These Vintage Trading Cards Will Blow Your Little Park Geek Mind

Like all geek things, it started in the 1980s.

Pop culture’s most iconic characters debuted in that decade. We got Jabba and we got Ewoks. And Indiana Jones (three times). The Ghostbusters materialized. So did Marty McFly and Biff. The Goonies were good enough. E.T. phoned home.

The list is endless. Freddy, Rambo, Predator, RoboCop, John McClane, Terminator, Ninja Turtles, and the WWF. Half of us loved K.I.T.T. The other half loved the General Lee. All of us loved Lou Ferrigno.

And every Hollywood movie — from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Harry and the Hendersons — immortalized their beloved characters with a custom set of collectible foil-wrapped, gum-sticked, randomized trading cards.

That caption should say "Roy Scheider's Shame." That pose. Those shorts.

Should’ve said “Brody’s Shame.” That pose. Those shorts.

They were available on every grocery store end-cap, right where mom had her wallet out. The best were loaded with action poses from our favorite movie stars. The worst featured the cast of Growing Pains.

But we loved them.

Disney had dabbled in trading cards before, including a set for their 1979 sci-fi flop, The Black Hole. But by the middle of the 1980s, newly-crowned Disney CEO Michael Eisner (who would later go on to buy the Topps Trading Card Company) was in the midst of asserting Disney’s dominance at theme parks.

Watto's Grotto Snowspeeder

The Snowspeeder prop outside Watto’s Grotto at Disney’s Hollywood Studios actually uses a giant vintage Star Wars trading card as a plaque.

The 1980s would see the number of parks more than double worldwide, with the addition of EPCOT Center, Tokyo Disneyland, and the Disney MGM Studios.  And by happy accident, somebody in the Consumer Products division was turned loose to design a new deck of trading cards, one that featured the parks in all their glory.

It was called The 50 Greatest Park Characters of All Time.

The self-styled “Series 1” trumpeted the uniqueness of park-specific characters (movie characters like Brer Rabbit or Mr. Toad didn’t make the list). It was never clear just what criteria they used to define greatness, but the final deck seemed to reflect a mix of historical importance, forgotten scene-stealers, and sheer lovability. As one Disney wiki described it:

Disney theme parks come alive, thanks to the performances of great characters. Now you can collect a keepsake of these park heroes for your very own! Each character is unique to Disney theme parks, appearing in your favorite attractions around the globe. Keep them for your own or trade them with your friends!

I collected these in my youth, mainly acquired during yearly trips to Walt Disney World, or more frequently at the Osco Drugs store. I looked forward to each unopened pack with breathless anticipation. I treasured every new card, grumbled at finding yet another duplicate, and even cut my tongue trying to chew the brittle stick of gum inside every pack.

There were 50 possible unique cards, but my collection puttered out around 35 — of which a full 17 were duplicates. I had the worst possible luck when it came to this set. Around the time of my sophomore year, I got rid of the duplicates, wrapped the remaining 18 unique cards in a rubber band and shoved them into my desk drawer, where I promptly forgot about them for the next ten years.

Flash forward to the late 90s. I’ve become pretty good friends with a guy from Chicago named Ted. One night we get to chatting on AOL, and the subject of the cards comes up.

And it turns out that I am not alone in the world.

Ted had done his own collecting, in much the same manner as myself. He had 20 unique cards, stored away in clear plastic binder sheets. We compared and found that between us, we had 30 of the possible 50 cards.

What happened next was a great quest, as the two future Parkeologists pooled their resources and scoured the globe. eBay was the obvious choice (and we got most of our cards that way), but there was also a comic store in Michigan, an internet friend from California, and incredibly, a next door neighbor who was a former Cast Member and just happened to have three rare cards we needed.

I am pleased to announce that as of last Christmas (thanks to a special relative who answered the call — you know who you are!), the Parkeology collection of the 50 Greatest Park Characters is finally complete.

As far as we know, the entire set has never been presented online. We debated posting them all at once, but thought it would be more fun to dole them out 5 at a time, as if you the reader were collecting them yourself. So expect a few more weeks before you see them all.

