Sunday, November 4, 2007

Disney World's Discovery Island

April 8th, 1974 - April 8th, 1999

"I Remember Discovery Island"
A Last Day Memoir by

Allan Oakley of Kissimmee, Florida

Web and Pictures:

History and Background

According to Walt Disney's colleagues, repeated aerial surveys of Central Florida land parcels led to Walt taking notice of the 11.5-acre island ( at that time named Riles Island and having been owned by several other parties before Disney's purchase ) in Bay Lake and deciding more or less immediately that this was the ideal location for his Florida Project.

The story goes that as Walt Disney was flying over the land he was interested in purchasing to locate his new Florida theme park (reported to be on November 22, 1963, around the time that JFK had been shot), it was the sight of this island in the center of Bay Lake that convinced him that this was the ideal place to build his Disney World Theme Park.

From the early 1900s, it was known as Raz Island, named after the family that lived there. In the late 1930s, it was purchased for $800 by a man named Delmar "Radio Nick" Nicholson, who renamed the island "Idle Bay Isle" and lived there for 20 years with his wife and pet crane. It was later purchased, renamed "Riles Island," and used as a hunting retreat long before being bought by Walt Disney (using a corporate name in 1965.

It is well documented that Disney was dissuaded from using real animals at Disneyland's Jungle Cruise, which opened in 1955, because experts contended they would be largely unmanageable and hard to present to his guests in the manner he desired. This led to his first batch of three-dimensional animated animal figures, the predecessors of Audio-Animatronics technology that gained the Disney company a reputation for engineering its own brand of reality. That does not make it ironic that Riles Island would come to be WDW's foremost home of down-to-earth animal reality, but it does make it mildly curious.

Disney originally planned to add a pirate "theme" to the island and call it "Blackbeard's Island". That name was discarded, and was eventually changed to "Treasure Island." (However, the Blackbeard Island name was recycled and given to one of the three man made islands of the Seven Seas Lagoon). Although the name of this new island attraction was changed to "Treasure Island", the original concept for a pirate themed adventure would remain, as it would take elements from the 1950 Disney film of the same name.

Walt wanted a unique diversion from the main theme park attractions. The island was planned to be a retreat for exploration and relaxation, with wrecks of pirate ships, "Ben Gunn's Fort", the "Benbow Inn", and lakes and waterfalls to enjoy.

In 1974, however, plans to add a wide variety of tropical birds to the island emerged, thereby putting the pirate theme on hold. In order to accommodate the more than 600 feathered friends that were going to take up residence here, more than 50,000 cubic yards of soil and 500,000 tons of boulders were brought onto the island, increasing the size of the island to almost 11.5 acres. As well as a variety of flowers and trees from around the world were collected and carefully landscaped.15,000 cubic yards of soil and 500 tons each of boulders and trees were employed in the process of creating an entirely new landscape - one with new bodies of water, new elevations and hundreds of varieties of plants transplanted from destinations including China, the Himalayas and South Africa. New, man-made bodies of water were created, and the one time flat, scrub brush filled island was transformed into a tropical paradise.

"Treasure Island" opened to the public on April 8, 1974 as a relaxing bird sanctuary. There were a few remnants of the pirate theme still present, as evidenced by a reproduced wreck of a ship on the island's southern shore. (Although many Disney marketing materials referred to it as the wreck of the Hispaniola, it was actually the remains of Captain Flint's ship, the Walrus).

A separate "Special Adventure" ticket was required to visit the island, which could only be accessed from a boat from either the Contemporary or Polynesian Resort, or by taking a tour of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake called (appropriately enough), the "Walt Disney World Cruise."

Ticket Required: Special Adventure ticket or Part of the Water Park-Discovery Island Annual Pass. In 1999 that included River Country which has since closed as well. It was also included in the Premium Annual Pass for Florida Residents.

Billed as a half-day adventure the island did not welcome as many visitors as Disney had planned and expected. As this ticket suggests, Treasure Island could be accessed by either taking a direct motor launch from a resort dock or as part the "Walt Disney World Cruise," a tour of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake that stopped at the Island. The island was recommended as a low-key diversion that could occupy up to one-half of a guest's day and help round out the complete, varied and leisurely vacation experience that set WDW apart from Disneyland. In the end it was the island's understated nature that contributed so substantially to its demise.

In 1977, to coincide with the theatrical release of "The Rescuers", Disney, in conjunction with General Electric, ran the "Rescuers Diamond Sweepstakes." It offered the opportunity for one lucky family to win a trip to Walt Disney World, and search and dig for a diamond on Treasure Island worth $25,000.

Now, just four years after its opening, the natural inhabitants of the island grew faster than its popularity with guests. The island abandoned any references to the pirate theme in 1978 and was renamed "Discovery Island," which focused on the island's rich, botanical settings, and wildlife such as flamingos, pelicans, eagles, alligators, peacocks, swans, rabbits and deer. The island featured a 40 foot tall, 320 by 102 foot walk-through aviary, bird shows, a flamingo pool, and Turtle Beach. The "Thirsty Perch" snack bar was constructed, and it even had the "Jose Carioca Flyers" bird show, which was performed in the CooCoo Cabana. There were also bird demonstrations, as well as a scavenger hunt which was available to Guests as they arrived on the Island. The 20-question hunt had clues, with answers that could be found on signs throughout the island. Successfully answering all of the questions entitled a Guest to a Jiminy Cricket EnvironMentality Earth Day button.

Charlie Cook was the park's head curator and was often seen posing with birds in Disney publications and also on various TV broadcasts when the Island's conservation efforts were discussed. It was truly a plus for the Disney company, being able to showcase an overt concern for the natural side of Walt Disney World in a setting this tranquil and seemingly removed from the rest of the attractions. As an extension of other responsible environmental practices on the part of the company (the crowning achievement being the decision in the late 1960s to set aside the property's 7,500 southernmost acres strictly for conservation of the delicate Reedy Creek natural drainage system**), the animal care activity on Discovery Island was a key and very public component.

Disney's conservation efforts on the island were recognized in 1981 when it was made an accredited zoological park by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. Eight years later, however, things took a turn for the worse, when charges against the island's director and four employees were filed for the mishandling of wild birds and vultures, as well as the destruction of nests and shooting of falcons and hawks. Unfortunately something went awry in the late 1980s. In September of 1989 the Orange-Osceola state attorney and a U.S. attorney in Orlando filed 16 charges against Cook and four other Discovery Island employees for a number of alleged offenses that included the mishandling of vultures and other wild birds, the destruction of ibis and egret nests and the shooting of hawks and falcons. All of this activity was attributed to attempts made by the five staff members to manage or relocate the animals in question, as they had become nuisances and often disturbed the other species living on the island. The case was ultimately settled, Discovery Island kept its AZA accreditation and Disney enacted a sweeping series of company-wide environmental policies. One cannot help but wonder, however, if there weren't those within the company harking back to the sage advice regarding live animal exhibition that had led Walt Disney to devise electronic alternatives. Disney claimed the employees were trying to relocate the birds, with unfortunate results. Disney settled the case and updated their environmental policies throughout the Resort, while still keeping their AZA accreditation. While damage was done in the public's mind due to this and similar problems that occurred during the same time period elsewhere at WDW, the Discovery Island staff persevered and kept the park running in a respectable manner for many more years. In the 1990s, for example, Discovery Island was the first zoological park to breed South American Maguari storks and white crested hornbills.

When Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, it seemed to sound the death knell for the unpopular island. That, coupled with poor attendance to the island, led to its ultimate demise. Finally, 25 years after it opened, Discovery Island closed on April 8th 1999. Rumors swirled for years as to what was to become of the abandoned island. Talks of a tie-in with a popular video game (Myst), as well as rumors of a private retreat for honeymooners (with lots of cash to spend) came and went, but the island remains deserted to this day.

Want a closer look? Take one of the many watercraft available for rent from the Contemporary Resort, Fort Wilderness or the Wilderness Lodge and drive by and see what remains. Access is strictly forbidden.

