Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Disneyland Musings - Volume 3 - Nights In The Wheelhouse

[Thanks to John Perry for his clear scan above].

The Mark Twain costume consisted of a crisp white shirt, a red string tie, a navy vest, navy pants, and a captain's cap. On cold evenings in the fall, a wool pea coat rounded out the costume. Up in the wheelhouse, I would wave down to the guests on the Frontier Landing. As we got under way, we would let a family come up and join me. I would let their child (or children) have a crack at "steering" the vessel with the large wooden wheel. They would be permitted to tug at the steam whistle as we rounded the New Orleans bend and then they would pull on the bell rope. Such simple events were universally (and deeply) enjoyed by both the kids and their parents. It made my job enjoyable (as if it weren't already). At the end of the trip, I'd pull out a "Pilot's Certificate" from the desk in the wheelhouse and fill it out for my most recent "assistant." This little "plus" made the attraction all the more special for those few guests who had the opportunity to come up and steer for a while. Here is a nice photo essay on the view from the wheelhouse.

On a slow night, we would pick up a small group of passengers and steam gently down the Rivers of America. Our proud sternwheeler was sparkling with lights along its decks. The water was dark and still and reflected our brightness in swirling, sparkling waves that fanned out from our bow. I would listen to the narration and dutifully sound our whistle and bells (one short blast and one long one as we got under way, with a round of bells following). Upon our return I would blast the whistle and ring the bells as we neared Cascade Peak. Then it was down the stairs to the main deck where I would help our guests disembark.

During those magical night trips around the river, there were some wonderful quiet moments, especially as we floated by the Hungry Bear restaurant and into the "wilderness." We would wave at the passengers on the Disneyland Railroad as their train clicked by along the river's edge. Our lighted decks illuminated the trees and fauna along the banks. There was the old Chief raising his hand slowly in solemn greeting atop his fine horse. The warm glow of the flames from the settler's cabin appeared on our starboard side and the wheelhouse filled with orange and yellow. For a few moments out there in the back country, you were immersed in the experience. You really were on some American river, on a sternwheeler, seeing Indians and wildlife on your way to a river port with a load of cotton. You heard the steam churning the pistons that powered our massive propulsion wheel. You heard the water splashing behind us and saw the reeds of the shoreline slipping past. On all decks, no matter where you were, you felt it. It was real. If only for a time.

In the summer, we would stop our vessel out here in the back country. It was dark and wonderful. Above the trees to the port side, the sky would erupt in explosions of color and sound as the Fantasy In The Sky fireworks show began. The Fireworks Cruise was one of those Disneyland "secrets" that even seasoned cast members relished. I always hoped that my place in the rotation would have me piloting the Mark Twain for the Fireworks Cruise during my shift. As I think of it now, there was no better spot in all the world to view the fireworks. We were stopped and we shut off our lights. The trees in that area of the river were tall, established and kept things nice and dark. Consequently, the bursts of fireworks above the tree tops were all the more brilliant. Most of our passengers were in the know, but the few who weren't were instantly amazed and pleasantly surprised when they learned why the ship suddenly stopped and went dark. No, were weren't "101." We were providing a special "plus" to our guests.

After Fantasmic arrived on the scene, the Fireworks Cruise ceased to be. Indeed, nightly cruises were almost completely a thing of the past. This lessened the magic of the river. New Orleans at night without the Mark Twain rolling into view, with its decks ablaze in lights, is missing something. The throngs massed along the river's edge for the nightly Fantasmic showing don't know what they're missing. For those of us fortunate enough to have made one or two Fireworks Cruises on the Mark Twain in our day, the memories are sweet.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Disneyland - Tahitian Terrace - Summer 1980 Article

Today's post takes us back to the Summer of 1980 and a brief article about my beloved Tahitian Terrace that appeared as a two-page spread in both the Disneyland Vacationland magazine (Summer 1980, Vol. 24, No. 2---at pages 14-15), published 3 times a year by Walt Disney Productions, Disneyland Division, and in Disney News (the official magazine for the Magic Kingdom Club - Summer 1980, Vol. 15, No. 3---at pages 2-3, shown below)---Note the identical cover photographs; the content of the two publications was not completely identical, however.
The above article ignited my nostalgia. Ah, there was definitely excitement in the air in Adventureland when the drums of the Tahitian Terrace Polynesian Revue began their rythmic rumbling. The smell of chicken teriyaki and pineapple drifted through the foliage as you made your way into Adventureland, just past the Enchanted Tiki Room. The Tahitian Terrace was sponsored by Kikkoman International, Inc. and its famous soy sauce. The article provides a nice one-paragraph history of soy sauce ("undoubtedly man's oldest prepared condiment") for those who need to fill in this blank in their knowledge base.

