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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Disney's Gargoyles Concept Art And My Marvel-ous Suggestion

In 1994, Walt Disney Television Animation launched a series called "Gargoyles." The show aired as part of The Disney Afternoon syndicated lineup, but the Disney stamp was not on the series. On merchandise, you'll usually find "BVTV" (Buena Vista Television) instead of "Disney." The show was darker in tone than other Disney Afternoon shows, more like "Batman: The Animated Series." In the original pitch for the show, the gargoyle characters were comedic and trouble-makers.

As the show was developed, changes were gradually made. Producer Frank Paur and character designer Greg Gular shaped the look and feel of the show, with input from Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

The impressive voice cast included Keith David (Goliath), Ed Asner (Hudson), Bill Fagerbakke (Broadway), Jeff Bennett (Brooklyn), Frank Welker (Bronx), Thom Adcox-Hernandez (Lexington) and Salli Richardson (Elisa Maza). Star Trek fans no doubt enjoyed hearing Jonathan Frakes (David Xanatos) and Marina Sirtis (Demona) as the major antagonists of the series.

The Gargoyles were stone creatures by day, and came to life every night. The series featured complex stories and character relationships. The show has a strong fan following, but it is not really promoted much, maybe because it is so different.

Marvel released a Gargoyles comic book in 1995.

Now that Disney and Marvel have joined forces, I think Goliath and his crew should be marketed as Marvel characters.

Maybe we'd finally see a Gargoyles movie!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Tour Game From Disney and Warner Brothers

The Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Tour "board game" was featured in an October 1988 issue of The Disney Channel Magazine. The Wonka movies (the original from 1971 and the 2005 version) were made by Warner Brothers, but the studios seem to cooperate with each other to promote their films in the best way possible. Willy Wonka has appeared on the Disney Channel for many years. Lately, Warner Brothers and Disney have worked together to promote the Harry Potter films on Disney-owned networks. The Harry Potter marathons on ABC Family are a prime location for promoting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando (this Florida theme park also has Marvel Superhero Island, home to characters recently acquired by Disney through the company's purchase of Marvel Comics).

I got a kick out of Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" with Willy Wonka (played by Johnny Depp) having a dentist for a father. My childhood dentist looked very much like the original Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder. My dentist was friendly, and at the end of my check-ups, I got to select a toy from a basket shaped like a kangaroo. To me, my dentist was Willy Wonka.

Of course, there is an actual Willy Wonka brand of candy (introduced in 1971) owned by Nestle, selling chocolate and many other candy brands, including those kooky Nerds candies and looney Laffy Taffy.

I was surprised to learn about a dark ride featuring Willy Wonka located at the Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire, England. This is not based on the movies, but rather the illustrations created by Quentin Blake for Roald Dahl's book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

The artist for the Disney Channel Magazine's Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Tour Game is unfortunately not credited. I know it wasn't drawn up by an Oompa-Loompa. Or was it?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Elvis Presley Winnie The Pooh And Other Characters, Too!

Do you remember that time when Winnie the Pooh decided to be an Elvis impersonator, so he got a black leather costume like the one Elvis Presley wore in his '68 Comeback TV Special? Pooh put on a highly successful concert in the Hundred Acre Woods. Kanga probably would have thrown her underwear at Winnie the Pooh while he was performing on stage, if Kanga ever wore any clothes.

At the height of the bean bag craze at the Disney Store and Disney Catalog (around years 2002 to 2005), Winnie the Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Woods got themselves in to some outrageous situations. I do not own any of these bean bags, but I thought these were hilarious and outlandish.

Piglet, Eeyore and Pooh love to dress up as monsters to scare off the Heffalumps and Woozles. And everyone else.

They sure are scary here! I think this set was released when "Monsters Inc." debuted.

Pooh and his pals also performed in a Beatles cover band! It's not that hard to imagine, since they are all from the United Kingdom.

Of course, the Beatles decided to branch out as cartoon characters for a while, so it was alright with everybody.

Dr. FrankenPooh decided to make a FrankenEeyore monster, but nobody in the Hundred Acre Woods really noticed him.

Tigger did not participate in this project, because he had dressed up as Franken-Tigger years earlier!

Piglet and Tigger spent some time in school. They did not really hang out together.

Do you think Jock Tigger picked on Nerd Piglet? No way! Piglet later started his own successful business on the Internet, and Tigger is now one of his bodyguards.

Pooh stole too much honey from the bees and was sent away to live in Australia for a while. While he was there, he tried to blend in with The Outback animals.

Crikey! It's Platypus Pooh and Lizard Pooh!

