Catching Peter Pan’s Shadow

It’s good to be back to posting after a week of illness.  Hey, at least it gave me time to setup our new Parkeology facebook page.  If any of you FB-ers are so inclined, why don’t you show your Parkeology Team Spirit and click the big old “Like” button over there on the right of the page.  Come on, all the cool kids are doing it!

I also managed to work on my shadow collection.  In the Parkeology offices, we have a pretty decent collection of shadows.  Some of these are fairly standard; you’ll find them in any collection.  A couple monorail beam shadows.  An ugly Hat shadow. Stuff you can find on the shadow of every CM lanyard.

But we also have some rare ones.  We’ve got a Yeti shadow from Everest, and an actual talking Brer Frog shadow from Splash Mountain (yes, it used to talk). A few months back, we captured the shadow of Peter Pan himself, as he slipped in one night to listen to stories about Neverland (mostly about himself).

You remember this shadow, right?  It figures pretty large into the plot of the movie, since that’s how Wendy first meets Peter, by stitching his shadow back on.  The shadow pops up in the ride version as well, in the very first scene of the Darling nursery.  It beckons us out the window and on to Neverland.

The Darling Nursery.  Or, the inside of my esophagus.

The shadow normally appears on the wall above.  Note that there is no shadow in the picture.  That’s because we captured it.  And we probably won’t be giving it back, unless you pay us a lot of money.  Sorry for ruining the ride for everyone else, but we just had to have it.

The other possibility is that we stupidly tried to take a picture of a shadow with the flash on.  There is something about flash lighting that shadows don’t like.  But we prefer to think that we caught it.

“I looked in the trap, Ray!”

Either way, this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the shadow in the Nursery scene is a real shadow, not a fake one.  And let me tell you, when it comes to Peter Pan’s Flight, the fake shadows are the ones you have to look out for.

There are no fewer than three fake shadows hiding out in this ride, and most visitors never even realize it.  The shadow fakery begins in the very next scene, with the moonlit flight over London.  If you’re going to spot a fake shadow, here’s where you’re most likely to do it.

It’s Peter Pan’s version of E.T. which is itself ripping off Peter Pan:  As the children fly off to Neverland, the shadows pass in front of the moon.  It’s fair to say that everybody knows about these fake shadows.  They’re painted on.

Parkeologists are skilled at many things, but framing photographs is not necessarily one of them.  This one shows the shadows appearing on the moon on the left side.  The moon itself rotates to give the impression of the shadows flying past.  But you already knew those were fake, didn’t you.  In fact, you’re more intrigued by the plywood catwalk and the crushed velvet backdrop.  But that’s why you’re a Disney nerd (hey, so are we).

The next fake shadows are a little more fun to spot, because they’re designed to blend in.  Quick science refresher:  What causes a shadow?  Answer:  Evil tree spirits.  But also a light source striking an object.  The object blocks the light from the area behind it, and is said to “cast a shadow” (sort of like how this article is said to “talk down to its audience.”)

So when a “light source,” such as a campfire, strikes an “object,” such as a fat child in a bear suit, that child (in this case, a Lost Boy named Cubby) will “cast” a large “shadow” on a “volcanic mountain,” which everyone knows will cause its aluminum foil lining to rupture.

Them Lost Boys look ready for a lynchin’

“Hey, wait a second!” says the sharp-eyed Disney World rider.  “That campfire ain’t no light source!  It’s a fake!”  And they are right.  The campfire appears to glow because of the blacklight paint, but it’s not giving off any light.  So how is it that Cubby is throwing back a shadow the size of a Yeti Kitty up there?  And that kid in the devil suit must be a vampire, because he casts no shadow at all!  (shut up, I know it’s really a fox costume).

Some savvy Disney designer has actually painted Cubby’s shadow on the mountain, to help sell the fact that the campfire is glowing.  Nice bit of detail, that.  Too bad all you Disney nerds are more interested in the fire extinguisher (you can admit it).  Given the scale of the scene, I don’t think Bambi needs to worry about any forest fires with that bad boy hanging around.

After leaving the Lost Boys, we go past the Mermaids.  I didn’t spot any sham shadows here.  In fact, these are normal mermaids, and have absolutely no hidden references to anything else Disney at all.

Except for the red hair.  And the purple sea shells.  And the fact that if you look embiggen this picture, you can see the word “Ariel” spelled out on her fins.

But after leaving the Mermaids (did you click that picture to embiggen?  Ha!  Sucker!), we immediately come across the tribe of Indians, and that same wily Disney designer is at it again.  More campfires means…  more painted shadows!

Either Tiger Lily hates the smell of campfire or she is a serious snob.

Three of them, in fact.  The Chief gets his own looming shadow.  The squaw with the papoose gets hers, and even Tiger Lily has a nice profile with her nose in the air on the other teepee.  The chief’s shadow is actually the one that got me interested in tracking down fakes, since it is the one that stands out the most in normal ride lighting.  I only found Tiger Lily’s, the squaw’s, and Cubby’s after some practice.

The cool thing about this one is the logic.  Because the campfire is situated in the middle, it would obviously throw shadows in an arc.  That’s why Chief’s and Squaw’s shadows are directly behind them on the teepee, but Tiger Lily’s is thrown to the left, rather than on the teepee parallel to the Chief’s.

I also like how the papoose seems to be staring right at Tiger Lily’s shadow.  Foreshadowing?

Here’s another angle of the Indians.  Kind of cool because you can see that the back half of the Chief’s teepee is completely shadowed, except for a little bit of the red band at the top.  Of course, it also makes it look like the two braves on the drums have been shot in the head with arrows, rather than decorated with feathers.

There may be more fake shadows on this ride.  Perhaps I’ve only scratched the surface.  Something to keep our eyes open for the next time we go galavanting off to Neverland.

Shane was raised on a steady diet of EPCOT Center and Kenner action figures. Parkeology is the happy result. He is the creator along with his friend Ted of the WDW47 Challenge and the WDW49 Challenge — featured by such media giants as CNN, ABC, FoxNews, and the in-flight magazine for Norwegian Air. With his brother Tristan, Shane is the author of the adventure fantasy novels Arabian Heist and Johnny Shipwreck. He currently resides in the Swiss Family Treehouse.

7 thoughts on “Catching Peter Pan’s Shadow

  1. I take flash photos on the dark rides only if I’m the only one. I see no problem with them if there’s really no one else on the ride. This past August I was the last person in the ride for around a dozen doombuggies…as the doombuggy in front of me passed the scene, I’d grab a quick pic.

  2. Flash photography? From what I understand, it alters the homing signal and that’s not good.

    Actually, one of the nice things about living down here (especially in September) is that I am sometimes afforded the opportunity to ride without too many other riders around. I do try to be respectful and not ruin the show for everyone.

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