50 Greatest Park Characters: The Final Chapter – Saving the Best For Last

Two months ago Parkeology unleashed what is indisputably the most popular series about possibly fictional 1980’s vintage theme park trading cards ever to appear on the Internet. In fact the response has been so overwhelming that it is perhaps only rivaled by our explosive expose on Martin Short. In case you somehow missed them you can start from the beginning by clicking here or catch up on Shane’s penultimate post last week by clicking here.

50 Greatest Park Characters- Welcome Letter

This welcome letter may in fact be even more rare then the cards themselves!

We have reviewed many original park characters, some famous, others infamous and a few pretty much unknown and now we have finally made it the end of the line. Much like the cards themselves it is extremely unlikely that a series two will ever be produced, in other words this is it!

Today’s group is a rag-tag band of misfits to say the least. They span four parks, two continents and decades of time. They share nothing in common other than being on this list and yet there is one very special surprise. You see the list is not actually 50 characters but 51. There is always that one ultra rare “bonus” or “chaser” card and I am proud to say that we have it and I think it is in fact the single greatest park contributor of all time… but more on that later.

The first card up is Lord Henry Mystic from Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland.

50 Greatest Park Characters_henry_mystic

A fellow member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers

Lord Mystic shares much in common with his fellow 50 Greatest list-mate Harrison Hightower but is much more benevolent and animated in his appearance. Mystic Manor can be thought of as the spiritual cousin to the Haunted Mansions found in other Disneyland parks and Lord Mystic is the final character from an overseas park to make the list.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Mystic-Back

Coming back stateside our next character has had his role slightly truncated in recent years but is still a key player in the marquee attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

50 Greatest Park Characters_warden_wilson

Keeping an eye from above.

Warden Wilson Matua is always ready to greet guests to the Harambe Wildlife Reserve with a warm smile and a sincere message of conservation. He is our “eye in the sky” as he used to patrol the reserve via light aircraft.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Warden-Wilson-Matua-Back

Warden Matua used to have a guest on his plane; Miss Jobson. While she did not make our list Mr. Johnson did.

50 Greatest Park Characters_mr_johnson

Mr. Johnson never sent anynone to the moon but he sure looks like someone who may have.

Mr. Johnson was in charge of mission control for risky Missions to Mars. He worked parks on both coasts and was a cult fan favorite.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Mr-Johnson-Back

Speaking of cult favorites our next character was my personal favorite from the long defunct Kitchen Kabaret from Epcot’s Land pavilion.

50 Greatest Park Characters_dairy_goods

They really don’t make them like they used to.

Mr. Dairy Goods did make the jump to the far inferior show that replaced the Kitchen Kabaret (Food Rocks) but if you wanted to see him at his peak you had to visit 80’s EPCOT Center in all it’s original glory.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Mr-Dairy-Goods-Back

And now we hit the last entry on our list not including the special bonus card.

50 Greatest Park Characters_tiki_gods

A great 8 for 1 special is going on.

This card is another slight cheater in that it has not one but actually 8 characters! The Tiki Room Gods from the original Enchanted Tiki Room have withstood the test of time and are as beloved today as they were 50 years ago.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Tiki-Gods-Back

As I mentioned earlier the creators of these cards (whoever they may be) managed to really keep an ace up their sleeves. There was one major Disney park contributor who was conspicuously absent from the list. When these cards first came out I recall being very concerned about this obvious omission and then it was finally revealed that he was reserved for what must be considered the single most important card in the series.

50 Greatest Park Characters_uncle_theodore

Simply the best.

The unbelievably rare (there are only two known examples) bonus “chaser” card features a man who not only has the coolest name ever but also has made a massive impact on pop culture both inside Disney and out.

50 Greatest Park Characters-Uncle-Theodore-Back

While Thurl Ravenscroft is depicted here as only one of a multitude of impeccable, brilliant and memorable park characters (Uncle Theodore), if the truth is told Thurl had previously landed on our list. He gave such widely diverse performances as Tony the Tiger and is loved by all as the singing voice of the Grinch who Stole Christmas.  Throughout the   years Thurl contributed to the parks in immeasurable ways.

