Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Disneyland - Deep Thoughts on a Wednesday - Jungle Readers Analyzed

Greetings, salutations and welcome, oh wayward fans of this humble slice of cyberspace. 
You know who you are. 
"Jungle is 101" followers are a fine crew, marked by undeniably distinct characteristics and personality flaws: 
  • You are literate, but favor picture books with high monosyllabic word content.
  • You are inquisitive, yet willingly believe anything in writing, so long as it is on the Internet.
  • Aloof, you wear ascots and smoking jackets, despite summer humidity and a fondness for sandals.
  • You find Superstring Theory plausible because it posits additional dimensions beyond the four space-time dimensions generally observed, but mostly because it can be shot from a can during birthday celebrations.
  • You are secure in your individuality, yet bemused by people who gape at you during one of your regular, spontaneous and utterly inappropriate outbursts while using public transit systems.
  • Dental hygiene is more of a broad, long-term goal than a daily objective.
  • You are disturbed that one of the voices in your head seems to be hearing things---worse yet, it is starting to act them out and is annoying the other voices, who are agitating for a solution---along with benefits, a pension plan and discretionary bonuses.
  • You fill in crossword puzzle answers with numbers and strange symbols that you've made up all by yourself.
  • People like you.  As long as you remain in strict compliance with the restraining order.
  • What's wrong with mustard?  You got a problem with MUSTARD??!!!!
  • You know exactly what I'm talking about as far as the whole "mustard" thing.
  • You were voted Class Clown at your remedial school---eight years in a row.
  • "There's always room for Jello" is not just an advertising slogan, it is a guiding principle and quantum vacuum, forming the fundamental energy and information-carrying field, or "Akashic field," that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present---collectively, the "Metaverse."
  • You put your pants on, one leg at a time, four pairs at a time, just like the next guy.
  • Drinking isn't a problem.  Stopping.  Stopping's a problem.
  • You weigh over 500 pounds, with enormous, razor sharp teeth and claws, can leap over twenty feet, and your roar can be heard more than 3 kilometers away.  Wait.  Never mind. That's a Bengal Tiger.
  • NASCAR is a sport!  And a dang good 'un, mind you!
  • You can't shake the feeling you left something in Adventureland, like a wallet or a family member.
  • You pay your mortgage with a credit card and your credit card with your home equity line of credit.
  • You don't have a home equity line of credit.
  • Other people fascinate you.  You stare unblinkingly at them and edge closer to them on park benches and in supermarket check-out lines.
  • You still duck when Jungle natives attack just before the "Backside of Water," though you've never actually seen them toss a single spear in any prior attack.  Ever.
  • Thinking back on dissecting that frog in high school still makes you hungry.
  • There's nothing wrong with living alone.  In a park.  Under scrub brush.  On an embankment.
  • You favorite holiday is one that is celebrated by no one else.  Anywhere.  But you still wear the costume to work.
  • A nowhere job for minimum wage is not a sign of failure---it's something to apply for.
  • I swear that guy is staring at me.  
  • Is this the way to the restroom?  Why are you all wearing epaulets?
  • I could read stuff on the Internet all day long...
  • You've read each of the bullet points above, amazed at their uncanny accuracy in describing your inner self --- it's like he really GETS me!
  • You don't know just when to quit.
  • But I do.
There.  I'm done.

Happy Windsday, Piglet!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Disneyland - Mint Julep Bar - Cast Member Susy

This past Friday evening, we piled into the car for a trip to Disneyland in the rain.
The Park was not crowded, and the wind and rain blew as if Hina and Tongaroa-Ru were Annual Pass holders.
Of course, the "Bubble" (as Cast Members know) was in full effect at times, too, as the rain let up for most of the evening.  The "Bubble" is a reference to the Park's unique ability to remain a lone dry spot in Southern California, even when the entire region is in the midst of a storm.  The term arose because some guests actually wondered aloud if it was true that Disneyland has a glass dome or bubble that is turned on to keep out the elements.  To Cast Members hoping to avoid a closing shift due to inclement weather, the "Bubble" was a term of frustration.  You would call in to see if you were still scheduled only to be told---Yes.  Really?  It's pouring where I live and hasn't let up all day!  Um.  Not at the Park.  There's a break in the clouds above us and we can see sky.  See you at 5:00 p.m., don't be late for your shift.
Okay.  Where was I?
Oh yeah.  Rain, Disneyland, Cold.
My youngest and I spent some rare time inside "Innoventions."  The attraction is pretty much only good for keeping you dry in a rainstorm.  Being 7, she actually enjoyed walking around and looking at the "house of the future."  You mean someday people will have flat panel big screen TVs in their homes?  No way!
While we wandered in "The Future," my dear wife and older daughter braved the elements and even made their way onto Casey Junior.  A cell phone call advised me to meet them at Tiki Room and that they were cold and wanted hot chocolate---Stat!
We met at the Tiki lanai, took in the show and headed to New Orleans Square after we left the theater.
Mint Julep Bar.
They have hot cocoa, beignets and funnel cakes.
We rounded the corner and found a small line of guests at the service counter.
When it was my turn, I approached and placed our order. The cast member working there was Susy.  She was on until 11:45 p.m., I learned by pestering her.  She was very nice and a testament to what a cast member can and should be.  I teased her, as I am wont to do, and she smilingly went along with it.
"Name?" she asked as she took my order.
"We already have a 'Mike' ahead of you."
"I'm the better 'Mike,'" I said, "Put that down."
She looked up and laughed.  And started writing.
"Hey!" said the "other" 'Mike' standing to our left and waiting for his order. "I'm the BEST 'Mike!'"
My wife, all too familiar with her husband goofing around with guests and cast members for no apparent reason, cringed slightly and rolled her eyes.
"He better give you a five dollar tip!" announced the "other" Mike as I stood at the counter before Susy.
I smiled and walked over to "Mike."
"Hi, I'm Mike Kelly," I said shaking his hand firmly and smiling that mischievous smile that comes from years in the Jungle.
"Mike Valero, pleased to meet you."
"Where are you from?  Cold and wet enough for you?"
"Connecticut.  This is a dream compared to the weather back home.  I was in Hawaii on business and we stopped here on the way back home."
Mike introduced us to his wife and we told them we envied their recent trip to Hawaii.
In the end, we both agreed we were pretty darn good "Mikes" and would consider it a draw.  They left, sipping their hot coffees and heading off toward the Rivers of America.
"'Better Mike,' your order is ready!" announced Susy's fellow cast member from behind the "Pick Up" window.
"Why, thank you, my dear," I said taking our cups of warm libations and poking my head low to call into the Julep Bar window.  "Good work, Susy!!  As you can see, I eliminated all confusion at the pick up window by drawing the distinction of being the "Better Mike."  Susy flashed a Disney smile and wished us a fond "Good Evening!" as we left with our order.
I should have snapped her picture with the cell phone camera, but I'll have to immortalize her here with this brief---ok, not-so-brief---mention.
She brightened our cold, damp evening with a cheerful smile, a good attitude, hot coffee and cocoa and funnel cake, too.
In our best nod to the classic TV show Hee-Haw, Jungle is "101" salutes Susy, French Market Mint Julep Bar closing shift cast member from Friday, February 18, 2011.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled daily activities.
Oh, and if you should see Susy at the French Market during your next trip to Disneyland---tell her the "Better Mike" says hello!


