is once again turning. In 2004 this little structure was struck by lightning during one of them there hurricanes and one of the windmill's arms was destroyed. The new blades appear to be made of a lighter weight material and they look quite nice, although not as nice as the old wooden timber ones. This has been something of a bone of contention among a lot of groups within the park for some time, and it's frankly remarkable that it got fixed at all given the time it took to get work done on it. Tom Sawyer Island, mercifully spared the forward march of "progress" the Disneyland original has been subjected to with the exception of a non-burning cabin and that original rock playground having been replaced with a salvage themed clubhouse, is a little pocket of old fashioned Disney fun before kids were expected to be cynical LCD-screen toting walking advertisements.
So a few months ago the Market House on Main Street was deemed an imminent demise, and within a short time walls went up, work began on the inside, and outside was me loudly announcing to nobody in particular "I don't mind as long as the party line telephone stays!". When the store reopened there was no telephone, and in the stead of what was once a cozy interior was a garish and plain crystal shop. I was not pleased.
Well my verdict on the shop turned out to be in too much haste for within a few months the shop was actually finished and what looked and felt like a construction zone turned out to actually be one! The final Crystal Arts shop is honestly the most beautifully realized one on Main Street, with a glass blowing furnace at the back and a dim, quiet atmosphere that reminds me of my memories of the Magic Shop's dim, haunted atmosphere. Taken as a group, the removal of the crystal shop from the seating area of the Bakery and the expansion of a Crystal shop into the poorly-used Market House qualifies as some of the best improvements to Main Street ever. I say this because these upgrades and renovations to stores and eateries is an important but thankless job which gets no accolades online, so next time you visit be sure to catch the glassworks demonstrations in the back and enjoy the beautiful interior. But when it reopened there was still no party phone.
So imagine my shock when the party phone arrived in working order... at the newly refurbished hat shop, of all places. This really is a triumph for people who care about the little things in the park, traditional little things you can do, which Disneyland has a wealth of and which The Magic Kingdom has always been poorer without. Somebody at WDI really cares, is what this phone tells me, and I think my instinct here is true.
Next, we switch areas briefly to comment on goings on over at Downtown Disney. It was discussed online that the Disney Village Marketplace location of Wolfgang Puck was undergoing some changes, and it was reported that it reopened with a much expanded seating area, but what nobody seems to be reporting is the beauty of the final product. Having long been a supporter of the Village's original aesthetic design and having been generally annoyed by its' current clutter and disharmony, stepping into Wolfgang Puck was astonishing. The look of the original Village has been faithfully adhered to, with tall interior ceiling beams and cedar shingles outside. The singled siding and muted colors are present, as well as a near perfect match of the thirty year old bricks on the new structure. The inside feels new and yet old, and not dissimilar from the interior of those Walt Disney World Village villas which once stood across the lake surrounded by fairways.
When the Disney at Home shop closed in 2005 and made way for Goofy's Candy Company, I feared that even more of the original aesthetic of the Village was being covered up with garbage like giant plastic butterflies and mushrooms, but the adherence of Earl of Sandwich and now Wolfgang Puck to the look and feel of a more peaceful Marketplace has me hopeful. I don't have any good pictures of the overall effect, but take some time to look around inside what's currently Team Disney, inside Basin, and inside Earl of Sandwich (all interiors which retain the feel of their original tenants) and you won't be able to miss it.
Finally, I've received notice that the mist effect in the first part of the Jungle Cruise will be repaired in the upcoming refurbishment, and let's hope this is true. There have been a lot of miscellaneous repairs made around the Magic Kingdom lately, including stuff I thought I'd never see done until the original show elements literally rotted and fell apart, like a lot of second-floor false plants (flowers on Aunt Polly's, window boxes in Fantasyland, vines in Caribbean Plaza), the moving light effect on the Haunted Mansion facade, a bunch of natives in the original Indian Village along the Rivers of America, and even replacing the spools of yarn on that really wacky tower along Adventureland's roofline above what was once the old Magic Carpet shop. Things are looking up at the Magic Kingdom, and although we still haven't fully dug ourselves out from under Eisner & Co.'s negligence, such progress must be commended!