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The Easter Egg hidden in Disney "Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa" is finally revealed

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The Easter Egg hidden in Disney "Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa" is finally revealed

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This week's first Why For question comes from Buddy W. Who asks about a change that was made to one of Disney's Animal Kingdom's opening day attractions:

It seems like "Countdown to Extinction" was tamed down when they changed it to "DINOSAUR." Besides the movie coming out was it tamed down and why?

Buddy W             

Buddy -

You've pretty much answered your own question. DAK's "Countdown to Extinction" was renamed and toned down a bit because it was assumed that - what with the May 2000 release of this Walt Disney Animation Studios production - thousands of young kids would now want to ride this motion-based simulator attraction so that they could then see the hero of this Walt Disney Pictures release, Aladar the Iguandon.

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This also explains why the Styracosaurus statue which used to stand in the fountain out in from of the "Countdown to Extinction" ride building was swapped out for a statue of Aladar.

The upside of slightly modifying the movement of the Time Rovers, making this DAK attraction less jarring was that it then enabled WDW safety staffers to lower "DINOSAUR" 's height restriction from 46 inches to 40 inches. Which meant that lots more kids were now eligible to journey back to the past.

Of course, there are those of us who still miss "Countdown to Extinction." The sound effects that were used for the original version of this motion-based simulator ride were far more intense and scarier.  But on the other hand, given the thousands of future paleontologists who now come off of "DINOSAUR" every day and are thrilled that they got that close to a mechanical Carnotaur ... Well, I'll trade my jaded adult nostalgia for a little kid's genuine excitement anytime.

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Next up, Brian W. wrote in to ask:

With 43 square miles of land, why did Disney choose such a land-locked location for Studios?

Brian W

Brian W -

To be honest, the construction location of what - in the Spring of 1985 -- was originally announced as the Disney-MGM Studio Tour wasn't entirely Disney's doings.

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To explain: Prior to Michael Eisner & Frank Wells coming on board as the new Big Cheeses at the Mouse Factory in the Fall of 1984, Disney's then-Chairman Ray Watson signed a deal with Tishman Realty & Construction which not only gave this New York-based company the right to build two hotels on property, it also designated Tishman as Walt Disney World's official hotel company.

The only problem with this arrangement was that - just days after  Eisner & Wells came on board at Disney --  they then began talking with the Marriott Corporation about these two companies possibly working together to add a huge number of hotel rooms to WDW's on-property inventory.

The plan - as Ron Grover described in his 1991 book, "The Disney Touch" - would have been ...

Copyright Richard D. Irwin, Inc. All rights reserved

... mammoth. Disney would provide the land. Marriott, which was capable of finding the financing to build hotels, would assume most of the building costs. In all, the hotel company would build more than a dozen hotels with a total of nearly 20,000 rooms, as well as a 250,000-square-foot convention center. Marriott would be paid only a management fee for running the hotels, with the investors taking much of the profits. Disney would see profits from selling its products, along with a licensing fee.

When word got back to Tishman about the Disney / Marriott talks ... Well, the executives in charge of that construction company were - of course - furious. Which is why they then filed a $1.5 billion breach-of-contract lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company.

Then Mickey's attorneys got involved. And - after much back-and-forth here - the Mouse agreed to break off its talks with the Marriott Corporation. Tishman - in turn - agreed to give up its designation as Walt Disney World's official hotel company.

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But in order to gain that concession, Disney's lawyers had to agree to a pretty extraordinary condition. Which was to give Tishman Realty & Construction the right to select the sites for those two hotels Watson had given them the right to build.

Think about that for a moment. Tishman could have built those two hotels anywhere on property. Anywhere. Right next door to the Magic Kingdom, if they had wanted.And Disney would had to honor that contract.

But since Tishman had built much of EPCOT Center ... Well, that's where they wanted their two hotels to be built. Right next to Walt Disney World's newest theme park, rather than up by the Kingdom.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But Eisner would make Tishman pay dearly for this pick-your-own-location condition. Michael wanted to then have say over each single design element featured at these two hotels. And to make sure that these Walt Disney World additions were genuinely memorable, world-class resorts, Eisner reached out to post-modern architect Michael Graves. Which is how the WDW Resort wound up with the Dolphin & the Swan.

Mind you, given that Tishman Realty & Construction was pulling together the $375 million necessary to build the 1,509-room Dolphin and the 758-room Swan, they were expecting Disney to pick up all of the infrastructure costs for this project. Which meant the electrical, water, and access roads.

And given that Disney was plowing all of this money into installing miles of electrical conduits &  water pipe at the corner of World Drive and Buena Vista Drive ... Well, is it any wonder that - as Eisner decided to fast-track Disney-MGM (with the hope that Disney could then beat Universal and open Central Florida's first studio theme park) that the Company opted to piggyback on all the construction that Tishman was doing and build WDW's third theme park right across the way from the Dolphin & the Swan.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, if Tishman Realty & Construction had opted to build its two hotels somewhere else on property, it's entirely possible that Eisner would have chosen another site for his studio theme park. But given EPCOT's huge cost overruns (Though this futuristic theme park's original budget was "just" $800 million, EPCOT Center eventually wound up costing the Company over $1.2 billion) ... The Imagineers were looking for cost savings wherever they could find them when it came to theme park No. 3. And folding Disney-MGM's infrastructure costs in with the Dolphin & the Swan's did save the Mouse more than a few bucks.

And - finally - Nick sent in a Why For question asking about ...

Hi Jim,

Having now seen "Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice," I was wondering if anyone ever figured out what the Easter Egg was that was hidden in "Operation Secret Santa"?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved



Hey, Nick -

When I got to chat with Kevin Deters & Stevie Wermers-Skeleton earlier this year, the writers / directors of Disney "Prep & Landing" finally fessed up. And in spite of the fact that - as Wayne and Lanny are making their way through Santa's secret workshop ...

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... these two Prep & Landing elves actually walk past a plush version of Nessie (i.e. the title character of Kevin & Stevie's recently-released hand-drawn theatrical short, "The Ballad of Nessie") ...

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.. - that's not the Easter Egg in "Operation Secret Santa."

No, the Easter Egg comes in the very last scene of this "Prep & Landing" stocking stuffer. As Wayne, Lanny, Magee and many other members of the North Pole support staff look on as Mrs. Claus presents Santa with that very special gift.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

If you look all the way over to the right, past Miss Holly and that coal elf, who's slightly obscured by Santa's suit?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Why, it's Wayne's little brother, Noel. That larger-than-life coal elf who'll soon steal the show in that "Prep & Landing" sequel, "Naughty vs. Nice."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

FYI: If you find yourself in need of a Wayne & Lanny fix in the coming week, the original "Prep & Landing" will be airing on ABC Family between 7 - 8 p.m. ET/PT on Wednesday, December 21st. The very next night, ABC airs both of these Walt Disney Animation Studios holiday specials back-to-back between 8 - 9 p.m. And then - on Friday, December 23rd - the Alphabet Network will screen Disney "Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice" one more time between 9 - 9:30 p.m. So program your DVRs accordingly.

More to the point, if any of you folks have Disney-related stories that you'd like to see answered as part of a future Why For column, please feel free to send them along to [email protected].

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