Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hidden Gems: Haunted Mansion Bullet Hole

I guess we'll keep this short, since Disney Parks officials have confirmed very little information on this subject to the public. That said, a rather disturbing truth stands that around the summer of 1974, a guest concealed a firearm within the park and fired off multiple rounds. The two confirmed gunshots struck both the ballroom wall in the Haunted Mansion, and a snowflake on Adventure Thru Inner Space, respectively. A third hole was found in the Primeval World diorama on the train, and is speculated to have been made by the same culprit.

Not an actual photograph
Many rumors have circulated that perhaps it was a kid causing trouble, or maybe a drunk that snuck into the park at night. All we know for certain (thanks to an Anaheim police investigation) is that it was indeed a .22 caliber round in both cases, due to bullet fragments matching at both scenes. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it still makes one question if park security has heightened since the event. It was 39 years ago, so I don't think we have to worry. Bag-checking customs and incognito security guards are everywhere.

So can you still see the bullet holes? Not exactly. But next time you ride the Haunted Mansion, when you leave the ballroom scene with dancing ghosts just before entering Madame Leota's room, look out for a spiderweb on the glass in front of you. That was Disney's solution to covering up the incident. Supposedly the pane of glass is so large, that replacing it would mean destroying the roof of the building.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Golden Age of Disneyland

Disneyland is perhaps the most celebrated, and certainly the most iconic amusement park on planet earth. More than 16 million guests of all ages walk through those gates each year, to live the dream that Walt promised on opening day - that Disneyland would be "a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."

Last week, Disneyland commemorated its 58th anniversary. It has enchanted guests for nearly 60 years. I decided that to celebrate the occasion, I would look back on all 58 years of park history and single out Disneyland's best year. Obviously I haven't been around to experience all 58 years of Disneyland, so this choice is subjective. I will be choosing the best year based on what attractions were present in the park, thus, what year was the most ideal to visit Disneyland. Let's begin.

In the 1960s, the park was just beginning to come into form. The cherished It's A Small World came in 1966. New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean appeared in 1967. The Haunted Mansion came in 1969. However, the only true thrill ride in the park was the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and by 1969 it had already been around for a decade. In addition to the Matterhorn, 1959 had also brought about my all-time favorite ride, the Submarine Voyage. Disneyland had only just begun pandering to its older guests by the end of the 60s.

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, which opened in 1963
Well, the 1970's were probably the biggest decade in Disneyland history. Long-haired males were finally allowed into the park, following the lifting of the ban that tried to keep hippies out. To start things off in 1970, the "yippies" invaded Disneyland, forcing the riot squad to show up and close the park early. In 1972, a copy of Disney World's Country Bear Jamboree appeared in Bear Country. Though Splash Mountain wasn't to be seen for many years, Tom Sawyer's Island and Frontierland now offered more than just hayrides and live animals.

America Sings replaced the Carousel of Progress in 1974, so the Carousel Theater was being put to more use than ever. As we all know, Tomorrowland is currently in desperate need of renovation. But in the mid-1970s, Tomorrowland was in its prime. Following the moon landing in '69, the popularity of space age technology and culture was in full swing.

The Rocket Jets soared above Tomorrowland. The Peoplemover was as vibrant as ever. The awesome Adventure Thru Inner Space was still in operation, and would remain so until 1985. Tomorrowland was still relevant, and still futuristic. Imagine a time when Tomorrowland truly felt like an advanced world, and not a dilapidated remnant of what the 80's would consider futuristic. So we can easily say that Disneyland's prime was sometime after 1974.

Unfortunately, the beloved Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland disappeared in 1977. It was said to be one of the most popular rides in history, and Walt Disney's personal favorite ride. Being one of the most classic and inventive attractions in Disneyland's history, the day the Mine Train shut down was a dark day in Disneyland. So I suppose we can determine that Disneyland's best year was between 1974 and 1977. But how to narrow it down further?

