Sunday, October 31, 2010

Disneyland - Death in the Magic Kingdom - Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween Jungleteers!

For some reason, the holiday got me thinking about death - death as portrayed at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Sounds like a strange juxtaposition, but as I considered the subject I realized death lurks in almost every attraction in some direct or indirect manner.

The Haunted Mansion: the whole attraction devoted to death and the spirits of the afterlife. This is a no-brainer.

The Pirates of the Caribbean: guess who tells no tales? There's a skeleton around almost every corner and pirates are literally shooting guns and cannons at you trying to kill you.

The Jungle Cruise: my last crew did not laugh at my jokes---you can see them over there in the canoe to our right. From the way they're smiling, it looks like they finally got the joke.

Indiana Jones: skeletons, why did there have to be skeletons? The dead are omnipresent in the Temple of Mara.

Tarzan's Treehouse: what happened to Tarzan's parents??? Is that a skeleton by the old phonograph?

Splash Mountain: those vultures seem to be anticipating Brer Rabbit's demise---"If this is your laughing place, how come you're not laughing?"

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln: an entire attraction devoted to our most famous martyred President, who presided over America's bloodiest domestic conflict.

Snow White's Scary Adventures: remind me not to let the Wicked Queen make me a prisoner in her dungeon---great for weight loss, bad for longevity. Oh yeah, don't forget the whole "Sleeping Death" spell. Steer clear of apples.

Peter Pan: Skull Rock stands as a dark symbol of what awaits those who leave "Neverland."

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: ouch! Hit by a train and we're off to...hell. Nice. Wait, not so nice!

Innoventions: somebody killed America Sings! Seriously, though, a cast member actually died on this attraction back when it was America Sings.

Sleeping Beauty Castle: more Sleeping Death---being a Disney princess can be such a drag. The hair, the make up, the shoes, the small rodents everywhere, the step-mom.

Pinocchio: we get swallowed by Monstro! Oh yeah, and getting turned into a donkey after a night on Pleasure Island can be considered the ultimate buzz-kill. Thank goodness for Blue Fairies.

Storybookland Canal Boats: Uh oh, eaten by Monstro again. Good thing he sneezed his tail off.

It's A Small World: believe it or not, you'll find the "Day of the Dead" and a skull or two---even in this realm of singing children.

Disneyland Railroad: millions of dinosaurs---extinct.

Thunder Mountain: another dead dinosaur.

The Shootin' Arcade: Boot Hill, skeletons, ghost riders in the sky.

Winnie the Pooh: heffalumps and woozles---not to mention the heads of Max, Buff and Melvin.

The Matterhorn: the remains of the Wells expedition---and a none-too-friendly Yeti.

Space Mountain: not so much---though at Halloween Time it has its ghosts.

The Columbia, the Peoplemover, Big Thunder, America Sings, the Matterhorn, the Rivers of America and the Monorail have each claimed real lives, unfortunately, over the course of time.

Like any good fairy tale, there is a dark and dangerous side to the fantasy.

Now, as they say, look alive.

Hope your Halloween was fabulous.

As for Jungle is "101," all I can say is...

...hurry baaa-aack!

...hurry ba---aaaaack!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Disneyland - CHOC Walk In The Park

This year, my wife and eldest daughter participated in the annual Children's Hospital of Orange County ("CHOC") "Walk In The Park," which is a fund raising event that takes participants on a walking tour through Disneyland, some of its back areas, and into California Adventure.

It must have been something, because they both came home very happy.
Perhaps they were happiest about the fact that: "We got to do something at Disneyland that YOU'VE NEVER DONE!"
They had a point.
Though they forgot to bring their camera (argh), I was able to debrief them and discover a little bit about the walking route they took during this event, which happens in the early morning hours before the Park opens.
They started out on Main Street, marched up Matterhorn Way toward Small World and Toontown. Then they went into the backstage area north of the Park by the TDA building and the steam train building. (Thanks to DRSEANG who posted the above photo and these over at

They came back out by the Small World gate, passed between the Matterhorn and Sub Lagoon and ended up in the backstage area behind East Main Street before funneling back out the Main Entrance and over to California Adventure.

Literally thousands of people and Disneyland Cast Members participate in this annual event. It raises money for sick children and the excellent CHOC facilities on top of giving folks yet another good reason to visit the Disneyland Resort.

From my own family's firsthand accounts, let me tell you, you are going to want to attend next year's "Walk In The Park." It happens in October. Check the CHOC website as to the details.

You KNOW I'll be there.
"We got to do something at Disneyland that you didn't," indeed.
Not for long, dear family. Not for long...


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Disneyland - Backstage Peeks from the Parking Structure

Another busy week, another photo filled post. Hope you are all doing well. As we hit the blog today, to your right you will see some shots I snapped the last time we were parked at the top of the parking structure. Too bad my mini-cam has a pretty pathetic telephoto zoom.

First, we see the back of the berm and one of the access tunnels through it (center right of the photo). On the other side of the berm from here, roughly, you will find the back turn of the Rivers of America---the stretch between Mike Fink's cabin and the Indian Village. If you look closely backstage, you'll see a Storybookland Canal boat ready for a rehab. To the left, I spy one of Main Street's horse-drawn trolley cars.

The next shot gives you another view of this area backstage---right under the noses of thousands of Disneyland guests who are ambling through the parking lot on their way to the trams!

Picture number 3 shows many things to the trained observer. Do you see the Disneyland Railroad train clicking by in the upper right, just below the curvy streetlamp? There's an Autopia car to the left of the photo and what appear to be cars from Big Thunder (look just above the trolley). Hey, next time you're on the train, grab a seat in the back and look over your shoulder. You'll get some neat back stage views (like this one) that most folks don't see because they are facing forward.

Finally, in Photo 4 we can see the Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) building (in its gaudy Eisner yellow) in the background.

You can also get a good glimpse of the back of Toon Town.

Smack dab in the center of the photo---where all that dirt is---you can see the stables where Disneyland's famous horses are kept (Circle D).