As for me, I love the photographs, which detail the stage, the dancers and, of course, the food. The fire dancer depicted at the top right of page 1 is a bit smaller than the fellow who was performing in that role at the time of the infamous "black footed rock hopper" incident at the Jungle Cruise, as chronicled earlier in this blog.

Of course, for those of you who long for a taste of the Tahitian Terrace, the article offers us a culinary time machine by providing a recipe for Chicken Teriyaki like that served at the restaurant.

Leafing through the Summer 1980 Vacationland magazine also called to mind a list of places, people and things that aren't here anymore:
  • Wonder Bread
  • Disneyland ticket books (Big 11 - $8.50/adult; Deluxe 15 - $9.25/adult; General Admission - $7.00/adult)
  • Harvey Korman (who starred in Herbie Goes Bananas alongside Cloris Leachman---the movie was released in 1980)
  • Movieland Wax Museum
  • Hanna-Barbera's Marineland
  • the Main Street Electrical Parade---on Main Street (nightly at 8:50 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.)
  • the shops of the old Disneyland Hotel
  • a good portion of the "New York Street" area of Universal Studios' famous back lot (lost to a recent fire)
  • Walt Disney Productions (now known as The Walt Disney Company) and, of course,
  • the Tahitian Terrace itself.
Later, I'll try and post some of the old ads from the magazine---they're a real treat.

As for now, a fond Aloha! to our lost (but never forgotten) friend, the Tahitian Terrace.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Disneyland 1987 - The "Disney Look" For Cast Members

Well, Disneylanders, if our time machine has dropped us in 1987 and we want to work at the Park, let's make sure that we at least meet the grooming requirements. To help you in this process, please review the brochure below entitled The Disney Look. I actually worked with several of the folks pictured in these pages, by the way. See anyone you recognize?

[By the way, it took WED's resources and a talented team of Imagineers to develop and maintain Robert's hair---pictured above. It's hard to find that kind of Disney magic today].

Disneyland Cast Members 1987 - Outdoor Vending Yellows; The Disney Look

An earlier poster, "Yellows," from Outdoor Vending ("ODV" for you few Disneyphiles who might be out of this loop) recalled her costume and this made me run and dig up my 1987 version of "The Disney Look," the Cast Member manual that set out Disney's expectations for maintaining your costume and appearance while On Stage. The young woman in the photograph above represents not only "The Disney Look," but also demonstrates the yellow costume worn by ODV types in the 1980s and earlier. It is clear that this shot was taken in or near Matterhorn Alley, just east of the Hub (the benches in the background give it away---as well as the fact that most balloon vendors were stationed near the Hub and, of course, Town Square, when they were on Main Street). The Yellows were often the subject of moaning and ridicule by Cast Members who wore them, but, looking back, those costumes were bright and friendly and tres Disney. I dare say that the polo shirt was a bit more comfortable than the thin, starchy custodial whites. On the other hand, Day Custodial's white cotton pants were quite comfortable and forgiving come July and August, I must say. My next post will be an upload of the 1987 "Disney Look," for those who did not have the good fortune to attend the Disney University back then (and for those who DID but forgot to keep their New Cast Member materials!).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Great Gray Beauty - Disneyland's Parking Lot; What Ever Happened To Slow Days?

A shot taken in the Pinocchio area of the Disneyland parking lot circa 1980-ish (long before Whoopi Goldberg invaded). This view is from the Thumper/Tinkerbell sections, looking north toward the west side of the Park (those are Jungle Cruise trees ahead of you there past the Monorail tracks. The parking lot's wide open expanse of asphalt stood in sharp contrast to the bright colors of Disneyland. Walt and the gang knew their stuff. The gray of reality was left behind as you entered the turnstiles and strode through the tunnel onto Main Street.

