Motorists traveling through Florida may have paid a visit to the Walt Disney World Official Information/Reservation Center in Ocala, Florida. This was sort of like a free-standing Disney Store (which was still a new concept when this debuted). At night, the trees in front of the building sparkled with lights, as Disney trees tend to do.
I believe the Information Center opened in 1987, and I think the first time I got a chance to go there was in 1988. On this particular trip, our destination was not Orlando, it was Venice, Florida. We stopped for dinner at the Cracker Barrel at Exit 68 and checked in to a hotel that night.
I will never forget being in the lobby of the hotel when I got this brochure. I overheard a man on a pay phone saying that his family had to cancel their vacation to Walt Disney World and drive back home because their child got the flu.
The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and went to the Walt Disney World Information Center. We weren't going to Walt Disney World, but that didn't matter!
What was the "free gift?" I don't remember that!
The front of the building had animated window displays just like Main Street at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. The displays at the park usually featured the latest animated released mixed with old favorites. The Information Center had a "Rescuers" window!
Here we see Penny and Miss Bianca the mouse (played by Eva Gabor) from the 1977 movie in a bucket searching the cave for the valuable diamond, "The Devil's Eye."
Of course, Bernard (Bob Newhart) is also around to help find the treasure.
Inside, this great "Mickey's Trailer" display can be seen amid the promotional materials for the resorts found at Walt Disney World.
Years later, I remember passing by the Information Center and seeing a giant balloon of Lady the cocker spaniel from "Lady and the Tramp." The Center was later themed to a Disney AAA Center, and eventually closed in 2005.
This was a fun way to take a break, get a taste of Disney World and pick up a souvenir!
The E-Rategator is a dragon-like beast found in the marsh at The Monster Mansion at Six Flags Over Georgia. This creature has been threatening riders since 1981, when the attraction debuted as The Monster Plantation.
I first drew this up in 2006 (when it was still the Plantation). The imaginative animatronic monster characters in this ride were created by Gary Goddard Productions, with artist Phil Mendez designing the characters.
The E-Rategator character is gigantic, and kind of scary in person.
One of my favorite video game characters as a kid was Q*bert, a creature that would hop on a pyramid of cubes to change their color. This was no easy task, as Q*bert had to deal with a bouncing snake named Coily, a hog-faced thug named Ugg, a monster named Wrong-Way, and two green pranksters named Slick (wearing sunglasses) and Sam. Q*bert was released by Gottlieb in 1982.
Q*bert was featured on an extensive line of merchandise, including this birthday card.
In the 1980s, stickers were really big with kids. The ones shown above, like the birthday card, were made by a company in Chicago, Illinois called Mark 1 Inc. I love the character designs here.
For much of the Q*bert merchandise, there was a more standard look, as seen in these fuzzy stickers that you had to color yourself.
I got five of the stickers colored, and it looks like I started to color Ugg and lost interest.
They also made fuzzy Q*bert stickers for lazy children who did not like to color stickers themselves.
Wow, google-eyed Q*bert fuzzy sticker! Score!
Q*bert hit the pages of comic books to promote his video game.
Cussing is a popular way to grab attention.
Q*bert even branched out into other forms of arcade games.
You know who is a Pinball Wizard? Who? Yes, Q*bert!
Don't spend all your quarters playing the Q*bert video game and pinball game.
Store your change in the Q*bert bank so you can save up enough money to buy more Q*bert merchandise.
Among the Smurfs, Cabbage Patch Kids, Shirt Tales, Care Bears, Star Wars Ewoks, Garfield and Strawberry Shortcake plush toys, you could find a Q*bert stuffed toy for Christmas in 1983.
The Q*bert plush was made by Kenner, which also produced other Q*bert toys.
Kenner made a line of Q*bert Qrazy Qharacter PVC figurines.
I remember thinking that the Q*bert with Coily and Q*bert with Slick figures were the best value because you got two characters for the price of one.
Non-lazy children could make their own Q*bert figures out of Play-Doh.
The sculpts for the Q*bert Play-Doh molds were among the best likenesses of the characters I remember seeing.
Instead of playing with the Play-Doh Q*bert figures on the couch or the expensive dining room table, how about playing with them on this Play-Doh mat?
Here we get a rare glimpse at Q*bert's house.
Parker Brothers released a Q*bert card game in 1983.
The Coily tokens were pretty cool, as they were "pop-up" spring cardboard pieces.
There were many different toys and games featuring Q*bert, so naturally he also became a Saturday Morning TV star, too!
