Thursday, November 15, 2018
A few days ago, I was driving near my neighborhood and saw a house with a big Christmas display in the front yard. Among the traditional decorations was a light-up Unicorn. I was thinking about how popular Unicorns seem to be these days. I thought it would be funny to come up with a masculine looking Unicorn. One of the burliest horses I can think of is a Clydesdale, which also happens to be associated with Winter and Christmas because of the famous Budweiser Clydesdale commercials. Thus, Dale Earnhorn, the Budweiser Unicorn was born.
Dale Earnhorn is famous for using his sharp horn to open Santa's beer when Old Saint Nick loses his bottle opener.
Saturday, November 10, 2018
Christmas is a big deal at Walt Disney World in Florida. Many of the theme parks have special decorations and events. I was thinking that Disney's Animal Kingdom could really get in on the fun. The big draw at many attractions are the lights, and Animal Kingdom already has a land hosting night time lights. That's why I suggest Feliz Na'vi-Dad: Pandora Blue Christmas. Selling festive Green and Red Banshees items seems like a good idea to me. I made an ornament out of painted foam to celebrate the event.
I decided there should be a special "candy cane" inspired Banshee for Pandora Blue Christmas, too.
Maybe someday we'll be able to head to Animal Kingdom for a very Blue Christmas. We can get a Banshee Eggnog and a Gingerbread Na'vi.
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Here's the first look at my new Netflix Original Series, BLACK PEACOCK, featuring the voice of Samuel L. Jackson. Black Peacock is a tough as nails ornamental bird living on the garden grounds of a sprawling estate. This foul-mouthed fowl must contend with eccentric millionaires, ferocious guard dogs, white-collar criminals, thugs, and a rival bird named Jive Turkey.
So, this is not really a Netflix show. Not yet, anyway. Maybe someday. It's just a crazy idea I had that I thought was fun. This version of Black Peacock is made out of plastic.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
I have been enjoying the 2017 reboot of Disney's DuckTales. The new series pays tribute to the 1987 animated version, as well as a variety of Disney comic books, and even video games. The new show plays with some of the tropes associated with the world, and even expands on them. This includes allowing far more species of birds to appear as characters (the 2017 show already featured a "Papa John's Pizza" parody, "Papa Swan's").
So I came up with Donald Trumpeter Swan to interact with Scrooge. Of course Scrooge voted for him. You'd be delusional to think otherwise.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida is about to celebrate its 20th Birthday. The park opened in April 1998, and in addition to being an Animal Kingdom sponsor, McDonald's released Happy Meal toys promoting the new attraction in the United States and International markets. In Asia, the McDonald's promotion featured Disney character toys with an accessory and a backdrop. It is interesting to go back and see how much has changed in twenty years.
Donald Duck is set for adventure on the Discovery River Boats. It looks like he's spotted a Dragon! This toy set is interesting, because it represents the earliest casualties of Disney's Animal Kingdom. The Discovery River Boats only operated for a few years. The boats floated past a cave containing an unseen dragon, who was supposed to be the star of an upcoming land, Beastly Kingdom. The Mythical animals section was planned from the start, but legend has it that Universal's Islands Of Adventure park's opening in 1999 killed the Animal Kingdom concept of a dragon coaster. Ironically, Universal's Dueling Dragons coaster was recently shut down and will be replaced by a new Harry Potter attraction. Disney's Animal Kingdom finally got its own mythical creature land, full of dragon-like banshees, when Pandora: The World of Avatar opened in 2017. Pandora sits where the dragon themed land was supposed to go.
Dinoland USA was formerly sponsored by McDonald's. Here we can see Goofy making friends with a dinosaur. At the time, Dinoland's main attraction was called "Countdown to Extinction." But it was renamed "Dinosaur" to promote the 2000 Disney movie of the same name. The park opened the county fair type Dino-Rama expansion in 2001.
For 2018, Dinoland will get some new entertainment hosted by Donald Duck. "Donald's Dino-Bash" celebrates the relationship of birds and dinosaurs.
