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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scooby Doo, Where Were You? Kings Island In Ohio!

Even though I grew up in the south, I am familiar with the Kings Island theme park in Ohio. I had neighbors with relatives in Cincinnati. I also have family in Indiana (home to many Kings Island visitors) so I have been to the park a couple of times.

In the summer of 1988, I got to visit Kings Island on a rainy day. We had a great time! I bought a gigantic park map in one of the gift shops. Somehow it survived the storm.

The park has changed dramatically since my 1988 visit. Like so many theme parks, Kings Island used to have a Safari ride (a monorail through the Wild Animal Habitat).

You don't have to go to France to see the Eiffel Tower. You can drive to Cincinnati to see it. Well, a smaller version of it.

The famous tower has been the icon of Kings Island since the park opened in 1972.

The park also had Hanna-Barbera Land, home to Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, The Jetsons and some characters you may not have heard of, like The Banana Splits.

I still remember that our car was parked at Astro, Row 4 (Astro is the family dog on Hanna Barbera's animated TV series, The Jetsons).

Judging from the souvenirs that were available at the time, Scooby Doo seemed to be the most popular Hanna Barbera character at Kings Island. Hanna Barbera even tried to copy themselves to top him.

Clue Club was one of many Hanna Barbera-created Scooby Doo clones in the 1970s.

In addition to the rides, Kings Island had a few shows. I'm guessing the mime could be found by the Eiffel Tower.

Were the dolphins relocated during the winter? I can't imagine them liking Ohio in December.

In addition to the awesome 80s performances, visitors could meet the Smurfs.

I regret not seeing Hanna Barbera's Hollywood, which was a marionette show of some kind.

I bought a small Scooby Doo plush at the Hanna Barbera Fun Shop.

Of all the Hanna Barbera character merchandise I could have picked up at Kings Island in 1988 (they had Grape Ape stuff!) I wound up concentrating on the one Hanna Barbera character that lasted the longest at Kings Island.

I also made sure to get a Scooby Doo plastic drink container souvenir at Kings Island. I can't remember what the beverage was.

They also had Fred Flintstone for sale.

I had bought this Scrappy Doo button before I finally found a Scooby Doo one before I left the park for the day.

For the 2002 live action Warner Brothers Scooby Doo movie, Scrappy was the unmasked villain. I thought that was pretty clever and funny.

These buttons cost 89 cents back then.

I'm pretty sure they had buttons with The Flintstones and Yogi Bear, too.

While in Hanna Barbera Land, I made sure to ride the Smurf's Enchanted Voyage Ride. In front of this boat ride, you could find a Scooby Doo statue. I decided to make myself and my two cousins cartoon ghosts for this story. I'm the green ghost in this picture.

When Kings Island first opened, this boat ride was called Enchanted Voyage, and featured all sorts of Hanna Barbera characters. The attraction was changed to a Smurf ride in 1982. For the 1992 season, the old ride was demolished and a new (dry) omnimover dark ride called Phantom Theater debuted here. In 2003, the attraction became an interactive ghost-blaster ride called Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle. For 2010, the Scooby Doo characters were dropped and the ride became Boo Blasters on Boo Hill.

For more of my Smurfs ride visit, check out It's a Smurfy World After All: Smurf's Enchanted Voyage Ride.

I also enjoyed the Ferris Wheel in the Oktoberfest section.

I think I found that Scooby Doo plastic drink container near this ride. I do remember that the beverage in the Scooby container was not beer.

I enjoyed Shake, Rattle and Roll, even in the rain.

I love roller coasters now, but I was too chicken to ride the Vortex back then.

Since it was raining already, it was a good time to ride White Water Canyon.

These orange ponchos were everywhere that day! We did not get one.

The newest ride at Kings Island was Amazon Falls, located near the Wild Animal Habitat.

This ride is a bit different from the similar Splashwater Falls attraction I grew up with at Six Flags Over Georgia.

Yes, Kings Island had penguins!

