Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Finding Chester & Hester in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Finding Chester & Hester

Animal Kingdom is my favorite park. Animal Kingdom is an immersive environment with something to behold around every corner. You can enjoy incredible encounters with 1,689 amazing animals everywhere you look and it’s all wrapped in a lush, beautiful, and  exquisitely detailed landscapes.

Animal Kingdom is meant for taking your time, exploring and immersing yourself in its natural environments. STOP: LOOK: LISTEN!   Wait for the animals to poke their heads out of hiding and enjoy the views. Search for the details. Watch the park come alive, in front of your eyes.

One of the most detailed lands is Dinoland, USA. The engaging, and detailed back-story is often overlooked.  The back-story is a detailed history that gives the Imagineer a platform upon which to design the props, signs and details.

Let’s look at one location that will help fill in some of the details and help you appreciate this part of the Animal Kingdom more. I am going to focus on one of my favorite shops in the Animal Kingdom:

Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures

And so the back-story goes……

As I traveled down U.S Route 498 (named 498 because the Animal Kingdom Park opened in April 1998), I noticed my gas gauge was nearing empty and saw an old gas station ahead.
A married couple in their 60’s owned this rundown gas station and a few acres of land in Diggs County.  

 They sold Sinclair gasoline and this allowed them to sell gas, oil, service autos and make a sustainable living.

In 1947, some amateur fossil hunters found some dinosaur bones in the area.

 Within six months the Dino Institute set up their headquarters in Diggs County and began buying up all the land around Chester and Hester's gas station.

The Dino Institute wanted to purchase and demolish the gas station, but Chester and Hester refused to sell. Chester and Hester wanted to turn the gas station into the biggest, best, supreme and quintessential dinosaur destination.  They wanted to sell cheap dinosaur souvenirs out of their gas station to cash in on the visitors that were visiting to dig for fossils.

They received 17 offers to sell the gas station but refused to sell.
During the first twelve months they were open, their cheap merchandise was bringing in the big bucks, so much more than the gas they sold.  They converted the entire service station into a large store called "Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures”.

 Up in the air above are all sorts of cheap toys.

Over the years they have stocked the shop with dinosaur toys, figures, images trinkets, special items and more.  Since 1947, Chester and Hester designed, re-designed and improved the store and made a small fortune selling the souvenirs.

 As you walk around the outside of the location:
Notice the use of truck tires as planters at the entrance and the remnants of the old gas station and service center.

 If you search around you can find the old Sinclair gas pump out front and the oil cans that have been turned into a hat rack.


 Walk out the back door and pose for a selfie with the colorful dinosaur statue that is made out of plaster, rocks, bottles, broken glass and mirrors. 

 Tacky signs are strategically placed all over the building advertising "going out of existence deals" or "Prehistoric Prices."

Be on the lookout for the corny signs and slogans they erected to attract passing motorists.

   Inside the store takes cheesier and tackiness to the next level.
This is a fantastic store to browse in, if for nothing else the very different decor. Check out the photo in one corner of Chester and Hester themselves as well as their framed dollar bill, which is the first dollar the old couple ever made at the site.

 Leave a message on the wall of the old coin pay phone
Look for the comic books. The store has all kinds like Batman, Spider Man and other hidden treasures.
Keep a look out for the tacky stuff.
Can you find the Carnotaurus latex figures or RC Time Rover ride vehicles?
Dr. Howie DiBlasi is a retired educator, business owner, author and an Ed Tech consultant.  He is a life long Disney fan that began in 1959.  He has been blogging about Disney, travel and technology for the past 8 years.

He can be found on twitter HERE  @hdiblasi
and @mydisneyclass

His website HERE

He is also the host of the My Disney Class Podcast, found HERE

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lunching With Creatures At Disney's Pizzafari Restaurant

Disney's Animal Kingdom is one of the best themed and most detailed of the Walt Disney Parks. Discover our new series called “STOP: Look: Listen”, where we explore an area of the park and share the details and themes that make it so special.

