The Day Parkeology Ran Out of Ideas…

Well maybe it’s not that dire, but we have always tried to keep a unique angle on Disney around here.

That’s not to say that we don’t love what the many (many, many) other Disney sites provide. In fact we can’t get enough of it. But lets be honest… the world does not need more of the same.

There are Disney sites to cover all possible interests and points of view:

The Disney news sites give you minute by minute updates covering all of the major mega events. Yes, a new slightly paler shade of yellow is now being used on the Fantasyland garbage cans and the news sites are onsite live to give you a 200 image photo report of the big news (jokes on me… the Fantasyland garbage cans are lavender… not yellow you fool).

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199 additional photos available…

There are the various Disney trip-planning sites. These are invaluable sources of such insider tips as “Head back to the hotel around lunch time for a quick dip in the pool.” They also offer details on various ways to steal fountain drinks from the resorts (and ways to justify it as being OK, if you need that sort of thing). Indeed they also provide inaccurate ride wait times and host annual debates about how the admission prices have gone too high.

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OK, this has nothing to do with the post. I found it when I was looking for “Disney Fountain Drinks,” but come on… what the hell are we doing to ourselves folks? Should we just hook up intravenous bags of gravy and call it quits?

Some of our favorites are the Disney history sites… we love them. These are the places to go to learn how stupid you are for not being born at the right time. You can be taught how you are too young to appreciate when Disney parks were really great, or determine that you are too old to understand why removing the Big Ass Hat was the worst thing that has ever happened. These sites also provide grainy video and photos that may make you wonder if “If You Had Wings” was really as good as all the old timers insist it was.

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This was awesome and if you disagree then you are an ignorant slut.

There are also the “bad boy” sites. These are the fringe sites where bloggers act like they are too rebellious to actually enjoy Disney on anything more than an ironic level and that they go to the parks mostly to get drunk (because Disney is the best place to do that obviously). If you are lucky you may get to see someone venture backstage (SHOCKING!)… good times.

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TUNNELS! There are tunnels under the Magic Kingdom!!!! I need a drink. Of course the history sites will correct us and make sure we understand that the Magic Kingdom is actually the second story and these “tunnels” are at ground level… oh shut up.

Of course there are the expansive wastelands of the Disney boards where people go to argue, flame each other and try desperately to force their opinions on all others… that sounds like fun.

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Not that type of message board…

Then there are the official Disney sites set up to pump out press releases and tell fans why removing beloved rides is actually a good thing and that new baggage handling procedures are much more interesting than new rides ever would be.

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The official site also promotes wholesome entertainment like Miley…. never mind.

There are even sites that are so crazy and so “out there” (often created by those who are insanely over the top in love with one singular aspect of Disney) that they seem to exist only to make us feel better about ourselves… surely we are not as freaky as THEY are!

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If you really could fly, would you choose to hover 10 inches off the ground out back by the tool shed?

The point is that Disney is very well represented on the World Wide Web… and the truth is that Parkeology, for all of our snarky remarks, is actually a bit of all of the above rolled into one. We certainly talk about new rides and old rides. We delve into history and you are damn straight that our point of view based solely on our opinions and informed by our ages is THE correct view and all others are wrong… and if you tell us you like the freaking hat you may have a fight on your hands. We wander around hotels looking to links to the past, we occasionally venture to places we maybe shouldn’t, and we do stupid things all the time.

So sure… we are a bunch of hypocrites who condemn others and then do the exact same things ourselves… But at least we admit it!

But what does any of this have to do with running out of ideas?

Well, my friend, today is when we cross the line into perhaps one of the lowest forms of Disney web site: The Cute Zone.

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You know… these are sites that feature saccharine sweet essays about how adorable that newest Cinderella shower curtain is. They tend to focus on the characters and are run by people who consider the Disney stable of princesses to be core home decorating options. They may have blogs discussing where and when to meet college kids dressed up in foam costumes (i.e.: character meet and greets) or breathlessly talk about the new Mickey shaped cupcake now available on Main Street.

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We have generally shied away from this zone because well… you know… it’s creepy. But all that changes today, baby!

