Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Disneyland - More 80s Nostalgia - Jungle Cruise - Tiki - Orange Polyester - Merry Christmas!

Ok. Ok. I know---it's been a month since my last post. I have been, shall we say, remiss.

But hey, this isn't "Julie & Julia," or even "Mike & Walt." I never promised to post every single day or to cook every dish in Julia Child's first cookbook over the course of a year.

Still...if you're gonna be a blogger, I guess you have to actually blog occasionally. Even if you have but four (4), count them, four(4) readers to your name.

I have seen somewhere that "Jungle is 101" is described as being a bit on the nostalgic side. That's like saying the Boy Scouts are a bit on the "help-an-old-lady-to-cross-the-street-and-learn-how-to-tie-really-good-knots" side.

I confess, when it comes to the Park, nostalgia is my game (though I do seem to recall a post or two relating to my most recent stint as a cast member!).

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I've been able to come across many old photographs from my first tour of duty at the Park. Today, we peek at a few more, starting with the Jungle Cruise crew from 1986-87-ish (thanks to Sue B. for originally sharing this photo). Two of my favorite old skippers (Jimm and Dougg) (they insist on the double consonants) a pictured in the group below (Jimm to the far left and Dougg smack in the middle). See? The hats, the costumes, the canopies, the old seat cushions, 7 cast members on a single boat (doing absolutely nothing but posing for a picture)---Jungle at its finest!
I remember the macrame-style belts were a bit cheesy, but overall, we cut a fine form in our Jungle gear, eh?

In our next photograph we have old-time skipper "Wally" taking a zip around the rivers of Adventureland on the world famous "skiff." I worked a lot of parade shifts and Mark Twain with Wally. He was a great Jungle captain. Back in the day, they actually trusted us skippers (at least a few of us anyway) to pilot a boat through the Jungle that was not connected to the riverbed. Imagine.

Of course, our old lead (Don) was known to pilot an unwitting skipper or two (seated at the front of the skiff) directly under Schweitzer falls for a ceremonial jungle baptism (one of several preferred forms of the ritual---others included: the squirter, the falls, the Spur side, the unload, the front switch, the rear switch, the "it's clear to cross the bow! (and then throttle into reverse suddenly)" to name but a few).

Of course, after several times around the Jungle (or more, if the rest of your rotation was mad at you for taking an "extended" break), you would retire to one of the many premier break areas available to Disneyland Cast Members.

Each break area came stocked with: (1) a 40-year old vending machine (complete with 40-year old snacks inside), (2) an inoperative change machine (that would instantly spit back any type of bill one attempted to feed into it---from a crisp, newly minted greenback to the more common crumpled single), (3) a bench or table (usually orange for some reason) and (4) a videogame.

In a photograph below (originally shared byfrom Lee S.), we see a fellow Thunder cast member (Henry D.) enjoying a few mushroom-shooting moments with Centipede (with an inoperative brown change machine in the background). The old Thunder costumes were also pretty cool (though the boots would absolutely KILL your feet after a typical shift).
Some attractions actually permitted the cast member to be both on the clock AND taking a break AT THE SAME TIME. This wonder of the modern workplace was available in many forms around the Park, but none so perfect as the Tiki Room:
Here (in another Lee S. photo---thanks Lee!), we see a graphic demonstration of the work/break principle in its purest form, with Dave P. as our Tiki Room attraction operator. Uh, Dave, first you wake up Jose and now THIS? By the way, I think that same chair is STILL at Tiki (though now it's in the "office" in the back and not on stage as depicted above).

The photograph of Dave also brings back memories of the Tiki costume. Slacks and an orange Hawaiian shirt made entirely of polyester. Those pants would literally tear the hair off of your legs. They also would not breathe! Nice combo once July and August hit, let me tell you.

We close today's post with a 1986 photograph (again thanks to Lee S.) of Jeff Cravello at the turnstile position leading to the Tiki lanai. It looks like the sun is setting and the lights are coming up in Adventureland. Soon Jeff will be hearing the drums of the Tahitian Terrace show rumbling into action behind him. Very 80s specs Jeff is sporting, no?Okay, there is one thing I do NOT miss about 1980s Adventure/Frontier Attractions: Tiki polyester.

It took 25 years, but the hair finally has grown back on the front of my thighs. Sheesh.

Oh, and in case I don't post between now and then, may each of you have a safe, happy and Merry Christmas!

"Jungle Bells! Jungle Bells! Jungle all the way! Oh what fun it is to run...from an elephant about to spray! Hey!!"

---Mike

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Disneyland - Jungle Cruise - 1983 - Arthur

Ah, the old Jungle queue and entrance. Thanks to old Skipper Ed Cunningham for originally sharing the shot below from 1983. You can see we were a different class of Jungle skippers back then---very well turned out, indeed. This group looks like they just got back from the Banana Ball and they haven't even left yet! By the way, dig the prototype for the new Small World boat at the bottom of the photo---this design never caught on for some reason.
In scrounging around trying to locate old photographs from back in the day, I found one showing "Arthur" on Main Street from 1983 or 84 (thanks to my old sweeper pal, Robin Mora, for originally sharing this picture). If you weren't around Disneyland when Arthur was a regular...well hopefully this will help you understand a little of what he was like.
Let us now raise our glasses...To Arthur!

To Arthur!

Here! Here!

---Mike

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Disneyland - Adventureland As It Was...some 1985 views

Today we start with a nice photograph of the Jungle Cruise dock at Disneyland as it appeared circa 1985-86. You can see the beautiful tree that shaded the exit dock and the eastern end of Tropical Imports. Those barrels you see held rubber snakes and spiders of all sizes. You could even buy cool little skulls. I don't think there was a plush toy to be found within Adventureland back then (unless some tyke trucked it in there via stroller).

If your heart twinges or aches just a touch when you see the striped canopy of the old Jungle boats in the background of the photo---then you and I should definitely sit down for a drink together someday because we understand each other, compadre.

Next I have a pretty poor quality photo that I copied from somewhere off the internet (and hereby beg forgiveness from the person who originally posted it---whom I will credit if I do learn their identity at some point).

In any event, this picture shows a panoramic view of Adventureland in the "Pre-Indy," "Pre-Tarzan" and "Pre-Aladdin" days of yore.

While it is pretty fuzzy, you see how much of the ground your eye can take in, even with the many guests strolling through? There was a bit more space in the walkways back then.

These days, with the new Jungle queue, Indy, Tarzan's Treehouse and the Aladdin thingy, Adventureland has become much more crowded and its main walkway much more narrow.

You can also make out the fuzzy form of the old Jungle Cruise entrance toward the center of the photograph. I miss the thatched palm fronds that made up the canopy over the old queue. When we used to make the announcement about the varieties of poisonous snakes in the rafters overhead---let's just say it was slightly more believable back then!

Here is a closer shot of the skulls that used to adorn the Jungle Cruise entrance:

You have to admit, there was more of a danger vibe on entering the queue in 1985 than say, today:

Oooooooh. Either we about to embark on a dangerous adventure into the sweltering jungle...or we've just stumbled across the entrance to the local "Pier 1 Imports" or "Banana Republic."

Note: neither Pier 1 nor Banana Republic sponsor or are in any way affiliated with "Jungle is 101." The appearance of the Pier 1 logo here is due to an error in the production process and will not be repeated.*

*(with apologies to "Monty Python's Flying Circus")

Stay cool, Adventure fans! We've got more junk to throw your way. Until then, always stay at least partially informed and try not to give in to overwhelming despair, even if you find yourself in Toontown on a hot day with a cranky five year old.

