Finding Disney’s Top 10 Animated Feature Films in the Parks

Back in the days of War and Depression (pre-television), the children of the world had only two doorways to Fantasyland.

The first was through the magic of the movies on the silver screen.

The second was by being named Diane or Sharon Disney.

It was not until Disneyland that kids could actually step through Alice’s Looking Glass without slicing their feet to ribbons. And sometimes the Other Side can be a pretty strange place. If you really could journey to Neverland, what sort of world would you find there?

Answer: A Weird Pop Star, Bubbles the Chimp, and a Pirates of the Caribbean Bedroom

Answer: Bubbles the Chimp and a Pirates of the Caribbean Bedroom

Parkeology has spent months examining every animated feature film in the vault. We have distilled the essence, coalesced the vapors, and arrived at the most basic theme park components for each film.

In case you missed them, here are Parts I – IV:

There has been a lot of good.

There has been some bad.

There has also been Chicken Little, but we are trying to forget that.

Now we are down to the final ten. The oldest films in the library. The venerable, aptly-named classics. These movies all pre-date Disneyland, and have had the most opportunity for exploitation. That makes them the best, right?

Don’t hold your breath.

#10 – Melody Time

What the…? Huh? What is this movie?

What true-blooded Disney fan does not remember this beloved anthology classic from 1948? This film is at the tail end of a very bizarre stretch for feature animation. While Walt’s first handful of films were high-powered artistic masterpieces, that changed quickly when most of them failed to turn a profit.

As a stopgap, they started bundling short films into an anthology feature with a very loose through-line. For instance, the through-line to Melody Time was that all the stories had some music in them, and music has melodies. That is literally the only thing that Johnny Appleseed has in common with a tugboat named Little Toot.

We start at Storybook Circus in Florida, where they slapped the name “Melody Time” on some sort of weird pipe organ thing outside of Pete’s Silly Sideshow. Pipe organs have music. Hence, melody.

Most of the film’s individual segments have literally no attachment to the parks. You’re not going to find an E-ticket based on a reading of the Joyce Kilmer poem “Trees.”

The film is half-heartedly bailed out by having a Donald Duck/Jose Carioca short, and both of those characters have appeared in the parks (as we will see later). But listing them here is cheating.

Johnny Appleseed, the film’s best segment, has an obscure reference in a Frontierland restaurant at best.

Breathtaking.

Breathtaking.

Fortunately, the last segment of Melody Time is about Pecos Bill, a cowboy who has his own Tall Tale Cafe in Frontierland at Magic Kingdom.

Of even more importance, Slue-Foot Sue (Pecos’s girlfriend) emceed the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Disneyland for decades, where she and her dancing girls would entertain travelers in Frontierland. Pecos Bill would interrupt the shoe show whenever it was time to sing some melodies.

A similar version was performed at Walt Disney World’s Diamond Horseshoe, which also would lower a movie screen in this authentic Western dance hall to show the full-color sound cartoon.

#9 – Fun and Fancy Free

This anthology is another weird one. It consists of one segment you’ve heard of, one you haven’t, and some interstitials starring Jiminy Cricket and some creepy ventriloquist dolls.

Jiminy is everywhere in the parks, but again, it’s cheating to use him from this movie. The ventriloquist dolls are nowhere, thankfully.

The film’s first segment is about Bongo the Circus Bear. Bongo is persona non grata in the parks. When Storybook Circus opened at the Magic Kingdom, they elected to use a national park bear named Humphrey as their ursine circus performer instead of Bongo. Famed Naturalist John Muir would not be pleased.

The second segment, however, is the classic story of Mickey and the Beanstalk. It features three anthropomorphic talking animals in the form of a dog, a mouse, and a duck, but the main draw is Willie the Giant and his beanstalk hideaway.

Sir Mickey’s at the Magic Kingdom is bursting at the seams with references to this movie.

#8 – Make Mine Music

Good grief. It’s bad enough that Disney used the tenuous plot line of “something with music” even once, let alone recycled it twice in the span of 3 movies.

There are no less than 10 segments in this anthology, and most of them are utterly forgettable.

Willie, the Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met, is one of the better ones. He gets his own poster in the queue area for Mickey’s Philharmagic. And yes, this means Disney had back-to-back movies with gigantic characters named “Willie.” They made up for this lack of creativity by including an evil music professor named Tetti-Tatti. His parents must have been cruel, cruel people.

I think this will be my next cosplay.

I think this will be my next cosplay.

And yet we find a real inside-the-park home run buried among the wreckage of this movie. Casey at the Bat’s titular hero has his own hot dog shop on Main Street, and it is home to the best dogs around.