In 1984, I worked many shifts as a sweeper out at "Main Gate." This was the area comprised of the ticket booths and the main entrance (where the Mickey flower display is located). For one thing, "Main Gate" was a hot assignment in the summer. All that concrete and not a lot of trees added up to some serious ambient temperatures. By mid-day, "Main Gate" was pretty slow. Most guests were well into their visit and there were not many who would leave or enter the park at that time. I would chat with my fellow cast members at the turnstiles, ticket booths or strollers as I made my rounds. I got to know a few of the security guards out there, too. Those poor guys drove up and down that massive parking lot in un-air conditioned carts looking for law breakers. Talk about hot!

I like seeing the old tram in this photograph. The light blue seats and yellow trim stood out nicely against the asphalt. You also did not have to walk as far to get to a tram stop as you do with the new Mickey And Friends monolithic parking structure.

Better still, as a cast member, when you pulled into work from Harbor Boulevard and entered the employee parking area (on the northeastern side of the old parking lot), you could gaze across the guest parking area and get a visual indication as to how crowded or busy the Park was going to be that day. It's harder to do this today, because you can't easily see if all levels of Mickey & Friends are full.

Back when everyone parked in one big lot, you knew right away if you were facing a 25,000 day or a 60,000+ day.

Which brings me to my next point: slow days. One of the things I miss most in "modern" Disneyland is a true "slow" day. To stumble upon one is indeed a rarity. I mean a day when there is a small number of guests in the Park. A day when you can see lots of pavement. It's really difficult for a cast member who has worked opening or closing shifts (and consequently was able to amble through a completely open and empty Disneyland) to battle the maddening and seemingly omnipresent crowd. This is especially true at that "pinchpoint" located just in front of the River Belle Terrace, the Bengal Barbeque, the entrance to Indiana Jones, the entrance to Tarzan's Treehouse (gack!) and the eastern end of the bridge walkway that crosses over the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean. Next time you're in the Park, see if you can navigate through this dense spot of humanity without taking an elbow (or throwing one for that matter). It is usually filled with guests moving in all different directions and often has a number of simple-minded folk who have decided that the middle of this major walkway is a great spot to stop and have a group meeting to decide what attraction to visit next. Aarrrgggh! Does common sense EVER kick in with some people?? Doesn't it ever occur to them: "Hey?! I am creating an embolism, a thrombosis, in a main pedestrian artery! Maybe I should stop and have a chat someplace OTHER THAN HERE!"

In the end, it really isn't the guests' fault that this area is so susceptible to congestion. The guests didn't decide to locate the entrance to Tarzan's Treehouse at this ridiculous spot. The guests didn't build the bridge in front of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Nor did they have a say in the placement of queues and tables and all sorts of other contributing factors that make this spot possibly the worst pedestrian location in Disneyland. In fact, I state quite clearly---this IS the worst pedestrian location in Disneyland (followed closely by the Adventureland entrance near the restrooms and the south entrance to Frontierland).

Give me a slow day once in a while, where I can see my surroundings! I love my fellow guests and all, but the Park becomes a bit less of a...well...a park when it is so crowded you can't move.

Done with my mini-rant.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Disneyland - Tomorrowland Entrance - 1979-ish - Cast Member Photo

Look at this! Isn't Tomorrowland radiant? You simply could not take this photo today because the Astro Orbiter and its queue would be in your way. This is an "Area Shot" of the cast members taken in the early morning prior to opening. It is a gem and I thought I would share it with you, dear Reader!

How about old Adventure Thru Inner Space shining in the background!? I also love how the sun is reflecting off the pavement in Tomorrowland, as well as the old cobblestone walkway where the entrance to Tomorrowland met Main Street (i.e., under the folks in the photo).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Adventureland - Swiss Family Treehouse (Walt Disney World) June 21, 2008

