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Friday, April 29, 2011

Dueling Dumbos: Walt Disney World vs Disneyland

It's very common for visitors at Walt Disney World and Disneyland to take a spin on the Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction, but few people get to meet the pachyderm in person. Dumbo has made appearances in many parades, but is not known to be found strolling through Fantasyland.

Have you ever wondered what rental car company Dumbo uses? Well, wonder no more! In 1990, Dumbo appeared in ads for National Car Rental (then "the official car rental company of Walt Disney World and Disneyland"). Dopey, Goofy and Dumbo play car salesmen at Walt Disney World in Florida in front of Cinderella Castle.

A similar ad for Disneyland in California features the same characters in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. For some reason, it lacks the name joke, and seems a bit less clever.

I'm not sure why California's Dumbo looks completely different from the one in Florida. I think Walt Disney World's version is an older design, and maybe the folks in charge in Orlando did not think it was necessary to update the character's look. Interestingly, Disneyland's Dopey has a slightly different face from Walt Disney World's, too.

Since there is already an East Coast/West Coast rivalry between the two Dumbos, it's time to put the flying elephant in more grudge matches. Let's get ready to rumble!!!!

In one corner, we have the cast of Dumbo's Circus, a TV series that debuted on The Disney Channel in 1985. The animated character costumes were created by Alchemy II, the same company that developed the technology for the Teddy Ruxpin animated toy. In Dumbo's Circus, Dumbo spoke (voiced by Katie Leigh, known for voicing Rowlf on Muppet Babies and Sunni Gummi on Disney's Gummi Bears). Timothy Q. Mouse was not on the show, but Dumbo's Circus did feature a small lion with a New York accent named Lionel (the first Disney character voiced by versatile actor Jim Cummings). They are joined by Fair Dinkum (a koala), Barnaby (a dog), Lilly (a cat), Q.T. (an orangutan) and a purple cat named Sebastian. One of the puppeteers on the show was Paul Fusco, the creator and performer of ALF the alien.

In the other corner, we have Welcome to Pooh Corner. This show first aired on The Disney Channel in 1983. Like Dumbo's Circus, this show used animated puppet costumes and was aimed at young children.

For this series, Winnie the Pooh was voiced by Hal Smith (he played the always tanked up Otis on The Andy Griffith Show).

Next up, it's a comic book version of Dumbo. Because of the Dumbo ride, the character is synonymous with the Disney theme parks. Dumbo is on the cover, but does not actually appear in the book. I've had this "Special Magic Kingdom Issue" of Walt Disney Comics Digest for many, many years.

This issue has a story teaming Scamp, Chip and Dale, and Pinocchio!

Up against hand-drawn Dumbo is a computer generated Dumbo.

This version of Dumbo could be seen in commercials for Walt Disney World and Disneyland years ago. I like the clever ads that have CGI Dumbo ride vehicles whisking people away on a flight to the Disney Parks.

Next, we have the battle of the Dumbo Cookie Jars. Dumbo will be happy to guard your Barnum's Animal Crackers.

Dumbo will have to watch himself around this two-faced Dumbo Cookie Jar.

Like so many cool Disney items, this collectible was brought to life by artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily.

I wouldn't store peanut butter cookies in any of these jars, because you probably won't get them back.

It wouldn't be Christmas without an elephant on your tree. Dumbo survived Y2K to appear as plush ornaments in 2001 and 2002.

Wait a minute---the 2001 plush Dumbo ornament is holding a plush ornament. Crazy, man!

On a recently aired episode of Food Network Challenge: Beauty and the Beast Cakes, some contestants struggled with sculpting a good likeness of Mrs. Potts the teapot. The judges were concerned that one cake designer's Mrs. Potts looked too much like Dumbo. Of course, Dumbo himself is easily transformed into an actual teapot.

This teapot is from the 1990s. Teapot technology improved greatly in just a matter of years.

For the early 2000s, a new Dumbo teapot emerged to challenge the simpler version.

Anyone who was ever teased for being different can relate to Dumbo. Luckily, Dumbo had some good friends in his corner.

Dumbo's best friend is Timothy Mouse, an unlikely pal for an elephant (cartoon elephants fear mice, after all!).
Bronze Figurine Dumbo and Timothy have a big opponent to face!

"Dumbo's Only Friend" Harmony Kingdom Box packs a mean punch to the gut!