The gray buildings to the left house a variety of workshops and the parade floats.

Enough with that.
I gotta go.
Trader Sam's pot is boiling over and he left me here to watch it for him while he went shopping!
Man, is he gonna be steamed!

As a sage village shaman of the jungle once told me and my fellow skippers:

"Stay cool, monkey fools!"


Monday, October 25, 2010

Disneyland - A Cup of Coffee at the Station

Greetings, Jungleteers!
As I write this, it is a rainy morning here in Southern California and perfect for a hot cup of coffee.
This has me thinking about spots along the way where I've enjoyed a cup, including, of course, Disneyland.
One early morning trip to the Park, necessity pulled me into the Market House like a tractor beam.
"One large coffee, please."
"Room for cream?" asked Tom, the cast member at the counter.
"Yes, thank you."
"Save your receipt and bring it back for a free refill."
"I believe I will. Thanks for the hot tip. How's your morning so far?"
"It has been nice. I like the cool weather. It keeps us busy. It's not too crowded yet, though."
"I'll take it. I've had my share of crowds. Did you work last New Year's? I had guest control on the Hub, right at the Carnation bridge."
"Oh, wow. You had your hands full!"
"Well, have a good one!"
"You, too. Don't forget your refill!"
Taking the warm foam cup full of fog-lifting liquid from Tom, I headed over to the condiment bar and added the appropriate amount of cream, turning the black coffee a caramel color before replacing the lid and assessing where in the Park I would go to enjoy it.
Coke Corner?
Always a winner, but not the venue of choice for me this morning.
Plaza Inn?
No, it's not raining or hideously hot, and I'd rather be outside.
Stepping out onto Main Street and looking to my left, I had my answer.
Train Station.
Across Town Square, past the dedication plaque and flagpole, and up the steps.
One of those fabulous Main Street wooden benches sat there, empty and inviting.
Taking the lid off my cup so as to maximize the smell of the coffee, I tossed the lid in a nearby trash can and took a seat on the bench---on the right hand side of the elevated station platform as you face Town Square.
The area music lilted in the background as I look out over Main Street and up to Sleeping Beauty Castle. Holding my cup in front of me, the steam warmed my nose and face in the cool morning air. The coffee smelled exactly as it should. You coffee lovers are with me on this.
I watched the people coming into the Park and beginning their march up the Street.
The expectant energy of guests in the morning is contagious.
You can still see the bounce in the step of parents pushing strollers.
There is also the wide eyed look on the faces of the kids (the non-teenager types, mostly---though there are exceptions to every rule of nature).
Everything is forward-looking and positive. The day awaits.
The Park opens its arms.
I sip my coffee above this scene, slightly removed but very much a part of it.
Walt wanted a place where parents could have fun, too. Sitting here on the bench, a parent myself, I nodded in silent appreciation at Walt's sentiment.
Here is a place where I can find a bit of contentment, even doing nothing really, just sitting on a bench with some coffee.
Raising my cup in a solemn salute toward the flagpole, then toward the lamp in the window above the Fire Station, I toast Mr. Disney and the folks he gathered to help make Disneyland a reality.
His words from opening day---seared in my memory and emblazoned on the plaque at the foot of the flagpole---come to me on the bench:

"To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land..."

As I finish my coffee, I gather myself and stand up to leave.
Where to?
I realize it does not matter much.

It's all good.

Think I'll take the train...


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Disneyland - Alone on Tom Sawyer's Island (Part II)

