Monday, September 29, 2008

Disneyland - Resurrection, A Recurring Theme

As you drift through a day at a Disney theme park, it probably never jumps to the forefront of your consciousness that you are repeatedly encountering metaphors of renewal and resurrection in most of the attractions you enter.

What the heck am I saying?
Was that first sentence even mildly comprehensible?

Here's the deal:
You start with a sunny day enjoying yourself at Disneyland, Disney World, etc.
You decide to go on an attraction---let's pick the most obvious one, the Haunted Mansion.
As you enter the darkened foyer, the sunny day dims behind you. You are "dying." Indeed, before you know it, you are in a chamber with no windows and no doors (sounds kinda like a tomb or a coffin--gulp!). There's no way out except the famous "My Way" of our disembodied spirit host.
Lightning fills the chamber and then total darkness. For a moment, you are in the abyss---separated from your fellow guests and alone in the black.
As the lights come dimly up, the doors slide open and you are presented with a corridor. A corridor you must walk down. An endless storm clatters and blows outside the windows, and the paintings on the wall of the corridor graphically flash images of the speedy deterioration of flesh and earthly things.
Soul-less statues mechanically follow your movements with sightless eyes. You step aboard your "Doom Buggy" and fantastic otherworldly sights play out before you.
When you disembark in a dark corridor, you step onto a moving walkway ramp and are pulled upward toward "the light." As a ghostly woman beckons you to "Hurry Back," you turn a corner and literally walk from the door of a tomb and back into the bright sunshine of the world of the living.
As a child, I recall the wave of relief and the spark of joy inside me as I saw that I had made it through the darkness of the Mansion and back to the warm sun.
This "light-to-darkness-to-underworld-visions-to rising-to-return-to-light" drama plays out in many of Disney's most popular attractions.

Take the Pirates of the Caribbean: sunlight--murky swamp--a death's head warns "there be squalls ahead" and "dead men tell no tales"---a plummet down a waterfall into darkness---another waterfall---skeletons in a cave-like underworld---marauding invaders of a darkened seaport---fire, flames---a stony prison of iron bars---and then you rise up, up toward the light. As you exit the attraction, the sunlight from New Orleans Square almost blinds you, along with the upbeat pirate music.

Or next take Indiana Jones: sunlight--long dark corridor--enter your vehicle--see the eye of a deity--plunge into darkness--skeletons aplenty and snakes (why did it have to be snakes?)--fire and flames (is this hell?)--a boulder threatens to crush you into nothingness---a flash of light---more darkness--it is finished. You exit your vehicle and walk back up out of the darkness and return to the light---adrenaline pumping. (Thanks to disneylandcompendium for posting the Mara photo from Indy).

There are other examples, some more obvious than others: Snow White, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (come on, we get hit by a train and literally drive through Hades---how's that for a kiddie ride?), Pinocchio (bad boys on Pleasure Island find out the hard way that blind pursuit of pleasure aint all it's cracked up to be, and Monstro is a living, breathing metaphor for death swallowing us up; an angel--in the form of the Blue Fairy--brings us back to life and it's back out into the sunshine again!), Alice in Wonderland (down a dark hole into a bizarre fantasy world and then back up and out into the day), and even Star Tours and Space Mountain (if you'll be kind enough to indulge a little poetic license with these two--still, on each of these attractions you go on a wild journey into dark space and then return to life and reality).

This concludes today's study in Adventureland eschatology. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: We apologize in advance for Mike's sometimes meandering posts and random thought processes. We are aware of the problem and are working diligently to address it. We appreciate your patience and thank you for your continued patronage despite these occasional digressions into La La Land.]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Disneyland - Big Thunder

Hello Adventurers and Adventurettes!
I was out of town for a couple days, so sorry for the extreme lack of posts. For punishment, I was sent to the African Veldt and spent seven hours up a tree with a mechanical rhino beneath me.
Oh, the indignity.

Did I mention that I worked Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?
It was 1987.
I had it all.
Big brown hat.
Big klunky boots.

No, it wasn't some sort of Village People disco outfit.
This was Thunder.
If there's a close second to Jungle Cruise as far as fun jobs at Disneyland, it's BTMRR ("Big Thunder Moutain Railroad").
The crew there had a blast. We loaded and dispatched trains. We stood at the entrance and rejected kids that were too short.
We walked guests off the mountain during breakdowns.
We goofed around on the intercom.

You get the drill.
By the way, you try pulling an eight hour shift in those old boots they issued for Thunder. It's a wonder I can still walk.
Anyhow, one quick BTMRR tale to close out this week.
Tale is that the folks who built the attraction were working on the part of the track known as "Spiral Butte." That's where the train enters into a circular portion of the track around and through "Spiral Butte." (See the photo---thanks to "Arizona Steve" for the picture!).

Well, they built one side of the circle and then they built the other. When the two lengths of track met about the middle of Spiral Butte, they were not perfectly aligned. Doh!
No problem. A little Disney magic and imagineering and the track was bent just a touch so that the two sections of track would meet up.

Now when you ride through Spiral Butte, long about halfways through it, at high speed, you'll feel your car shift a bit toward the outside of the turn. When your hiney jiggles at that spot, this old prospector wants you to remember how the track was bent.
Some say this is just an old dusty story from Rainbow Ridge.
I say, it's true!
After all, this here's the WILDEST ride in the Wilderness!!!

See you next week!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Capping Off Rounds At Disneyland

How many of you---postal workers and police officers excluded---get to squeeze off multiple rounds from a .38 caliber revolver during your typical work day?