People may forget what a cruel world Dumbo lived in, but I bet the elephant never forgets.

Turn your kitchen into a circus with items that most likely were not designed to be functional.

The Dumbo Salt and Pepper Shakers just got served.

The Dumbo Charger is loud, large and in charge!

Many people will remember this charming Dumbo plush, available in theme parks and Disney Stores during the Nineties.

This Dumbo has some stuffed, stiff Steiff competition!

Unlike Woody and Buzz Lightyear, this toy wants to spend its life behind glass.

Up next, a snow (globe) storm is brewing!

Dumbo at play takes on Dumbo at work.

Where's the Unicorn? I bet I'm not the only person that remembers seeing commercials for the live unicorn appearing at the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in the early 1980s. They also had a performing Hippo one year (a baboon perched on the Hippo's back really did all the work).

What can possibly go up against a pin set featuring Dumbo, his friends, a Pink Elephant, and Casey Junior the Circus Train, all housed in a Circus Box?

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's SuperDumbo!

A Halloween pin set features Dumbo's rarely-seen Super Hero alter-ego, Elephantastic!

It's now time for a detailed Dumbo timepiece that recreates some key scenes from the movie.

Who will clean Dumbo's clock?

Watch out for E-Ticket Watches, featuring a Dumbo ride vehicle sculpture. Joining Dumbo is Splash Mountain, It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cinderella's Castle and The Haunted Mansion.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, Dumbo is getting ready to rumble in The Magic Kingdom. Soon there will be two Dumbo ride systems to handle the crowds of folks eager to pilot their own Dumbo in the skies of Fantasyland.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Alice In A Disney Easter Wonderland

The characters from the 1951 Walt Disney animated version of Alice in Wonderland are logical ambassadors of a springtime celebration. In 1996, The Disney Catalog featured lively Easter merchandise starring Alice and the White Rabbit.

If you use real eggs with the egg holder, be sure you remember to remove the eggs before you put the Easter decorations back in the attic.

Uh-oh! This egg has been broken in two! That's OK, because there's a scene from Alice in Wonderland inside, and you'll want to see it.

Are there scenes inside the Fantasy Eggs With Stands? Let's break them open and find out.

Whoops! There isn't anything inside of them.

Give your friend or family member a ceramic White Rabbit bag filled with clippings from your yard.

I'd rather have the White Rabbit Candy Dish, filled with Palmer Bunny Money and Cadbury Mini Creme Eggs.

Yes, they make Easter ornaments! These Radko collectibles were created in honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Disney's Alice in Wonderland.

These were not made specifically for Easter. They'll look nice on a Christmas Tree, or a Halloween Tree, or even a Fourth of July Tree.

I'm not sure if the White Rabbit could be trusted to deliver eggs on time.

Even with the new watches, he'd probably be late.

How do you get to Wonderland? The best way is to go to Disneyland in California and head to Fantasyland. There, you'll find the Alice in Wonderland dark ride.

Board a Caterpillar ride vehicle and take an animated trip on an attraction you'll only find at Disneyland in California.

In Walt Disney Comics Digest Number 53 from Whitman, readers can help Alice avoid the crazies to get to the other crazies at the Mad Tea Party.

Visitors to Disneyland Paris in France can find a trickier maze called Alice's Curious Labyrinth in Fantasyland (it's exclusive to the French park---oooh la la!).

Alice in Wonderland theme park attractions feature three dimensional figures of the characters. They don't really look like these Harmony Kingdom Box figures, but they are cool.

The Cheshire Cat one is my favorite.

In 1999, The Disney Gallery stores had some fancy Alice kitchenware.

I bet these were made to be seen, and not used.

The Alice in Wonderland Chess Set, available as part of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Disney Alice film, is one of the most interesting collectibles I've ever seen. The characters look like a mix of the John Tenniel illustrations from Lewis Carroll's book and the Disney versions of the characters.

I would love to see an animated (maybe CGI) Alice in Wonderland project featuring these character designs.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Disney's Country Bears At Grizzly River Run In California Adventure

When I was a young kid, I was captivated by the advertisements for Grizzly River Rampage, a white water raft ride at the (closed) Opryland theme park in Nashville, Tennessee. Ads for the attraction featured a menacing Grizzly Bear trying to attack the boats. I finally got to visit the park and experience the ride when I was older, and discovered that the bear effect was not what I had imagined at all. It was a static figure in a tunnel. I don't think most people even knew it was there.