Minnie Mouse makes a new friend in Gorilla Falls Exploration Trails. Gorilla Falls is another Animal Kingdom attraction that had a big change early on.
Gorilla Falls had a name change to "Pangani Forest Exploration Trails" not long after opening. The Gorillas were not always guaranteed to be seen, so a new name was given to the trails. The name returned in 2016.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is Animal Kingdom's headliner attraction. Here, Mickey takes a trip on a Jeep to see some elephants. The Safari has changed a great deal over the years. Initially, the ride had a plot about poachers killing an Elephant, and riders had to help save her animatronic baby. The entire poacher story was (thankfully) eventually dropped. New animal species have been rotated over the years, with some of the newest being Hyenas and African Painted Dogs (both added with the addition of Night Safaris in 2016).
I first visited Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2004. At the time, I wasn't a big fan of the Safaris (I thought the poacher story was lame). In the Summer of 2017, I visited and couldn't believe the dramatic changes (for the better) that Kilimanjaro Safaris now has. It is definitely my favorite attraction at Animal Kingdom. What made it so great, I think, was that a massive storm hit while we were on Safari. The animals were very active, with giraffes galloping at full sprint for cover under a section of tall trees. There was something very "animal" about it.
Happy 20th Birthday, Animal Kingdom!
Sunday, March 11, 2018
In 1996, McDonald's restaurants outside of the United States released a Safari Happy Meal featuring Ronald McDonald and Friends. This set is interesting because it (coincidentally?) captures the essence of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Florida (which opened in 1998).
McDonald's has a history with Disney's Animal Kingdom, releasing a Happy Meal in 1998 to promote the park (check it out at Disney's Animal Kingdom McDonald's Happy Meal).
The Safari Happy Meal features a Tree, something that the actual Disney's Animal Kingdom Happy Meal did not even have. It seems like McDonald's could have easily swapped the Ronald McDonald characters with Mickey Mouse and Friends.
The Hamburglar searches the Tree of Life, I mean the Tree Top, for a burger and fries. This would have been a good toy for Goofy bird watching Zazu from The Lion King.
Ronald McDonald leads a tour on a Jeep. It is easy to imagine this as a Mickey Mouse toy on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.
Ronald is driving with a lion popping in and out of the vehicle. Simba from the Lion King could have been cast in this role.
Birdie the Early Bird pilots an Alligator Raft. This toy could have corresponded with the Discovery River Boats from the early days of Disney's Animal Kingdom.
This toy would have been a good vehicle for Minnie Mouse and the Crocodiles from The Rescuers.
Grimace hitches a ride on a Safari Elephant. All the vehicle toys in this set have motion features. Grimace moves his body and the Elephant moves its head.
This could have been a good toy for Donald Duck and Delores the Elephant (a character from old Disney shorts like 1953's Working For Peanuts).
When Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, the American McDonald's Happy Meal promoting the park featured realistic looking animal action figures, and no Disney characters. Outside of the United States, McDonald's did a promotion featuring Disney characters with an animal related prop and a cardboard background.
Friday, February 23, 2018
In April 1987, McDonald's Test Marketed a Fraggle Rock Happy Meal in the Charleston-Huntington and Bluefield Beckley areas of West Virginia. Limited Test Market and Regional Happy Meal toys were a thing in the late Eighties and early Nineties. I first became aware of this phenomenon reading Tomart's Price Guide to McDonald's Happy Meal Collectibles by Meredith Williams (from 1992).
Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock debuted on HBO in 1983. The McDonald's Happy Meal is actually tied to the 1987 animated series that premiered on NBC in the Fall of 1987. FYI, the animated Fraggle Rock was, like Muppet Babies, produced by Marvel Animation.
The Fraggle Rock Test McDonald's Happy Meal is rather fascinating. There were four toys in the set. Two are familiar to people who know about the Fraggle Rock McDonald's toys that were released nationally in March of 1988.
Gobo Fraggle was the first character released. The carrot car in the Test had wobbling wheels. The wobbling was eliminated on the Gobo and Red cars when the Fraggle Rock Happy Meal went National in 1988. It should be pointed out that the Fraggles did not, to my knowledge, drive vegetable cars.