The raft edged up to the Island dock and the operator secured it.
The foreman and I exited the raft along with a handful guests.
"Here's your break and lunch schedule," he said, handing me a slip of paper with times scribbled on it. "It's kind of slow today, so you should have no problems. Just circle your walkways, keep them clear and be sure to hit the restrooms and fill out your sign-in sheets. I'll be back in a couple of hours or so. If you need me, call Control and have them radio me. Looks like we have an issue over at Pirates, so I've got to take off. Have fun!"
He stepped back onto the empty raft with the operator and I watched them pull away from the dock and drift back across the river.
I turned to my right and started walking up the main pathway along the river's edge, toward Castle Rock and Fort Wilderness, my pan in my right hand and broom twirling in the left.
The river was to my left, with tall reeds growing between it and the path.
I walked along, "sweeper scanning" the ground ahead of me for scraps of paper, wayward twigs, popcorn bits, wrappers and other detritus.
It was a cold morning. A California rainstorm had swept through a day or so earlier and the ground was still damp. The cold front that inevitably swept in behind the storm made the air crisp, the clouds bright white and the sky an almost unreal blue.
Erratic winds blew across the Island, swaying the trees, bending the grassy reeds along shore and reaching the back of my neck where it was exposed above my jacket collar.
Ahead of me, the empty path stretched into the distance to where it bent at Castle Rock.
Behind me, not a guest could be seen between me and the raft landing.
I could hear the New Orleans area music in the distance, and the gentle, steady snoring of the "bear" asleep in the cave at the entrance to Bear Country. As I looked across the river at what is now Splash Mountain, I saw the old Trading Post with its grass covered roof and the row of buildings across from the entrance to the Hungry Bear Restaurant and Country Bear Jamboree.
Even Bear Country was almost deserted, with a few small groups of guests strolling the walkways.
Ah, slow days in the Park.
My face felt chilled and pink with the whipping breeze and frosty air.
I thought of the times I had come here as a child, dreaming of having the Island to myself as a personal playground---maybe one or two of my friends could come along, too.
Here I was, practically alone on the Island, with the whole day ahead of me.
I marched up the hill toward Fort Wilderness and stepped through its main gates.
There inside the fort I met "Bill," one of Disneyland Security's finest---looking every bit the part in his fine U.S. Cavalry costume and black boots.
"Good morning!" I greeted him.
"Morning back to you," he said warmly, "Where's Red?"
"He must've taken today off and I got his shift. I think you and I are about the only folks on the Island right now."
"Well, there are fifteen guests with us, which is darn close to empty."
"Where are they?"
"Back by the barrel bridge and the treehouse is where I left 'em. Pretty windy today."
"I'll say. Glad I remembered my jacket. Well, I'm sure I'll be seeing you."
"Yep. Stay outta trouble."
He smiled and nodded as we parted.
I headed out the rear gate of Fort Wilderness and took a right, following the path to the River over on the "Cascade Peak" side of the Island.
I stopped for a moment and peeked through the fence that blocked guest access to the northwestern tip of the Island (where a burning cabin, wildlife and evidence of Indian habitation could be found). Thinking better of taking a moment to explore this "off limits" area, I walked along the shore path.
Behind me I heard the huffing steam and steady paddle of the Mark Twain as it rounded the bend in the river just past the Indian Village. She looked startlingly white in the clear, crisp air against the blue sky and green, green trees.
White steam puffed from her stacks and I could see a family along the railing on the upper deck. The father was pointing at the Island and the children were waving down at me.
I returned the wave and stopped to face the steamboat as she glided past.
People along the bottom deck started to wave back at me---thinking my initial wave was meant for them.
I simply smiled all the more and began to wave with broad, happy gestures---to the whole boat!
I walked along with the Mark Twain, waving playfully and laughing to myself as I looked over and saw that by now every guest on every deck on the starboard side was looking at each of the other guests, and at me, and waving furiously to me in return.
As I stopped, near the back side of Castle Rock, the Mark Twain started to round the final bend at the barrel bridge.
My last image of her as she pulled toward the dock was of 20 or 30 guests, adults and kids alike, waving happily back at me. I waved to them slowly as I stood there and smiled to myself.
Sometimes, at Disneyland, even the sweepers are part of the Show.
I had only been on the Island for maybe 15 minutes and had experienced a great guest interaction, even though the Island itself was mostly deserted.
I felt energized and warmer inside as I continued my circuit of the pathways.
The barrel bridge bobbed up and down beside me and the trees cast speckled shadows over me as I approached the "treehouse" end of the Island.
I marched up the hill and took my time near the streamlets that flowed endlessly from the base of the tree. A family was coming down the steps of the treehouse, mom, dad and three small boys (all under the age of 6).
"Good morning!" I called.
"Good morning! Is it always this empty here?" said the mom.
"I wish. You folks picked a good time of year and a great day to come."
"The boys have been up and down this tree five times already!! We're getting worn out."
"Have you seen Injun Joe's cave?"
"Injun Joe's cave. It's not far. They say old Injun Joe's moans can be heard when the wind blows through it..."
The energetic boys stopped and looked up at me, eyes wide, sizing up whether my story could be believed.
"Where's the cave, mommy? Dad, we want to see the cave!!"
Looking at the parents, who were now clearly interested, I motioned for them to follow me.
I led everyone back down the hill to the entrance of the cave.
The parents read the sign to their boys.
The scary sounds echoed out from inside and the youngest of the three appeared to be having second thoughts.
"Oooh. It's too dark. I don't wanna go!"
"Listen," I knelt down and looked at him (feeling partially responsible, since I had suggested the cave in the first place), "This is Disneyland and I work here. I have a flashlight, see? How about if I take you guys through the cave---it comes out on the other side of the island and it's pretty neat in there!"
The boy eyed my yellow and black Disney-issue flashlight that dangled from my belt. I usually wouldn't wear it for a day shift, but the Island had caves, after all, and, during the winter months, working a closing shift meant it got dark early---so I knew I might need the flashlight to help with cleaning out flowerbeds at the end of the day.
I slipped it from its holster and held it out.
His small fingers wrapped around it.
He looked at me, to see if I was serious about providing them with an escort into the scary cave.
I looked back with a "I'm ready if you are" expression on my face.
He turned to his older brothers and parents and gave a little nod toward the cave.
"Can I hold your hand?" he asked as we approached.
Both parents smiled their assent to me, and I reached down and said, "Sure."
The little guy and I led the way into Injun Joe's cave.
I felt his grip tighten as we made our way into the chamber where the wind howled and the lighting was scary.
I clicked on my flashlight and said, "Come on, right this way."
We walked over the little wooden bridge and were soon winding our way through the tight nooks and crannies at the back end of the cave---the flashlight providing warmth and comfort to the smallest member of our exploring group.
As we rounded the final turn, the bright light of the day spilled around the corner and the little boy laughed and ran excitedly to the exit, like a prisoner who have been given an early release.
He glowed with pride as the rest of us made our way outside the cave.
"I did it! I did it! That cave was not scary!"
His brothers laughed and joined him.
"Let's go this way!" they exclaimed, running off down the path toward Castle Rock.
The parents started to follow and smiled to me.
Ahead of us, the littlest boy stopped mid-run.
He turned back and looked right at me, with his eyes glancing down to my flashlight and back to my face.
"Thank you, Mr. Disneyland man!" he rang out in a small and irresistibly cute voice.
I waved back to him.
He turned on his small heels and bolted down the path, in the direction his brothers were last seen heading.
His parents followed after them all.

