Carno T-Shirts

This week’s entry in the Walt Disney World t-shirts file brings a couple of very stellar outfits direct from Dinoland U.S.A. I noticed these when exiting the area’s signature attraction, with the oh-so-obvious name, ThunderLizard.

I was a little disappointed that these were only available in kid sizes. They illustrate a trend in recent Disney efforts of showing a body on the shirt itself, with the head filled in by your head. I’ve seen several of these types of shirts popping up around property.

Still not our dino, but at least this one’s a vegetarian.

Pretty neat, right? For only the price of a parking spot in the Epcot lot, you can paste your own kid’s head on the body of a meat-eating monster from the cretaceous period! And while dressing little Johnny like a Carnotaurus is a lot of fun, and can really freak out his sister if the lighting is just right, it’s not nearly as fun as dressing him like this:

Dr. Grant Seeker

Guess who made it back with you?

Heck, yeah! Your kid can become the spitting image of character actor Wallace Langham, who had a bit part in the Oscar-nominated movie The Social Network and a full-on supporting role in Kirstie Alley’s short-lived 90s sitcom, Veronica’s Closet. This shirt shows him (or at least his torso) in his greatest role, Dr. Grant Seeker, friendly controller and a heck of a paleontologist if he does say so himself.

Being the Countdown to Extinction geek that I am, I would love to own this shirt. If any Disney merchandisers are reading this, please get us some adult versions pronto. I think what makes me chuckle the most is that they took the trouble to get a lot of details right. They could have just stopped with the white coat and nametag, of course, but the tie is a pretty close match, with its red knot and diamond pattern. The one capper that would have sealed the deal for me is they had copied Seeker’s killer denim shirt, but that’s a minor quibble. Sign me up for this one.

Dr. Grant Seeker Dinosaur preshow

Shown here dealing with some pesky locked coordinates.

Oh, and as a side note, how come I never realized the bad joke in Dr. Grant Seeker’s name until just now? I mean seriously, how does that one slip by me? And Kevin Yee had to point out the pun in Blizzard Beach’s mascot name earlier this week, which I had also missed. Ice Gator. Ice Skater. It’s almost like Disney is fixated on puns. I wonder if there are any hidden in the Jungle Cruise?

Disappearing Act

Anyone who reads this blog long enough to get past the repetitive John Muir jokes and the poorly concealed Tony Baxter man-crush knows we have a true love of Walt Disney World’s simpler time. Nothing symbolizes this more than the old House of Magic shop on Main Street (now part of Goofy’s Plush-o-rama and Magical T-Shirt Dream Factory).

Main Street U.S.A. House of Magic

Okay, it’s just totally implausible that a star could be in front of the moon.

This was the original magic store, long before Olivander’s took over the throne at Universal. It may not have had an intellectual property tie-in, and lacked the hour-long waits to browse, but it represented the nostalgic, innocent playfulness of Magic Kingdom’s early years. It was an entire retail space devoted to corny gags, slight-of-hand, and caged man-eating tigers, complete with flamboyant capes and 70s-punk purple wigs.

I’m not sure why it existed in the first place. Despite its name, did anyone really think the Magic Kingdom was the go-to destination for budding magicians of the time? Were magic shops common on the streets of midwestern America at the turn of the century? It’s hard to think of a legitimate reason to tie up an entire retail space with card tricks and ghostly tops. It seems they just did it for the heck of it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to buy a whole bunch of top hats and gloves while on vacation? It was such an oddball concept, they went ahead and did it twice (Merlin’s Magic Shop used to occupy Sir Mickey’s).

Sadly, some genius in Merchandising figured out that tarot cards and levitating coins didn’t have the same souvenir appeal as a room full of Mickey shirts, and the House of Magic disappeared from Main Street, replaced by the Athletic Club, which sells pajamas and purses.

Today I really just want to pay tribute to the tribute. If you go to Disney World today, you can still find the House of Magic if you look hard enough. I’m breaking rank with the magicians by giving away the secret, but I think you’ll find it obvious (like most magic tricks), once I point it out. It involves a little bit of misdirection. The right hand waves frantically at the Main Street Athletic club, while the left hand cleverly conceals the House of Magic over in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

House of Magic Window

Looks more like a Business Establishment of Magic

It’s been there for awhile, though I can’t tell you exactly how long. It’s out in broad daylight, claims it’s open for customers, and is perfectly willing to sell you all the exploding cigar tricks you can handle. You just have to know where it is.

