50 Greatest Park Characters: We Want the Redhead(s)

Last week Shane reached the midway point on our list of the 50 Greatest Park Characters of all time by focusing on some Disneyland originals. His odd obsession with Wally Boag not withstanding it was a pretty strong list.

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Unlike Shane who stores his cards wrapped in a dirty sock kept under an old tire in the garage, I take great pride in preserving my cards… GEM MINT BABY!

Today I dug out 5 more of these classic vintage trading cards. While the cards feature characters from several parks they all have one interesting fact in common; none of them have official names. It goes to show you that even though many of our favorite characters are secondary players they often make the largest impact on guests.

First up is someone that you know had to make this list, the famed redheaded wench from Pirates of the Caribbean. She has stolen the show for nearly 50 years and will likely still be “for sale” 50 years from now.

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She may not come cheap but the boys in the rogues gallery will accept no substitutes.

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The next card features yet another unnamed ginger. She may not be the most famous redhead from the parks but she more than carried her weight and drew the attention of many early EPCOT Center visitors (perhaps the same ones who were already fired up over the also unnamed “Aztec Dancer”).

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The caption of this card repeats the “We Want the Red Head” call out. Either the creators were very lazy or perhaps were trying to pull some cross-park, cross-generation tie-in. I’m not sure but it marks the third time in this post (fourth if you count this caption) that the phrase has been used. Now who are you calling lazy!

I’m happy to see that some of these lesser-known characters made the list. They may not be the marquee headliners with household names (or any names at all for that matter) but they often are the most interesting.

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Sticking with Horizons our next card showcases a non-human character that became so popular he appeared on merchandise and was routinely featured in promotional materials.

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The Robot Butler managed to capture a sense of whimsy and optimism that exemplified the 1980’s version of EPCOT (in other words the best EPCOT).

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Shifting gears to yet another absolute iconic classic is a character who not only has no name but not even a body!

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The Ghost Host is often thought to be “Master Gracey”, the groom, a ship’s captain or any number of hypotheticals but the truth is that he has no official name or physical being. Perhaps he is the body hanging in the portrait gallery stretch room but that is about as close as we get to discovering who he is (no, the aging portrait in the lobby is not him). Despite having no name or frame he makes number 2 on the list, impressive indeed.

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Finally one of my favorites and a character that is often overlooked despite her huge size: the unnamed dragon that lives under the castle at Disneyland Paris is the exact type of special detail that separates a good park from a great one. She is rendered with incredible skill and while she does not have red hair I can assume that she has eaten many redheads in the past.

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Though people frequently assume she is Maleficent she is not. She is actually meant to be Merlin’s pet / friend and ties into a larger and fairly obscure backstory. Despite not having a name she certainly has a physical presence second to none.

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That wraps up this week’s reveal, but we still have 20 cards to go! Next week Shane will dig deep into the archives and find 5 more of the most obscure, strange and all around wonderful park characters of all time.

12 thoughts on “50 Greatest Park Characters: We Want the Redhead(s)

  1. I am loving this series so much. I really feel like Disney underplays the unique characters created for the parks, especially nowadays when they hardly ever build anything that’s not based on a movie. You have to physically go to one of the parks to find any merchandise relating to them, whereas movie and TV character merch is sold in the parks, in the Disney Store, and in your neighborhood big-box store. It’s disheartening.

    • We certainly hear you Karalora! This list is 100% park original characters, the exact thing they are creating less and less of as they lean more heavily on movies for source material.

      Yes we all love R2D2 and C3PO. Sure Fantasyland is virtually 100% taken from features. Sure I think Indy fits in Adventureland just fine. However there is something sad to me about the fact that some people now think Pirates is a ride based on a movie. Could you imagine the parks without Madame Leota, Figment or the redhead?

      Disney often underestimates the power of original content for the parks. At a core level it is what separates them from Universal. Now with Avatar, Star Wars, Cars, Toy Story, Marvel etc. that gap narrows.

      It’s harder to create new park originals. The risks are greater. But long term the rewards are also much higher.

      • Anymore, it seems that Disney views the parks as vehicles for promoting films and characters, not unique entities in their own right. Much of the advertising focuses heavily on delighted children running to hug Mickey or Cinderella. I’ve talked to people who can’t even imagine what else there might be to do there. They know there are rides, obviously, but they have no clear idea of what those rides are about.

        And I get it. The movies get distributed worldwide, and any schmoe can buy a ticket (or, increasingly, stream them), while there are only a handful of Disney theme park resorts worldwide. It’s much easier to sell people something familiar than something brand new. But…look, I’m by no means a member of the Cult of Saint Walt, but the man knew that the key to success wasn’t to give people exactly what they wanted, but to invent something new and then make them want it. How did the company he founded lose sight of that?

        • It’s tough because the truth is that even Disneyland in the 50’s was largely built on Disney’s IP or in other words movies and TV shows. But it went beyond that, it was a mix.

          And I have to say, it was genius of Disney to make the parks about hugging characters. That cost them next to nothing and the competition has no answer to it (despite many tries). So all of this makes financial sense for Disney but waters down the overall and long term park experience.

          • I do tire of the “Businesses exist to make money” argument. Even to the extent that it’s true…Disney theme parks are so much more than businesses. They’re composite works of art…and any work of art must be unique to be meaningful. The more similar the parks are to the movies, the less reason they have to exist.

  2. I have a few problems with Terri Hardin’s backstory for the Disneyland Paris dragon. Her stories have been embellished in quite a few other articles. I’m not convinced that the dragon is supposed to be Maleficent, but the sign for the attraction is clearly Maleficent’s costume.

    • I tend to agree with you a bit and 100% the sign clearly references Malifecent… and yet there is no reason to believe the dragon is Malifecent either. Especially when it physically is simply a clone (albeit with a slightly larger body) of the Castle Mystery Tour Dragon. I took that several times and they never refered to that dragon as Malifecent either.

  3. Better ghost host: the one from the ride or the one from the record with Richie Cunningham on it? I like them both, but I prefer the one on the record.

    • I’ll always go ride… though I once did ride the monorail with Ron howard and gave him and his family some tips on WDW… so he has that going for him.

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