I turned to my right and swept my way to the Old Mill.
Walking inside, I watched its wooden gears steadily turn the grist mill.
I smelled the dirt, the dampness, the Disneylandedness of it.
This Tom Sawyer's Island gig wasn't half bad, I had to admit.
The rest of my shift played out in similar fashion.
The population of guests on the Island waxed and waned over the course of the day, from almost nobody to perhaps a "high" of 30.
Bill and I would pass each other on our rounds. We would share a bit of conversation and then move on.
In between, I spent hours seemingly all by myself, touring the paths, walkways, caves and, of course, the restrooms (in Fort Wilderness and on the little dock across from the Mark Twain landing).
Just me and the Park.
Can you imagine?
I absolutely loved the feeling. I inhaled it deeply.
Nothing else I have experienced was quite like it.
It was a uniquely "Disneyland" thing that only a true Park admirer can fully understand.
I remember when my "lunch" time came around.
I stepped aboard the next raft and took it across to New Orleans Square.
Heading up the walkway past the little park between the Haunted Mansion and the French Market, I walked past the Mint Julep Bar and into the corridor near the restrooms. There, I stepped through a "Cast Members Only" door at the end of the hall.
I was in a concrete walled stairway that led down.
Down to the Pit, the Cast Member cafeteria located beneath New Orleans Square and the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance building.
It was windowless, but bright and warm---even with the fluorescent lighting.
After spending several hours outside on the cold and windy Island, I grabbed a cup of hot soup, a coffee and a turkey sandwich---which I can still taste.
Comfort food at Disneyland.
I saw a fellow sweeper I knew and we sat down to our lunch together.
"I see you're on Island today. Lucky dog."
"It's all who you know."
"Well, I must be doing something wrong, I pulled a restroom shift."
"Hey, at least you get to spend some time indoors. It's cold out there on the Island. And lonely."
"You're so full of it! I know darn well you're having the time of your life."
I guess it must've showed, because...I was.

And I was lucky.

Few people will ever get to experience what I was able to enjoy that chilly day in 1985.

Interestingly, perhaps the most unique part of that day came toward the end of my shift. The Island was about to close and Bill had walked all the guests back to the raft for the final ride back to New Orleans Square. At that point, I had gotten to know the raft operator, Tim, pretty well. "Tim, I think I left my flashlight back at Fort Wilderness." I had, but not by accident.
"I'm going to run and grab it. Can you come back and get me?"
Tim, whose shift was almost over, hesitated, but saw the determined look in my eyes.
"Okay, I'll be back for you, but don't miss me or I'm leaving you there!" Tim said with a glint in his eye as he pulled the raft with Bill and the last Island guests away from the dock.

There I was.
The last person on Tom Sawyer's Island.
For a blessed few minutes as I ran back to Fort Wilderness to retrieve my flashlight, I reveled in my good fortune of scoring a rare sweeper victory---to be alone on the Island. Unless you were crazy enough to try and steal a raft or a skiff, you weren't going to get many chances to be the only sweeper out there.
I knew my friends would be envious.
More importantly, as dusk was falling and the chill was getting even more pronounced, I got to enjoy a few moments out there all by myself.
I ambled back from Fort Wilderness and slowly approached the raft landing.
Tim was there, pointing to his watch and putting his hands on hips in a pantomime of mock impatience.
I waved.
I slowed my pace.
I looked out over my Island kingdom and took it all in.
Reluctantly, I picked up my stride and made my way onto the raft.
Tim smiled knowingly.
Raft guides had a unique advantage.
They could be the last ones on the Island any time they chose.
I watched the landing recede into the distance as our raft, with only Tim and me aboard, made the final crossing of the day.
Tim pulled us in. I tossed the shoring rope around the cleat on the dock and he gently throttled the raft to a tight stop against the landing. He shut down the engine, tied off the rear of the raft to the dock, and the two of us walked back toward Frontierland.

Some days you just carry with you.
This was one of them.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disneyland - Alone on Tom Sawyer's Island (Part I)

When I was a sweeper, there were a couple of times that I got to feel like Tom Sawyer.
Tom Sawyer's Island was a coveted shift in Adventure/Frontier Day Custodial, especially a closing shift---in the winter.
As a Casual Regular employee, with only a couple years' seniority, getting an Island assignment was pure luck.
It happened only if a highly senior person called in sick or took vacation (AND you had a buddy in Custodial Control doing the schedule).
For me, I can remember seeing my name on the schedule next to "Location 33J - Island" and feeling elated. A closing shift! Winter!
It was a brisk morning as I pulled into the cast member parking lot in my 1967 Mustang.
I can still see the condensation fogging my windshield.
The drive down Ball Road from the 57 had been easy. No traffic.
There were plenty of spaces available in the cast member lot when I arrived.
Grabbing my wallet and my yellow CR Disneyland ID car, I headed toward Harbor House.
Along the southern wall of Harbor House was a wild fantasy of time cards, organized by Department.
Bleary-eyed, I searched mine out and punched it in the time clock. Before the modern "swipe" cards, there were literally pieces of paper that cast members would use to record their time in and time out. There were a bunch of people whose main function was to sort thousands of time cards every day.
Mistakes were corrected with White Out.
It's amazing we ever got paid. But we did.
Next, I was out the west end of Harbor House and, after a quick left, was heading down the hill and under the train trestle. The underpass at this location was named "Herbie Hill" and I can recall a few times driving through here in a golf cart with a low battery. If you didn't get up enough speed on the downhill, you and your golf cart would never see the top of the other side (unless a friend or two jumped off and helped push).
As I crossed under the trestle, to my left was the wardrobe building. It was also the building that housed the "Primeval World" dinosaurs---whose dramatic theme music could be heard, muffled on the outside.
I marched up the hill and, at the top, turned to my right and crossed the street to the main locker building.
My assigned locker housed my fresh set of Custodial "whites," the starched shirt on a wire hanger, the cotton pants on a wire hanger with a cardboard tube along the bottom.
My black, leather upper, Red Wing work shoes and a pair of black above-the-calf-dress socks rounded out the ensemble, along with the famous Mickey Mouse name tag, proudly pinned over the left breast.
Beneath the name tag, and just above the left pocket of the shirt, in a small banner of embroidered yellow thread, was the word "Disneyland."
I pulled a fresh t-shirt from my backpack and over my head. I quickly changed from my civilian clothes into the Day Custodial "costume."
Even sitting here at a keyboard 25 years later, I can feel the electric energy that came with suiting up for a day of "work" at the Park.
Good days.
Bad days.
Rainy days.
Hot summer days.
Early starts.
Late closings.
It didn't matter. I always got the little boost of excitement and energy when I adjusted that name tag and did a last costume check in the mirror before heading out to my assigned area.
I wish everyone, everywhere could get that feeling when they head off to work---if only once in a while.
Hell, I wish I could!! But, then, how many jobs can truly compare to working at the Park??
Let me tell you, heading off for a day of depositions or drafting motions does not quite measure up to a day on the clock at Disneyland...not by a mile.
I left the locker room building and headed past the backside of America Sings, past the rear of Space Mountain, past the trailer in the middle of the backstage area and toward the Inn Between and Central First Aid ("CFA") gate that would take me onstage at the Plaza area of Main Street.
Oh. Coffee.
Quickly up the steps and into the In Between, a hello to the gal who always seemed to be working the register, and back out the door with my coffee I went.
The warm styrofoam, the steam from the cup and the hot coffee provided a defense to the cold morning air.
That and my blue Custodial jacket---with name tag affixed.
Disneyland jackets were amazingly well made. They kept you warm under almost any circumstance.
All that walking and sweeping and constant movement sure helped.
So did being in one's early 20s.
Trying not to spill my coffee as I walked, I gulped it down, tossed into the can inside the CFA gate. Through the gate and out onto Main Street I strode.
The Park was sparsely peppered with early morning guests.
I marched across the street and up toward the Hub, then over the bridge into Carnation Plaza Gardens. I waved at some bussers I knew there and a few of the folks behind the service windows.
I disappeared behind a door that led to the back area and Custodial Control.
I double checked the schedule there and headed over to my area locker in Adventure/Frontier---where my pan and broom were waiting for me.
I then checked in with the New Orleans/Bear Country foreman, who asked if I'd ever worked the Island before.
"Once," I told him.
"Come on," he said.
We marched to the landing where the Rafts to Tom Sawyer's Island loaded and wiggled past the guests to the roped loading area. We waited for the next raft to make its way over to us.
We boarded the raft with the guests, and stood by the operator making chit chat as he piloted us over to the Island.
My day of sweeping the Island was about to begin.
Obviously, my memories of this day still stick with me, despite all the terrible things I've done to my brain over the years since it happened!