Here, without further ado, is the first card I ever got.


You can’t go wrong with Hitchhiking Ghosts. You’ll have to forgive the quality of the scan. This thing is 30 years old and has been tucked away in a drawer.

The other nifty thing about this set is that each card came with its own trivia section on the back, like baseball card stats. The factoids tended towards the humorous side, but also contained valuable information about the character’s history.


Here’s a more recent addition to the collection, sniped off eBay for a mere 5 bucks:


Henry may not be the most beloved character from the Country Bear Jamboree, but there’s no denying his importance. He deserves his spot on the list. And for those of you anxious to see the backside of bear…


Now the next card on our list is probably completely unfamiliar to the average park guest, but I guarantee that if you’re reading this blog, you know who he is:


We were able to track down Orville thanks to our friends at Imagineering Disney. It’s interesting to note that while the series favored a portrait layout, it did sprinkle in a few landscape cards from time to time. And as for Orville’s backside (“No privacy at all around this place!”)…


This next card is one of the things I love about this set. You get the obvious ones, as well as the ones that are kind of familiar. But you also get a few that have been lost to the vestiges of time.


Kitchen Kabaret was relatively new at the time the card was released. But an entire generation has grown up without the experience of watching robotic food perform vaudeville comedy about good nutrition. Perhaps a history lesson is in order:


And finally, I’ll end this week’s installment with one of my personal favorites.


Star Wars is still big business, and Captain Rex clearly has earned his spot among the all-time greats, as the card back shows.


And just like that, we come to the end of this week’s pack. You can try the chewing gum, but I don’t recommend it unless you have dental insurance.

Next week, Ted will share 5 of his favorites. Until then, hold on tight to these guys and don’t trade them for anything, not even a vintage Tron card. I hear those things are easily faked and don’t hold their value.


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The 3 Free Disneyland Luxuries the Rich Don’t Want You to Know

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams!

The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous; an old TV show and a fun way to watch obnoxious people with more money than you drink thousand dollar bottles of wine while cruising on multi-million dollar boats. Today we call it Keeping Up with the Kardashians but it’s the same thing.

Disneyland Luxuries

Only the finest, fit for a King.

Society has always had a fascination with luxury. Whether it was Cleopatra and her golden headdresses, King Louis XIV and his golden Palace of Versailles or Donald J. Trump and that golden coif of untamed cotton candy perched atop his scalp; people have always sought out the finest things in life. Crystal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash we actually do care and are very caught up in our dreams. We all want to be royals.

Yet we are not playing Baccarat in Monaco or sunning ourselves in Ibiza; we are slogging through sweltering Orlando humidity that has the consistency of airborne Cheez Whiz. Alas a trip to our favorite theme parks rarely offers the elite of society a respite from the stench that is mankind. Once departed from the Disneyland Dream Suite it’s difficult to distinguish the top 1% from the lowly 99%.

Louis Vuitton bags, Gucci shoes, Prada dresses; no one cares about those extravagances while hurtling down Chickapin Hill or taking a quick trip to the chiropractor after a spine snapping jaunt on the Matterhorn. The parks have a shocking dearth of amenities catering to those who demand the splendor and opulence that true affluence affords . Admittedly, the surrounding resorts offer fine(ish) dining and terry cloth robes (spun of lowly cotton, lacking the supple softness of fine silk), but unless you break into the defunct AT&T lounge at Epcot there are but a paltry few ways to be pampered while in the parks.

Fortunately for Russian billionaires, Chinese moguls and Middle Eastern Sheiks one classic Disneyland attraction secretly bathes guests with not one but three hidden luxuries. These are the very types of curated experiences that even the finest concierges in the world would have trouble executing and yet these blissful delights are available to all, you just have to be in the know.

Dole Whip lines at Tiki Juice Bar Disneyland Secret Luxuries

Unaware, uninformed lemmings line up like drones. They are not enlightened.

1) Lines? A person like you does not wait in lines.

