Let’s Head to the Wilderness
By Brian~WDWithMe, Jul 30 2015 02:02AM
I recently did a live Periscope broadcast from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. If you’re not familiar with Periscope, it’s basically a phone ap which allows you to stream live media via your Twitter name. Followers can tune from anywhere in the world and comment as you take them on your visual tour of “wherever.”
The Wilderness Lodge is a particularly rich environment for a former Imagineer to immerse himself in. There is so much detail and Imagineering “magic” within the lobby alone that makes for an incredibly rich and educational experience. I didn’t have time to point out everything…it would be impossible to…so I thought I’d circle back here in my blog and provide a few more insights and facts about this incredible resort; stuff you probably would never know if it wasn’t pointed out.
• 85 truckloads of Lodgepole Pine logs were delivered to help build Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. All of it came from standing dead wood forests, so no live trees were harvested or used.
• There are three featured totems within the lobby of the Wilderness lodge. One is a whimsical totem pole that features Disney characters located by the entrance of the Mercantile store. This was carved by William Robinson. He was the artist also responsible for the animal figures by the registration desk and the animals on the bundled lodge poles in the lobby. True to Native American custom, those 16 figures are each placed according to their “life stations” with a bird of prey on the top of each column.
• The other two are 55 foot totems made from four dead wood cedars, known as the Eagle pole and the Raven pole. They were carved by artist Duane Pasco and his three assistants from Washington State. When first installed, they were facing each other dead-on; this is a no-no according to Native American tradition, since it is a sign of conflict. To correct this, Disney went to great trouble to offset them slightly so that now, the two totems look past each other. As with all totem poles, they each tell a story and are read from bottom to the top. My friend Herb Leibacher from World of Walt wrote a nice little blog which explains the stories; you can read those here: Totem Stories
• The three-sided 82 foot tall fireplace represents the strata layers found in the Grand Canyon. Disney Imagineers used advanced rockwork techniques to hand carve and paint the cement with astonishing detail. More than 100 colors were used to accomplish this. Actual rock samples can be seen in a display case next to the fireplace.
• The five story atrium lobby is roughly in the shape of an octagon. This was purposely done as a tribute to the railroad industry’s “roundhouses.” The roundhouse's unique circular design was built around a large turntable to easily and quickly reposition steam locomotives (which helped build the American West) from one direction to another.
• Most people know that Walt Disney had a special fondness for trains, and that is evident throughout the Wilderness Lodge. The Carolwood Pacific Room is located just off the lobby…look for another detailed blog on this subject in the future!
• The lobby and rooms intentionally have mismatched furniture since settlers leaving the East to head out West often abandoned their furnishings as they headed out to start a new life. (U-Hauls didn’t exist, so it was impractical for them to bring large pieces of furniture with them!) Because of this, they often pieced together a hodge-podge of styles when they arrived in their new home.
• The three types of rock in the Lodge’s lobby floor comes from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The same quarry also provided the solid six-inch green granite slabs which make up the front desk countertop.
• Although the four massive 500 lb. chandeliers look like they are finished natural materials, this too is Imagineering magic, as the “leather” is a reproduced look of authentic rawhide.
There are lots more wonderful details concerning the themeing, architecture, artwork and artifacts found throughout this wonderful lodge. Don’t even get me started on the landscaping.
As you can see, WDI goes to great lengths to “get it right”; as a matter of fact, I can tell you a good deal of my time would often be spent researching facts and background information to make sure I was incorporating authentic and accurate information in my show scripts and writing. No different here.
I hope you enjoyed this insight. If you have ever stayed at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
(Oh yeah—if you want to see my Periscope video on the Lodge, you can view that, along with many others, on my YouTube Channel here: WDWithMe YouTube Channel)
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