As befits a sports star of his caliber, Casey also has his own midway game at Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure.

Not bad for a guy who choked away more championships than Pete Carroll and Chris Webber combined.

#7 – The Three Caballeros

To get away from an ugly Studio strike, Walt and El Grupo went on a goodwill tour of South America. This anthology starring Donald, Jose, and Panchito is one of the results.

The Three Caballeros got their own Three Caballeros ride at Epcot, with the succinct title of Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros.

While that ride is the best representation of The Three Caballeros in the parks, there are others as well.

The Three Caballeros still do character appearances as well, and they also have their own Three Caballeros poster in Philharmagic. They hang out at the Three Caballeros pool at the All-Star Music Resort, and even before that they were salsa dancing in full audio-animatronic form during the Three Caballeros segment of the Mickey Mouse Revue. Disneyland has also added the Three Caballeros to It’s a Small World.

But my favorite reference to the Three Caballeros is at Coronado Springs, which manages a Three Caballeros link without showing even a single Caballero.

Burrito, the donkey from the Flying Gauchito short in this movie, is happily carting some merchandise in the souvenir shop over there.

The cutest store display on property.

The cutest store display on property.

#6 – Saludos Amigos

So there was another South American package feature. This one not so good.

The Studio’s star power is on display to help this movie across the finish line. Both Donald and Goofy show up, and this film was actually the debut of Jose Carioca (Two Caballeros?).

The film is ridiculously short at 42 minutes, and finding park material here is a chore. Fortunately, Parkeology already did a write-up on the best link to this movie.

Thrill to the discovery of Pedro the airplane as he appears on a gas can!

#5 – Bambi

Finally. The Final Five. And thankfully, they are all great films.

These are the ones you have known about ever since you could talk. Chances are these are some of the first movies you have ever watched. When the “Greatest Animated Feature Films of All Time” are discussed, these next five movies can’t help but make the list.

Surely Disney has exploited these to the hilt. So let’s see… Bambi…

Crap.

There’s nothing.

You gotcha Thumper foam head. You gotcha Flower foam head. You gotcha Bambi topiary at Flower and Garden Festival. That’s kind of it.

Here they are in the temporary Epcot butterfly tent. Because the film is a classic.

Here they are in the temporary Epcot butterfly tent. Because the film is a classic.

Disney has an entire theme park devoted to animals, and unless he’s part of the decorating in Gaston’s Tavern, Bambi has precious little.

A brief clip of this worthless deer and the bum rabbit can be seen in Fantasmic, in spectacular water-screen BlurryVision.

#4 – Dumbo

I’m sure if we all think really hard, we can come up with a ride based on this movie.

Ha! say the Disneylanders. We can think of two.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant appears at every Disney park on the planet, and also at several Six Flags, and sometimes Gatorland. Florida loves him so much they built two.

The Eighth Wonder of the World

The Eighth Wonder of the World

They also build an entire mini-land called Storybook Circus, which is really mostly about Dumbo, who never actually appeared in a traditional storybook. It has a Casey Junior Splash Zone, as well as a Big Top Toddler Energy Sucker, where your little one can blow off steam while waiting for the Dueling Dumbos.

Not to be outdone, Disneyland has featured Casey Junior as an actual ride since Day One, as has Disneyland Paris.

And Dumbo joined Tinker Bell and Jack Skellington’s dog Zero as the only character to fly around Sleeping Beauty Castle during the fireworks.

Last but not least, Dumbo got his own booth at Paradise Pier’s Games of the Boardwalk—and he had an original Dumbo fire-fighting game at DisneyQuest, which disappeared sometime after DisneyQuest stopped being relevant.

#3 – Fantasia

Since the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is one of the segments of Fantasia (the original anthology feature!), one could go mad trying to catalog all the potential references in the parks. Sorcerer Mickey in Fantasmic, Sorcerer Mickey backstage on Main Street, Sorcerer Mickey in the Great Movie Ride, Sorcerer Mickey in SpectroMagic, Sorcerer Mickey destroying beautiful sightlines of the Chinese Theater. The list is endless.

Prefer a side of dancing hippos and crocodiles with your Fantasia entree? Take your pick from any parade float around.

And if you want a sampling of Pastoral Symphony, look no further than Storybookland at Disneyland Paris.

Maybe the Rite of Spring dinosaurs are more your thing. One of the most cleverly concealed references can be found in the Primeval Diorama at Disneyland or in Ellen’s Energy Adventure at Epcot.

And let’s not forget Chernabog, who joins in any time there’s a Villain Party, whether it’s Night on Bald Mountain music during the HalloWishes fireworks or hijacking Disneyland during Fantasmic. The crazy demon was famous for popping out of his own float on SpectroMagic.

