Monday, June 1, 2015

A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World - An Evening in the Vacation Kingdom

By Keith Mahne

We return to our musical journey through Walt Disney World's past with an evening in the Vacation Kingdom. We'll hop on the Monorail after spending a wonderful day at the Magic Kingdom and head on over to the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts for a night of fun. If you're all set, let's head to the monorail station...

Part 14: An Evening in the Vacation Kingdom

(If you haven't had a chance to listen to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12 and Part 13 of our musical journey of vintage Walt Disney World, please check them out before continuing. Also, be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top left-hand corner of this page if you are on a desktop computer.)

Here are Foxx's notes on the creation of Track 14 - An Evening in the Vacation Kingdom:
14) An Evening in the Vacation Kingdom
My hope had always been to complete the Musical Souvenir with a tour of the hotels, stopping at each and ending with the Electrical Water Pageant. When this proved too ambitious for Version 1, I scaled back considerably. Still, this is the reason why the Magic kingdom Express Monorail runs in the wrong direction in Track 1, moving clockwise instead of counter clockwise around the lagoon. I wanted the entrance and exit monorail rides to together complete a full loop around the Lagoon.
Upon arriving at the Contemporary, I was faced with the problem of recreating the distinctive "pop-hiss" of the original monorail doors opening. I ended up using a video uploaded to YouTube by Jeff Lange as reference material in re-creating the sound myself. The "bang" of the door opening is that sound of a dryer door being pulled open, and the pneumatic "hiss" is the piston underneath an office chair being extended.
From the monorail platform, Mariachi Chaparral can be heard performing "Guadajahara" from "A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom". WDW has maintained a mariachi group since 1971, bizarrely enough. In the old days, they performed in Frontierland, and eventually moved permanently (and changed names) to the Contemporary. In 1982, they moved to EPCOT Center and again changed names.
Mariachi music is not my thing. If this project has anything resembling a "nemesis", it was Mariachi Chaparral. I found it next to impossible to include this historical curio and retain anything like the correct atmosphere, which is why their performance here is so truncated. The echo and crowd warble is modeled closely on live recordings taken of the Contemporary concourse in late 2013. Still, anyone who's seen The Magic of walt Disney World will vividly remember the reveal of Mariachi Chaparral as the monorail glides into the contemporary, and the fact is that what you see there was real, so it was nice to keep them in the project, if only as a grace note.
Canyon Terrace Lounge - I had known that the Contemporary had housed a jazz organist in its first few months, but was unable to find any more details until a December 1971 Orlando-land Magazine review of dinner at the Contemporary uncovered a name: Jackie Davis. And, fortunately, Jackie was as prolific a recording artist as he was a musician.
I wanted to choose a recording from as close to Jackie's days at the Contemporary as possible, and ended up using his own composition "Slippery" from his 1970 LP "Here's Jackie" on Kei-Mar Records.
Contemporary Concourse Music - One of the great moments in the creation of this collection was in finding these tracks. The release of the first version of the Souvenir put me in touch with a MouseBits user by the name of "ralphdude". "Ralphdude", or Eric, as it turns out had an intimate connection with the old Contemporary music. Back in the late 70s, one could turn on their in-room television and hear the resort's ambient music, which Eric did one night, turned on his nearby tape recorder, and went to bed.
Although the source tape is now gone, Eric spent the next several decades scouring old recordings looking for exactly the right tracks. He found about an hour's worth of material, mostly by digging through CDs, and graciously sent his results along to me.
I began by backtracking to the vinyl records Jack Wagner would've worked off of, and found to my pleasure that none post-dated 1971, making this match extremely likely. A great deal of it was Henry Mancini and Burt Bacharach, or standard "easy listening" material of the era. There was a specific focus on music from 1968 - 1971, which at first puzzled me. Then I remembered that Jack Wagner would've had very little idea what the final hotel would be like in person; I'm sure he was simply shown a painting and told "that's the Contemporary Hotel." Given the instructions to create an atmosphere loop for a "Contemporary Hotel", the impulse to reach for contemporary hits is obvious. This convinced me that Eric's selections were most likely correct.