Disneyland provides its Jungle Cruise skippers with this unique work experience. Each trip through the Jungle, the skipper fires two shots in order to save his crew from dreadful attack by audio-animatronic hippopotami.

The gun we used in the Jungle was a real Smith & Wesson .38 revolver. Okay, it has been modified so that no one could fit a real round into its chamber, but those plastic "blanks" we use are still mighty noisy. That's why skippers hold the gun above the canopy and shoot upward---it is a little quieter for the guests in the front of the boat.

I heard once of a "friend" who took a boat through the Jungle with a couple of obnoxious teenagers sitting up front, alternatively interrupting, heckling and often ignoring the captain. By the time he arrived at the Hippo Pool, the skipper had had enough. Instead of discharging his weapon above the canopy, he lowered it straight out, pointed toward the hippos and fired two deafening rounds---about three feet from the ears of the teenage pests.

My friend was deafened, too, from the blasts, but---(it is my understanding)---it was worth it! The teenagers kept their sassy little mouths shut for the remainder of the trip.

As we say at the World Famous Jungle Cruise:

"Ride's over. Get out."



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Disneyland 1987 - Whoa, Nellie! - Jungle Cruising Past The Big Elephant

When your Jungle Cruise boat trips the animation of the Big Elephant---the one located just after the Sacred Bathing Pool of the Elephants---he WILL come up and he WILL discharge a non-stop jet of water from out of his trunk.

If your skipper fails to throttle back your boat into reverse to stop its forward movement..., and anyone in on board who might be in the path of the Big Elephant's stream of water, WILL be squirted and drenched.

Sometimes a drenching of guests occurs accidentally, as when a new skipper forgets to slow his boat in time and the physical law relating to "momentum" refuses to be violated.

In such a case, the befuddled and slightly horrified skipper (who is almost universally doomed to share the fate of several of his soon-to-be-soaked guests/crew members) will frantically slam his boat's throttle into reverse.

This has the unfortunate effect of stopping the vessel dead in the bullseye of the elephant's watery trunk---utterly and hopelessly drenching the guest(s) seated roughly amidships.
Yikes.Let's just say that when such a skipper drippingly pulls back into the dock with a row of drenched guests, it makes for no small amount of unbridled ribbing by the skipper's fellow cast members for the entire remaining balance of his or her shift. The skipper's customer satisfaction index (CSI) rating is also known to take a dip under such circumstances.

Such is life.

I am going to say that this never happened to me.

This, of course, isn't true, but I'm going to say it nonetheless.

And, as for those folks who were sitting on the elephant's side of my boat on or about June 1, 1987...

I do apologize.

However, I warned you the Jungle wasn't safe after we left the dock...
...and NONE of you elected to get off my boat.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Disneyland - More Cast Member Photos

Today I offer you, dear reader, a few more examples of why Disneyland cast members are able to survive at just above minimum wage. They make up for the lost income by having fun at work.

With Photos 1-3, we start over at the "wildest ride in the wilderness," where the Thunder crew from the 1980s bonded a little too closely with their attraction. (Thanks to Janet Mondragon for the wonderful photos!)

As you can see on the left (Photo 1), fossil fuels can be hazardous to you and your environment. (Note: it is incredibly difficult to get good reception on a land line with a severed phone cord).

At Photo 2, I let you in on a closely guarded Disney secret: this is how they get those funny colored rings to show up in the water of the Rainbow Caverns on Big Thunder. [Again, thanks Janet Mondragon!]

We close out our visit to Big Thunder with a nice group photo (thanks to Matt Smith) of a more recent Thunder crew enjoying "Dinosaur Gap" between trains. Those folks by the ribs better hang on to their hats and glasses when I.M. Brave comes flying around the bend.

At Photo 4, we dash across the Park to Fantasyland, where we find some Small World cast members from the 1990s making like Fredo and "swimming with the fishes." My thanks to Jolene Finn (Tafoya) for supplying this shot originally. Note that the Small World cast members were still wearing the old "gondola boy" costumes.

Allow me to mention at this point that Fantasyland costumes have gone WAY downhill since the 1970s and 80s. Don't believe me? Just check out the girls (and, nowadays, guys) over at the Storybookland Canal Boats. No more cute white stockings! Oh, the sadness and grief of loss.

Photo 5, also from Jolene Finn (Tafoya), shows Jolene at Alice in Wonderland about to issue a "First Warning" to a fellow cast member for a violation of Disney grooming policy.

I'll close out today with Photo 6 (lower right), which vividly reminds us of just how important it is to carefully select one's drinking buddies. Even though these guys could drink ANYONE under the table, their parties always seemed a little...I don't know...dead. Thanks to Ken Heilman for sharing this photo.

As for the rest of you, back to work! Quit goofing off on the Internet looking at other people goofing off! It's not productive.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Disneyland - The Sweeper Walk- The Sweeper Whistle- And A Brief Hello to "Big Red"

Yesterday I took my brother and his girlfriend to the Park with my wife and children.

For some reason, family members seek me out when it comes to Disneyland trips. I find this odd---not because I don't know my stuff and am not helpful in getting them to see the most things possible---but because I can be a "Disney-Nazi" tour guide.

This means that you are up at the crack of dawn, and, upon arriving at the Park, you, as my honored guest, are summarily marched and stampeded through as many as 11 to 14 attractions, across 65 acres, within the first two-and-a-half hours of your visit to Disneyland.

Forget that "happy memories" crapola, we're here to see stuff---and lots of it---before all those other meddlesome guests arrive and pack the Park in like a third world marketplace.

Get it? Disney-Nazi.

