As the World Turns

It’s not as obvious with the most recent changes, but one of Epcot’s classic attractions has always employed a little bit of musical steroids to pump up one of the emotional punches of the ride.

It’s a sneaky bit of subterfuge, injected from hidden speakers as you reach the top, and even though I stole the title of this post from daytime television, Spaceship Earth is a far cry from soap operas when it comes to creative smarts.

“Darling, it’s time I told you.  I’m having an affair.”

There’s a moment when you emerge from the Matrix tunnel of the Information Age where your time machine vehicle suddenly rotates to the right, affording a brilliant glimpse of your planet, Spaceship Earth, floating in a field of stars.  It’s a brilliant climax to the ascent, and seems perfectly timed.

“But… what will I tell the children?”

In fact, the music always swells just when the planet is revealed.  Quite a feat, considering that the music must do this for every car passing out of the tunnel.  See, only the narration is actually piped into the vehicle speakers.  The score is coming from speakers in the star field, heard by the long line of omnimover vehicles that encircle the room.  So how do they make each reveal special?

“I don’t care what you tell them.  We’re in love.  And she doesn’t give me the cold shoulder.”

It all has to do with the way the score is written.  As near as I can tell, it’s in 4:4 time, and every two measures there is an upswelling of the score.  That’s just enough time for each car to exit the Matrix tunnel of the Information Age and perform its twist to the right.  Then the music swells again for the next car.

“Then I have something to tell you too.  I know what really happened to your father’s money.  He left everything to your brother in Italy.”

Pretty nifty little trick for the composer.  The music had to sound like it was reaching a climax every two measures, but also continue on so it doesn’t sound jarring for everyone else who is already starting down into Blue Triangle Land.

“You mean Jim is alive!?” 

Unfortunately, Spaceship Earth was rescored a couple years ago, and in the new version, the effect is not as obvious.  Your best bet is to find the Jeremy Irons version on youtube, and give it a listen at the time our blue planet swings into view.  The effect was also noticeable in the original Tomorrow’s Child ending (people don’t realize that the song lyrics started much later in the descent, also a nifty bit of timing, since music is going the whole way down), but the Irons version is the most pronounced.

Yakov Smirnoff says, “In Russia (and on Spaceship Earth), the world turns YOU!”

Spaceship Earth photos appear courtesy of the awesome folks on flickr:

Animal Kingdom’s Lost Temple

You’ll have to forgive our light posting lately.  Turns out we were more lost in Animal Kingdom than we realized.  It’s like a casino in there — no clocks, no windows, cocktail waitresses comping your drinks. They aren’t kidding with that “nahtazu” campaign.

We joke, but actually Animal Kingdom was always intended to a be mysterious place.  When it first opened in 1998, directional signs were scarcer than a Survivor contestant on Tax Day.

Obscure reality show reference

The designers felt that the park should be some place to explore, with surprises around every corner.  Turned out, people couldn’t find the animals, the rides, or the exit, and they made sure to give voice to this problem (in a bit of irony, they had no problem locating Guest Relations).  Signs eventually popped up telling you THIS WAY TO DINOLAND and THAT WAY TO LION KING and DON’T BOTHER WITH RAINFOREST CAFE.  Everyone soon settled down and had themselves a grand time.

But some things remained lost.

For awhile, some daring parkeologists have been hard at work tracking down a fabled treasure.  One periodically heard rumors of it.  Obscure references turned up in ancient Incan tablets, or in a manuscript fragment discovered in some European abbey, or in one of those original stapled guidemaps from EPCOT. But in the parkeology community, the treasure was thought to be a myth, fool’s gold, the ramblings of a crazy person.

Late one night, Teevtee and I were cataloging some of the artifacts in the west wing of Parkeology headquarters, when we stumbled across a cardboard box containing some ancient Disney promotional materials.  Casually flipping through them, we discovered a fragment of a map from Animal Kingdom’s early years.  It was embedded in the middle of the Animal Kingdom Field Guide, an unassuming little compendium of animal species and various plants (so obscure that Amazon doesn’t even have an image available!)  When we examined the map more closely, we couldn’t believe our eyes.
The hidden entrance of Animal Kingdom’s lost temple stared back at us from the page.

Above is the fragment of map, with an inset showing the lost temple entrance.  Now there are about 3 or 4 other things on that map of interest to parkeologists, and we’ll cover them in future posts.  But the temple is the most eye-catching, particularly because it is shown to exist in a non-accessible area.

At the time of this map, Asia had opened, but Expedition Everest was still many years into the future –not even on the drawing boards yet.  All land to the east of the gibbons exhibit was strictly off limits.  There was no pathway looping around the lagoon, no bridge connecting Asia to Dinoland.  It was all Animal Kingdom wilderness.  And in the middle of this jungle, perched on the water’s edge, someone had marked the location of the hidden temple.

With the location in hand, I visited Animal Kingdom several days ago, in an attempt to track down the entrance.  That entire area on the map is now filled with throngs of tourists, working their way to the main E-Ticket attraction of Expedition Everest.  The barren green steppes and ridges that appear on the map have given way to thick vegetation, masking the stair-step nature of the land.  There are no Discovery Riverboats to ply the lagoon, and the plants on the Dinoland side have grown in as well, making a view of the Asia coastline difficult at best.