Eeyore, Pooh, Piglet and Tigger later started competing in 100 Acre Wrestling Federation matches.

I think Piglet was on steroids.

Pooh also joined a 1980s hair band.

Pooh had a successful career, but developed an even more severe honey addiction while on tour. Pooh is currently working on an album with Blondie.

Tigger tried to be a Vaudeville performer.

The outfit alone got Tigger laughs when he went on stage.

After years of intense studying, Piglet and Pooh got jobs at the Hundred Acre Woods University.

Winnie the Pooh, what did they do to you? I think I had a few teachers that looked like this in school.

Stay tuned for more wild and wacky Winnie the Pooh!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mickey's Birthdayland And The Tents That Won't Go Away

In 1988, Mickey Mouse had his 60th Birthday. As part of the big celebration, Walt Disney World in Florida opened a new land in the Magic Kingdom called "Mickey's Birthdayland." This area featured a chance to meet Mickey Mouse, a tour of his house, a Birthday show, and a visit to Grandma Duck's Petting Farm. This land was meant to be a temporary attraction, but it proved to be very popular. As you can see from this picture (from an issue of Newsweek), aside from Mickey's house, the land consisted mostly of tents (you can see the show building for the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine ride disguised for this photo as a flat, yellow-striped tent).

Mickey's 60th Birthday was a big deal for Disney, with all kinds of special merchandise, and items created with promotional partners. I believe this "Mickey's Magic Moments Mobile" was on a box of Twix. McDonald's had a "Mickey's Birthdayland" Happy Meal, too (a nice set of toy cars).

Of course, the birthday party could not last forever.

In 1990, Mickey's Birthdayland was renamed "Mickey's Starland."

The Birthday show was replaced with characters from the Disney Afternoon syndicated TV cartoons.

Mickey's Starland was pretty much the same as Mickey's Birthdayland, including the use of the tents.

For 1996, the land became "Mickey's Toontown Fair."

Mickey's house was remodeled to a "country house" (his "real" house was at Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland in California). Minnie Mouse got her own house (it replaced one of the tents). The other giant tents stayed, with one becoming a store called "County Bounty." Donald Duck got his own boat house. Note the large body of water on this map with the King Triton statue---this is the former location of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which closed in 1994.

Goofy got his own small-scale, kid-friendly roller coaster called "The Barnstormer."

If you are looking for a pressed penny for Mickey's Toontown Fair, they have one! They've also got Barnstormer merchandise, too!

This pull-back Barnstormer roller coaster car is pretty spiffy.

As part of a major Fantasyland expansion, Mickey's Toontown Fair will close for good on February 11, 2011. The Fantasyland expansion itself is very exciting. A new "Beauty and the Beast" section will feature an interactive Belle's Cottage attraction, a large Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston's Tavern and Bonjour! Village Gifts. A "Little Mermaid" section will feature Under the Sea, Journey of the Little Mermaid, which is a lavish new dark ride. Just yesterday, Disney officially confirmed the long-rumored "Seven Dwarfs" Mine Train coaster, a highly-anticipated musical adventure featuring animated figures and rocking mine cars (sadly, the "Snow White's Scary Adventures" dark ride is closing, and will be replaced by a Princess Meet and Greet).

Mickey's Toontown Fair is closing down to become Storybook Circus, the home of the Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction (with two ride units to double capacity, which is great). Dumbo's new area will include the former Goofy's Barnstormer, which will be re-themed to "The Great Goofini." I had thought it would be nice if the ride had been changed to a Pink Elephants on Parade roller coaster. I'm relieved that they ditched the idea of having a clown roller coaster replace the Barnstormer.

It looks like Storybook Circus will also have----large tents. As a Disney fan, I find this to be incredibly annoying and even maddening. The Disney Cruise Line just got the new Disney Dream, featuring the cutting-edge "AquaDuck" water coaster, but Disney's flagship Florida park's iconic Fantasyland somehow cannot get rid of the temporary-feeling tent structures that have been in this area since 1988.

Hopefully these new circus tents will house something really impressive.

It would be great if the 1970s "Dumbo's Circus" proposal for Disneyland was revived here. This would have featured various Audio Animatronics Disney characters performing in a circus. Maybe they could use this idea as a theme for a retail location, with the characters as store fixtures overhead. "Dumbo's Circus" at Walt Disney World would be Elephantastic!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Holiday World: Home To A Thanksgiving Dark Ride And Much More!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Indiana! There you'll find Holiday World, a popular theme park that got its start back in 1946.

Holiday World was originally called Santa Claus Land, celebrating all things Christmas. The park changed its name and added sections themed to Halloween and The Fourth of July in 1984.

