Thank you for smoking…

It’s funny how times change. 

One day Universal is the laughing stock of the theme park world, the next day they still are but now they have a really nicely done Harry Potter section. 

Hey Listen, I am not going to make fun of this, it’s sweet.
Seriously, it is amazing how what was considered cool or socially acceptable one day is considered taboo the next. Remember riding in the back of a station wagon facing the wrong direction with no option of even seat belts so much car seats and air bags. Today if you saw that happening you would probably call social services and demand that the kids be taken away from those dreadful parents (at least you would if you had a bit of a superiority complex). 

Welcome to the 1964 Buick Deathmaster 2000.
Enjoy the ride
Smoking is the quintessential form of this. In the 50’s doctors used to endorse specific brands of cigarettes as being healthy. Just watch Mad Men to see how every man, woman and child smoked every waking moment in the 60’s. Smoking was still popular in the 70’s though maybe it was not always tobacco in those cigarettes. 

Really, some of this is just insane.
Even through most of the 80’s smoking was socially acceptable… then the bottom fell out. Through the 90’s and on to today smoking in public is seriously looked down on. No more smoking sections on planes, fewer and smaller smoking sections even in bars. Many cities have in fact banned smoking in indoor spaces altogether forcing hard core smokers to huddle outside in the cold like homeless gentlemen gathered around a burning 50 gallon oil drum. 

When you’re listening to nothing but the best of oldies you’re listening to Magic 98.9…
Now do you have a light?
Disney is no different… Walt sadly smoked like a chimney, no doubt leading to his untimely demise. Smoking was omni-present in the parks as well. For most of their existence Disney allowed smoking throughout the parks, today they have designated and increasingly inconvenient smoking pens, corralling the unsavory sorts. What is maybe most amazing is that both Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom prominently featured tobacco shops on their respective Main Streets. 

What do you mean I can’t go on Small World?
Customers of the Tabacco Shop could purchase pipes and tobacco from around the world, but cigars and cigarettes were also available (though the cigarettes were discreetly kept under the counter). The Disneyland shop stood from opening day in 1955 all the way to 1991 before being converted to a sports memorabilia shop and eventually a music shop. The wooden cigar store Indian still stands sentry even today, a reminder of what once was. 

I’m not SMOKING them, so take a hike.
At Walt Disney World the Tobacconist shop closed sometime in 1985 though in all the parks smokes were still widely available for sale at less themed establishments. It was not until the 90’s that smoking started to be curtailed and limited.

This all leads us to what is now a lost part of the Disney park histories… themed match books. 

NOT this cool.  You know, they really should write a book about these things…
Nah, that would NEVER happen.
While they do not approach the level of care and thought put into the famous attraction posters the fact is that many of the matchbooks and matchboxes were very well designed, special even. Virtually every restaurant and hotel had free matches waiting for patrons and even some generalized ones were produced for the parks as a whole or for a special season or event. 

The epicenter of it all.
Disney was not trying to hide smoking, or encourage people not to do it, quite the contrary actually. While smoking was never allowed inside the attractions (save for the famous “Break Room of the Future” found in Tomorrowland) it was certainly allowed inside the restaurants and all of the outdoor areas of the parks and resorts. Hotel rooms had ashtrays within and at the entrances to every attraction stood a convenient place to snub out your butt. Smoking was futuristic at EPCOT Center, charming within Fantasyland and took on an international flair at each pavilion of World Showcase, which of course sold country specific brands. 

Those matchbooks were easy to come by for sure, and like many of the best things you did not need to pay a cent to collect them. That is really what today’s entry is all about… the often beautiful and now lost for good designs of these books. Here is a part of my collection gathered in the early to mid 1980’s. It is interesting to note how many establishments are no longer there, then again it is equally interesting to see which ones have stood the test of time.

Lots of photos to follow, a record number in fact… enjoy. 

Styles would change over the years, all the resorts had multiple designs.

The Golf Resort and it’s fancy Trophy Room are no Longer there.

Neither is it’s replacement, the Disney Inn.

Here’s a rare one, the Garden gallery Restaurant from the former Disney Inn.

They look like logs!  How cool is that?

Disneyland had them too… though this one is much newer.

Nothing says Christmas joy like the gift of prolonged medial problems.

Check this out.

These things had real care given to them.

World Showcase was loaded with them.

They end up being a great way to track the history of the places that have closed.

Oooo La La, a BOX of matches for the fancy Chefs de France.