On its own island in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom's Adventureland stands the Swiss Family Treehouse. We had the original at Disneyland until it was Eisnerized into Tarzan's Treehouse. My stomach has churned just a touch ever since. In a way, I felt transported back to Disneyland's Adventureland circa 1986-87. WDW's Treehouse is a bit different in its layout from Disneyland's original version, but the feel is very much the same. The Swisskapolka tune bounced from the organ in the treetop above and stirred fond memories of the past. As we scaled the tree, it was amazing how perfectly it fit into its surroundings. Talk about theming!
The walkway and stairs wind their way up through the branches, allowing us to peer into the Robinson's arboreal home. Each of their "rooms" is tucked into the branches and topped with a thatch of palm fronds for a roof. It is the realism of the Treehouse that helps sell its charm, in my opinion. You can imagine a family actually living in this space (the bed upstairs sure looks comfortable). In the story laid out in both the book and movie, the Robinsons used salvaged portions of their wrecked vessel to build their home (somehow they got the organ ashore AND about four stories up into a tree---thank Providence for all those pulleys, block and tackle they were able to retrieve from the wreck!).Central Florida's climate is utterly conducive to foliage that blends perfectly with the Treehouse. Take a look. It is tropical and beautiful.
In order to get to the base of the tree (on its own island) one must cross this bridge.
Of course, the ingenious system of running water remains impressive. The waterwheel, powered by the stream, operates pulleys that carry the water in bamboo "cups" high up into the tree, where it is deposited into a bamboo flume.

The Treehouse remains a gem. Thank Goodness attractions like the Swiss Family Treehouse, the Carousel of Progress and The Country Bear Jamboree remain unchanged at Walt Disney World so that those of us who loved them when they were part of Disneyland can still experience them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mike Fink Keel Boats - May 1997 Accident

Well...there went the Gullywhumper. On May 17, 1997, this overloaded Keel Boat was rocked side to side and then rolled over, with 49 guests aboard. The vessel was not designed to hold this capacity, especially with guests seated on the highest deck.

The photograph above shows the Disney team taking a look at the wreckage. This dumb accident led to the complete closure of the attraction. Now the Gullywhumper rots along the Rivers of America as a "prop." Doh!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Disneyland Musings - Volume 2 - Familiar Scents

Disneyland is not simply a three dimensional reality. It has additional dimensions of sound and smell that accompany all that our eyes perceive.

Smell is the sense said to be most directly linked to memory. When I smell diesel fumes, for example, a link appears in my mind to the Disneyland parking lot trams that I have boarded over the years. Indeed, the smell of diesel (or other fuel) links to a variety of vehicles in and around the Park: the subs, the Jungle Cruise, the Main Street vehicles, Storybookland.

Disneyland has many other familiar smells. How about the sticky mint julep and apple fritter smell in the direct vicinity of the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square? Or that moist, chlorine-ish, watery smell as you enter and exit the Pirates of the Caribbean? The smell of the trains of the Disneyland Railroad as they pull into the station? The smell of the moat in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle and at the entrances to Adventureland and Frontierland? For that matter, the smell of the Rivers of America and the waters of the Jungle Cruise? Popcorn at the Hub? Or the distinct, clean chlorine odor of the water as you enter It's A Small World.? Sticky pineapple in front of Tiki Room? Exhaust from Autopia cars? The planter in front of the Matterhorn? Even the shops on Main Street, especially The Emporium, have their own, unique aroma of new clothes, plush toys, and hundreds of guests! The train steaming through the tunnels (at Splash Mountain, just before Mickey's Toontown station, and at the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas) has its own heady aroma of diesel, steam, wood, oil, etc.

I'm sure there are many folks more olfactorily gifted than yours truly who could add to this meager list, but I have provided a start, a sampler. I am sure one could add things like the smell of turkey legs or peanut brittle (or whatever else is being cooked up at the candy shop on Main Street) or the odor smoke drifting by after the evening fireworks. Each person certainly will have their own memories of smells associated with the Park.

Thanks for allowing your noses to join me on this little jaunt. If you have a moment, please post some Disneyland "scent memories" of your own.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Disneyland Musings - Volume 1 - "Your Attention Please!"

The melodic recorded call of the conductor rings out from Main Street Station, Disneyland USA: "Your attention please! The Disneyland Limited now arriving from a trip around Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Passengers will stand by to board."

Jack Wagner's voice haunts my memories of the Park. It echoes from my earliest trip, unseen and beckoning. As I walked through the tunnel onto Main Street, I would hear that call time and again. Over the years, the recording has changed a bit, but it has still retained its tone and essential content. For most folk, Jack Wagner's is the first voice they hear of the many thousands recorded and calling to them from inside the berm. For those of us who have been to the Park hundreds and hundreds of times (if not more) it is as familiar as a favorite t-shirt. Its call rings through the years, at once present and distant. It is another one of those billion little details that makes Disneyland so utterly unique in our dark universe. I do not think anyone can adequately sum up the overall scope and span of Disneyland's architecture, design, ambiance and terroir. Like any work of art, each observer experiences it from their own perspective and takes away their own interpretation.