As weird and odd and even uncomfortable as some of these things are, they can also actually be interesting on several levels. First of all on just a surface level that new Mickey cupcake may be delicious, or at least look good enough to trick you into thinking it is delicious (it’s probably not). On a deeper level it can give some insight to the culture Disney are marketing to and how far people are willing to go to continue the fantasy… not just going on rides, but dressing as their favorite characters, living in homes decorated with them and even eating as them.

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Nothing creepy here at all.

So now that I have tried in vein to justify this post I’ll just get to the point: We wondered if Disney has done such a good job of convincing us how essential it is to own things shaped like Mickey Mouse that maybe it was possible to go an entire day at a Disney resort eating only Mickey Shaped foods (I told you right up front that we were running low in the ideas department).

For our test we chose Tokyo Disney Resort because it is the epicenter of cuteness and caters to a generally wealthy and Disney obsessed fan base that are seemingly happy to spend more money than necessary on anything molded like a mouse. If this can be done, Tokyo is the place to do it.

And to be clear we are not talking about eating 16 Mickey ice cream bars and calling it a day. We want legit meals and we don’t want to repeat any food items… so you get ONE Mickey bar a day… sorry.

Breakfast:

Well this is a slam-dunk and the easiest of all the meals. You can grab Mickey shaped muffins and the very cleverly named “Meat Patty Danish” to start the day. If that mystery meat Danish does not sound too great, how about a Tuna and Corn version to get things off to a good start?

L1030078L1030079L1030081L1030082If none of that appeals to you, they offer several other pastry options as well:

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I think the Mickey Shaped Waffles are probably the way to go though… they are a classic and there is no arguing that they look like Mickey (in mini size as well nonetheless)… so breakfast is covered six ways to Sunday.

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Plus with the strawberry and cream sauce you can pretend Mickey has some sort of horrible puss oozing disease… a breakfast tradition is born!

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Lunch:

The most classic lunch item of all theme park foods is probably the burger so a Mickey Shaped affair fits the lunch bill just fine. The bun, the patty, and the cheese are all Mickey shaped. If you have a picky eater maybe you prefer some Mickey shaped chicken nuggets. They have you covered as well.

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Nothing says Disney like a “Mickey Bread Sandwich”

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A rare case when the actual product looks better than the advertised version… the Japanese tend to under-promise and over-deliver in general.

Maybe you need a little extra something, How about a Mickey steamed bun? This is a traditional Chinese dish generally found as part of a Dim Sum meal but increasingly becoming popular as a savory snack. Often stuffed with pork or other meat, Disney offers a teriyaki version complete with a tiny bow tie.

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Should you prefer a sweeter rendition you can pick up a Minnie Mouse version filled with Strawberries and milk.

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Delicious Pepto Bismal flavor.

Snack Time:

OK, have your freaking Mickey Ice Cream bar now… of course they have them, they also have a cool Orange sherbet bar with great detail.

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Actually less of a bar and more of an ice cream sandwich here.

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Frosty delight. They should make one in the shape of Walt’s head.

Or how about a hot pretzel?

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Or a Brownie?

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Or a Cookie?

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Or Churro? (One of the more clever ones)

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And it’s like three feet long!

Frankly there are too many various sweet treats to list… Rice Krispy bars, candy, chocolate, candy apples, Jell-O… if it can be shaped like Mickey and eaten as a snack, they have it.

Dinner:

We are in Tokyo so lets go traditional Japanese… I’m not totally convinced that this counts but clearly that tuna has been scooped into a Mickey shape on purpose… so I’m accepting it. And there is no arguing that the dessert item is full on Mickey head (and gelatinous. They love gelatinous textures in Asia).

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The kids meal has a throwaway Mickey carrot… it’s something at least.

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Or you could eat this instead:

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I’m not even sure where to begin with this…

But lets say you want to fly half way across the world and then eat Mexican food for some inexplicable reason. No problem. This fajita plate may not be 100% Mickey shaped but the rice is trying really hard to carry the load… we will give them a pass here.

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Make a run for the border

They are so into Mickey shaped food that you can buy fake Mickey shaped food Merchandise.

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Well the U.S. parks have these… so we win on the food merchandise front! If you consider your car smelling like a turkey leg “winning”.