The Test Fraggle Rock Happy Meal was half Fraggle toys, half Doozers (the mechanically amazing construction guy creatures from the series). Bulldoozer and Friends was the second toy in the set. On the shows, the Doozers appeared to all be identical, until they took off their construction hats, revealing their individual appearances and personalities.
The Doozers are a natural fit for toy vehicles. However, they did not make it to the National McDonald's Happy Meal. Why? Well, I imagine some folks were mighty disappointed that the only Fraggles in the Fraggle Rock Happy Meal were Gobo and Red. You just know that the McDonald's toy designer folks LOVED the Doozers.
There was a special Doozer McDonald's Happy Meal box designed that did not even make it to the Test. A prototype of the Doozer box was made, but never produced in large quantities.
The fact that the Doozers were dropped from the Happy Meal toy line is a crime against Muppets. The Doozers actually freaking walked on the show in 1983. I also love the fact that the comparatively larger Fraggles EAT the Doozer constructions. Brilliant!
Cotterpin Doozer and Friends was Set 4.
Cotterpin was the red-haired, rebellious girl Doozer (performed, like Mokey Fraggle, by Kathryn Mullen).
When the Fraggle Rock McDonald's Happy Meal went National in 1988, Mokey and Wembley (with Boober) replaced the two Doozer toys. Here we can see Cotterpin for a size comparison. I should point out that the toys pictured are NOT mine. I've never even seen the Test toys in person and they are extremely expensive. The Cotterpin toy shown here is actually missing the front piece of the forklift.
Re-watching Fraggle Rock, the Doozers are my favorite part of the show. They are actually inspired by bees and termites. My favorites are Wrench and Turbo from the episode "Doozer Is As Doozer Does."
The Doozers may have had the last laugh. The hard working, hard-hatted little guys got their own computer animated spin-off show called The Doozers in 2013.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
In 1998, Disneyland park in Anaheim, California got a "New" Tomorrowland. The area got a bronze "steampunk" look, with inspiration from the Jules Verne feel of Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris that opened in 1992. Disneyland's new Tomorrowland even got a new "fast" ride called Rocket Rods that took over the old PeopleMover attraction track. McDonald's promoted the new Tomorrowland, but not in the United States. This Disneyland Tomorrowland McDonald's Happy Meal was released in Asia. This particular set is from Thailand. The four toys interlock to become a little version of Tomorrowland.
The anchor piece of this set is a balancing toy called Minnie's Space Station.
This is marketing at work, as there is no "Space Station" ride in Tomorrowland. This appears to blend the land's Observatron sculpture with the Astro Orbiter rocket ride.
Here, the Astro Orbiter gets a new name, "Mickey's Astro Rocket."
At Disneyland in California, the Astro Orbiter is at ground level. In Florida, it is high in the sky on top of the roof of the PeopleMover load station.
Donald's Spinning Saucer is based on...I'm not sure what, actually. The Flying Saucers ride that existed at Disneyland from 1961 to 1966?
There is a Jet Packs ride at Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland (opened in 2016) and an Alien Spinning Saucers ride coming to Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida (in 2018).
One of the most heavily promoted aspects of the new Tomorrowland was a new "thrill ride" called Rocket Rods. Here it is called Goofy's Rocket Racer. This ride took over the old PeopleMover track and was supposed to pop a wheelie and race around Tomorrowland.
Rocket Rods closed for good in 2001, after facing all sorts of technical problems and disappointments.
The "New" Tomorrowland quickly became something in the past. The concept of Tomorrowland has changed quite a bit at the Disney Parks over the years, and continues to do so.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Once Upon a Time, there was a place in France called the Euro Disney Resort. It opened outside of Paris in April of 1992. McDonald's in Europe released Happy Meal Toys to promote the new Euro Disneyland theme park. This set of vehicles is charming and highly animated. It is also kind of unusual and fascinating.