The classic Dole Whip is one of the most iconic Disney delicacies. A luxurious blend of decadent, velvety smooth golden pineapple sorbet and rare tropical juices (imported at great expense from far off islands), it offers pure contentment on a hot summer day. The price of entry for this golden dream is surprising low and thus exorbitant lines quickly form in front of the Tiki Juice Bar, often snaking throughout Adventureland.

Secret Dole Whip line bypasses the masses at Tiki Juice Bar Disneyland Secret Luxuries

The civilized few refuse to wait, choosing expeditious privacy instead.

What is a privileged park guest to do? Simple. Instead of queuing like ignorant slobs with the rest of the misinformed masses simply proceed directly through the entry gate to the Enchanted Tiki Room, bypassing the juice bar completely. There you will not only find a lovely private courtyard with delightfully kitschy themed benches but more importantly private access to the Tiki bar and all of its offerings. Instead of standing in line for 30 minutes you will be luxuriating in a private tropical hideaway; libation in hand and smug smile on your face. You don’t wait in lines… lines wait for you!

Enjoying private luxury at Disneyland Disneyland Secret Luxuries

An enticing treat enjoyed with delightful company makes an excellent amuse bouche prior to a gastronomical campaign at Club 33 (may we recommend the sweet breads, they are superb).

2) No food or drinks allowed within attractions; that rule simply does not apply to a person of your stature.

After acquiring your Dole Whip perchance the sun is too harsh for your glistening, delicate, dewy soft and excessively moisturized skin. For fear that your eyes may fall on a plebeian lot even the tropical garden may not offer you enough seclusion. Perhaps you would prefer to retire to the climate-controlled comfort of the theatre to partake of your lush confection. You are of course most certainly in luck as cast members will acquiesce to your whims and desires on this point. The Enchanted Tiki Room in fact grants guests of all tax brackets the opportunity to enjoy their frosty treats indoors throughout the show. Lean back, put your Italian lamb-skin loafer clad feet up and luxuriate in the knowledge that you will eat where and when you please.

Secret hidden woman's bathroom at Tiki Room in Disneyland Disneyland Secret Luxuries

Do not allow the primitive adornment to alienate you, these private facilities are a well-kept secret.

3) Public restrooms are a fact of life; perhaps for most, but not for you.

Though it is not polite or proper for an aristocrat to discuss such issues there will be a time when nature calls. At such points you cannot be expected to share your most private of moments with flip-flop wearing underlings. No, you deserve, nay you demand privacy during those most delicate of times. Once again the Tiki Room is there to serve you offering secluded, private and virtually un-used lavatory facilities.

Secret Hidden Mens restroom at the Enchanted Tiki Room Disneyland Secret Luxuries

Of course gentlemen are afforded separate quarters.

While the commodes are disappointingly bare, lacking the varnish of gold one is accustomed to, they are still lavish as compared to the mass troughs most must shamefully use. In fact the delightfully primitive execution allows one to experience what it must be like to be common while still remaining elevated and removed from the unsightly bourgeoisie. These elementary and yet essential facilities may be found to the left of the entrance to the amphitheater. Most patrons ignorantly march past them oblivious to the comforts they contain.

Indoor photography allowed at DIsneyland Tiki Room Disneyland Secret Luxuries

Of course you may take photographs of the show, feel free to record it as well.

Bonus: No Photography or Video, you may ignore that missive.

There is one final benefit of your success. Should you currently be involved with a reality show you may have your personal photographer or videographer capture your indoor Dole Whip consuming romp. Neither photography nor video recording is restricted here, not when it comes to you. As long as the crew keeps the external lights to a minimum you may produce a filmic masterpiece at your leisure.

A person with your resources will not be confined to the rules and regulations of the proletariat. You have arrived and now you know three (and a half) hidden luxuries that only the Enchanted Tiki Room offers.

Enjoy and please give Kim, Kanye and Caitlyn our best regards on your next visit.


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Streetmosphere Pirates Dig For Treasure In Their Noses

It happened during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. A week when the parks are so crowded, you have to wait in line just to scoff at the latest DVC sales booth.

I’m pretty sure this was an “Apocalyptic Crowds Season” deal, and that this will not become a regular occurrence in Adventureland.

But for a brief time, on one glorious afternoon, the entirety of Caribbean Plaza was infested with pirates.

