"Out with the old, and in with the new---visions untold are waiting for you! Just take a chance, it's up to you---out with the old and in with the new!"---I'm paraphrasing here.
Every night was a New Year's Eve celebration on Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World. The "Spirit of New Year's"---a disco alien lady with an echoing voice----sang a special song and counted down to the New Year with her army of grinding, dirty-dancing friends.
I was a freshman in high school during my first visit to Pleasure Island. I did not drink then, and I only rarely drink now. Intoxicated people can be very amusing, but also sometimes very unpleasant to be around. I have enough problems, so I'm glad that I've never been interested in alcoholic beverages.
I really liked the Comedy Warehouse---it had all sorts of retired theme park props hanging on the walls. And if the comedians were funny, the show was fantastic.
Pleasure Island's mascot was pretty slick----The Funmeister----a dancing moon man with a building for a body. He's a smooth-talking player. I'm sure he won't return your phone calls.
Until recently, Busch Gardens in Virginia and Florida haven't been known for having famous characters as park mascots. This changed with the Sesame Street characters---Busch has a park in Pennsylvania called Sesame Place, and the relationship with Elmo and Big Bird was expanded to include the Busch Gardens and Sea World parks.
Both Busch parks have had a creative and playful children's area called The Land of the Dragons. The land is known for its colorful dragon themed attractions and a show with new characters, Dumphrey (the blue one) and Gordon (the green one) which remind me a little of the characters in Six Flags Over Georgia's Monster Plantation, the dragon from the show Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and Disneyland's Submarine Sea Serpent. Some merchandise was created featuring these dragons, but not much, as far as I know. I got these pencils with PVC toppers in 1996 or 1997. I remember seeing candy tubes with character toppers, too.
In Florida, The Land of the Dragons closed to become Sesame Street Safari of Fun. This new theme seems a bit more appropriate for the African Safari flavor of the Florida park. The Dragon theme fits more in line with European flair of the park in Virginia, which still has its Land of the Dragons, as well as the new Sesame Street Forest of Fun.
I spent a nice, snowy Christmas at my Mom and Dad's house in Texas (yes, it snowed in Texas!). Years ago, I got a vintage plush toy of Marie from the Aristocats "for my Mom" for Christmas (yeah, I know I'm busted). It is on display in one of their guest rooms.
Marie has become a fascinating character to me. The Aristocats is not necessarily a well-known movie. I thought the film had some fun moments, but it is not one of my favorites.
Marie is popular because she is cute. I don't know if most kids know what movie she is from. I just saw an episode of "SuperNanny" and one of the parents threatened to take away "Kitten" from her daughter (a plush toy of Marie).
Marie started appearing regularly at The Disney Store some time ago, and has been included in some plush toy lines available at Wal-Mart and other chain stores. There is also a line of Aristocats cat food at Kroger grocery stores featuring Duchess, Marie, and her brothers.
Marie seems to have taken the Tokyo Disney Resort and Japan itself by storm. She also looks to be popular at Hong Kong Disneyland, and an animatronic version of Marie appears in that park's It's a Small World. The Small World pin I have here came from Walt Disney Imagineering's gift shop.
It is funny to see the tag "Walt Disney's Aristocat Girl"----the toymakers didn't even bother to find out her name. I remember seeing this Marie and the other Aristocats for sale at Walt Disney World in the early 1980s. There is something about the simplicity of the design of this toy line that is very appealing. This is not very cuddly---it is from the time period when glue was used to apply noses, mouths and other features.
Today, Marie can sometimes be found paired up with Minnie Mouse on merchandise. Maybe it's time for Disney to just make Marie into Minnie's pet. Minnie already shares Figaro the kitten with Pinocchio and Geppetto, so it wouldn't be unheard of for a mouse to have a pet cat.
Wow, I have a lot of Christmas Mickey Mouse memorabilia! This is just a small sampling.
This wonderful Christmas card was sent to me back in the early 1990s by my friend (and Disney Imagineering alum) Chris Oliver. Classic Mickey is so classy and fun!
The brass Mickey Mouse ornament with my name on it is about as old as I am. I just learned that he came from Lillian Vernon, and was not made by elves. My older brother Matt has a matching Bugs Bunny ornament.
The Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade 1989 ornament was a premium with Kodak film. This is kind of fragile---I have to wonder how many of these survived.
The flocked, yellow-shirt wearing Mickey Mouse plastic ornament was pretty common---I also have Donald Duck and Pluto (all from the 1970s and 1980s, I believe). The Classic Mickey wooden airplane ornament is more recent---the wings flap when you pull the string!
The flat, acrylic bell-ringing Mickey ornaments are from Kurt S. Adler (late 1980s-1990s?). Mickey sleeping under the tree (awww!) is older and from Monogram Products (it has Walt Disney Productions on it).