Although Discovery Island has closed seemingly for good, its name lives on in Disney's Animal Kingdom, as it is the land which contains Tree of Life.

In early 1973 the company forecast that "walkways, small lakes and waterfalls will be available to both explorers and picnickers" during the same year. It also said the island would later be "fully developed," offering guests a chance to visit "Ben Gunn's fort, Benbow Inn and the wreck of the Hispaniola." The latter is pictured above in a conceptual painting from the Disney archives

On April 8, 1974, Treasure Island opened to the public. As promised, it was a sanctuary for not only dozens of birds but also reptiles, mammals and other non-avian species. A loosely woven theme of piracy was worked into the mix (cast member costumes, oil lamps, wreckage) but took a backseat to the animal exhibits. The most prominent - and most photographed - man made element was the beached hull of a sailing ship on the island's southwest shore. Although commonly referred to in print as the wreck of the Hispaniola, this small craft was correctly named, in an early edition of Disney News, as the remains of Captain Flint's ship, the Walrus.

In 1978, Disney decided to rechristen Treasure Island as "Discovery Island," effectively throwing in the pirate towel and opting to emphasize the ecological aspects that had taken center stage. As fine as this was for the sake of both "truth in advertising" and the conservation programs themselves, it did rob the island of more than a little mystique. It also placed a formidable challenge upon the staff of the island in living up to the more focused task of exhibiting and caring for a growing population of animals. Among the wildlife represented on the island were macaws, rheas, tortoises, flamingos, pelicans, bald eagles, alligators, rabbits, miniature deer, toucans, cavy, hornbills, scarlet ibis, cockatoos, white peacocks, golden pheasants, Guinea fowl, cranes and swans.

Among the island's diverse features:

- A 320 foot by 102 foot aviary measuring 40 feet in height and with an elevated boardwalk (shown below).

- The CooCoo Cabana and its bird show, "Jose Carioca Flyers," in which cockatoos, macaws and other birds took to the air.

- Turtle Beach, home to 300-pound Galapagos tortoises.

- A flamingo pool especially designed to simulate the ebb and flow of the tides found in the birds natural habitat.

In spite of the turnaround, Disney decided to close Discovery Island not long after the Animal Kingdom park debuted. On April 8, 1999, 25 years after it first opened, Discovery Island officially saw its last guests. A few "postmortem" weekend visits were still accommodated past that date, but the end was close at hand. The company attributed the decision to lagging visitation, evidently a result of too many other options and diversions for guests to investigate during the course of finite vacation time. Discovery Island had become yet another relic from a past WDW era. The closing party/wake was held on 8th April on the Island, and was a very low-key affair which was not widely advertised. All Discovery Island signage on the water transportation was removed during the following evening. The closure date was exactly 25 years after it first opened in 1974.

As for what would become of the island that was so pivotal in Walt Disney's decision to build his Florida empire where it now resides, there were brief discussions between the Disney company and the creators of the software game Myst surrounding a possible collaboration. Those talks, however, ended abruptly in late 1999 and the island's future has remained sketchy since that time.

The Walt Disney Company broke from its off-limits psychology regarding the development of those 7,500 acres in the mid-1990s. At that time they decided to opt for a land mitigation approach in which they purchased land further a field from their more lucrative original acreage and proceeded with plans for the 1995-1996 construction of Disney Town of Celebration on the land which was originally to remain untouched.

April 4th, 1999

I am not really sure what drew us there that April 4th . My birthday was on the 9th but I knew by then the island would be closed. I took Elliot to Discovery Island to witness the closing chapter of a Disney legend. We wanted to film and sketch the island before all was lost. At 15 years of age Elliot was half interested but he also recognized this was going to be a pivotal day. At that point the island was to have its last day of public access. We were told that the final four days would be marked with private celebrations as long time staff took their last look at the island. As we finished our day we knew we had been on the last boat the last time anyone from the general public would see Discovery Island.

We left home around 10 AM

By 10:30AM we were already well on our way to the Discovery Island Dock

We found the easiest way to get there was through Fort Wilderness and catching the launch that went on to the Contemporary Resort and then the Magic Kingdom.

Once on the dock Elliot and did not know what to expect

We did figure out the gift shop and snack bar would have a few rare bargains and souvenirs that would soon become collectables.

Reading the brochure we knew a show was about to start at Reptile Relations

From there we wandered over to Feathered friends where a park attendant was showing off some ducklings

Parrots, birds of prey and a few surprises. When the show ended I asked the park ranger about the birds. She said it would take months to acclimatize them to new surroundings over at the animal kingdom

After the show we wandered over to North Creek Inlet which by now had become an over grown creek that fed the inner ponds at Swan's Neck Falls.

Trumpeter Springs

Swans Neck Falls

A little further along the path we arrived at the African Aviary and discover two contented parrots left unattended in the forest

Animal Hospital and Nursery
Park headquarters were also located here.

Shipwreck Beach and it's picnic grounds

Flamingo Lagoon

Tortoise Beach

500 pound / 150 year old Galapagos Turtle

Alligator Swamp

South American Aviary with Toco Toucans, Kookaburra's, Scarlet Ibis and Hornbills were a few of the exotic birds that were left. Apparently the southern bald eagles, African Crowned crane and demoiselle cranes had already been moved to the Animal Kingdom

One last look and out the last enclosure heading back to the Thirsty Perch. It was 3 PM and we ended a day full of memories, pencil sketches and all kinds of digital pictures.

Allan N. Oakley
Kissimmee, Florida


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2005

We love everything Disney World related. At certain times of the year special events add to the magic.
Here's our tribute to back in the day when we were a little  younger and more foolish.

Walt Disney World - October  2005
 Pictures  and Memoirs  of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2005

Boo! Don't be afraid. The screams you hear are squeals of delight, not fright. Disney fantasy and Halloween fun come together on selected October nights for a one-of-a-kind celebration. Seize this rare opportunity to visit the Magic Kingdom in costume, and trick-or-treat for candy and goodies with your favorite Disney characters*, all in their finest Halloween outfits. With special music, parades and the spectacular all-new Happy HalloWishes fireworks show, this is no trick — it's a real treat.

Our Date Night with friends:
Allan and Lorraine  &  
Steve and Glenda Wilkins
Kissimmee, Florida

Just about the entire park was full of oddball characters. This character cackled at the guests entering the Haunted Mansion. Kind of like Dolly Parton on steroids

September 30, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 2, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 6, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 7, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 11, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 13, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM *
October 16, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 20, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 21, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 23, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 25, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 27, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 28, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 30, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 31, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
* the night we went

The night starts with the scariest  man of them all
The Headless Horseman roams the street of the Magic Kingdom terrorizing all the trick or treating families.

Candy stations throughout the park including at  Cinderella's coach

The Not So Scary "Spooktacular" Parade

The night ends with the most incredible Hallow Wishes fireworks show over the Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle


More magic then ever  this year 
 - , 2017

Allan. N.Oakley
Kissimmee, Florida

We'll be there  for sure.....

Disney's Hollywood Studios Lights,Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show

UPDATE April 2016
It was inevitable: Disney's Hollywood Studios had to make room for the future Star Wars and Toy Story-Pixar Land  expansions, which meant attractions like the Lights, Motors, Action! stunt car show had to close.
Walt Disney World announced the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and "nearby locations around Streets of America" would  be permanently closed on April 2nd ,2016 .

The dust settled on the "Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" at Disney's Hollywood Studios. After a run of more than a decade, the last performance of the show -- unlike anything else at Disney World -- took place Saturday afternoon.

The show, which showed off the skills of professional stunt drivers to a grandstand audience, had opened in the spring of 2005, after debuting first at the Walt Disney Studios in Paris three years earlier.The most dramatic moment, though, was saved for the finale of the last show. As always, the hero car emerged from a building, shot down a ramp and soared through a wall of fire. But in this case, the building's door was left shut -- so the car just burst through it, scattering pieces of the door (made of a heavy foamlike material) in its wake. Afterward, fans flooded the stage to express their well-wishes, and a few manly, macho tears might have been shed. The final line of the show, as always, was the rousing reminder to "Drive safely!"

