Once a lonely character actor toiling away in relative obscurity, this onstage performer at Animal Kingdom has recently received some eye-opening attention that may finally allow him to break free from small time notices in parkeological blogs and enter the mainstream.
Known formerly (to me) as Mr. Catfish, this performer has been a fixture of the Tree of Life circuit for at least half a decade (and probably longer), yet hardly anyone knows he is there, due to the fact that he lives under a bridge in a tucked-away stream behind an ice cream cart. That’s not to say that he was never visible. He is constantly swimming in and out from under his bridge. It’s just that nobody ever thought to look down into this moat for a giant six-foot long catfish. He never had a sign, like those spoiled otters. And nobody ever thought to mention him on the guide map. So for years he has swum back and forth, performing for those lucky few who have chanced across him (probably by accidentally dropping their ice cream).
Well today I am happy to report that Mr. Catfish has a brand new sign, finally elevating him into the public consciousness. I happened by several times during the course of my recent visit and always there were people on the bridge, staring down at his swishy, enormous, cuddly tail. He can no longer be considered a secret anymore, so I probably won’t be posting about him much in the future. But I was happy to see that after many long years he has become an overnight success.
Congratulations, Mr. Catfish. You’ve earned it.
The original Disney MGM Studios had a location to showcase guests’ musical performance skills long before Ryan Seacrest showed up, and I’m not talking about SuperStar Television. It was a shop of sorts, very similar to those photo booths where they will green screen your head onto a movie poster. Only in this case, you got to star in your own music video.
It was called Sights and Sounds, and it was located very near the Chinese Theater in the building that currently houses the Keystone Clothiers store. For a premium price, you and your friends could choose from a predetermined list of songs, step in front of a green screen, and be grafted into one of those cheesy backgrounds from an 80s music video. For your efforts, you would receive a video cassette of your performance. A similar booth existed on Pleasure Island (perhaps a topic for another Parkeology post).
Alas, at some point in the 90s, Sights and Sounds went blind and deaf. The retail space was absorbed by Keystone Clothiers (because frankly more visitors would rather own a Mickey Mouse tie than a video of themselves rocking out to Prince). However, there are still some remnants of the old shop left behind, including the signage, and a door that leads nowhere (but which contains those treasured Disney name puns).
The ruins can be found on the back side of Keystone Clothiers, ironically within direct line of sight of the American Idol Experience.
The Disney company is always willing to exploit old characters in new mediums, so it’s a surprise to learn that of all the characters and personalities on property, only four are actually duplicated as Animatronic figures in different attractions.
I’m talking strictly animatronics here. For instance, Nemo appears in several attractions, but only as a puppet or a movie, so he doesn’t count. And while Donald Duck has an animatronic in Mickey’s Philharmagic, there is no animatronic Donald in the Gran Fiesta Tour (just videos and one silly pinata).
Sure, we could talk old attractions like the Mickey Mouse Revue, which had its own Donald figure. And some say that the Carousel of Progress family is meant to be the same family that appeared in Horizons. But these attractions have been gone for years.
So who are we left with? I’m talking Disney World only here. No fair counting Peter Pan in Florida and in California. And neither can you count AA figures within the same attraction, such as Brer Fox, who appears over and over again in Splash Mountain. I’m talking separate attractions, and the characters must be the same, not simply a re-use of the same sculpt (such as the mold for Carousel of Progress’s Grandpa, which does double duty as a scientist in Spaceship Earth).
I can think of only four. Amazingly enough, none of them are Disney characters, and even more amazingly, it really does line up with Mount Rushmore. Except for Lincoln, who gets bumped for FDR.
Yep, the two attractions are the Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom and the American Adventure at Epcot. The HOP appearances are obvious. Here’s the relevant scenes in American Adventure:
- Thomas Jefferson is visited while writing the Declaration of Independence
- George Washington keeps watch from his horse in Valley Forge
- Theodore Roosevelt surveys Yosemite
- Franklin Roosevelt delivers his Inaugural Address
I guess it makes sense that the Presidents would be in two parks at once. They use body doubles all the time, don’t they?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/madmannova/ / CC BY 2.0
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/ / CC BY 2.0
The Stage 1 Company Store near the exit to MuppetVision is riddled with gags and in-jokes, just like the 3D theater. But oftentimes it’s easy to overlook some of the nice touches hidden in the clutter.
For instance, as you enter through the door pictured on the left, you pass through what is ostensibly a prop storage area, jam packed with trunks and equipment. On the right is a bank of lockers, for use by studio personnel. Other than the quirkiness of some of the artifacts, there is nothing about this area that screams “Muppets.” But if you look closely, you can see that a few lucky Muppets have managed to claim these lockers for their own personal use (or maybe it’s just a reference to Muppets Take Manhattan, in which they spent some time living out of bus lockers).
Since this space does not use any names or pictures, only a die-hard Muppet fan would recognize their favorite felt character’s personal items. See if you can match each locker to the correct character. Drop me a comment if you get stuck.
Crowds have been extremely high this holiday season, and one of the byproducts of the crushing masses is that Disney will occasionally get desperate enough to open up areas that were previously off-limits. By sheer chance, I had the opportunity to set foot in one of the Magic Kingdom’s oldest and most dormant spaces yesterday.
As any Disney parkeologist will tell you, the Adventureland Veranda was a quick service establishment in the heart of the jungle. El Pirata Y El Parico may have catered to the Pirates crowds, but the Veranda was a quiet affair, set in the steamy shadows of the Swiss Family Treehouse. It once served Asian-inspired fare, but it has been shuttered for more than a decade, wasting away behind a long stretch of Adventureland facades.
Apparently in an effort to deal with the crowds, the Disney Foods department had the space open for something called “Adventureland Refreshments” — basically just a cash register with some cold sandwiches and fruit, and some indoor tables (which were thankfully sheltered from the sudden chill that has come through lately). Unfortunately my camera battery was dying just as I was taking these pics (click to see larger versions), but I did manage a few shots of the Veranda, still in perfectly good condition. Enjoy it while it lasts. After the crowds disappear, it’s likely that so will this opportunity.
P.S. I’m not sure what the Snowman backdrop is for. I think they might use this space for the Very Merry Christmas Party as a Character greeting area, so that’s my guess. I know they use the building for the Halloween party also.