It's like Trader Sam always told me: "Mike, you've got to know when to keep your head and when to lose it."

Adieu, mon ami!

---Mike

Friday, October 30, 2009

Disneyland - Halloween - A Return To A Popular Haunted Mansion Post From Last Year - The "Real Ghost"

In honor of the Halloween season, for those of you who missed it---and even for those who didn't, I've been asked to re-post or link to my story of the Haunted Mansion's real ghost.

Here it is. Enjoy.

Oh, and here's another link to an interesting video of surveillance cameras that purports to capture a "real" ghost at Disneyland. Somewhat odd that the photographer decided to zoom in and film the security video just at the moment the "ghost" appeared.

I'm just sayin'....

---Happy Halloween all!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Disneyland - Tiki Room Lanai - 1985

Here is a familiar sight: a 1985 photograph of the Tiki Room lanai, with Tongaroa, father of all gods and goddesses, proudly holding court between performances of the show that take place inside the doors to the left.

The Tiki Room show has actually changed considerably since 1985. A large chunk of the middle section of the show was removed in order to appeal to modern audiences and keep the show's cycle time down closer to 15-minute intervals.

Thankfully, the cast member costumes have also been updated---from the orange and white polyster number of the 1980s to a somewhat more subdued hawaiian print shirt and khaki pants in vogue today.

I remember working a few summer nights at Tiki in 1987. The torches at the entrance lit up the area and the drums from the Tahitian Terrace show next door boomed in the distance. The smell of pineapple and teriyaki wafted through the area.

When I returned to Tiki this past year for a few shifts, it was very much like I'd never left, though I deeply missed the Tahitian Terrace teriyaki smell, drums and dancers.

Tiki's back room shared a door with the Tahitian Terrace kitchen and backstage area. On my way to break, I would walk through and occasionally catch a glimpse of the show in progress. It was always great to see the tables full of guests, hear the clank of silverware against plates and watch the Samoans twirl burning torches on the stage.

Anyhow, running the Tiki Room show as an attraction host was always relaxing. If you were the only one stationed at the attraction (usually when your partner had to go to lunch), you would be in charge of opening the turnstile, letting in the guests, closing off the turnstile, updating the "time until next show" clock, noting the guest count, opening the show doors, introducing the show and, of course, waking up Jose. After all this, you could stand or sit in the theater and enjoy the show along with the guests, keeping an eye on things to make sure everyone was seated and enjoying themselves.

In my day, the middle of the show included an Offenbach piece ("Bacarole") that was very relaxing and almost hypnotic, especially when coupled with the dancing waters of the "Magic Fountain" at the center of the show.

The Dole Tiki Juice Bar at the entrance to the Tiki Room lanai is one of only two places on the planet where you can obtain an authentic "Dole Whip." If you don't know what I'm talking about...try one the next time you're in Adventureland (you'll thank me).

I loved working the turnstile at Tiki. It was just one big guest interaction experience.
Hello! Where're you from?
The next show will be in 10 minutes.
Have you tried a Dole Whip?
I see you're a Cubs fan---are you from Chicago, nice shirt?
No, I can't give you my name tag.
What is this attraction? It is a show with singing birds, flowers and tikis---you'll love it. Your little one may get a bit wound up at the end when the thunder and lightning starts, so keep that in mind...etc., etc.
Once guests seated themselves in the lanai, I would walk around with the pan and broom, pick up trash and chat before getting them to line up at the bottom of the steps for the next show.
Other cast members would walk by and wave to me while I was stationed at the turnstile. Friends from Jungle Cruise heading to their shift; area managers; sweepers; Outdoor Vending folks; you name it.
Even today, Tiki Room is a cherished attraction location for cast members. Only people with a good amount of seniority are able to get the coveted Tiki shifts.
The theming, the show, the ambience---the Enchanted Tiki Room is a timeless masterpiece. Thank goodness for Walt and all of his creative team. They really did a fabulous job.

Well...it looks like the gods have been angered by all my jibberish, so I better shove off for now before the thunderbolts start flying.

Alooooooooooooo-ha!

---Mike

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Disneyland - 1984 - Olympic Summer - Where is Everybody?

Hello, Jungle-teers! Bet you thought I died or something, right?

Let's say I have been fully engaged at work and unable to sneak even a few moments for posting for several weeks, and we will leave it at that.

Today, return with me for a moment to Disneyland 1984, the year the Summer Olympics came to Los Angeles. Those Olympics were, by most all accounts, a rousing success for Los Angeles and Southern California. The world's eyes were upon this region for the duration of the Games.

I remember the hype leading up to the Games as well. It seemed every inch of California was promoting the Olympics. Some of my fellow Disneyland cast members at the time were also (amazingly enough) Cal State Fullerton students and were in the band. They were invited to play at the L.A. Coliseum for the opening festivities. They participated in playing John Williams' now famous "Olympic Fanfare and Theme."

Local TV and radio stations warned for months about the traffic nightmare that would ensnare Los Angeles and Orange Counties as Olympic spectators flocked to the Southland from around the world.

At the Park, everybody braced themselves for a nightmare summer. Visions of 65,000+ guests per day swirled in our heads. Area managers beefed up the schedules, adding bodies wherever they could in order to meet the expected crowd with a sufficient number of cast members.

As summer neared and flights into LAX increased in volume with Olympics traffic, Southern California held its collective breath.


Everywhere you looked were the colorful---very 1980s---Summer Olympics flags, banners and logos. The Games were scheduled to run from July 28 to August 12, 1984. Los Angeles and its business community mobilized an unprecedented effort to accommodate an estimated 625,000 visitors. As May 1984 turned into June, the newspapers boomed about the coming onslaught.

Hal Fishman on KTLA Channel 5's evening newscast spoke often of the great preparations, the coming crowds and the fact that KTLA would be there with up to the minute traffic reports to help Angelenos navigate the freeways that were expected to crawl with higher than normal traffic for mid-to-late summer.

At the cinema, the megahit comedy of the summer was Ghostbusters, and Ray Parker, Jr.'s famous theme song to that movie streamed from radios as KIIS-FM and other popular stations were cranked up at beaches, pools and backyard barbeques: "Who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! I can't heeeeaaar you! Who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! Louder!"

Among the cast members over at Disneyland, we waited for the post-Memorial Day Weekend crowds to swell.

The first week of June arrived. The Main Street Electrical Parade and Fantasy in the Sky kicked off the season and lit up the summer nights. I remember the first few parades seemded pretty full, but as the week went on, the crowd along the route wasn't as deep. Not nearly as deep as we expected.

By the second week of June, the fever pitch of pre-Olympics hysteria blazed across the Southland. Teams of athletes were arriving or soon to arrive, and TV news crews were providing location shots from all over the place---Chino Hills, Long Beach, the Coliseum, Santa Monica, Irvine, Santa Anita---you name it.

As we cast members clocked in at Harbor House to start our shifts during mid-June, we wondered what lay ahead of us "inside the berm." Was today the day were we going to get killed by a mass of guests trouncing our area of the Park?

Could Day Custodial keep up with the titanic amounts of trash?
Could Theme Park Operations and Adventure/Frontier Attractions maintain the attraction cycle times enough to avoid two-to-three-hour lines from forming in the bullpens?
Would Outdoor Vending run out of popcorn or frozen bananas at the worst possible moment? Heaven forbid, would there be enough Mickey Mouse balloons to satisfy the swarm of guests? Would the engines of the Disneyland Railroad blow their boilers from the strain of pulling passenger cars fully laden?

By the third week of June, we knew the time had to be coming. With the 4th of July weekend just around the corner, the inevitable was almost upon us.