It seems that yet again, Space Mountain is the game changer. Space Mountain debuted in 1977, between the short window of Mine Train's closing and the birth of the 1980's. With this, it stands to reason that 1977 was indeed, the best year in Disneyland history.

Let's recap:

•Tom Sawyer's Island
•Country Bear Jamboree
•Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland
•Mike Fink Keel Boats
•Rivers of America

•Vonroll Skyway
•Motor Boat Cruise
•Storybook Land Canal Boats
•King Arthur Carousel
•Captain Hook's Galley

•Submarine Voyage
•America Sings
•Rocket Jets
•Adventure Thru Inner Space
•Mission to Mars
•Space Mountain

Adventureland and New Orleans Square
Swiss Family Treehouse
•Jungle Cruise
•Enchanted Tiki Room
•Pirates of the Caribbean
•Haunted Mansion

So there you have it folks! Whether it's 1977, or 2013, Disneyland will always be a special place. Let's hope the next 58 years are just as magical.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Segway Lawsuit..?

Time for a serious post. Back in 2007, a woman sued the Disney Parks company over its policy disallowing two-wheeled vehicles. This means that motorized scooters and wheelchairs are good to go, but Segways? Not on their watch.

If you don't know what a Segway is, it's a two-wheeled transport device that changes speed and direction depending on which way the user is leaning.

The woman in question suffers from muscular dystrophy, a muscle disease which limits mobility and causes severe pain. People with MD use wheelchairs and sometimes Segways as a means of travel. The lawsuit began when this patron was denied entry to Walt Disney World because of their policy that bars Segways, among other devices, from the park. This case has recently made attention after a legal review of the park was done in court.

Is it completely unreasonable that Disneyland would prohibit Segways from the park? My answer is no. It would simply cause too much trouble to make every ride and attraction Segway-accessible. Remember that the park was built in 1955, without Segways in mind.

Personally, I fully encourage disabled persons to visit Disneyland. It is a very handicap-friendly environment, both in cast member service and in facilities. Many rides are designed to accommodate people with disabilities, including Space Mountain and It's A Small World. Maps are available in both Braille, and wheelchair-specific annotation. Most rides will escort handicapped guests straight to the front of the line. Even the stage shows have private sign-language showings for deaf or hearing-impaired guests.

But it seems that just because a new technology has reached the market, the park shouldn't have to fix all of these already-existent advantages. Until such a technology becomes available that it is an absolute necessity to the physically impaired, I think Disneyland should stay the way it is for now.

Caramel Kettle Corn

If you've ever stepped outside the park and taken a stroll through Downtown Disney, it is likely that the sweet aroma of this delicious snack has permeated your nostrils. The little stand sells both regular and caramel popcorn in large portions. If you're a fan of kettle corn, then this is a must-try. For a large bag, you are given a ridiculous amount of fresh, hot popcorn that smells and tastes fantastic.

And, if the amount is just too much for you -which it likely will be- just seal the bag up and save it for later. I promise you it will still taste great.

Price: $7-$9

Location: Downtown Disney

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Where Do Rides Go When They Die?

Where do the old Disneyland rides go after they die? This is a question I asked myself many times as a child. I remember watching many rides come and go. The Rocket Rods, the Mike Fink Keel Boats, and of course,  my all-time favorite ride: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Submarine Voyage (may it rest in peace).

The answer is more simple than most would imagine. They are dismantled, and the parts are sent back to the Disney boneyard, recycled for use in other attractions. Anything unusable becomes scrap, and is never seen by the public again. Many ride vehicles such as PeopleMover trains and Mr. Toad Cars are sold to collectors. Others remain in the park, re-painted and decorated for guests of newer generations to enjoy, and older generations to remember. Like this Rocket Jets pod and Midget Autopia car.

Others suffer a more tragic fate; they are silently discarded to rot in an empty lot where they will rust away for many years. The forgotten attractions of the past are sometimes truly forgotten.

