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Saturday, July 30, 2011

King Kong, Christmas Ape

I was thrilled to get a King Kong Christmas stocking when I was a kid back in 1986. There's nothing quite like a ferocious gorilla to get you into the holiday spirit.

Being the nerd that I am, I never removed the tag.

My somewhat violent King Kong stocking happily devoured small toys for over a decade.

One of the prizes found in Christmas Stocking Kong's belly was a plastic King Kong Candy Topper toy.

As a young kid, I was fascinated by monkeys and apes, yet I was also scared of them. I blame the Flying Monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. King Kong was the product of a time when gorillas were portrayed as bloodthirsty monsters, and marketed as the most terrifying creatures alive. The reality is that they are mostly gentle giants.

King Kong has been a major mascot for Universal Studios for many years.

I got to visit Universal Studios Hollywood in 1990. It's a working movie studio and a theme park.

Visitors could get their picture taken with King Kong at a location close to the Conan O'Brien Sword and Sorcery Spectacular Talk Show. Or maybe that was the Conan the Barbarian Show. At the time of my visit, the park's only ride was the Tram Tour (a very impressive attraction).

The Tram Tour is the biggest attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. The Tram travels through working film sets and experiences created specially for the Tour. I can also remember our guide pointing out the park's earthquake/disaster shelter, and the site of the then-under-construction E.T. Adventure (since replaced by The Revenge of the Mummy ride). I thought it was interesting to see how close the Studios are to neighborhoods. I can remember easily seeing homes when viewing the Animal Actors' Stage show.

King Kong became part of the Tram Tour in 1986.

The huge, destructive animatronic gorilla had powerful banana breath (he really did!).

Sadly, the King Kong portion of the Universal Studios Hollywood Backlot Tour was destroyed by a massive fire in 2008. In 2010, King Kong 360 3D, a film attraction based on the 2005 Peter Jackson version of King Kong, opened where the robotic ape once menaced tram tour visitors.

In 1990, Universal Studios Florida opened in Orlando, and King Kong was part of the action. I love the energetic artwork created for Universal Studios promotional materials.

Brand new to the park was The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, a ride film. Years later, the attraction was re-themed to Jimmy Neutron and the Nickelodeon characters. It will soon become a new "Despicable Me" ride. The Hanna-Barbera film has also been shown at various theme parks that have ride film theaters.

Segments of the Universal Studios Hollywood Tram Tour were expanded to become individual attractions. Earthquake, King Kong and Jaws were not just stops on a tour anymore. They were their own big rides.

The King Kong experience became Kongfrontation in Florida.

King Kong in Florida did not look the same as the ape in California. I thought the gorilla in Hollywood was more impressive.

The name "Kongfrontation" was later adapted for the King Kong Tram Tour segment in Hollywood.

In Florida, King Kong was neighbors with the Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters was a lively (or deadly?) show featuring a Pepper's Ghost effect of Slimer (the green ghost) flying across the stage.

I think a big, interactive Ghostbusters ride would be a nice fit for Universal Studios Florida.

A Ghostbusters Ride could be funny and scary. Armed with their Ectoplasm Guns, riders could board an Ectomobile and round up all the troublesome spirits, then face Gozer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in the finale. Just think of the merchandising opportunities!

At Universal Studios in Hollywood, characters like the Flintstones (in a show based on the 1994 live action movie) and Casper the Friendly Ghost (seen in an exhibit based on the live action film) could be seen rubbing elbows with King Kong in 1995. I think a Casper the Friendly Ghost Haunted House attraction would be a nice addition to a theme park.

Over the years, attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida have changed quite a bit. The arrival of the Revenge of the Mummy attraction in 2004 meant the closure of the E.T. Adventure in California and Kongfrontation in Florida. Likewise, the Back to the Future attractions in Orlando and Hollywood were replaced by The Simpsons Ride in 2008.

Viewers of The Simpsons may remember Actor Troy McClure (the late Phil Hartman) from such films as "Christmas Ape" and its sequel, "Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp" (taken from the hilarious Season 8 episode, "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," which was the best "Impy and Chimpy" cartoon Ned Flanders had ever seen).

The Simpsons also had an unforgettable King Kong parody (with Homer as the gorilla, naturally), "King Homer," as part of the Treehouse of Horror III Halloween episode in 1992.