Yet.

June was actually slow.

Like, eerily slow. Nowhere near the normal crowds for that time of year.

Now this was before Annual Passes were as common as drivers' licenses in California. Heck, we had only recently moved to full-day Passports, having scrapped the old ticket books. The So-Cal "locals" were an important part of our summer crowd, but they weren't believed to be the largest part. They were the ones who brought their family members to the Park every summer. The Aunts or Uncles or Cousins from Cleveland, Boise, St. Louis, South Bend, Pittsburgh, Naperville or such cities would make their summer pilgrimage to the West Coast and Sunny Southern California and their California relations would dutifully haul them all down to 1313 South Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim. So each "local" would usually bring four to six "visitors" with them to the Park during the summer.

With the Olympics, this trend was expected to be far worse, because not only were the locals and their visitors going to be hitting the Park, but hundreds of thousands of international guests were to be added to the mix. One could only picture a sea of heads and shoulders, clogging Main Street from Town Square to the Castle Forecourt and spreading from the Hub into each and every "land" of Disneyland. We could picture the line for Pirates of the Caribbean winding back and forth all the way to the Rivers of America, physically cutting off thousands of guests---who would then be trapped in Bear Country and the west side of New Orleans Square. Our vision was of wall to wall people filling in every open square inch of the Park---even Thunder Trail!

Hideous. Teeming. Almost unmanageable.

I worked the 4th of July in 1984 in Frontierland. I had a closing shift and was assigned "Popcorn Alley" between the River Belle Terrace and the mouth of Thunder Trail (so named because of the two Popcorn carts located within this area and the elbow-to-elbow crowd conditions that inevitably seemed to result in about 90 five-year-olds per half-hour dropping or spilling carton after carton of Orville Redenbacher's ® Gourmet Popping Corn along the riverfront and around the Mark Twain dock). It was another warm July night and I figured we were in for it.

I remember looking up from my pan and broom at about 8:15 p.m. and toward the entrance to Frontierland. Something struck me as odd: I could actually see the entrance to Frontierland. Not only that, but I could see the ground from the Mark Twain dock to the shooting gallery and beyond. Over by the shooting gallery, a handful of guests were walking slowly toward Big Thunder. Another three or four clomped along the wooden porch near the Golden Horseshoe. The Outdoor Vending cast member stationed at the popcorn cart nearby stared blankly into her glass bin---filled with recently popped popcorn. There was no one in line at her cart.

Heck, you could pretty much WALK ONTO Big Thunder.


What was up?


This was summer, not mid-February in the rain?


WHERE WAS EVERYBODY?


Where were our guests?


Let me tell you something. You will never in your lifetime see Frontierland as "guest-free" on a 4th of July evening at Disneyland as I saw it on that night back in 1984. I've never seen anything like it since. Indeed, the very next year, I worked what was then---(and may still be)---the busiest 4th of July in Disneyland history. Our "official" count was over 75,000, and that was IN-PARK (so the legend goes).

You want hell on earth? Try Disneyland on a hot summer day in July with over 70,000 people in the Park.

There is nowhere to run. Nowhere to walk. Nowhere to get out of line or out of the crowd. Nowhere to escape that over-tired four year old who is just now crashing from the sugar-induced acid trip he went on after digging into his brother's rock candy from the Candy Palace on Main Street (and downing half the little plastic box container of the stuff). Nowhere to escape from that kid's parents or siblings, either.


Hot.


Crowded.


Hell.


But not in Summer 1984!


Those pre-Olympics warnings of record-breaking crowds absolutely scared the locals Park-less! No local Southern Californian was going to be caught dead anywhere near Anaheim in the summer of 1984! And they sure as hell weren't going to take their family members there, either. In fact, many of their family members were told "wait 'til next year to come out; you're not gonna wanna be here with all the crowds and traffic from the Olympics!"


Among the sparse number of guests I recall spotting during that unusually uncrowded summer were members of several African nations' Olympics teams. They were tall and wore their t-shirts proudly. Few spoke English, but all were amazed and overjoyed by Disneyland.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Disneyland was empty that summer, but it was much, much slower that I had ever seen it before or since during the same time of year.


Call it the "Great Olympics Scare-Off" of 1984. Call it what you will. For me, it meant a summer of more elbow room. More room for the old pan and broom. More time to practice the "cigarette-butt-from-behind-the-back, around-the-front, between-the-legs-and-into-the-pan." It was a grand anomaly. Actually, it was one of the few (and nowadays almost non-existent) times when the Park was open (as in open space)---with just the right number of guests and cast members wandering through it.


To quote Archie and Edith Bunker: "Those. Were. The. Daaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyssssss!"


I bid you all a good day (or night as the case may be) and wish each of you a "slow day" at Disneyland at least once in your life!

---Mike

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Disneyland Musings - Volume V - What's The Strangest Thing That Ever Happened To You While Visiting The Park?

Hello, Jungle followers and readers! I've been stuck doing a million other things in my "real" life, so this virtual life has suffered greatly.

Today's post is a quick one, just so you don't think I've left you forever.

To make it even easier on myself, I am posing a question for you---so you can do most of the work.

What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you while visiting Disneyland?

Here's one of my answers to this ponderously deep question: One of the strangest things that happened to me at the Park might actually be the huge cloud of ash that drifted over Disneyland from a brush fire in nearby Yorba Linda as I was working on Jungle Cruise. It was very odd to see the Jungle turn orange. Indeed, all of Adventureland was cast in a weird orange glow as the fire clouds covered the sun. Fine ash rained down onto the canopies of our boats and the Elephant Bathing pool was turned into a scene from Apocalypse Now.

The Park became eerily quieter when blanketed by the smoke. It was one of those rare occasions when the outside world literally poured in over the berm. And in these rather crazy, 2012, End-of-Days, Nostradamus Effect, Global Economic Collapse, Terror Alert Level Orange, post-9/11, amped up and out of control times---it really wasn't all that pleasant to see a leviathan plume of smoke over the Park. I did not work at the Park on September 11, 2001, but can't imagine a weirder or more unsettling day than that for those Cast Members who were there that morning. I've read some posts along the way from people who were working in the Park that day. Surreal.

Well. How's that for uplifting?

Of course, I could've told you about the time I encountered a fellow Cast Member swimming in the Submarine Lagoon, but we'll save that for another day.

If you have a moment, drop a post about YOUR strangest Disneyland experience. I am sure there are some great stories among you. All four (4) of my loyal readers.

Stay safe and do your part to see that there is imagination left in the world.

---Mike

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Disneyland - A Guest Post From Anne of "The Best Possible Job" Fame


Today, we at the Jungle are honored to have a guest blogger come forward to do our dirty work. She is Anne of "The Best Possible Job" blog (here's the site in case my hyperlink doesn't work for some reason:http://bestpossiblejob.blogspot.com/). "The Best Possible Job" recounts Anne's experiences as a Disneyland Cast Member in the 1980s. If you are a Disney fan and have not checked out Anne's Blog---you are missing out!! Get over there right away! For now, however, please enjoy Anne's guest post below.

Take it away, Anne!

TODAY'S GUEST POST:

Greetings, Jungle readers! Your gracious skipper, Mike, has turned the wheel of his blog over to Anne from The Best Possible Job for a guest post. As my (four) loyal readers know, Mike and I share the same perspectives on Disneyland. Both of us were Cast Members in the days before DCA, when the PeopleMover still cruised through Tomorrowland, and popcorn was sixty-five cents.