Oakley Family Tribute Webpage  and Pictures:

We were fortunate enough to experience the First showing of Disney's " Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show "
One of the perks of having our son Elliot work part time at Disney World is his getting free tickets to what they call Cast Previews. In other words they test the new shows on the staff before the public can get in. This show was imported from France. We had three tickets and Lorraine Elliot and I saw it March 19th,2005.Long before its official May 5th launch to the general public. Here's some pictures.
The main entrance at the back of Disney / MGM studios. This used to be the very popular street where they had celebrity homes on the back lot tour.
These high powered cars are actually modified motorcycles but you are never supposed to learn that before the show is over
What the public never can see behind the movie set
The actual set
That's one gigantic high definition screen at the top of the building. ideal for close up shots and replays as this show has so much going on at the same time.
The crowd looks over the set but has no idea what to expect
Lights, camera action - the show begins

Herbie the love bug decides to visit the set
At first this car seems to be without a driver
That is before you see a driver hidden on the back side of the car.
Death defying Motorcycle stunts
The final scene was anticipated by the crowd to include a car flying right out the center balcony but it did not happen. Well, that's why they test it on the cast first .Just in case the stunt drivers are not ready.

The show had more than 40 vehicles in the show and backstage in the maintenance garage. The primary "hero" car, which the action revolves around, is a custom-built design for the show, while the pursuit cars are Opel Corsas. The hero cars are all painted red while the pursuit cars are painted black, to easily allow guests to tell the difference between them.
The show also includes specially-designed cars that look identical to the others used in the show, two of which are red "hero" cars. One substitute hero car has the bodyshell oriented backwards, to allow the driver to appear to be driving in reverse; the other has a seat and steering wheel bolted onto the side of the car away from the audience, so that the car appears to be driving without anyone inside the vehicle. One of the substitute black "pursuit" cars is cut in half behind the front doors, so that it can appear to explode during a scene in the show.
All the cars, while they appear simple, are reinforced with rally car roll cages for driver safety and powered by 1400 cc 150 horsepower (110 kW) motorcycle engines mounted directly behind the driver's seat. The cars have four forward and four reverse gears, allowing them to be driven backwards at high speed.
The cars have a bump shift for easier gear shifting: the driver bumps the shifter forward to go up a gear, and back to go back a gear. In order to reverse, the driver twists the top of the shifter and bumps it forwards or backwards. The emergency brake automatically releases when the driver lets go. The show cars are lightweight, at 1,322 pounds (600 kg), and are rear-wheel drive to allow the cars to drift. The drivers wear heavy protective suits; to keep the drivers cool, a cooling system in the rear of the car pumps water through the suits. The show also features jet skis on the small canal at the front of the theater, and motorcycles which maneuver around the cars.

Allan N.Oakley

The Oakley's Millennium Family Reunion at Walt Disney World

The Oakley family of Kissimmee, Florida invite you to enjoy this diary of an event that will never be repeated in our lives.

If you want to learn more Click Here for the entire Oakley family website.
Web and Pictures:
The Oakley's Millennium Family Reunion
at Walt Disney World, Florida - Dec.27th,1999 - Jan.18th,2000

The Oakley Family Guide to what happened at:

Disney World , Universal Studios and Sea World Parks during the Millennium year. This is not a commercial newsletter but just a fan site that is loaded with details regarding the 15 months of Millennium events in Orlando that started October 1st,1999 and ended on January 1st ,2001

The Family Reunion at Disney - MGM Studios
Dec. 31st, 1999 - The last day before the big party

Our family loves Disney. We are Premium Annual Pass Holders and are at one of the Disney parks at least once per week. We moved to Orlando back in August 1996 after 9 years of vacationing here. We knew in the late 1980’s that there was something magical about living here. Each time we came to Orlando we felt like we were coming home. After each trip we felt sad that we were leaving to go back to North Bay, Ontario,Canada. Why ? This may sound silly but this town has something to offer families that you can not find elsewhere. From the angle of basic needs we start with the average of 265 days of full sunshine per year. Great schools and world class shopping are a help. Housing costs were half of what we paid up north. We own a four bedroom home with a private pool that is located in an estate a mere 3 miles south of Disney World. So close that we watch EPCOT’s fireworks from our pool deck each night. The Osceola County schools have a dress code. My boys attend Disney's Celebration school. Life in utopia ? Hardly, but it beats anything we were used to in Canada.

It started on October 1st of 1999. There was something big about to happen. Disney has been really quiet but whenever you live in a town when over 50,000 people who work for one employer you know there are loads of rumors. As much as we knew, the biggest event in the history of Disney World was about to start. All we knew was that wherever you go through Disney the hints were there. The Millennium celebrations will see their best results in an 18 month party that started on October of 1999. Truth be told we had a huntch that on September 30th, 1999 they'd do a typical pre-event practice parade. We arrived at EPCOT at 7 PM and were strtled by what we encountered.The night sky full of helicopters that were filming the new parade and a fireworks display like never seen before. We left almost in shock about what we knew would start the next day.

Our family heard all the hints as far back as 1996 so we planned to organize the largest gathering of Montreal Oakleys at our home in Kissimmee. It was like moving a small army but thanks to Nanny Oakley, Barry and Faye and all the kids we pulled it off. What a party we had.

This monthly newsletter is intended to keep you posted on what is happening at Disney World and Orlando in general for the Millennium. We know that the other parks have plans as well but so far none have said a word. Everyone knows that Disney must take the first move and the others will set their pace.There is no commercial content and no intention to sell anything in this newsletter. Just a families observations. Book mark this site and watch for monthly updates.

Please Note: we are trying to precise with this information. We are not reporters. Just Orlando fans so if we make mistakes they will be honest ones. If you have a tip or know something we don't then please E:Mail us and we'll investigate.

Jan. 21st, 2000 : It's all over for the Oakley Family Reunion. It was both fun and difficult to coordinate. We do especially thank the Oakley Company ( the makers of world-class eyewear ) for surprising us with a crate full of white cotton tee shirts. We wrote and told them about our Millennium reunion and they send us dozens of Oakley Shirts that we had especially emblazoned with the details of our family reunion. For over a week people stopped us on the streets of Disney World asking if we were the " Oakley's ". We were amazed how many people wore their sunglasses. We were even more amazed at how many had fake designer copies. We know as many hid them as we approached....
Disney World is magical. The Millennium events at the parks have become the norm as we have seen them for over 6 months. There was a certain magic being there on New Years Eve. It is true that hordes of people worldwide stayed at home but we joined the capacity crowds at all the parks who appreciated that bringing in 2000 at Disney World would not be any ordinary event. It will never happen again and we are thrilled to have been there.

As a legacy of our three week event and a tribute to all the Oakley's I plan to keep this site as a tribute to both our family spirit and the excitement of being here for this momentous event. We know that as a family we may never be able to do this again so we hope you in the future will be able to look over my notes and appreciate how magical our family reunion was for both of us and those that came to Orlando for the Millennium- 2000.

Allan Oakley

Oakley's Attending :

Lorraine ( Oakley Brian ) Shaw: Grandmother ( third husband)

Albert Shaw : our adopted Dad ...Two Mountains,Quebec,Canada

Barry and Faye Oakley : son and daughter in law

April and Rick Devilliers : Barry's daughter and son in law from Laval,Quebec

Richard and Adam Devilliers : April's boys

Robin and Frank Raffa of St.Marthe sur le lac ,Quebec : Barry's daughter and son in law

Alec and Samantha Raffa : Robins children

Brett and Barbara Oakley : Barry's son and daughter in law

Kevin and Justin Oakley : Brett's boys

Allan and Lorraine Oakley : son and daughter in law

Nicholas and Elliot Oakley : our sons

Casey our wonder dog......

The Oakley's of West Kissimmee, Florida

Back : Elliot - Allan - Albert ( step father ) Nicholas

Front : Lorraine and Lorraine ( mum )

Barry and Faye Oakley with all their grandchildren

( and ...... Bandshee their Wonder Dog )

Deux Montagnes, Quebec, Canada

Nanny Oakley and Albert

Deux Montagnes , Quebec , Canada

" It's all her fault "

Our Millennium Diary of Events

Starting with the most recent to what we learned three years ago. These are all part of the information we collected while planning the family reunion. There is no real chronology of events on this web site.We have tried to keep things organized but facts and figures all connect together to give you a good understanding of this great event.