The font on the sign isn’t an exact match, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s clear this is meant to be a tribute to the original Main Street House of Magic. Everyone pretty much ignores it completely. I’m sure they think it’s just part of the background — which is sort of correct, since the whole point of New York Street is to be a background.

House of Magic Storefront

Nevermind the vaguely funeral-home-esque drapes.

You’ve tried to go in some of those buildings, haven’t you? That’s the gag, that the whole street is just a facade. But I have it on good authority that the House of Magic is different. There’s a way in, and you won’t believe what’s inside. Nothing less than the most incredible magical experience on property. You just need to know the magic words. I’d tell you, but I’m not ready to unmask myself that much.


The Invention of Time Travel

It seems every other week I’m apologizing for not posting anything. Usually it’s a time-wasting excuse, such as “I was trying to beat World 8-1 in Super Mario Bros.” or “I was watching Colts pre-season football” or “I was trying to explain to someone younger than 30 what Super Mario Bros. is.”

But this time, I have three legitimate excuses. This annoys me, because I would like to bank two of these excuses for next time, but such is life. Anyway, here they are. First, I was finishing up the first draft of my next book. Great, you are thinking. There is nothing more annoying than some guy on the internet promoting his next book. (Good thing I’m not doing that. However, I will continue to promote my last book. You can buy it here!)

Secondly, we found out that we have been matched for adoption. There will soon be a new little parkeologist scampering around the offices. I figure this kid is bound to hate Disney, and will end up liking Universal or something. (The only thing more annoying than someone promoting their book is someone blabbing about their kids).

But the third excuse, and perhaps of the most interest to you, is that I have invented time travel.

Finding the plutonium to power it… that’s another matter entirely.

You would think this would mean I would have all the time in the world to simply travel back and post interesting things, so this site wouldn’t look so dead. But no, I have been using it for my own amusement.

You see, it all started with a dream I had. Oh no! you say. First self-promotion, then kid stuff, and now he’s about to start yapping about his bizarre dreams! Well, yes. But there’s a payoff.

See, in this dream, I was at Epcot. I was walking through those Leave a Legacy headstones, and it was sunset, and the background music was Tie Me Kangaroo Down by Rolf Harris. I think I was wearing lederhosen, and for some reason I had a rat-tail braid. It was really weird.

But I noticed that the line for Spaceship Earth was almost non-existent. I think this means it was September in my dream. So I got in line, and quickly boarded the attraction. And it had padded seats, which was nice. And you know how Spaceship Earth is all interactive now, with a touchscreen built right into the time machine? Well, it was just like that in my dream. And the first thing you have to do is pick the language you want for the narration.

Now I don’t know how I knew this, but in my dream, I remembered a (non-existent) article I had read on Progress City U.S.A. about how Spaceship Earth has this easter egg built into it. And if you touch the “Chinese” language 3 times on the touchscreen, you can trigger it.

If you enter this code, however, you get 30 FastPasses.

Of course I entered the code, and the screen dissolved, and up popped a new language option:


(Cronkite didn’t actually narrate the attraction until 1986, but there was no fact checking in my dream). You could imagine how delighted I was to ride the attraction with this throwback track. We started going up the lift hill, the Cronkite narration began, and then the ride promptly shutdown for an emergency evac, and it had something to do with spaghetti noodles, and anyway, I woke up.

Now obviously, this is a let-down. How awesome would it be if Imagineering really did build such an easter egg into the attraction? Then the amazing thought struck me: I could actually create this experience for myself.

You see, I happen to have a copy of the Cronkite narration on my iPhone. It’s a recording of the ride, not original audio source, but perfectly legible none the less. I also have the Jeremy Irons narration from 1994 to just a few years ago, when he was replaced by Judy Dench. You can find both of these tracks out there in the ether, if you look for them.

And Spaceship Earth the ride is virtually intact from 1982. Sure, the descent is different now, but most of the ride, the cool parts with the AA figures, are the same. With some careful planning, I thought it might be possible to journey into the past. And last night, I completed two successful trips.

There are a few things a time traveller must pack in order to successfully journey into Epcot’s heyday. First is the aforementioned audio tracks on an iPhone or similar device. Secondly, a good pair of noise cancelling headphones.

