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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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).

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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.

50 Greatest Park Characters: Scene Stealing Sidekicks

If you’re just joining us, be sure to check out the previous week of trading card reveals!

When it comes to the trading card set of the 50 Greatest Park Characters, the designers were careful to include not just attraction headliners, but also the sidekicks who always manage to steal the show.

The five cards in this week’s pack are certainly worthy of inclusion. It doesn’t matter that their names are not on the billboard. These guys upstage practically everyone who performs with them.

For proof, look no further than…

Waldo

Waldo is a unique theme park creation. I mean literally. Dr. Honeydew creates him as part of Muppet Vision 3-D. He’s the only non-puppet performer, but when it comes to cheap 3-D tricks, even Fozzie Bear can’t match the awesomeness of Waldo’s runny nose.

Waldo can morph into anything — even corporate symbol Mickey Mouse. He’s so untouchable, you couldn’t hit him with a … CANNON?! Hey everybody, he’s got a cannon!!!

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Anyway, you know the drill. Waldo holds his own with the Muppets, and that’s saying something.

And speaking of going toe to toe with beloved characters famous for funny voices and weird haircuts, how about the guy who manages to swipe the Best Actor trophy away from Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean?

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Before everyone thought the ride was based on the movie, the Auctioneer had the most commanding presence on the Caribbean stage. In fact, he still does. This is the one guy who looks like he’s in charge. With his polished speech and Timothy Dalton chin, he’s a top-notch salesman not afraid to swindle his own shipmates out of a few gold pieces, even with suspect merchandise.

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It helps that he’s teamed up with the Redhead, who appeared earlier on our list. Two of the Greatest Park Characters of all time sharing the stage. It’s like Glengarry Glen Ross, only with Pirates.

The next three characters fall solely in the realm of comic relief. Hooter (or PFC Hooter, as he is known in this tell-all biography), is a perfect example.

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Captain EO may have a great smile and some funny costumes, but Hooter is the physical comedy genius of this ragtag band. He’s Buster Keaton, Harpo Marx, and Babar the Elephant rolled into one.

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What other character in the Disney theme park pantheon can get away with eating a map, wearing a trash can as a disguise, and nearly ruining someone’s trip?

Okay, you got me there

Okay, you got me there

Next up we have one of my personal favorites, a guy who made me laugh the minute I heard him back in 1989, and kept me going through his entire preshow. For years, I swore he was voiced by Robin Williams (it’s actually Corey Burton).

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General Knowledge skewers everything from army drill sergeants to Ernest P. Worrell (hey, it was the 80s). There are the obligatory chicken jokes, and even a shot at Walt Disney World. He mainly commands the preshow, but he also pops up from time to time during the Cranium Command main show as well, threatening Buzzy with one of those ridiculous chickens (“Brrrawk! I don’t need a brain! I’m going into politics! Brrawk!”).

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Now for the last guy in this week’s deck. He’s the fan favorite — the Country Bear with the worse singing voice, the most disturbing song choice, and the highest BAC reading this side of Grizzly Gulch.

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Of course Big Al made the list! Do you think the guys who came up with this deck (whoever they are) are stupid? Everyone loves Big Al. You sing his song all the time (admit it, you know you do).

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And when you think about it, the guy is a nut case. Think about that cowboy. Just think about it! Why is there so much blood??? Big Al is a killer, no doubt about it. Anybody who shows up for the Christmas show wearing a diaper like the New Year’s baby is not somebody you want to tangle with.

Tune in next week when Ted unveils 5 more characters. Only 15 left!