Making My Own Philharmagic

This is a bit of a departure today from our usual hard-hitting news and breathtaking secrets, but today I would like to spend a few moments talking about a serious disorder that affects 9 out of every 10 parkeologists.  It’s called GAS, which doctors inform me stands for Giveit Away Syndrome.

In one sense, it’s very much like OCD.  Going to the parks a lot, you tend to develop your own little ticks and rituals.  This is because you know everything so well.  Rather than being surprised by every little Carnotaurus encounter or remote control stunt car, you can recite entire spiels right down to an exact mimic of the Ghost Host’s laugh.

I mean seriously, are ANY of Jungle Cruise jokes funny to us anymore?  We have not only heard them all, but we can catalog a dozen variations of the joke for each scene in the ride.  The fun for us is not in hearing the joke, but in our ability to guess whether we’ll get the rare “TGIFridays” reference or the more standard “Head Salesman” joke (and since you know exactly what I’m referring to, I diagnose you with a severe case of GAS).

It’s okay to stare, they’ll all get the point in the backside of water.  Or something.

This is clearly a problem.  Even I annoy myself when I find my arms waving as if I’m conducting tonight’s performance of Illuminations:  Reflections of Earth (and if while reading the italics, you added a puff of air at the end as if blowing out a candle, then you have GAS).  Yet sometimes I can’t help it.  I not only know the music, I know which fireworks match which music cues, and doggone it, it looks like magic when I can wave my arms and set off those loud hissing ones!

The parks have become sort of our own little Rocky Horror Picture show.  That’s probably why we get so obsessed over the latest news, even if it’s just moving the plastic tree from one side of the Fantasyland sidewalk to the other.  It’s new, darnit!  Something different than hearing “Caution!  You are approaching the unloading area” for the umpteenth time, or mimicking the hiss of the parking lot tram brakes every time you put your car in Drive (yes, I do this).

The beam is clean!  The beam is clean!  How can you normal everyday guests not be thrilled by this?!

At least for the most part, we’re polite about it.  I think WDW fans are a little more reluctant to spoil the show for everyone.  We may be mouthing “Welcome, foolish mortals…” but we’re not yelling it out for everyone in the room.  Disneylanders don’t seem to have the same respect.  A couple years ago, I rode Pirates out there several times during my trip and not a single time did I not have some AP-er yapping through the entire ride.

Furthermore, WDW fans actually will go out of their way to make sure people aren’t missing things.  For instance, there’s a neat little surprise that happens at the end of Mickey’s Philharmagic, where Donald Duck actually gets shot through the back wall.  And if you are bright enough to turn around, you will see his animatronic hindquarters sticking out for a brief moment before he falls into the wall and squawks “Ah, Phooey!”

Raise your hand if you turn around and look at it every time — not because you necessarily enjoy watching, but because you want to alert the newbies around you that there’s something back there that they don’t want to miss.  Uh huh, that’s what I thought.

Bonus points if you reach out for Donald when he calls “Help me, help me, help me!”   Yeah, you’ve done it.

Ditto the Swedish Chef in MuppetVision.  And how many of us like to innocently pull that rope outside Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, but only if there’s other guests around?  I’m guilty of it.

It’s kind of funny when you think about it, maybe even a little concerning.  I mean, how many times do we really need to see Canada in Circlevision?  But we keep going back.  It’s in our blood.  And besides, if it weren’t for us to cue them, how would guests know to drink from that one particular water fountain?

Thrilla in Parkzilla: The Rematch!

For the last 2 months the Parkeology offices have been abuzz with debate, arguments and the occasional arm wrestling match as we tried to definitively answer once and for all which Disney park was the best in the world. Catch up here, here or here:

Lets do this thing!
Shane suffered a pretty nasty graph paper cut as he was attempting to diagram his theory of why Disney Hollywood Studios was superior to Epcot or some such nonsense (or was it the other way around?).  Meanwhile I’m getting sick of fight metaphors and Photoshopping blood splatters on perfectly good park pictures. I think we are all going to be glad to see this epic battle finally come to a fitting (or even a not so fitting) conclusion, but not before one last grand battle.