I bet these guys did not mind Ohio's winters.

Are we in the DreamWorks movie Madagascar? Nope, we are still at Kings Island.

This lemur has a tiny baby.

Don't be frightened child, they're only humans!

I'm guessing these animals had to be relocated in the cold winter months. Where did they go?

The snow leopards probably would have been alright.

A limited number of animals were on display for everyone. To see the rest of them, you could take an up-charge monorail ride through the Safari. Luckily, we got to do this! This was our last ride of the day.

Are we in Africa? No, we are in Ohio, without a doubt!

I really enjoyed this ride. I think it was air conditioned. And we got away from the rain.

This was a great shot!

The monorails got pretty close to many of the animals.

I remember being able to see a rhino from the queue line of the Racer roller coaster.

Did Hanna Barbera ever have a Rhino character? They should have.

The Wild Animal Habitat was rather large.

This land was later used to expand the park's collection of roller coasters.

Let's sing: "Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play."

"Then tear it down, and build a Top Gun roller coaster there."

In 1992, Kings Island, Great America, Carowinds, and Kings Dominion theme parks were bought by Paramount.

Paramount and Kings Island actually had a past. Kings Island was featured in a 1973 episode of Paramount's TV show, "The Brady Bunch." Jan caused an uproar when she switched Mike Brady's architectural theme park expansion plans for a Yogi Bear poster. Oh, Jan! Marcia would never have done something like that.

The Paramount switch meant some big changes for Kings Island and its sister parks. The biggest threat for Hanna Barbera was the arrival of Nickelodeon characters.

Hanna Barbera Land got some Nickelodeon subdivisions, and the entire park started seeing rides with movie themes.

I can remember hearing the slogan, "You're gonna be smilin' at Paramount's Kings Island!"

I thought the new name was a bit awkward. I'm glad we didn't see something like "Warner Brothers Presents Six Flags Over Georgia" in response.

By my visit in 1995, Hanna Barbera characters were tough to find at Paramount's Kings Island.

I did find this pin featuring A Pup Named Scooby Doo.

Mixed in with many of the existing Hanna Barbera Land components were Nickelodeon elements like a Green Slime fountain.

By 1995, it was clear that the Hanna Barbera characters were living on borrowed time at Kings Island.

A Pup Named Scooby Doo was a fun new twist on the characters.

This series parodied the Scooby Doo formula.

The Nickelodeon brand eventually took over Hanna Barbera Land, leaving only the Scooby Doo dark ride as a reminder of the past.

When Cedar Fair bought the Paramount Parks in 2006, everything changed.

In 2010, another cartoon canine emerged as the Top Dog of the theme park world. True to the expression "Dog Eat Dog," Snoopy took down Scooby Doo and the Nickelodeon characters and claimed the former Hanna Barbera Land at Kings Island as Planet Snoopy. The former King Mills Log Flume is now called Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown (based on the 1977 Peanuts film).

Snoopy first became a theme park mascot in 1983 at Knott's Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park, California (where he hosts his own land, Camp Snoopy). In 1992, Knott's opened a Camp Snoopy theme park in the Mall of America in Minnesota, which was ironically replaced by Nickelodeon Universe in 2008.

In 1997, the Cedar Fair theme park chain (owners of the popular Cedar Point theme park in Sandusky, Ohio) bought Knott's Berry Farm and inherited Snoopy as a mascot for their parks.

With Cedar Fair's purchase of the Paramount Parks, all of the Nickelodeon/Hanna Barbera sections were re-themed to the Peanuts characters.

Snoopy may now be in more theme parks than any other cartoon character.

The Peanuts gang can also be found at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, where they have their own section called Snoopy's Playland.

Snoopy even has a past with Walt Disney World in Florida! The MetLife-sponsored Wonders of Life Pavilion at Epcot featured the Peanuts characters in its 1989 opening promotional materials.

