Awesome Park Merchandise – March 2013

One of the things I like to do from time to time is just provide pictures of various merchandise items I come across while visiting the parks. These usually take the form of clever t-shirts. Today, I’d like to branch away from that, by starting with more clever t-shirts, but ending with two other really cool items that have tempted my pocketbook.

But like I said, first I’ll make you wade through the t-shirts.

One dwarf short.

One dwarf short.

We begin in Norway, where I am digging this simple Viking version of a bunch of drunk college guys spelling out their team name on their chests with war paint. The vikings are strikingly similar to those in a recent successful animated film, which makes you wonder if the merchandisers are trying to steal credit for How To Train Your Dragon. But I like it anyway.

At the other end of the Norway spectrum, you have this:

Yes, that's a t-shirt.

Yes, that’s a t-shirt.

Great! A photo-realistic viking costume printed on your chest! Kind of puts those tuxedo shirts to shame.

I do love it when they go through the effort of doing not just generic stuff that can be sold anywhere in the park, but when they limit themselves to one specific area of the park, like the Norway shirts above, or these next four character shirts from the United Kingdom.

Sour Minnie

Sour Minnie

Mickey butt shot

Mickey butt shot

Guard duck

Guard duck

Buckingham Goofy

Buckingham Goofy

Ah, that Goofy! Isn’t he just hilarious? This next one is being sold at Star Tours over at the Studios. It actually looks like it is a Disney shirt, but I think it might just be a funny Star Wars one. Either way, it works.

Darth Vader on the CarouselAt the Studios, I also came across two other non-torso-draping items, which are really kind of delightful. I presume this next one is also available at Magic Kingdom:

What better way to commemorate your vacation than miniature graves?

What better way to commemorate your vacation than miniature graves?

How awesome is that? Little paperweight Mansion tombstones! Those are very nicely detailed, maybe three or four inches tall. They should release a complete set of these.

And here’s something that is rather ingenious:

Replica Disposable Cups!

Replica Disposable Cups!

I flat out love this one. That is a drink cup design from Walt Disney World’s early years, printed on what is actually a ceramic mug with a hard plastic straw and rubber lid. Who would have thought we’d see the day when the fast food trash got its own line of merchandise? Thirty years from now, perhaps we’ll see some embroidered cloth napkins that look exactly like the paper ones from Epcot. Sign me up.


Lending a Helping Hand

In 2011 shortly after the tsunami struck Japan and created an unprecedented series of tragic events we posted a tribute of sorts to the Tokyo Disney resort, you can read it here:


Though this Braille map is meant for those who cannot see it is really beautiful nonetheless.

About a year ago (one year after the tsunami) we were back in Tokyo and were thrilled to find it every bit as wonderful as it has always been. Moreover the parks were running as if nothing had happened. The facilities were of course flawless, the cast members out in force and as dedicated as ever and perhaps most importantly the guests seemed to be carefree and having great fun. I imagine that after dealing with such difficulties having some fun is quite important. As a side note the crowds were extremely light. This may simply be because we visited at a good time of year that is considered the low season but there may be some residual impact on attendance still going on.

The Tokyo Disney Sea brail map is nice and all, but not on par with the Tokyo Disneyland version.

The Tokyo Disney Sea Braille map is nice and all, but not on par with the Tokyo Disneyland version.

In that 2011 post we took a look at the “Story Cards” the parks have for hearing impaired gusts and occasionally confused foreigners (more here). We also briefly touched on another interesting and unique service the Japanese offer guests, one that is again indicative of the care and respect they have for all guests; the scale models used to aid visually impaired guests.


Those yellow paths are textured, you can feel them under your feet. Combined with audio cues they can guide sight impaired people throughout the entire city.

Today we are taking a closer look at these wonderful models available at guest services in both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. These are hand made wooden replicas of the various attraction ride vehicles as well as certain show buildings. Guests in need are allowed to touch and examine the models to gain an understanding of what they may not be able to see. I have never seen anything like this in another theme park or anywhere else I have ever visited.

This one is not so much to be touched but to let folks know that they are available... of course if you cannot see this one it does not do much good.

This one is not so much to be touched but to let folks know that they are available… of course if you cannot see this one it does not do much good.

In fact Japan has many aids for people with different disabilities. One will find not only the standard Braille in elevators and so on but also audible beeps at cross sections altering people when the walk sign is on and tactile paving throughout most public streets and train stations that guide those without sight were to walk and warn them of intersections. The tactile paving was invented in Japan in the 1960’s and is now ubiquitous throughout the country, not just at cross walks but throughout huge swaths of cities and public spaces.



What the heck is that one on the bottom right?


Atttractions big and small are represented in these Tokyo Disney Sea models. Even entire buildings in some cases.

Despite this it is not as if Japan has a disproportionate population of those without sight. Throughout all my visits I have seen one visually impaired person, not actually at the parks but rather in down town Tokyo. The Japanese don’t do it because they have to, they do this because care is a part of the culture and that same idea extends to the Disney parks.


The tentacles are rubbery and soft


If they only sold them I woudl buy a complete set… they are amazing.


Sinbad boats on top and the Venetian Gondolas on bottom.


The Journey to the Center of the Earth vehicles are awesome even in plain wood.