George the Eagle, Holidog, and Safari Sam are Holiday World's mascots. Here they are standing in front of "The Voyage", a wooden roller coaster in the park's newest section, Thanksgiving, which opened in 2006.

In 2007, Thanksgiving got a new tilt-a-whirl ride called "Turkey Whirl." I love the ride's logo.

Holiday World may be the only theme park in the world with a Thanksgiving themed dark ride. "Gobbler Getaway" debuted with the opening of the Thanksgiving section in 2006. The ride vehicles in this attraction are equipped with "turkey caller" devices. The turkeys in the town of Autumn Falls have gone missing, and riders must round them up for Thanksgiving.

This interactive adventure was created by the Sally Corporation, which has installed similar dark rides at other theme parks (like "Scooby Doo Ghostblasters" at some Six Flags parks). "Gobbler Getaway" ends happily for the turkeys. The animated people of Autumn Falls decide to serve pizza for the Thanksgiving meal, which results in a turkey celebration extravaganza for the ride's finale. I think this concept is brilliant in its "outside the box" thinking. Bravo, Holiday World and Sally Corporation!

"HalloSwings" in the Halloween section is one of the best themed swings rides I've seen. It is designed to look even better at night!

It's great to see such a creative version of a standard amusement park ride. "HalloSwings" is in good company with "Silly Symphony Swings" at Disney's California Adventure and "Gotham City Crime Wave" at Six Flags Over Georgia.

Holiday World has received quite a few Golden Ticket Awards for outstanding attractions from Amusement Today over the years. The park is also an International Applause Award Winner. This "honors a park whose management, operations, and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry through foresight, originality, and sound business development."

Holiday World's Park brochure notes that Holiday World "is proud to be included among the previous winners, including Disneyland, Hersheypark, Cedar Point, EPCOT Center, Universal Studios Florida, Silver Dollar City, Europa Park, and Efteling." Holiday World won the Applause Award in 2005, and was the smallest park to do so.

In 2000, Holiday World started offering free unlimited soft drinks (courtesy of Pepsi) with park admission. Parking is free, too. It's no wonder they won the Applause Award.

Holiday World added a water park called Splashin' Safari in 1993.

Splashin' Safari continues to expand its thrilling selection of water attractions. Splashin' Safari also has free sunscreen stations!

I have not yet been able to visit Holiday World, but saw it from the car during a trip from Jasper, Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky in 2008. It looked like a fun place to visit.

I'm thinking it would be great if Holiday World had an Easter section. It could be sponsored by Peeps, the marshmallow treats made by the Just Born Candy Company. There are now Peeps for Easter, Christmas, Valentine's, and Halloween, so it would be a nice fit for Holiday World.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Live Action Lady And The Tramp: The Real Life Reference Models

It's not too difficult to imagine Walt Disney's 1955 film, "Lady and the Tramp" as a live action film. Walt Disney himself pretty much created a live action cast in order to create the animated film. The model for Tramp was actually a female dog, and like the Tramp, she almost ended up in the pound.

The inspiration for Lady was a cocker spaniel named Blondie, owned by Disney animator Hamilton Luske. Like Lady, she no doubt had a loving family.

These wonderful pictures are from a fantastic article from a 1988 issue of The Disney Channel Magazine celebrating the world television premiere of "Lady and the Tramp" on May 7th. "A Dog's-Eye View of Life" was written by writer and film historian Frank Thompson.

This article offered a glimpse of the behind-the scenes work it took to make Walt Disney's beloved film a reality.

(The little clip above is out of order here, but I wanted to include everything from the article for posterity. Call me a modern day microfiche).

Here is Frank Thompson's article. You can zoom in on things so you don't hurt your eyes.

I'm happy that the real-life Tramp ended up in a good home! Since the model for Tramp was actually a female, I originally had a different title for this post: "The Tramp Was A Lady!"

The talented Peggy Lee was a major player in "Lady and the Tramp."

Some years ago, Walt Disney World had commercials featuring real dogs (inspired by "Lady and the Tramp") enjoying a visit to the Resort. I got a kick out of learning that the "Tramp" dog in the ad was really female, and the "Lady" dog was actually a male.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Tokyo Disneyland Guide To Fun (Circa 1990)

I have never been to Japan. In high school, I had a classmate named James Carroll, and he had lived in Japan. One day, after weeks of hearing me ask questions about Japan and Tokyo Disneyland, James brought his 1990 Tokyo Disneyland Souvenir Guidebook to school. James, being a really nice friend, let me keep the Guidebook. Thank you, James Carroll!

Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983. It is actually owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company, and Disney is paid royalty fees. Tokyo Disneyland, which is actually located in Urayasu, Chiba, is extremely popular.

Tokyo Disneyland is very similar to Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida. However, quite a few changes were made for the Japanese park. Since this map is from 1990, the park has itself changed quite a bit.

One of the biggest changes is the entrance to the park itself. The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel opened right at the park's entrance in 2008. Similarly, The Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris (opened in 1992) can also be found at the park's front gate.

At Tokyo Disneyland, Main Street U.S.A. is called World Bazaar. It is covered under a canopy of glass, to protect shoppers from frequent rainstorms. Other theme parks, like Universal Studios Japan, have also incorporated canopies to their theme park shopping districts.

Check out all the cool shops at World Bazaar, and the nice Disney character displays. It's fun to see Orville the albatross, and mice Bernard and Bianca from "The Rescuers."

You won't find the Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland here. At least, not in 1990. The Treehouse did not open until 1993.

The Western River Railroad is located in Adventureland. It does not circle the park. If it had more than one stop, it would have been subject to strict transportation codes.

In 2008, the Enchanted Tiki Room became "Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!" with the addition of an Audio-Animatronics figure of Stitch the alien from the movie "Lilo and Stitch" (a similar figure can be found at Walt Disney World's "Stitch's Great Escape" in Tomorrowland).

At Tokyo Disneyland, Frontierland is called "Westernland." Big Thunder Mountain opened in 1987, so the attraction was still fairly new at this time.

In 1992, Splash Mountain was added in the area on the map with the canoe dock, which became a new area called "Critter Country." This new section was an expanded version of the Critter Country found at Disneyland in California. Walt Disney World's Splash Mountain also debuted in 1992, in the Frontierland section of the Magic Kingdom (there's no Critter Country in Florida).

The Haunted Mansion is located in Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland. The reason was explained in Jason Surrell's book, "The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies." There was nowhere else to put it, and in the Japanese culture, "ghost stories are often categorized as fairy tales or fables."

The "Mickey Mouse Revue" was an Audio Animatronics show imported from Walt Disney World in Florida, where it ran from 1971 to 1980. At Tokyo Disneyland, it operated from 1983 to 2009. In 2011, the 3D film, "Mickey's Philharmagic" will open to replace the show (ironically, "Mickey's Philharmagic" first appeared in the former "Mickey Mouse Revue" location at Walt Disney World in Florida in 2003).

In 1996, the "Mickey's Toontown" land opened near Fantasyland, past Alice's Tea Party and the Skyway. Guests could now meet Mickey and Minnie in their houses, plus explore Donald's Boat, Goofy's Bounce House, Chip 'N' Dale's Tree House, Gadget's Go-Coaster, the Jolly Trolley ride through downtown Toontown and Roger Rabbit's Car-Toon Spin dark ride.

The Skyway and the Small World Restaurant were closed in 1998. Alice's Tea Party was moved and a new Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall restaurant opened near The Haunted Mansion at that time.

"Pooh's Hunny Hunt," a major new innovative "trackless" attraction featuring Audio Animatronics figures, music and animation (the ride vehicles go wild in the Heffalumps and Woozles section), opened in 2000 in the area that housed Alice's Tea Party, the Skyway and the Small World Restaurant. "Pooh's Hunny Hunt" is one of a kind and is one of the most popular attractions in Tokyo Disneyland.

Tomorrowland has also seen quite a few changes.

"Meet the World" closed in 2002. A brand new, large-scale, interactive dark ride, "Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek" opened in its place in 2009, featuring the characters from the Disney Pixar film.

"Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters," the interactive ride featuring the popular Disney Pixar Toy Story character, opened in 2004, in the former "American Journeys in Circlevision 360" location.

"Captain EO" had been replaced by the 3D film, "MicroAdventure!" (also known as "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience") in 1997. However, "Captain EO" returned to its old location in Tokyo Disneyland in 2010. "Captain EO" has returned to its old locations at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris, too.

Tokyo Disneyland operated with different ticketing systems long after the other Disney Parks had abandoned them. I never experienced a Disney Park with individual attraction tickets.

The first official Disney hotel in Japan, Disney's Ambassador Hotel, opened in 2000. In 2001, Tokyo Disneyland got a sister park, Tokyo DisneySea, with the Hotel MiraCosta. Along with a new shopping district, Ikspiari, the destination once known simply as Tokyo Disneyland became The Tokyo Disney Resort. I really hope to visit the Resort someday soon!

For a much more in-depth look at the Tokyo Disney Resort, check out Meet the World, a wonderful website created by my pal, TokyoMagic!