Sure it can be tough to handle at first, but for some reason the family members keep coming back for more. They love to tell their friends that they went on more attractions by noon than many people do ALL day---(indeed, more attractions than some have been on in their entire lives!). They love the mile-a-minute spiel about Park highlights, history and hysterics. They thrill at learning the "Sweeper Walk" and the "Sweeper Whistle"---both highly necessary for a successful whirlwind tour.

The "Sweeper Walk" (or "Disney Walk") is a fast paced gait used to pierce through thick pedestrian traffic, as you dodge slow pedestrians ahead of you like a running back blowing through the defense. The others in your group follow you, single file, and dodge and weave while keeping the brisk pace. It's not quite running, but it's a close as most would like to get.

The "Sweeper Whistle" is an attention-getting device used by old-school Day Custodial types to locate each other in a crowd. It is a whistle that starts with a short low note, shoots to a long-held high note and then descends to a short low note again. It is very distinct. My children have never lost me in a crowd because they recognize and respond to the "Sweeper Whistle." It doesn't take long for the family members that I am guiding through the Park to learn to recognize (and occasionally employ for themselves) "The Whistle."

If we become separated during a Sweeper Walk from Point A to Point B, the moment we realize the problem, the lead (that's me) pulls off to the side, turns around, surveys the crowd and gives The Whistle. The lost members of the group can hear the sound across the noise and commotion of a thousand fellow guests and instinctively move toward the sound. I repeat the whistle until I spot the lost group members (or they spot me). Upon seeing me, one of the lost will give The Whistle in response.

Very effective.

The weather yesterday was perfect at the Park. We scored an amazing number of attractions before 11:00 a.m. had arrived.

At around this time, we slowed our pace to take in lunch. Then we found ourselves again at the Hub at the top of Main Street. There we met "Big Red."

He was proud, tall and quite muscular. He was a Disneyland cast member who went about his duties with calm and steady devotion. Though he was often egged on or held back by his fellow cast members, he never raised his voice in protest or gave so much as a sideways glance. He epitomized patience, even when guests clamored for his attention.

Big Red works on Main Street and has for several years. A lot of regulars recognize him, but even new guests that he's never met seem to develop a favorable impression of him almost instantly. A couple nearby saw him and were anxious to approach him and get their picture taken together.

Even I never got that kind of buzz when I worked Jungle. While the Japanese tourists loved to gather around me for a group photo near the main entrance of the attraction, I'm pretty sure it was the Jungle---and my costume---and not my deeply charming personality that got the shutters clicking. Still, that was nothing compared to Big Red.

My brother's girlfriend even wanted her picture with him. As he approached the top of the Hub, I mentioned to the young couple that Big Red would stop for a photo right in front of them.

And he did.

Then our group had to get in on the act.

My youngest daughter and I approached. I saw one of his fellow cast members and asked if a photograph would be okay. Sure.

"What's his name?" asked my daughter.

"Big Red."

"Is he a Percheron?" I asked.

"No, a Belgian."

"Can we pet him?" begged my daughter.

"Sure, but not near his face. Pet him on his side by his tummy."

I watched her small fingers stroke the sleek hair along the giant horse's side, just below the harness and tack that helped him to pull the heavy trolley car up and down the street.

Big Red never flinched. He turned his head slightly toward my daughter and patiently accepted another guest's adulation. He lifted his head proudly as we stood for a photo with him.

With a clang of the bell and a shake of the reins, he dipped his powerful head again and slowly clip-clopped away.

We watched him and a trolley-full of guests glide around the Hub and back down Main Street.

My daughter won't remember that we went on Peter Pan, Dumbo, Matterhorn, Finding Nemo, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, The Jungle Cruise, Tarzan's Treehouse, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, The Pirates of the Caribbean AND Splash Mountain BEFORE 11:00 a.m. yesterday.

She'll remember rubbing Big Red's tummy.

That, my Disney friends, is as it should be.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Disneyland - Jungle Cruise - Unload Corn

The following bit of Jungle junk was tucked in the "comments" section as a response by me to an earlier post, but I guess it's worth a separate post--if only for the sheer "ugh!" of the corny jokes. I figure, if I had to suffer through this, then so should you.

When our boat arrived at the dock after journeying through the dark jungle waters, I would launch into one of many "exit spiels," including this one:

"Well folks, that's our trip. I really enjoyed taking each of you through the jungle.
I hope you enjoyed being taken.

As we say farewell, please don't be strangers---I work with enough strange people already...

(At the dock)
Now, all you crusty adventurers, rise like bread.
No loafing about.
Please exit the boat.
But don't go off half-baked,
even if you thought these stale jokes were crumb-y.
They're the yeast I can do.
Sorry for any mix ups.
I promise to do butter next time.
I didn't mean to cause a stir.
Any way you slice it,
this monologue is a recipe for disaster.
I milk it for all its worth and still end up with egg on my face.
But I take it all with a grain of salt.
And, sifting through it, pick up kernels of wisdom along the way.
Sure, I may get battered,
since this job is no cakewalk.
But I can't let that frost me.
Because I really need the dough.

Hey, don't stop me now,

I'm on a ROLL.

Thank you! Enjoy your day here at Walt Disney's Magic Kingom!"


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Disneyland - Haunted Mansion - The "Real" Ghost

I was a Sweeper in 1985. Late one summer night I was assigned to Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square on a closing shift. This meant I was responsible for a final sweep of the Mansion queue and to clean out its bordering flower beds.

Now when Disneyland closed the guests were slowly, but surely, escorted from the back areas of the Park and herded toward Main Street by Security. As closing hour approached, most guests had long headed for the exits anyway, but the few stragglers were evenutally walked out (encouraged no doubt by the closing announcement: "Disneyland has now ended its normal operating day...").

