More Vintage Theme Park Trading Cards: Ted’s Greatest Regret

If you missed Shane’s introduction to this series click HERE!

The day you realize that you are not alone in dressing up cats in tiny, homemade, hand knitted Shakespearean costumes (often adorned with glitter), and having them act out modern day retellings of The Tempest or A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a daylong remembered: It’s nice to find someone else in the world that cares about the same stuff you do.

Cats-Shakespear

I’m pretty sure that one in the middle is just dressed as Wonder Woman.

Meeting Shane twenty some years ago opened my eyes; I was not the only one who cared about this specific stuff! I was not some malformed, loaner Disney freak; in fact Shane’s devotion to all things “It’s a Small World” made me feel like the “normal” one. However it was the day that we started talking about these trading cards that I knew I had found a kindred spirit.

I had a few football and couple baseball cards as a kid though I much preferred Whacky Packages. I vividly recall the first time I saw the “Parky Packs” as they were referred to back then, It was 1982 or 1983. My mom was dragging me through a grocery store when something unexpectedly caught my eye. There by the register was a small display; a cardboard case with a fold-back top that made a small counter-top marquee. My eyes widened, I could hardly believe what I was seeing; on the marquee was a montage of The Pirate Auctioneer, three Hitchhiking Ghosts, Figment and many more. Big bold letters screamed out “The 50 Greatest Park Characters of All Time!” and a red starburst graphic with yellow block letters demanded that I “COLLECT THEM ALL!

Parkeology-vintage theme park trading cards

Finally the collection is complete! Each card has been carefully inspected and then tucked safely into protective sleeves.

Dumbfounded and dazed I blindly started shoveling the packs into the cart; my heart was beating so hard that I thought it may rip through my chest and I would fall dead in the middle of the store. My obituary would read; “14 year old boy dies of excitement while clutching rare wrapped trading cards he could have only dreamt of.”

I had them all right in my hands; the full set in a virgin box, gem-mint, then my mom looked at me as if was a three-headed troll. There was not a chance in hell that I was leaving that store with these cards, not on her watch. We were not going to “waste” money on such nonsense.  I begged and pleaded (and likely cried a little) before I managed to strike a deal: she would allow ONE pack of my choosing and then I could work around the house to earn enough money to come back and buy more. I was not happy but it was the best deal I was likely to make, especially in my near hysterical state and pitted against a seasoned negotiator of such things.

Much to the chagrin of the cashier and those in line, I carefully inspected each pack. Any packs with bent corners or slightly misaligned printing were rejected. I wanted THE pack, the perfect pack, and the pack that would have all my favorites all in one. There are times in life you look back on and wish you had the foresight to do things differently; maybe buying Apple stock when it was $17 a share or in this case finding a way to have left the store with that box of cards (yes, I’m still bitter).

Days later when I returned, lawn cutting money in hand, the box of cards was gone. As I blathered on about incredible Disney collector’s cards and having enough money to complete my collection the store manager looked at me like a three headed troll. Maybe this was payback for holding up the line for 20 minutes the week before?

I had magic in my hands and I let it slip away. Now, some 30 plus years later, I finally have a complete (if shared) set. I still can’t go into a grocery store with my mother without having stress flashbacks. I mean I had them all right there! But I digress…

These are the first five cards in my one original pack:

I got SMRT-1 out of the gate. He’s cool and all but hardly the powerhouse character I was hoping of. Still, he represents original EPCOT Center and I am all about that!

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards SMRT-1

I like the dude in the background… giant corded phone, mustache, white shorts. If 1983 was a person he is it.

The Backside had some good insights on him; I think many of us shared his thoughts on Julie:

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards SMRT-1

Then I hit the big time: Figment, card #1!  I was super excited about this. If the cards considered him #1 that must of meant he was the best of all time right?  I thought I would retire from the eventual value this card surely would obtain.

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards Figment

I still miss Figment… that aberration of him they have down there now is a flat joke.

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards Figment

Next to be unwrapped was Patrick, so much for getting all the headliners, I mean this was nearly a decade before anyone had even heard of Seinfeld!

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards Patrick

Soarin’ to a theme park near you.

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards Patrick

I hope Patrick makes the jump to the new version coming later this year… he is as much a part of Sorain’ as the orange smell or near miss golfball fly by.

Getting back on track I pulled out The Orange Bird next. Sure he was not the biggest star in the galaxy but I was really happy to have him. He represented Walt Disney World to me and he sort of still does.

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards Orange Bird

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards Orange Bird

I had always wondered what made Dole Whips so addicting.

Last but hardly least was the Captain of a trip through “liquid space”. Though we never actually saw him the Submarine Captain from Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage was another winner for me. He was no Nemo but I also knew Captain Nemo could not qualify for this parks only collection.

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards Submarine Captain

Drab gray cold war era beauty.

Parkeology vintage theme park trading cards Submarine Captain

I’m not totally sure how Shane and I will split up the collection; I guess maybe we should just combine them and keep them in the Parkeolgy reference library. All I know is that if they ever do a series two I WILL be purchasing the complete case… no lawn cutting required.

Stay tuned next week when Shane will continue with another 5 of his favorites.