Tomorrow, I will share with you the rest of the story...


Monday, October 18, 2010

Disneyland - The "Off the Beaten Path" Town Square Restroom revisited

In an earlier post I discussed a lesser known restroom location on Main Street and several of our readers requested photographs.

We aim to please. Click on these photographs to see them larger.

No. 1 to our right shows the little alleyway located just past the souvenir stand at the eastern tunnel entrance to Main Street's Town Square.

No. 2 shows the restroom and ATM signage at this location.

No. 3 is a shot of the alleyway (and the Men's restroom door), looking from east to west back toward Town Square.

I mentioned you could get pretty close to the famous Disneyland "Berm" at this location. You can see the base of the berm behind the railing on the left hand side of Photo No. 3.

Photograph No. 4 gives you a close up view of the berm---looking southeast from Town Square and back toward the Disneyland Kennel Club and the exit of the Primeval World tunnel of the Disneyland Railroad.

No. 5 shows a close up of the sign about halfway down this little alley, directing you to additional facilities across Town Square near City Hall.

Finally, No. 6 shows the Cast Member entrance/exit and old fashioned pay telephones located at the eastern end of the alley. Lots of Main Gate, Disneyland Railroad, Guided Tour, Mr. Lincoln and Emporium Cast Members use this as their pathway from backstage to their onstage locations.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jungle is "101" - The Shirt

Rumors were flying around the jungle during the past few weeks.
Sam heard them.
So did the Village People.
The leader of the Lost Expedition could sense it, looking down from high on his precarious perch.
Even a motley few sober and keen-eyed skippers (a truly rare breed) clued in.
Something is afoot.
Something's up.
There's something new in the wilds of Adventureland.
You can feel it when the birds and insects along the river suddenly silence their song.
When distant drums cease.
When the Amazon Belle lurches into idle and skulks along with the current.
When the crocodiles rise up to the surface and stare with glassy eyes.
When gazelles flick their ears and pivot their heads, searchingly sniffing the air for unseen approaching danger.
When the very breeze through the bamboo holds itself like a breath.

Guys, guys.

It's just me in a T-shirt!

Of course, it's a totally awesome, uniquely designed, very rare and exclusive T-shirt.
One, I might add, that only a select few may actually possess.
Woven of fine cotton by skilled native hands, this article of clothing is more like a second skin than merely a shirt.
Moreover, it is a status symbol here in the Jungle---or wherever it's worn, for that matter.
It says: "I'm an insider. I'm hip to the jungle scene."
It gives a wink to other insiders---we know who we are---while still sending a discernible message to the uninformed, the uninitiated.
Like all great art, it inspires and stirs within the viewer a call toward something larger than oneself; something ethereal, beautiful.
It calls attention to deep symbolism in the front, while announcing your allegiance to Jungle is "101" in the back.
And, it comes in variety of sizes and colors.

It is...

The Shirt.

Native tribal drum roll please...
Here is the front.
Above is a closer view of the front artwork and text.

And here is the back of the shirt.Finally, a closer view of the back.
You can tell by the high quality of the photographs that we are professionals around here.
Hey, you try silkscreening in 110% humidity, much less processing high quality color stills of T-shirts!
Lands' End we are not.

We're more "Humanity's End" or "Wits End," Sam says.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Disneyland - More Shots Of The Park, From Mike's Perspective

Recognize the lovely "D" above?
It's been there a while.
Where in Disneyland would you find this, Waldo?
It should be an easy question for true Park aficionados like yourselves.
Here's a hint:
Take a close look at the world famous Plaza Gardens bandstand stage above and you'll find your answer.

Let us speak again of Disneyland's byways...
...those paths less traveled.
A favorite one almost any time (but especially when Fantasmic lets out), is pictured below.The north entrance/exit to Frontierland is one of those places to go when you want to escape the crush of the crowd for a few moments.
Stepping through this gate you are on the little shady walkway that leads between the Frontierland moat, to the right, and Carnation Plaza Gardens, to the left.
And now, a closer view. (Be sure to click on these photographs, by the way, they get pretty large when you do).
Here is the same walkway looking from the Plaza Gardens side back into Frontierland.Ahh.