King Kong can still be found at the Universal Orlando Resort, though he's no longer starring in a ride there.
He's now protecting your ride! Do you feel safe parking your car at Jurassic Park, with King Kong, or with Jaws?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Disney's Beauty And The Beast: The Beast, The Beauty And The Wardrobe

Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time, so it's no surprise that the entertaining Disney version of the story was such a huge hit when it debuted in 1991.

The "Be The Beast" mask ad for the Super Nintendo Beauty and the Beast game could be found in the Burger King Kids Club Adventures newsletter promoting "The Lion King" in June of 1994.

Gaston wouldn't rest until the Beast's head was mounted on his wall. Belle could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if she had bought him a Collector's Mask of the Beast. This rare item was sold in the Disney Catalog around the time the movie was first released.

If Disney ever created a CGI version of Beauty and the Beast, I imagine this is what the Beast's head would look like. With all the great songs, and all the characters with different textures (porcelain, wood, wax, fur, brass, fabric, etc.) I think a CGI Beauty and the Beast could be simply amazing.

Belle (that's "Beauty" in French, something we learned in the "Bonjour" musical number when Belle's acquaintances sang in front of her about the fact that Belle was an outcast) is among friends with the Enchanted Objects.

The Markrita Belle Figurine (made by artists Mark and Rita Dornan) also features a fantastic sculpted pin of Beast. Beauty and the Beast items for collectors were frequently seen in the Disney Catalog during the early 2000s.

Who can forget the great scene in Beauty and the Beast where Mr. Tumnus jumps out of the Wardrobe to help fight off Gaston? Maybe I'm getting stories mixed up here.

What's in the Wardrobe's drawers? Whatever you put there! The Wind-Up Musical Wooden Armoire trinket box was made by a company called Schmid.

Schmid produced a large assortment of Beauty and the Beast collectibles.

These items were sold when the film debuted in 1991.

The Disney Catalog often developed some very creative, functional merchandise. They seemed to have a knack for making wonderful looking desk accessories, including one for Beauty and the Beast in the early 2000s.

There was also a Seven Dwarfs Desk set sold at about the same time, which can be seen at Disney's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: The Plush Toy.

The sculptor for the Bell Jar took a bit of artistic license with Belle and the Beast, but in a good way. The characters looks a bit like a storybook illustration in three dimensions.

The Musical Snowglobe has a more traditional representation of the film's characters and settings. The Bell Jar and Musical Snowglobe were sold in the early 1990s.

The Beast's Castle was full of talking knick-knacks and furniture.

The Beast even had a talking Stove, who was brought to life as a Cardew Teapot.

Mrs. Potts, Chip and the Enchanted Objects enjoy serving their Guests.

Oops! Someone painted Lumiere's base in different colors. I guess maybe they wanted him to match Mrs. Potts and Chip.

This set was also issued in white, with gold accents.

Mrs. Potts was worried about getting spots on her in the movie. This version of Mrs. Potts would probably have a nervous breakdown if she was alive.

Beauty and the Beast get down and get funky as they boogie the night away in teapot form.

This teapot was not made to be used. I imagine it would be quite the conversation piece at a dinner party.

What time is it? It's time for a musical number in the dining room!

Luckily, the performing flatware is always punctual thanks to the Lumiere watch.

A high-class fellow like Cogsworth appreciates being made into a Waterford Crystal Clock. Crystal Cogsworth is breakable, so he cannot be the victim of slapstick comedy like he was in the movie.
The Beast's castle runs like clockwork thanks to Cogsworth.

Lumiere and Cogsworth are the best of friends. Most of the time.

The Beauty and the Beast Harmony Kingdom Box also features Mrs. Potts and Chip (not shown).

Artist Ron Lee has created sculptures of many famous characters over the years.

Ron Lee is also known for his sculptures of clowns, so his figure of Lumiere and Cogsworth is in good company.

Lumiere is a hit at parties, so make sure to wear the pin version of the famous candelabra to your next social gathering.

Lumiere will inspire you to wax poetic, which will impress everyone you meet.

Swarovski created some elegant Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Object pins, too.

Whether you are a being a guest, being a guest, being a guest or being a host, people will be impressed by the glittering crystal pin representations of these famous cartoon household objects.

Tonight, on a very special segment of Beauty and the Beast, we learn that the Beast never learned to read. Luckily, Belle, his bookish prisoner-turned-friend-turned-lover, teaches him how.

This is one of the best looking sculptures/snowglobes of the characters that I've ever seen.