Some are simple, others are not.

The Walt Disney World Shopping Village and Lake Buena Vista
are drastically changed now, making this type of thing all that more special.

Gone but not totally forgotten.

Captain Jack’s is still there, sort of… nothing like it used to be.

Now a kind of crappy “crab house”… a shame.

One a lot of us probably remember, newer than the rest… but still extinct today.
So there you have it… another bit of history that is now gone and in this case maybe for the best, but these made for fun and simple souvenirs and provide an interesting historical record of another time in both the attitudes of a country as well as the appearance of the parks.
Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

BTW: Parkeology is now on Twitter… we will get a link set up here sooner or later but for now search for parkeology and start following us.

A Great Mystery…

It is well established that we suck! Everything Disney gets in Tokyo is far superior to our honky-tonk, county fair, ho-down like experiences. If given a choice between a trip to the Tokyo Disney Resort and say ending world hunger only a fool would choose to feed the children. In fact in my very own completely non-biased, super scientific and ultra fair comparison Tokyo Disney Sea emerged as the greatest Disney park out there, besting even the original Disneyland. Sorry hungry kids of the world but we have to get our priorities in order.

A mystery is held deep inside.

As shocking as it may seem even the Japanese are fallible and the proof can be found in the now defunct Castle Mystery Tour that operated at Tokyo Disneyland for 20 years from 1986 to 2006. Two missteps are at play here; the first was building a major new attraction (it was a “D” ticket… that’s the second best for you youngsters) that hinged on the success of the Black Cauldron (that’s a crappy, failed Disney animated movie that nearly destroyed the animation division. Please try to brush up on your Disney history so I can stop with the parentheses.) 

Adventure, action, Satan’s minions out to kill us all… good family fun.

The second was closing it down as it was totally unique and had a charm about it that is hard to find elsewhere, especially in mega rigid Japan. So yea, I’m saying it was a mistake to both open it and to close it, Disney just can’t catch a break can they? Some fool on some obscure blog is going to complain about something no matter what they do. Worse yet that fool may not fully understand all for forces at play and really be clueless of the actual facts… but we won’t let that stop us.

Sure beats some stinking tapestry.
The Castle Mystery Tour was great for many reasons. First off it was a real and honest attraction set inside the castle. Not murals, not a restaurant, not small dioramas not character meet and greets not a super fancy off limits hotel room or even a self guided walk through, it was a real attraction with real effects ad a real storyline that was well worth seeing.
Frenchy here owes it all to his Japanese cousin.
Secondly it had a dragon. A big A.A. (OK seriously… if you don’t know what AA stands for why are you even reading this?) dragon lurking in the basement. While everyone seems to know about the dragon that lives beneath Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Disneyland Paris few seem to realize that a virtually identical one pre-dated it in Tokyo by more than 6 years. In fact it is a logical assumption that if not for the Japanese version the French would likely have a big empty hole beneath their castle instead of the crazy cool reptilian that currently calls it home.
Third is the fact that it was really the only other attraction (along with the Jungle Cruise) in which cast members narrated the entire experience and therefore had a HUGE impact on the show. The Japanese tour guides really took their roles seriously and had a lot of fun playing the part. While the narration was 100% in Japanese the visuals and audio cues were pretty easy to follow.

We’ll save the final factor of greatness for later but suffice it to say that those children may not only go hungry but also be deprived souvenirs as well… stay tuned.

These storyboards are actually quite rare.  This is the first time
they have been posted on the web and they help illustrate the attraction
and it’s scale.  See, we can post the good stuff too!

The entrance to the attraction was at ground level along the side of the castle. Groups would collect outside of the doors and be led in (20 or so at a time, they could run 2 groups simultaneously through twin sets, ala the stretch rooms at the Mansion) and congregate in the foyer. As with every other Disney attraction ever created something goes horribly wrong at this point. What was billed as a calm tour of the castle’s beautiful chambers takes a turn for the worse when classic Disney villains (and the Horned King) feel slighted at being overlooked for so long.

All the timeless and classic Disney heros and heroines; Briar Rose, Pinocchio, Snow White… and um…
is that Sandy Duncan as Peter Pan…
Transformed into their villain alter-egos… and Skeletor from He-Man I think.

Our tour guide banters with the Magic Mirror from Snow White who appears throughout the attractions to help move the story along. The Mirror sends us on our way through the unknown nether regions of the castle. It all gets very dark and spooky, bats screech, prison cells are traversed, dumbfounded Americans are scolded for trying to take pictures (give me a break, I couldn’t understand a freaking word).