It was dark.
The area music was still on, but there was a strange quiet nonetheless.
The other sweepers in New Orleans/Bear Country were far off doing their own closing routine.
I was alone.

There I stood in the large bullpen near the east side of the Mansion, with my ever-present pan and broom in one hand and my trusty black flashlight in the other.

A breeze lifted the branch of a nearby tree as I stooped over a flower bed in search of old napkins, cigarette butts, guidebooks, cups and other such castaways. The tiny leaves of the branch ran along the back of my neck like fine fingers. I started and stood up straight.

Then I saw it.
I had been going to Disneyland for umpty years and had been working there for almost two.
I had never seen it before.

My eye caught what looked like a yellowish ball of light bobbing gently past the inside of one of the upper story windows of the Mansion. As soon as I saw it, it was gone.
I blinked, looked away, then glanced back up.

Well...I decided I'd better finish up my flower bed, sweep the queue and get out of there. I didn't even have a radio with me.
Just me.

And the Mansion.

I directed the beam of my flashlight back into the dark flower bed and gingerly picked out more debris with my pan and broom. I was pretty sure I had seen something, but tried to push it away as the reflection of an airplane in the window panes, or maybe one of my fellow cast members had shined their flashlight up there.

Needless to say, I picked up the pace of my work. I looked forward to heading back to the area locker. I was working near the brick wall of the queue and meandering along the bullpen (that's what we lovingly call the area where guests line up) toward the porch of the Haunted Mansion. As I dumped my pan into one of the trash cans of the queue, my eye wandered up the Mansion's facade toward those upper windows again.
There it was.

The ghost.

A flickering light moved across the inside of one of the windows again.
There was NO mistaking it this time!

Then... moved on to the NEXT window!

When it proceeded to pass in front of the NEXT window, then I knew.

Darn Imagineers!

This special effect was clearly an intended part of the attraction and could only be seen in the dark of night. What appeared to be the ghostly light of a candle moved along inside each of the windows, as though the widowed bride were marching around inside her home, waiting for the return of her captain.

The effect was well done, with a slowly bouncing, flickering light moving past the opaque curtains of the windows. It moved slowly from window to window, with a slight pause in between.
When I had first glanced up, the light had reached one of the corner windows, so that it proceeded around the corner to the next window (where I couldn't see it). That is why I caught a glimpse and then it had appeared to vanish.

Another smart part of the illusion was that the "walking light" paused for some time between cycles, so that the windows would return to their darkened state and, if you didn't stare up at them for a few moments, you might not notice the light when it began moving again.

Now I'm not saying that there aren't ghosts in the Mansion, but I almost became a true believer on that summer evening! I kept that little effect under my hat, sharing it only with a few family members on evening trips to the Park. I have not been out there after dark at any time in the recent past. I wonder if the haunted candle is still pacing around the old house's windows...

Check it out for yourself next time you're there. I will close by sharing with you this excerpt from The Haunted Mansion album:

"It's a house that people avoid walking past at night. Strange sounds come from within the walls, and it's said that eerie lights have been seen both in the attic windows, and in the graveyard at the side of the house."

Hurry Baaack. Hurry Baaa-AA-aack!

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Jungle Is 101" An Official "Blog of Note"

I thought my "Site Meter" was broken. What's going on?

Then I saw that "Jungle is 101" has been identified as a "Blog of Note," by our friends at Blogger (thanks, Pete!).

I am humbled and appreciative. Hope I can think of something to write!

For those who may be stopping by for the first time, this is a Disneyland site for folks who remember a different era at the Park. If the title of the blog is confusing, here's the answer: In Disneyland cast member lingo, "101" means that a ride or attraction has broken down. I used to work the Jungle Cruise and when the attraction broke down it meant, for most of the operators, an extended break.

I'll try to keep this blog from "going 101," as we move forward. Thanks for stopping by! The attraction should be back up in about oh, half an hour....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Coke Corner - Main Street Pianist - Rod & Johnny

Dateline: Main Street, U.S.A. 1984-1985.

In the late afternoon, as twilight began to settle over a summer day at the Park, the white piano at Coke Corner would burst forth with a ragtime tune and guests would plant themselves on the red and white, wire-backed chairs nearby.

And listen.

Soon the fading sunlight would give way to the sparkling fancy of hundreds of electrical light bulbs along Coke Corner's facade and overhang. The hum of the crowd was a mixture of laughter, broken bits of conversation, distant crying children and orders for hot dogs and Cherry Coke. The clip clop of the horse drawn trolley disappeared as the horses were brought back to their stable and the Street readied itself for the Electrical Parade.

Strollers and pedestrians flowed back and forth past the Candy Palace, the Penny Arcade and the Sunkist Citrus House. On the curb, people began securing their spots for premium parade viewing. The gas lamps of Main Street flickered and the lights along all of the storefronts came up, bathing the area in a yellow electric glow. The area music bounced happily from unseen speakers.

Heat from the warm summer's day began rising up from the sidewalks and pavement that had earlier absorbed it. A soft evening breeze barely ruffled the trees and umbrellas in front of the Plaza Pavillion. Folks on the southern end of the Pavillion's porch leaned toward the distinct and rollicking sound of the piano.

On many days such as this, Rod Miller (pictured below on the cover of his CD) was the source of that fabulous sound. Also sharing keyboard duties back then was a cast member I knew as "Johnny" from his name tag---his full name is Johnny Hodges. He was a pleasant person who, like Rod, knew how to keep the small group of folks within earshot of the piano entertained and upbeat during his sets.