The Shirt Lives!!  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Disneyland - Ephemera - Main Street Electrical Parade - View-Master - 1979 Informational Guide - Pirates Postcard - Family Circus

Let's open the old box of Disneyland stuff and see what's in it.
Hey!  Here's my old Main Street Electrical Parade souvenir album.  Still works!  If only I had a record player.  The artwork is fanciful and fun.  The music plays in my head without any effort on my part at all.  I can see each float as it rolls by on a Main Street summer night.  I'll bet most of you can, too.

I like to look at the listing of the songs on the back of the album.  There are a few offerings from Pete's Dragon, which isn't surprising, as it was released right around the time the parade made its Main Street debut.  Speaking of Pete's Dragon, I saw a local news snippet just yesterday that Mickey Rooney---elderly and ailing---has won a recent court battle to keep his stepson away from him.  Seems the stepson was trying to hone in on Rooney's estate, was mistreating him and making him "a prisoner in his own home."  Poor Mickey.  Hard to imagine elder abuse involving a person who is perenially young in my imagination.  My thoughts and prayers are with him.  Heck, he was the voice of Santa Claus, Judy Garland's pal, the star of a fabulous Twilight Zone episode, a singer, a dancer, a Hollywood sensation---just to scratch the surface.  Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett will forever live on in my memory for their sensationally funny turns in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the 1963 comedy starring Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Durante, Milton Berle, Sid Ceasar, Ethel Merman, Jonathan Winters, Jim Backus, Phil Silvers, Dick Shawn, Terry Thomas, Edie Adams, and even Eddie "Rochester" Anderson---to name but a few (even the Three Stooges show up in this film in a cameo role). 

Whoa!  Here are some of my old View-Master reels!  I could go to Disneyland in three dimensions any time I wanted.  I would flick through these images at home between those summer trips to the Park when I was a kid.  Looking through these today literally transported me back.  The Park was really something!   Of course, it still is.

Ooh.  An old Pirates postcard!  Does that date on the back say 1966?  Love the artwork.  Talk about an all-time classic attraction---though I have to say, it was better before Captain Jack and "Davy Jones" moved in.  The Davy Jones fog effect is fine, but actually the tunnel was better when it was pitch black and a disembodied voice intoned: "No fear hath ye of evil curses, says you. Arrrr. Properly warned, ye be, says I. Who knows when that evil curse will strike the greedy beholders of this bewitched treasure."

An here's a couple of old clippings from The Family Circus in the late 1970s when they took a trip to Disneyland.
Speaking of the late 1970's, here's a Disneyland fold out brochure from late 1978 or early 1979 that promises Big Thunder Mountain Railroad will be opening in the Fall of 1979.  Looks pretty cool in the drawings.  Wonder if it will be worth it?  Little did I know then that I'd be clomping around the load area in miner's boots, sporting a Disneyland name tag, eight years later.

Well, better close the box and get off to work.
"Heigh Ho!" as they say.
Keep imagination alive in the world, my friends.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Disneyland - Country Bear Theater - Hot Day

Dateline: Bear Country. Summer 1985.  Day Custodial Shift.  Sweeper.
Always enjoyed Bear County, but on hot days it was, well...a bear.
Despite pine trees, most of the area was open and exposed to the sun.
Where Splash Mountain sits today was a row of buildings with a covered porch and restrooms.  The porch provided welcome shade.

So did the Hungry Bear Restaurant, but this was a Bussing location, so we sweepers did not have to venture there---onto Busser turf.
The most inviting option for a cool down during a hot summer Bear Country shift was to sweep the queue and the lobby of the Country Bear Theater.  The covered bridge leading across a little stream and to the shady entrance was inviting.  Entering the barn-like structure that contained the Country Bear lobby, I felt a draft of cool, conditioned air.  Aaah.
I would, of course, exchange hellos with the hostess at the turnstile.
Then I would step into the long, wood-floored lobby and slowly make my way up and down its length, looking for wayward bits of paper, crumpled Souvenir Guides and maps, popcorn and the various and sundry detritus that guests would drop on the ground.
I would glance at the posters and pictures along the wall and watch the flickering lights inside the hurricane lamps.  Between shows, we sweepers would jump in ahead of the guests and quickly run through the long rows of theater seats, looking for trash and other items left behind.  I would work quickly, usually focusing on the center rows, as they were the most filled with guests, typically.
The theater was always cool and comfortable.  As a guest, the Country Bear Jamboree was on the "MUST DO" list during mid-day and early afternoon periods in the summer.  A great show taken in while seated on comfortable benches with air conditioning wafting over your flushed cheeks?  Who wouldn't take advantage of this?
Today you can ride Pooh.
Hey, that didn't come out quite right.
You can enjoy the Winnie the Pooh attraction.
(That's better.)
I remember looking up at Max, Buff and Melvin as I swept through the rows and headed to the exit doors.

They're still hanging around "Critter Country" to this day---permanently affixed to the wall in the Pooh attraction.  Sigh.