I chose two Henry Mancini tracks: "Daydreams" from his terrific Peter Gunn soundtrack, and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning", from his lovely piano album "A Warm Shade of Ivory". This music would've played in the hotel lobby, shopping concourse, and convention center.
Polynesian Village - the Polynesian has always been special to me, which is why I wanted to end the Musical Souvenir at this most Walt Disney World of hotels. No offense Contemporary, but you're no Polynesian.
The Polynesian Village BGM has changed several times over the years. Since our project is laid circa 1977-78, I wanted to be certain to get the earliest possible version of the background music. Fortunately. Dave McCormick was fascinated by this music, and recorded several lengthy excerpts of it in 1983.
One of the tracks he captured was "Stars Over Maui", recorded by the 101 Strings on their album "In a Hawaiian Paradise". This same track also appears in the Adventureland Veranda track dated 1973 but which I believe is from 1971. This was confirmed by Dave, because his recording reveals that the version of "Stars Over Maui" played at the Polynesian Village still has the chimes that Wagner dubbed over the track for the Veranda, meaning that Jack couldn't remove them for his Polynesian loop. Most accounts seem to agree that it took a few years for everything in WDW to get background loops, so this audio artifact suggests that the audio Dave captured could've been in place by 1972 or 1973.
From there I brought Dave's live recordings to the Tiki Central forums, where John Charles Watson identified the remaining tracks for me. The source recordings were then mixed with live recordings made in the Polynesian in October 2013 to get the proper waterfall ambience. The Al Caiola version of "Blue Hawaii", by the way, was the reason I changed the George Bruns Adventureland Veranda track to "Moonlight and Shadows'.
Incidentally, Dave did capture some live ambience in The Golf Resort, which was simply outside the realm of possibility for this presentation. Music seemed only to play in the check-in lobby and restaurant, and was definitely classical music - sounded like Chopin to me. There's no better spot to preserve this information, so here it is.
Great Ceremonial House - In September 2013 I recorded each of the four sides of the now-defunct Lobby Waterfall to mix into this directional audio mix, as well as the crucial sound of the old automatic doors hissing as they open. The music which faintly plays here in "Maui Girl" by the Diamond Head Beachcombers. This ambiance was recorded just months before the removal of this beautiful lobby feature and I'm very proud to have preserved something of its beauty.
Tambu Lounge - In the process of researching names of old WDW resort music acts, I ran into lots of dead ends. One of the first I found something concrete for was Jim Hession, who held court on piano at the Polynesian for twenty years. After Disney, Jim worked as a Bourbon Street jazz pianist and uploaded many, many videos to YouTube under the name "JimMartha Hession". Jim's lovely version of Duke Ellington's "Black Beauty" seemed to strike the right note for a quiet evening over drinks at the Polynesian.
The bar atmosphere here is courtesy "Crowd In A Bar.wav" by Leandros.Ntounis from, as well as samples of "Glass Bottles 02.wav" by dheming. Several times a cocktail shaker may be heard, and that is me.
It took some effort to mix the Tambu Lounge correctly because I did not know it was relocated in the early 1990s to be out in the lobby. The original Tambu Lounge location was taken over by an expansion of the nearby restaurant; what remains of it is a quiet side corridor alongside a row of windows overlooking the pool.
Pepeete Bay Veranda - Disney's insistence on only hiring the best performers available seldom paid off as handsomely in my research as it did in the case of Hal Aloma, a classical Hawaiian performer who had already had a long career before Disney took him on in 1971 to play at the Polynesian. At Disney he was accompanied only by a trio, so I was anxious to recreate the intimate nature of the sound of his tenure there. His late-60s "Lure of the Islands" LP seemed appropriate.
The restrained applause here is "Crowd -4" by Aiwha on
Captain Cook's Hideaway - From 1972 to 1979, Walt Disney World played host to the nearest they would ever come to a cult music act - Gary Stratton and Bob Christopher, known as "Saltwater Express". This folk-pop duo cracked jokes and entertained Cast Members until 2 am at the Polynesian Village's intimate bar, Captain Cook's Hideaway.