By the way, the Park looks fabulous all decked out for "Halloween Time."
The main entrance gives but a small hint of the fall-colored splendor inside.
And just like at that Disneyland blue sky! This is the week to go if you get a chance.
Temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s and 70s.
Do not expect slow days however.
Yesterday, both Disneyland and California Mis-Adventure were pretty busy.
You will definitely get a chance to spot costumes at the Park, as it is closing down at 7:00 p.m. on some Halloween-Time evenings in order to allow a special family event with trick-or-treating and kids and parents all decked out.
We saw a tiny, five-ish Bo Peep with a pack of five adults, all dressed as her sheep.
The dad of the group was dressed as the black sheep---go figure.
We also saw a group of Peter Pan fans---with a large man squeezed into a perfect Tinker Bell costume and another filling out Wendy's nightgown, while the women of the group took on the roles of Peter, Michael and John.
Also saw a pretty good young adult group dressed up convincingly as John and the Lost Boys.
You can catch them all during the next few weeks.

Next, here is a twilight shot of a certain pachyderm aerialist and his good friend Timothy
Not far from Timothy and Dumbo, the King Arthur Carousel sparkles like a crown jewel.
And, to revisit an earlier post of mine, here are a couple photographs of the Emporium mall exit at 102 West Center Street on Main Street---betcha never knew the address!
Here is the great, glass awning afire with its new-fangled, electric incandescent bulbs.
Well, there's the second cheat post of the week!
Sometimes you just have to throw the guests in the boat and hit the throttle.

Turn around and wave good-bye to all the beautiful people back on the dock!
(Now wave to your boat loaders, you know---they have feelings, too).


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Disneyland - Glad To See There's Still Imagination Left In The World...

Today, Jungle is "101" Galleries debuts the original artwork of one of our loyal readers, which is inserted above for your edification and enjoyment.
This young artist's name is Anne.
The original is an oil on canvas painting.
It is titled Slow Day, because, in Anne's own words, "I didn't realize til after I painted it that it had so little people in the boat."
As a veteran skipper with many hours logged in Jungle boats, I found Anne's depiction of the old striped canopied vessel to be fabulous!
She has truly captured the colors and feel of the old boats, along with the green of the Jungle river and the delicate cascade of Schweitzer Falls.
I am truly honored that she chose to share her work with me and, more importantly, has permitted me to debut it to the world, here, in our ragged, little corner of cyberspace.
I am sure you will all appreciate this young lady's talent.
She says she would like to be an Imagineer someday.
Disney should be so lucky!
Thanks, Anne!

And my thanks to each of you---lurkers, posters, fanatics, ho-hummers, friends, curious types, lost souls or fellow wanderers---for dropping by now and then.
This old Jungle wouldn't be the same without you!
I love it when folks share pictures or memories of the Park.
Keep 'em coming!!

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino?


(hey, we're a family site!)

And remember,
if life's got you up a pole,
and there's a rhino at your stern,
just hang in there for about 7 minutes, a boat will be along soon,
with a skipper and a load of guests
--making fun of your predicament!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Disneyland - Trip Photos for the Jungle is 101 Crew!

I made it to the Park this past Sunday and snapped a few photographs (since I remembered my camera for once).

I've been a bit busy this week, so this post is a cheat. Very little thought.
Even less humor.

Mostly just pictures.
You get the idea.

To our right, the world famous, stupendous, absolutely amazing---Backside of the Castle!
Actually, in the twilight it looked amazing. My little digital barely did it justice.

Next, I offer a shot of one of those tucked away places in the Park that many folks miss or ignore.

This is the west entrance to Fantasyland. You come to this location from Plaza Gardens.
Used to be, you could enter Tinkerbell Toy Shop just to the left (and out of the photograph).

Again, as twilight was settling in, the colors in this area were interesting and the light above the passageway made all the more warm and inviting.
And look! No people!

Speaking of no people, here is a shot of the Plaza Gardens seating area just north of the stage and bandstand.

Grab a seat! There are plenty.

It seems they should put a restaurant here.



They did.

Ok, then, it seems they should put it back!

My next photograph captures the magic time between afternoon and evening, when the sky darkens and the Park's lights come on.

The Plaza Gardens canopy and stage were nicely lit, so I took a picture without a flash.

Again, there weren't many people around.

The next pictures come from an area near and dear to me.

The first is the Indiana Jones expedition dock area along the banks of the Jungle Cruise.

This is where you'll often see the first "sign of Danger" in the Jungle.

Professor Henry Jones apparently has a shipment ready for pick up.

Next, we have a shot through the brush of the Monkey God temple.

It used to be more of a focal point before Indy went in and changed the course of the river. Now you kinda blow past it without really seeing it clearly.

Below this picture is a shot taken downriver of a Jungle boat as it makes the turn into the Sacred Bathing Pool of the Indian Elephants.

I like the dark green shadows at this time of day.

Makes everything look more...jungly.

Finally, we close with a photograph of the exit of Indiana Jones.

Talk about theming!

Looks like we've stepped out of one of Jones' digs in South America!

Start the plane!!
Start the plane!!

You get the picture.

Have a great day all!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Disneyland - Is it Just Me? (Part II)

Due to overwhelming popular demand (literally 3 out of 4 readers), today we offer Part II of my list that answers the question, "Is it just me or...?"