Well we did it!  Not only did we complete the challenge but we have made it through this post about adorably cute Disneyfied food as well. We will also post a 45 minute video covering the day’s meals and set up a separate Official Parkeology Mickey’s “Three Square Meals” challenge page for those interested in attempting this on their own. We will need to see time dated photos of each meal for verification… but for now I’m breaking out the Mickey cookie-cutters and going nuts on some bologna.

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You’ll never know what hit you.

 

The Complete Canonical List of the Best Animated Film Tie-Ins Ever – Part 3

Well now. That was an adventure, wasn’t it?

Things couldn’t be better than they are, here in the fabulous 2010s.

Parkeology hit the global media market in a big way. Our faces were on seemingly every TV channel in the country. A guy named John Cameron Swayze gave us all the news. A lot of singing and fluff, but it’s fun.

Major newspapers from London to New York carried articles on us, and the Parkeology exploits traveled from New York to Los Angeles in less than seven days.

And I even hear tell of some brothers from North Carolina who are working on some kind of WDW48-ride-vehicle-contraption. Heh heh. It’ll never work.

Yes, we’ve got all the latest inventions. Twitter accounts, Youtube videos, Facebook pages. And some kind of innate ability for news media to use the worst screen grabs of our faces ever. They are also mildly obsessed with calling us “middle-aged.” That may be true of Ted, but this parkeologist is still just a youngster, don’t you know.

And now I’m mixing up animatronic stage show quotes.

Anyway, thanks to all the new riders who found/followed/subscribed to us on that whirlwind journey that was WDW46, and a warm welcome back to those of you who made it. And a friendly word of warning, one you won’t find in any guidebook:

What we do 99% of the time on parkeology has nothing to do with outrageously stupid theme park quests, and mostly has to do with obsessing over the obscure, incredible, intricate details of the parks. In fact, we were in the middle of a series of articles on the greatest theme park tie-ins to the official canonical list of Disney animated features. We may have been detoured (“Brakes? Brakes! Where are the brakes?”) but it’s time to dive back in. Journey with us now, to the dawn of recorded time. Or at least to the dark ages of animated films.

We welcome you, to the 1980s. We welcome you… to SeaBase Alpha.

#29 – The Rescuers Down Under

Oh good grief. What a way to start. This somewhat forgotten sequel (actually from 1990) to the somewhat forgotten original Rescuers film never really had a chance to blossom in the parks. The pickings are slim, my friends.

Bernard and Bianca appeared as walk-around characters (and still very rarely do, though mostly in Tokyo). But they are usually more evocative of the 1970s original film then of this sequel.

The film is not terrible, and some of the animation montages will include it. Marahute the golden eagle will often get a brief clip during any “You Can Fly” number from the various animation attractions.

However, the best park tie-in to emerge from the Rescuers Down Under is actually at Epcot in Future World.

Sound strange? It is, but that glorious Future World fountain has an entire sequence choreographed to the Rescuers Down Under opening credits music.

That sounds noble. It does. But also, we must remember that the Future World fountain also has an entire sequence choreographed to music from the 1994 dogsledding movie Iron Will. So do with that what you will.

So when do we get some water dancing set to the stirring music of the Journey of Natty Gann?

So when do we get some water dancing set to the stirring music of the Journey of Natty Gann?

Photo by Express Monorail

#28 – The Little Mermaid

The one that started the renaissance. The second golden age really began with the Little Mermaid, which caught audiences by storm in 1989 and ushered in a new dawn of Disney cartoon musicals.

And yet somehow it took them more than decade to build a ride after it.

Little Mermaid got the standard 90s treatment: Stage shows and parade performances. At Walt Disney World, she also managed to carve out part of the defunct sub lagoon for a greeting area called Ariel’s Grotto. Scuttles the seagull also became the proprietor of a snack stand next to Dumbo.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid opened at Disney MGM Studios, a decent black-light puppet and live actor stage show, and of course the music turned up everywhere, from Spectromagic to Fantasmic.

It was not until the opening of Tokyo DisneySea in 2001 when Little Mermaid finally got serious theme park attention. The film is the basis for the entire themed land of Mermaid Lagoon, housed almost entirely indoors. Unfortunately, the attractions in Mermaid Lagoon are of the off-the-shelf type. There’s Flounder’s Flying Fish coaster (kiddie coaster), a Jumpin’ Jellyfish parachute drop, some sort of seashell version of the teacups.

