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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Walt Disney World And The Spider-Man Shuttle: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Van

This Summer, I'll be visiting Walt Disney World in Florida. I'll be staying on Disney property, and like many people these days, I'll also be visiting Universal's Islands of Adventure. I'd love to see Walt Disney World offer the "Spider-Man Shuttle," a service for Disney Resort guests who could take the Spider-Man themed "Spider-Van" to visit Marvel Super Hero Island and the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando. Disney could sell Spider-Man themed Universal ticket packages and even include special perks.

With Universal's recent announcement of upgrades to its fantastic "Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man" attraction, it's pretty clear that Islands of Adventure does not intend on dropping Marvel (a brand Disney recently acquired) from its Florida resort any time soon. Since Marvel has an existing, strong alliance with Universal, this could be a creative way to give Spider-Man and the Marvel characters a stronger presence at Walt Disney World.

If people are going to visit the very popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter anyway, it seems like the Mouse would want to get in on that action, with the help of Spider-Man and the Spider-Van. Disney's ABC Family already airs Harry Potter film marathons, so there's also that existing connection.

I visited Universal's Islands of Adventure for the first time in 2009, and had a blast. My favorite souvenir from this trip is a pressed penny of Spider-Man.

Of all the attractions at Universal Orlando, I thought the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man was the best. I can't wait to finally experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Years before Universal's Islands of Adventure attractions were a twinkle in an ex-Disney Imagineer's eye, Spider-Man and the Hulk could be found with Universal characters like Frankenstein and Woody Woodpecker. The exciting new Flipits were available to order from comic books in 1979.

It looks like Flipit "puppets" (their word) were pieces of cardboard with a balloon stuck to them. You could also get a Flipit of Super Chick, a character I only know from this advertisement.

There was no Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction to dazzle folks back in 1982, but there was the Atari Spider-Man video game from Parker Brothers. Here, the game's graphics are drawn in comic book form, and the images are priceless.

This ad is from a 1982 Smurfs comic book from Marvel.

Holy Hannah, Batman!

In 1995, McDonald's and the Fox Kid's Network (home to the Spider-Man animated series) teamed up for a contest for arcade games based on Spider-Man, X-Men and Captain America.

Second prize was a SEGA X-Men game. Not too shabby!

Spider-Man Cereal, with its nutritious crispy rice spider webs and marshmallow cameras, was launched in 1995 by Ralston.

Why didn't someone think of a spider web rice cereal 40 years ago? General Mills could have had Charlotte's Web cereal, with marshmallow spiders.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Spider-Man and his friends appeared in comic book ads for Hostess Snack Cakes.

Spider-Man was featured in a very funny comic with June Jitsu for Hostess Twinkies.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. June Jitsu could not stop eating the Twinkies that Spider-Man gave her, and she got so out of shape that she could no longer use her Kung Fu for evil.

The Hulk takes on the Roller Disco Devils in a Hostess Fruit Pie ad from 1980.

Hulk eat Hostess Fruit Pie now, or Hulk smash things!!

Are you Thor? Yes, it hurts. My sides hurt after reading this 1978 ad for Hostess Fruit Pies.

Best melodramatic lines ever: "By Thunder, he stops in his tracks at the sight of Hostess Fruit Pies." "Hostess Fruit Pies have re-awakened his own being and destroyed the spell." "Enjoy Thy-self! Eat thy fill of Apple, Cherry and Peach Fruit Pies!"

Daredevil and Johnny Clymbe are featured in this 1977 ad. I don't know much about Daredevil. Was Johnny Clymbe an established character, or was he created for this ad, and named Clymbe because he climbed to the top of a building for Hostess Fruit Pies?

"Now that I've reached the top, for my Hostess Fruit Pies there's no place left to go except the stores...because they are there, too!" Clymbe, there's nowhere to go but down now.

By 1995, Spider-Man was the spokesman for Drakes Cakes.

I grew up in the South, and had never heard of Drakes Cakes (we had Little Debbie Snack cakes).

This 1980 ad from an Avengers comic book features Spider-Man action figures and The Empire Strikes Back, in comic book form.

There's also a grudge match between Spider-Man and Superman. I wonder who won?

The Marvel Comics Fun and Games sound exciting! Really, REALLY exciting! Seriously, read what the Marvel Super Heroes are saying.

I'll have what they're having.

Disney and Marvel have worked together before. In 1995, Marvel produced comic books for Disney. Some of the titles included Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the Little Mermaid.

You could also find The Disney Afternoon and Gargoyles Marvel comic books. The Spider-Man ads that I've posted from the 1990s are from some of these Disney comics.

Disney, Marvel and the Muppets could team up for a reboot of the 1980s official Marvel spoof, Spider-Ham!

I think Miss Piggy could be the love interest in a new Spider-Ham series.