Unexpected News

After the big day had ended....

You could still find affordable rooms for Christmas and the Millennium 2001 Weeks during the holidays. Many guests at major hotels felt ripped off by prices that went through the roof only to find guests who waited found rates lower then last year. The Orlando Visitors and Conventions Bureau estimated that 45 5 of all rooms were empty for New years Weekend. Last Christmas and New Years weeks were real eye openers for many guests. Those that were patient found prices plunging as many hotels had many rooms left over. Even at Disney World. The hype was all faked and for those that were willing to visit anyway there were great bargains. The best part was that the parks were manageable and the crowds small compared to previous years. Even Michael Eisner was found visiting Universal Studios although he claimed to the press he was just on holiday. Millennium 2001 is already being hyped as being the “ Real Millennium” . Considering Y2K is over and hotels are likely to be realistic this time round we can guarantee this will be the most exciting Millennium events in the history of Florida. Our guess is that you better book early and this time it will certainly be the most fun time to visit Florida.

Great News !

The First News that problems were on the horizon !

November 1st , 1999 :

The Orlando Sentinel revealed in today's newspaper revealed today that a substantial number of guests who reserved rooms at the Disney Hotels failed to meet the mid-October deadline to pay for their rooms. Many guests who reserved rooms years ago never followed through with full payment. There were still rooms left at the All Star Resort and a few other moderate priced hotels with three night minimums. It was not anticipated they would last too long. Room rates would cost about $100 per double and up per room.

Insiders have revealed that tour operators and airlines are still able to get rooms at Disney World as record numbers of foreign tourists are not planning to visit as they perceive it is just too expensive for these two weeks. One buyer from a large Canadian tour operator mailed this newsletter last week that numerous Orlando hotels have dropped their rates 25 % or more to entice Canadians to visit. It was alleged that even Disney was concerned over all the empty rooms in the Orlando area as travel industry experts acknowledge the Millennium events world wide have received poor handling as many resorts attempted to price gouge clients who now are staying home in great numbers.

The same newspaper reported there is still many rooms left in Orlando for the Millennium week.Only the Swan and Dolphin Hotels are holding out for 7 night minimums at over $500 per room. These hotels are confident that now that November is here they will fill up as Americans , who traditionally reserve late , will rush to be at Disney World for the Millennium. Hotels along International Drive and the Lake Buena Vista areas have started insisting on 5 night minimums but at more affordable rates. After examining the many hotels booking policies the article admitted that November will see many changes in rates and booking conditions. It is anticipated that hotel's with three night minimums will charge very high rates but those with 7 night rates will be more reasonable to attract families. Guests who stay three nights tend to be younger professionals with few children.

4th of July 2000

Let's just put it this way. New Years was fun but the 4th of July was great. Everyone, right down to the press said this was the party we should have had. Perfect sunny weather and the parks were loaded with merry makers and fun events. That night any park would have been great. The M.Kingdom had its traditional 9PM " kiddy " fireworks ( so that parents could get the children home but later that night a 10PM the fireworks were synchronized to go off with EPCOT and Disney-MGM. It was a site to see but we knew EPCOT would top them all. The millennium fireworks ( Tapestry of Nations ) show went off as usual but then there was a small pause. A voice of authority announced " ladies and gentlemen....a now a tribute to America". A 20 minute rendition of America the Beautiful and our Star Bangle Banner were played as perfectly timed fireworks lit up the night sky. When it was over you were numb with amazement and we all knew why our United States make up the greatest country on earth. The audience could hardly do anymore then whisper. This truly was the Millennium party of the year.

Dec 15th - 1999

16 Days till the Greatest Party in the History of Orlando

It is official and not everyone is happy. The Orlando Sentinel said earlier this week that most major hotels have empty rooms. Even at Disney World . There are many reasons to blame.Was it over hyped ? Y2K ? Whatever the reasons it has become a buyers market. Room rates are plunging city wide. basically the room rates should be no higher then the fourth of July weekend and if you are paying more you need to call your hotel and see if the rate can be adjusted. The only danger is that is most cases the best prices are already locked in and many properties may just offer to cancel your reservation . The Orlando market is notorious for having a strong last minute market. Most hotels fill up in the last two weeks of the year anyway when Last Minute travelers recognize the potential for great deals.

This phenomenon is a worldwide problem. Time magazine estimates that 70 % of the North American and 80% of the European market will stay home this New Years Eve.

Here's what you saw on New Years Eve at Disney World :

EPCOT : The Candlelight Processional will take place in the American Amphitheater at 5:PM- 6:45 and 8:15

The Latin Sounds of Cubanisimo will take place on a special stage .

Throughout the park a variety of International acts will entertain guests.

Tip : Historically EPCOT goes out of its way to be featuring major acts in the mainstream of their respective countries but little known by North Americans. If you are not keen on seeing unusual acts this may not be the best park on New Years Eve

Illuminations 2000 will take place at midnight with a promise of being a little more spectacular then usual. As noted earlier in this newsletter the September competition between two major fireworks companies outside the Magic Kingdom demonstrated a virtual firestorm of pyrotechnics that lasted most of a half hour.

The park closes at 2AM. Reservations at all the main restaurants have been Sold Out for over 2 months. Better show up well fed and the anticipated hundreds of thousands will eat up everything in the park.

The Magic Kingdom : As usual this will be a night of surprises. Several stages have been set up through the park. Who will entertain ? The rumors are flying but if last year is any indication then mainstream artists like N-Sync and Brittany Spears met on the main stage. At a recent press Conference for the Backstreet Boys in Orlando they were asked where they'd be on New Years Eve. They answered they would be with family here in Orlando. When asked if their new Millennium CD meant they'd perform on New Years Eve they replied laughing that they can only say it will be a surprise....and they can't actually reveal yet what they are up to. What is guaranteed ? The Main Street Electrical Parade at 9 and 11 PM. The fantasy in the Sky Fireworks at midnight is being hailed as the largest fireworks display in the history of the park.

Tip: expect this park to be the most crowded with young children. At midnight there will be many families with crying and exhausted children if they last that long. This most certainly will be the park to expect the greatest lines and crowds. If you are just going to be there this could in fact be the park with the most number of surprises.

Disney / MGM : Last year this was party central. Three main stages were set and there was constant dancing in the streets. This years it is rumored that Cheap Trick will be the featured band on the main stage. Not in to rock music ? Park officials have announced a 40's Big Band stage, a Disco Stage and 70's and 80's stage. Throughout the park tens of thousands will dance the night away. Fantasmic will have three showings. The Osbourne Family Christmas illuminates 5 million plus lights on the back lot. Finally the Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks also promises to be the largest spectacular ever held at Disney MGM. This park promises to be party central for the " young at heart ".

Tip: this is the location where most adult party activities should be held. Children are welcome but most will be drawn to the magic Kingdom. if you really want to party then this park will appeal to most North Americans.

The Animal Kingdom : If you are after a real unique experience and love world rhythms this will be one great party. Named "Harambe Party " this world beat event will include all kinds of exotic and unique party music. This free style party will embrace the park with most unusual and yet driving sounds of world class music. At midnight a spectacular light and fireworks show will over take the entrance area of the park. As was last year, the animals of the Animal Kingdom aren't easily settled by all the excitement so most events will take place away from the animal compounds. Inside the park the shows and rides will last till midnight. If you have young children you may in fact enjoy this more then any other park. It is exciting without being overwhelming. It will the guaranteed " Gentle Launch to the Millennium "

Tip : if for no other reason you have to do the Night Safari. it rarely is held but you in fact see more animals at night then during the day. last year there was a whole new theme to the 1/2 ride. It centered on the search for an African Bush Wedding. As most animals in the wild are nocturnal it was exciting to see so many animals up close. Don't under estimate the fun of this park on Millennium Eve but remember . At midnight and after the fireworks this park closes.