Sorry Shane, I’m not buying it.
Despite being a bit punch drunk the fact is that the previous three rounds looked at the state of the parks as they were 5 years ago, and honestly a lot has changed since then.
In Round One we saw that Disneyland barely eked out a victory over the other Magic Kingdom style parks emerging with a scant one point victory.

“Floats like a butterfly… smells like Mickey”
(now this is lame, I admit… got something better?  Let me know and I’ll change it)
In Round Two Tokyo Disney Sea handily toppled the other none Magic Kingdom style parks and looked to only be getting stronger.

“Floats like a butterfly… lives by the sea”
(come on, I’m trying here)
So this time we are tossing out all the charts and rulebooks and just looking at each park as it is today and as they compare to one another.  No more bell curves… this is just flat out brawl to decide which park is the best. In other words if you could only visit one more park in your life which should it be?
Of course nothing can be easy and we quickly realize that which park is best largely depends on who is asking that question.  Disney geeks are going to value certain aspects of a park (like it’s history) a whole lot more than a casual visitor who still does not quite understand what Fast Pass is, thinks the Magic Kingdom is called “Disney World” and once rode “That giant Golf Ball” when they were 10.
Disney World is WONDERFUL, now lets go to the Worlds Fair thing.
We can assume that if you are reading this you fall into the Disney Geek category (be proud baby!) but we will try to be as balanced as possible.

Stealing logos since 1996
But these guys are cool… they don’t mind… I hope. See for yourselves.

It’s worth noting that while these are subjective opinions they are all based on personal experience. Since the last round I have again visited each and every one of the parks personally, most on several (or more) occasions.

Disneyland has seen massive changes since the conclusion of the fight… and these changes are making the titleholder stronger than ever.

Already a stone jawed bruiser Disneyland has pumped up and can deliver a real beat down when it comes to attractions.  Now boasting a new version of the Submarine Voyage, better upkeep a new version of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln plus many small upgrades (such as the revamped castle walk through) Disneyland is a powerhouse.  In fact since Tony Baxter started looking after Disneyland he has made it a personal mission to attend to many of the small problems that were nagging it in the past.  Call Baxter the corner man for Disneyland… there to make sure the park is well taken care of, and the differences show.

It’s sad when he dies in episode three.
Disneyland still has all the charm it ever did and continues to age gracefully while the other aspects of the park are substantially unchanged.

You’re darn right I am going to re-use the same shots!
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom however has seen very little growth since the bell last rang.  Sure, Fantasyland has a huge, if somewhat unclear, expansion going on but that is still sometime out and is more meet and greet than knock you off your feet.  Otherwise there have been some nice upgrades to Mansion and Space Mountain but also a lot of downgrades to the various shops.  For the most part the Magic Kingdom of today looks and feels a lot like it did half a decade ago.

 Disneyland Paris has seen even less growth.  A decent fighter back then it continues to weaken as the rest of the combatants surge ahead.  It still packs a punch in some areas but has failed to grow in any meaningful way.

Tokyo Disneyland has added some major expansions such as the Monsters Inc. ride and it’s incredible maintenance and upkeep will always keep it in fighting shape.  Still, while a better fighter than before it is more or less the same.
We have an all-new fighter who has entered the ring; Hong Kong Disneyland.  It pretty much takes a beating in all areas.  Extremely light on attractions it really cannot compete with any of the others.  It does have a vey pretty physical setting with mountains rising behind the castle and is undergoing a large if misguided expansion as well.  Hong Kong Disneyland reminds me a lot of Animal Kingdom about 10 years ago.  It is pretty, it has a great theme, it has a great atmosphere but there is precious little to do. It may prove to be a formidable challenger someday, but that day is not today.

All right, the new guy gets one too.
 Bottom line:  Disneyland once again proves to be the best Magic Kingdom out there only now the distance is greater than ever.  If I were to rank them it would be Disneyland first, Tokyo Disneyland not too far behind followed by both Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris in a virtual tie with Hong Kong Disneyland limping along in last place.
With one challenger clearly determined we can take a look at who will face Disneyland in the final fight.

Turning towards the non Magic Kingdom parks things are more or less as they were in 2005.  Tokyo Disney Sea continues to be an impressive world-class park.

It has added an amazing version of the Tower of Terror as well as a surprisingly well themed take on Turtle Talk with Crush.  Sinbad has had a complete over-hall and already strong attractions such as the Fortress Explorations have been made stronger yet.  Tokyo Disney Sea has been eating its Wheaties for sure.