Is it just me, or...
  • is it time to let the Jungle skippers ad lib a bit more?
  • does this Turkey leg meat look weird?
  • was that a big band playing at Plaza Gardens the other day?
  • could the "Partners" statue on the Hub go back from whence it came?
  • is little Leota just a tad...stimulating? (Hurry baaackk. Hurry ba-aaaack.)
  • could you go for a soft pretzel from the Mile Long Bar (extra salt, please).
  • can anyone drift into a nap while clacking 'round on the Disneyland Railroad on a breezy day (ahh...)
  • is just about everyone done with the Chevron cars and lame "jokes" at the Autopia queue? (I get it...birds poop on cars. Got any other material?)
  • could you go for a burger and fries at Coke Terrace, served by a cast member decked out like a red bell boy?
  • is the Starcade locked in an 80s time warp? Does anyone go to arcades anymore?
  • do you still get something from the vulture asking: "if this is your laughing place, how come you're not laughing.?" just before you take the final drop on Splash Mountain?
  • does the Mark Twain's steam whistle echo somewhere in your soul?
  • is it time to change the scenes in the windows at the Emporium?
  • is the Penny Arcade a saccharine shell of its former self?
  • are you ready for the new Star Tours, too?
  • does anyone else miss the Mary Blair mural from the old Circle Vision building?
  • does it still feel neat to clomp over the little bridge to Plaza Gardens?
  • is Tim Burton just a touch overrated?
  • does Town Square need a food service location? (Hills Brothers anyone?)
  • does anyone else want a Mickey balloon---just a plain old Mickey balloon?
  • does anyone else think it odd that they never open the westernmost exit turnstiles at the Main Gate at the end of the day? What up with that?
  • is there anything else on this planet that can light up like Main Street at night?
  • do you find it irksome when a party of four or more people decides to hold a conversation, dead stopped, in the middle of a main arterial walkway---like, say, the Adventureland entrance?? Come on folks, pull off to the side and decide where you want to eat!!
  • are those hippos blowing bubbles and wiggling their ears?? (Uh oh)...
  • wouldn't you just LOVE to work at Disneyland?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Disneyland - Is it just me or...?

Is it just me or...

  • does anything else come close to a view of the castle as you're walking down Main Street?
  • are the ducks in the Rivers of America among the luckiest in the world?
  • does anything beat warm popcorn fresh from the pan at any of the Park's popcorn carts?
  • could you just ride Big Thunder over and over (and still have a blast?)?
  • does hitting the target above the mine in the Frontierland shooting gallery give you one of the best animated results in the place?
  • is the buffet in Storytellers over at the Grand Californian one of the best "fast food" options around the park?
  • is the tiny Pinocchio's village at Storybookland just begging to be looked at more closely, no matter how many times you've seen it?
  • is the Park looking cleaner overall as you walk through it lately?
  • does the Swiss Family need to regroup and launch a raid to kick Tarzan out of their treehouse?
  • are admission prices getting a little wacky? A family of four needs to open an escrow just to get in these days, seems to me.
  • have the parades been a little predictable and flat? We need more energy, creativity and effective use of the characters!!
  • does Mr. Smee's pants make his butt look big?
  • is Minnie in her cute pumps and skirt simply irresistible?
  • is it about time to hit the buzzer at Club 33 and announce that our party has arrived for drinks and dinner?
  • is it always the case that the hotter the day, the more crowded the line and the less the amount of available airflow, the more likely I am to be standing behind a guy from a country where the powerful effectiveness of deodorant has yet to be discovered or accepted?
  • isn't the Tiki Room lanai something you NEED to build in your backyard? Come on over for a barbeque and some mai tais!
  • do the current batch of tram operators have difficulty clearly enunciating over the PA microphone? (Hello, welco...board...isneylan...tram...hands...arms...well back in your seats...driver, your turn is clear...lef han si and lef han si, only...)
  • is there anything worse than a Jungle skipper whose PA mike volume is turned up way too high? (Think the adults who speak in Charlie Brown cartoons);
  • does Toontown need a paint job? How about a do-over?
  • has Buzz Lightyear worn out his welcome in the Circle Vision Theater building?
  • shouldn't the Peoplemover, at the very least, be allowed to make a comeback? (Later we can talk about the Skyway...)
  • does Adventureland/Frontierland need another restroom facility?
  • does using the Plaza Pavillion for an annual pass photograph station rather than a restaurant seem like a colossal waste?
  • is the smell from the corn dog wagon dangerously intoxicating?
  • can we be done with Fantasmic now and go back to evenings of a little peace, quiet and jazz in New Orleans Square? (Hey, how 'bout moving Fantasmic over to the Disneyland Hotel? Just a thought.)
  • is the old Tahitian Terrace and Aladdin show location kind of a waste of space currently? Um...let's think about putting something of value in here, eh?
  • does everyone use the little walkway from Frontierland to Plaza Gardens to avoid pedestrian traffic jams?
  • does the hair stand up on the back of your neck, too, during the flag retiring ceremony on Main Street when the armed services are acknowledged and the Disneyland Band plays patriotic tunes?
  • does every Disney merchandise location sell exactly the same stuff as every other Disney merchandise location, inside the Park and out?
  • have you, too, had enough of this silly list?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Disneyland - Fall is in the air in Southern California; Thoughts During Rough Times