The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a pair of headphones, why not do it with some style. Besides, the stainless steel construction makes the flux dispersal — LOOK OUT!

When boarding the ride, I suggest having the narration cued up and ready to start as soon as you exit the loading area and begin going up the first hill. With Cronkite, this is usually when the secondary female voice begins talking about AT&T (there used to be a light up sign for that). It’s a good idea to make sure you have the volume loud enough as well. You need to drown out the actual audio.

Along those lines, I recommend choosing Chinese for realz as your language on the touchscreen. If you leave it as English (the default), there’s a chance your ears will keep trying to focus on the Judy Dench narration. Chinese is so different from English, that you can effectively tune it out as white noise.

While the timing seemed to be pretty evenly matched with the Omnimover pace today, there are still a few moments where you realize you’re about 5 or 10 seconds ahead or behind. In that case, practice a little bit with scrubbing on your iPhone, so that you can quickly adjust without losing your spot. When you’re dealing with a 16-min track, it’s hard to scrub just a few seconds in either direction (maybe there’s a better trick for this).

As fate would have it, both my Cronkite and my Irons narrations had unscheduled stops in the track (“Remain seated. Your vehicle may begin moving at any moment.”) Both happened on the descent, so it didn’t really disrupt anything, since the current descent is just a useless flash animation. And because of the timing, I managed to botch the exit on my Cronkite ride-thru, and missed the invitation to explore Communicore. The Irons trip was perfect, as I was invited to explore the “new Global Neighborhood!”

But for the majority of those two trips, I was in awe.

I’m actually more familiar with the Irons narration than the Cronkite version, so I took that trip first. I muddled the beginning, and finally got it in synch at the Caveman scene. After that, there were some grand highlights. The Rome scene, and “Jewish teachers and Islamic scholars” were synched perfectly. The newsboy had his high-pitched “Extra! Extra!” call. And through the magic of the synthesized music, the current “Matrix” tunnel (right before you reach the star field) actually disappeared for me, replaced with those blinky pink and purple lightbars that used to be there.

As I began the descent, I was still in perfect synch. Remember that section where there are vignettes above you using a Pepper’s Ghost effect (a Graduation, a birthday party, etc.)? I actually could look up at that section and hear the audio track for them, even though the vignettes are now covered over with black cloth. And my imagination painted in that last, glittering model of Spaceship Earth, pulling back from you as you approach the unload area.

Fortunately, I elected to leave the Wand in the past, where it belongs.

My next trip was with Cronkite, and I was more prepared. This time, I was slightly ahead, so it was beginning the cave narration before I had even reached the Woolly Mammoth movie. I was able to scrub ahead, and get myself on track. My absolute favorite line from the Cronkite track is “Behold, the majesty of the Sistine Ceiling.” And I was not disappointed when I rounded the corner in the renaissance and Cronkite spoke those words into my ears, just as Michelangelo appeared. It sent a chill up my spine.

The descent was fantastic, because I got to listen to Tomorrow’s Child the whole way down. If not for the annoying light pollution from the flash movie, it would have been perfect. Those things are really distracting when you’re not wanting to look at them. You become aware of just how much black cloth there is on the walls. Most of it pretty ugly.

I tried to think of other rides this could work on, but there are very few that have kept the same track and scenes, but changed the audio. It might be interesting to try Stitch’s Great Escape with the Alien Encounter track, but my guess is that none of the effects have the same timing. Buzz Lightyear has the same track from Magic Kingdom opening day, but its scenes wouldn’t match up very well with If You Had Wings or Dreamflight. Imagination chopped out a long section of track, and also added stops and starts. Gran Fiesta Tour might work, but it’s a boat, and the synch could get off very easily.

That leaves Spaceship Earth, a ride that already claims to use time machines. There’s still a third possible trip, the original Vic Perrin narration (a track that has thus far eluded me in my travels, and which I have never even heard — my first trip to Epcot was in ’84, and Spaceship Earth was down for rehab, so my first ride was not until ’86, when Cronkite was in place). If you have access to any of the older audio tracks, I encourage you to give time travel a try. And don’t worry about that asteroid. You’ll be in and out of there before it even breaks the atmosphere.

Trust me. What could go wrong?