I can't wait for my trip to Orlando---I'm sure there will be a trip report here!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tokyo Disneyland's Pan Galactic Pizza Port

What do you get when you mix the alien puppets from Star Wars with the alien Muppets from Sesame Street? You get Pan Galactic Pizza Port, a restaurant show found at Tokyo Disneyland and nowhere else on Earth.

Oriental Land Company, the owners of Tokyo Disneyland in Japan, wanted a new restaurant to open with the Star Wars themed Star Tours attraction in Tomorrowland back in 1989. Artist Steve Kirk had created some alien characters that were looking for a theme park gig. Show writer Kevin Rafferty got cooking with a concept, and the Disney Imagineers dished out Pan Galactic Pizza Port. Yoshi Akiyama, Tokyo Disneyland's Director of Design, and the Tokyo Disneyland executives thought the pitch was out of this world.

As I mentioned in A Tokyo Disneyland Guide To Fun (Circa 1990), I have not yet been to Japan to experience Pan Galactic Pizza Port for myself. This intergalactic pizza parlor is run by an Audio Animatronic alien named Tony Solaroni.

The Summer 1989 issue of Disney News magazine featured a great Pan Galactic Pizza Port article written by Steve Noceti.

Disney Imagineer Steve Kirk is joined by puppet versions of Mrs. Solaroni and the boss, Mr. Foosano.

Diners are entertained by video monitors featuring the behind-the-scenes antics of the pizza-making aliens. The alien characters were developed by Tim Kirk and Rennie Rau, and the puppet fabrication was handled by Lynette Johnson.

Mona Koth enjoys a break from producing and directing video segments for Pan Galactic Pizza Port with some of her friends.

Not shown here is another segment producer, Ellen Lichtwardt, who was probably having to deal with a diva alien puppet in a pizza delivery scene shoot.

The alien characters in the videos appear as puppets and animation. Here is a great illustration of Mrs. Solaroni.

The live action segments, animation and puppetry were brought together by Ron Harris (Video Specialist) and Ken Lisi (Sound Effects Technician/Audio Engineer) and Ron Chesley (Show Producer).

Here we see an illustration of the boss man of Pan Galactic Pizza Port, Mr. Foosano.

When Disney later announced "Plectu's Fantastic Galactic Revue" for Walt Disney World (which was never built) as part of "The Disney Decade" attraction additions in 1990, I instantly thought of these great characters.

The P6 Delivery Saucer is ready for service thanks to Ron Harris, Lynette Johnson and a key grip.

Pan Galactic Pizza Port delivers anywhere in the galaxy. Tipping is appreciated, and a gratuity is automatically added to deliveries outside our solar system.

For putting together a restaurant attraction in record-time, Disney Imagineer Kevin Rafferty is ready for a well-deserved pizza party, catered by Pan Galactic Pizza Port.

Tony Solaroni also has some human employees in the kitchen, too!

To serve as a transition between the aliens of Star Tours and the cartoonish aliens of the Pan Galactic Pizza Port, a security guard character named Officer Zzyxx was stationed at the exit of Star Tours leading to the pizzeria.

Disney Imagineer Valerie Edwards touches up a model of Officer Zzyxx, a character that remained a mystery to me until I finally saw this picture of him in the Spring 1993 issue of Disney News magazine (in an article called "Crafting a Cast of Characters" by Jean Lee).

Pan Galactic Pizza Port has not yet been duplicated at any other Disney Park. However, Officer Zzyxx does appear at Tomorrowland in Walt Disney World. In Florida, he's known as "lounge lizard" Sonny Eclipse, an Audio Animatronic alien singer at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe at the Magic Kingdom.

For more about Tokyo Disneyland, be sure to visit Meet The World, a great website created by my friend TokyoMagic!

For another Disney theme park alien adventure, check out Alien Encounter at Walt Disney World.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yosemite Sam, Pirate Of The Caribbean

During Yosemite Sam's long career at Warner Brothers, he's caused trouble for many of the Looney Tunes characters. Most people probably remember Yosemite Sam as a cowboy with a bad temper, but during the 1970s, Yosemite Sam was also a pirate starring in his own comic book series.

The Looney Tunes became amusement park mascots in 1976 for Marriott's Great America theme parks in California and Illinois. Bugs Bunny and the gang greeted guests and performed in shows.

At Marriott's Great America in Santa Clara, California, Yosemite Sam appeared as a cowboy riding a tiny horse. Great America has changed owners over the years, eventually becoming Paramount's Great America and ultimately California's Great America. The Looney Tunes characters later moved to Magic Mountain in Valencia, California when Warner Brothers joined forces with Six Flags theme parks.

At Marriott's Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, visitors could meet Pirate Yosemite Sam. Today, you can still find the Looney Tunes at the park, which is now called Six Flags Great America. I've never been to Illinois, but I can remember seeing commercials for Great America as a kid on the WGN Chicago cable channel.

