Friday, March 16, 2012

Jungle is "101" - Disneyland's Jungle Cruise And Other Disneyland Stuff: Disneyland - Bats Day

Jungle is "101" - Disneyland's Jungle Cruise And Other Disneyland Stuff: Disneyland - Bats Day: Long after my initial romp as a Disneyland cast member, starting in 1999, a curiously strange and clearly "unofficial" event began at the Pa...

Disneyland - Bats Day

Long after my initial romp as a Disneyland cast member, starting in 1999, a curiously strange and clearly "unofficial" event began at the Park - Bats Day.
It started as a promotion put on between "goth/industrial and death rock clubs Absynthe and Release the Bats," according to the official Bats Day site at
Gee, when I worked there I think Sparks was about the most "cutting edge" thing to enter the Park.
Now, a hapless guest at Disneyland on the weekend of May 18 - 20, 2012 will stumble upon herds of folk in black "Goth" attire, eye liner, pancake makeup, fishnets, high leather boots and occasional vampire fangs.
And those are just the toddlers of the group, tagging along in strollers with their similarly-clad mums and dads.
Disneyland and Goth/Death Rock.
Practically peas and carrots, coffee and donuts, salt and pepper, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis, Simon and Garfunkel, or any other natural pairing, right?
I remember stumbling into my first Bats Day as a guest.
A child in black crepe with eye liner and black lipstick was walking ahead of me with a Mickey Mouse balloon in his small hand.
His proud parents, dressed as what can best be described as a zombie bride and groom, walked on either side of him, beaming with parental pride (as much as folks can "beam" while wearing pasty white makeup!).
I paused.
A longtime resident of Southern California, I chalked it up as a typically family visiting from the San Fernando Valley or maybe North Hollywood.
But then I saw another group of folks in similar dark attire.
And another.
Soon enough I began to feel somewhat out of place in shorts, t-shirt, Nikes and a baseball cap.
Putting self-consciousness aside, I decide to strike up a conversation with one of these guests, to see just what in the heck was up.
"Hi. I'm Mike and I love the top hat and death's head cane! Are you guys with a wayward youth group or something?"
"Oh no," came the friendly and smiling reply, "It's Bats Day!"
Now I had been in and around Disneyland for many decades, but "Bats Day" had never made it onto my Park radar.
He may as well have told me it was "Opossums Day" or "Capybaras Day."
"Ah. Bats Day," I said.
"What...uh...what is Bats Day?"
"It's like when Goth people come to Disneyland for some fun. This is our second year!"
Clearly this was no accident. It appeared to be an event that happened regularly.
"Well, have a great time! Enjoy the Haunted Mansion!"
"Oh, we've been on that three times already! Now we're going to Snow White!"
That went well, I thought.
The rest of the day, in lines, along walkways, in shops and food service locations, I encountered and conversed with Bats Day participants, never quite getting the concept but enjoying the outfits and conversations.
I felt like the guy giving candy on Halloween.
"Look! What a cute little undertaker/dark overlord! Honey, come see!"
Without exception, the people I met were nice, happy to share and genuinely were enjoying themselves.
Maybe this year I'll sport a Dead Skipper or Guest-Control-of-the-Damned costume.
Disney does not officially sanction this gathering, but they seem happy enough to sell admissions, churros and bat-Mickey ears to the participants.
Well, I'll be da...darned.
Hurry! You have only about 60 days to get your outfit together, book your hotel and rent a hearse for the 2012 edition of Bats Day(s)!
Oh, the angst!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Disneyland - Starcade

The crowded cosmic alley that the Space Mountain exit dumps you into, where you can get a photograph of you riding on the attraction or make a quick restroom run, also leads to what was once...

...the Starcade.

In the days before everyone had three gaming systems at home, an iPhone and an iPad, people would actually pay a quarter to play a single video game.
Oooh!  Tell us more, Uncle Mike.
It's true, children.
Why, you can still find some of these old-fashioned, coin-operated video game machines at places like your local miniature golf "family fun center," or the waiting areas of some restaurants, or in dimly-lit, smoke-filled bars that sell Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap and smell of decades of spilled pilsner.
In the mid-1980s, there was even a really goofy TV game show called "Starcade" in which contestants played video games for prizes.  Check it out...

I lived through the 80s.
I can safely say that somehow, I never knew of, nor did I ever see even a moment of, "Starcade" back then.
I only came across it in a search for Disneyland's "Starcade," which actually debuted at the Park in 1977 along with Space Mountain.
It had that late 70s vibe.
It had two stories of video and arcade games!
Air hockey?
How about 10 or more tables?
Even Star Wars made an appearance eventually.
Two stories of arcade!
Nowadays, the arcade is confined to the lower level, with two escalators to nowhere blocked off on the first floor.
An old X-wing fighter hangs from the ceiling above the dormant escalators.
No lines for the hottest machine.
No rows of quarters lined up to "reserve" a machine for the next game.
No groups of people milling around.
More merchandise location than arcade.
Even the Peoplemover no longer glides by the second level (or anywhere else in Tomorrowland for that matter!).
The bands cannot be heard from the Space Mountain stage either, since it was long ago covered over for such 3-D extravaganzas as "Magic Journeys," "Captain Eo" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!"
It isn't the lively and bright area it was in the late 70s and early 80s.
It looks like Today finally caught up with Tomorrowland.
Such is life, no?

For now, friends, a fond adieu!
And here's to a great big beautiful Tomorrow!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Disneyland - Pirates Adventures

Having friends in New Orleans/Bear Country Attractions had its benefits.
Among them, the chance to join in the fun before opening or during special events and parties when the Pirates of the Caribbean would be opened up for a cast member tour (some official, most---and the best---unofficial).
If you have never seen the Pirates from outside the boat, let me tell you, you've missed something special.
The Pirates show building sits on the south side of the berm and takes up a good portion of the backstage area behind New Orleans Square.
Like Small World, Pirates has walkways that track the flume where the boats go.
They wind in and out of the "on stage" scenes, blinking back and forth from cavern to chicken wire and plaster (the backside of the rocks that make up the sea caves of the attraction).
There are gangways for access to lighting and sound elements.
A large room near the end of the attraction makes up "boat storage."
You can see the access to boat storage just after you pass under the laughing pirate and enter the burning jail scene.
The backstage areas literally look like a soundstage or a true "back stage." Lots of plywood, 2x4s, wires, electrical boxes, light fixtures and the like.
Most of the back stage consists of walkways with wooden railings.
These are lit with the old style light bulbs in little wire cages to protect the bulbs from being broken when bumped by a ladder or some other contrivance as the maintenance crew works behind the scenes.
Deep in the bowels of the attraction, one will find the pump room.
It is an all-important part of a water-based attraction.
Imagine the amount of water those pumps push through each day!
While you are enjoying your trip, there is an entire crew of maintenance personnel keeping the water flowing, the lights lit, the fire detection/response system operational and the audio-animatronics moving smoothly.
Oh, and they can see you.
Really see you.
Those romantic trips as a teen in the back of the boat through the darkest parts of the ride?
They saw you.
Infrared cameras televise it all to the control tower so that safety can be maintained.
I've heard tell there are still some ancient video tapes floating around with some pretty racy scenes of guests getting the most out of the attraction.
Next time you're feeling amorous in the POTC, be sure to turn and smile!
It'll make some cast member's day!

Gotta run for now.
You guys stay here with the boat.
And don't eat anything Sam tries to sell you.

Trust me.