Fortified with pure awesomeness.
Epcot has seen changes to Inoventions, a rehabbed Space Ship Earth and of course the addition of Soarin.  Many improvements to the already stellar dining scene around World Showcase help build on its strengths yet at the end of the day nothing game changing has taken place.

Animal Kingdom has added Everest, a HUGE score as well as the Finding Nemo show, both help boost the park in key areas.  A much needed sit down restaurant was built (Yak and Yeti’s) and the park is looking good. 

Disney Hollywood Studios had it’s name changed, added Midway Mania and still has the stinking hat…

California Adventure is the big mover and shaker in this group.  Having added Tower of Terror, Midway Mania and World of Color it is in the midst of even more sweeping changes. It is clearly emerging as a much better experience than it originally was and has seen the largest jump in quality out of the bunch.  One can now reasonably argue that while California Adventure will never be the equal of Disneyland it can at least be a viable neighbor.

Lastly we have poor little Walt Disney Studios Paris.  Sure, it has added a weak version of Tower of Terror, yes it added a somewhat themed wild mouse coaster (with it’s Nemo overlay) and it is true that some areas have been made to look slightly more presentable, but this is a park that touts a very cheaply thrown together Toy Story land filled with carnival rides as something to be proud of.  

I will not pretend to know exactly how or why this park was built or expanded the way it has but I can tell you it is a complete failure even now.  Walt Disney Studios Paris is a 99 pound weakling, the kid who gets sand kicked in his face and still a blight on the face of Disney parks.

Sorry pal, it ain’t going to help ya.
Much as they were 5 years ago two parks stand towering above the rest with Tokyo Disney Sea chomping at the bit to seek some revenge on Disneyland.
The other parks have strong points and supporters for sure but it is these two parks that must be considered the cream of the crop… but who is better today?

Sweet, I get to re-use this baby!
Making this type of call it virtually impossible… I feel certain that casual fans would be wowed by Tokyo Disney Sea… blown away by the scope, the uniqueness and the originality. One can walk through Tokyo Disney Sea and find areas that look nothing like a theme park, that are totally enveloping and are unlike anything else in the world.  Mysterious Island is unbelievable in its complete commitment to theme.  Everywhere you look, everything you hear, every surface you touch is 100% in theme and fits perfectly with the incredible setting.

Still a park
Likewise with the American Waterfront section… now filled out with the most incredible version of the Tower of Terror yet it is a sight to behold.

TDS is ready to rumble.
On the other hand you have the charm of Disneyland, the history of the only park Walt Disney personally oversaw and visited.  Disneyland holds a special place in the hearts of millions of fans, some of those fans being the guys running the place!

Who, me?!?
Disneyland has so many classic attractions, so much history and such a beautiful design that it is hard to imagine any true Disney fan not falling in love with it.

Just remember, it all started with a rich eccentric guy.
But we have to look t the facts…nostalgia should not come into play. In terms of dining options it is not even close, Tokyo Disney Sea crushes Disneyland.  It has many more options, much more variety and a much higher level of overall quality in both the environments and the actual food.
For the intangibles I may tip it back to Disneyland… for all the reasons mentioned above it is unlikely that any park will ever match Disneyland, the park that more or less invented the genre to begin with.
For atmosphere though Tokyo Disney Sea again rallies back… it has sweeping vistas, massive set pieces and a freaking volcano sitting in the middle of it all… a volcano people!

Come on, seriously.
So it looks like it is coming down to the attractions… the real heart and soul of a park. Disneyland is against the ropes and sweating it out, Tokyo Disney Sea is moving in for the kill…

Finish Him!
Disneyland certainly boasts some of the best attractions in the world.  It has the classics such as the best version of Prates of the Caribbean and the original Haunted Mansion.  It has newer classic such as the Indiana Jones Adventure and Splash Mountain and it has a Fantasyland stuffed full of familiar (if a tad simple) and fun rides.  From a sheer mass point of view Disneyland is going to be tough to beat.

But what if you’re not into red heads?

But Tokyo Disney Sea is not shy about flexing its considerable muscle.  It boasts it’s own version of Indiana Jones, the aforementioned killer version of Tower of Terror, original attractions such as the awesome Journey to the Center of the Earth and even it’s own all new version of Fantasmic.