The first thing to notice is that Mickey Mouse is nowhere to be seen. My guess is that, aside from Chip and Dale (who are riding Frontierland's Big Thunder Mountain), they wanted European based characters. Also, this set represents the lands of Euro Disneyland (Main Street, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Fantasyland) but does not include anything for Discoveryland (the park's version of Tomorrowland). At the time these toys were made, McDonald's followed a formula of 4 toys for 4 weeks pretty strictly (especially for European sets).
Pongo from 101 Dalmatians rides in Main Street USA's fire truck. Pongo's head moves from side to side when the car rolls forward. The front of the vehicle and the bell in the back moves as well.
101 Dalmatians was one of the biggest Disney brands represented at McDonald's. There were literally hundreds of different, individual 101 Dalmatians toys created for the restaurant chain during the 1990s.
Chip and Dale (as well as pieces on the train) bob around on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Frontierland at Euro Disneyland is also home to Phantom Manor, the park's Western version of The Haunted Mansion.
Captain Hook from Peter Pan represents Adventureland, home to Pirates of the Caribbean and Adventure Isle.
As with the rest of Euro Disneyland, the park's attractions were modified for the European market. Adventureland was designed to sit next to Fantasyland, so there was a smooth transition from Adventure Isle (a pirate replacement for Tom Sawyer Island) to Peter Pan's Flight in Fantasyland.
Tigger takes a spin on the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland. This spinning teacup vehicle is, in my opinion, the most impressive of this set. It is curious that a character from Alice in Wonderland was not used here. Seriously, the Cheshire Cat would have been perfect (and would also represent Euro Disneyland's exclusive Alice's Curious Labyrinth attraction, which has a major Cheshire Cat landmark feature).
Tigger riding the Teacups strangely predicted the future of Disney Theme Parks. When Shanghai Disneyland in China opened in 2016, the Winnie the Pooh Hunny Pot Spin replaced the Mad Tea Party concept.
Euro Disney Resort had a major image problem from the time it was announced. Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons took merciless aim at the park's famous early struggles. By 1994, Euro Disney Resort changed its name to (the much more romantic) Disneyland Resort Paris.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
In 1984, Six Flags AutoWorld debuted in Flint, Michigan. Unlike the famous Six Flags parks that feature roller coasters and thrills, AutoWorld was an indoor experience. It appears to have been sort of a mix of EPCOT's old World of Motion pavilion, plus the original version of its replacement, Test Track. And it even had a dash of Disneyland's old America Sings animated animal show.
AutoWorld was nothing like the traditional Six Flags parks. It looked more like a museum or a science center.
Michigan had high hopes for AutoWorld. Sadly, the new car smell was gone by 1985.
At the time, Six Flags was experimenting and diversifying with new types of attractions that were not traditional amusement parks.
In 1985, another experimental attraction, Six Flags PowerPlant, opened in Baltimore, Maryland. It also was short-lived (I got to visit the corpse of PowerPlant in 2000, as it had transformed into a shopping center).
Like a mall or a museum, AutoWorld's fun could be had on different levels.
AutoWorld brings to mind the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.
You can actually see Test Track at AutoWorld! A remote control Test Track, that is.
Was AutoWorld ahead of its time? Maybe.
The Great Race seems to share DNA with the original version of Walt Disney World's Test Track.
The Humorous History of Auto-Mobility seems very similar to EPCOT's World of Motion.
This attraction screams old school Disney.
Speaking of Disney, AutoWorld had its own mascot. Not a cartoon car. That would be too logical. AutoWorld had a Horse. A crazy looking horse. And he hosted the Humorous History of Auto-Mobility.
Fred the Carriageless Horse! Of course!
Fred existed in some sort of animated, three dimensional form at AutoWorld. I'm guessing it was a robot.
Fred seems to be a relative of the Old Grey Mare driving a Model T from the 1974 Disneyland Audio Animatronics show, America Sings.
Poor Fred was probably sold to the glue factory.
Six Flags AutoWorld seemed like a clever idea.
I feel like AutoWorld was built in the wrong location, and at the wrong time.
You know that if this was Hot Wheels AutoWorld, or Matchbox AutoWorld, or Disney-PIXAR Cars AutoWorld it would have been a big hit.