The exit of the Country Bear Jamboree looked like an old mine or a covered bridge.  It lead you back into Bear Country, past my all-time favorite water feature---a small waterfall tucked in the far western corner of the park.  It trickled over round, granite stones and was surrounded by trees, ferns, moss and flowers.  There was a little wooden bridge that crossed the stream at the exit.  You could stand on that bridge and listen to the waterfall and the trickling brook.  It was peaceful and pretty.  An unexpected little pleasure.  The Park has always been famous for these -- the rounded staircase in the middle of New Orleans Square, the Snow White Wishing Well, the benches along Matterhorn Way, tree-shaded Thunder Trail, the tables on the porch of the Plaza Pavillion, etc., etc.
Just across the little bridge was the Mile Long Bar.  I can still smell the warm pretzels.
Today we have "Critter Country."
I'll leave it at that.

To fond memories of the past and savoring the challenge and promise of the future!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Disneyland - Going to the Top - Videopolis!

It was the next big thing.
An all new venue north of Storybook and west of Small World.
It was mid-80s on steroids.  A huge stage, videos shining from TVs all over the place, and swirling, flashing lights that blinked to the beat of whatever was playing.
Videopolis opened in 1985.  I remember, for some reason, a particular Danny Elfman video when I think of this location during its heyday.  The song was Gratitude and here's the video.

The music was loud, the lights bright---think "Tween Nightclub."  I remember thinking it a bit odd to hear such Oingo-Boing-esque sounds at Disneyland---not to mention seeing images of Satan (popping up during a friendly game of poker) splayed on a large screen and 70 smaller ones.  And all of this within a stone's throw of the entrance to It's A Small World.
Nonetheless, Videopolis did capture the vibe of the 1980s.  I'll give it that.
Was it really something that Disneyland needed?  I'll leave that one to Michael Eisner.
It ceased its run as Videopolis in 1995 and has since become the Fantasyland Stage - where various shows have been presented.  I hear you can catch a glimpse of a Disney princess or two over there these days.
During a Fantasyland shift, when assigned Small World, I would be sure to sweep over by Videopolis on summer evenings and watch the lights, the videos, the dancing. 
The pink and funky green color scheme was lifted from Miami Vice, and the whole place shamelessly pandered to the youth market.  Disney Dollars anyone?
In so many ways, it was a classic Eisnerization of the Park.
Now... THAT gratitude?

Happy Monday, my friends!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Disneyland - Main Street Surprise

"Wanna see something cool?"
Whenever a fellow sweeper would ask this question, my heart leaped---especially when it was a lead doing the asking.
"Let's go!" I replied instantly.
Olympic Summer 1984 was remarkably slow.  We were near midday and handfuls of guests straggled about Main Street.  Supervisors were probably at lunch---certainly nowhere to be seen.  Our area looked spic and span and could go on "autopilot" for some time if we decided to do a little exploring.
My lead yanked open the East Center Street gate and headed out, with me a few steps behind.
We crossed Main Street and headed into the Emporium mall and out through the front doors of the Emporium.
He stepped through the little door in the fence right next to the brick Disneyland Fire Department building.
I followed.
We were back stage on the West Side of Main Street.  The horse drawn trolley tracks led back here.  We could see the back side of the Jungle Cruise berm (just behind the hippo pool to be exact).
To our left was a set of stairs that led up the side of the Fire Department building to a small porch and a door.
He marched up the stairs and produced a key to the door.
"Come on!"
I was up the steps in an instant.
He opened the door as I made it to the top and we both stepped quickly through it.
The door closed behind us and we stood in a small foyer.  I remember the carpet was a bright red, with a busy pattern.  The walls were shiny white and the room was filled with sunlight.
Stepping around the corner we stopped.
We stood there and he gave me a knowing nod and smile.
I looked around at the red drapes and brass curtain rods, the neat little furniture, the built-in bookcases, the white columns framing the sitting room. 
We were in the Disney family's quarters above the Fire Department.
There ahead of me, on a fine round table below the center window of the east wall, was a hurricane lamp with an electric bulb, standing at the edge of the table, closest to the lace half-curtain that graced the window.
This was the lamp I always saw from the street below---ever burning in Walt's honor (unless, of course, it's Christmas---then you'll see a small tree in its place).
I breathed in through my nose.  I wanted to inhale the aroma, the atmosphere, of the apartment.
I had been many places where Walt had been---heck, anyone who's been to Disneyland can say that!
He had stood on the bow of the Mark Twain, on the stage at Plaza Gardens, before the flagpole in Town Square, on the steps of City Hall, on the platform of the Monorail station in Tomorrowland, at the base of the Matterhorn.  I had been those places.
But never had I been in his personal quarters above Main Street.
It felt a little like church and a little like home.
I felt a wave of respectful self-awareness.  I had invaded a private place.  Someone's home.
Walt's apartment.
I walked around the corner and peeked out the door of the Apartment onto the little porch located between the Fire Department and City Hall on the second floor.  It had lattice overhead and patio furniture and a great view of both Town Square to the east and the Jungle to the west.
"We better get back to the area locker," my lead urged.
"Okay," I answered slowly.
I stepped into the middle of the room and walked over to take a peek out of the window nearest the foyer.  I could see through the lace the guests walking on Town Square below.  The Emporium was to the left.  I could hear the trolley bell ring and the clop of hooves below.
The lead opened the door and the sunlight came in, flashing me a clear sign it was time to dart back to our post.
I turned and gazed at the place---the white walls, the fine chairs, the red curtains and carpet, the lamp on the table.  "Wow," I said half to myself and half out loud, I suppose.
"Come on!"
I followed him out the door and back down the stairs.  In an instant, it seemed, we were pushing through the door leading from back stage onto Main Street.  We walked along the north side of the Fire Department and out into Town Square.
I turned around and looked up at the high arched window centered above the words "Disneyland Fire Department."  I saw the lamp glowing there behind the lace curtains.  As a kid coming here I had never noticed it up there.  I was too interested in running inside to clamber up the old fire wagon.
Now I saw the place very differently.
Perhaps you will, too.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Disneyland - Bits of Adventureland, Autopia ala Jungle, Ned and the Old Dock