They are not kidding.

Eventually we descend one of several sets of stairs into the Queens liar where we see she is making the apple that will be used to take out Snow White. The tour continues through some dungeons and the cast members really play up the creepiness with lots (and lots and lots more) exposition as to what exactly is happening (or as we might call it, unintelligible gibberish). We catch a glimpse of Chernabog and move on through several more spooky dungeon scenes.

Down another dark corridor (this attraction would have lasted exactly 32 minutes in the U.S. before someone’s Lil’ Rascal scooter flipped over and 12 subsequent law suits were filed) we come upon a talking skull who warns that there be squalls ahead and the dead men tell no tales or something like that. At this point a cave full of glittering jewels is made visible to us and as lighting strikes we see the aforementioned dragon chilling in the cave. He wakes up and the guides warn us that we have to flee. As in all the best Disney movie escapes we head to the nearest elevator. You didn’t realize that medieval castles were equipped with elevators did you? They had ADA issues back then too… only they didn’t and we are in Japan but whatever.

We could not manage to avoid tapestries altogether as it turns out.

Up we go in the elevator, when the doors open we are in the world of The Black Cauldron. Wall tapestries weave a tale of poor story telling, lack of focus, PG ratings and regime changes… The guide keeps blathering in Japanese (seriously, the amount of narration in this thing is incredible) but the gist is that the Horned King controls the soldiers of death and that we are all screwed.

So the guide bickers back and forth with the mirror and we join the second group (which has been mirroring us through the tour) in a big and impressive recreation of the Horned Kings liar. As impressive as the dragon’s den was this is even more so.

And you thought Alien Encounter was the first scary Disney attraction…

The king appears and informs us (no joke here) that we are all going to die, that Satan’s kiln controls us all and that he will resurrect an army of the dead to torment what little is left of our lives… you know, typical happy go lucky Disney stuff.

More of that cool concept art, and the real deal was actually larger and MORE impressive!
It’s touching how they always choose a child to defeat the Horned King.

Mr. sour puss starts chanting and the undead start rising all around us as spirits of death billow from the cauldron of doom. But wait, a magic sword of light is handed to a lucky guest who points it at the Horned King (stay on target) and shoots a blinding beam of death… I mean light that kills the king (don’t get cocky kid).

Did they have an Evil Conquers Good banner all printed up just in case things
didn’t turn out so well? And this whole thing has been totally in Japanese,
then just when you are walking out the door they tease you with some token

We adjourn to a side room where the final great thing about this attraction takes place… they give something away! Not a piece of paper, not a magical wave or a smile… no they give away something real, and cool. The lucky guest who wielded the sword (generally a child) receives a bronzed medallion that is hung around his or her neck as they accept a grateful round of applause. However on my first visit they unexpectedly handed me the sword! Why I am still not sure, there were kids in our group but I guess the goofy American guy was enough of a novelty to warrant breaking from tradition. Honestly, these kids all looked pretty well fed (Japan is one of the wealthiest nations on Earth) so I did not feel too bad plundering the loot. They were all very good natured and people seemed to get a kick out of it, oddly even asking to have photos taken with me afterwards.

Remove your drool from the screen.

Now how many Disney attractions can boast dedicated cast members, unique story lines, large set pieces and the chance to walk away with cool free stuff?

Sure, the Black Cauldron was probably not the best choice in retrospect, but it worked… it was unique to the park and now with the closing of this, Meet the World and The Mickey Mouse Review that is getting to be more and more rare. (Though this being Tokyo after all they still have Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, Monster’s Inc. Hide and Go Seek, and several other exclusive to Tokyo attractions… plus all of Tokyo Disney Sea for that matter).

A new more friendly attraction is supposed to open later this year but my guess is that not unlike Stitch destroying Alien Encounter the ship may have sailed on the Mystery Tour for good. But I still have the medallion and my memories (even if they would not allow a couple of photos… geez). 

Check out this video from the closing days of the attraction.  It is a very dark place to shoot so this only gives a general sense of what it was like but you will get the idea.  And notice at the end, they gave medals to EVERYONE… lucky fools!

In the comments section Shane asked about a walk around character they used to have dressed as the Magic Mirror… yes, quite bizarre, quite Japanese… and here he is:

Special thanks to for the photos as marked.