In October of 2008, I got to visit Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim. The park opened in 2001, and is located in what used to be Disneyland's massive parking lot. California Adventure's mascot (in the early days) was a Grizzly Bear. Items like this plush toy were available when the park first opened.

This appealing looking character tied in nicely with the park's logo, and Grizzly River Run, California Adventure's white water rapids ride.

Because of my childhood interest in Grizzly River Rampage at Opryland, I was eager to visit Grizzly River Run, even though it was kind of chilly during my October visit (ironically, my Opryland visit was in September of 1985, not the ideal time to go on a raft ride).

As theme park raft rides go, Grizzly River Run is among the nicest I've seen.

Grizzly River Run is lush, with a cool drop and a nice observation area. I also liked the Grizzly Bear statue at the entrance.

Grizzly River Run would have been even nicer if they had some bear figures near the flume. I know there were some animated bears seen on Walt Disney's old Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland at Disneyland, just as there are animated animals featured in that attraction's replacement, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Maybe they could have modeled the bears after the California Adventure merchandise.

In 2002, Walt Disney Pictures released a live action movie based on Disney's Country Bear Jamboree attraction. I have to admit that I've never seen this movie, which featured animated bear puppet costumes created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

The Disney Catalog had some great Country Bear movie plush toys that look similar to Disney's California Adventure Grizzly Bear merchandise.

Yes, these are the bears I used for my Country Bears version of Grizzly River Run. The Beary character was created for the movie. Here we see Trixie, too (she looks more like the show's Teddi Barra character here).

Disney's Country Bear Jamboree made its debut at Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971, in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom.

Many Walt Disney World (and Disneyland) visitors probably remember seeing Big Al plush toys. They stood out because they had plastic faces!

The Country Bear Jamboree proved to be popular in Florida, and was imported to Disneyland in California in 1972 (it also opened at Tokyo Disneyland when that park debuted in 1983).

The Country Bears got their own land in Disneyland called Bear Country.

In 1984, the Bears started performing "The Country Bear Christmas Special" during the holidays.

In 1986, the Bears got a new show with some new characters called "The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown."

When Splash Mountain debuted at Disneyland in 1989, the land was renamed Critter Country, since all sorts of animals could be found on the park's new water flume attraction.

Critter Country also featured the unique Teddi Barra's Swinging Arcade, which had Country Bear themed games. The Hungry Bear Restaurant is one of the most serene eating locations to be found at Disneyland.

Disneyland had some nice Country Bear Jamboree bean bags during the beanie craze of the late 1990s.

Henry is the Master of Ceremonies for the Country Bears. In the original show, a raccoon pops out of his hat. For the Vacation Hoedown, it is a skunk.

I think Zeke is my favorite of this set.

The costumes that Liverlips and Big Al are wearing appear to be from the Vacation Hoedown show.

In 2001, The Country Bears were evicted from Disneyland. Another bear, Winnie the Pooh, got his own dark ride in the former Country Bear Playhouse. Max (a stag head), Melvin (a moose head) and Buff (a buffalo head) from the Country Bear show make a cameo appearance in the Winnie the Pooh ride.

Since the Country Bears are no longer at Disneyland, I think it would be a nice homage to have them at Grizzly River Run in California Adventure. They could be simple, semi-realistic bears wearing clothes. They wouldn't have to talk or sing. They could be atmosphere characters (which would be great at the attraction's observation spots) like the animated figures on The Jungle Cruise or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

This Big Al Bobblehead from Walt Disney World nods in agreement with me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Maleficent And The Disney Villains Are Fantasmic!

If there's a breakout star of the 1959 Walt Disney animated feature, Sleeping Beauty, it would have to be Maleficent. With her Villain allies, like Cruella and Captain Hook, she's been causing chaos in the Disney Universe for many years. Most of the items shown here are from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s.

Maleficent and the Sleeping Beauty characters look a bit different from most of Disney's classic characters. Production designer Ken Anderson and artist Eyvind Earle were responsible for the film's unique style.

Maleficent is powerful enough, but she also has some minions. Her closest companion is a menacing Raven.

She also has an army of comical Goons.

Together, they plan to take down Sleeping Beauty herself, Briar Rose (the princess formerly known as Aurora).

This Mattel version of Maleficent is very impressive.

Maleficent also has the ability change herself into a dragon.

