This Sad and Lonely Crocodile Will Eat You

I think I read somewhere that journeys into the jungle are supposed to be dark and intense. Nobody ever says “I’ve returned fresh from the jungle.” They always come back half-starved, half-mad, half-naked, and half-bumpy from parasitic insects. But I’m starting to get suspicious about the Jungle Cruise. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like some scenes are less than realistic.

For instance, the Nile and Amazon and the Mekong rivers don’t actually connect in real life. I can’t believe the Imagineers did not construct a story device to cover this clear logic flaw. If it were me, I would have had a better transition rather than just “Now we’re on the Mekong.” Seriously, how hard would it have been to introduce a little exposition to smooth that over?

"Now the engineer will put you into hypersleep. Don't worry, it will only seem like a second or two to you."

“Now the engineer will put you into hypersleep. Don’t worry, it will only seem like a second or two to you.”

And other scenes are not so realistic as well.

We had a little argument going in the Parkeology offices a few months back — one I’m going to drag out into the public, because there’s nothing more interesting than reading about two park geeks bickering like old women on the internet.

It all stems from a wonderful little video that has been making the rounds for awhile now. This thing is pure beauty, one of the best films I’ve seen this summer next to Guardians of the Galaxy and watching Michael Bay abuse my childhood (because hey, I wasn’t using those memories anyway). It’s a restored home movie of Walt Disney World from 1972 courtesy of our friends at retrodisneyworld.com. It is jaw-dropping.

There’s a lot I would like to comment on about this film, but one thing that really blew me away was a shot of the Jungle Cruise at the 9:15 mark.

If you watch the clip, it is of a crocodile in the Indian Elephant Bathing Pool, who happens to be literally gushing fluid from some kind of tear ducts behind his optical orbs. And then the film moves on to a showering elephant, which is totally unrealistic. Elephants are notoriously stinky.

We tried to find an explanation for this crocodile from 1972, which boiled down to two camps. One was that the animatronic had sprung a hydraulic leak. The other correct view (my view) is that the crocodile is weeping crocodile tears.

The notion of crocodile tears may or may not be a myth. Now the phrase means something like faking pain in order to lure unsuspecting victims close enough to be eaten — in which case Dinorama is a good example.

But nobody seems to really believe this. And even if they did subscribe to some sort of reptilian saline secretion, they certainly wouldn’t buy the idea of a crocodile blubbering like the Bellagio Fountain, dousing elephants with a bucketful of sorrowful lachryma.

Yet as far back as the 14th century, explorers were raving about these deceptive beasts. As described in the awesomely-titled Curious Creatures in Zoology:

In that country and by all Inde be great plenty of cockodrills. These serpents slay men, and they eat them weeping; and when they eat they move the over jaw, and not the nether jaw, and they have no tongue.

Now I have a special fondness for English that sounds as if it were written a long time ago back when men thought the moon was made of cheese, and the one good thing that has come out of this debate is that I will henceforth call these creatures “cockodrills” from now until the end of my life. But one thing is for certain: the idea of crocodile tears is at least consistent with beasts from the wild jungles of India, and since is the bathing pool of Indian Elephants, a super-soaker cockodrill is perhaps a reasonable inclusion.

Everyone knows the moon is made of Eric Idle.

Everyone knows the moon is made of Eric Idle.

One of the coolest aspects about this cockodrill is that it existed in 1972, but I never noticed the weeping until I watched the video. I knew there was a cockodrill in the ride scene, but I figured he must have gotten replaced or broken over time. But when I rode Jungle Cruise last week, I made a point to look out for him and sure enough, he’s still there, and still spouting off on cue like Tammy Faye Bakker.

This parkeologist's camera captured the cockodrill in breathtaking, non-weeping action -- in full-on blurred-sasquatch mode. Are the tears real or myth?

This parkeologist’s camera captured the cockodrill in breathtaking, non-weeping action — in full-on blurred-sasquatch mode. Are the tears real or myth?

How I never noticed him before, I don’t know. I must have been distracted by all those wacky skinny-dipping elephants. The cockodrill is somewhat relegated to background scenery, tucked off on the left side of the boat just as you exit the sunken temple. He’s got a couple of juvenile elephants nearby, so maybe he’s hoping for a snack. But his jaws still open and his eyebrows are still crying.

Give him a look the next time you ride. He really is making quite a mess of himself.

 

Forget Star Wars Land. Give Me Guardians of the Galaxy.