Final Thoughts :

A special thank you to the thousands who visited our site. We are in fact looking forward to our own Millennium Reunion with 22 members of the Oakley family converging on our home for three weeks. Four generations of Oakleys. Where will we be ? We have selected Disney / MGM as the most fun location. We love to dance and remember last years surprise guest artists. We are guessing this is where the most fun will be.

I have E: Mail both for and against the hype. Everyone had something to offer. The most recent mail focused on the great hotel deals that many had found. There are many fearing that they won't get in at all. All we can tell you on the record is that we will not be concerned at all. Our plans include the Multi Day Passes we already own and our years of experience that showed us that come 7 PM there are thousands with young children just too tired to stay on. As they leave we enter with no expectations but to have fun.

I also want to thank Alexander Holiday Homes for donating this site. They are great folks and have offered to keep this permanent record about the Millennium and how it occurred in Orlando. Our next entry will be in the new year and we plan to post family pictures as a tribute to our family.

Whether you decide to come to Disney World or just stay home there is one constant truth. This will only happen once in your lifetime. Why not be part of the fun at the happiest place on earth. Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida

Happy Holidays for all and see you in the new Millennium


We are getting loads of mail at this site regarding what the guests are seeing at EPCOT. Watch this site for tips as we get mail. We'll post the best ones for your benefit. This came in last night September 27th, 1999

A pleasant surprise at EPCOT tonight. As is typical of Disney they had most of the Millennium sites available tonight on a preview. They call these events Soft Openings but nothing was soft about it. The park was packed to the limits .It was much like New years day itself. The Parade seemed to been a universal disappointment. Visually spectacular and technically a masterpiece. The only problem was it lasted 30 minutes. The same music over and over made the crowd very restless. In fact, crowd control was so lacking
that people were walking between floats, chasing children between stilt walkers and just talking a storm over the loud music. It certainly could be tightened up to last 10 minutes less and be more interesting. Most guests next to us at the American Pavilion were complaining how long the parade lasted and all they could talk about was whether there was good sites left to view the fireworks. It is a definite mistake to wait for the parade to end and then go hunting for a good viewing spot. The parade is so visual that no matter where you locate for the fireworks you'll have a good view of the parade. The parade is in fact three parades. Identical in nature .They start at the British, Moroccan and German compounds and head east. We heard one teenager sum it up that no one under 21 will like this as the music is flowery, symphonic and boringly long. The same rhythms over and over for 30 minutes. We plainly felt the pain that the walkers must have had. 20ft or higher in the air were the walking costumes and they were smiling as they held these flimsy plastic costumes. Most certainly the mildest wind could knock these parade workers to the ground. It's quite a site but we are sure it will be changed somewhat for the benefit of staff and crowds.

The new fireworks made up for this unusual parade. The best I have ever seen and nothing like the last GE dud. This time the fireworks were perfectly coordinated and the visual tricks were not like anything you have ever seen.

If you can get there on Tuesday night it is worth it just for this 20 minute
spectacular. Disney says they spent 30 % more on this mega pyrotechnically spectacular but it looks like they spent even more. Everything was flawless and awe inspiring. You were left numb when it was over. In this case the revolutionary music was up to date with a techno style rhythm that certainly will appeal to the broader crowd. One item was plainly different. Spaceship Earth was not integrated in to the show. It just disappeared in to the dark night sky as you focused on what was going on over the lake.

The new Imagination Pavilion ties in with the" Honey I Shrunk the Audience Show ". You are in the Invention Institute and a series of visually mystifying tricks have you real busy for a good hour. There's a ride and then a kind of odd arcade that leads up to a gigantic picture taking room where guess what ? They'll sell you your souvenir pictures in at least a dozen funny but expensive formats. John Cleese is the host of the whole building. Save this attraction for a rainy day or at the heat of the afternoon as you'll easily spend 90 minutes here alone.

There are new pins to collect for everything. In the Millennium Central location under the ball there is a shop with pins upon pins. They claim they'll be collectors items but I'd wonder who can afford these hundreds, maybe thousands of $6 per pin souvenirs. I could only imagine what a full set would set you back.

EPCOT is going to be a hit for the next 15 months. They do need to tighten up on just how entertaining they need to be. Once the crowds start it may not be too pleasant as the new attractions seem to not have a good grasp on what keeps you occupied while you wait.

The Nortan's from California

What a change for Disney ! A parade with no mention of Mickey and all kinds of attractions that are more similar a world's fair or an Olympic village.Actually the parade is quite spectacular but there's not a mention of any Disney characters during the whole 30 minutes. The music is catchy but it doesn't change much. You will either love or hate it. The Millenni8um Village is very disappointing. They claim there is 15 new countries but there's actually just a large series of displays and many gift shops. The Imagination Pavilion is really a lot of fun and laughs .Great for 90 minutes of odd displays and activities. The new Innoventions is what you expect. Lot's of technology and displays. A great place to drop off your teenagers.Leave a Legacy is different but there is something unusual. They say it started October 1st but already that morning there were hundreds of pictures on the giant slabs. It turns out that Disney staff jumped the gun and many got their own pictures on the walls ahead of the park guests. Not really fair if you wanted to get on the display early. All in all this is a new EPCOT but most people will not think it is a different park. Just a lot of new displays so I still think tourists will view this as the least interesting and fun park.maybe it is good enough for the 15 months but in the end you still have more fun at the other Disney Parks. The best part is still the fireworks. 15 minutes of great music, fire in the sky and on the lake and more noise then a rock concert. It looks like every trick in the book is pulled off to make this event the highlight of the day. We'll be back as one day is not enough time in this park.

The Nicholson's from Stoke on Trent, England

Millennium Village....better then a world's fair. We heard some British couple really be negative regarding this pavilion. Therefore, we left this for last. What a mistake ! It took three hours to go through this gigantic pavilion and we felt rushed. There is so much to see and do. The best part was a surprise visit to the Israel pavilion. Looked simple at first but the simulator ride was astounding. You really think you are floating through Jerusalem. The religious " divisions " were glossed over but that was understandable. The next room had Saudi Arabians. The complaints we heard were that there were too many boutiques and souvenir shops in the building but that was just not the case. Sure, there were shops but they handled this in a unique way .It was at the conclusion of all the international displays and was handled like a large street bazaar. All kinds of local crafts people making handicrafts but we noticed something odd. No prices. In the Korean shop I asked the fellow how much a great handcrafted lacquer box cost. He said " we suggest $12". I said : can I suggest another price ? He replied that he is the final decider on the price. I then got it. This is just like a street market. You can try to haggle. I'm not sure but I think it would have work. Plenty of theatre shows, live action and small rides. Millennium Village is a real winner. The food court was fantastic. International snacks of all sorts and really cheap. You could easily have a lunch for under $6. All kinds of food including some that you have to think twice about. The eating area is central so it is also a great people watching spot. It is very much like the food court at The Land but far more interesting. Save this for a rainy day or hot afternoon. You may not leave it many hours later.

The Elliot's from Celebration ,Florida

Quick Facts Regarding The New Years Eve ( Millennium ) Events :

1. Special Hours to the Disney Parks : in fact nothing will change except closing hours. Anticipate that parks will open around 8 AM and stay open till well past midnight. Only the Animal Kingdom ( AK ) will empty early to host a parking lot party. Why ? The Animals at AK can not handle lots of noise and fireworks. If last year is any indicator you will see a truly unusual family party with lots of dancing and music but few spectacular night sky activity. This will be the most popular family location for a New Years party. TIP: the admission to the parking will lot be your only cost if you want to take in this party. For $6 you get a great party and can leave quickly.

2.When to arrive at the parks : the truth is that once the park is full it will be full. Most guests arriving for the day will leave around supper time. Very few guests arrive early and last through midnight. Anticipate those coming in for the evening events to start arriving around 5 to 6PM. Although there can be no guarantees the idea of a 24 hour day at Disney World is basically impossible for most people. That being said, attendance to the parks can reach into the hundreds of thousands of guests so you had better want to be a crowd lover that night.