Swarovski created two different Maleficent diamond pins (I'm guessing the Dragon pin is designed to wear on Mondays).

Dragon Maleficent is one of the coolest Disney characters ever.

Maleficent was not satisfied with staying in the Sleeping Beauty Universe. She decided to join forces with other Disney Villains and work on more projects.

Water seeks its own level, and Maleficent enjoys hanging out with Ursula, Scar, Captain Hook, Hades, and the Evil Queen.

The "Villains" Serigraph by Robert De Michiell was available through Disney's specialty Disney Gallery stores and Catalog in 1999. I love the character designs here.

Wake up from your favorite nightmare and look at the Disney Villains clock.

Chernabog from Fantasia towers over the other Disney Villains for this item created by Walt Disney World.

Little Susie can snuggle up to Cruella and Ursula or have a tea party with Hades thanks to this line of plush Disney Villains.

There was a Chernabog bean bag plush for sale at Walt Disney World, too.

Chernabog, Maleficent and the Queen from Snow White conjure up some trouble with a musical snow globe.

Interestingly, this plays "Grim Grinning Ghosts" from Disney's Haunted Mansion.

The Villains are featured in another similar musical snow globe that plays "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid.

That tree character is really scary!

Dragon Maleficent is the star of this stormy snow globe.

For this set of pewter figures, Maleficent is the coveted bonus character.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the rarest Disney Villain of all? Probably The Horned King from The Black Cauldron. Here he is featured in a Disney Villains Chess set.

The pawns are matched up well here.

Cheating is encouraged when you play Disney Villains Chess.

Maleficent seems to have all the Disney Villains at her beck and call for this snow globe. Her dragon form is very intimidating.

Watch out for these tough characters!

These ain't no Mickey Mouse watches here!

You could probably match these Disney Villains with a teacher you had at school.

I encountered Cruella's twin years ago (she was a customer where I worked).

Barbie better run for the hills when these ladies hit the toy box.

I bet it's like that show "The Real Housewives of Orange County" (or New York or Atlanta) when these characters get together.

Would Cruella and Maleficent get along?

They both like clothes, so I bet they would.

When the Disney Villains get together at a party, all heck breaks loose.

Play it safe and stay away from candy served in a Villains Bowl.

Sorry, I'd think twice about getting a cookie from a Villains Cookie Jar, too.

Dramatically throw a drink in someone's face using a Disney Villains Martini Glass.

The Disney Villains love their spirits!

Ursula is known to drink like a fish.
Maleficent is such a bad influence (we already knew that though).

Dragon Maleficent was made into a Disney Wild Racer die cast car by Hasbro (the Black Heart GT) and sold with Mushu (the Rippin Reptile) from Mulan as a Dragon Pack.

Maleficent has a "GO2SLP" Vanity Plate. These were later sold (without the Vanity Plates) as Disney Racers at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Dragon Maleficent could be found in a Sleeping Beauty McDonald's Happy Meal in 1996.

The Maleficent figure doubles as a pen (the toys in this series were school supplies).

A wind-up toy of Dragon Maleficent was sold at the Disney Parks in the early to mid 2000's.

Maleficent is regularly seen at a nighttime show called Fantasmic! at Disneyland in California and at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida (it is in the works for Tokyo DisneySea in Japan).

In Fantasmic!, Mickey Mouse's Dream turns into a Nightmare when the Disney Villains take over.

Fantasmic! debuted at Disneyland in California in 1992. The show features actors, fireworks, water and mist screens, film, floats, and more! I got to see Disneyland's show in 1993, but it wasn't playing during my visit in 2008.

Fantasmic! opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida in 1998. I have never seen the Florida version of the show, but I know some changes were made from the original.

Over the years, there have been many rumors about the Disney Villains getting their own ride, land, or theme park.

A Villain Mountain thrill ride (also known as Bald Mountain) was rumored for Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida (in the former 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea location) as part of a new Villain zone. Fantasyland is currently expanding in this area with a Little Mermaid ride, a Beauty and the Beast village and restaurant, and a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster.

An interactive Villains attraction was also rumored to replace the Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. The rumors mentioned Disney Villains or Movie Villains.

A Disney Villains thrill ride theme park at Walt Disney World in Florida was also a big rumor for many years (Tragic Kingdom?).

For now, the Disney Villains have Fantasmic! Maybe someday they'll have a new place to cause more chaos.