Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Jungle Cruise - All Downhill From There?

Summer 1987.
I was a Jungle Skipper.
This was pre-Indiana Jones. The old dock and bullpen were in place. The West Side of Disneyland actually died down at night.
There was no
Fanstasmic clogging up New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America like a pyrotechnic embolism.
Eisner was just starting his destruction of the Park.
The Main Street Electrical Parade actually ran down Main Street (of all places!) on summer nights. The Adventure/Frontier ride operators would join in the pre-parade set up, crowd control and post-parade breakdown. A flashlight with a red or yellow cone on the end meant power. "Folks, I'm going to need all of these strollers folded down, and you will have to take a seat so that the people behind you can see, too."
The torches of the Tahitian Terrace glowed in the night, accompanied by the heady smell of pineapple and teriyaki.
Swisskapolka lilted endlessly in the background.
The jungle was alive with its soundtrack of drums, native chants, bird and animal calls, piped in from invisible speakers tucked amidst the foliage.
Mekong Maiden and her sister boats were decked out in colorful striped canopies and brightly cushioned seats.
Our Smith & Wesson .38 caliber guns were chained in place at the front of our boats and loaded with blank rounds. The "breakdown" rounds were larger loads that could deafen an African Bull Elephant---while simultaneously notifying your Lead back at the dock that your engine had stalled or---more likely---your boat had come off the track at the turn near the Hippo Pool. Thankfully, the guns are back after an utterly inexplicable politically-correct absence.
Just next door, the
Pirates of the Caribbean remained unblemished and true to its original state. The pirates still chased the wenches in apparent hopes of satisfying appetites other than hunger for food. Captain Jack did not exist.
Mark Twain's steam whistle called out in its haunting voice, and, at night, the sternwheeler's sparkling, lighted decks would brilliantly glide into view past the Riverbelle Terrace.
A fire still burned in the settler's cabin on
Tom Saywer's Island, though the old settler no longer had an arrow in him, he had taken up "moonshining" and a still mishap set fire to his cabin.
As the Park slowed down in the late evening, Snow White's voice would trickle over from the Wishing Well Grotto, echoes and all---sometimes, clear as a bell.
We would hungrily wait to get "bumped" from "Unload" so that we could grab a snack during break or lunch.
Women worked
Tiki Room, Pirates, Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, but not the Jungle Cruise.
Fantasy In The Sky lit up the sky over the Park.
Disneyland still had a parking lot out front.
Rocket Jets were still in Tomorrowland---not out front, on Main Street!
Skyway still lifted guests over Fantasyland, through the Matterhorn and over Tomorrowland.
You could still have a great moment or two with Mr. Lincoln over on
Main Street and take a peek at a perfect model of Walt's office.
Cobblestone could still be found on
Main Street, too.
Oh, there's a lot more to discuss. For me, it was a supremely happy time. I had an absolute ball every day I showed up for work.
We'll get into more of my view of the universe as this Blog continues.
To all my friends and fellow Cast Members from 1984 - 87 (both in Attractions and Day Custodial), I send along my heartfelt best wishes and thanks.


Peter VINCENT said...

You've painted a wonderful picture of your experience at Disneyland. You've described it exactly as I've always pictured working there would be.

Thanks for the post!

Mike said...

My pleasure, Pete. My days at Disneyland were memorable and fun. I think that is largely true for most folks fortunate enough to have worked in the Park at one time or another. Even today there are still quite a few Cast Members who sincerely enjoy their time at work! May everyone have the opportunity in life to experience the type of joy I did over twenty years ago---no matter where they work or live!

Anonymous said...

You know, not much apparently changed between your stay and my tenure 1970-1977. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of Adventure/Frontierland (ride operations)and especially liked the evening shifts as the park died down and everyone moved to the entertainment hubs in Tomorrowland and the MS Electrical Parade. I even did crowd conrtol (well sort of) on the Parade's very first run. Oh what a madhouse that was. Things changed quickly so to not repeat the overflow of guests clogging the area (Hey, it was called the MAIN STREET Parade so that's where EVERYONE was!!!!) You have had to have been there to appreciate the aftermath. They had to open the side gates behind the shops to allow guests to exit the Park as others were attempting to walk UP to the hub. I was at Carnation Corner and we all couldn't move for 10-15minutes. Great blog you've got here.

Mike said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. Actually, the Park remained pretty steady from the mid-70s to the late 80s and most people who went there (or worked there) during this time probably got to experience Disneyland's heyday. Sure, Walt was gone, but his influence still hung over the Park and the people who knew him still had a strong hand in how things were done. As the corporate Disney expanded and the artististic "What-would-Walt-Do?" types died off or retired, things spiraled downward rather quickly. These days the Park is playing catch up. There's a long way to go to get Disneyland back to its prime form. It really may never get there.
Such is life.

Stop by again!


Namowal said...

"Eisner was just starting his destruction of the Park."

So true!
I first heard of him in 1986 at the last public performance of the Golden Horseshoe Review (The very last show was a v.i.p. performance). A fan (all us regulars were there) told us that when Michael Eisner found out how long the show had been running, he decided it was "time for something new."

Anonymous said...

I was so excited to find this site, that I have decided to read it from the very beginning. I have perma grin from reading just this first post. This is the Disneyland I remember and love.