All Dried Up – A Parkeology Exclusive!

For the first time, we are pleased to bring you a shocking parkeology-exclusive video.  This is hard-hitting, explosive material that you won’t find anywhere else, since it was captured by our own Teevtee, who also did the write-up.  The video is at the end of the article and it is indeed SHOCKING.

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It is not uncommon to have the operations side of Disney make changes to a park or attraction after it opens.  The demands of actually operating a park smoothly sometimes out weigh even the best intentions of the imagineers who designed and built them.  This may drive the original designers crazy but it is often unavoidable.
Case in point… fountains are not playgrounds.
Back in April of 1998 Disney’s Animal Kingdom threw open its gates to the eager masses.  This park was — and is — unique in the Disney canon, as it is really as much about exploring the details of the place as it is the rides themselves.  Nonetheless they did have rides and one of the biggest was Countdown to Extinction (later re-named Dinosaur).  Set in a museum-like building, Countdown to Extinction featured a beautiful fountain out front.  A life sized “bronze” styracosaurus measuring 24 feet long romped through the water, perpetually frozen in time… but did the imagineers expect children to join this prehistoric beast?

In this concept art we can see how low the original fountain design was, even lower than what was eventually built.  While the raptors were replaced with a styracosaurus surely the imagineers new that a design like this was asking for trouble.
You see, the fountain was very low, elevated maybe a foot of so.  There was no guardrail or barrier of any kind to prevent children (or perhaps obnoxious adults) from entering the fountain themselves.  This is precisely the type of situation that gives the operational people nightmares.  Suddenly you have soaking wet guests entering your big thrill ride and making a huge mess.  You have hygienic issues as water in a fountain is not chemically treated the same way as a pool.  You have legal issues as fountain waders might slip and fall… in short you have a headache.
The original fountain design had no barrier separating guests (especially kids and babies) from the temptingly cool waters.
This issue was deemed a big enough problem that very shortly after the opening of the park the Countdown to Extinction fountain was closed off.  First it was drained, and then surrounded by large planters.  Eventually it was filled in completely and acted only as a planter overflowing with ferns.
A jungle of unkempt plants somehow lacked the majesty of the original design, but it kept dirty diapers out of the water at least.
Finally the perimeter walls were raised, plants were added along the edges and water was allowed back into the newly buttressed configuration.  During this time the name was changed to Dinosaur to tie in with a then new Disney theatrical release and the styracosaurus was replaced with the less bronze-like iguanodon we see today.
There is some water in there today, but you need to fight through a thick mass of ferns in order to see it. Notice how much higher the sidewall of the fountain is.
But the real question is, did the imagineers know that something like this might happen?  Were they intentionally leaving the fountain accessible for easy soaking / bathing access?  Did they ever consider that diaper clad babies may one day be dunked into a public fountain in plain view for all to see?
In this parkeology EXCLUSIVE video, we can now answer this question definitively.  Perhaps it should be called “Imagineers behaving badly”?

Castaway Keys

We have a substitute parkeologist today, but I want you all to behave yourselves.  No spitballs or switching seats.  Especially since it’s my sister.  She’s usually found on her own blog writing clever homages to Jane Austen, but she’s crossed over today because, well, she’s musically inclined and her sharp eyes (ears?) caught this little inconsistency.  Enjoy!
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One of my favorite was originally designed for a ski resort which never came to fruition. The Country Bears however were already adored by Walt and the Imagineers and thus it was inserted for opening day at Disney World. It fits very nicely in Frontierland, reminiscent of a “Grand Old Opry” kind of venue. There are portraits on the walls of the lobby and it has a very rustic appeal. Once you enter the theatre, you can’t help but be swept up in the good old country spirit of the show, “clappin’ your hands and stompin’ your feet.” The songs, which are mostly written especially for this show, are usually delightful and sometimes charmingly depressing.

However, on your next visit, pay close attention to Ted of the Five Bear Rugs. When you listen to the song, “Bear Band Serenade,” Henry tells us that “Ted is on the cornjug.” He also informs us “The Bear Band Bears will play now, in the good ole key of G.” But Ted’s cornjug is marked B Flat. The song is clearly in a major key (which would indicate the jug should be B natural). Is this an oversight in the design, or a significant detail that says something about the professionalism and skill of the bears in the Band?

Whether it is oversight or intentional, it is not the worse for it. For most guests, the contradiction between the key and the markings on Ted’s jug will go unnoticed. And even for musicians, it may not stand out on the first or second visit (or even until years later, as I only noticed a couple months ago). The music contained within is fantastic, and I pity those who cannot bring themselves to clap (or stomp) along. So, if you’ve not been to the Jamboree in awhile…Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Life Size Pixie Hollow

Tinkerbell wasn’t always this popular.  Sure, she has been kicking off fireworks shows for decades now, but that was just because it was sort of her job, not because little girls were clamoring for more Tink.  And while it’s definitely a thrill to see her glide down from the castle’s tallest spire, older Magic Kingdom visitors might remember a more up-close-and-personal encounter with Miss Bell.

At first I wasn’t sure if I had just imagined this.  It’s one of those little things that pop up in memory, as if your childhood self had sent you a postcard that the U.S. Postal Service lost behind a copy machine or something for the past 20 years, and only now just got around to delivering it.  But with just a little faith and trust, and some happy thoughts, I’ve managed to find some concrete evidence that my mind isn’t playing tricks on me (at least when it comes to Tinkerbell; the jury is still out on my memories of starring alongside Chaplin in an all-bunny-suit revival of “Othello”).

Once upon a time, as you boarded your pirate galleon in the loading area of Peter Pan’s Flight, you were sprinkled with Pixie Dust before taking off into the nursery.  The dust came courtesy of Tinkerbell’s wand, and she was in very close proximity, hovering right next to your vehicle, visible even to the people in the queue.  At some point, she was removed from this area, and your pirate ship takes off of its own accord.  It might have happened when FastPass was added, but I’m pretty sure it was actually long before that, as part of a different rehab.

There are some out there that claim that the Tinkerbell figure now seen inside the ride is the same one as used to fly in the loading zone.  It may be; the scale is about right.  I haven’t found any photographic record of Loading Zone Tink (with Karate Chop Action!), but I know she was there.  How do I know?

Because Tokyo, God bless ‘em, still has her.