3.Which park to visit ? EPCOT will have the most new attractions. It will also be shoulder to shoulder with guests. There will be a heavy emphasis on international musical stars that most Americans will have never heard of. Interesting but a bit too odd for most party goers. The Magic Kingdom will not deviate from the tried and true formula but they will have at least two major stage shows. Main Street USA and Cinderella's Castle will be a sea of humanity trying to position themselves for a view of the shows , extra long fireworks and the final countdown to the end of this millennium. You could anticipate some major surprises as to who will be on stage. Last year the Disney MGM Studios was the most party like place to be. Loads of world class entertainers all through the parks. Gigantic street parties and one monster fireworks both around 10PM and midnight. This location was really popular with the younger crowd. As stated earlier the Animal Kingdom was perfect for families with young children but by 12:30AM the parking lot was pretty empty. Disney has learned from the past that promoting how big the events are long ahead is a mistake. Considering if all the parking lots were full you could have millions of people at one time they'd rather be low key and tell you a few days ahead about the line up of stars that will entertain you. Tip : for a real inexpensive night go the Boardwalk Hotel. It will be hard to find a parking spot but as you may know it is sandwiched between Disney / MGM and EPCOT. Last years fireworks were almost beyond believable. The combined pyrotechnics between these two parks and the Magic Kingdom in the distance made for a site and sound feast. A great spot is to bring a blanket and picnic hamper and have your own small party on the public white sand beach at the Beach Club. What a spectacle and the kids can wear themselves out playing in the sand and on the swings.

4.Magic Kingdom Club- Annual Pass holder or on site guest advantages : don't expect. Normally these groups can get in early etc. but when you have thousands blocking the gates as they want to get in early the Disney staff are generally inclined to allow equal opportunity for all. it was not too many years ago that during the 25th Anniversary year if you were not in the parks by 10Am you could forget it. Mostly due to new parks and incidental attractions that problem has been resolved but remember there are no certainties this particular year.

5.Special Tickets : None to the parks. That being said there is an anticipated run on the available tickets starting in early December.The idea that there is a bottomless pit of tickets is just not so. The Disney computers know that at a certain point there is just too many in circulation. If you can , buy or pre arrange admission now .

One final thought. Disney is going out of it's way to make you believe that Dec. 31st will be no different then October 1st. Having lived here all these years you get to know that is just not the case. New Years - Millennium Eve will be magical. Where do you want to say you were 50 years from now when your grandchildren ask you what you were doing that night. Certainly not saying you were watching television ! Too crowded to visit. Never as the fact remains the Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth. Not even Seaworld or Universal will ever have such universal appeal. You just have to be here for this once in a lifetime event.

Millennium Events at EPCOT - Some Recent History

May 1999

Fact : As early as October, 1997 the Orlando Sentinel newspaper announced that every Disney Hotel and most major hotels along International Drive were already sold out for the Millennium week. It was reported that as early as a 1995 an ABC television network showing of the annual Christmas parade had hinted something big was coming. Many American families raced to the telephones to start reserving the thousands of Disney resort hotel rooms. Rates were not guaranteed but you did have to put down a substantial down payment so you had the chance to stay on Disney property. Rates were released only recently and they are not cheap.

Many tour operators are perplexed so far. How can you triple and quadruple hotel rates locally and still attract millions of Disney fans. It seems that the world does not’t care. The general public feeling is that Disney is up to something really big.

Fact: Disney held an elaborate rock concert outside the Magic Kingdom during September of 1998. Thousands filled the temporary concert area. Thousands more filled the beaches at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary hotels. The most incredible fireworks display filled the night sky for almost a half hour. So gigantic a display that clouds made it near impossible to see the night sky after a while. Disney staff hinted that this fireworks show was actually the competition of two major fireworks manufacturers who wanted to have the contract for the millennium fireworks display at EPCOT . Truth or fiction ? Who knows but hundreds of thousands of dollars blew up in the night sky for a rock concert that only attracted a few thousand paying clients. We attended the viewing at the Polynesian Beach front and saw many guests being surveyed whether they preferred the fireworks on the western or eastern end of the lake. Was this a preview of the future ?

Fact: The Orlando Sentinel commented in February ,1999 on how strange this event will be. Disney is still staying quiet although the community is in high anticipation of something big about to be announced. Renovations at EPCOT are gigantic. Behind the British and Canadian pavilions there is some very large construction going on. If you ask workers at these pavilions what is going on they’ll admit they are not supposed to comment too much. During a family visit in mid April of this year a British student working in the Rose and Crown Pub told us there is over 20 new countries already signed up for a mini worlds fair type attraction. Over in Canada another worker said the plans are really much larger. That final building will end near Morocco. At a Guest Services desk at the entrance of EPCOT we were told that the biggest party in the history of Disney World starts on October 1st of 1999. He pointed to an obscure blue star on the side of the entrance building and said that was an anchor for a new entrance display that will emanate from the ball. As of May 1st the star is gone but the whole entrance area is partially closed off with small signs saying " Getting ready for the Millennium "

Fact: Pleasure Island has landed two major acts for New Years Eve. This is not verified yet but the Sentinel once again said that thousands of $250 tickets have already been sold. That top pop stars will help guests welcome the biggest adult party at Downtown Disney’s Pleasure Island.

Fact :As of May 1st Disney is still very quiet. Why ? A memo to all members of the Orlando Visitors and Convention Bureau hinted that the plans are so big that they could cripple the numbers of visitors to Orlando this summer if people knew the caliber of what is about to happen only months later.

Fact: the Sentinel revealed in a late April Business section report that 3000 national travel agents were surveyed where people wanted to be for the Millennium. For the first time in America, New York City was third. Las Vegas was first choice but Orlando a close second. An estimated 10 million or more visitors may want to be here. Little wonder the excitement is just starting to build. Imagine the pressure on hotel rates when tourists discover how big the millennium will be in Orlando . Between the Disney marketing machine about to kick in to high gear and the recent opening of Universal Studios " Islands of Adventure " park this will be a city ready for millions of excited tourists.

June 1999

Rumor or Fiction : This may sound crazy but here goes. At a marketing meeting of local hotel executives, held here in Orlando, the subject of Disney and Millennium was on everyone’s lips. First, it was alleged that in spite of Disney’s claims to being sold out that they in fact still have rooms for the Millennium. Tour operators at the meeting all reported they had rooms left to sell. Further, the feeling was that Disney was sitting on empty rooms in hopes of fetching the highest possible rates.

The wildest rumor was that Disney is in a panic over Y2K. During the first test of the Y2K impact on Florida Powers sub stations and nuclear reactors there was some major failures. With little fanfare thousands of homeowners noticed fluctuating electric levels during the early weeks of April. Continued testing still has Florida Power unable to guarantee electricity for all of Florida at 12:01AM on January 1st,2000. Disney’s own fears are that it would be a disaster to have hundreds of thousands of tourists inside the parks at a time when power failures could cripple the control of tourists. They need a contingency plan if Florida Power can not guarantee a full supply of electricity that night. That there would have to be plans to close the parks early on December 31st and move the crowds into large party areas in the massive parking lots. In fact, last New Years Eve a test was done at the Animal Kingdom when they moved thousands of people into the parking lot claiming that the Animals would be upset by all the revelries. The plan worked well but one item remained a mystery. All the Animals are moved to compounds at the rear of the park after hours each night. So why move the people outside the park when the animals are separated anyway. Was this a test of crowd movement or a try out for something different. Time will tell.

Ticket Alert : If you called Disney Guest Services today and asked if you can buy a ticket today for park admission on the evening of December 31st, 1999 they will say yes. Ask them if it will allow you to enter EPCOT and they will say they can not guarantee this yet. Special ticket to be announced soon ? Who knows but the sales of Pleasure Island tickets for the Millennium party were quite brisk at $250 per person. No doubt Disney would like to formulate a special ticket evening similar to the Halloween and Christmas parties that require a special admission ticket. It would be any easy way to increase profits and control crowds in a big way. Current ticket prices are around $43 but if you doubled or tripled the price for a special event you could also half the numbers of people and make the same money.