He is pictured here in a photograph from a 1988 special edition magazine entitled "Mickey Is Sixty," published by Time, Inc. and issued in honor of Mr. Mouse's birthday.

The boy's smile (and Johnny's, for that matter) tells you all you need to know.

If you never got to experience one of Rod or Johnny's performances, I am truly sorry.

Rod had played on Main Street since the late 1960s and was an institution. He has since retired and is doing well raising plumerias and visiting the Park now and then, as I understand it.

You can see plenty of videos of Rod over on YouTube and even a few of Johnny. I include one of Rod's here.

Here's one of Johnny's.

Here's another.

And another photograph of Johnny from 2005 (with thanks to "Big Brian").

Simply put, these gentlemen created countless positive experiences for Disneyland guests (and Cast Members) over the years.

I thank them for the many they gave to me.

Perhaps you have an encounter or two with the Coke Corner pianists that you recall?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Disneyland - 1987 Video Flashback - Crazy Cast Member Photos

The beginning of today's post is slightly interactive: Click here for a quick video trip back to Disneyland 1987. Take a look at the Park in the video, especially Tomorrowland, and try and tell me that things have gotten better with age. Jungle thanks go out to the original poster of the video (whose name I could not easily locate on Truveo). I love finding these snippets on the web.

We then move on to the meat of our presentation: some shots that tell us why it is (or was) pretty cool to be a Disneyland cast member.

The following are collected and reposted here (with thanks to the original posters/suppliers).

First, a Great Moment with Mr. Lincoln, a guy from the Disneyland Railroad, and some Monorail escapees.
Second, we learn the powerful truth that Disneyland security will find out if you sneak liquor onto Tom Sawyer's Island----but only if you happen to fall asleep and catch your cabin on fire in the process. Special thanks to Joe Venegas, Jr. for this mid-80s photograph!Third, Sandi (Johnson) Miller---who worked at the Park FOR-ALMOST-EVER---provided this shot of the Pirates of the Caribbean crew from the summer of 1980. While it is true that Cast Member talk would occasionally drop to the level of "who-is-in-bed-with-whom," only rarely did we develop actual photographic proof. And you thought dead men told no tales.
Fourth, George Herold supplies further proof that our deceased Captain from Pirates apparently favors keeping his quarters crowded---when there aren't any scurvy scum guests around. This is from the late 1970s.
Finally, my thanks go out again to Sandi Miller for originally posting this 1981 Kodak Moment--- in which Dave Canfield finds out that he's still dry at the Pirates tavern (even though he'd been drinking there all day). I learned later that his drinking buddy had been on an early, 1980s version of the Adkins Diet---they were still working out some of the bugs. No bread. No meat. Just dusty wine. The good news was, you lost weight quickly and kept it off. The bad news---it was pretty darn permanent. Back to the drawing board.
Ahoy, Maties! These be the last friendly words you'll hear (at least for today's post---I'm shoving off for the tavern!).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Disneyland - The Inn Between - Casual Dining For Hungry Cast Members

No story of 1980s Disneyland employment is complete without a visit to the Inn Between, the Cast Member restaurant located on the back side of the Plaza Inn (it is "in between" the Plaza Inn and the backstage area, get it?). You can see the cast member entrance if you stand by the First Aid/Baby Center on Main Street and peek.

Better yet, here's an insider's view (on a cloudy day) showing the back stage area behind Main Street and Tomorrowland. In the background on the left side of the photograph you can see the back porch of the Inn Between. It kinda wraps around the base of the tree with the light green leaves.
Below is a modern-day photograph of some cast members seated at one of the tables in this area (with the new, improved BROWN Space Mountain in the background---love that new Tomorrowland paint scheme!).Anyway, as a Cast Member, you realize that there is truly something special about your place of employment when you sit down for you lunch and Snow White is at the next table with a few (headless) dwarves, or you bump into the Wicked Queen grabbing a cigarette on a break.

The Inn Between was moderately affordable on a Disney wage and the food was better than the vending machines behind Bear Country. I always favored the open-faced hot turkey sandwich. It came with a yellow gravy. I mean a really yellow gravy. Like a yellow that you don't see in nature. I think the food dye responsible for that "yellow" was later banned by the FDA. Nevertheless, it was good tasting!

The Inn Between had TVs that were always tuned to the then "brand new" Disney Channel. I remember Dumbo's Circus would be on the background as a group of my friends and I gathered together for lunch and a few laughs before heading back out "into the area" or "on stage."

I'll close with another shot of the Main Street back area---showing the rear of the Lincoln theater and the lane where the parade would line up (Main Street Electrical Parade or whatever daytime parade was running) before heading out onto Town Square at the gate near the Mad Hatter.
I hope you enjoyed this brief trip "back stage." I gotta get going. I have to bump back into my rotation over at Jungle.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Disneyland - Tomorrowland Is Filthy!

I was at the Park quite recently and stood on the elevated Tomorrowland Monorail Station for a brief look around. Sadly, I had no digital camera with me, so you'll have to use your imagination for this post.

What I saw was a decaying Tomorrowland infrastructure and hideous paint choices galore.

The Peoplemover (Rocket Rods) track has its railing painted a goldy/rusty color that looks dilapidated. The tracks themselves have been left to rot as they wait for some type of attraction to be reinstalled (one can only hope). The trees near the Subs and Autopia are actually growing over the old Peoplemover track.

The paint choices for the Monorail station (dark blue and purple) and the buildings around Tomorrowland contribute to a dark depression.

Give me the bright white future of yesterday. (What the hell did I just say?).
"The bright white future of yesterday."
Wow. Sounds like bad beat poetry, but it's true.