Inspired by the Kings Island story, I bring you (in time for Halloween) my idea for Snoopy Doo And The Great Pumpkin. Schroeder is now dating The Little Red Haired Girl. The Pumpkin Patch that Linus, Snoopy and the rest of the kids visit is being terrorized by The Great Pumpkin. Luckily, Marcie is around to help solve the mystery.

Charlie Brown and Lucy put their differences aside to form an alliance and split up the romance between Schroeder and the Little Red Haired Girl. As a bonus, Lucy got to terrorize her brother, and Charlie Brown got to scare his defiant dog. Charlie Brown and Lucy would have gotten way with it, if it had not been for those meddling kids and Snoopy-Dooby Doo!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Disney's The Lion King At Burger King, McDonald's And KFC

Simba became the King Of Fast Food with the release of The Lion King in June of 1994.

When The Lion King hit it big in theaters, so did the Fast Food toys at Burger King.

The Lion King toys sold out very quickly. I was not able to get them all, even though I really tried.

The first one I got was Nala, right before the movie debuted. The second one I got was Simba.

Value Book 2 was included in the polybag with Simba. It included coupons for Payless Shoe Source, Cheerios, Mattel toys and other Lion King Promotional Partners.

Simba in this set is a cool wind up toy. He moves forward and rolls over.

After I got Simba, it quickly got tougher to find more of the toys.

I did find one Burger King that had all the toys, but you could only get one per visit, and you had to buy food. At that restaurant, I chose Timon and Pumbaa.

With relatives searching, I was also able to get Scar. The last toy I found was Rafiki. After I found him, the stores started putting signs up letting people know that the toys were sold out.

In addition to the toys, Burger King sold Lion King plastic cups.

These were a bit easier to get.

In December of 1994, Burger King re-released the toys in time for The Lion King's return to theaters.

I don't think Burger King ever re-released any other Disney Fast Food Toys.

Extreme Collectors should note that the toys issued in June included a Value Book, and the ones in December did not.

This bag is from December 1994. It was very easy to get all the toys at this time. I got the complete set on one visit, and did not have to buy any food.

Burger King sold acrylic Walt Disney Classics Glasses (including The Lion King) in December of 1994, too.

The artwork on the glasses is the same as the covers of the VHS tapes sold at this time.

In Europe and in many other parts of the world, McDonald's promoted The Lion King.

The Lion King 1994 McDonald's Happy Meal toys are my favorite Lion King Fast Food set.

I especially like the Zazu toy.

For some reason, Burger King never used Zazu in their promotions.

The four different McDonald's Lion King Happy Meal Toys each had their own gimmick.

Timon spins on Pumbaa's back, Simba pounces, the wind-up Zazu hops, and the wind-up Scar walks.

In Australia, fast food chain Hungry Jack's (Australia's version of Burger King) promoted The Lion King.

These rubbery PVC figures are pull-back toys.

In the United States, The Lion King returned to Burger King for the Home Video Release of the film.

This promotion featured finger puppets in boxes.

The characters have PVC heads and fabric "bodies" and are attached to the boxes.

The lid on the box can be closed.

I wasn't impressed with this set. Did kids think these particular toys were fun?

In all fairness, I was way past the target age when these were sold.

Burger King Kids Club Meals did not have colorful boxes with games, but the Burger King Adventures Newsletter stuffed in the Meal bag did.

Burger King had some talented artists creating their games.

Disney did not have an exclusive deal with Burger King. Simba made his first U.S. appearance at McDonald's in the Disneyland Adventures Happy Meal in 1995.

The Lion King Celebration Parade debuted at Disneyland in 1994. Components of the parade later found a home at Walt Disney World in Florida when Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 (as Festival of The Lion King). The show was also added to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005.

McDonald's also featured adult Simba as part of their Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection Happy Meal.

This Home Video promotion used a VHS Clamshell-style box that contained a Disney figure.

Timon and Pumbaa got their own animated TV series in 1995.

"The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa" aired on CBS Saturday Mornings and on The Disney Afternoon.

Burger King released a set of Timon and Pumbaa toys in 1996.