It also had a rather artistic live show, with Ariel on arials — wires that would make the live performer seem to float through the ocean.

Then a decade later, Disney’s California Adventure added the first full-length dark ride based on the movie. It was billed as a major E-ticket, and ended up being a solid D-ticket. Disney World cloned it into New Fantasyland, and added a breathtaking show building on top of it, and that, my friends, is probably the best park tie-in.

Prince Eric’s castle and the surrounding rockwork and grottos are some of the Magic Kingdom’s most beautiful sights, and the ride is easily on par with the classic Fantasyland dark rides (and usually longer).

After losing the 20K Lagoon, it's amazing that we finally get to see something this beautiful again.

After losing the 20K Lagoon, it’s amazing that we finally get to see something this beautiful again.

Photo by Scott Smith

#27 – Oliver and Company

The one that did NOT start the renaissance. I recently re-watched this “classic” and I can safely say that it’s hard to see them making the jump from this to Little Mermaid. Oliver is cringe-inducing and pandering.

It’s easy to see why it never really found a home in the parks. The characters are all dogs and cats, so walk-arounds are difficult. The film got a few token clips in various montages (Dodger in particular shows up in one of the bubbles during the Florida version of Fantasmic).

If I’m going to be forced to pick something, I’m going to go off the reservation and choose a segment from the Grand Opening of the Disney MGM Studios. I had this special on grainy VHS and watched it over and over and over (John Ritter is hilarious). One of the selling points of the new park was that the New Mickey Mouse Club was filmed there, and the Mouseketeers are featured in the Grand Opening at the 17:35 mark, performing “Why Should I Worry?” from Oliver and Company. I’m not sure if Christina, Justin, and Brittany are in this cast, but they might be. It won’t make the number any better.

#26 – The Great Mouse Detective

Uh-oh. I’m, uh, not sure what to do with this one. I actually like the movie much better than Oliver and Company, but this is apparently during Disney’s “classic English literature character done with animals” phase, and references to the Great Mouse Detective are few and far between in the parks.

You would think that Ratigan, one of the most bombastic villains, would have made a great walk around character, and I think maybe he was around briefly (but only very, very briefly).

Okay, I wasn’t going to use this one unless I absolutely have to, because it’s basically just an image of the characters. But as images go, it’s a legendary one.

I’m referring to the Bill Justice character mural that once graced the wall outside the Walt Disney Story at the Magic Kingdom. This one was truly amazing, with lots of obscure characters. This mural for the longest time was actually one of the greatest relics of the modern parkeology era. The Walt Disney Story closed decades ago, but the mural remained, hidden deep inside the old theater, and was often considered a backstage area. Stumbling across it as I did after so many years of forgetting all about it was one of the happier days of my early parkeological career (this was before the blog existed).

Sadly, the mural is no more. But it is of significance to the Great Mouse Detective, because characters from that movie were the last to be added to the mural. None of the other recent characters from Little Mermaid and beyond were ever included.

#25 – The Black Cauldron

I am not going to lie. The Black Cauldron is, to me, the single worst animated film Disney has ever produced. It is an incoherent mess of a story, almost completely without any redeeming factor. I can count on one hand the number of readers who can name 3 characters from it. I’ll even spot you Gurgi and the Horned King.

Personal anecdote: The Black Cauldron was released in 1985. It is to my great shame that my stupid, Disney-can-do-no-wrong self proclaimed it better than the other big movie that came out around the same time, which starred Michael J. Fox and a time-travelling DeLorean. Rating the Black Cauldron higher than that masterpiece is one of my life’s biggest regrets.

Having said that, Black Cauldron actually managed to snag itself a snack stand at Magic Kingdom. Gurgi’s Munchies and Crunchies is still around — well, the venue is, though it has changed names about a hundred times since then. Now it’s called The Friar’s Nook. It’s in Fantasyland. It’s forgettable.

But as is sometimes the case with fate’s weird sense of humor, the worst film on the entire list also gets one of the most delightfully obscure major attraction tie-ins (at least to American audiences).

The Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour at Tokyo Disneyland was an odd walk-through thing that ran from the mid-80s to 2006. It has one of those “Villains Hijack the Proceedings” plots, and culminates in an encounter with the Horned King and the Black Cauldron. Seriously, somebody in Tokyo thought the Black Cauldron deserved a rather elaborate finale in a mid-level attraction.