In 1972, Disney leveraged the popularity of Saltwater Express to aid in humiliating the local Orlando government into improving SR 535, a narrow, unlit country road which Disney was now funneling thousands of Cast Members down a day for use as the "Cast Member Entrance" to the property. Orlando contended that Disney should contribute because it was their employees which caused the problem, Disney shot back that the road was not on their private property. As a salvo, Disney got Stratton and Christopher to record a novelty song: "Will You Arrive Alive on 535?", and got local radio stations to play it. A sample lyric:
"It was a beautiful ride back in 1905,
In a horse and buggy on a Sunday drive,
Even Bonnie and Clyde back in '25,
Would have taken I-4 instead of 535"
Disney also encouraged Cast Members to write letters to their congressmen campaigning for road safety and published photos of accidents in their Cast newsletter. Ultimately, Disney won and got the road widened on government money.
Naturally, Saltwater Express was high on my wish list. Sadly, both Gary and Chris have gone missing, and efforts to locate archival copies of their hit song "Arrive Alive on 535" seemed fruitless. I knew that Saltwater Express had appeared in a truly deranged 1975 Grand Nite promotional film, as pied pipers leading the high school seniors to the Magic Kingdom, which had been shown once at the 2011 Destination D event in Florida. The likelihood of obtaining that film from the Disney Archives was non-existent.
On a tip from a Disney video collector, I drove up to the State of Florida Archives in Tallahassee, where a section of the Disney media is available for perusal. In there I found a reel of the Grad Nite film mislabeled, and was able to thread up the film and capture the audio to my computer. After some digital clean up and editing, Saltwater Express were back in the Musical Souvenir.
I saved them for last for good reason.
Near the end of the project, the Polynesian Luau show can be heard across the lagoon as the Electrical Water Pageant pulls in. No complete record of a 70s era Luau exists, but YouTube user "Joel Upchurch" has uploaded a luau from April 1983, and this is what I used.
Electrical Water Pageant – the original ELP music, which premiered October 20, 1971, was simply the legendary “Baroque Hoedown” by Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley written in 1966. The tune was later used for the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disneyland, and when the parade was going to be duplicated for the Magic Kingdom in 1977 following the end of the run of America on Parade, the Water Pageant was due for a new soundtrack. This was supervised by Jack Wagner and recorded by Don Dorsey and James Christensen in 1977.
This source track, which is of excellent quality, was from the Wagner estate complete with his hand-written notations and is available for listening online at WaltsMusic.Com. This is not the complete show – it’s about half its length, including only the most famous and representative tracks. This 1977 version of the Pageant ran until 1991, when it was replaced with the current version, which primarily uses pop songs and cues from “The Little Mermaid”. I’d added live Seven Seas Lagoon waves and some echo to approximate the sound of music bouncing off water. I knew from the start that this was the only appropriate way to end a full day in the Vacation Kingdom of the past.

There's nothing like being in the Vacation Kingdom of the World at night! This wonderful An Evening in the Vacation Kingdom track has been added to the Disney Avenue Music Player for you to listen to whenever you'd like.

Well friends, that about does it for our musical adventure of Walt Disney World's past. Sadly, all good things must come to an end. However, if you would like to download these tracks for yourself, here is the link to Foxx Nolte's page and her amazing Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World creation. As I said in the beginning of this adventure, a BIG THANK YOU goes out to Foxx and her contributors for making this truly spectacular musical journey possible for us all to reminisce and enjoy. I hope you had a wonderful time over these past two weeks, I know I sure did! It's always special being able to travel back to the good ol' days of Walt Disney World...the TRUE Vacation Kingdom of the World!


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith's articles here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this! I'm Jim Hession's daughter, Disney born and raised, and it choked me up to know someone remembers my parents' work at WDW. My earliest Disney memory is of smelling the gardenias and watching the torches flicker in the Poly gardens.