Buff from the Country Bear Jamboree, The Enchanted Tiki Room (Fritz), the classic Pirates of the Caribbean, The Disneyland Railroad, the Mark Twain Riverboat, Splash Mountain and the Sailing Ship Columbia. More than a mere song and dance man or some silly grimacing stage clown mugging for applause he was a quintessential entertainer.

Surely Thurl was a legend among Disney legends. He was in fact there on opening day ushering in the opening of Sleeping Beauty Castle. He lent his voice to a whose who of characters; everything from big classic movies like Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland to Kirby from The Brave Little Toaster.  It is abundantly clear to see that Thurl Ravenscroft is a spectacular finale to our list of the 50 greatest of all time.

And on that very appropriate note we will carefully file away our cards back into their protective archival sleeves, snap them into acid free binders and place them back on our temperature controlled shelves for another generation to discover one day. We love these cards, it is a real shame that they never found a wider audience and ended up lost in oblivion; there is just no accounting for taste I guess.

Thanks for hanging in there… all three of you who made it to the end!

Did we errrr I mean the original creators of these cards miss anyone?


Disney VS. Trump: We Reveal Big Changes Coming to WDW

It all seemed like a joke some months back when Donald Trump (along with Melania, his European trophy wife) took a torturously slow escalator ride down to what certainly must be the most bizarre presidential campaign announcement in history. Backed by approximately a thousand flags and cheered on by a crowd that looked to be straight out of a high school track meet (poster board signs and all) the master of the universe announced his intentions to run for President of the United States. Surely it was all just some sort of surreal exercise in absurdism, a prank for his TV show perhaps?

Disney Trump

Getting ready for a long ride down a short escalator, Trump surrounded himself by pretty women in white (one his wife, the other his daughter, oddly both roughly the same ages)

Now 42 debates, dozens of twitter feuds, a couple of penis references, and a particularly insane campaign later the joke is over, Donald Trump has emerged as the presumed Republican candidate. Putting all political preferences aside Disney is left in a somewhat difficult position; they operate the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, a stirring tribute to democracy featuring a cavalcade of presidential audio animatronic figures. In more recent years the park has not only installed life-like representations of each president to be but has also had him (or now possibly her) record dialogue to incorporate into the show. This takes a level of cooperation that Trump is typically adverse to.

As one might imagine, negotiating with the president on a mutually acceptable set of terms is never easy. Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson are dead, they have no real say. But today’s politicians maintain carefully crafted appearances and demand not only input but also ultimately final approval of their depiction at the Hall of Presidents. The Walt Disney Company does not wish to get on the wrong side of the government (who they share a very productive relationship with) and therefore enter into discussions with each party’s candidate up to a year prior to the actual election. This allows for the terms to be negotiated and in place by the time the eventual winner is sworn in, it also provides Disney a jump start to have the new figure and show elements ready to be installed in a timely manner.



Disney approached Trump about a month ago once it was clear that he was the front-runner and likely representative of the Republican Party. Trump used this discussion with Disney as a showcase of the negotiating skills he has promised to bring to his presidency. Past deals with presidential candidates have tended to be cordial and brief. Generally there is a script presented to the candidate’s advisors, after a review and input from the handlers and council a second draft is presented, often with specific phrases added or removed as to better reflect the individual’s speaking style and message. Normally that is more or less it. Contracts are signed, photographs are taken to help create the likeness and show dialogue is recorded. The presidential candidates have generally been very happy to cooperate with Disney and help spread their particular message of hope and optimism for our country.

Disney Trump Art of the Deal

After all, he literally wrote the book on it…

Trump has proven to be much more challenging. He considers himself a master negotiator and has actually hung much of his campaign on the idea that he would “win” negotiations with companies and countries alike. Trump was never going to simply agree to Disney’s boilerplate terms but rather used this as a showcase of his expertise at getting what he wants on his terms. By all accounts it was not easy but after an intense month-long back and forth between the lawyers of Disney and Trump an agreement has been struck.