The show followed Pumbaa and Timon in their adventures around the world. Other segments in the series starred the Hyenas and Rafiki. Simba and Zazu also made cameo appearances.

I love finding hidden gems like "The Great Earthworm Race!" The artist responsible for this Burger King Kids Club Adventures 1996 game is uncredited, unfortunately. I think these are the most appealing cartoon bugs I've seen.

I guess I have a thing for cartoon insects. It's probably because they are so close to being real-life "monsters."

The creepy-crawlies that Timon and Pumbaa love to eat "taste like chicken" so it was only fitting for Timon and Pumbaa to appear at a chicken restaurant chain.

The World of Bugs took Timon and Pumbaa to uncharted territory for Disney: KFC!

These fun toys are a bit smaller than the premiums found at McDonald's or Burger King.

I only knew about this set because I remember reading about it on the Internet at the time (1996).

In 1998, McDonald's had a plush toy Happy Meal promoting The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, the illogical direct to video sequel to The Lion King. I will say that the toys are pretty nice.

Watching this movie made my brain hurt.

I will say that the film's animation, produced by Walt Disney Animation Australia, looked really good. I just thought the story was awkward, and seemed to operate on the thinking that "It's just a cartoon. Nobody will care if it doesn't make sense."

Zira's relationship with Scar in Simba's Pride is vague, though cut sequences of the movie (which can be found, in pieces, online) indicate that Zira was originally written to be Scar's mate for the sequel. Scar with Zira? I would not have bought that.

In this film, Zazu wasn't voiced by Rowan Atkinson. He was voiced by Edward Hibbert (Gil on TV's Frasier).

Because this was a direct to video project, the lions were de-clawed and neutered.

In the original ending (which you can find online) Zira struggles on a cliff. Rather than accept help from Kiara, Zira chooses to plunge to her death. Of course, this was cut. At least we know that the writers tried to do something daring with the sequel.

For the Disney 100 Years of Magic Celebration at Walt Disney World in 2002, McDonald's had a special Happy Meal featuring 100 different toys.

Three of those toys were Lion King characters.

In 2004, Disney released the third Lion King movie, the direct to DVD "The Lion King 1 1/2."

Though the film has an odd title, I think it is pretty funny. This takes place during the first movie, and parodies the original film. New characters include Timon's Mom (Julie Kavner, the voice of Marge Simpson) and Jerry Stiller as Timon's Uncle Max. The best part about this DVD is the Virtual Safari, which lampoons Disney dark rides, including Pirates of the Caribbean, the Matterhorn, and the Haunted Mansion.

The McDonald's Happy Meal toys for The Lion King 1 1/2 are inadvertently hysterical to me. My mind is in the gutter here. Must. Refrain. From. Making. Inappropriate. Jokes.

The diagram is especially funny. What is it that this toy does, exactly? Something that creates happiness.

In 2005, Simba was back for a Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Happiest Celebration on Earth Happy Meal. This set of toys featured different Disney theme park lenticular cards to collect.

Here Simba can be seen with Hong Kong Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005. In 2008, the park got a new version of It's A Small World. This was the first version of the ride to feature Disney characters.

Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, and Mufasa can be found in the Africa section of the famous boat ride.

I would love to see Lion King rides in the Africa section of Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida. The characters wouldn't have to look like characters seen in the movie.

I would suggest that Disney could use the stylized character designs created by artist Addis Zaryan, originally developed for Disney Store merchandise years ago (including this totem statue).

I imagine a great musical dark ride could entertain visitors to the Africa section of the park hours after the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction closes for the night.

How about a Circle of Life Spinner ride? It could look like this mirror.

There could also be a Splash Battle Watering Hole Lion King ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom, themed to the Just Can't Wait To Be King sequence. It could be populated with characters that look like these Nesting Doll figures.

Addis Zaryan's designs are fun, and look like Disney and Africa and something totally new, too. With the continued success of The Lion King, I think it is time for a Lion King Pridelands section of Africa at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Florida!