 Above photo provided courtesy of: and

Many Disney fans have watched classic Walt Disney animated films or visited one of the Disney Parks. There is a special connection with Frank Armitage, animator and Imagineer, to Animal Kingdom's Pizzafari restaurant. He passed away in January 2016 and has left behind a legacy of creativity, artfulness, and invention. We dedicate this story to him and his family.

Theming is an essential feature of what makes the Animal Kingdom so extraordinary. Many guests rush in, eat, and then they are off to the next FastPass+, or another attraction. Many areas have a back story that is extremely subtle. NOT here at Pizzafari ...the theme, art, graphics, back story, and “Hidden Magic” is AMAZING and in your face.

Let's stop by for lunch, explore the rooms and the “Art of Pizzafari.” If you have a Tables in Wonderland card you can use it for a discount here. It is one of the few counter service restaurants that accepts it.

What’s Your Sign?
As you approach Pizzafari, “STOP: Look: Listen.”
Notice how colorful the building is. Examine the sign and find the two deep red chameleons forming a pizza shape. Hint: look at the top and bottom of the design.

Inside the Pizzafari building, it is all about the Disney family. According to the Disney Wiki and Wikipedia, Disney convinced Frank Armitage to come out of retirement. He painted 34 incredibly vibrant murals that decorate the five rooms of the restaurant.

Within the main food order area, the theme is "Ornamental Animals".  Look up and observe peacocks, butterflies and Clownfish. Notice how colorful and unusual the mural of a huge peacock above the service windows is. Look to your left and there is a mural of Clown fish painted by Armitage's daughter, Nicole.

Look up on the poles. There are little wood carvings of butterflies in each room.  These are authentic Oaxaca wood carvings from Mexico.

Three of the rooms have “Hidden Mickeys” in them. It will take some effort to locate each one, but well worth the search. See if you can find them.

Here are a few hints:

  1. There are six hidden Mickeys to be found in the rooms you eat in
  2. Four of the hidden Mickeys will be found in the "Nocturnal room"
  3. One can be found in the “Upside Down Room”
  4. One can be found in the “Home Room”

Let’s Eat Here…No, Here…No, over here…
There are five themed dining rooms that you can select from. Let’s take a tour of each room and explore the amazing artwork by Frank Armitage and his daughter, Disney Imagineer, Nicole Armitage Doolittle.

1.      Camouflage Room : Creatures and predators that rely on stealth and naturally blend into their native surroundings. Look for - like polar bears, leopards, tigers, fox and lions.

2.      Upside Down Room: Creatures that normally spend much of their life hanging upside-down and have an inverted view of the world. Look for animals like bats, possums, parrots, monkeys and snakes.

STOP: Look: Listen: Can you find the ONE exception? Look on the back wall above the door-jamb. Is there a possum hanging from a tree over the door that was not so lucky. Can you find the little blue bug and its remains?

3.  Home Room: Animals who carry their homes with them or on their back.
Here you can discover turtles, snails, crabs, lobsters and kangaroos.

4.      Nocturnal Room: Creatures that normally spend much of their life in darkness, and who usually roam the night. This room includes tigers, owls, wolves, and raccoons.


Look for the incredible tiger in the Nocturnal Room.


5.      Bug Room: Paintings on the wall represent insects and bugs of all shapes and sizes. How many can you discover that crawl and fly?

“STOP: Look: Listen.”

And the theming doesn't end in each room. Listen to the music. All the songs are about animals. If you stay long enough you can listen to a dragon reference in the park. Puff the Magic Dragon plays on one of the music background loops. See if you can hear a Beatles song.

Four Seasons Room ???   Each room has a interrelated theme that determines the collections of animals that you may find.  The themes are not always obvious groupings.
Maybe if I follow this snake, I can find that “Four Seasons Room

All images property of Dr. Howie DiBlasi unless otherwise noted

About the author: Howie DiBlasi is a retired educator, business owner, author, and an Ed Tech consultant. He has been a lifelong Disney fan since 1959. 
He has been blogging about Disney, travel, and technology for the past eight  years and can be found on twitter HERE, and his website HERE
He is also the host of the My Disney Class Podcast, found HERE.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lessons About Learning from Shakira

I went to see Zootopia with my family a few weeks ago, and the movie certainly didn’t disappoint. It had all of the magic, high-quality storytelling, and engaging characters that I’ve come to expect from a Disney animated feature.