The Contemporary Resort has both a Fantasia Market and a Fantasia Ballroom. And those two-handed broomsticks show up at the Fantasia pool at the All Star Movies Resort. The brooms have also been featured as outdoor garden gnomes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and they get their own segment during Mickey’s Philharmagic.

For that matter, the sorcerer’s hat is the main plot device in that film.

But we never got that full-on Fantasia ride. No boat ride through the Pastoral Symphony or a track-less Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. We got something better.

We got mini-golf.

Eighteen Holes of Pure Fantasia Bliss at the Fantasia Gardens right across the street from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This course is actually a gold mine for obscure Fantasia references. Water-spouting brooms are de rigueur of course, but the Gardens also has time to set up the under-represented parts of the movie, such as the abstract Toccata and Fugue segment. It even gives Fantasia names such as Ave Maria and Yen Sid to its un-themed Fairways course.

And one of the picnic pavilions is named Dancing Hippo. Which sounds like a nice place to eat.

#2 – Pinocchio

Pinocchio is one of the most featured animated films in the parks. You have the walkarounds—Pinocchio, Gepetto, Jiminy, Foulfellow, and Gideon. Stromboli and Lampwick have also appeared at various times, and the Blue Fairy gets to kick off SpectroMagic and Wishes.

Jiminy Cricket is everywhere, from fireworks hosting duties, to environmental buttons at Animal Kingdom, to those little reminders in your hotel room not to waste money on towels.

At Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, Pinocchio gets his own Fantasyland restaurant, while in Tokyo the goldfish Cleo somehow gets a snack stand.

Figaro the cat appears as an animatronic at Fantasy Faire at Disneyland. He is also a popular merchandise item.

Gepetto’s village shows up in Storybookland at Disneyland, but of course the big attraction is Monstro the Whale, who literally swallows your boat to begin the ride.

Unlike the movie, Disney will personally sue you if you try to set a fire to make Monstro sneeze.

Unlike the movie, Disney will personally sue you if you try to set a fire to make Monstro sneeze.

And while not renowned as the greatest of the Fantasyland dark rides, Pinocchio does manage to get his own attraction in California, Paris, and Tokyo.

But I admit I have a soft spot for one very special part of Pinocchio, that has permeated the parks and left its mark everywhere. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the theme parks without this.

When You Wish Upon a Star is the most beautiful anthem a theme park could hope for. Ever since it was used in the opening credits for the Disneyland TV show, the song has been a theme park mainstay, performed by marching bands, fireworks arrangements, and even tooted out of the smokestacks of the Disney Cruise Line.

It may not have been written for the theme parks, but it is my favorite theme park song.

#1 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The one that started it all…

Snow White is nearly 80 years old, but that hasn’t stopped Disney from opening a brand new family rollercoaster in Florida based on this story—where it consistently draws the biggest lines in the park. Not bad for an octogenarian.

The story is simple. A damsel in distress. A hideous witch. And seven lovable bachelors. Before their Mine Train became the hottest ticket in Orlando, the seven dwarfs had their own diamond mine shop in Fantasyland. And they are a real crowd pleaser during parades, especially in their illuminated Main Street Electrical Parade get-up, with Dopey driving a serpentine mine train.

If the witch is more your thing, you can find the old hag everywhere. She’s a key figure during Fantasmic, obviously, and she towers over visitors to the Candy Cauldron at Downtown Disney Springs.

Even corporate drones get in on the act. Outside of Team Disney in Orlando, the Seven Dwarfs can be seen in abstract cut-out form, along with the phrase “Heigh Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go…”

The Snow White Grotto at Disneyland (and later Tokyo and Hong Kong) forms the basis for a nice bit of company lore. The statues were donated anonymously—and Snow White is the same height as the dwarfs.

The new Mine Train ride is nice for what it is, but it cannot compare to the classic dark ride attraction Snow White’s Adventures (or occasionally Snow White’s Scary Adventures). I have grown very fond of this attraction in recent years, especially since its passing at Walt Disney World. Those Fantasyland dark rides are the perfect middle-ground Disney attraction, and Snow White is right up there with Toad, Alice, Pooh, and Ariel.

A bittersweet ending to this series.

A bittersweet ending to this series.

Conclusion

So now we’ve come to the end of this series, maneuvering our way through every nook and cranny to track down the best use of the animated feature films. Looking back through the list at all the references, it’s exhausting just thinking about it.

So before we decide to do a series about every Apple Dumpling Gang movie or something, tell me… what did we miss?

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.

Minnie Steamed Bun

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?

Mickey Pretzel

Or a Brownie?

Mickey Brownie

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…