Man in the moon

Disney gets in a rut from time to time. I guess they are like anyone else… sometimes the new ideas are just hard to come by. 

Ever been on Universal’s “Earthquake” attraction?
There was a ton of stuff going on at the Disney parks in the late 80’s and it all came to a head in 1989. Splash Mountain opened at Disneyland to rave reviews, while Walt Disney World was cranking up major hotel expansions and opening three different new gated attractions; Disney-MGM Studios, Typhoon Lagoon and Pleasure Island. It also seems to be the year Disney ran out of new ideas. 

All of this work can be exhausting and not unlike a great athlete making that last push to the finish line sometimes you have enough gas in the tank and sometimes you run out and fall just short. You have to coast, or maybe in this case copy a little, but more on that in a bit.

When Pleasure Island opened up at Walt Disney World Horizons was still entertaining guests at EPCOT Center and of course had a fairly creepy man in the moon image. 

A little odd.
As odd as it was it certainly paled to the outright horror of the “tribute” currently paying homage to that classic scene over at the Imagination Pavilion.
The stuff of nightmares… and we have now somehow managed to
  have used this horrific image TWICE!
Dating back to the early days Disney has always seemed to be infatuated with images of the moon for the parks. We all recall the first time we saw the moonlit nighttime sky inside Pirates. The sky outside the original Tiki birds show had the same moonlit glow and don’t even get me started on Rocket / Flight to the Moon. 

He was also a huge fan of Moon Pies.
I’m not going to fall into the list trap that Shane cannot seem to avoid but suffice it to say that there are a ton of references to the moon strewn throughout the parks and films of Disney’s past. 

Even ye olden days of Disneyland had moons.
It made perfect sense then when WDI was looking for a mascot for Pleasure Island the moon popped to mind. 

Have fun… I said HAVE FUN…. HAVE FUNNOW!
I mean come on… Pleasure Island was meant mainly as a nighttime experience and where does the moon live… the night baby. And so the Funmeister was born. Yes… that’s right, that old Pleasure Island moon guy logo actually has a name and in the same awkward forced fun manner that most of Pleasure Island operated under back then his name is equally forced and odd. 
Gett’n down 80’s style,  Funmeister is in da house!
Afterall, what is more fun then confetti and pretend holidays?
The Funnmeister was quintessential 1980’s Disney design; bright, graphic and surrounded by confetti, he looked like a refuge from the original Disney Store. 

His festive buffoonery is infectious, his comic gyrations
and merrymaking turns every night into new years eve!
He adorned signs and guidebooks and t-shirts and mugs and in general was plastered wherever Disney could fit an anthropomorphic dancing celestial body that just screamed PARTY TIME DUDE! 
The sad decapitated head of the Funmeister currently serves as a warning to all who may dare cross the clown.
As recently as last year the Funmeister could be seen high atop a pole near Sosa Cigars next to where Motion used to be… it may still be hanging out there, the last vestige of forced fun clinging on for dear life. 
Separated at birth or maybe just ripped off.
The things is that the Funmeister was pulling double duty a scam and a fraud… I am not sure if the same guy who was struck with the blazingly original idea of Catastrophe Canyon had anything to do with this but sure enough the Funmeister is about as original as Transformers 3. 

McDonald’s had been using a strikingly similar character named “Mac Tonight” since 1986, predating the Pleasure Island appearance by a full three years. Even the name seems oddly McDonald’s like… doesn’t the Funmeister room with Grimace and the Hamburglar in McDonaldland? Mac was way cooler than the Funmeister could ever hope to be.  Ray-Bans and a baby grand… he’s too hip for any of the Pleasure Island clubs opting for bottle service in a VIP room instead.

This was not some sort of obscure seldom seen oddity either, no McDonald’s was pushing Mac Tonight as their national mainline advertising campaign for a while, in fact he was still on the air in 1989 and in some Asian countries still is even today. This would be like coming up with the idea of a Scottish clown named “McDowell” or something and passing him off as your own. 

Wait… that’s been done already.
Speaking of “Mac” the much vaunted original Macintosh design was itself a rip off of the 1982 stand alone home video game console the Vectrex, but that is neither here nor there. 

Yes, even Apple runs out of ideas sometimes…
For more on the Disney / Mac connection click HERE.