Mike's recent photos of his daughter strolling down an early-morning Main Street brought back fond memories of my second summer in Outdoor Vending. As a new permanent part-timer, I got the opportunity to pick a regular shift. I chose a 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. assignment, which put me in the Park long before the rope drop. I loaded ice cream wagons with frozen bananas, ice cream bars and sandwiches, orange juice bars, and dry ice, then drove a little pick-up truck backstage to load lemonade cartons into the vending "train" wagons adjacent to the Small World souvenir stand.

I didn't take the a.m. shift to avoid guests. I just wanted to experience a Disneyland that few ever really see. Morning in the Magic Kingdom is truly a magical time. There's a kind of wet freshness that soon evaporates into the Anaheim air. And a quiet in which the sounds that soon fade into the background are solo performers.

Many of those sounds are still there, and Mike's daughter probably heard them as she walked leisurely over to the Plaza Inn. 1890s melodies. Clip-clops. Birds. The faint ticking of the Small World clock. "The Disneyland Limited, now arriving from a trip around Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Passengers will stand by to board."

If Madison had walked up to the Central Plaza at that hour in the early 1980s, though, she would have heard other sounds that brought a happy feeling to me during those years. Close your eyes the next time you're there, and maybe you'll hear them too:

The PeopleMover spiel near the entrance to Tomorrowland, where "you can see the heart of Disneyland. It's the Plaza. Gateway to the themed lands of the Magic Kingdom."

The Robinson's (not Tarzan's) organ pumping out "Swisskapolka."

Bears snoring in the caves above the entrance to Bear (not Critter) Country.

“Miracles from Molecules”

Snow White's Wishing Well

And then the announcement as the rope drop opens the Park for another day.

If you arrive too late, Disneyland's special sounds become harder to pick out, and the more distant sounds can barely be heard at all. So get there early, walk up Main Street like Mike's daughter, and really listen to Disneyland. Your day will be better for it. And you might even catch an echo of sounds from the best possible time.

Many thanks to "Jungle is 101" for the chance to step aboard for this post. Your regular skipper is now back from lunch at the Pit and ready to take the wheel of the Leaky Tiki for another trip!


(Hi, it's Mike again. Thank you, Anne, as always, for your keen perspective. It is great to see I'm not alone in my appreciation for what the Park once was. Here's hoping Anne gets another crack at being a Disneyland cast member someday! Once again, check our her blog!)

---Mike

Friday, September 4, 2009

Disneyland - Main Street - First Ones In the Park

What is it like to be my child on a typical trip to Disneyland? Ask the girl in the picture above.
This is my daughter Madison entering the Park for Breakfast with Minnie around the time of her 5th birthday.
As you can see, Main Street is ours and ours alone. Sure, there were hundreds of people outside the Park lined up to get in...but we got in before them simply by calling in a reservation for breakfast at the Plaza Inn. Main Street is amazing whether crammed with guests or all by one's lonesome.
Being long time Disneyland insiders, our family is pretty darn spoiled. The kids have been everywhere from Club 33 to the Cast Member Christmas Party. Having annual passes for years didn't hurt. Knowing the traffic flow patterns helps tremendously.
We rarely wait in line for attractions, let's put it that way.
Anyhow, I thought you would enjoy a glimpse of Main Street as it appeared on a bright and early morning before the vast throng of guests had been admitted through the main gate.
We sure did.
We'll close today's action-packed post with photographic proof that, even on the Jungle Cruise, I wasn't ALWAYS the skipper.
Here's hoping that your next trip to the original Magic Kingdom is a great one!
---Mike

Monday, August 31, 2009

Disneyland Musings - Volume 4 - Crossing Main Street to the West Side

West Siders know it best, perhaps.
The walk from "backstage" on the East Side of Main Street to the West Side of the Park.
Nowadays, in the post-Indy world, a good number of West Siders take a shortcut to their location that permits them to bypass a whole lotta "on stage" territory. Still, even those folks---for the most part---have to cross Main Street on their way to their location.
Even longtime Disneyland cast members still "feel it" when they are about to go back out on stage.
There's a little extra spring in the step.
You tend to put aside whatever junk you brought with you behind the berm and focus your energy at the task at hand---bringing Disneyland to guests.
Not only that, but you literally step from the drab back area and into the Park---alive with people and music and movement.
When you step out onto Main Street, you are a Cast Member.
Guests wave at you.
They take pictures of you.
They ask---or, more likely, you offer---to have their picture taken.
As you head toward Adventureland, or Frontierland, New Orleans Square or "Critter" Country (pardon me a second----*cringe*---ok, I'm alright; can never get "Critter" Country to roll of the tongue the way Bear Country used to), you walk amidst guests.
You might not be "on the clock" just yet, but you are on stage and part of the show.
"What time is the parade?"
"When are the fireworks?"
"Where is the closest bathroom?"
"Which way is the Haunted Mansion?"
"Is it always this crowded?"
"Do you like working here?"
"How do I find a turkey leg?"
"Where do I get batteries for my camera?"
"Where are the characters?"
"Do you have any pins to trade?" (* cringe * again)
"How late is the Park open tonight?"
"What's a Jungle Cruise guy doing on Main Street?"
"Where is City Hall?"
"What time do you have?"
"Where do I pick up my Photopass pictures?"
"What is a Fastpass?"
"Why are they putting up ropes?"
"Why can't I stand where the ropes are?"
"Where is Lost and Found?"
"I can't find my mommy and daddy." (Have no fear---I've never failed to reunite lost parent(s) and child(ren)).
"Where can we find some food that isn't "fast food"?
"Can I have your name tag?"
"Hi, Mike." (said as though they've known you for much longer than the half-second glance down at your name tag before addressing you---usually responded to with a quick, "Why, hello, Amy!" 0r whatever name might be emblazened across their mouse ears, t-shirt, keychain, purse, Annual Pass or other tell-tale indicators of the guest's name).
"Is this the way to Fantasmic?" (almost universally asked as the guest is walking toward Tomorrowland or Matterhorn Way).
"Where are the lockers?"
"When does California Adventure close?"
"Do you know, ____? He/She works here, too." (Guest has a better chance of winning the Lotto than hitting upon someone who knows some 6,000 fellow cast members by name).
"I used to work here in the 60s/70s/80s/90s."
"Can I have your hat?" (Almost always teenagers).
"Where is the Blue Bayou?"
"Where is the best place to watch the fireworks?"
"You guys must get asked that a thousand times a day. How do you do it?"
"Hey, he's wearing a Mickey Mouse watch!"

The way I look at it, if you don't like interacting with guests...what the HELL are you doing working as a Cast Member at Disneyland?
There's plenty of room at the DMV or the County Clerk's Office or Coroner's Office if you aren't into prompt and courteous customer service.
Sometimes the guests would come in groups of twos and threes at a time (not together, of course).
One would ask a question from your left and, as you turned to answer, another would shoot a query from behind you while yet another (completely unrelated to the first two) would approach with an inquiry from ahead of you.
Any Cast Member worth his or her salt easily answered each of the guests and made them feel that they had been heard and seen.
Even when no one questioned you, you were still "on stage" and noticed.
If you were headed to Jungle, you were dressed in khaki and likely wore a hat; same for Indy.
Thunder operators also had distinct costumes.
Of course, we all had name tags.
Dead giveaways.
It's actually one of the things I miss most---stepping out onto Main Street as I headed for my shift.
Each time I'd walk out from back stage, I felt the energy of being "part of the show."
Sure, there are people who work for Disneyland who might not "feel it" as they trudge toward their daily duties.
But those folks aren't true Cast Members...
...they're just "employees."

Here's hoping that your next trip to the Park will bring you plenty of interaction with Cast Members and blessed few encounters with "employees."