The cloth Minnie Mouse ornament (with tag!) is something I found at an antique store in Indiana about 6 years ago. I am pretty sure it was sold in the Disney parks in the 1970s. I found Mickey, Pluto, and Bambi online a few years ago. They are friggin' charming!
This may look like a parody cereal, but it was real. In the late 1980s (I think), The Swedish Chef had his own cereal, called "Croonchy Stars." I was manic for the Muppets--somehow I failed to cut out the games on the back of the box. This cereal did not last very long in stores. I had thought maybe the Swedish Chef wasn't that popular, but I just saw that Hallmark has a Swedish Chef ornament for sale right now (it's pretty funny--it involves lobsters holding guns). I remember hearing the original name for this cereal was supposed to be "Stoopid Flakes."
Maybe another Muppet would have sold more cereal. Maybe "Gonzo's Weird-O's"? Or "Lew Zealand's Fish Flakes"?
Somehow I missed seeing The Aristocats in the theater as a kid---I did not see it until it debuted on VHS for the first time. I did grow up listening to this old record.
Imagine my shock when I saw the movie for the first time and the songs from my record were different from the movie! I no longer have a record player, so I can't listen to this, but I vividly remember these songs---they are VERY 1970s.
Like pretty much all my records, this is scratched up beyond belief. I also somehow managed to deface all my early books and records by drawing or writing on them.
I have other records like this, including The Jungle Book (with different versions of the songs) but the sleeves are missing. However, I just finally found the sleeve for The Aristocats, so maybe I'll find the others someday, too.
This may be the cutest Aladdin merchandise I have ever seen. These are part of a line called Disney Fun Fan Amuse Prize Collection, made by Sega in 2005. I don't think they were sold in stores---they had to be won as game prizes in Japan. I got mine on Ebay years ago when I was buying way too much stuff online. They are pull-string plush toys that shake.
I think it would be cool to see versions of these characters as animatronics in a dark ride---maybe at Tokyo DisneySea? Maybe with Sindbad?
The Monster Plantation opened at Six Flags Over Georgia in 1981, and the park sold a number of souvenirs featuring the ride's characters. Sometime in the late 1980s, I wrote the park asking if they had any Monster Plantation coloring books left to sell. They did not, but they sent me this Postcard Book (which I had never seen) and a light switch plate for free! I love the wonderful, wild illustrations and the wacky characters.
I always loved the characters at Epcot's Kitchen Kabaret. I vividly remember picking up a plush toy Mr. Broccoli at the Disney Village Marketplace in 1983. But I chose a stuffed version of Figment to be my souvenir for that trip
I recently got a deal on Mr. Broccoli, Mr. Eggplant, and a Banana, and now they are in my collection!
The ceramic Milk Carton creamer came from an antique store in North Carolina many years ago. The postcard came from Epcot in 1990.
Kitchen Kabaret merchandise could be purchased at a store in The Land called "Broccoli and Co."
My favorite part of Kitchen Kabaret was when Mr. Broccoli shouted "Eat Me!" to the audience.
He didn't really, but wouldn't that have been wild?
Kitchen Kabaret closed to make way for "Food Rocks" in the 1990s. That show ultimately closed to make way for "Soarin'". Kitchen Kabaret characters still manage to show up from time to time as merchandise, including Vinylmation.
One day I would love to visit Japan, and experience the Tokyo Disney Resort. Splash Mountain is one of my all-time favorites, and Tokyo Disneyland's Critter Country would be a "must-see" for me. I found these Critter Country postcards on Ebay many years ago.
I've never been to Six Flags Magic Mountain (I grew up going to Six Flags Over Georgia) but I always enjoyed picking up brochures for theme parks, and picked this up on my second trip to Anaheim. The new ride at the time was the Viper, and the park was celebrating Bugs Bunny's 50th birthday.
This coupon is fun because it mixes the old Six Flags logo with the old Magic Mountain logo, and throws in Bugs Bunny, too.
I bought this beautiful postcard at a Disney Outlet store in Orlando in 2004. This must have been sold when the park first opened, because it doesn't feature any representation of the Asia section, and it features the closed boat ride with the dragon.
This "a-peeling" slick character could be seen in a TV commercial for Laffy Taffy with other talking produce items and Daffy Duck in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I believe his name was Ben Ana, and I do know they at least made a plastic pen with his likeness (which I really want). Because of the association with Daffy Duck, I always wondered if Warner Brothers designed the Laffy Taffy spokes-characters. This image is from a plastic candy container, and "For Display Only." I'm not sure how I managed to add this to my collection.
*UPDATE on March 21, 2013:
This character is indeed named Ben Anna. He was part of a group called The Laffy Taffy Bunch. Not only did they appear in a TV commercial with Warner Brothers Looney Tunes star Daffy Duck, they could be found in comic books, too. This particular advertisement was in a 1988 Archie Comic.