If I could go back in time and experience any lost Disney attraction on the planet...

If I could go back in time and experience any lost Disney attraction on the planet…

Say what you want about my middle-aged co-parkeologist Ted, but he will always be the only friend I personally know who has been chosen to wield the Sword of Light against the Horned King, and received the awesome medal reward from the cast members. I’m not joking, it’s like a big production or something.

He claims it’s because the Japanese always pick goofy white guys as the “volunteer.” Clearly they have seen our WDW46 screengrabs.

#24 – The Fox and the Hound

Another awful movie from the 80s, which is even more pandering than Oliver and Company, if that is possible.

The main characters are a fox and a hound. Go figure. No character greeting areas then.

I’m going to choose the ultimate cop-out and go with an Emporium window display at Disneyland. The less said about this movie, the better.

Off-Model and shrouded in darkness... sounds about right.

Off-Model and shrouded in darkness… sounds about right.

Photo by Castles, Capes, and Clones

#23 – The Rescuers

Suddenly we’re in the groovy 70s! The year is 1977. Star Wars is still in theaters. Bell bottoms are all the rage. And this pandering (imagine that) story about 2 mice rescuing an orphan explodes onto the world theme park stage.

Okay, no it doesn’t. The Rescuers got the aforementioned walkaround of Bernard and Bianca, and even had Orville the Albatross and Evinrude the dragonfly, as seen in this beautifully vintage picture.

#22 – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Finally. After a lot of dreck, we’ve arrived back at a good movie. This movie was a sort of anthology, combining a few different Winnie the Pooh featurettes as one movie, but it strikes the perfect note and is one of the truly enduring Disney classic movies.

Pooh is one of those few Disney characters that has universal recognition and appeal. Much like Mickey and the gang, he is a pervasive character in the parks, and practically owns the merchandise shelves (though he has given some ground to princesses in recent years).

Pooh’s walk-around character has undergone a few changes over the years (the oddest example was when he had a honey pot on his head). And of course his supporting cast (Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, etc.) are just as popular.

Winnie the Pooh even ran for President in 1972 and 1976. This included daily campaign parades at Disneyland a stage show of sorts. It’s unclear why Disney thought Pooh made the best candidate from their repertoire of characters, but if anyone could be considered incorruptible, it is Pooh Bear.

But in terms of major attractions, it took a long time before Winnie the Pooh finally came into his own. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of beloved Mr. Toad. In the late 90s, Pooh evicted J. Thaddeus Toad for his own ride at the Magic Kingdom, named with the exact same title as his movie. Though Toad proponents rightfully mourn the loss of the Wild Ride, it should be noted that the Pooh ride is very well done, and deserves its place in Fantasyland — especially with its more intricate queue that was added only a few years ago.

Pooh then made his way to Disneyland, where he again managed to stick his foot in the proverbial honey pot by evicting another classic attraction in the Country Bear Jamboree. The Disneyland ride is very similar to Florida’s version, perhaps a tad worse.

But the piece de resistance came when Pooh’s Hunny Hunt was added to Tokyo Disneyland. Here is an absolutely breathtaking E-ticket level ride for families that is a marvel of technological engineering and oozing with charm.

It is clearly the best version of a Pooh ride anywhere, and among the best attractions in the entire world.

#21 – Robin Hood

Here we go again, English lit characters as animals. At least this time, they are anthropomorphic animals, which is actually a pretty unique way to tackle the Robin Hood story.

Though time has illuminated me of its flaws, Robin Hood was for the longest time my favorite animated film, and the fox himself remains my favorite Disney character.

Unfortunately, Robin Hood has never really had much of a presence in the parks, except as a walk-around character. It is to the filmmakers’ credit, however, that the characters are so magnificently rendered. Robin Hood, the Sherriff of Nottingham, and to a lesser extent Friar Tuck and Prince John still frequently make appearances in the parks.

They never got an attraction or even so much as a popsicle stand, but the characters are still there.

The debonair Robin Hood, looking decidedly more double-chinned than I remember.

The debonair Robin Hood, looking decidedly more double-chinned than I remember.