The pictures of Yosemite Sam at Marriott's Great America parks are from a book by Tim Onosko called "Fun Land U.S.A." from 1978. I got this book for 50 cents back in the 1980s at a store called Zayre (anyone else remember Zayre?).

The Yosemite Sam comic book was a bit different from Sam's Looney Tunes cartoons. Pirate Yosemite Sam was a rowdy treasure hunter and explorer.

Sam was often paired up with Bugs Bunny, who was often an assistant rather than a foe. Bugs finds a message in a bottle in a story from 1977. Yosemite Sam helps him solve the mystery of the message, and then yada, yada yada...

These stories are still pretty funny after all these years. It's interesting to see Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny as a team.

In 1985, The Looney Tunes teamed up with Six Flags theme parks across the United States.

The Looney Tunes gang took control of the areas of the Six Flags parks aimed at kids.

The park closest to me was Six Flags Over Georgia.

The biggest attraction at Looney Tunes Land was the Yosemite Sam Playfort. Sam also got a new ride, the Yosemite Sam Buccaneer Boats (a flying pirate ship ride). This picture is from 1988, when Six Flags Over Georgia got a new roller coaster called Z-Force (which later moved to Six Flags Magic Mountain and was renamed "Flashback").

This map of Looney Tunes Land at Six Flags Over Georgia is from 1988 and features Cowboy Yosemite Sam at the Pirate themed Buccaneer Boats.

The attraction roster and names of rides in Looney Tunes Land changed quite a bit over the years. The Mini-Mine Train was removed to make way for more flat rides. The land itself later became known as Bugs Bunny Land. The Elmer Fudd Fewwis Wheel is one of the funniest ride names I've seen. Other rides included the Road Runner Runaround and the Henery Hawk Happy Worm.

Henery Hawk took time off from chasing Foghorn Leghorn to team up with Pirate Sam in a story from 1979.

What? Sam has a tough time keeping someone working with him? I can't imagine why!

Sam kidnaps Henrey. That's not very nice, but it does make Sam an interesting "bad guy main character" in the story.

Henrey was never nice in the Foghorn Leghorn stories, so maybe he and Yosemite Sam are a good match as a team.

Wow! Sam kidnaps Henrey then maroons Henery on an island. Then Henrey eats the natives!

Yosemite Sam (as a cowboy) and the Looney Tunes also had their own town at Six Flags St. Louis.

Yosemite Sam was the corrupt Sheriff of Looney Tunes Town, which was a bit different from the Spanish themed Looney Tunes Land at Six Flags Over Georgia.

The Looney Tunes had to wear name tags at Six Flags St. Louis. I'm not sure why. Maybe Daffy was tired of people in Missouri calling him Donald.

This Six Flags St. Louis picture, featuring Cowboy Yosemite Sam, is from 1986. By this time, I think Pirate Sam was being phased out.

In 1977, the Yosemite Sam Pirate origin story was told, thanks to a nice set-up courtesy of Daffy Duck.

Here's a rare glimpse of Yosemite Sam as a baby, and his parents.

Artists and writers were not credited at this time, so I don't know who came up with this story. It's fun and different.

I think Yosemite Sam works well as the main character. Maybe Warner Brothers could do a Yosemite Sam show. After all, the Tasmanian Devil had his own TV show and he barely talked.

Six Flags Over Texas has a boat ride called "Yosemite Sam and the Gold River Adventure." It's a western themed dark boat ride with animatronic Looney Tunes, and it opened in 1992, replacing an original Six Flags dark ride called "Speelunker's Cave".

It's too bad the Yosemite Sam boat ride at Six Flags Over Texas did not have a pirate theme. It could have been a clever spoof on Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean.

This version of Yosemite Sam could be a good mascot for Captain D's or Long John Silver's restaurants.

Daffy Duck loves to break the fourth wall.

In 1992, Pirate Sam appeared as a mug in the Warner Brothers Catalog. This is a mug that looks like it's ready to mug someone.

I bet the designers chose this version of the character because the sword was a clever way to make the handle.

In 1993, Yosemite Sam got his own ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California.

The Yosemite Sam Sierra Falls water ride features Cowboy Sam (or is that Prospector Sam?).

I've never been to Magic Mountain. I wonder if the actual ride looks like the artwork. It looks really nice!

If your biscuits are burnin' (as Sam says in Who Framed Roger Rabbit) this ride should cool them off.

These days, Yosemite Sam is primarily seen as a cowboy, and is still a mascot at Six Flags parks.

Yosemite Sam has been getting angry at various Looney Tunes characters since 1945. He's been a cowboy, a pirate, a knight, a viking and more. As long as that "rackin', frackin' varmint" Bugs Bunny stays busy, Yosemite Sam should have no problem staying in trouble.