Lumiere really lights up the room as a Big Figure.

The character designers and artists on Beauty and the Beast did such an amazing job. Lumiere's wax "hair" and melted candle "hands" are very inventive.

Lenox produced some detailed Figurines of some of the Beauty and the Beast characters.

The Beast proposes to Belle. She's already wearing her wedding dress. She says no. She wants to change him first.

The matronly Mrs. Potts enjoys spending time with her nine year old son, Chip.

Mrs. Potts was a wonderful mother figure for the Beast. She was so much nicer than the Beast's tutor, that awful Mrs. Commode.

Lumiere is quite the suave, sophisticated, charming candelabra.

Lumiere's children, a box of birthday candles, were not seen in the film or anywhere else. Because I just made that idea up.

Belle and the Beast take the advice of Mary Poppins and feed the birds.

Belle discovers something there that wasn't there before. She now has to worry about getting ticks and fleas.

Time is ticking for Beast. Belle must fall in love with him before the last rose petal falls, or his castle will remain cursed and he will never be a human again. The Beast's employees really got the raw deal here, being transformed into objects AND still having to serve the guy that caused the mess in the first place.
Belle and the Beast have the Most Dramatic... Rose Ceremony... Ever!!! Take that, reality TV shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette!

Belle turns life in the Beast's Castle upside down for everyone. In a good way.

This beautiful Hour Glass Snowglobe is not intended to be used as an actual hour glass (you'll really mess up the Castle if you try).

The Beast's Castle is brought to life in miniature, snowglobe form by sculptor Ian Fraser.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, the Beast's Castle towers over Belle's Village and cottage. Guests will soon be able to dine in Beast's Castle at the Be Our Guest Restaurant (it's supposed to snow there, too!).

The Beauty and the Beast Village French Village from Goebel was sold in the Disney Catalog in the 1990s.
Establishments not featured in The Beauty and the Beast French Village include Marcel's Mime Academy, Fifi's Poodle Parlor Dog Grooming, Escargot King (their slogan is "Slow Food. Fast."), Eiffel Tower Records, and Waffle Chateau.

At Fantasyland in Walt Disney World in Florida, visitors will soon be able to explore Belle's Village.
The Village is under construction as I write this, and is taking shape nicely between the It's A Small World attraction and the new Little Mermaid dark ride also under construction.

Visitors to the expanded Fantasyland will also be able to meet Belle in person.

Belle and Maurice's Cottage will house a new interactive attraction to entertain Walt Disney World Guests.

Beauty and the Beast have been appearing in Disney theme parks since 1991. The Beast may seem intimidating to these visitors at Disneyland in California, but he's really a softy.

He's literally a softy---he's a plush toy, as seen in the Disney Catalog merchandise from Beauty and the Beast's original theatrical run. You've got to love the Beast slippers, too.

For some holiday fun, check out Beauty And The Beast Valentines.

For more of Beauty and the Beast in Fantasyland, check out Walt Disney World's New Fantasyland (In Snow Globe Form).

If you are hungry now, check out Disney's Beauty and the Beast At Burger King, Pizza Hut And McDonald's.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jurassic Park: Carnotaurus And Chaos Effect---It's A Jurassic World After All

Welcome...to Jurassic Park!

At Jurassic Park, you'd better watch out for a menacing Carnotaurus. Wait a minute. What?

A Carnotaurus bullied visitors to Jurassic Park years before guests at an Orlando, Florida animal theme park (that opened in 1998) counted down to extinction on a dinosaur thrill ride.

The Carnotaurus was one of the dinosaurs featured in Michael Crichton's 1995 book, The Lost World (the sequel to his 1990 novel, Jurassic Park), though it did not appear in the 1997 film adaptation. The Carno did manage to appear on some merchandise.

The Lost World seemed to have a much bigger marketing push than the original Jurassic Park.

It would have been nice if I had enjoyed The Lost World as much as I loved Jurassic Park.

When the original Jurassic Park was released by Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment in 1993, I saw this Steven Spielberg film in the movie theater three times.

I made sure I got these PVC figures of a Triceratops, Dilophosaur, and Tyrannosaurs Rex made by Dakin.

McDonald's and Coca Cola teamed up for Jurassic Park cups. I was only able to get two of them.