What we have learned I guess is that everyone copies is influenced by everyone else and Disney is not immune to this by any means… but come on, really, is the Funmeister the best they could come up with? 

The Funmeister would not be quite so happy if he knew what fate awaited him.
It’s all moot now as Pleasure Island moved on to a new “edgy” and even more generic logo a few years back… now much more mid 1990’s looking and text based.  Mac Tonight vanished from American airwaves and the whole Disney / McDonald’s partnership pretty much crashed and burned… but I tell you, I have an odd craving for a Big Mac right about now!

You do NOT mess with the clown unless the words “pimp slap” 
are somehting you want to add to your lexicon.

Thanks to Kevin Kidney for the shot of the World Clock and to for the Horizons moon shot.

The Dog Days of Summer

Parkeology is your definitive source for ridiculous lists!  Only here will you find a comprehensive compendium of sea serpentia, Bing Crosby ephemera, and domestic attraction exports.

The ironic part is that whenever I try a new list, I invariably leave something off, which causes much embarrassment here at the parkeology offices, and has led to the resignation of several key staff members.

A couple of years ago, my brother gave me a list topic as a sort of park trivia game, and I had a lot of fun trying to brainstorm answers that fit the criteria.  Recently, I received a suggestion from Jon, one of our readers in the field, who had come up with a similar list.  It struck me that this might be a fun exercise for all the other obsessive compulsives out there.

I call it the Dog List.  Your challenge is to come up with as many animatronic dogs as you can within Walt Disney World’s four theme parks.  The fun part here is that you must beat my score.  I will not claim to have the definitive list, but I think between Jon, my brother, and myself, we came up with quite a few, including several obscure ones.

I’ll just concede this one.  Courtesy of fine folks at flickr.

Any animatronic (i.e. robotic, mechanical, moving) dog is fair game.  It must be a physical dog (no movies or pictures), and Walk-Around Goofy and Pluto do not count, even if their eyes blink in that lame castle show.  Also, we debated this and decided that Stitch is not really a dog, in spite of being mistaken for one.  You can count multiple occurrences of the same dog character, since those are technically separate animatronics.

So are you ready to try your luck?  The number you must beat is:  18! (though I think there are more.  Some dogs remain unconfirmed)

If you give up, you can see our list by clicking .

Magic Kingdom

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean – The jail dog holding the keys.
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean – There’s a dog standing up against the barrel whining at Jack Sparrow, as Jack spies on the Map Pirate.
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean – In the burning village sequence, there’s a dog singing along with the Yo Ho trio next to the stable.
  4. Haunted Mansion – The grave digger’s dog, trembling as you round the corner into the Graveyard
  5. Haunted Mansion – Maybe the same dog, whining fearfully at the Mummy’s coffin
  6. Haunted Mansion – There’s a ghost dog in the background (all bones).  He’s the one howling through the whole scene.
  7. Peter Pan’s Flight – Nana barks at you as you exit the nursery
  8. Carousel of Progress – Rover appears in the first scene, at the turn of the century.
  9. Carousel of Progress – Rover again, this time in the 20s.
  10. Carousel of Progress – Rover, who appreciates Jim’s joke during Halloween
  11. Carousel of Progress – Who else?  Rover, celebrating Christmas with the family.
  12. It’s a Small World – There’s a dog next to the boy with the boomerang (though this might be a wild dingo)
  13. It’s a Small World – There’s at least one poodle near the Eiffel tower (first room)
  14. Rivers of America – There’s a dog on the riverbank, watching the hopping fish.
  15. Space Mountain – Don’t forget about the robotic dog in one of the post-show scenes as you ascend the speed ramp.
  16. Living with the Land – A dog on the porch of the farmhouse, before you enter the greenhouses.
  17. The American Adventure – There’s a dog on the country store porch, during the Great Depression
  18. The Great Movie Ride – Toto appears with Dorothy on the road to Oz.

