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Why For?

In a marathon-length response to a single question, Jim Hill reveals the real reason that Disneyland and Walt Disney World got a “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” ride instead of a “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt.” (CAUTION: This column will be really depressing reading for hardcore Disneyana fans. So get that Kleenex ready now.)



John S. writes in to ask:

Dear Jim,

I have just recently come across your web site and have found it very entertaining and informative.

Here is my question: After visiting Tokyo Disneyland, I became very excited to find that they were going to install a Pooh ride at Disneyland. I found out a few months ago that the ride is going to be more like the one at WDW (with a track) vs. the one at Tokyo Disneyland (without a track). Do you have any idea why this decision was made? I found the ride at TDL to be fascinating and – judging by the wait time (sometimes up to 240 minutes) – it was a huge hit with the public as well.

Thanks for providing us with such a great web site,

John Stephenson

John –

Yeah, you’re right. TDL’s “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” IS a really amazing attraction. One that truly dazzles guests at Tokyo Disneyland (which explains why all of those people who are perfectly happy to stand in 4-hour long lines, waiting for their chance to ride in a dancing honey pot).

So why didn’t Disneyland in Anaheim get its very own version of “Hunny Hunt?” Why instead did “The Happiest Place on Earth” end up with a somewhat dumbed-down clone of WDW’s “Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”? Well … to be honest, it’s because all of you stateside Disneyana fans aren’t spending enough on food and merchandise whenever you visit the theme parks.

You see, the real reason that we’ve been seeing all of these affordable, if somewhat underwhelming, attractions being added to Walt Disney World and Disneyland’s theme parks is because those two resorts follow a very different financial model than Tokyo Disneyland does.

To explain: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea’s biggest and best customers are shop girls. Japanese women under the age of 25 who — even though they’re still living at home with Mom and Dad — are already out in the professional world, pulling down a pretty decent wage. These shop girls have tons of disposable income, which they’re perfectly happy to blow on repeated trips to safe but fun places like the two Japanese Disney theme parks. They regularly burn through wads of Yen by buying over-priced plush versions of the cuter Disney characters.

The only problem is … this demographic is incredibly fickle. Which is why the Oriental Land Company is always under the gun to keep TDL and TDS fresh. Keep all those shop girls coming back for more.

Luckily, a ride like “Pooh’s Hunny Honey” has lots of reride-ability. Plus — since the attraction’s built around the Winnie-the-Pooh characters, who are absolutely huge in Japan — that means that it’s easy to move a ton of merchandise daily out of that “Pooh Corner” shop. You know, that store that’s located in “Hunny Hunt”‘s exit area.

Whereas the stateside Disney parks … to be honest, John, there’s this belief at the uppermost levels of the Walt Disney Company that the American theme park market is tapped out. That — at least when it comes to the money that the Mouse is used to making off of its US theme parks — that the corporation may now be entering an era of diminishing returns.

This is why it just didn’t make good business sense for Mickey to spend the $200-million-plus that the corporation would have had to spend in order to field a version of TDL’s “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” in both Anaheim and Orlando. Why it was a far smarter move — financially, that is — to build “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” (which is basically slightly souped up version of the classic Disney dark rides like “Peter Pan” and “Mr. Toad”) at WDW’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. Installing a cheaper version of this Pooh attraction in its stateside theme parks meant that the Mouse would get a much faster return on its investment.

This is why WDI has been told to table all development of a fifth theme park for Disney World for the foreseeable future. And why the Disneyland Resort is not going to build a third theme park over on those strawberry fields, but a golf course instead. Disney wants to make as much money as possible off of its stateside resorts these days. To do that means that they’re going to have to spend as little money as possible at the Parks from here on in.

This is why all those grandiose plans for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration — with all those enhancements that were supposed to be made to “Small World,” “Pirates” and “The Jungle Cruise” — got canceled in favor of changing out “Space Mountain”‘s track.

And why exactly did the Mouse decide to change out Disneyland’s “Space Mountain” ride track? Because Disney was already ordering a set of “Space Mountain” coaster tracks for the still-under-construction Hong Kong Disneyland. Sensing that there was a real opportunity to economize here, the Mouse asked the firm that’s manufacturing the HK track just to double up on that order. Make an exact duplicate set of coaster track for Anaheim.

This is also why Disneyland won’t be getting a brand new parade for its 50th anniversary celebration, but — rather — will get a slightly retooled version of WDW’s “Share a Dream Come True” Parade. Mickey’s always on the lookout these days for new ways to save a few bucks.

Or — to put it bluntly — new ways to make a few more bucks off of the company’s loyal customers. The merch folks at Disneyland are reportedly positively giddy at the idea of the millions the corporation can potentially make off of the sales of those miniature collectible versions of the snowglobe floats that will be featured in the Park’s 50th anniversary parade. That’s also why the Walt Disney Company is reportedly considering painting Sleeping Beauty Castle gold for all of 2005. With the hope that the corporation will be able to sell millions of these little golden castles during the Park’s 50th anniversary celebration.

You see what poor Jay Rasulo has been going up against, John? This is how the people that Pressler put in place to run the company’s theme parks all think. They’re really not asking themselves “What can I do to enhance the guests’ experience?” Their main concern is “What can I do to get these rubes to open up their wallet again?”

That’s honestly the whole point behind the “Destination Disney” project, folks. It’s all about convincing people that they should be happy to pay extra to have their bags delivered directly to their WDW hotel room. So that all of their WDW image capture stuff can be sent directly to their home PC. It’s all about the Mouse making money.

So — if all you JHM readers really want Disney to start building rides like “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” here in the US — what you need to do is start spending money like Japanese shop girls. Loading up on that high profit plush.

Otherwise … well, the future looks pretty bleak in Anaheim and Orlando. Disney management will probably allow the Imagineers to put a new E-Ticket in each of the stateside parks every 5 to 7 years. But — beyond that — it’s all going to be stuff that’s done on the cheap. With an eye toward making as much money as possible off of the rides and attractions that are already in place.

Isn’t this the most depressing reply to a “Why For” question that you’ve ever read? I know that it certainly depressed the hell out of me to write it.

Totally changing the subject here … I wanted to thank those of you who were nice enough donate a few dollars last week to help keep operational.

It’s really gratifying to know that you appreciate what we’re trying to do here at the site.

Speaking of which … wrote to the site this week to ask:

Sorry, this may be a stupid question … But what the hell is Jim Hill Media all about?!

Hmmn … that’s a really interesting question, Tom. The site’s been around for almost 8 months now. So I guess it’s about time that I actually did give some thought to what is really all about.

I’m thinking that JHM is a website that mostly features articles about the Walt Disney Company and its history. Though I’m thinking — in the months ahead — that we might try to expand the turf that the site covers a bit. Do some stories about other studios. Films by other animators (Don Bluth has had a pretty colorful career, don’t you think? Likewise Richard Williams). Maybe a feature or two about some of the more intriguing aspects of Steven Spielberg’s career (I.E. why “Hook” went off the tracks, what “E.T. II” was supposed to be about), or weird moments in Hollywood history (I.E. the MGM auction, the day that Cecil B. DeMille decided to bury the sets of “The 10 Commandments” out in the Guadalupe dunes).

Would stuff like that appeal to you folks? Or would you just prefer for me to continue to concentrate on the Mouse?

Let me know, okay? In the meantime, try and have a great weekend, okay?



Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling



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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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