You know what I'm sayin'.

---Mike

Monday, August 10, 2009

Disneyland - Top 10 Things to See and Do - A Guest Blogger (my 12-year-old daughter, Caitlin)

Jungle-teers, today we have a very special guest---my daughter Caitlin. She put together today's entry completely on her own (Dad supplied some ideas for the topic, but she took them and ran with them!). As you can see, I raised a fabulous young lady (if I do say so myself).

Without further ado, I present Caitlin's blog entry!


Top 10 Things To See & Do At Disneyland

1. Going on My Dad’s Jungle Cruise Boat- I will always remember this. My dad was simply the best Jungle Cruise skipper you will ever know (no offense to anyone who is a skipper!). He is the meaning of the Jungle Cruise, its poster child! Knew his spiel so well, made people laugh, had personality. You can’t get any better than that! I’m so sad that he isn’t able to work there for the time being, but him and I both know that he will be back soon enough.

2. Going to see Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room- How I love this! One of the most entertaining things in all of Disneyland. This is where my good friends Jose, Fritz, Michael, and Pierre all live, along with all the tiki gods & goddesses. Everyone knows the songs and it just brings you back to the good ol’ days of Disneyland. While you’re there, get a Dole Whip. They are simply delicious!

3. Taking a Ride on “The Mark Twain” at Night- This is incredibly magical! The lights on this huge riverboat shine down on the silky, black waters of the “Rivers of America.” Everything around seems to come alive as Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) tells you about what can be found all around you.

4. Watching the Electrical Parade- It’s my most favorite parade! The music and lights are just amazing. Although I never saw it on Main Street, I’m sure it was a ton better than it is at California Adventure.

5. Looking at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Christmastime- Gorgeous, astonishing, brilliant. These words describe the sight of the Castle during the Holidays. It’s decorated in huge icicle lights that look incredibly real and a soft bluish-white light covers it. It is breath-taking, a sight you must go and see at least once. For I believe the holidays are one of the most magical seasons in Disneyland.

6. Going on “The Storybook Land Canal Boats”- This is definitely one of my most favorite rides. I am a HUGE fan of miniatures and this ride always seemed to be made for me. I would love to just be able to get off & explore this ride and look at it more closely. This is a ride I would love to work on!!!

7. Watching Mickey Cartoons at the Main Street Cinema- This is a great place to just go and relax after a long, hot day. I love all the old cartoons and they never cease to entertain me. I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s also a great place to wait after a parade lets out, complete with air conditioning and TV for the kids!

8. Having a Character Breakfast at The Plaza Inn- I know I’m twelve but I still love the characters at Disneyland and having breakfast with them is just awesome. They come around to your table and take pictures and sign autographs. Plus, the food is great and I love the Plaza’s old Victorian style. Also, you get into the park early!

9. Shopping at the Adventureland Bazaar – This shop is far from bizarre and is where I have gotten most of my Disney clothes. If you’re a fan of The Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones, or The Tiki Room, this is the place to shop. They’ve got accessories, clothes, toys, knick-knacks, and so much more!

10. Getting Mozzarella Sticks & a Funnel Cake at “The Stage Door CafĂ©” in Frontierland- My favorite place to eat for a special treat. The mozzarella sticks are fantastic with a little marinara sauce & you can get either a chocolate or strawberry funnel cake. The funnel cakes are perfect for all those with a sweet tooth!

---Caitlin

Disneyland - Mark Twain - What's Missing? - Big Thunder

Above is a scan of a photograph I took in around 1977 and it shows the stately Mark Twain at her dock in Frontierland.


What's missing?

Hint: look above the trees behind the Mark Twain.

It looks a bit strange to see the Frontierland skyline without the now-familiar peaks of Big Thunder Mountain.

When the above photograph was taken, the only train you could ride near "Big Thunder" (falls, that is) was the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland.

By September 1979, however, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad would take its place as the newest Disneyland "mountain."

In honor of my old attraction BTMM (and the many hours I spent asking, "how many in your party?" before directing guests to their seats), I offer you Jungle readers the following article from the Spring 1980 edition of Disney News (with thanks to author, Tom Fitzgerald). [NOTE: If you click on the article, you should be able to access a nice blow-up that you can actually read!].

I was reminded of BTMM days when I saw that an old cast member friend's daughter had found this blog and passed along her thanks for sharing an old photograph of "mom" back in the 1980s. The Cast Member was Jackie Lacey and I rarely saw her in anything other than a Thunder costume! Sure, she had the occasional "Tiki" or Treehouse shifts, but mainly Jackie worked Big Thunder [along with such famous Cast Members as "Doug," Janet Mondragon, and Sue Barnaby (aka "Sue B.")].

That reminds me of a BTMM story.

Word was that a certain Imagineer broke his foot during the BTMM build. To commemorate this event, a rock in the shape of a casted foot was supposedly included in the attraction alongside the tracks. Another tall tale from an old prospector? Well, sir, I'm not so sure. Next time you take a notion to ride ol' Thunder, you be sure to keep your eyes a' peeled...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Disneyland - Some Unique Views - The Jungle Princess

Greetings, Disneyland geeks, lovers and observers! You know who you are. Heck, if you have stumbled into this blog from cyberspace and you AREN'T a Disneyland geek, lover or observer, you had better strongly reconsider your choice of search engine.


Where was I?

Ah, yes, Disneyland. For those of you who have never worked the Jungle Cruise, our first photograph gives you the view that most dockhands and unloaders get for most of their work day. Perhaps in the mad dash to exit the boat as a guest, you never took the time to take a look down the dock---much less photograph it. It is for you hapless folks that I offer Photograph No. 1 above, taken from just past "Jungle Central," or the Lead office on the dock of the Jungle Cruise. In the distance, you can see that our boat loader (at Front Load) giving the skipper and the Rear Load boat loader the "all clear" hand signal, indicating that all his guests are safely seated and ready to depart the dock. If the Rear Load loader looks into the boat and agrees, she would make the same signal and simultaneously shout: "Hit it, Skip!" send the boat off into the turpid, teeming, untamed rivers of the Jungle.


So much for that.


Next is a photo of Space Mountain that most of you will simply never be able to capture on your own. It is taken on a brilliantly clear day, from almost due south of the attraction and from a position in front of the old Administration/Wardrobe building. There are more interesting shots to share, but we shall save them for another day.

I will leave you with the following vignette:

I was working Jungle and was on the "Uki" (Ucayali Una) when we were at unload and a family with a small girl in a motorized wheelchair came on board (the Uki has a fabulous wheelchair ramp that allows guests in wheelchairs a chance to ride the attraction). I remember a mom, a dad, and this tiny girl with her hair in ribbons and a Minnie Mouse t-shirt. As her chair was loaded onto the ramp and the ramp lowered into my boat, I said hello to the family (as they were my only passengers until we pulled ahead to the "Load" position).

The parents looked a bit tired and glum. I imagined it had been a long day for them. Still, I smiled and then proceeded to tease the little princess who had entered my boat upon her magnificent "throne." I told her I loved her pigtails and pretty ribbons and warned her that ribbons attract gorillas and chimpanzees. She looked at me with bright eyes and simply gushed a wonderful smile.

The parents saw her reaction and smiled, too. "Thank you," they said, "that is the first time anyone has acknowledged our daughter today. And, you made her smile."

I went on to make our princess the star of our cruise. After the rest of the guests boarded, I introduced her to the entire boat and warned them that we'd need their help to keep the monkeys and gorillas at bay, since those ribbons are known to attract them.