When Coke Terrace and America Sings and the Rocket Jets were all painted with primary colors (lots of white, red, blue), and the Tomorrowland Stage glowed white as well, the whole area seemed to glow with optimism.

If today's Tomorrowland represents "Tomorrow," then please get me back to Yesterday ASAP.

Anyway, even the Monorail train was beaten up and ready for the trashbin. I guess they are letting it go because of the newer version that has debuted (several times, actually). But the Monorail track and supporting pylons are sure beat up and look terrible. How about a little rehab love here, huh?

As I was riding on the Monorail on the way into Tomorrowland, we cruised over the Disneyland Railroad as it was pulling into the station. The train's canopy was FILTHY. It looks like it has not seen a high pressure washer since I worked there in the 1980s! The roof of the rear car of the train (I hope it wasn't the Lily Belle--I couldn't tell) was dirty, cracked, and its paint was faded. It was like one of those old converted cabooses on a desert highway that someone turned into a tourist-trap restaurant.

Walt is absolutely SPINNING somewhere---with Ward Kimball joing in, I'm sure! Letting the Disneyland Railroad go to pot is tantamount to urinating on the graves of these two gentlemen. For shame, Disneyland.

Here's a hint: buy some paint---or at least a pressure washer from Sears. Step two: USE THEM---and use them often. In my day, we had a crew of painters who repainted stuff EVERY NIGHT. They were damn good at it, too.

To conclude today's mini-tirade, allow me to add that the Autopia cars are simply hideous. Viewed from above, I saw them parade by, sporting their bizarre colors. Purple-ish. Brown-ish. Beige-ish. What the heck?? And can we raze that stupid cylindrical building in the middle (along with the vast awning structure thingy)? Worthless. These dark colored structures completely obstruct the view of the attraction and make Tomorrowland feel claustrophobic---a neat architectural trick, in and of itself.

I'm telling you, Disney, get some white paint, apply it liberally in Tomorrowland, and you'll amaze yourselves at the improvement!! Lose the dark blues and rusts and golds and beiges and whatever.

Lose Innoventions while you're at it. Wait, have I mentioned that one before????

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Disneyland - Jungle Cruise Spiel - 1984 - Still More Pages

Today we enter the Sacred Bathing Pool of the Elephants (please no jokes about "They're wearing their trunks..."), stumble upon a Lost Safari Camp ("Looks like that gorilla is in for a mind-blowing experience..." "Gee, I thought that Jeep's battery was dead, but it looks like they finally got it to turn over...") and locate the Lost Safari ("uh oh, looks like a native uprising; Hate to be low man on THAT totem pole; I'll bet that rhino gets his point across in the end...").

We experience all these wonderful sights in our mind's eye and by way of the next few pages of the "Official" Jungle Cruise spiel (you'll find the earlier pages in some of my earlier posts). As you can see, the official version can be a bit dry---even with the approved alternatives. No small wonder then that a few, unnamed, unsung Skippers may have "enhanced" the spiel along the way. Some of these scenes have changed since the mid-80s. Back then, for example, there were no piranhas after Schweitzer Falls. Also, the baboons who used to perch on the wall before the African Veldt are now hanging out over by the "Lost Safari's" camp (just past the old squirting elephant). And my old friend, the hornbill, has moved from his tree below the Swiss Family Treehouse (near where the Indy queue is today) and now hangs out in the Jungle Cruise queue area (look up, you'll see him).
After we avoid Schweitzer Falls (just barely), we're headed down the Nile River. Here we meet our big friend, the African Bull Elephant (and his world famous mother in law). We also (used to) approach the Baboon Family---Pat, Debbie, Bob and Daniel---as we head toward the zebras, giraffe and gazelles of the Veldt.
We finish this part of our tour (and our pages from the Spiel) with the Lost Safari.

In conclusion, allow me to also share some good old fashioned Disneyland letterhead. They don't make 'em like that any more. Now it's just "The Disneyland Resort."

Monday, September 8, 2008

A "Thank You" to a Few of Mike's Favorite Friends, Blogs and Sites

Please allow me to send heartfelt greetings to "MainStreetMom" over at the Daily Earful for her continued patronage and readership. Frankly, I am stunned by any repeat visitor.

If reading this drivel once does not dissuade you, then you're my kind of guest!

"MSM" has a youngster and a wealth of tips and experiences to share with families and Disneyphiles concerning her frequent trips to that "other" park in the Far East (Florida, that is). She also keeps tabs on all things Disney, even broken down Jungle skippers who remain trapped in the 1980s. If you haven't stopped by, I recommend you get out of my boat this minute, scroll over to the column on the right and click on the Daily Earful. I don't list all those things over there just for "filler!"

Thanks, too, to Kevin Kidney for his recent visits. If you do not have any of Kevin's art pieces relating to Disneyland, or haven't paid a visit to his blog, then don't blame me if I stop speaking to you altogether. Really! And you call yourself a Disney fan with 80s sensibilities! Sheesh.

Jason at Eightiesology is another visitor who has a blog worth mentioning to all those with any affinity for the 1980s. Say hello for me if you decide to check in with him!

Vintage Disneyland Tickets consistently posts quality Disneyland goodies. If you're the kind of person who saved every souvenir guide, ticket stub and flier from every trip you ever took to Disneyland (let's say that I have a few of these items myself), why haven't you stopped and checked out this blog?! Fabulous! One of the privileged few who really "get it" when it comes to the Park.

I am but a tropical knucklehead, feverishly moaning in a camp besieged by gorillas, compared to the likes of Vintage, Outside the Berm, 2719 Hyperion, Daveland, Disneyland Nomenclature, Viewliner Ltd., Yesterland and other authors and sitekeepers. They're all over on the right, so hyperlink to them already, won'tcha?!