The haunting figure above lurks within the tropical confines of Adventureland.  Any idea where?  Here's a pretty darn obvious hint.
A skipper and his crew approach the "first sign of Danger" in the Jungle.  They've just turned past the rain forest and are chugging toward the Monkey God and the Ancient Cambodian Shrine.  The Skipper is probably reminding guests to keep their hands and arms inside the boat and watch their small children.  A large part of any trip through the Jungle consists of the Skipper facing aft---completely unaware of what is ahead of him.  During a breakdown once, a Skipper, who was in mid-spiel and deeply enthralled with his own performance, did not hear the 6-shot signaling a derailed boat up ahead.  My boat was stopped just abreast of the African Veldt when the boat behind me rounded the bend.  The other Skipper, who shall remain nameless (way to go, Doug!), was pointing out the "Mother-In-Law" elephant and not looking ahead of him.  He realized, all too late, that my boat was stopped in front of his.  He tried to slam his throttle into reverse.  Nope.  Too much forward momentum.  He rear-ended us like an Autopia car.  Everyone in my boat lurched back and then forward in their seats with the impact.  I somehow kept my footing.  With hands on hips and much overacting, I proceeded to chastise him over the P.A.  We parried back and forth and the guests on our boats seemed to enjoy the exchange. 
"Why don't you watch where you're going!?" 
"What's the idea of stopping in the middle of the River?!  River hog!" 
"I hope you have insurance!" etc.  It was actually one of my better breakdown experiences, because we had two skippers and two boatloads of guests to pass the time until the attraction was up and running again. 
I worked with Ned, above, in 1987.  He was our closing lead for most of the summer until one day when we completely lost track of him.  He was last seen aboard the skiff, puttering around the bend on his way to help with a rumored native disturbance and uprising.  Ned started as a skipper in '55 and was one of the few cast members who could sport facial hair---having "grandfathered in" along with one of the original sweepers and a security guard or two that were permitted to keep their plumed mustaches.  Nice guy, Ned.  Good head on his shoulders.  Quick witted.  Sporting fellow, actually.  Favored hot tea on muggy days.  He always kept our boats loaded and cycling without a hiccup.  Sure miss him.

Drifting back to the Jungle dock in 1968 (with thanks from Gary Bowden who originally posted this one), we get a clear view of the loading area and one of the old striped-canopied launches.  Seat cushion, anyone?  You can see the quaint old queue, with its thatched roof of palm fronds.

A happy Friday to the four (4) of you (Hi, Mom)! 


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Disneyland - Bamboo-zled and Elephant-ized

A dead spot in the Jungle lies just after the scene where the gorillas trash the safari camp.
I mention thinking the battery was dead on my Jeep, but am happy to see that the apes tried and tried - and were finally able to get it to turn over.
Downbeat, two, three.
And over on our left you can see an amazing array of jungle bamboo.
Our botanist says it can grow SIX stories tall!  SIX stories!
(Leaning out the boat and gazing upward)
I dunno, to me it looks like SEVEN stories, but you know something, folks?
Downbeat, two, three.

That's another story altogether...I really don't want to go into it right now.
Hey, speaking of bamboo, did you know it is one of the most dangerous and sneaky plants of the Jungle?
While our Jungle trees may have roots and bark. And Jungle flowers, poisonous blossoms.
As for BAMBOO, it stalks, shoots and leaves.
Three, four.
You folks are lucky!  That one went over right your heads!
Missed you by THAT much.
Just ahead is Schweitzer Falls.  Not to worry if you forget its name... we'll be going over it again later.
We've entered the Nile River of Africa, and I'm sure you're still wildly interested in bamboo trivia.
Did you know bamboo... the one of the world's tallest grasses?
...can be made into homes, furniture, shoes, food, clothing and paper?
...comes in green, red, black, brown, yellow and blue?
...has a higher tensile strength than many alloys of steel? the fastest growing plant on earth?
...has been around for over 200 million years?
LOOK!! (pointing wildly) GOOD HEAVENS-- An African Bull ELEPHANT!!
Second most feared animal in the Jungle.
Of course the MOST FEARED ANIMAL IN THE JUNGLE is over on there on the bank to our right...
...that's his Mother-In-Law.
...that's his attorney.
...that's his cousin Harold.
...that's his accountant.
...that's his principal.
...that's his orthodontist.
...that's his evil twin - Skippy.
...that's his dental hygienist.
...that's his brother-in-law, Eddie.
...that's his guidance counselor.
...that's his pilates instructor.
...that's his congressman.
...that's his seventh grade algebra teacher!

Okay.  Okay.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Disneyland - Deep Thoughts on a Wednesday

Around these parts, when the humidity is up, the mosquitoes are buzzing, and mid-week has arrived, our thoughts turn to deeper things.
Why is it, for example, that Fantasyland is real, Tomorrowland is here today and Mickey is missing fingers?
So many turkey legs...where does the rest of the turkey go?
If it's a small world after all, why is it so expensive to fly to Australia?
What are Main Street trolley horses thinking?
Is "innovention" really a word?  If so, why is it plural?
Can it be erased or deleted?
Where is Henry, the emcee of the Country Bear Jamboree, spending his retirement?
What do you have to do to get a door on Main Street?
Why did they change the FastPass side of the Big Thunder queue?  What's gonna happen when the Park gets crowded?  Will the main line overtake the Rancho de Zocalo Restaurante?
They took out the Skyway because....??????
They took out the Peoplemover because....?????
Why isn't it Club 31?
If a skipper falls in the Jungle river and no one is there to see it, does he still make a splash?
More importantly, do the piranhas feel full or are they hungry two hours later?
How many kernels of Orville Redenbacher's ® Gourmet Popping Corn have hit the ground since the Park started selling it?
Uh, Mr. Eisner, how'd that California Adventure park work out for you?  (Don't look now, but I think they've almost COMPLETELY re-done the place!)
What is Disneyland's carbon footprint and has it in any way contributed to the blizzards that have racked the Midwest and the East?
Are we so stupid as a people that we really need DOORS on our parking lot trams?
Does anyone else miss "Disneyland" cups, napkins and bags from food service and merchandise locations in the Park?  The "Disney Parks" logo is a touch too generic for me, thanks.  I know, I know.  It's cheaper.
Not the point.
How many light bulbs are on the exteriors of the buildings along Main Street?
Good day, Mr. Dinglinger!  Wherever you are!