Q*bert appeared along with video game stars Donkey Kong (with Mario), Donkey Kong Jr., Pitfall and Frogger in the 1983 CBS Saturday morning series, Saturday Supercade. These characters had their own segments, with Q*bert rotating with Pitfall each week.
To my knowledge, Pitfall was the only Saturday Supercade cartoon to have merchandise tied to the Saturday morning version of the video game (in this case, Puffy Stick-Ons sold at Walgreens.
As a kid, I was not a fan of Pitfall, only because it meant Q*bert would not appear on that episode of Saturday Supercade. Looking at the show now, the Pitfall segments weren't really inferior to Q*bert. Honestly, Q*bert and Pitfall were equally not very good. We just had limited TV choices in 1983.
The Pitfall characters are actually appealing to look at. They remind me a little of Disney animated adventure TV shows like DuckTales, Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers, and TaleSpin.
Main character Pitfall Harry was voiced by Robert Ridgely (he played the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak in the 1980s version of Strawberry Shortcake).
Harry's niece, Rhonda, was voiced by Noelle North (Princess Calla and Cubbi Gummi in Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears). Mountain Lion Quickclaw was voiced by Kenneth Mars (King Triton in Disney's The Little Mermaid). Pitfall did not survive to appear in the second season of Saturday Supercade.
Before Disney Channel's Teen Beach Movie, there was Q*bert on Saturday Supercade.
Q*bert and his friends from high school loved to have fun when they weren't avoiding trouble from a gang of baddies who seem to be based on Marlon Brando and his gang of hooligans from the 1953 movie The Wild One.
Q*bert is voiced by Billy Bowles (he voiced the Pink Panther's son, Pinky in "Pink Panther and Sons" around this time, too).
Q*bert is joined by his girlfriend, Q-Tee, valley girl Q-Val (both voiced by Robbie Lee), friends Q-Ball and Q-Mungus (both voiced by Frank Welker) and little brother Q-Bit.
The Q*bert segment was my favorite part of Saturday Supercade. It was sort of a mix of Q*bert, Archie comics, the TV show Happy Days and the trends and lingo of the early 1980s.
Q*bert and friends even dressed up as Michael Jackson, Pat Benetar, Cyndi Lauper and Boy George.
Coily, Wrong-Way and Ugg, as well as Sam and Slick (all voiced by Frank Welker) are joined by Coily's girlfriend Viper (Julie McWhirter).
Coily constantly plots against Q*bert.
Being a cartoon villain, naturally Coily's plans always backfire.
Coily carries on the tradition of animated snakes that are subjected to abuse for laughs.
Coily gets no respect.
Eventually, we also meet Coily's Dad, Sidewinder, and his Mom, Serpentine. I really liked these characters as a kid.
Sidewinder looks kind of like a snake version of Homer Simpson. And Coily clearly looks more like his Mom. Coily also has a younger sister. I can't remember her name.
Coily doesn't seem so tough when his Dad is around.
Before High School Musical, Q*bert got his head in the game.
In 1984, Saturday Supercade dropped Frogger, Pitfall and Donkey Kong Jr. from the lineup, and added Kangaroo and Space Ace.
Q*bert continued to curse his way to stardom.
Maybe Q*bert was so popular because he was a bad-boy hero.
I did not really think about it as a kid, but his swearing was kind of his trademark.
The additions of Kangaroo and Space Ace did not help Saturday Supercade enough, signaling the end of the series.
Q*bert was produced by Ruby-Spears, the same company that created animated TV shows for Mr. T, Rubik the Amazing Cube, and Punky Brewster.
I recently got a stack of 10 animation model sheet cels from Ruby-Spears cartoon shows, and one of them is of Coily the snake. I have always been interested in cels, and as a kid, I'd make my own using acrylic paint and my Dad's overhead projection plastic sheets. Holding one of these in person, and seeing how the paint is applied, the concept is not that different!
When Saturday Supercade ended its run on TV, the Ruby Spears versions of the Q*bert characters ended, too.
The original version of Q*bert continued as a merchandising character.
I no longer have my old Atari game system, but somehow the box from my Kangaroo game (1987) managed to survive!
I believe Space Ace is the only Saturday Supercade segment that has been shown on TV (Cartoon Network and Boomerang) since the early 1980s.
When I originally wrote this post, I had no idea that Q*bert would be starring in Disney's 2012 "Wreck-It Ralph" animated movie along with many other video game characters.
Do you dream of dressing up like Q*bert for Halloween? Well, they actually made a Q*bert mask!
As a fan of Q*bert, I find this to be adorable and scary at the same time.