We all had a blast. Upon our return, as the guests disembarked, we all clapped for our princess---and for safely avoiding gorillas and chimps. The little girl glowed from her tiny chair. Her parents simply said, "Thank you." They all turned at the exit and waved back to me as I loaded my gun for the next trip. "Have a great day!" I told them over the P.A.

I think they did.

---Mike

Friday, July 31, 2009

Disneyland - Skyway To Tomorrowland 1985 * Sigh *

It has been only a short while, but why not another post mourning the passing of the Skyway. I came across the above photo the other day and remembered a very recent trip to Tomorrowland in which I stood on the ground to the far right of the photo, out of the camera's view. What was weird to me was that the old stairway up to the Skyway building was still there, though you could not access it. I could plainly see the roof of the stairway behind what used to be the Mod Hatter. Like most of "modern" Tomorrowland, it was a strange skeleton of its former self---like the Peoplemover tracks or the Rocket Jets platform, mutely standing as a sad reminder to those of us who were fortunate enough to experience Tomorrowland when the whole area was alive with color and activity.

To all who come to this happy place and have never had the experience of floating up and over Tomorrowland, through the majestic Matterhorn, above Fantasyland and into the quaint hilltop chalet at the other end of the line---sorry. Sorry you missed it. Perhaps you can imagine it, or glimpse some old Youtube footage, but those are but shallow illusions compared to the real thing. Riding over Disneyland in a Skyway bucket is something that cannot be replicated. It was a true "attraction," as popular with youg families as with young couples. Sure, those with a fear of heights missed out---but they often do, don't they? Vistas worth seeing tend to be in pretty high places, so many folk never cast eyes upon them. Pity, really.

I could attempt to wax eloquently on the Skyway experience...but you loyal readers know how well THAT goes.

Suffice it to say that I long for a day when the Park is alive again in every corner, as it once was.

In the past, even the "quiet" spots in Disneyland added to the immediacy of the overall experience.

A bench in a slow corner of New Orleans Square may not have generated revenue, but it welcomed the sitter to partake of peaceful reflection or of carefree people watching, among other things.

A warm pretzel dangling under a heat lamp in an almost-empty Mile Long Bar at the end of a long day somehow smelled even more alluring (salted please, with mustard---thanks).

A perfect strawbery soda with silky Carnation vanilla ice cream and its ornate glass container glistening with condensation amidst the red and white splendor of the Carnation Company Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street tasted best when enjoyed at one of the tables tucked furthest back off the street, near the old display window that had Mary Poppins and Bert seated with their penguin waiters in a diorama of the chalk pavement drawing that had come to life.

Even the Emporium windows on Main Street would change their content frequently---making each trip to the Park one in which you might get a glance at new scenes from the latest Disney film in release. I'm afraid they haven't changed for quite some time now---since the 50th? I don't know, I've lost track. * sigh *

Well...you know where I'm coming from. If not, you're probably lost---this is definitely not your piece of the Internet!

If you do...

If you do...

...heave another sigh right along with me. Crack open an old Guidebook or dig through some photos or click through some Viewmaster reels of the way things were. Ahhhhhhhh. Feels good, even if it is a touch bittersweet.

To Disneyland!

I raise my glass!

Here's to fond memories, but here's also to savoring the challenge and promise of the future.

---Mike

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Disneyland - "Jungle Is 101" Guest Blogger at "Babes In Disneyland"

Well, Jungle fans, today's post is actually a link to the blog "Babes In Disneyland" and a guest post I made for Lisa over there about the old Skull Rock and Captain Hook's Pirate Ship. Lisa's site is true Disney, with a good bit of "Mom" worked in. If you have small kids and are looking for some tips on how to best enjoy the Disneyland experience, you must head over to Babes in Disneyland (either the website or the blog).

True and deep Adventureland thanks go out to Lisa for her kind invitation to share some of my meandering thoughts on the Park with her many, many readers. Lisa's willingness to invite yours truly to pen a piece for her site indicates both a warm generosity and a shockingly blatant lack of editorial discretion on her part. I can only hope that her blog is able to overcome any ill-effects from me having trampled onto the site. We skippers are not known for our ability to interact with an environment without causing havoc. Heck, we shoot a hippos in their native habitat and drag boatfuls of hapless strangers into teeming jungles on a daily basis!

Sincere thanks go out to Lisa! Many happy returns to your blog and website!

---Mike

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Disneyland - Long Corridors and Things Inn Between

Today we'll glance down some halls and corridors and look around some corners. The shot above---of your own, very cool skipper---was taken as I was heading to the Jungle from Coke Corner on Main Street. Some of you lucky guests caught in an "overflow" post-parade traffic flow have walked right through these doors and down the back side of Main Street as an alternate route when too many guests have packed the Hub and Plaza. I used to walk through these doors almost every day.


Most days, as mentioned before on this blog, Cast Members would partake of a delightful ripaste at the Inn Between. Cassie, pictured below, seemed to always be there, ready to ring up your bill.

Another hallway one might encounter if one knew their way around is pictured below. It is, indeed, underground within the old Administration Building. Those colorful linoleum tiles? Word is they're darn close to original---if not original---to the building. Some pretty famous Disneyland insider and executive feet have traversed them since the building first went up. Mine don't count, obviously.
Before going up to street level, lets take a look down one of the long halls. At least you can say you've been there---kinda.
Now let us cross the Park, from East Main Street over to Adventure/Frontier. There, we find another corridor---this one much shorter---and peer in on the offices where Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square and Critter Country operations are housed. Just a quick peek now and keep moving!
And finally, through the miracle of video, you too can grab a glimpse of the Inn Between, but I'm afraid you'll miss out on the chicken enchilada special. Come to think of it, you'll thank me.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Disneyland - Jungle Cruise, Skyway And Swiss Family Treehouse circa 1985

Today we beam back to the Jungle Cruise 1985 and The Skyway 1985 and the Swiss Family Treehouse from around the same time thanks to the miracle of YouTube and "oneandatwo" (who originally posted these clips). I have shared them here before separately, but thought I would put them in a package and also update the "abandoned Skyway"---see below).

If you have a moment, click on the links and take a tour of mid-1980s Disneyland. The grainy VHS video sure isn't HD, but you get a little sense of what it was like. Be sure to enjoy the constantly moving world of Tomorrowland as you leave the Tomorrowland Skyway station. The whole area was "on the move," from Monorails, subs, Peoplemovers, Tomorrowland Stages, America Sings, to the Matterhorn bobsleds. It was also very cool to travel right through the Matterhorn. 'Tis a shame we can't float on the Skyway any more.

By the way, at the end of the Skyway video, you'll see the Fantasyland Skyway station and chalet as it looked before it became its current, abandoned self. Also see these pics (thanks to Davelandblog)---hey, wasn't it "Jungle is 101" that first "crossed the chain" up the stairs to the old Skyway chalet? Good to see some more detailed photos of the interior have surfaced! Here's some video, too (thanks to Tod Reynard who posted it on YouTube).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Disneyland - Summer 1980 - Yank My Heart Out - "The Bench"

I was digging through "the box" of old Disney stuff that I keep and came across my 1980 Souvenir Guide. Glancing through its somewhat faded pages at the photographs and lists of attractions, restaurants and shops resurrected for me the Park of my young adulthood. I figured there are more than a few of you who tossed away your Souvenir Guide after touring the Park back in 1980, so I present a few of its pages here to help you recapture those memories.