Adieu, mon ami.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Disneyland - Easy There, Mickey!

The massive Walt Disney Company is a different animal from the company I first encountered in my youth.

And now it's likely to be the first company anyone encounters in their youth!

I saw an article today on Yahoo! about modern Disney's kinda creepy new scheme to get new customers before they can even ingest solid foods or articulate the simplest of words.

The Company is literally trying to stick newborn babies in "Disney Cuddly Bodysuits," while coddling new moms who are still suffering the after effects of oxytocin and epidural anesthesia.
Whoa, Mickey!  Hold your horses!! (No offense, Clarabelle).
Methinks there be plenty o' time to cull wee lads and lassies into the warm grip of Disneydom.
Let's at least allow mom and child a little time to get acquainted post-partum before blowing into the maternity ward like an overzealous mother-in-law or great aunt that knows EVERYTHING about caring for a newborn.
"Careful, dear, be sure to support the head!  SHHH!  No sudden noises!  I ALWAYS went right to formula---no child of mine was going to starve trying to breast feed!  Who swaddled this child??  That blanket is so loose the baby will suffocate in it!  Why aren't you using CLOTH diapers??  Those plastic things are so alien.  Desitin??  Why Vaseline was all we had and it was all we needed!  When is the last time you changed the baby?  Oh!  Those socks are ridiculous!  They're much too big!  Look, the baby's already kicked one off.  They're prone to catch pneumonia that way!  Here, let ME hold him/her---THIS is how you do it.  Who's Aunty's little buttercup??  Who's Aunty's little buttercup??  See?  He/she just LOVES me!  Oh dear, does someone have a spit rag---the little angel just spit up all over Aunty's favorite blouse!  Oh, breast milk!!  See?  It upsets their stomach!  That's why I ALWAYS went right to formula..."
And so on.
It doesn't take a Baby Einstein to see that this scheme is a touch over the top, even in today's wildly invasive and prolific marketplace.
We have three children of our own, and we certainly did not need Disney's help in developing them into raging fans by the time they could take their first, uncertain little steps.
I mean, from their first bedding, to their clothing, to the mobile above their tiny heads, to their bottles and bibs, their strollers, car seats and room decor, it is not like we as a society have deprived our children of a healthy initial dose of Disney.
Disney's most recent move looks like something that is going to backfire.
There are already articles blossoming across the web that are negatively panning this marketing scheme.
I couldn't resist joining in the fracas from the moment I saw the article this morning.
Enough already!!!

Stay dry and comfortable, my friends.  Try powdering with every diaper change.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Disneyland - Cast Member Giveaways

You might be a current or former Disneyland cast member...

...if you can instantly spot a cast member parking lot hang tag dangling from the rear view mirror of the car behind you on the freeway.

...if you find yourself giving a total stranger directions---and pointing with two fingers.

...if guests come up and ask you for directions while you're visiting the Park---even though you are not in costume and aren't wearing a nametag!! (How do they know??)

...if mention of the letters "E.R." triggers happy thoughts, as opposed to visions of hospital crises.

...if you ALWAYS step into the shortest of two lines ("Both sides are open folks!").

...if you smell popcorn and think of the Hub or the Frontier Landing rather than a movie theater.

...if you find yourself irresistibly compelled to "Put a Smile in Your Voice," when answering a phone at work.

...if, when visiting the Park as a guest prior to a parade, you find yourself subconsciously looking around for poles and a plug-puller.

...if you find yourself hanging a hard right at the north end of Main Street to grab lunch at the Inn Between, even though you're off duty or haven't been "on duty" officially for many years!

...if you spot a lost child in the Park and find yourself grabbing the nearest costumed cast member or security officer to help.

...if you still feel strange parking in the "regular" guest parking structure.

...if you can make your way through a teeming crowd without missing a beat.

...if you encounter a crowd of confused people anywhere (inside or outside the Park) and instinctively reach for a coned flashlight (even though you don't carry one anymore) and have to stifle yourself from intoning: "This is a walkway, please stay to the right!"

...if people consistently describe you as "approachable" and easy to talk with.

...if friends still ask if you can sign them into the Park.

...if you exchange a knowing glance with "on duty" cast members when you're in the Park as a "guest" (we know who WE are!).

...if you start to head toward the Plaza or Center Street or the Town Square gates when it's time to leave---rather than toward the exits at the Main Entrance.

...if you have to fight the urge to step back stage when you pass your old haunts during a Park visit (break areas, area lockers, CDS terminal locations, etc.)

...if, when encountering a group of people, your first urge is to ask, "How many in your group?" and to advise, "Two on Row 1, two on Row 2, and two on Row 3."

...if, during Fireworks, you find yourself watching the crowd around you as much as the show in the sky.

...if you see a less than diligent or discourteous Disneyland cast member interacting poorly with a guest and it irks you to the core (a rare occurrence, fortunately).

...if you ALWAYS know where the closest restroom, food service location, FastPass distribution location or outdoor vending stand is, no matter where in the Park you may find yourself.

...if you find yourself poking around the internet for odd little blogs like this!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Disneyland - Nice Tribute to Walt - Marooned In The Jungle

Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller, his son-in-law, Ron Miller, and his grandson, Walter Elias Disney Miller, put together a very nice program entitled Walt - The Man Behind The Myth that I happened to catch on TV last night.
It has been out for some time, but this was my first viewing. 
I was happy to hear Dick Van Dyke narrate the film and to see some great home movies of Walt's life.
Talk about a life that is difficult to sum up in a couple of hours.
If you don't know the story of Walt Disney, I'd say you're at the wrong blog.
In any event, it was heartening to see the iconic images of the early days of Disneyland and into the 1960's.
Several key players were interviewed, from Marc Davis to Rolly Crump, X. Atencio to Ward Kimball, Ollie Johnston, Ron Miller and even Dick Nunis (who was kind enough to write me a letter of recommendation after I met him in 1985 in his office in the old Administration Building).
The enormity of Walt's personality, his influence on his company, his ability to develop a story and to inspire literally hundreds, if not thousands, of highly creative people, shone through.
If you get a chance to record this on your DVR, or want to grab the DVD off of or other sites, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