Some really cool things done for a nice reason. We may be getting interactive rubber bracelets that allow us to be tracked and marketed to but the Japanese get these… as they say it’s better than a poke in the eye… or in this case maybe because of a poke to the eye.


Tokyo Disneyland has them as well.

At Tokyo Disney Sea they have a fully painted model (a sub from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) on display while the actual models meant for use are plain unpainted wood. There are shelves that house the entire range of attractions and buildings. I think the folks working guest relations found it quite funny that some American guy wanted to see them and photograph them. At first they had to ask permission to do so (something that always happens at all levels in Japan). After they were allowed to show us the girls working the counter could not stop giggling… I guess to them it is just very commonplace so taking photos of them might be like taking photos of a fire extinguisher or something… they just never thought about doing so.


Can you name them all?


Thoe lucky blind people… they get all the cool stuff!

MK-Models-2 Dumbo-Model

In addition to the models they have brail maps (which I believe the U.S. parks have as well) but they have other really nice offerings to those who could use them.


Not a fancy vending machine (though they certainly have those) but rather video previews of all the rides… can I get a copy to take home please?

There is a video kiosk sitting unassumingly to the side of the guest relations area. It has a touch screen display and visitors can select any attraction the park offers. After picking it a video preview of the attraction is played. This helps people understand what the ride is about and gauge whether they would enjoy it or not. What a great idea! Sure, it does give away some surprises but if you are physically unsure if you can handle a ride this approach is so much more efficient than simply hearing a description… and frankly they are just fun to watch.


It’s cool how even utilitarian devices are themed… this one is for the Magic Lamp Theater.

If you don’t speak Japanese or are deaf certain attactions have hand held devices that sync with the show. You are issued one of these and can follow along with the performance, even certain live action shows.


OK, service dogs for those with hearing and sight issues… and um, those who require canine valentines?

Whether you need them or simply appreciate them the fact that Disney has these measures available is really great. I’d love to see this type of thing in the U.S. just because it is that extra layer that makes things special… plus I want to buy them!


The Myth of Skull Rock

You remember the classic scene in Peter Pan. It sets the stage for the central conflict of the story. The more I think about it, the more I think it might be based on the historical Battle of Tippecanoe, which was fought in my hometown more than 200 years ago. It has all the touch points: Vaguely imperialistic villains, horrific massacre of the Native American population, an iconic rock formation, an elfin white boy protagonist.

Tippecanoe and Tinkerbell too!

Tippecanoe and Tinkerbell too!

Skull Rock is one of those great, scenic locations that tourists love, because when you’re on spring break, nothing sounds better than coming face to face with a giant death’s head. Peter Pan’s Flight has always had some form of it in the ride, and Disneyland used to have a life-sized version outdoors in Fantasyland. Disneyland Paris still has it. There’s even a cool Skull Rock formation inside one of the caves on Tom Sawyer’s Island.

Recently, a Skull Rock was added to the Pirates of the Caribbean.

I haven’t seen this particular formation talked about much. I think it was added late last year as part of the infamous “mermaid” additions, but it’s just possible it was there earlier. I am completely hypnotized by it, and I can’t understand why it hasn’t been receiving its due. Either I was asleep the week that everyone already talked about it ad infinitum and nobody cares anymore (entirely possible), or I’m the only one in the entire fan community who appreciates just how wicked cool it is (yeah right).

Thanks to Kevin Yee (,, I have a picture I can share. It’s been greatly brightened, because that scene is dark (in more ways than one).

That pirate died of crabs.

That pirate died of crabs. Har har.

Not bad, right? it’s a nice little skull shaped rock formation just after the mermaids in the water, but before the mermaid on the beach. I’m diggin’ it all over again.

But you might be asking yourself why I think it’s so awesome. As shown in this picture, it’s sorta nice for some background ambience, but really it’s no big deal. The Skull Rock in Peter Pan’s Flight is much more prominent and graphic. But what may not be obvious is that you are looking at one of the really clever visual effects in the entire ride.

I think Skull doesn’t get noticed, because of the mermaids. At roughly the spot where the above picture is taken, there are glowing mermaids swimming through the water beside your boat. They’re too distracting for anyone to worry about a silly old background rock. And by the time you’re done looking at them, your attention is immediately drawn to the beach, with the skeletons and that snapping animated crab.

But if you would just look to your left as you floated towards the beach, you would experience the thrill of watching that Skull Rock completely vanish.

The whole thing is a Perspective Sculpture. It only takes shape when viewed from a particular angle — in this case, straight on (one might even say dead on, ho ho). It’s almost impossible to see in this picture, but the nasal cavity is a couple formations, the right eye another formation, and the left eye still yet another formation. Even the stones making up the teeth are separate, jutting out of the water.

Worst artist's representation ever

Worst artist’s representation ever

As seen in my stunning graphic above (drawn from memory in photoshop without regard for quality), the whole thing looks positively Dali-esque from the side, and not a single bit like a skull. Even the various eye-holes and things are not always true holes, but a series of concavities and overlays that just happen to line up perfectly from one angle.

Perspective Sculptures can be a lot of fun. You can see a lot of pretty elaborate ones here (warning: One of the images in the slideshow is NSFW). I think it’s cool that the Imagineers added one to the Florida Pirates, and try as I might, I just can’t seem to find hardly any mention of it. Check it out next time you’re complaining about how inferior the Florida Pirates ride is!