Besides Ben Anna, there was a Watermelon, Strawberry, Sour Apple, Sweet and Sour Cherry and Sour Grapes. I haven't seen the commercial in many years, but I believe Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson on "The Simpsons") may have voiced at least one of the female characters. Daffy Duck, getting short-changed as usual, was not in the comic.
Bananas are funny for many different reasons, so Ben Anna seemed to be a good fit for a joke-based candy mascot. In 1988, Laffy Taffy had a joke contest, and some of the prizes featured the Laffy Taffy Bunch. A Ben Anna pen was 3rd Prize, and to me it seems better than the 1st Prize (a Jar of Laffy Taffy chews).
The Grand Prize was a choice between a Laffy Taffy motorized funny car (cool!) or a custom-built doll house (perfect, I suppose, for a Special Edition Mattel Carmen Miranda Barbie doll). The prize for 2nd Place was a Laffy Taffy T-Shirt.
By 1995, Laffy Taffy became a Concorde Brand (a division of Sunmark, Inc.). The Laffy Taffy Bunch could still be found in comic books, though their commercials were no longer on TV. Some new flavors and characters joined the Bunch, including Pink Lemonade and an Orange.
The Laffy Taffy Bunch got an updated look for this 1995 ad featured in a Disney Gargoyles Marvel Comics book. Vanilla and Fruit Punch flavors are mentioned here, but I don't know if they had corresponding characters.
Eventually, the Laffy Taffy Bunch lost their job as mascots and the candy became a Willy Wonka Candy Company brand released by Nestle. Who's laughing now? Daffy Duck, probably.
These little articulated rubbery PVC figures of the old school Winnie the Pooh costume characters were part of a Magic Kingdom playset collection at Sears in the late 1980s. These figures are small (about 2 inches tall) and rather cheaply made, but the likenesses of the characters is pretty much spot-on. This set was only available through the Sears Catalog, and included Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Cinderella. There was a big Main Street set you could get with Mickey and Minnie, too. This collection, like many Sears items at the time, was not very popular and not made very well.
But I love these little figures, and the costumes they are based on.
I've never been to Knott's Berry Farm in California, but I was interested in the park, largely because of the Peanuts characters. There used to be a cereal called Dinersaurs (which did not last long) and they had this contest to win a trip to experience the new Kingdom of the Dinosaurs ride. Needless to say, I did not win.
Update 5/11/13: With the Timber Mountain Log ride at Knott's Berry Farm getting a major upgrade, folks have been talking about Kingdom of the Dinosaurs again.
Will Kingdom of the Dinosaurs return someday, or will something totally different appear in their old stomping grounds?
It would be nice if the Dinersaurs characters could get a new gig. Maybe they could have a restaurant at Knott's. Winner, winner Fried Pterodactyl Chicken dinner!
The Dinersaurs are friends with Denver, the Last Dinosaur. This character had his own animated TV series in the 1980s.
Somehow I found the three free stickers that were the prize in the box of Dinersaurs Cereal.
I think "Denver The Last Dinosaur" would do well as a "Smurfs" or "Alvin and the Chipmunks" live action movie. Not that I'm saying that would be a good thing.
A "Dinersaurs" animated series on Food Network would be off the chain! Spiky blonde Stego Stan would have to be voiced by "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" host Guy Fieri.
I would cast chef Aaron McCargo Jr. (from "Big Daddy's House") as T-Rex, Emeril Lagasse as Buddy Brontosaurus, Ron Ben-Israel (from "Sweet Genius") as Terry Pterodactyl, and Paula Deen as Sara Triceratops.
Kingdom of the Dinosaurs opened at Knott's Berry Farm in 1987. It replaced another dark ride called "Knott's Bear-y Tales."
Growing up in Alabama, most people I knew had never heard of Knott's Berry Farm. Relatives in Arizona and California would often save Knott's ads for me, since they knew how much I liked Snoopy and the Charles Schulz Peanuts characters.
I recognized Knott's Berry Farm when I saw the 1987 movie "Summer School" starring Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley. Remember the scene where the nerd vomits in the trash can after riding the roller coaster?
I'm pretty sure "Kingdom of the Dinosaurs" made an appearance in the Martin Short movie "Clifford" in 1994.
When Knott's Berry Farm was purchased by Cedar Fair in 1997, it opened the door for Snoopy to be the mascot for Cedar Fair-owned theme parks across North America.
Cedar Fair theme parks are known for their big roller coasters. It looked like the old school dark rides and close encounters with Bigfoot at Knott's Berry Farm would be a thing of the past. However, the 2013 upgrade to the Timber Mountain Log Ride will feature many new effects and animated figures produced by Garner Holt Productions.
Could Kingdom of the Dinosaurs ever be brought back from extinction?
I think it is time for a Wild West Cowboys and Dinosaurs Dig Roundup interactive dark ride. It would be fun to see that T-Rex wearing a ten gallon hat and shooting guns with his tiny little hands.