On a completely unrelated note, I once learned a valuable lesson about trust and Jungle cast members.
During an opening shift our lead noticed that a large branch had fallen down and was laying across the roof of the native hut opposite the loading dock (pictured above with Minnie and Pluto on the porch). 
It was decided that my lead and I would board the skiff and putt across to the island to remove the branch.
The lead manned the outboard motor and I sat in the bow.  We put out from over by the old "load" position.
Pulling along one of the island's banks where I could get a foothold, my lead announced, "O.K. Jump out here."
I gladly did as told.  This was my first time on one of the Jungle islands.
I felt like a mixture of Stanley Livingston and Christopher Columbus, setting foot on wild soil, yet unclaimed by the Western world.
"Are you going to get out?"
My daydreaming had obviously delayed my exit from the skiff.
"Oh, yeah.  Sorry."
I planted my black Red Wing half-boot (with steel toe and non-slip sole) on the shore and swung my other leg out of the boat, catching my balance with care.
"Grab the branch and toss it behind the hut for now until we can get gardening over here tonight to get rid of it.  I'll pick you up on the other side by the water buffalo."
He pulled away.
There seemed to be an oddly devious buzz to the outboard motor as my hunched forward and sped from my "drop zone" on the island.
Focused on my task at hand and still waking up in the early pre-opening morning, I stumbled through the vegetation ahead of me until I came upon a dirt path, mid-island, that led to the back side of the hut.
Tree branches, palm fronds and bamboo shoots flicked against the brim of my hat as I made my way along the narrow path, blinking my eyes open and shut to avoid getting them scratched out by the teeming flora.
I reached the hut.
It looked something in a jungle.
Leaves, webs, vines, dirt, dust, grime and shafts of sunlight pouring through the tree canopy above decorated the dank backside of the hut.
Stepping gingerly to the highest point I could reach behind the structure, I leaned against it and stretched my hand to the heavy branch that dangled across the roof.
It was about as big around as the barrel of a baseball bat and was surprisingly dense.  It tugged and at first the branch would not budge.
Wiggling it back and forth, I was able to get it to move and use gravity to assist me.
I did not want to damage the hut's palm-fronded roof in the process.
Through the hut, I could hear the muffled sounds of the attraction's opening activities.
Boat engines whined and came to life.
I heard the voices of fellow skippers in conversation on the dock.  I couldn't make out the words, just the hum of everyday chatter.
Over the Public Address system came the morning call, "Attention in the Jungle, Animation is about to be switched on and cycled in one minute.  Attention in the Jungle, Animation is about to be switched on and cycled in one minute."
Nothing near me was animatronic or electronic, as far as I could see, so I kept up my battle with the stubborn branch.
Finally I wrestled it to a point where it fell heavily from the back of the roof into the brush around my feet.
I stepped back onto the path and tried to get my bearings.  The Jungle river is laid out like a squiggly maze or the intestines of a zebra after a lion kill.  It can be a little disorienting.
Follow the path, I thought to myself.
The animation kicked in and the sounds of the jungle came alive around me.
I heard the family snorting and snuffling of the water buffalo and headed down the trail toward the sound.
I arrived at the water's edge.  Down the shore to my left was Trader Sam.
To my right was the water buffalo and the python scene.
Ahead of me, a silent and empty jungle river.
I glanced at my watch.  We would be open for business in about fifteen minutes.
I searched down river for any sign of the skiff over by Schweitzer Falls.
Checking up river, past Sam, I scanned for the vessel---expecting its bow to nose into view any second.
The water buffalo snorted and snuffed.
The python weaved toward it repetitively.
A growing wave of suspicion crashed over my consciousness.
"Attention Skippers, we have a report of a missing Skipper---last seen manning the Mekong.  Be on the lookout!" came my lead's voice over the P.A.
Through the thick foliage I heard giggling coming from the dock.
Like so many of the guests on my Jungle boats, I had been taken.
There is no way off that island without a boat or a swim.
I trudged back through the brush and peeked out to where I could see the unload dock and the catwalk.
I could see my lead.  I could see the dockhands.  I could see the skippers leaning out of their boats toward me as they floated along the loading dock.
I smiled and nodded and raised my hands above my shoulders in a shrug of surrender.
No one, of course, was making any move to render assistance to me.
I put my hands on my hips and did my best pantomime of a person impatiently for their dog to come to them when called.
The boats bobbed.
The engines hummed.
The Jungle drums pounded in the distance.
The water buffalo snorted.
And everyone ahead of me suddenly returned to their daily business.
Time passed.
I tried to find another spot where I could make eye contact and plead for rescue.
Stumbling back through the brush I walked along the trail, suddenly very cognizant of the fact that real critters lived here amongst all the animatronic ones.  We had seen rats as big a raccoons during many a night cruise.
There were spiders, too.  Not as big as the ones guarding the ancient Cambodian shrine---but close.
Through the trees to my left I could see the gorillas ransacking the Lost Safari's camp.
I knew I was heading nowhere.
I turned back and came to the rear of the hut.
We were minutes from opening.
I did NOT want to become part of the attraction.  If a supervisor appeared now, I was dead.
Walked out.
In short, fear now crept into the forefront of my mind, along with anxiety, anger, annoyance, perplexity and histrionic befuddlement.
I was alone in the Jungle and at the mercy of a mischievous lead and a callous crew of skippers.

(To be continued...)


P.S. There is still time to get your own custom Jungle t-shirt Jungleteers!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Disneyland - Jungle Load and Spiel Intro

Climb on in, please, there's plenty of room.
That's right, take a seat.
Scooch in, it's a bit of a squeeze.
That's because Doug and Tim, our boat loaders, used to work in a sardine factory.
Until they got canned.
So they joined the circus; took a job on the flying trapeze.
They held on for as long as they could.But they were let go.
Next they tried their luck as human cannoballs.
They were fired on the spot.