Even the cover---perhaps slightly hokey by "today's" standards---evokes a sense of real joy and fun. The folks pictured are not professional models. Their smiles are genuine. The Polaroid ad on the back page takes us back to a day when cameras did not store digital images. The Polaroid Pronto Sonar automatically took and then printed out a "beautiful SX-70 picture instantly." You could watch the magic happen as the picture slowly developed its image in front of you. Amazing. I remember the old Lilly Belle photo prop there on the east side of Main Street, next to what is now Disney Clothiers.

Stepping into the 1980 Guidebook to its center foldout display page really yanked at my heart because it contains great photographs of the Park as it once was---clean, new and full of bright colors. The quotes on these pages are from Walt. The photos show how truly colorful Disneyland was---from Cast Member costumes to the shiny white of Space Mountain and the red awnings of the Emporium. I feel that old ache---the ache to somehow go back, to be there then, as it was. We all get that ache in life at one time or another. We all have some place and some time that was special to us, where we return in pensive moments. For me, the Park will always be such a place full of memories, just as Walt and his team had intended. The 1980 Guide also included a map of the Park---before Splash Mountain and Winnie the Pooh turned Bear Country into "Critter Country," before the Skyway was yanked from the sky, before Fantasyland was remodeled, before Tarzan rudely kicked out the Swiss Family, before Buzz Lightyear and Emperor Zurg evicted Circlevision and America the Beautiful, before America Sings was "Innovented," before the People Mover became the Rocket Rods and then...um...bare track, before the Rocket Jets were rudely torn from their high perch and stubbed onto ground level at Tomorrowland's entrance, before anyone ever did anything to mess with the original (perfectly-fine-and-no-need-for-fixin') Pirates of the Caribbean, before the parking lot became DCA, before...well...before a lot of stuff happened and changed.

I know. Most of you four Jungle is 101 readers (hi, Mom) have heard the rant before. Still, each glance at the evidence of how things once were refreshes the sting of the many thoughtless changes that were made to the landscape of Disneyland. Not that everything "new" is bad. You've got your Indiana Jones and even Splash Moutain, for example. But the hurt still lingers and always will for some things that are forever gone or changed.
"THE BENCH"


I will close out today's post with a little nugget of Disneydom that only your true believers can appreciate. As a Cast Member and a guest, I have had many occasions to "connect" with the old Disneyland while walking through the "new" version. Some things are obvious---they never moved the Matterhorn, for example, or the entrance to Frontierland. Other things you might not really think about as you encounter them. One of the latter things is the metal bench you will encounter in the Fantasyland castle courtyard---on the Fantasyland side of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. You can see the bench to the right side of the blow-up of the iconographic photo of Walt below.

When I worked there, I met quite a few old timers, many of whom worked with Walt. One of these fine fellows related a simple story to me.

One day in the early 1960s, he was working in Custodial and was doing his morning walk-through of Fantasyland. He entered from the West entrance---along the path that led from Carnation Plaza Gardens into Fantasyland (near the Tinker Bell Toy Shop). It was before the park opened and still early. He rounded the corner and there was Walt. Sitting on the bench. The bench in the photograph below.
"Uh, good morning, Mr. Disney," stammered the then-young custodial host. Walt stood up, said good morning and thanked the young man for his work, gently reminding him "It's Walt." Walt then turned and walked back through the castle entrance toward Main Street. It was the last time the cast member ever saw Mr. Disney and the first time he'd ever had a chance to speak with him. He never forgot it.

Anyhow, next time you're in Fantasyland and you happen to see a metal bench there in the courtyard behind the castle, take a moment and take a seat. Walt was there once. In many ways, throughout the Park, he is still there now.

We are all pretty fortunate that Walt dared to make his vision of Disneyland a reality. Let us hope that those charged with keeping Walt's legacy will remember his desire to have things at Disneyland "get more beautiful each year." "Growing and adding new things" probably did not mean tearing out the soul of an attraction (America Sings comes to mind) or painting the Small World facade in nauseating pastels (let us all take a moment of thanksgiving that the simple, white paint scheme has since returned). Walt and modern corporate Disney management probably would not get along. It is a simple truth that listening to "bean counters" would have prevented little things like Snow White, Pinocchio, and Disneyland itself, from ever, ever becoming realities. At its best, Disneyland is art, living art.

---Mike

Monday, July 13, 2009

Disneyland - Big Bands - Carnation Plaza Gardens - Empty Nest

The trip across the wooden bridge to the colorful red and white canopied stage and dance floor of Carnation Plaza Gardens once brought a surprising reward to devotees of the Big Band Orchestra in the summers of Disneyland's yesteryear.

One would surmise from modern Disneyland's dearth of entertainment at Plaza Gardens that most of the Big Band afficionados have shuffled off to the grand, glitter-ball ballroom in the sky, leaving behind only those who favor performances by random, unknown, amateur bands, choirs, or dance ensembles (mostly from junior high and high schools across our great land).

The Plaza Gardens stage has gone from Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Les Brown, Harry James and Buddy Rich to the Broomfield High School Eagles Marching Band, Color Guard, Jazz Band, Percussion and Wind Ensemble (of Broomfiled, Colorado).
Now don't get me wrong.

It is not that the Eagles bands are anything less than entertaining or are in any way undeserving of a chance to perform at Disneyland (and we here at Jungle is 101 absolutely applaud their efforts, especially in this age of budget cuts and video games when true musicians are disappearing faster than Western Lowland Gorillas).

It is a simple truth that such groups (and others like them) are not of the same caliber as the legendary performers who used to light up the Plaza Gardens stage. I am not saying that these young musicians won't reach those heights some day---they are not there just yet.

Disney's Magic Music Days and the Disney Performing Arts Program are certainly noble in their support of young musicians---and have been for many years. Indeed, it is always a thrill to see one of these groups march down Main Street during a parade or pre-parade. It is also nice that they can perform from time to time at Plaza Gardens. True.

But.

At night, when Disneyland used to come alive in most every corner of the Park, the Plaza stage now, generally, sits empty and dark. And on summer evenings in particular, this empty stage is literally a void that was once filled with life, music and light.

Chuck Cecil authored the article to the left for the Summer 1983 edition of Disney News, the Official Magazine for Magic Kingdom Club families (Vol. 18, No. 3), Margery Lee (Editor). Chuck hosted (and apparently continues to host) a syndicated radio program entitled The Swingin' Years, which is devoted to Big Band Swing music and is produced in Mr. Cecil's own home studio nowadays. A Jungle is 101 thank you to Chuck Cecil and all he has done to promote and bring (even more) magic to the original Magic Kingdom over the years.

In the article, Chuck announced 1983's big band season lineup: Count Basie and his orchestra; Harry James and his big band; Lionel Hampton and his big band---he could play the drum let's just say---watch the whole video clip gang); Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians directed by Art Mooney; and the Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'brien. Not too shabby.

The bandshell at Plaza Gardens in 2009 does not exactly foot the same bill. Indeed, the current version of Plaza Gardens is hardly even a ghost of its former, gloriously, ebullient self. It has been largely "Astro-Orbiterized" and sits, waiting, like the old Skyway chalet in Fantasyland (and the attraction formerly known as the Rocket Jets), for a chance to maybe, somehow, return to its former pre-Eisner glory and true self (*sigh*).

Until then, my friends, I leave you with the attached article from 26 years ago and the faint hope that someday a "big band" or two might return to Carnation Plaza Gardens on a summer's night to create a little, old-fashioned magic for a few lucky guests.

Until then, this is Mike signing off and reminding you that, during my illustrious tenure, four out of five Jungle Cruise survivors had not ridden my boat. How many skippers can make that claim?