Last, but not least, thanks to Mom, who signs in 3,000 times a day just to keep my Sitemeter reading high and help me to live the fantasy that this stuff I post gets read by more than 3 people. Moms are great.

If I've left you off this post, it's because I have a very poor memory and worse social skills. Don't worry, your credit will come some day, I'm sure. I apologize in advance.

As for you devoted readers, the four of us have got to get together someday for a Dole Pineapple Whip.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Disneyland Jungle Cruise - Would You Trust These Men To Take You Into The Heart Of Darkness?

In the "a-picture-says-a-thousand-words" category, I offer you, dear readers, the above (with heartfelt thanks to Phil Seymour). This scene of the wildlife on the African Veldt comes beaming back to us from the late 1970s.

No, this is not the cast from "M*A*S*H" on sabbatical at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Nor is it a National Geographic photograph of the No-undi people of the Congo (lovely tribe, the No-Undies).

Nope. This is just photographic proof that we jungle skippers are a breed apart.

Far apart.

Just-barely-in-the-same-species apart.

To think, these men were trusted with the lives of boatfuls of guests on a daily basis.

"Now turn around and wave goodbye to the folks on the dock (make it look like you're having fun)---you'll never see them again!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Disneyland - Matterhon - Special Guest Star: Harold

If you were there in the late 1970s, you recall that something had gotten into the Matterhorn.

It turned out to be a hairy creature with a bluish face and angry red eyes. Cast members affectionately called him, "Harold."

Over time, Harold made quite an impression and ultimately was welcomed as part of the family. Today, thanks to the magic (and cameras) of Disneyland cast members, we take a look at some photos from Harold's family album.
Thanks to Lorraine Osborn for originally sharing this photograph, reposted here for your edification and enjoyment. This demonstrates cast members' affection for our noisy friend from the icy caverns of the Matterhorn.

John Sieker is to be thanked for contributing this photograph, where Harold sports a nifty cap. Kinda cuts down on the angry Yeti vibe, though.Jeff Mackey is thanked for this contribution, in which a non-Matterhorn cast member popped by for a visit from It's A Small World.George Herold (no relation) originally supplied these next two wonderful pictures (the one immediately below is from the late 1970s). In the first, Harold looks happy surrounded by such dear friends. However, in the second, during a rehab, he appears robbed of a bit of dignity, not to mention his hirsute grandeur.He was also was present for a special moment in which one of his human friends appears to have popped some sort of question to the female of the species (our thanks to Paula Kirchner for the photograph). Sometimes, even despite the cast member's affection, Harold would get a bit testy, as this moment (supplied by Joshua Sudock) captured by camera clearly demonstrates.For all of us who still jump (just a bit) when we hear his mighty roar from the darkness, Harold, we salute you! Many happy returns! Though you aren't a Matterhorn "original," you have definitely become part of the family!

As for me, I met him several times during closing shifts in Fantasyland. The "Disney Explorers Club," I understand, made Harold one of their many destinations. A certain basketball court deep within the mountain was also rumored to be a place where the DEC would visit (after everyone had gotten their flowerbeds finished!). At least, that's what I heard...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Jungle Cruise Spiel - A Few More Pages

We continue today with more pages from the 1984
"official" Jungle Cruise spiel, leaving the dock, heading into the rain forest and coming upon the ruins of the ancient Cambodian shrine.

As we left the dock, I introduced myself as everyone from "Mango Mike" to "Les Capable," but generally used my own name (since it was right there on the old Mickey Mouse nametag---Not like I could hide it!).

Though not part of the "official" spiel, or even an "approved alternative," I and most of my Jungle brethren would often start our trip by having the guests recite the Jungle Cruise Oath: (repeat after me...)I hope...

(I hope)

That I...

(That I)





Perhaps you swore this solemn oath once or twice if you ever rode the attraction in the 1970s or 1980s. Very serious business.

Also missing from the official spiel for the toucan/hornbill section of the river (where the Indy line is today) is the following (again, used by countless skippers):

"Over there are three toucans...

...otherwise known as...

...a sixpack."

That one spoke right to the soul of my beer loving jungle cruiser guests.

Like most Jungle jokes: time honored; timeworn.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Disneyland - 1984 - Official Jungle Cruise Spiel - Page 1

At long last I am breaking out my old, yellowed "official" Jungle Cruise spiel and sharing it with you. Sure, other sites have summarized Jungle jokes and spiels, but how many bring you an actual copy of the living, breathing document!

It is not the Constitution or the Magna Carta, but it is still a thing of historical and pop cultural significance.

You can tell the spiel I share is dated because, for one thing, it has jokes about "keeping the cushions clean" by having the guests slide forward and covering up "all of the blue seat cushions" (or whatever color cushions were on your particular boat).

There haven't been seat cushions on the Jungle since they did away with the striped canopies. Sigh.

I had my favorites that I used during "Load" (and a few non-S.O.P. lines that were popular among us skippers). Paragraphs 1, 3, 8, 10, 11 and, of course, 12 were classics and almost always included in one form or another.

I would also use on of the following, depending on my mood:

"Watch your head. Watch your step. Watch your head. Watch your step. If you miss your step---and step on your head, Please! Watch your language. This is Disneyland after all and there are small children present."

"Hurry up! Get in! We haven't got all day! Are you guys on vacation or something? Let's go, this isn't Knott's Berry Farm!"

"As you enter the boat, keep an eye on your boat loaders. These guys have a strange affinity for touching your elbows. Just let them do it and go ahead and keep on moving into the boat to find your seat. If you make eye contact, they'll just follow us into the Jungle. Took me a week to get rid of the last one we got in here."