Fact : Disney announced today in the Orlando Sentinel that the 465 day Millennium Celebrations will be treated like no other event in their history. Every day of the 15 month event a commemorative pin will be issued that is in fact part of a large puzzle. If you somehow collect all the 465 pins, measuring 1" square, you will have a large picture of EPCOT.

Further, the company will be taking photo’s of visitors who for a price can have their images included in a new dramatic and permanent sculpture. Located at the entrance to EPCOT the Leave a Legacy art work will straddle the gigantic entrance between the turnstiles and Space Ship Earth.

July and August : Still very little information. In last weeks Orlando Sentinel Business News was a picture of the major renovations at EPCOT Center. A gigantic metal frame is now built around the side of the AT&T Spaceship Earth. Designed to be a bold and luminescent welcome to all the festivities at EPCOT. A ten foot high blue wall surrounds most of the adjoining area. Information or details ? Nothing yet. When you ask the staff at the Welcome Center station about what they know they plainly are on edge. If you press them they will tell you that this is much like Disney World’s 25th Anniversary Celebrations. Very silent and void of announcement until a few weeks before the events started. Why the silent treatment ? Tour Operators wanted the summer of 1997 out of the way before they flaunted the 25th. No doubt the travel industry wants to turn a traditional start to the Low Season ( October and November ) in to the start of a record year. Tour operators are watching carefully as to just how much they can flaunt this event and increase profits. Especially after a soft year in the Orlando market when for the second year the numbers of tourists has stayed stagnant. This in spite of new theme parks and hundreds of new things to see and do in Central Florida.

We are all waiting for September when we anticipate a whole lot of news.

What’s New at Disney this month ?

Two new attractions opened this week at Disney World. Both are targeting older children and teenagers. Tarzan Rocks at The Animal Kingdom and the Rock- n - Roller Coaster at Disney MGM Studios.

Tarzan Rocks , at the Animal Kingdom opens to packed audiences. This is not like anything Disney has ever done before. Ear splitting loud. Visually spectacular and of all things it is surprisingly full of sexual innuendo. It really does not tell the Tarzan story although by the second song in the show you’ll see Tarzan swinging around the audience in what has to be the skimpiest outfit ever seen in a Disney show. Jane’s entrance is in formal Victorian clothes but within seconds she’s down to a bear all outfit as she gets close to Tarzan. The show is actually a heavy rock musical with non- stop singing by three very talented singers that are backed up by a large and very loud group of rock musicians. It was quite common to see young and old covering their ears as the music had to rival the launch of a rocket. Stunts galore as dancers and acrobats fill the stage with near inhuman tricks. This show needs refinement but will be a certain hit for it’s three year run. This show plainly is intended to appeal to a younger crowd that Disney is intending to attract back to their parks.

Rock - n - Roller Coaster ; As is typical of Disney, they can’t have a roller coaster ride like you’d see elsewhere. Disney needs a story line and so you have the saga of Aerosmith the heavy rock group as they travel through Los Angeles. From the moment you enter the roller coaster compound , located next to the Tower of Terror, the music is blaring from loud speakers. The two hour wait is a problem although you know Disney anticipated this as the line up area is huge zig zag through shaded areas with plenty of ceiling fans. The real problem is that it took two hours for many guests only to find the coaster has been breaking down almost daily. Once inside you are escorted through a story line that eventually loads you in a convertible roof limo that has almost two hundred stereo speakers with very loud rock music. The coaster goes from 0 to 65mph in seconds as it launches in to a series of loops and inverted flips. It all takes 90 seconds but you’ll think that was plenty as you gather your composure. One really good thing. The whole ride takes place inside an air conditioned building so you really finish the ride cool and dry.

Tuesday, July 27, 1999

It’s finally official.

The " Mickey Monitor " , a Disney Annual Pass Holder Newsletter came out today with many of the Millennium details

The theme will be " Celebrating the Future Hand in Hand "

The dates will be October 1st, 1999 through Jan.1st, 2001.

A fifteen month extravaganza with EPCOT at the heart of it all.

Tapestry of Nations will bring cultures of the world together in a vibrant, pulsating millennium procession bigger than life all around the World Showcase lagoon. Millennium Village introduces a new pavilion of countries and cultures in a world without borders. An all new Innoventions puts you on the " Road to Tomorrow " with all new hands on showcase of breathtaking technology. There will even be an opportunity to " Leave a Legacy " and become part of a lasting sculpture at the entrance to EPCOT by having your image etched onto a metallic tile. And as a grand finale " Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth " will fill the night skies with fireworks, lasers ,music and Disney’s most adventuresome effort with skyrocketing effects. ( please read earlier details in this newsletter )

New Years Eve 2000 :

There are several private options that you can select for the start of the new millennium.

The Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s Boardwalk will have an elegant 1940’s era theme party with the sounds of Steve Lucky and the Rumba Bums. A five course gourmet diner complete with free flowing champagne. At midnight you’ll be thrilled by spectacular fireworks from your private viewing section located right at the dance hall. Tickets for this event are $300 per person. Plus tax

Cirque du Soleil : The party at Downtown Disney begins with an elaborate buffet underscored by a jazz trio followed by the gravity defying performances of La Nouba. A mesmerizing new thrill show. Afterwards, you are invited to a waterfront gathering with the performers for a private party that includes deserts and champagnes as you watch the special fireworks at Pleasure Island from your private viewing area. It is going to be a unique way to celebrate the new millennium for $210 per person plus tax

Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney : Rock the millennium away at a blockbuster private party with the B 52’s and Hootie and the Blowfish. Massive buffets, champagne flowing in the streets and a fabulous midnight fireworks. This certainly will be the private party to beat all private parties in Orlando. $250 per person plus tax

Please note that all Disney’s private parties do sell out quickly each year and can only be reserved directly with Disney.

The Theme Parks :

There will be the largest events held at the theme parks. Each millennium celebration will be unique and individual but there will be no restrictions except for capacity in the parks. Annual pass holders will be given priority but the general public will have access to each park as long as they arrive early enough in the day. If 1998’s parties are an indicator then you need to arrive early in the day and secure your spot for the world’s most exciting Millennium Parties.

The Animal Kingdom will have a party on the Wild Side. A multi cultural party with African and Asian themes. Including a visually spectacular fireworks display held just outside the park at midnight that will include dancing and international music.

The Magic Kingdom : a classic Disney party that includes several parades ,all the Disney characters and all kinds of surprise entertainment. If last year is any indicator then world class entertainers will fill the special stages as you count down the events till midnight when an extra special fireworks extravaganza.

Disney- MGM Studios :a rock n roll theme will count down the hours to midnight. Dancing in the streets , surprise rock and roll artists and plenty of new rides will make the night pass quickly. The new Fantasmic show will run twice that night but at midnight the sky will be ablaze with Disney’s own special fireworks extravaganza above the Chinese Theater.

EPCOT : will host the largest party of them all. A new Illuminations 2000 fireworks display and the World Showcase featuring one international party after another. This is always the most popular event at Disney World each New Years eve. Although not announced as of it is anticipated that there will be some world class entertainment featured on special stages all through the parks. You’ll be entertained by world class performers as the count down to what will be the worlds largest fireworks display that will light the midnight sky above the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Most certainly Disney World will be the number one destination to launch your next Millennium. Not only will the parties be beyond your comprehension you will also be able to say I celebrated the New Millennium at the happiest place on earth. Don’t be fooled.....

This once in a lifetime event will sell out. soon.

Millennium News Release ~ Saturday, August 21, 1999

Finally The Walt Disney Company has spoken about the Millennium. In a major announcement at the Doubletree Resort they invited selected travel industry people to a two hour presentation that explained this 15 month event. Here are some of the highlights.