Again… come on!

With all things considered attractions are a near dead heat with Disneyland possibly taking a small lead.

But the bell just rang and with both combatants beaten silly I must say that it looks like a new champ has emerged.  Yes, Tokyo Disney Sea is the king.  As much as it pains me (as the Disney park purist that I am) Disneyland can no longer claim the title of “Best Disney Park” in the world.  It is still INCREDIBLY close, in fact perhaps even closer than the last fight…. but Disneyland has run out of room and has failed to really add an all new major attraction in many years.  Conversely Tokyo Disney Sea has expanded in many meaningful ways and has room for more.  Where Disneyland depends on it’s compact size and charm Tokyo Disney Sea soars with space and stunning design.  The addition of major new rides with more to come (they are currently adding Midway Mania, no doubt the best version yet) has overtaken Disneyland and the old man has finally hit the matt.

The next generation is this generations champion… for now.
Word is that Disneyland is finally gearing up for an expansion of it’s own!  It could be a Tomorrowland rehab or it could once again push beyond the berm for a Frointerland expansion.  Whatever the case the power may then tip back to Disneyland in this see-saw clash of the titans… but for now, where se stand today Tokyo Disney Sea is king. 
It boasts the most amazing atmosphere and theme, the absolute highest standards of maintenance an epic assortment of dining options and above all a masterful blend of magnificent attractions… combined it is enough to claim the title.  LONG LIVE THE KING!
And with that this never ending flight ends!  I am finally free to get back to writing about obscure Disney snack foods of the past…. Now please leave the arena in an orderly fashion and drive safely.

The Misquotable Pinocchio

You know how some of those old Disney songs have all these weird words to remember?  If you can recite entire verses of Higitus Figitus without a cheat sheet and a degree in linguistics, you are either some kind of savant or your name is Richard M. Sherman.

If you can’t, don’t feel bad.  Even Disney World has problems sometimes.  If the President can’t get through a speech without a teleprompter, then we’ll forgive you and Disney World for a few bloopers.  For instance, Innoventions is especially mistake prone.

Most people consider this one giant mistake anyway.

There used to be a pretty egregious factual error on the Inventors Circle just outside the Innoventions breezeway (this is perhaps a topic for a future time, since I’m not sure if the error is still there).  And we kicked off parkeology with this little mistake from the Epcot timeline inside the building.  But even at the Magic Kingdom, the imagineers are not immune to getting it wrong.

This song also contains my favorite pick-up line:  “Your savoire-faire is ooh-la-la.”

Just a nice little unassuming mural on the wall of the Pinocchio Village Haus.  We recognize it immediately as a scene from the movie, and even if we’re a casual fan, we probably can hum the song that it’s showing us.  We’d sing it, but it has those darn Disney nonsense words at the front.

Just one problem.  Those are not the lyrics to the song.  Oh, sure, they got the song title correct, as well as some of the weird words, but everything is all out of order.  The actual verse containing the “Hi-ho” part goes:

Hi-ho the Merri-o  

That’s the only way to be (sometimes “be” is replaced as “go” in the sheet music, or the entire line is printed as “I’m as happy as can be.”)

I want the world to know

Nothing ever worries me.

“I’ve got no strings on me” is merely the song’s title, as well as a line from the chorus.  Incidentally, the sheet music for Pinocchio spells it “Me-ri-o.”  The song from Snow White spells it “Heigh Ho.”  Movies have hundreds of continuity specialists to make sure this doesn’t happen.  Disney apparently just relied on Dave Smith.

An $18 billion company, and this was the only guy doing any fact-checking.

It’s a miracle that the Great Movie Ride doesn’t have Bogey saying “Play it again, Sam” (never said it) or James Cagney calling somebody a “dirty rat” (Cagney says “dirty double-crossin rat” in the movie, though the Great Movie Ride cuts “rat” for some reason, I guess out of deference to Mickey).  They do say “That’s one small step for man” in American Adventure, but that was Neil Armstrong’s fault, if anything.

Maybe it’s just an isolated incident.  They just need to get the Pinocchio Village Haus on that Wayne Brady show.

“Excuse me while I kiss this guy” — Jimi Hendrix.