Unconfirmed Dogs

These are dogs that nag at the corners of my memory, but I might be imagining them…

  1. Walt Disney World Railroad – Is there a dog in the Indian village, visible from the train?
  2. Tom Sawyer Island – The stables at Fort Langhorn have horse, chickens, soldiers…  Seems like there should be a dog too!
  3. Spaceship Earth – I find it hard to believe there are no dogs here.  My guess is either the cave-man scene, or maybe the family room scene as they watch the moon walk.
  4. Maelstrom – There is possibly a dog in the Viking village, though I’m doubtful.
  5. Splash Mountain – There’s definitely one in Tokyo, because I spent time looking at pictures, but I’m not sure if he’s in the Magic Kingdom version.
  6. It’s a Small World – It would not surprise me if there are a half a dozen more dogs scattered throughout this ride.
  7. Bonus prize if you can find a dog in Animal Kingdom.  I can’t.  Kind of funny that the only place with no dogs is the animal park.

And if you discover dogs that are not on our list, please feel free to list them in the comments!  Our goal is nothing less than the definitive animatronic dog list on the entire Internet!

Good luck!

Topiaries: A Countdown to Extinction

Well, the Flower and Garden Festival has concluded, and Epcot has once again reverted to a botanical wasteland, devoid of any aesthetic value whatsoever.
Hideous.  Absolutely hideous.
For the next ten months, Disney gardening enthusiasts have nothing to do except ride Living With The Land over and over again, reliving the days when they didn’t have to settle for half-wrought zen gardens, pathetic jungle foliage, and those cliché palm-lined pathways.  If they have to walk through Canada’s dreary Victoria Gardens one more time, they’re going to slit their wrists.  They wait diligently for the return of the magical enhancements of the Flower and Garden Festival!  By which they mean the topiaries.
The new HGTV show “My Yard Goes Disney” offered brief hope, but this was shattered when in the very first episode, they trucked in Walt Disney World’s most hated landmark.
It seems the unfortunately-acronymed Flower and Garden festival brings new topiaries every year.  Lion King in the African Outpost.  Pandas in China.  Perfume bottles in France (seriously).  Every year they get more elaborate.  This year, they had a Lotso Huggin Bear that actually squirted strawberry scent.  They presented Lightning and Mater in life-size plant form.  Next year, there’s talk of bringing in a giant Blake Griffin topiary, posed as if he was dunking Spaceship Earth.
One plant preparing to sacrifice another plant.
People love these things, and who can blame them?  They are very well done.  There’s just one problem.  They aren’t topiaries.
There are two schools of Topiary Thought (and we offer online courses in both of them, for the low price of $9999 per credit hour).  The new school involves creating an exact likeness of a character using organic material like moss, vines, and Donald Trump’s hair.  I’m not denying their cuteness and pictorial qualities.  But to me, they seem to be sort of cheating.  Isn’t it really just a giant Disney chia pet?  They took a plastic sculpt of Captain Hook and covered him in lawn weed.
I’m of the old Topiary school.  Back in the early days of Walt Disney World, the place was a topiary haven.  The Transportation and Ticket Center, which today has the same aesthetic appeal as a bus terminal, was a veritable topiary zoo.  There were seals, elephants, bears, giraffes.  They dotted the verdant fields and plains of the monorail tracks, providing a whimsical backdrop for your journey to the Magic Kingdom.  They also had one thing in common:  They were pruned shrubs.
Yes, each topiary was an individual plant, carefully sheared by skilled landscape artists until it took on the shape of whatever it was intended to represent.  The process of making them took years, as you were essentially waiting for a tree to grow, and lopping off the parts that didn’t work.  The results were more monochromatic (solid green) than their future counterparts, and were limited in the shapes they could take because it was a single plant.  It was hard to show detail except on large scale works.
Disney horticulturists labored for many years creating perfect miniature Tree of Life topiaries.
With the arrival of the moss-covered topiaries, the single-shrub versions have slowly been marching towards extinction.  A few scattered ones remain.  There’s an elephant topiary next to Dumbo, who up until a few years ago once graced the path from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary Resort.  There’s our old friend the sea serpent, lining the moat near the Hub.  Disneyland actually has several beautiful topiaries outside It’s A Small World.  But more and more, we get the multi-colored creeper versions.
Most people recognize the moose as an old school topiary, whereas the dude in the front row of the boat is a fiberglass shell covered in peat moss.
I guess modern audiences prefer the new kind, but to me, the TTC sculptures are A New Hope, while the Flower and Garden festival is Attack of the Clones.  CGI may look photo-real compared to some of the old practical special effects, but it lacks a certain solidity.  I’ll be sad when the last of the old single-plant topiaries dies off.