---Mike

Friday, June 19, 2009

Disneyland - New Year's Eve 2009

Perhaps you were there. I was. With a glowing coned flashlight and manning the rope at the bridge that leads to Carnation Plaza Gardens, I was part of a small, but stalwart crew of guest control cast members who held back---and helped move---the teeming hordes gathered around the Hub in front of the Castle as midnight approached.

If you were there, you saw the fog come in low over the Castle and pretty much block out the view of the fireworks when the clock struck midnight and 2009 roared in.

You may have seen a small group of Disneyland cast members gathered in the Castle forecourt area (behind the rope) and hug and shout and exchange New Year's greetings after giving up the fight to stem the surging crowd. We hung in there for as long as we could, but---come midnight---no coned flashlight on earth could have turned back the eager guests surging toward the front of the Castle.

So. We kinda just let it happen. We joined in the fun. Sure, for four straight hours we kept "circle flow" moving around the Hub. We redirected the wayward and provided direction for the disoriented. Firmly, lovingly, with true Disney flair, we kept tens of thousands of guests from boiling over into a stampede or a riot.

I wore the big, straw hat. Perhaps you heard me: "IF YOUR FEET ARE ON BRICK, YOU ARE IN DISNEYLAND'S MAIN ARTERIAL WALKWAY! IT'S DISNEYLAND'S ARTERY! IF YOU STOP, YOU WILL CLOG IT AND GIVE DISNEYLAND A HEART ATTACK! PLEASE KEEP MOVING! HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

And similar words of encouragement.

For all the efforts of our crew, we got a nifty Cast Member pin and sincere congratulations from the Parade guest control leads and supervisors at the end of a long night.

I loved every moment! It kills me to be back in the "real" world as a non-cast member. I miss all my friends, but I know that Disneyland hasn't seen the last of me!

A (somewhat) belated "Happy New Year 2009!" to one and all!

----Mike

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Disneyland - Haunted Mansion - Rainy New Orleans Square


There was a shop near the Mansion in the late 1970s, early 1980s, that sold official, personalized Haunted Mansion tombstones. I'm betting a few of you out there have one like mine shown above.
Note: according to the tombstone, the Haunted Mansion is located "in Disneyland."
The Mansion is not in "The Disneyland® Resort" or in "Disneyland® Park."
It is in Disneyland.
The following story comes to you straight from Disneyland, too, though it has nothing to do with tombstones as far as I can tell.
Dateline: Disneyland, February 1985, New Orleans Square.
Picture, if you will, a cold and rainy day at the Park.
Damp sheets steadily fall from the sky. It is getting dark.
I am a sweeper assigned to New Orleans Square.
My yellow rain gear and matching hat give me the appearance of a storm-tossed skipper of a Maine lobster boat, or of a guy on the cover of a box of frozen fishsticks.
Guests, by the way, are nowhere in sight.
I am manning a large squeegee, which looks like a pushbroom without bristles---just a handle with a wide rubber blade on the bottom. We use these to methodically push puddles from low areas to nearby drains, including some along the Rivers of America.
I remember that I am cold, despite pushing around puddles in waterproof clothing.
My breath mists from my mouth and nose with the effort. The area music is muffled by the rain and clouds it seems. At this time there is no funky bridge in front of the Pirates of the Caribbean. New Orleans Square runs steadily downhill from Royal Street down to the Rivers of America.
Standing along the main pathway, I can see all the way into Adventureland to my right and back toward the entrance to Bear Country toward my left.
For some reason, I stop.
Squeegee handle in hand, I stand and take it all in.
The rain.
The quiet.
The gas lamps flickering on their posts.
Swisskapolka gently bouncing to my ears from the Treehouse.
The smell of wet walkways mixed with a tinge of hot cocoa.
The pattering of drops against my wide-brimmed hat.
A cool spray of rain wetting my cheeks as it bounces off my jacket.
I am facing the River and can see steam rising from the stack over at Big Thunder.
The area lights are reflecting off of the glistening walkways and the dappled surface of the river.
I feel like I am the only one there.
Indeed, I can see no other people.
The weather has driven them to seek shelter,
leaving me and my squeegee standing in the downpour---in the middle of New Orleans Square.
I feel the rain lighten and the wind pick up.
It is cold---really cold.
Yet I cannot bring myself to move for this moment.
I am transfixed.
It is a truly Disneyland experience, and I realize it to be something simple but deep.
Even as a young person, I feel a need to grasp it within my memory.
I am not sure why.
Why this moment?
I guess it is because the Park feels like it is mine---like this is happening just for me, just this once.
I know it will soon pass.
The guests will shortly be back out on the pathways and the background noise and regular bustle will resume.
So I breathe in and smell the smells amidst the moist, cool air.
I look and see that the Park around me is literally shining amidst the sky's gray backdrop.
My eye then catches the first sign of movement in this scene, toward my right, at the bend in the River near Cascade Peak.
Large white clouds of steam billow over the tree tops.
A yellow glow of light brightens the shoreline.
The Mark Twain, its decks asparkle with electric lights, slowly rounds the bend.
Its steam whistle blasts.
The familiar sound seems so sudden, so loud.
Its bell rings out loudly, too, breaking into the moment and almost shattering it.
But a silence follows.
The Mark Twain glides toward the landing.
More cool wind.
A whisper of rain.
I get one final glimpse of the whole scene: gray, wet, shiny, yellow, bright, green, white, black, steam, cocoa, treetops, river, red peaks, rain, no guests in sight.
I say to myself, I am not going to forget this.
I am not entirely sure why,
but I never have.
---Mike (who still exists and even posts once in awhile)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Disneyland - Jungle Cruise - The Jungle Crew 2009

Today we say hello to a few of the Jungle skippers with whom I shared the dock during my Disneyland tenure. Above is Jerry, one of the longest-serving skippers. Oddly enough, he started on the Jungle Cruise the year AFTER I first left my job as a skipper. Jerry has been a skipper since 1988 and is rarely actually seen in a Jungle boat these days, preferring to main the Jungle Central office (pictured below) as a lead.
Below is a "last day" photo showing this blog's chief contributor (i.e., me) along the walkway that leads from Back Stage to the Jungle dock.
And next is another photograph from my last day:
It looks like they let me into the Tiki Room to open and close the show a couple times while covering for one of the regular cast members who had to attend a meeting. It was tough to say good-bye to my friends Michael, Jose, Pierre, Fritz and, of course, the "Magic Fountain." I'm relatively certain that we'll meet again.
Paul at the helm. We did time on Parade and in the Jungle. I got an early release, but he's still serving the last I heard. Never went on his boat, but his spiel at the dock gives me the impression you would have a great time with Paul as your guide.

Ashley, a true "Disney" Cast Member if ever there was one!
Tim at the controls of the Yangtze, with his holstered .38 and ammo box at the ready, even though he is safely at the dock. You can never be too careful.
Siobahn and Gill, two of our illustrious Skippers, standing at the Jungle Central counter at the end of the shift. Note the ammo box from the boat (wooden) and the spent ammo box (metal) on the counter, along with the leather tethers or leashes that we clip to our guns when they are on the boat and when we carry the guns back to the office.

Jose and Tim, adventurous and daring, take a moment for a photograph at the entrance to Jungle Central near the end of our shift. I spent a lot of time with these characters (both in the Jungle and while working Parade shifts), but I am happy to report that the long-term damage to my psyche has been limited (from what the specialists are able to determine thus far).
As can be seen in the photo above, despite expert intervention from mental health professionals, I was still prone to brandishing firearms while on Disney property (as were seemingly ALL of my Jungle compatriots for that matter).

By the way, old skippers never die...
...they just get sent to boat storage.

Auf wiedersehen meine freunde!