McDonald's also had a Jurassic Meal. There was no toy. It featured a HUGE burger. I think it was a triple Quarter Pounder with three slices of cheese and a gigantic serving of fries. Yes, I tried it!

For the Lost World in 1997, Burger King handled the fast food promotion (at the time, McDonald's had an exclusive deal going on with a very famous and powerful Mouse).

This watch features a Stegosaurus, a dinosaur that made its big screen Jurassic Park debut in The Lost World.

The Stegosaurus and Triceratops could be found on tubes of candy, too. The two dinosaur pieces snapped together to form a toy after the tube of candy was finished.

I think the candy was Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Mmmmm!

Nobody would ever dare to leave the T-Rex out of anything involving food. The T-Rex Water Squirter and Stamper were found on the tops of tubes of candy.

I think these toys may have been sold with Hershey's chocolates.

The Jurassic Park Lost World dinosaurs also became Koosh toys.

The T-Rex figure was really nicely done. If I had the money back then, I probably would have gotten all the dinosaurs.

In 1994, I got to see the Triceratops from the Jurassic Park film at an movie prop exhibit at Universal Studios Florida.

Years later, visitors would get to encounter a full fledged animatronic Triceratops at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.

In 1999, Jurassic Park opened at Universal's Islands of Adventure next to Universal Studios Florida.

I got this pressed penny of a T-Rex during my visit to Universal Orlando in 2009.

Jurassic Park opened with Camp Jurassic, Pteranodon Flyers, the Jurassic Park River Adventure, the Triceratops Discovery Trail and the Jurassic Park Discovery Center.

The Triceratops Discovery Trail had been closed for years.

The Triceratops Encounter may or may not be listed as an attraction, but the buildings are still shown on the park map.

I got to see an animatronic Triceratops in person during my visit in 2009.

Universal spared no expense in bringing Jurassic Park to life.

The Pteranodon Flyers coaster looks really fun in person. I have not been on this ride yet. This is a low-capacity attraction, unfortunately. I visited Islands of Adventure on an uncrowded day in November, and the wait for the ride was one of the longest in the park.

The Jurassic Park River Adventure features some friendly and not-so-friendly animatronic dinosaurs. You will get drenched.

Before the big flume plunge, you are attacked by a Dilophosaur, hassled by Velociraptors, and nearly eaten by a T-Rex.

The Jurassic Park River Adventure first debuted at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California in 1996. The ride can also be found at Universal Studios Japan (2001) and Universal Studios Singapore (2010).

New attractions for Jurassic Park at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Florida have been rumored for years. I have to wonder if Jurassic Park's expansion land has been surrendered to its neighbor, the very popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I'd love to see a new fantasy based attraction for Jurassic Park based on Jurassic Park Chaos Effect.

Chaos Effect was a line of merchandise that was released by Kenner in 1998. This Hasbro Jurassic Park Spin-Off imagined scientists mixing the DNA of various dinosaurs and other animals to create "ultra-ferocious, hybrid dinosaurs---the most aggressive predators ever---wreaking chaos on an unsuspecting world!" Why would anyone ever do something like this? Because they look awesome, that's why.

The Jurassic Park scientists created this deadly 13 foot, 2 ton Compstegnathus using DNA from a Stegosaurus, a Compsognathus and an African Tree Frog.

The Chaos Effect creatures are "genetically mutated dinos gone bad." Really, who would have guessed that?

I only have the Compstegnathus, so I don't have the statistics on the other creatures. We'll have to guess what makes up the other dinos.

Tyrannonops might have some sabre-tooth tiger DNA.

Tanaconda has a bit of anaconda.

Raptor Alpha looks a bit like a T-Rex and a Raptor.

Ian Malcolm doesn't look much like Jeff Goldblum here. Is he on steroids? And he now works with a baby T-Rex.

I wonder if this was a proposed animated series.

I'd love to see a giant animatronic Velocirapteryx in a new ride at Jurassic Park.

Chaos Effect could be a big new interactive ride of some sort, all leading up to an encounter with the biggest, baddest dinosaur ever developed by the mad scientists at Jurassic Park...

Look out for Ultimasaurus! I believe I can see parts of a Triceratops, a T-Rex, a Velociraptor and an Ankylosaur.

I have a marketing slogan for Chaos Effect at Jurassic Park:

Chaos Effect---It'll Kick Jurassic!

*UPDATE 6/6/14:

Chaos Effect will be in full force in the latest Jurassic Park film, Jurassic World.