Although all the parks and cruise ships will all have special events the EPCOT Center will be the primary location of the weekly happenings. Mr. Scott Cassidy, Marketing Brand Manager for the Millennium, explained the major renovations to EPCOT will surface over the next three weeks. He also explained that in designing this event they surveyed thousands of people worldwide regarding the Millennium. Almost everyone wished they could be here but Disney appreciated that for many people the Millennium would be a personal event and much closer to home. That, guests are hoping to have the same experience of New Years Eve as they would in the middle of summer. Christmas and New Years will be more extravagant and there will be major entertainment but each and every week EPCOT will host a new but similar experience.

Each day of the event will be a special choreographed sequence of occurrences. From the time the gates open to the closing late at night there will be a series of repeated events that will make visiting EPCOT an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Much like a day long show. The entrance at Spaceship Earth will see a gigantic Mickey holding a huge wand. The numbers 2000 will soar in to the sky and will be visible for miles. Each guest will have the opportunity to participate in the Leave a Legacy exhibition. At numerous kiosks you will be able to have your picture taking by a computer that will etch your family picture onto a stainless steel tile. The images will be mounted on massive display walls that will allow you to know that forever your picture will be on display. In fact, you will be able to use paper and pencil to trace your personal tile as a souvenir.

Millennium Central : this major display outside of the newly renovated Innoventions pavilions will be a gathering place for information, meeting people from all over the world and numerous shows all day long. An intricate web sculpture will soar above your heads as you enter the World Showcase.

Innoventions " Road to Tomorrow " : It's all new. Innoventions always appealed to the younger crowd with all it's new technology displays but this time it will be different. Disney promises to have on show and to introduce new technology like never before. Two buildings full of the future. Hands on technologies you never thought possible will be there for you to not only look at but to play with. This certainly will be one of their most exciting pavilions.

Imagination : Almost a year ago this glass pyramid closed with the promise of something big to come. It opens for October 1st with an all new and zany show. Will Figment and the Dream Maker be back ? This ride and comedy show will embrace the entire building and culminate with the 3 D Laugh-Fest " Honey I Shrunk the Audience ". For a certainty the Imagination Pavilion will be a riot of laughter.

Millennium Village : 35 countries will participate in the world showcase display. Scotland to Brazil, Israel to Saudi Arabia and many more. All portraying their individual cultures and entertainment’s. Each country will have a souvenir pin that is anticipated to become major collectors items.

Entertainment : The Hand in Hand Video will be released world wide on October 1st. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on worldwide advertising. Each night there will be two spectacular shows at 6:30 and 8:30 PM. Named the Tapestry of Nations show the two events will have a different theme. 6:30 will be Diversity and 8:30 will be Unity. Each show will last 30 minutes. 19 gigantic torches will circle the World Showcase lagoon while 10’ flames roar in to the night sky. A new Disney character named the Sage of Time will tell a story about the many peoples of this planet . 32 gigantic rolling percussion drummers will circle the park and interact with the guests. 120 , 20 ft. high puppets will parade thirty feet apart as they march to special choreographed music. The show culminates with a series of musical and visual experiences that assure each guest an experience as never thought possible.

Illuminations 2000 - Reflections of Earth. Imagine this. Clashing comets in the night sky. Specially designed Inferno Barges with 40’ flames and a new Earth Barge with some type of innovative, super clear imaging. It is not laser that project the images on to the Globe, but in fact it is LEDs that are arranged in the shape of continents. A program plays video on a computer and these images light up the LED's much like a television. Multi colored laser cannons and 30 % more fireworks will burst in to the night sky as EPCOT promises the largest display of pyrotechnics in the history of Disney.

Questions asked from the floor : Will New Years week be any different from previous years ? Answer : Each night of the event will be special. naturally, Disney will host extra special events during the holiday period. The reason they can not announce too many details at present is that there is concern over crowd control. The parks have always been crowded in the past. Once the worldwide campaign is launched there is concern that too much interest may turn in too many people during one week. Will there be Special Tickets ? Answer: No. It is anticipated that early on the day of New Years eve if you are not in the parks you may not be able to experience this once in a lifetime event. Parks are anticipated to be sold to capacity.

Shamu-Llennium at Seaworld

Hard to believe but the best party may be with the whales....

Take a look at this news release dated : September 22nd,1999:

This will certainly give a new spin to bringing in the new Millennium and it will take a lot for Disney to top this one. I'd suggest if you have plans you better get those tickets ASAP

September 24th , 1999 - 100 days till the New Millennium

Startling truths were revealed today in the Orlando Sentinel. While the City of Orlando unveiled their " 100 days to the Millennium " events the Disney corporation was exposed for promoting inaccurate information regarding their hotels and the Millennium week. A random survey this morning revealed rooms are available at certain Disney hotels and most major hotels in Orlando are far from being sold out. More details will be revealed shortly in this newsletter. In spite of all the fanfare the Orlando Business Journal says this new years eve will be busy but no more crowded then usual. The Millennium will be exciting... but not nearly as expensive as anticipated.

Millennium Celebrations Around Orlando

Church Street Station : will host a black tie dinner and dance extravaganza in the Presidential Ballroom.The evening will include a 6 hour open bar, hors d'oeuvres that lead in to a plated four course dinner paired with wine.

King Henry's Feast : dazzles guests with a millennium celebration that includes jugglers, dancing, singing and specialty acts. Midnight will arrive will thousands of balloons falling on to the party goers.

The Mark two Dinner Theatre: Being promoted as like a private party this night is an evening of fine dining, theatre and dancing till dawn. Buffet breakfast in the wee hours of the morning will end an all night celebration.

Medieval Times : will feature an all new review in the Hall of Arms Dinner Theatre. Hor's doeuvres and champagne start the evening. The new show welcomes the Millennium along with an extra special dinner feast.

Pirates Dinner Adventure : For dinner the guests embark on a pirate adventure that culminates in an all night disco called the Buccaneer Bash. Expect the unexpected at this party.

Pointe Orlando : this eccentric shopping mall on International Drive is hosting their " Streetmosphere Party ". All free and all exciting for the whole family.

Sleuths Mystery Diner Show : A gala evening of mystery as the newest show " Millennium Bug " will see it's premier . Chaos and mayhem ensue as guests are asked to participate in this mystery of mysteries. A great dinner and night of fun for the whole family.

Wild Bills Dinner Extravaganza : a millennium country hoe down that leads to an exciting midnight conclusion. Great for the whole family and loads of all American entertainment make this a western style fun show of the year.

Don't be fooled. If you plan to be here in Orlando you better reserve your Millennium evening tickets well ahead of time.

Red Hot Tip : Don't be fooled ! The Millennium will be big in Orlando. Tickets to every theme park and show will be limited. Disney, Universal and Seaworld will fill up early for non-pass holders. Tickets to the numerous private parties better be purchased as soon as possible as numbers of guests will be controlled. Disney parks give priority to multi-day pass holders and those buying single day passes may be blocked from entry early in the day.

That’s it for this month.

October 26th - 1999

Fantasia 2000 North American Premier

In today's Annual Passholders mail came today's long awaited announcement that the Fantasia 2000 film will be introduced on Jan.1st in it's IMAX format at the Pointe 21 Theatres here in Orlando . This will be the premier of the first ever - fully animated movie designed exclusively for IMAX theatres. Anyone who has experienced the thrill of an IMAX film knows how you physically get the feeling of being inside the movie. Not just watching it. Imagine these new and breathtaking visual interpretations of Beethoven, Shastakovich, Respighi, Saint-Saens, Gershwin and Starvinski. All this on a giant IMAX screen that soars above the audience.

Celebrity voice overs by Steve Martin,Itzhak Perlman, Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, James Earl Jones,Penn & Teller, and Angela Lansbury will make this thrilling new movie Academy Award winning material. Maestro James Levine of the Metropolitan Opera and the Chicago Symphony orchestra will thrill the audience with full Dolby Stereo sound.

This is an event we strongly recommend you reserve advance tickets to see this guaranteed sell out by calling today. It's full run will be Jan.1st to April 30th in Orlando. Up to 8 daily performances will sell out quickly.

Tickets : are available at 1-888 995 4629.

Adults : $11 Seniors : $9 Students : $7.50

Regards from Sunny Florida

The Oakley’s.

Kissimmee ~ Florida


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