Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Trip report: WDW & The Half Marathon, Pt. 5—The Brown Derby

Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, The Brown Derby was one of the most famous restaurants. Stars and studio executives ate there and the fans went to gawk. This fact was made famous by an “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy has a run-in with William Holden. The Derby was also known for its food: The Cobb Salad, Grapefruit Cake, and of course their famous spaghetti. The walls were filled with caricatures of the stars that ate at the Derby, and the stars themselves would inscribe the caricatures before they were framed and hung. Below is a photo of Shirley Temple dining at the Derby with her first husband, John Agar. Note that the Jimmy Durante caricature required two pictures to contain his schnozz!

There were a number of locations in the Los Angeles area including the one shown here shaped like a derby; sadly, all of them have since closed. On the positive side, at the Disney Hollywood Studios, they went to great length to recreate the Vine Street Brown Derby Restaurant. Eating here was at the top of my list of “to-do’s” while in Orlando.

Just like the original, the walls are filled with caricatures and sketches of Hollywood Celebrities from the Golden Age:

Although the restaurant is quite lounge, because of the booths and multiple dining rooms, it becomes a much more intimate dining experience.

The service was excellent and so was the food; I would say that this was definitely my 2nd favorite dining experience at the resort (after Victoria & Albert’s, of course!). And yes, the Grapefruit Cake was delicious!

HIGHLY recommended for all you Florida WDW travelers! Now, onto the rest of the day! I love backlots; the tour at Universal is much more exciting to me than any of the rides there. It was interesting to walk through “the backlot” at the Disney Hollywood Studios, but at the same time, it was a snoozer for me, as none of these façades are actually used in movies or TV shows (if someone knows differently, please let me know!).

Even the merchandise kiosks are themed here:

Stacy & Dough posed in front of the San Francisco backdrop; fortunately, this one doesn’t make her sick (trying to get her to do this at the one at DCA is next to impossible!).

There is statue/fountain from the 1984 Tom Hanks movie “Splash”:

We skipped Toy Story Midway Mania (too long of a line...and we have that out here, anyway!) and instead, checked out the Prince Caspian “attraction,” which was full of spoilers (beware!). Somewhat ho-hum, it did have a number of costumes and artifacts from the movie (most of which I believe were on display at the El Capitan).

For a little excitement, we were all looking forward to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular; although enjoyable, we got a little short-changed as the cold weather hindered the hydraulics used in some of the stunts. No plane crash or desert scene. Sigh.

Here’s a panorama view of the stage:

Cold weather aside, this is a great “behind the scenes” look at how stunts are done, and there is even audience participation! Hopefully it will still be here on my next trip to Orlando.

A great place to warm your hands!

I have watched American Idol, but it’s not the kind of thing I plan my week around. And yet, this show was one of the highlights. Just the right length of time, it is a fun way to see new talent, have some audience participation, and sit down and relax for a bit. What a combo! Complete with an authentic stage and Ryan Seacrest-like host, this show invites 3 regular people (just like you and me!) to sing and compete for the “Golden Ticket” prize: the chance to go to the head of the line at an American Idol audition.

Mercifully, Seacrest is only here via recorded segments. I don’t know why, but this guy just irks me. He lacks the warmth and sincerity of Dick Clark, but for some reason, has made quite a living out of being the host with the most.

The judges were modeled after their TV counterparts; the Simon one was appropriately crabby and rude to the contestants:

The winner was not a surprise; she had a stage presence that definitely spelled a future in entertainment for her.

Next up—FANTASMIC, the East Coast version! See more Walt Disney World photos at my website.


TokyoMagic! said...

The New York backlot has a hotel facade that has been used in a few movies and television shows, but I couldn't tell you which ones right now! Do they still have the tram tour or has that been shut down for good?

TokyoMagic! said...

Oh, and the actual hat structure from the Brown Derby (the one that was located on Wilshire Blvd.) still exists. It sits on the second level of a shopping center that was built on the same site back in the eighties. It's really a sad sight to see....what a tragic end for a classic piece of Hollywood.

Andrew said...


I am enjoying your perspective on WDW, and look forward to more posts! The Brown Derby was one of my favorites, too. The Bananas Foster was delish! Thanks for sharing.

Daveland said...

Chris - I've seen photos of that mall with the hat; tragic! One of these days I'll hop over there to see it in person. Apparently, the W Hotel is incorporating part of the Hollywood Derby into their structure. And thanks, Andrew - glad you are enjoying the posts!

Major Pepperidge said...

The Brown Derby would definitely be on my "to do" list, looks like they did a great job evoking the original restaurant.

The idea that the "movie studio" is a FAKE studio is kind of odd. At least Universal Studios is the real deal. Maybe Disney does film some TV shows there?

The only thing I've heard that was really different about Midway Mania was the queue, which is supposed to be neat - but I wouldn't wait in a long line just for that!