Sometimes they are just placed arbitrarily in Disneyland for use as decoration, where guests can watch the decay firsthand.

Article here
But surely some rides can still be used after their run, right? Sadly, most of the time this is not the case. They are often rebuilt or replicated in other parks so that they can be enjoyed by others, in a fashion reminiscent of the old days at Disneyland, but not quite the same. The rides are hardly ever salvaged entirely for use in another park, the only example coming to mind being the Carousel of Progress which is now located at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The reason for this is that the rides simply wouldn't survive the cross-country journey. Take for example the tragic remains of the once beautiful Progress City. What used to be a gorgeous working model with moving parts and spectacular lights, is now a third of its original size with none of the functions that it had in Disneyland.

So you see, sometimes these attractions aren't always built to last. The problem with today's Disneyland is not that newer, more up-to-date attractions are taking over. It's that they are trying to fix what isn't broken. Timeless rides that aren't outdated shouldn't be scrapped. I have nothing against basing rides on Disney movies, but if you're going to do that make sure it's not something that will become stale in a few years. All but a few of Disney's oldest rides are not based on films, they're based on imagination. I couldn't see attractions based on Lilo & Stitch or Cars to last much more than a few years before they become antiquated.

Alas, there is one more fate of a beloved Disney ride that this article has not yet explored. Specifically, one from Walt Disney World in Florida. The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage.

When the ride closed in 1994, the submarines were first left in the boneyard along with the likes of many other old attractions. But a number of them found new homes. One was on temporary display in MGM Studios, in the queue for the backlot tour. But perhaps more interesting is one particular Nautilus, which has found its way out to sea. At the tropical Bahamian port for the Disney Cruise Line known as Castaway Cay, a Nautilus sub was painted red and submerged to the seafloor (for those unfamiliar with how light works underwater, red wavelengths are invisible below 30 feet, so red becomes green in deep water).

So there it is, sleeping peacefully on the ocean floor where it truly belongs. Maybe Captain Nemo finally hit that whirpool and met the watery grave he was destined to meet. I don't object to this display at all, as most of the other subs were shredded and destroyed. It was a long run, but it finally made the journey out to sea. Just another way that Disney has enchanted the aching hearts of 20kL fans once again.

But what happened to the submarines from Disneyland? I think that's a story better left untold...


Friday, July 12, 2013

Splash Mountain: Animatronics Still Broken

The singing crocodile is nowhere to be seen
I visited Disneyland recently and noticed something wrong. For the past several weeks, there has been a glaring aberration on Splash Mountain. Many of the famed audio-animatronics have yet to be fixed. Everyone's favorite hitchhiking croc, the porcupine playing the happy turtle like an instrument, and even Br'er Bear, are completely stationary. Normally, Br'er Rabbit would push his handcar from side to side just as the riders pass underneath, but he too has lost his momentum.

In this scene, Br'er Bear is supposed to tip his hat and bob up and down, but now we see no movement at all. I remember first noticing these malfunctions during the 24-Hour Monstrous Summer event, on May 24th. That was 49 days ago. I think that the obvious reason the Imagineering Department is hesitant to fix these, is that it would mean shutting the entire ride down. With Big Thunder Mountain under construction, Disneyland would lose another of its most popular rides. Especially during a hot summer like this one, losing Splash Mountain would be a huge blow. Just remember that most of these animatronics were made in the 1970's for America Sings, and they're not going to last forever.

Many of the animals in the ride's grand finale are frozen like this

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hidden Gems: Star Trader X-Wing

The giant X-Wing replica from Star Wars, which once hung high above the Starcade, has found a new home in Tomorrowland's Star Trader store. It's now much more clearly visible, and one with a sharp eye may notice the small messages printed along the body. It's written in Aurebesh, a written language from Star Wars. So what do they say?

