Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Disneyland 1983 Wallet Fact Card

As a Custodial Host during my first summer at Disneyland, I was provided with a "Wallet Fact Card" for the Park. Having been a Park goer for many years prior to working there, I was already quite aware of most of the information on the card.

Looking at the card today reminds us of the way things were just before Eisner & Wells came on board. This was the park before the corporate greed really got rolling and stupid things started happening to Disneyland. Back then, admission prices were reasonable and the attractions were classic. Area theming still remained true to Walt's original vision. There was a parking lot. A big parking lot. It stood in gray contrast to the colorful world "inside the berm."

There were actually things to see and do in Tomorrowland, for example.

America Sings was till operating. You could take a "Mission to Mars" or cruise along the Peoplemover tracks and look down over Tomorrowland. The Rocket Jets were high in the air and in the middle of Tomorrowland. Now, they're on Main Street and a bizarre modern space sculpture occupies their old location (what the hell is that thing anyway? Looks like a bad DirecTV antenna). Mary Blair's mural still graced the building that housed the Circle Vision theater, where you could catch "American Journeys" and cool off during a hot summer day. The Submarine Voyage subs cruised their crystal-clear lagoon while the Skyway floated overhead on its way through the Matterhorn to Fantasyland.

Tomorrowland itself was a bright, white vision of the future. Sure, it was a "dated" vision, but it beats the heck out of the funky, rust-colored "Jules Verne" mess that it later became. Even the Autopia was friendlier. The cars were bright, primary colors. There was no massive canopy thing (again with the Jules Verne rust colors everywhere) blocking the wide open view of the Autopia and the Monorail track above it.

I miss the "old" Tomorrowland.

Oh, and one more thing, the Carnation Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street. It is gone. Oh do I miss the strawberry ice cream sodas they used to make there. I also miss the old red and white umbrellas over the tables in the patio area. The red and white just seemed to blend in with Main Street. They also served a Monte Cristo sandwich that was fabulous. The costumes worn by the cast members were also fitting and perfect for the 1890s theming.

Well, enough reminiscing. Here's hoping that the new crew in charge of Disneyland will look back and take some lessons from the folks who originally designed and built the place. I see some promising signs that this may be happening. Call me when they bring back Tomorrowland.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Disneyland's Canoe Races - 1984

I experienced my first Cast Member Canoe Race in Summer of 1984. The Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes were used by teams from all around the Park---Operations, Custodial, Outdoor Vending, etc. There were Men's, Women's and Co-Ed divisions. Some of us from Custodial joined the effort. Of course, the shoe-ins were always the guys who ran the Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes. They had python arms and hours and hours of practice skirting Tom Sawyer's Island during their daily shifts, often with little or no assistance from the guests.

July 12,1984. I remember the early cool morning before opening, just as the sun was cresting. We were gathered in Bear Country and preparing for our run. The groups were competitive---some cutthroat, but most were out to have fun. The team names were creative (some not so): "Pink Sheets," "Rowing Stones," "Skid Rowers," "Oar Mongers," "East German Women," etc.

We had a co-ed team in Day Custodial. Great group. Not so great lap time. Still, splashing about in green water containing billions of heretofore unheard of species of bacteria at 6:00a.m. with a bunch of friends in a canoe was actually a blast. Indeed, the paddling seemed to take hold, as the Sweepers, later that summer and the next, organized whitewater rafting trips on the American and Kern Rivers. Those trips were completely enjoyable.
I attach pages from the "Disneyland Line" in July 1984, including an article that discusses the history of the Canoe Races with a few cast members who were there when the Races were started in 1963.

The Canoe Races undoubtedly remain fond memories for those who participated in them over the years. I still can't get the bacteria smell out of my t-shirt, though.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jungle Cruise - Pull Over!

This is a classic Jungle Cruise prank, best performed at night.

First, you need a seasoned skipper (Skipper 1) and a boatful of guests. Now send them out into the jungle and give them about 3-5 minutes lead time.

Next, a Lead and another seasoned skipper (Skipper 2) grab the motorized skiff and a flashlight and head out into the jungle after the Jungle boat.

