Bicentennial Shirts

I make a habit every now and then of posting the latest cool t-shirts released by Walt Disney World merchandise. They’ve been on a roll lately.

Not sure how long this one has been out there, but I encountered it last week at American Adventure in Epcot. I think it’s awesome.

A disastrous earlier version featured the Three Little Pigs.

This is Walt Disney World history from its very early years, almost even before my time. How great would it be if they would bring back the actual characters from the 1976 Bicentennial celebration? Especially now with the living character technology. I’d rather see these three parading through Liberty Square once a day, than that Move It Shake It Celebration disaster that blasts through Main Street now and again.

Here There Be Monsters – Epcot

A few weeks back I set a 4-week goal to visit each of the Walt Disney World parks in turn and try to hunt down a place I had never been to before. It had to be a real location, and it could not be a women’s restroom. I would then share my findings with the world. I first visited Magic Kingdom, then set my sights on Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Like most of my goals, this one was left half finished, like that Volcano Hot Tub I tried to build in the backyard last summer, or the treadmill I purchased in January, which makes an excellent laundry hanger. My mom even called to wonder why she spent $300 on a French Horn if I wasn’t going to bother to learn the chords (which has nothing to do with Parkeology, and actually hasn’t been relevant for two decades, but you know mom).

But I want to assure you that I actually did visit all four parks in four weeks. I just didn’t blog about them, because Teevtee went to Tokyo Disneyland a couple weeks back and didn’t bother to take me along. It’s hard to write when you’re depressed. Hopefully he at least got a few blog posts out of it.

Anyway, I told you up front that I expected Epcot to be the easiest park for me to find uncharted territory, and indeed I was correct. All I had to do was head to World Showcase and invade one of the two restaurants I’ve never eaten at, and I could check this park off the list. I knew it would be easy. I didn’t know it would be weird.

I’m sure all you alcoholics think it is downright criminal that I’ve never visited the Rose and Crown before. Had never even set foot inside. You have every right to flame me, as this restaurant is considered one of the true classics of Epcot and has been there since Day One. But I don’t drink and I don’t eat English food, which has a frightening way of labeling things with unappetizing nouns like bangers, leeks, and shepherd’s pie. I’m sure it’s all very delicious, but they could use some help in the marketing department.

I figured it was high time I got myself inside the Rose and Crown to at least see what the decor looked like, and maybe … play darts and watch soccer? What do people do in pubs? I’m tragically clueless about the whole experience, but I was unprepared to be confronted with this:

Yes! Two drunk blondes! But also a nice old English lady.

This person is known as the Hat Lady, and if I had to guess, it is probably because of the goose on her head. She has a whole corner in the back of the bar, and maybe puts on a show or something? There’s a microphone and a keyboard. I didn’t see the show, but I was enthralled with the idea that this spring chicken had her own performance area in an Epcot restaurant, and is probably some sort of cult Disney figure that everyone has heard of except me. But then, I’m also the same person that for years didn’t know what “Kungaloosh” meant, and would make snarky comments about how the Adventurer’s Club was Disney’s version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Much to my shame.

A shrine to her many victims.

There’s a giant spread of photos of people with the Hat Lady sprawled out on the counter at her nook. It’s apparently a big deal. I think there was a bigger line for her than I’ve ever seen for Duffy the Bear. There’s a sign nearby that the hats are part of the act. This allowed me to indulge in a fantasy that it is some sort of freakishly fantastic puppet show. But I’m going to assume it’s maybe some lighthearted music and dry British humor.

And because of head lice, which I think is also on the menu.

I do wish I could have stayed for the show, but I felt a little guilty hanging around in the bar without ordering anything, and I really wasn’t in the mood for Two Turds in a Burp or a glass of Donkey Knuckles or whatever they were serving. And I’m 99% sure everyone who might read this has heard of the Hat Lady, has seen the show dozens of times, and are probably pictured in that photo spread up above, so a review of it is pointless. I would like to know more about what happens, so if anyone wants to drop a synopsis in the comments, I would love to hear it.

Now with Epcot off the list, there’s only one park left! Will I succeed? Tune in next week (maybe).

How awesome would it be if they came to life and talked? Puppet show!!

The Birthplace of Dreams

As a long-time park fan, it’s always fun for me to watch when first-timers get hit over the head with a classic bit of Disney magic. Some people truly have no idea just how great the parks are, until they round the corner and see the Tree of Life for the first time in all its glory. It can make grown men break down and weep. And for that, I’m sorry, but I just really enjoy the heck out of that tree. I’m choking up right now just thinking about it.

Or how about those little details that people stumble onto? The rope gag with the well at the Indy Stunt Show, or the Wishing Well near the castle, or pretty much anything well-related. It can charm people’s socks off, accounting for that constant lurk of B.O. in the summertime.

But my all-time favorite bit of Disney theming has to be at Hollywood Studios, in between Toy Story Mania and the Backlot Tour. I will park myself on a bench here and watch for hours as people stroll through this area. These folks have just spent 100 minutes in line for a chance to play a spinning, 3-D version of a Wii game, and are a bit tired from the whole experience. But their spirits never fail to brighten when they reach the end of Pixar Place and come face to face with this:

Remember when Michael Eisner was obsessed with stunning, fanciful architecture?

Here is Disney magic at its most amazing. An entire corner of a building made to look like an ordinary downtown bank, or maybe a dazzling industrial park. I imagine for these folks it must be like a nostalgic trip to their home town, where the buildings have no distinguishable signs, are painted in drab gray, and are slapped onto the side of a massive soundstage.

What inner child has not awakened to the sight of a glorious three-story office complex, glistening with plate glass and faux stone finishing? I know when I was a kid, I would spend the months before my trip plotting how I would visit all the themed insurance agents, mortgage brokers, and divorce attorneys who surely inhabited such a wonderland.

This building has a rich theme park history. Dedicated fans love to point out how Disney honors its ┬álegends of Disney Accounting and Finance after they retire, by promising to give them a “Window on That Bank Thing at Hollywood Studios.”

As you can see, it is just a facade, very similar to the surfaces of Fantasyland, World Showcase, or Harambe. But it has a touch of solemn austerity that helps it to rise above all these things and–

I’m making myself sick. What is this thing??? What is it doing at the end of Pixar Place?! Why am I suddenly punctuating like a 12-year-old girl?!?

I honestly have no clue where this thing came from. In case you don’t have the Studios map in your head, it’s nowhere near New York Street, where it might make a semblance of sense. It’s just a fake office building facade holding up a corner of the Great Movie Ride. If you look through the glass, you can see the soundstage walls a couple feet behind it, with all the metal struts holding up the set, and also large mounds of dead leaves and debris that have somehow wormed their way inside.

Disney Imagineers utilized an old movie trick, called “Hide the beige show building with a solid recreation of the County Tax Collector’s office.”

I’m sure some Disney park historian out there knows what it’s doing here. Perhaps it’s a long-lost relic of Dick Tracy’s Crimestoppers or something. I find it baffling. Is it to help with the transition to the Backlot Tour, which has its own ugly facade a few dozen yards away? Maybe, but if so, it’s the worst transition one could possibly dream up for a behind-the-scenes look at the movies. And it’s not like it’s adding background to any pictures one might theoretically want to take of the Backlot Tour entrance. They’re really not that close to each other.

Feel free to weigh in and set me straight. Until then, I’m just going to enjoy the sight of all those toddlers gasping in amazement when they finally see daddy’s office building recreated at Disney World.

This thing is so beautiful and under-photographed that I thought it deserved a third angle.