I was particularly struck with the portrayal of the main character, Lt. Judy Hopps, a rabbit who aspires to be a police officer in a world in which larger predators usually fill that role. Disney seems to be continuing down a path in which they are redefining what it means to be a female character in a Disney film, and I was pleased that Judy Hopps grew into a powerful character in her own right without making an issue of her gender.

In fact, the film’s creators did a nice job of playing with some tough themes related to stereotypes without reducing the exploration to cliches. I would recommend the film based on this alone, but my biggest reason for recommending the film is the song that plays at various points throughout.

Shakira’s “Try Everything” echoes the attitude of Judy Hopps and reminds us that her greatest strength is that she is a learner who has a growth mindset to match her determination to reach her goals. In the film, the song is performed by a Zootopian pop star named Gazelle. You can check out the video below:

I encourage you to check out the lyrics of this song because they could easily be an anthem for the way we should view teaching and learning today. They are certainly the type of message I would want my own children to internalize about learning.

I’ll focus on just a few specific lines, but the song as a whole has a lot more to offer.

The first line I want to point out comes just before the chorus. Shakira sings, “Nobody learns without getting it wrong.” I like this because I think we often send the opposite message to kids. We often imply that learning is something that we can do in such a systematic way that if they just follow directions, they will learn easily.

Perhaps there are some things that can be learned easily through a regimen of prescribed activities, but if there are, I would suggest that they are either not worth learning, or they are so basic that internalizing them hardly represents the type of learning that one calls to mind when we celebrate learning.
If it’s true then that NOBODY learns without getting it wrong, we can take comfort in the fact that learning not only leaves room for failure, it requires it.

Another set of lines that I like is the chorus:

I won't give up, no I won't give in

'Til I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail.

This expands on the notion that failure is essential to learning, but it also calls the notion of grit into play. The singer is determined to learn, and in fact to repeat the act of learning, despite the challenges she may face. AND once her learning is concluded, she will “start again.”
Her desire to “try everything” calls to mind Edison’s claim that after he had failed to find success inventing the lightbulb, he hadn’t actually failed, he had discovered many ways that wouldn’t work. It also reminds us that our students can be voracious learners who want to experience everything that the world has to offer.

I wonder how often we shortchange our students by helping them move too quickly to a right answer, a best practice, or a tried and true experience instead of letting them develop the courage and fortitude to own their learning.

The third set of lines I would like to attend to is the last set of lines before the fade out. Shakira sings, “I’ll keep on making those new mistakes. I’ll keep on making them everyday. Those new mistakes.” These lines are sung with a definite sense of pride, even joy.
What an amazing mantra for learning- to definitively state that I will learn on my own terms but in new ways every day of my life. Imagine if, as educators, we succeeded in helping our learners internalize this one message. I can only imagine the positive effect it would have on our world.

I believe that great educators work hard to teach this lesson, to engender this passion for true learning. I also believe that this work is difficult and complex, and we keep on making our own new mistakes everyday. Luckily we are invited to start again, and as the models to our learners, I hope we do.

About Me

I am an Innovation, Curriculum and Technology Specialist. Frenetic Change-Agent. Playground Advocate. Learning Sherpa. Formidable and Renowned Swashbuckling Educational Subversive.

I work with educators at all levels to re-imagine teaching and learning in the Digital Age.

I blog at and tweet as @twilhelmus.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Animals Took My Money : NOW and Then

Oh for the “Good Old Days”.    Remember the song and book “That was then…this is now?”

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is evolving into a vastly different theme park.  In order to accomplish the new expanding retail areas and the formulas that have worked so well for Disney parks in the past, shops that we have loved are evolving and going through a metamorphosis.