The ruins on the left have always been there, but can you spot the water temple on the right?

But the temple is still there, hidden behind a canopy of moss, guarded by two crumbling columns in the water.  Is the fabled treasure inside?  There’s only one way to find out.  Even now, we are planning an expedition into this sacred edifice.  The way is fraught with danger, and of our success, who can be certain?

But we are going in there, and we intend to come out with all the secrets of the Kingdom.  So stay tuned.  Our tale will continue…

Just what lies behind that door?

Even more lost (perhaps for good?) in Animal Kingdom

Usually we tend to be a little smarmy around here at the Parkeology offices.  We lace our posts with humor, sarcasm and even (though often unintentionally) some wit.  You know, we’re cool like that.
On occasion we might become obsessed with something as we recently saw with Franco-American week  month (stay tune for Shane’s upcoming report on Didi Conn). When that happens we like to take a deeper look into things, revisit them and explore them more than ever.

Coming soon to
Such is the case with our previous post about being lost in Animal Kingdom.  The overwhelming response to that post brought our servers to their knees, crushed by the traffic flow (of course we are cranking this baby out on a Commodore Vic-20, but still).

Not to be outdone, I can post random Star Trek references as well.

We decided to take a recent field trip back to the far depths of Animal Kingdom in order to update the post with a few photos and what we found was shocking!  Not as shocking as this but still pretty sad.
It looks like the party may be over as Disney has recently planted foliage blocking both sides of the path.  Additionally they have thinned out some of the plants and foliage from the path making it much less hidden in parts than it once was.  It looks like Disney is trying to eliminate the carefully designed secret hideaway.  First they added character greetings along the path off the main path, now they are covering the hidden path altogether.  Judging from the relative small size of most of the new plantings these were recently made changes.  I wonder if our previous report may have urged them along?

The falls up close and personal, a view Disney does NOT want you to see.

Seeing a piece of the park slip away is never fun but we caught this one just in the nick of time allowing us to venture back with camera in hand to document the most secret public part of a Disney park ever created before it is lost for good.

Put on your Parkeology pith helmet and lets take a little adventure.  We are starting off in Africa and headed over to Asia, as we start down the main thoroughfare we notice a path branching off to the left.  This once was a seldom used secondary route, then became a horrid smoking area and is currently a character greeting zone.

It’s OK to come here, but only if you like foam heads, nicotine or adventure!

It’s no longer “secret” and in fact is in constant use by costumed characters being led around by polo and khaki clad handlers but some people are still too lazy to check it out.  Start heading down this path though and you will come to the real secret.  We have outlined the secret trail in red because we are just that thoughtful.  By the way, these shots were just taken a couple days ago (mid June 2010), it will be interesting to watch how it changes.

It looks pretty obvious in these photos but the entrance
to the path is hard to see and now obscured by new plants which soon
will cover it completely.

Hang a right once you get to this light and you can barely see a clearing.  It feels as if you are doing something wrong and frankly you may be at this point… but it was once intended to be open to all AK guests.

 Looking back we can see not only the smaller grass like
plantings but also a large palm blocking the way.

Don’t give up now… keep pressing forward.  The ground is now dirt and some mulch, the path is overgrown and yet some of the plants to the side the shield you from the paved pathway have been cut back leaving you vulnerable feeling at times.

The REAL Adventureland!

This looks nothing like a Six Flags park, the Magic Kingdom or even the rest of Animal Kingdom.  It actually looks and feels quite a bit like a jungle.

The path continues along veering close to some back stage 
areas, though a berm and fence keep you from getting too 
far a field.

It is right about now that you start to question if this was REALLY meant to be open to the public at all.  I mean there is no pavement, no railings, no signs of any type and not another soul around.

Full stream ahead! (get it… it’s a pun. I told you that the wit was unintentional)

Then you finally get that confirmation that this is in fact a designed guest zone… the “stones” crossing the streams are there for you to use. But we are also VERY close to that character greeting zone now and those walkie talkie wielding character wrangling supervisors probably don’t know that Joe Rohde says it’s OK for you to be back here.

Go for it.

On the other hand if the idea was to make you feel as though you were exploring for real then these guys succeeded in spectacular fashion… you will feel a certain rush of Indy like excitement as you try to be as quiet as possible, crunching twigs and leaves underfoot, and avoiding detection.

No doubt that those were made for walking on.

We are getting near the end, though you could run around even off the path… maybe pitch a tent?  Your playing by your own rules now big guy!

Looking back we leave the stream behind. 

Now you have to make your exit… do it quickly, stumbling out of the woods and tripping over a stroller just is not that cool looking.

More new plants up ahead… I should of brought some weed killer
to off set these new developments.

Again, Disney has blocked our path… newly installed plants try to hide what is one of the true secrets of the resort.

You think a stinking plant’s going to stop us?

And we are back out in the sun and on our way to Asia.  Think of this as the all time most inconvenient yet wonderful way to by-pass having to run into some characters (does anyone REALLY like those guys anyway?  come on.)

As the years pass those new plants will grow in, soon the path will be lost to time and people will doubt it ever was really there… but parkeologists around the world will continue to seek out hidden gems like this and keep them alive.  Speaking of hidden gems… this would be a PERFECT spot for this.