Fortunately, they landed here.
In the Jungle.
And they are doing such a fine job, that it looks like we are are fully loaded.
(Which is the only way to go into the jungle, if you ask me).
Let me remind you that the Jungle Cruise is a high speed, turbulent, roller-coaster type ride through space. Expectant mothers, persons with heart conditions, motion sickness or back problems should not attempt to ride this attraction.
Our boat has been pressurized for your safety and comfort, in the event of a devastating loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down from above your head. At that time, take the mask and place it over your nose and mouth and begin breathing normally. Even though the bag does inflate, oxygen will be flowing. Be sure to secure your own mask before assisting any child accompanying you.
Sit well back in your seats, make sure your seat backs are fully upright, your tray tables closed and all carry-on items stored beneath your seat or in the overhead bins...and we are off.
Like a dirty t-shirt.
Like old fish in the fridge.
Like the dinosaurs.
Like zipper boots and polyester leisure suits.
Now turn around, if you will, and wave a fond farewell to the folks back on the dock.
Where are my manners?
My name is Mike and I'll be your skipper and guide for the next seven adventurous days and 12 romantic evenings.
Keep your ruddy hands on board and watch your small children---(in best pirate voice), "That be the best way to repel boarders."
We are entering the tropical rain forest where it rains over three hundred and sixty seven days a year, largely due to the sprinklers in the trees above you.
Before we go any further, raise your right hands and repeat after me the Jungle Cruise Oath:

I hope...
(crew on boat: "I hope")
that I...
("that I")


Speaking of alive, if the boat should take on water, capsize or sink along the way, remember small children and people with Mickey Mouse T-shirts may be used as personal flotation devices.

The foregoing, and several variations thereof, launched many of my poor boats on journeys into the deepest parts of the Jungle.  Ah, the purity, the directness, the joy of the spiel.
Wouldn't mind jumping on a boat right now, grabbing the throttle and working my poor, captive audience.



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Disneyland - The Main Street Area Locker

After depositing my time card at Custodial Control's tight quarters tucked behind Carnation Plaza Gardens, I would set out for my summer shift on Main Street.
It was a closing shift on "Center," smack down the middle of Main Street.
I came on at 4:00 p.m. and would be there until my shift ended just about 12:30 a.m.
As I left the bustling little custodial offices, I would bump against fellow sweepers coming on for the closing shifts.
Most were tan and had come from a day spent lounging on Huntington Beach or Seal Beach or Corona Del Mar.  The joy of a closing shift was you were up late, slept in, and usually arranged to meet with your co-cast members to hang out during the day---often at a beach during those summer months.
It was the mid-80's, so just about everyone sported Ray Bans---classic Wayfarer sunglasses.
Jack Nicholson.
Risky Business.
"Where're you at tonight?"
"Who's the lead over there?"
"Aronson.  He's pretty cool.  You?"
"I'm over on Main Street with Fraser."
"Can't beat that."
"Heck no."
"Say Hi to Arthur.  Saw him over at the Plaza on my way in."
"Yeah, me, too.  I'll tell him you're in Fantasyland tonight.  You know he'll ask."
"Going out tonight after work?"
"I don't know yet.  I'm still tired from the Over-The-Line tournament.  It's hard to run in sand."
"See you around.  Lunch at In-Between?"
"Yes.  Same time.  Save us one of the bigger tables if you get there first."
Turning to my right, pan and broom in hand, I would step out the door, walk through Plaza Gardens (pictured above circa 1987) and head across the Hub (shown below circa 1985) toward the middle of Main Street.
At the far end of East Center Street there was (and still is) a large gate leading "backstage."  Here is an old view of East Center Street from the late 1970s.  The gate of which I speak is around the corner of the building on the right side of the picture---the building where the famous Market House is located.  Of course, since the photograph was taken a locker facility opened at this location, along with an ice cream service stand.
I would open the gate and make a left turn past a large pine tree (which I believe is still there---in the picture below you can see its branches and shadow falling over the face of the building in the background).  Tucked near the huge trunk of this tree was a white area locker filled with custodial supplies.
Immediately east of this locker was a large metal trash compactor.  It looked like the back of a trash truck.
Parked alongside the compactor were two large wheeled trash carts that were used for dumping the cans along Main Street.
To the north of this location was Central First Aid ("CFA"), with several ambulance vehicles parked behind it.
I once took out the side of a CFA ambulance van with a Main Street trash cart, but that is another story for another day.
The area locker was the "nerve center" of the custodial department's operations on Main Street.  Here is where the lead would meet with his crew, hand out sweeping schedules, post lunch and break times, conduct training exercises and other such business.
There always seemed to be at least one or two sweepers lingering in this area---on their way to, or coming back from, a break, a lunch, or the beginning or end of a shift.
The locker was stocked with everything a sweeper's heart could desire: white five gallon buckets, scrub brushes, extra pan brooms, push brooms, cleaning solutions of every kind and color, stacks of towels, paper towels, green-handled "grabber" tools, squirt bottles, Disneyland Souvenir Guides and maps, flashlights, gum scrapers, trash bags, hoses, nozzles---you name it.
We met here before and after parades and fireworks displays---standing in a huddle around our lead and his trusty aerial view map of Main Street.
He would assign us positions and plot out our attack on post-parade cleanup duties like a World War II squad leader.
"Kelly, East Side.  You'll push-broom the sidewalks into the street for the street vacs.  Helmuth, you've got one of the vacs.  Toth, West Side broom duty.  Grubb, you'll take Plaza.  Ingram, man the other vac starting at the Hub.  Stacy, you've got Town Square..."
And so on.
"Remember everyone, hands on handles and watch for feet!"
This line still rings in my memory.
Pushing a wide broom in a crowd of guests presented a hazard.
We were trained to keep one hand over the very top of the push broom handle as we wielded it.
This was meant to protect against jabbing the eye, stomach or head of someone passing by with the top of the wooden broom handle as we swept, since it was easy to lose sight of what was behind you as you went into the backstroke of a sweeping motion.
The "watch for feet" caution was obvious, but necessary.
Guests walking along Main Street were not anticipating a sweeper with a large push broom stepping into their path.  They could easily trip over the brush end of the broom, or even its handle, as you earnestly moved the head of the broom along the ground in front of you.
I learned quickly to make my presence known to guests and to sweep between the meandering throngs without taking anyone to the pavement (hopefully).
I especially liked the comraderie of the area locker.
It was the scene of many practical jokes, squirt bottle fights, party planning, water cooler talk, story sharing and team meetings.  It often doubled as a break area, too.
Our leads seemed cool to me.
They had walkie-talkies and were always radio-ing in to "Custodial Control."
We were like the Secret Service or the FBI of trash and clean up duty for Disneyland.
"Custodial 3, Ops. 1.  10-87 me at City Hall."
"Ops. 1, Custodial 3. 10-4."
Ooh...Ops. 1.
The big Kahuna.
The Head Honcho.
Disneyland's operational CEO.
"Ops. 1" controlled the whole Park.
Attractions, custodial, you name it.
The person assigned to Ops. 1 duty was responsible for meticulously maintaining Disneyland's "show" for all of its guests.
They made sure everything ran smoothly.
When "Ops. 1" called on the radio, you better hope that you heard the call.
And you'd better answer quickly.
Our interaction with Ops. 1 usually involved an emergency clean up in a high profile location like an attraction, or the train station, or City Hall.
Believe me, our lead would snap into action when responding to such a call.
Usually with two or three of us scurrying right behind him.
We'd arrive, assess the situation, go into triage mode, cordone off the area (if necessary) and attack the problem.
If the restroom on West Center Street flooded (again), they we were in an instant, with plumbers not far behind.
An overflowing trash can just outside City Hall?  Our trash guy was bolting over there to dump it.
Someone threw up between the trolley tracks in front of the Candy Palace?
To the rescue!
Vomitus splayed out on the street, just in front of the window where a cast member was busily preparing a large batch of peanut brittle made for "Bad Show" indeed.
At the end of our shift, we would finish our closing routine and meet back at the locker before grabbing our time cards and heading to our wardrobe lockers to change for the ride home.
"Good night, guys!  Thanks!"
"See you tomorrow."
"What's everyone doing right now?"
"Man, it's almost 12:30 a.m., I'm going home to sleep."
"Some of us are heading to HoJo's."
"Not me.  I'll catch you next time."
"Come on!  They've got coffee!"
"Are they even open still??"
And the voices would fade behind me as I trudged homeward.
It never grew old.
Still hasn't, actually.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Disneyland - Custodial Sweeps