Trump will lend his likeness and voice to the new Presidential show however his tough negotiating has led to several compromises on the part of the Walt Disney Company; these are in many ways unprecedented in scope.


Chairman and CEO Bob Iger was personally involved with the Trump negotiations.

Bob Iger (Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company) issued the following scripted statement:

“Today the Walt Disney Company is proud to announce that it has come to terms with Mr. Donald J. Trump and is pleased to announce a mutual agreement that will ensure Mr. Trump’s participation at the Walt Disney World Resort as well as his involvement with the beloved classic attraction “The Hall of Presidents.”

As a great corporate leader and respected businessman Donald has a proven track record of excellence. He has built some of the world’s most iconic buildings and resorts and the Walt Disney Company is proud to partner with him and his team as we forge an exciting future that is traditionally Disney while also majestically Trump.”


By contrast and in his signature unscripted off the cuff style Trump added:

“Listen, I build the best buildings in the world OK? I hire the best people in the world; I have the classiest resorts in the world. I have several homes and projects in Florida; I know Florida, Florida loves me, alright? Together we will create attractions that are unrivaled in the world of amusements OK? The Best! They will add the magic and I will add the class and together we will make Disney great again OK? OK… that’s enough.”


Changes will be both big and small

The details for the upcoming changes to the Hall of Presidents and the Walt Disney World resort have been released some highlights are as follows:

  • The “Hall of Presidents” will be renamed the “Hall of President”. A subtle change but one intended to single Trump out.
  • While all 43 previous presidential figures will remain present on stage (this was hotly contested by the Trump camp who preferred them to be scrapped) the new Trump figure will not only be front and center but also elevated on a golden pedestal while the past presidents will all be pushed off to the rear of the darkened stage and seen mainly in silhouette. Additionally none will move or speak and will appear as static mannequins rather than how they have been featured in the past.
Hall of Trump Concept

Concept art gives a glimpse of the lavish Trump style soon to added to the Hall of Presidents.

  • At Trump’s insistence lasers, lightshows, confetti and other “tasteful demonstrations of wealth” will be added to the newly named “Trump Hall of the President” theater. The interior of the theater is expected to get remodeled with the addition of Corinthian columns, extravagant use of 18k gold and “Other classy additions, this will be the single classiest show at Disney I guarantee it.” will be added.

The theme parks will soon receive a dose of “class”: Trump style.

  • The “Hall of Flags” at the American Adventure located at Epcot will be replaced with the “Trump Portrait Gallery” featuring large oil paintings of trump and his wife (some in which Melania will be depicted in a “tastefully nude” state). When asked about the artwork Trump commented that they will be created by “Some of the finest and most expensive artists in the world and trust me, I know great art.”
Hall-of-Trump Disney

Disney has provided the above concept art depicting the updated Hall of Flags now to be known as the “Trump Portrait Gallery”.

Outside of the parks Disney has also agreed to allow Trump to take over management of its hotels and will be permitted to construct a new 100 plus story tall “mega-tower” hotel and casino on the resort’s property. The cleverly named “Trump World Tower at Walt Disney World Resort” will be erected near the Magic Kingdom and in typical Trump fashion is designed to dwarf all competition.


We have circled Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom, it gives a sense of scale. The Trump World mega-tower will certainly be the tallest building in Florida but may end up the tallest in the world.

All monorails will now be “Monorail Gold”. Trump is insistent than only “The best” be associated with properties that carry his name. This is a point that Disney is concerned with and is trying to at least negotiate other precious materials such as “Monorail Platinum”, “Monorail Diamond” and “Monorail Palladium” in order to avoid confusion. Trump however is demanding that they are all gold and furthermore that they are plated with 100% genuine 24k gold.

Additionally some sort of “Beautiful wall” will be erected around the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot. Finally and perhaps most controversially the Morocco pavilion within the World Showcase will be closed and replaced with an “All American tribute to making America great again.” No further details were released but Trump was quoted as saying “Some of my dearest friends are Moroccans OK? I love Moroccans. Some Moroccans maybe I don’t love so much, in fact many Moroccans, like a lot of them are maybe not so great, but some I like and trust me, they will LOVE this!”