Pirates in Adventureland

Normally when it comes to Streetmosphere, I’m a fan of the less-is-more approach.

Streetmosphere too often acts as the artificial sweetener for tasty three-dimensional placemaking. You’re at the mercy of someone with a theater degree — sometimes a perilous proposition.


As opposed to being at the mercy of someone with a law degree, who always makes theme parks more fun. Photo courtesy of Castles, Capes & Clones

It’s not that the performers aren’t talented (most are), and it’s not that they rely too much on zany I Love Lucy accents (far too many do). It’s that these unscripted encounter are taking place amid throngs of sweaty tourists, who in that particular setting are all too aware that the whole thing is fake.

Streetmosphere works best when it stays in the background. A perfect example is DeVine at Animal Kingdom, whose whole gig consists of remaining motionless so that guests won’t discover that a leafy space creature is planning to dine on their children when they turn their backs.

Front-and-center acts like the Dapper Dans blend in, because barber shop quartets were an actual thing. But snooty Hollywood Starlet Greta Glamourpuss is just somebody’s workshop character of the week.

And when is the Mayor finally going to stop glad-handing and do something about Main Street's terrible homeless problem?

And when is the Mayor finally going to stop glad-handing and do something about Main Street’s terrible homeless problem? Photo courtesy of Castles, Capes & Clones

And while we’re at it, a bunch of drumming janitors make as much sense in Future World as roving bands of stockbrokers in Dinoland.

But pirates are perfect for Adventureland.

On the surface, this is exactly the sort of cash-grab synergy you’d expect from Disney. They already have a pirate version of the Jedi Training Academy set up there, clogging up the Adventureland arteries like a brisket burger from Electric Umbrella.

Why not up the pirate quotient and turn this area into an everyday re-enactment of every single Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party I’ve ever been to?

But here’s the great thing about these pirates. They weren’t doing Johnny Depp impersonations or bandying about cliche pirate phrases. You know what they were doing? I’ll tell you what they were doing.


Pirates Who Don't Do Anything

Like this, only less nutritious.

They sat for long periods on random barrels and planters, snoozing under their hats or draped over branches. Every single one of them looked hung over from whatever fort-sacking they had completed the night before. If there had been a patch of muddy pigs, one would have been snoring in there with them.

Pirates at Tortuga Tavern

People would pose for pictures with them and they barely blinked. It was done with such understated laziness that they truly did blend into the background. The hundreds of people moving past the ride on their way to Splash Mountain or Big Thunder seemed hardly to notice them. It was a rare glimpse of pirates in their natural habitat. And every now and then you would spot another one — just as lazy as the last.

And yes, some even pillage their nostrils for a few gold doubloons.

Pirate Picking His Nose

You might think I’m making fun of this guy, but I’m not. This was absolutely hilarious and intentional on his part.

These pirates truly did not give a rip what the tourists were doing. They had to rest up for another night of marauding, embezzling, and even hijacking.

The scene just kept getting better. At one point, an English naval officer, who might as well have been Commodore Norrington, wandered through the scene, accompanied by two red-coated guards. This character was more likely to interact with the guests, but with disinterested courtesy, as if he always had one eye on the various rascals, scoundrels, villains and knaves lounging in the courtyard.

Pirate in a Tree

That beard is not “Disney Look”

Eventually Captain Barbossa himself showed up, searching for Jack Sparrow. This act played as more traditional Streetmosphere, but in reality was just an extended lead-in to the normal Jack Sparrow Trials of the Pirate Temple show that plays several times daily.

Pirate on the balcony

I call this fellow a “balconeer.” Get it??

The whole effect was fantastic and struck exactly the right note. One can imagine too many dim-witted guests complaining to City Hall that the drunken pirate wouldn’t sign his autograph book, but I hope the reaction is positive enough that Disney keeps this idea going, even if it is only seasonal.

Also, if you can’t get enough entertaining reading about pirates, you should totally check out my book, Johnny Shipwreck. It’s available for a limited time discount on Amazon right now, and it’s awesome.

Johnny Shipwreck Book Cover

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