Okay, not really. Give me both. We are only a few weeks away from the opening of the next Marvel Studios movie–a strange, weird, wonderful departure that has me remembering the giddy days of anticipating the next Star Wars or Lord of the Rings episode. Guardians sounds like a bizarre left hand turn from the tried and true super hero model that Marvel has perfected over the last decade. But already I’ve fallen in love with it.

Disney has been doing an interesting thing this summer. They’ve repurposed the Sounds Dangerous theater for 3-D previews of their summer tentpoles. First Maleficent, now Guardians of the Galaxy. On the one hand, this is a cheap, easy way to add an attraction, which looks even cheaper compared to what Universal is doing down the road. But on the other hand, each of the previews has been a generous length (10-15) minutes, the 3-D is sharp and clear, the theater is air conditioned, and there’s never a wait. At 10 minutes, Maleficent doesn’t look too bad. At 10 minutes, Guardians of the Galaxy looks like the best film of the year.

Obviously I’m speaking a little bit in hyperbole. The crazy fanboy side of me wants this to be amazing, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. As utterly ridiculous as this is, I could actually see myself going back and watching the 10 minute preview at the Studios multiple times. Let’s face it, I’ve got Muppet Vision memorized. I need new stuff. The movie is just so darn fun. It’s hard to find sci-fi that tries to be this funny, without veering into total camp. What was the last film to successfully do it? Firefly, maybe?

I do wonder if mainstream audiences will turn up. I’m fully aware that a talking tree and a homicidal raccoon seem like a weird pitch. But I hope people give it a shot I think it could really turn out to be something special. And then we’ll get that massive Guardians of the Galaxy dark ride that I’ve always wanted — at least for the last 6 months.

Starring Drew Carey

Starring Drew Carey

 

Bold New Worlds – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Yesterday I posted about how strange it is for frequent guests to suddenly have new experiences to enjoy. The Seven Dwarfs mountain has been isolated in the middle of New Fantasyland for what feels like a decade. We all remember when it was just a wee bump of steel in the middle of a dirt pit. And now suddenly here it is with a date to the prom and a tennis scholarship to State U.

Like the rest of New Fantasyland (except Storybook Circus), it is exceedingly pretty. And while I found the coaster to be rather disjointed, the ride is not without its moments.

The dark ride section is pretty great. It has one of those quintessential Disney moments, when Doc starts to call Heigh-Ho and the train creeps ever-so-off-kilter up the lift hill, with the music swelling, and Dwarf shadows marching beside you. That’s the kind of thing that Disney does best. It can give you goosebumps when done properly, and this moment is a bonafide goosebump moment. What Disney Magic used to mean, before the term became so watered down.

The ride is not meant to be a major E-ticket attraction, and in fact it is a little jarring to go from nicely themed kiddie-coaster to amazing dark ride to nicely themed kiddie coaster again. The lines should settle down after the initial newness wears off. In spite of some initial trepidation about the project (back when it was mostly Dumbo and princess greets), I’m a fan of New Fantasyland. I think both Seven Dwarfs and Little Mermaid are worthy additions to the Magic Kingdom. The restaurant is a much needed improvement, and though I don’t care for Story Hour with Princesses, the cottage is at least pretty and well rendered. Storybook Circus is not cream of the crop, but at least it’s an upgrade over Toontown. On the whole, this new area significantly improves the ambience of the Magic Kingdom — especially compared to the medieval tournament tents of original Fantasyland. I’m anxious to see where the Magic Kingdom goes from here.

I had the benefit of exploring these Bold New Worlds almost back to back. As strange as it sounds, I probably enjoyed the initial Harambe Theater District experience more. Harambe offered not just a surprising new set of buildings and landscaping to explore, but it gave me a different view of the old stuff — the view back towards Africa, the return of the geyser rocks, that white access bridge beyond which lies Pandora. But this new, fresh glimpse of Disney World from a different angle will soon fade, and I suspect the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will have the staying power.

As a parkeologist, I was delighted to discover something in the Mine Train queue which I’m sure went unnoticed by practically everyone else standing in the Florida heat with me. Back in the 90s, I bought a collectible CD of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Soundtrack. It contained two songs on it–scratch tracks of deleted songs from the movie. While listening to the instrumental background music in the queue, I was startled to hear renditions of both “Music in Your Soup” and “You’re Never Too Old To Be Young” mixed in with “I’m Wishing” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” It shows a welcome attention to the history of the landmark film that inspired the ride.

The Cottage of the Seven Dwarfs