Photo by Jeff Christiansen

#20 – The Aristocats

The last film in today’s segment. As the saying goes, in with a whimper, out with a …whimper. Aristocats is not a terrible film, but it is somewhat weak. There were a few different gift shops called The AristoCats at various Magic Kingdom-style parks at one time or another, but the move never had a major presence.

Until recently.

Somehow modern audiences have rediscovered the character of Marie, the feisty little white kitten who is basically a bit player in the movie. All of the kittens in the film are cute, but Marie has come out of nowhere and now her merchandise is everywhere. I blame the Japanese. You just know this started with them.

A lot of the Aristocats (including all three kittens and some of the weird cats from the Scat Cat band) have appeared at some point as walkaround characters, but Marie is the only one who appears regularly today.

She is often found on Town Square at the Magic Kingdom, and has been seen in France at Epcot as well, and at other parks worldwide.

Cross-eyed French kitten of the 70s!

Cross-eyed French kitten of the 70s!

Photo by Castles, Capes, and Clones

Summary

The 70s and 80s were not exactly Disney’s best time period for animation, though there are a few gems in there (Winnie the Pooh and Little Mermaid). Most of the stories are forgettable at best, and nearly unwatchable at worst. It’s no wonder most of these never panned out with major park tie-ins.

But some great films in the 50s and 60s are just around the corner…

 

Mustard application is now easier than ever at Tokyo Disney Sea!

What does a Rolls Royce Phantom and a Jules Verne inspired ride vehicle in Tokyo have in common? Read on.

At Parkeolgy we are always on the lookout for the little details that Disney pours into the parks and attractions. These generally come in the form of unexpected effects or nods to the past.

One could spend days going over the hidden references the Imagineers tend to hide. These details are often lost on the average guest but those who do pick up on them really appreciate the depth of the experience on offer.

During my recent visit to Tokyo DisneySea I found a new detail but unlike the typical story enhancing efforts this one is purely functional. In fact I have never seen anything quite like this at Disney or any other park I have been to. Moreover it is new… it did not exist on my previous visits.

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Maybe a little bit of overkill?

As you probably know due to the often-rainy conditions in Tokyo all of Main Street USA (in Tokyo Disneyland) is enclosed and re-named the World Bazaar. One would think that if they went to this level to keep guests dry that many other attractions would offer some sort of rain protection or accommodations and yet by and large there are no other concessions to rainy weather in either of the two Tokyo parks. It’s Tokyo folks not a Columbian rain forest, maybe building a giant glass canopy was a little bit of an over reaction to begin with.

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The rich have many “unique” problems to deal with.

Nevertheless people don’t like being wet and perhaps especially not the Japanese who often wear nice clothes to visit theme parks (or just generally to live life… I don’t think they know what shorts are over there). That means many guests carry umbrellas with them if there is even a small chance of rain (or direct sun for the matter) and this is where the connection to the elite car collector comes in. Rolls Royce owners need their hands free to handle various tasks such as applying Grey Poupon mustard to gold plated caviar or casually blowing their noses with hundred dollar bills. They certainly do not have time to be fumbling with umbrellas; therefore the Phantom has a convenient compartment to slide an umbrella into upon entering the car (or perhaps more accurately a place for the butler to slide the umbrella).

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When you think of it why don’t all cars have this? Do you have to be wealthy to not want to be wet?

Well just like the Rolls the ride vehicles for Journey to the Center of the Earth now come equipped with built in umbrella holders!

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It just drops right in there and stays put for the ride.

I’m not sure exactly when this happened but I do not believe they were in place in 2012 (my last visit) and I know they were not there much before that (I have photos of the ride vehicles sans holders before that).

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Previously the holders were not there.

It’s actually a great idea and one that they should incorporate on more rides (maybe they are?). Rather than trying to hold what could in essence become a spear during a high-speed ride guests now just drop the umbrella into the exterior slot and it goes along for the ride, then they swoop it up upon exiting.

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Could also be used for canes, large loaves of French bread or pet snakes.

I love finding little unique things like this but I also love knowing that it was recently added; that Disney is continuing to find small ways to improve the guest experience. This is one of those things that is likely “only in Japan” as their set of values and needs is quite unique. However I’d love to see it come to rides in the U.S. as well… just imagine the spike in-park high-end mustard sales would have!

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They were installed right here…