"Hey! Where have you guys been all day! I've been keeping the engine warmed up for you. Come on in! Squeeze together and don't be afraid to come all the way up front by me---I'm almost completely over the Irrawaddy Fever and that necrotizing skin rash is clearing up nicely."

"Let's go! Pack it in folks! Don't worry if it seems crowded now---there's usually plenty of room after we get over that first waterfall."

"The Jungle Cruise is a thrilling, high-speed, turbulent, roller coaster-type ride through space. For your safety persons with heart conditions, motion sickness or back problems and expectant mothers should not attempt to ride this attraction. Now, please pull down on your safety bars, keep your hands and arms inside the boat, and be sure to hang onto your hats and glasses "cause this here's the wildest ride----in, um, Adventureland."

"As you enter our glass bottomed boat, please gaze down at the school of piranha beneath us, but don't tap on the glass. Drives 'em crazy. (Made you look)."

"Okay, as you take your seats, grab those 3-D glasses and put them on. Captain Eo will begin momentarily. Sorry---wrong attraction. I guess you'll just have to sit down and look out the windows or something. We're a low-budget ride here at the Jungle Cruise."

"Welcome aboard! I'd like to take this time to remind you to put your seat backs and tray tables in their fully upright and locked position. Be sure that your seatbelts are buckled. To do so, simply slide the metal connector into the buckle and then adjust the strap, keeping it low and tight across your lap. Our cabin has been pressurized for your comfort and safety, if however, we should experience a devastating loss of pressure during our trip, oxygen masks will drop down from the compartments above your heads. At that time, take the mask and place it over you nose and mouth and begin breathing normally. If we should experience a water landing, your seat cushion, or the guest seated next to you, may be used as a flotation device. Now, sit back, relax and enjoy your cruise."

There's plenty more, but you get the drift. The spiel itself consists of 12 full pages, so we'll post some more as time goes on.

For now, have a safe and happy September 2, 2008!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Disneyland - Parade Duty - Knowing The Ropes (And Bones)

Ever come across one of these as you strolled through the Park?

They are ubiquitous on Main Street, especially all around the Hub. This is a plughole for a parade post/pole. The rubber plug in the middle of the hole is extracted and a pole is inserted into the hole.

In 1987, Adventure/Frontier Attractions hosts and hostesses would join their counterparts on Main Street for a parade shift. This shift meant that you wouldn't be spieling through the Jungle or waking up Jose over at the Tiki Room.

No, you were assigned a flashlight with a colored cone and sent over to a section of the parade route on Main Street, usually around two hours before the parade's scheduled start time.

You were going to be herding guests at the Main Street Electrical Parade.

If you'd been around a while and "knew the ropes," you would be sent to a locker to retrieve ropes, bones, a pole cart and poles. You would then haul these items over to Main Street long before the parade was scheduled to commence. You and your crew would then start to lay out your ropes and poles. You would use the them to create traffic walkways or block off certain areas so that guests could be seated in advance of the parade.

Upon arriving at Main Street, you would open up your cart and throw your rope "bones" into a planter.You would bring along with you certain lighted directional signs, too, that helped tell guests where the roped traffic areas were leading them. You can see a couple of the directional signs in the photograph below (taken of the planter on Matterhorn Way near the east side of Sleeping Beauty's Castle). The photograph also shows the carefully wrapped (and labeled) rope "bones." If you put the wrong rope on the wrong bone, the next parade crew will be faced with a magnificent jigsaw puzzle when they try and lay out their roped-off areas. It happened to me plenty of times.

Above is a close up of one of the bones from a recent pre-parade set up in August 2008.

And here is one of the posts (again, this is on Matterhorn Way, on the southeastern side, nearest to the fountain with King Triton). All the parade ropes are pre-cut and pre-measured so that they fit tightly between the two (proper) poles to which they are supposed to be attached. Get the wrong rope and the wrong pole and you'll end up too short or too long!Parade crews usually get this process down fairly quickly, and by the end of the summer you literally "know the ropes."

After the ropes and poles are set up, the parade crew spreads out to several stations along the traffic areas. They then begin waving their arms (and coned flashlights as dusk turns to night) and verbally telling guests the proper route to take. You've seen this done a hundred times, I'm sure. Quite an orchestrated event.

I used to enjoy getting all the guests to sit down (especially those with the seats in front, closest to the parade route). In the 1980s, Disneyland had strollers with handles that collapsed downward. I would help collapse strollers (so their canopies would not block the view of the guests seated further back) and would make sure that the one guy from "out of the country"---who insisted on standing up at the curbline (while 500 angry guests glared laser beams into the back of his head because he was blocking their view)---was able to understand my nonverbal cues telling him to SIT DOWN!

It always amazed me that 750 to 1000 people could be seated in an area waiting for a parade and ONE guy (invariably in the front row) would insist on standing. What planet do these people come from? Is it o.k. in other cultures to block the view of your neighbors since you "got the front row???!" I made damn sure it wasn't o.k. at Disneyland (and I'm convinced that I saved many people from being stoned by angry mobs in the process!).

After the parade was over, while the guests were stampeding for exits or other parts of the Park, the parade crew would quickly break down the ropes and poles that they had put up earlier. It is vital to put the right rope back on the right "bone" and then back onto the right "cart" during this process, as noted above.

The Day Custodial crew would then follow with a team of sweepers (and often motorized vacuum cleaners) and clean up the post-parade mix.

All in a day's work at the Magic Kingdom (the original Magic Kingdom, that is).