The first line says "THE CHESHIRE CAT", the second line, "THE MAD HATTER". An obvious reference to Lewis Caroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and its 1951 Disney adaptation.


Another reference to classic Disney Characters.


These appear to be three names whose identities are unknown to me. I'm sure there are more messages hidden throughout the many Star Wars-themed attractions, so be sure to check them out and have an Aurebesh guide handy when visiting the Star Trader.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room 50th Anniversary

Last month, Disney celebrated the 50th birthday of the beloved Tiki Room attraction. For those outside the United States, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room is an audio-animatronic show complete with music and talking birds. It first opened on June 23rd, 1963, and remains relatively unchanged to this day.

The Tiki Room was a showcase for the groundbreaking audio-animatronic technology seen in many attractions today. 50 years later, the technology has paved the way for countless Disney attractions around the world, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and Splash Mountain. So what did Disneyland do to commemorate this occasion?

Aside from holding many events and galleries, the Opera House lobby on Main Street has been decorated with Tiki Room concept art and images from throughout the years. It even contains memorabilia from the original attraction, like the original barker bird.

Notice the wires dangling below his feet
The barker bird was the Tiki Room's host, who sat perched outside the gateway to Adventureland enticing guests to stop in and watch the show. The novelty of his puns and character made him a very popular attraction, and guests would stop to listen to his spiel. Eventually, this caused too much pedestrian traffic in Adventureland and he was removed. But here he is once again, hopefully to stay.

The show also features a gallery of concept drawings and paintings from the early 1960's. Some show that the Imagineers were going for a more realistic look for the birds and settings, while others demonstrate a cartoony aesthetic. It seems they went with a combination of both.

More Tiki Room memorabilia
I love that we can visit Disneyland and not forget about the past, but be able to see it right before us. Though the park changes drastically year after year, it still holds tight to its wonderful history. Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room is proof that these old attractions are delighting families the same now as they were 50 years ago. I hope that for the upcoming 50th anniversary of Pirates of the Caribbean, we can expect the same sort of look back at history.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: PeopleMover and Rocket Rods

The PeopleMover was one of the most famous and iconic transportation rides in Disneyland's rich history. Today, it's one of the most mysterious. Many younger guests who never got to experience the PeopleMover, such as myself, have always been puzzled by the abandoned tracks circling above Autopia and the Submarine Lagoon, and weaving about the many attractions in Tomorrowland. The long-lived attraction was a slow moving transport ride, with many different colorful trains. The PeopleMover eventually took guests inside other rides too, like Space Mountain and Star Tours.

It departed from the still-standing Tomorrowland station and arrived back where it started. The PeopleMover operated at a slow pace, often enticing guests into jumping from car to car. This caused many serious injuries, and even a number of fatalities. In 1995, the PeopleMover closed for good, after a 28-year run.

Although the PeopleMover has been gone for nearly two decades, the tracks and loading station remain intact. Why not use them to create another ride? Well...

They tried.
The Rocket Rods opened in 1998. Advertised for its speed and adrenaline, it was instead famous for excessively long wait-times, and an underwhelmingly short ride experience. Guests would expect to see wait-times of 1-2 hours, and be treated to a ride that lasted three minutes. Keep in mind that the PeopleMover traversed this track in 16, and didn't subject guests to nearly as long a wait. It did however reach a top speed of 35 mph (56 km/h), making it quite a thrill for young riders. The Rocket Rods were loved by many, but hated by most, and were closed after a measly 2 years.

Personally I think the PeopleMover tracks are an eyesore, but couldn't imagine Tomorrowland without them. Disney is known for its lousy job of removing forgotten attractions, mostly because it's an expensive and time-consuming process. But it doesn't explain why this massive set of tracks has been untouched for nearly 15 years. Hopefully, the Imagineers plan to revive the PeopleMover, or maybe even convert them into a large walkway queue. Something to occupy the wasted space sitting above the lands of Tomorrow and Fantasy.