Boy, if you could have called in sick today (and live in Southern California), it was a perfect, overcast, cool morning and day for a trip to the Park.
After smoldering through 100+ degree days over the past weeks, the return of moisture is a welcome gift.
This is about as "fall" as we get here.
We are not in Indiana or Pennsylvania or Maine or Wisconsin, where the crisp chill sets in the air and the leaves turn colors.
I sure miss that, I must say.
Of course, the coming winter months are hard and the holidays can be even harder for people in tough financial straits.
Today I offer up a prayer for all of those across our country who are without work and struggling to get by.
If I could waive a wand like the Fairy Godmother or sprinkle some pixie dust or pop us all into a chalk pavement picture, I would definitely call for prosperity, peace, communities and an economy that functioned like they're supposed to.
I would seek a return to Main Street, U.S.A., where families earned enough to get by and people tended to help each other out a bit.
Turn of the Century America was no picnic, I know.
But we built things back then. And grew them.
We learned things, too.
People were tougher and smarter, overall.
They had to be.
Sadly, here at Jungle HQ my powers are limited to keystrokes and stale old stories.
That magic powder Trader Sam gave to me only seems to cause sneezing fits. It never works.
Without such gimmicks I am left to pray and hope for all of us.
Perhaps this little corner of the Internet sits like a candle on a windowsill, providing a spot of warmth for weary travelers.
Disneyland memories help lift us out of the mundane realities we face each day, if only for a moment or two.
It was always my approach while skippering my Jungle boat to try and brighten people's day, just a little, somehow. Without being sappy, fawning or fake (nothing worse than people who "try too hard" in this arena---it never works).
It wasn't always with a joke (Lord knows, you've all heard the jokes).
Sometimes just taking a moment to talk directly to a guest and find out a little about them was enough to crack the ice.
A wave or a wink or a smile to somebody in the back of the boat---to let them know I saw them back there---would often be rewarded with return waves and smiles.
I'm a sucker for kids.
To be honest, more often than not, my day was brightened more than I could ever hope to brighten anyone else's.
I loved to watch the wide eyes of the youngest victims on my boat.
To them, the Jungle was truly amazing!
Elephants, gorillas and crocodiles! Oh my!
Anyhow, thanks to you loyal readers for sticking with us here.
Sam and I are digging around the hut looking for new material most days.
Sometimes we find stuff.
Sometimes you poor folks get random drivel.
I have a Southern California feeling this fall weather won't last. I hear the weekend is supposed to warm back up into the 80s and 90s.
I've got to get back to HQ---seems our latest shipment of malaria kits were filled with placebo pills!
This is odd, as there hasn't been a documented case of placebo in the Jungle in over three months!



Monday, October 4, 2010

Disneyland - Today, Things We Like

Occasionally, here at Jungle headquarters, I find myself engaging in remembrances of things past.
However, we are commissioned by our Creator to live in the now.
So let me not pine over yesterday, but take a few moments to look at things as they are now, today.
If I took you to the Park today, what we would enjoy most?
I suppose that I could take you to Baskin Robbins' 31 Flavors ice cream shop and ask the same question---with the same myriad results.
Some would say "Lemon Custard," others "vanilla," still others, "Jamocha Almond Fudge."
It is true.
You cannot argue matters of taste, generally speaking.
Nonetheless, I will throw out a few of my personal favorites at the Park.
It's my blog, after all.
You are but its hapless victims.

So, after we get there, I say we go over to Indiana Jones.
You want theming?
You want a queue that is almost as good as the ride itself?
You want to start your day in Adventureland?
You want to channel your inner Harrison Ford?
Let us go, then.
As for me, it is always a front row seat behind the steering wheel.
It is a marvelous attraction.
You are definitely immersed in its world from start to climactic finish.
It's got everything: great soundtrack, music, sets, animation, ride vehicle, thrills, etc.
I still duck as phantom "poison darts" blast past me on puffs of air.
It is also always a relief to get out from under that darn boulder and to see Indy wiping his brow at the end, with the dust still settling.
And as we exit the attraction, we step outside the Temple of Mara and onto a walkway that parallels the magnificent Jungle Cruise.
If we stop here awhile, we will no doubt become part of the spiel of the next skipper who pilots his boat by us.
"Over to the right hand side of the boat, we can see a few choice examples of a strange bipedal species that frequents this area. Don't make any sudden moves! There's no telling what they are capable of! The big ones are scary enough, but those little ones! Sure, they look cute and cuddly, but let me tell you, they can latch on to an adult for 18 to 26 years and bleed them dry! Trust me, I have three of 'em."

Next, let's take an early morning Monorail trip.
Well, it's not too crowded this time of day (at least at the Tomorrowland station), so what better time to ride it?
We'll cruise over Tomorrowland and get a great view as we head out of the Park and back to the Disney Walk station.
The sleek new trains, with their window-facing bench seats, are comfortable and the views are great.
We can hop back on and enjoy the return trip into the Park.

Okay, so we're back.
We're in Tomorrowland and it is still fairly early.
Let's grab some coffee and a danish or something to enjoy while we wait in line for "Finding Nemo." It is still cool, so even though the wait will be around 30 to 40 minutes, we'll be comfortable. The line only gets hotter and longer as the day progresses.
Though not for the claustrophobes in our group, the "Finding Nemo" attraction is well done and utterly enjoyable.
Sure, it can be a little dark and scary for the younger ones---whom you might choose to keep off of this one. (Picture a howling, terrified four-year-old in a dark submarine with at least six minutes left of the ride before you can get off and a sub full of guests a bit nonplussed over the commotion---sound like fun?).
However, most kids love Nemo and are more than capable of weathering the ride without incident.
Mine, for example, are simply fearless of anything a Disney park can throw at them.
A Disney park threw their dad at them, and they got past that, so nothing can scare them now.

A third, and final, suggestion for today's post: the Mark Twain.
Wait, isn't that boring?
Perhaps, for some.
For me, though, the refurbished Rivers of America are well worth a smooth trip around Tom Sawyer's Island.
The Mark Twain is a classic, and it, too, has been neatly refurbished.
In the mornings it is not too crowded and the cool air over its decks is invigorating.
Grab a comfortable seat and watch New Orleans Square glide by.
Look around you.
You could almost swear, by the time you reach the Hungry Bear Restaurant, that you have left California behind and are somewhere in the backwoods of a Mississippi River offshoot.
If you grabbed a refill of your coffee or soft drink, you can casually sip it while enjoying the view from the Mark Twain's deck.
If you are really ambitious, and one of the first groups to board, you can run up to the top deck and knock on the cabin door just below the wheelhouse.
The captain just might open it and let you in.
Then you'll get a chance to join him up in the wheelhouse---a rare treat that is worth the effort!
If you have youngsters, they'll get to steer the boat and pull on the steam whistle and ring the bell. They will even get a Pilot's Certificate at the end of the trip.
Even if you don't get to the wheelhouse, the relaxing morning trip on the river is its own reward.

I'll leave it at that for now.

Enjoy your next trip to the Park.
May you have many, many more!