When the skiff catches up to Skipper 1 and his boat (preferably around the African Veldt), the Lead flashes his flashlight while he and Skipper make siren noises. They proceed to "pull over" the Jungle boat skipper (Skipper1), just before the Hippo Pool.

Then Skipper 2 (in the skiff) boards the Jungle boat and announces that its skipper (Skipper 1) has violated Jungle Cruise policies for the last time ("by returning with 3 empty boats so far today" or "by offering guests as appetizers to natives in headhunter country," etc., etc.) and generally makes a commotion, followed by a ceremonious and overly dramatic "arrest" of Skipper 1. Skipper 2 then directs Skipper 1 off the Jungle boat---to the surprise of his crew of slightly stunned guests---and onto the skiff with the Lead waiting on board. The skiff is usually nice and close to shore and on the "Rhino" side of the river, so as to minimize the risk of blowing the prank by having Skipper 1, the Lead or Skipper 2 fall into the Jungle juice aka "The River."

In any event, after getting arrested and kicked off his boat, Skipper 1 is now hastily spirited away in the skiff at full speed (heading back to the dock along the regular route home---i.e., past Schweitzer Falls) as though being hauled off to a booking facility.

Next, Skipper 2 announces to his newly-acquired boatload of bewildered guests: "Sorry for that folks. Glad we finally nailed that guy. Now, where were we?" He then finishes up the rest of the cruise as though nothing had happened, picking up in the spiel where Skipper 1 left off.

As a topper, the true pros at this prank would have Skipper 1 waiting back at the dock surrounded by a "guard" of two or three other skippers standing by him while he pleads for bail money from the guests exiting the boat.

There were several variations of this prank, but they all played out about the same.

Remember, the above was performed over 20 years ago by trained professionals. Don't try this at home!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Secret Tiki Bathrooms

If you are hip to the Adventure/Frontier experience, you should know about the public restroom located just to the left of the entrance doors to "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" attraction. It's like your own private restroom in the middle of Disneyland. Very few guests know its there. Heck, very few Cast Members know about it for that matter.

Say it is about 110 degrees out and it is the middle of July and you (for some unknown reason) are actually in the Magic Kingdom with 65,000 of your closest friends enjoying a little theme park excitement.
You need to use the facilities but everywhere you turn you find lines out the door. Before clamoring to City Hall to demand FastPasses to Disney restrooms, chill out and head over to the Tiki Room. Breeze knowingly past the bleary-eyed and sweaty guests languishing in the Tiki Gardens waiting in line for Dole pineapple whips. Walk up the steps and slowly disappear into the doorway to your left. Pick the appropriate door for your gender, of course. You will likely find a small, empty restroom, all to yourself. A cool blast of air conditioning will drift over you as you enter. Relax. Chill. Remember, if you didn't know about his already, you heard it here first.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Haunted Mansion After Closing---Don't Play With The Elevator

Sometime during the summer of 1985, a couple of fellow sweepers finished their closing work early in New Orleans Square/Bear Country (remember the Country Bear Jamboree?) and decided to do a little exploring in the Haunted Mansion as part of their "final sweep" of the area. Having befriended the ride operators, they knew where to find the activation control for the elevator that is deftly disguised as the "stretching gallery" where guests first enter the attraction. They thought it would be fun to ride the elevator down and do a walk through, so they hit the control and started the elevator's descent.

Then, for some reason, they decided it would be cool to jump up and hang from the wood paneling ledge that extends around the edge of the room (see photograph above). They did this at the outset and proceeded to dangle (like kids on the monkey bars) while they watched the room "stretch" above them as the elevator descended. Unfortunately, they did not realize that not only did the the wall above them "stretch," but the floor
below them also dropped away from them as they hung from the overhang.

When the elevator reached bottom, they looked down, intending to drop down from their ledge. They found to their dismay that now their feet were pretty darn high above the floor. Of course, neither of the dangling sweepers could get to the control button to bring the elevator back up. So, they had little choice but to drop a good distance to the floor. No broken ankles or knees resulted, but they learned a valuable lesson about messing around in the Mansion.

The next time you find yourself in the room with "no windows and no doors," take a look above you at the overhang (the one with the gargoyles holding the candles). Watch where that ends up when the elevator reaches the bottom and the doors open to let you into the hallway. You'll see, it's quite a drop.