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!