Bald Trump Disney

Walt Disney Imagineering already has a life-like Trump figure created and ready to go, however the “hair” has proven to be quite tricky.

As an interesting side note it has been leaked that Walt Disney Imagineering is having a very difficult time reproducing the signature style of Trump’s hair. It seems that despite testing all kinds of materials including nylon, polyester, spun asbestos and even straight up straw (which was deemed to be too luxurious looking) nothing has properly captured the otherworldly synthetic look of his “hair”.

WDI had been working on a fiber optics solution but they are currently pursuing projection-mapping technology in partnership with the special effects masters at Industrial Light and Magic. This is a still developing story and hopefully it can be worked out before installation.

50 Greatest Park Characters: Animal Instincts

Although todays cards are awesome if you missed the previous 5 click here or of you are new to these classic trading cards click here to start from the beginning.

This set of the 50 Greatest Park Characters of All Time trading cards has featured teenage infatuations, sidekicks, Disneylanders and many more. Today I chose five cards that hit Disney’s sweet spot: non-human characters.

Disney is best known for its animal characters; mice, ducks, lions or dogs they run the gamut of the animal kingdom. But the parks are no strangers to other creatures as well, some of our favorites (many already listed) are feathered, furry or from a galaxy far, far away.

Up first is a character who is lesser-known in the United States but who is a verified star in Japan:

Chandu 50 greatest Park Characters

Chandu (an almost obnoxiously cute tiger cub) co-stars with Sinbad at his eponymously named Tokyo Disney Sea attraction. It wasn’t always this way. When the park first opened the Sinbad attraction was much more sinister causing kawaii loving Tokyoites to stay away in droves. A few years later Chandu was brought in, the tone of the attraction was lightened and a contagious (some would say that not in a good way) theme song was added.


Today Chandu can be found featured on everything from popcorn buckets to household cleaning devices (a sort of feather duster featuring Chandu’s tail as a handle). Speaking of his tail, it can be purchased as a snack! The “Chandu Tail” is an elaborate steamed bun that is very popular and has a following all it’s own.


Catch the tiger by his tail… and eat it.

The next characters are no strangers to having loyal fans. The designers of these cards appear to have cheated just a little bit by lumping all three of the taxidermy heads from the Country Bear Jamboree into one mega-card.

Melvin, Max, Buff 50 greatest Park Characters

Melvin, Max and Buff may share one card but they each have distinct personalities and are a beloved part of the show. These three were so popular that at one time they were featured outside the attraction at the Mile Long Bar next door. Their removal from that fast service location is one of the earliest and best (or is it worst?) example of Disney deteriorating the in park experience.


Speaking of needless removals we come to out next card:

Pirate Parrot 50 greatest Park Characters

The Pirate Parrot was best known for being perched outside of The Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World for several decades before Johnny Depp had him booted out. He actually started his career inside the attraction at the unload station before being relocated for the first time. After he was removed from the pirate ride altogether he made an appearance at the World of Disney for a few years, now he is sadly lost in time.


Our next card showcases a character that not only has eluded removal but has actually expanded his park presence.


Harold, The Abominable Snowman 50 greatest Park Characters

Harold is the unofficial name of the yeti that has been stalking guests on Disneyland’s Matterhorn attraction for many years. He may be humanoid but he is no human!


Harold has gone through several permutations since his arrival but currently looks better than ever.

The same can probably not be said for our final card of the day.

Skippy 50 greatest Park Characters

Skippy was one of the highlights of the original Alien Encounter pre-show. Once Stitch took control of the attraction Skippy was diminished to bit player. Still he left a big impression with park visitors and deserves a spot on this list (though I wonder why the actual Alien of the same attraction was oddly left off).


Come to think about it I bet there are more non-human park characters of note then there are humans. Animals, aliens, monsters, mythological creatures and more make up a rich tapestry of original creations that have come to shape the parks for generations.

We only have ten characters to go! Stay tuned next week when Shane posts 5 more cards to see if your favorite made the cut.