All I know is that I spent many, many hours and days sweeping Main Street and "Your attention please!" is ever present in the soundtrack of my recollection of those times. Since so many things about Disneyland were absolutely intended by its designers, it is probably no accident that one of the things you first hear upon entering the Park is an invitation, a call, to embark on a tour of the Magic Kingdom. I guess in a way it is like the Park itself is speaking the words to its guests: "Your Attention Please! You are now leaving your world and entering mine!"

On quiet nights while working unload on the Jungle Cruise, the call from the Main Street station would float in over the treetops of the Jungle. I found myself stopping and soaking it up on those occasions. It always happened on slow nights and between boats. The Jungle sounds were always present, along with the trickle of water and the organ piping in from the Swiss Family Treehouse. Amidst all that, alone on the dock in relative quietude, the far off call would come. It was faint but certain. Like the pinpoint glint of a distant lighthouse. Even as a cast member of several years and a lifetime Disneyland goer, the call seemed fresh and new. Somewhere inside part of me responded, yes! Where do I board?!

So here's to Walt! Here's to Jack Wagner! Here's to Disneyland! A simple toast of thanks for inviting us in and sharing some real magic with each of along the way. Many happy returns!

"Last call! Booooooaard!"

(My sincere thanks to davelandweb.com for the classic photo of the west tunnel main entrance at the top of this post).

Signs Around the Grounds of Disney's Polynesian Resort

Today we are going to take a look at signs from around the Polynesian---in no particular order. We begin our little tour with the signs at the entrance to the Hawaii longhouse and Concierge Lounge. Ahhh. I can still feel the blast of cool, air-conditioned air as the sliding doors open! What's on the menu upstairs today? BBQ pulled pork with whole grain buns and Asian slaw? Spirit of Aloha chicken drumsticks and fried rice? Marinated turkey skewers with peanut sauce? Kona Sticky Wings? It's all good, my friends.
This sign greets you as you walk back to the Polynesian from the Transportation and Ticket Center ("TTC"). The TTC is almost due east of the Polynesian's grounds. I need to found the Polynesian font to download onto my computer!
Here's the path leading to Hawaii from the Volcano Pool. Too bad the landscaping isn't lush, the resort isn't centrally located, the food isn't good and the kids hate the Volcano Pool. Otherwise, we'd simply love staying here.
Here's the sign posted next to the service counter in the Concierge Lounge. All you foodies can set your clocks to the daily service (or services) of your choice. I'm partial to Kakahiaka (although I don't recommend saying this out loud while eating) and Ahiahi (which sounds as though one is being tickled when spoken aloud).
Here is the building where you can find the Never Land Club and do some laundry while you're at it. God bless Rolly Crump!
Above is the directional sign located just behind the bus stop, near the Monorail tracks, on the path that leads past the Never Land Club in one direction (to the right, as shown in the photograph) and back toward the main entrance of the Grand Ceremonial house in the other direction (to the left or almost straight ahead). Here we also find our wooden friend, Uti, one of many tiki statues designed by Disney legend Rolly Crump. He shows up at several locations around the resort. The fish he has speared symbolizes hospitality.
This sign is located on the path leading to the Hawaii longhouse (and Concierge Lounge aka the King Kamehameha Club) from the "quiet pool" or "east pool." The longhouse directly in front of the viewer in the photograph is Samoa. If you walk to the right of the sign and down the path between Samoa and Hawaii, you will come to the Volcano Pool. Of course, walking to your left will lead you back toward the GCH and Luau Cove!
This one is on the path leading toward the bus stop from the Quiet Pool area of the grounds. You can see the Monorail track in the background. If you take a left, you're off to do laundry (or can drop off the kids at the Neverland Club). Or, swing a right and head back to the GCH for some Lapu Lapus at the Tambu Lounge.
Now you are walking from the GCH toward the TTC. The building in front of you houses the Tongaroa Terrace banquet facility and the Never Land Club.

This concludes our tour for today. For those of you departing here, please be sure to collect your personal belongings and take small children by the hand as you exit.