The Senses of Walt Disney World: Part Three – Sights

Cinderella´s Castle is WDW to me. But I can´t just observe it from a distance, from the ferry or approaching monorail. Not until I am on Main Street looking up, while I get a little misty-eyed, do I feel I am on vacation, I have arrived. Sight is the one sense that can be captured and held forever through pictures (and video). Sure you can remember tastes and smells and touch, but eventually they fade. You can hear sounds as well, but the one sense we´ve all been able to capture since the parks opened was sights. I still adore looking at my trip pictures from the early seventies when I was a small child.

When you hear the word “wienie” you think hot dogs, right? But to Disney aficionados this word takes on a whole different meaning. For those of you who have taken Walt Disney World´s `Keys to the Kingdom” tour or read any books about Mr. Disney, you´ll have learned that hot dogs were one of Walt´s favorite foods. If I remember correctly, on the Keys to the Kingdom tour our guide described the story of how Walt often worked late nights and would come home and make himself some “wienies´ for dinner. His dog, would also try to share in the meal. The term wienie came from a cliché that food held in front of an animal would make the animal walk forward. Thus, Walt coined the term “wienie” to describe any visual element that would beckon guests further to that point. Imagineers still use this term today. A few perfect examples would be Cinderella´s Castle at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom´s Tree of Life, or even the looming Tower of Terror at MGM-Studios – all sights that were mentioned by every person interviewed.

Almost every person I asked what “Sights” made them think of WDW or that they remembered that stood out in their mind responded with a “wienie”. Everyone mentioned Cinderella´s Castle. The castles at DL and WDW were purposely placed at the end of Main Street to draw the guests from the entrance. Even the sight of the carousel through the Castle is a “wienie within a wienie” drawing guests to Fantasyland (taken from Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show, by the late, great Disney legend John Hench).

Many other wienies were responses as to memorable WDW sights. Many said Epcot´s geosphere landmark, Spaceship Earth, while others said Animal Kingdom´s intricately carved Tree of Life. The newest wienie, that entices guests not only from the park but from parking lots and roadways within WDW, is Expedition Everest´s Mt. Everest – a massive, snow-capped mountain peak that evokes mystery and danger. Lit up at night, it looks even more mystifying. My husband loved on our last trip no matter what we did that day, on our way back to our resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, he knew he´d get a glimpse of his new favorite mountain peak.

But not all memorable Sights of WDW were wienies. Many were subtle visuals that may go unnoticed. Take for example the sidewalks in Epcot near Spaceship Earth. How many of you have noticed they light up at night with little sparkles? Or the varying architecture of each different country in World Showcase at Epcot? Then there is the garden thatched roof above the Norway bakery or the colored cut-outs in the buildings in Germany or the richly painted ceiling of the China pavilion´s Reflections of China.

Sometimes the sight of an entire landscape evokes a nostalgic feeling. My mother, little sister, and good friend Sue all cited World Showcase as breathtaking- the buildings, the landscapes, the landmarks. My sister-in-law and I both agreed the sight of Main Street in Magic Kingdom stood out in our minds. I can´t decide if it´s more magical during the day or lit up at night. The details of the forced perspective as your eyes travel up the buildings and the names of Imagineers and other people important to Disney etched on windows are captivating.

All previous guests cited at Animal Kingdom what stood out (besides the obvious Tree of Life “wienie”…) the most as unforgettable and sometimes unbelievable sights were the animals. My mother, sister-in-law, and myself are always fascinated with all of the animals on Kilimanjaro Safari. I have a weak spot for those baby elephants; I can´t take enough pictures of them. My husband on the other hand can stand for hours engagedby the sights of the beautiful tigers and amusing gorillas.

The sight that takes this thirty-something back to her childhood is any character, even if they are not my favorite! And yes, I make sure to take pictures with all of them! Something about seeing these characters is so exciting; they are truly a magical part of the parks.

There were definitely some trends as to what are the most unforgettable sights that are associated with WDW. A lot of wienies, which I am sure would make Walt himself smile! A lot of little touches that I know would make the Imagineers smile. And the one that made me smile the most was my sister-in-laws´ unexpected response. Her first answer to my prodding as to what sights reminded her of Walt Disney World were not attractions or wienies or characters. The sight of Mickey Mouse ears on guests floods her memories! Where else can a six-year old or a sixty year old get away with wearing those things?!

Whatever image your memory conjures up is sure to be magical!

photos by Danielle Friend


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