Discovery Island at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is the “HUB” to connect the themed areas of the AK Park together.  It is was home to four shops;

1.     Beastly Bazaar

2.     Creature Comforts

3.     Disney Outfitters

4.     Island Mercantile

Put on you time capsule vest and travel back to “That Was Then…This Is Now.”

Let's travel back to a themed shopping safari through Disney’s Animal Kingdom and explore a "Wild Animal Encounter" at the Discovery Island Shops.  No it's not an E-Ticked ride, but come along and enjoy an adventure in itself.

If you look closely in the merchandise stores you will discover wonderful characters, subtle themes, wood carvings, sculptures, photos and flying creatures.  There are six themes including: animals that work, animals that have spots, animals that have stripes, animals that fly, water animals or animal that travel in herds.

2012  Beastly Bazaar

Beastly Bazaar (Closed and now a "Meet and Greet"  indoor location.
Located on the northeast side of Discovery Island, just before you cross the bridge into Asia.

A new meet and greet location is expected to opened in June of 2013. The new meet and greet location is home to Mickey and Minnie. The new location will is called "Adventurers Outpost" and it replaces the former Beastly Bazaar shop.

 And while many changes have been made to the inside of the building, the exterior has been largely left untouched.

The theme was is "Water animals".  But not just fish, also included are amphibians and birds that make water their home or feeding ground.

Photo HERE:- Disney Beastly Bazaar water animals

For this reason, I have decided to share some photos of the Beastly Bazaar that I have taken over the past 2 years, so that, when you visit, you will be able to compare the look of the store with the appearance of the new meet-and-greet.

Remember these little details from the old Beastly Bazaar?  The theme here is water animals. 

But not just fish, also included are amphibians and birds that make water their home or feeding ground. 

 Creature Comforts
Taking the space of the former Creature Comforts gift shop, the space has been completely transformed into a Starbucks location, offering the full range of coffees, Starbucks pastries, and Disney specialty cupcakes.

Put on you time capsule vest and travel back 2013 to “That Was Then…This Is Now.”

“Creature Comforts is located on the northwest side of Discovery Island, before you cross the bridge into Africa.  The lamppost by the entrance carries out a theme of stripes and the outside of the building is highly decorated with unusual patterns.

Walk in the door and you will notice how the decor is bright and vivid...Do you have spots before your eyes?  Take a look at the overhead light fixture. Notice anything?

 Creature Comforts is themed around animals with spots and stripes, such as zebras and tigers, ladybugs and giraffes.  

As Disney fans, many of us purchase a few antenna toppers to place on our cars or trucks.  BUT Creature Comforts ups this to the next level.   The interior of Creature Comforts is equally as vivid as its neighbor shops…

The theme continues with pleasant vibrant colors and stylized animal designs. 

LOOK at the AMAZING merchandise toppers!

The decor is reminiscent of the animal floats in "Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade".

 It specializes in gifts for younger children, clothing, stuffed plush animals and toys, and other similar items.

Creature Comforts is the place to stop for toys, and if you have small children you may be looking here for a while.

Along with selling a range of plush animals  and other gifts, Creature Comforts is currently also serving as a MyMagic+ service center for assisting guests with FastPass+.

Plush baby animal characters are popular, as are rubber creepy crawlies. Creature Comforts is located next to the Baby Care Center and the First Aid station. If you're looking for either of these, you'll find them easier by searching for Creature Comforts, then looking down a corridor to the right of the front of the building.

NOTE: Creature Comforts, a themed store located inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, is scheduled to go down for an extensive refurbishment in January of 2015.

January 2016: Creature Comforts

 Starbucks location has opened at Disney's Animal Kingdom, which now gives the coffee company presence in all four Walt Disney World theme parks.
The Animal Kingdom store is on the west side of the park, bearing left as guests approach the iconic Tree of Life. The building formerly housed a store called Creature Comforts, although that name remains on the structure alongside a Starbucks sign.  The new store is just before the bridge that leads to the Africa section of the theme park.
TY to WDWFanzone for the permission to use photos below



3.     Disney Outfitters

4.     Island Mercantile