It may seem odd but perhaps one of the best cast member positions to hold in the Park is that of a sweeper.
At least it was in 1984.
Day Custodial back then assigned sweepers to an area within the park---say Main Street, Main Gate.
You were essentially given your own little slice of Disneyland to walk and maintain during your shift.
If you worked long enough in custodial, your assignments would take you practically everywhere in the Park.
Want to get to know Disneyland?
Be a sweeper.
Spend a full shift cycling through Thunder Trail, Matterhorn Alley, Tomorrowland Entrance, Main Street, The Hub, The Plaza, Adventureland, New Orleans, etc.
Sweepers got to roam within their areas.
We interacted with ride operators, Outdoor Vending, Merchandise, Foods, you name it.
Back areas?  No problem.
Our custodial whites gave us an instant excuse to be just about anywhere.
"What are you doing here?"
"Um, Control sent me, seems we have a leaky restroom to clean."
"Oh.  Good luck with that."
"No problem, gotta go."
You get the picture.
Parades on Main Street?  Got to see every one of them while steadily sweeping the walkways.
Also got to clean up after them.
Confetti is fun while it's in the air.  After that, not so much.
Cigarette butts?  Popcorn bits?  Wrappers?  Napkins? Money?
A sweeper's eye could pick up these objects along the ground from hundreds of feet away.
Over you would stroll and, with a snap of a tiny broom and the clank of your metal pan, the object would disappear.
What about Guest interaction?
Disney was smart.  Its surveys showed that no other cast member position had as much guest interaction as a sweeper.
At one point, Disney really was selective in the types of people they would put into this role.
Outgoing, friendly, humble, amazing, humorous, dynamic, enthusiastic, generous, courteous and helpful.
And that was just me!
But, not surprisingly, I digress.
The point I'm making, if I actually have a point, is that a sweeper got to know the layout of the Park deeply, intimately, literally from the ground up.
Every trash can, every restroom, every vending cart location, every balloon girl, every drinking fountain, every attraction line, every cash register, every shop, every security post, every backstage entrance/exit, every flower bed, every nook, corner and cranny.
What exactly is a "cranny," by the way?  For the record, it is "(1) a small, narrow opening in a wall, rock, etc.; chink; crevice; fissure, or (2) a small out-of-the-way place or obscure corner," according to, which is never wrong.
We even got to enter the attractions after closing and sweep out the line---or sometimes venture inside on a "walk through" with the closing ride operator.
I've walked the Mansion, Pirates, Matterhorn (all the way to the top), every Fantasyland ride (from Alice to Pinocchio), Space Mountain, America Sings, Big Thunder, Country Bear Jamboree, Tiki, CircleVision and Tom Sawyer's Island.
All because I was once a sweeper.
And, as I am sure I've mentioned before, if nothing else, being a sweeper as a young lad taught one humility.
Those horses pulling trolleys on Main Street?  Yeah, they aren't trained to "hold it," if you know what I mean.
The size and scope of a mess that a Percheron can leave behind in the middle of the street can be truly breathtaking.  In more ways than one.
Sweepers would measure horse droppings by how many pans it took to clean up.  A 3-4 pan mess was not unusual.
And you got to perform this task in the middle of Disneyland, before hundreds of ---usually clapping--- guests.
An ostentatious and meretricious bow upon completion of this task was usually the best way to handle things.
Another digression.
What I am getting to here, ever so sluggishly and deliberately, is that sweepers really got to know the people and places within the Park.
Face it, if you worked in attractions you got to know your attractions and the people who worked them with you, but that was it.  A cast member in a Pirate costume could not wander freely through Tomorrowland without garnering the attention of an Operations Manager (or two).  Storybook Land Canal girls could not stroll through Adventureland or  New Orleans Square (at least not in costume).
True, Attractions had the glamour.
Most everyone wanted to be in Attractions.
Heck.  I did.
But, looking back, I am most grateful that my first role as a cast member was a sweeper.
Scanning through many of my older posts, I see how my viewpoint was framed by those experiences in a very positive way.
Besides, when I'm in the Park...
...I always know where the closest restroom or drinking fountain is.
Without hesitation.


P.S.  Our Jungle shirts continue to make a stir - order yours on E-bay before they're all gone!  Take a look at the listing.