Movie Career Got You Down? Try Martin Short’s 4 Steps to Theme Park Dominance!

Which Hollywood star has headlined the most Disney attractions? The answer might surprise you.

When Disney needs name-brand talent at theme park pricing, they turn to one man and one man only.

The Razzie-nominated Worst Supporting Actor from Santa Clause 3.

The man who at 40 played a 10-year-old named Clifford.

Everyone’s third-favorite Amigo.

Martin Short.

Martin Short and Nick Nolte in The Three Fugitives

Pictured: Comedy gold.

How did a Canadian comedian famous for nerdy SNL characters parlay a subpar film career into the biggest name in Disney theme parks?

One step at a time.

Step 1 – Martin Short is Not Afraid to Team Up

Let’s be honest. If your career as a leading man has culminated in being held like a baby by Nick Nolte, it’s time to step aside and let an A-lister share the heavy lifting.

And it helps if you’ve worked with them before.

martin_short_three_amigos

Martin Short reunited with Three Amigos co-star Chevy Chase to host The Monster Sound Show, a sound effects presentation with Chase as the straight man and Short hamming it up as a serial killer who preys on salesmen.

Though Chase was by far the bigger star at this point in their careers, thanks to a string of 80s comedies like Fletch, Caddyshack, and the Vacation movies, Short received equal billing on the press material.

And Disney execs must have liked what they saw, because Short was tapped almost immediately to headline another Disney attraction.

This time, his destination would be EPCOT Center.

Step 2 – Martin Short Adopts a Non-Threatening Persona

The Wonders of Life opened in Future World five months after the Disney MGM Studios. The new pavilion focused on health and the human body, and it seemed Disney was intentionally courting controversy when they elected to include a movie about human reproduction.

Having “The Talk” with your parents in the privacy of your home is awkward enough. Having it at a Disney theme park minutes after riding Body Wars has the potential for some serious childhood trauma.

What’s a brand-sensitive mega corporation to do?

Find the least-threatening actor around and hope they can navigate the potential minefield of talking about sex with spring breakers.

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There be squalls ahead.

Martin Short plays a dual role — himself and his own father — in The Making of Me, which ran for 18 years — long enough for some teenagers to see the movie, get pregnant, raise a kid, and then repeat the cycle all over again before the attraction closed.

Short brings exactly the sort of deft touch Disney surely hoped for. The film wisely stays away from the mechanics of the process (at least at the Tab A/Slot B level) and sticks to the cellular domain, culminating in a street race by cartoon sperm.

Step 3 – Martin Short Embraces the International Market

“Weird Al” Yankovic once made a “style parody” of Frank Zappa called Genius in France, which is basically 8 hilarious minutes mocking France’s love affair with Jerry Lewis.

Martin Short is no “Weird Al” Yankovic. He may not even be Jerry Lewis. But when Disney needed a star to magically interact with classic American movies for a new theme park show in Paris, they immediately thought of someone from Canada.

Cinemagique involves a rude person (hey, it’s France) interrupting a presentation about film history through that tired theme park chestnut, the “audience plant.” The magician in the movie zaps the fake audience member into the film, and we find out it’s Martin Short.

He stumbles his way through several classic films in the pursuit of the luminous Julie Delpy, and finally elects to stay permanently in the movie by joining her on the way to Oz.

martin_short_cinemagique

Hot French chicks love Ed Grimley, I must say

The Paris park gets a lot of flak for its overall quality, but Cinemagique feels legitimately “Disney.” It’s an enjoyable second-tier attraction, at least for American audiences familiar with its movies.

And though Delpy’s name lends some star power (step 1), Martin Short is the undisputed headliner as the non-threatening (step 2) love interest.

Step 4 – Martin Short Leverages His Heritage To His Advantage

In 2007, when Disney needed a Canadian star to interact with Canadian scenery for a CircleVision update for the Canada pavilion, they immediately thought of …

American voice actor Corey Burton.

Burton begins the movie talking about how much snow there is in Canada, before being interrupted by Martin Short, a real live Canadian who claims there’s more to his country than frigid temperatures.

Short then handles hosting duties for the rest of the film.

The 2007 update to O Canada (as well as the transformation of the Mexico boat ride into the Gran Fiesta Tour that same year) marked a departure from the serious, respectful presentations of World Showcase’s youth.

Donald Duck and Martin Short took things in a different direction.

While neither attraction is irreverent, the treatment is more casual. By this point in his career, Short had graduated from critically reviled sketch comedy shtick to legitimate theater star, with scene-stealing turns in other peoples’ movies to round things out. He had become one of comedy’s elder statesmen.

In fact, O Canada is the culmination of the entire Martin Short park catalog.

He’s decidedly non-edgy in his role as Canadian tour guide (step 2) and not afraid to embrace the internationality of the experience (step 3). There is no team-up (step 1), but the film slyly makes the suggestion that Celine Dion would have been a better choice.

In short, it’s the first of Martin Short’s many Disney attractions that put his Martin-Short-ness front and center.

And in spite of some weak writing, he carries it off like a professional.

BONUS – Have At Least One Memorable Disney Character Under Your Belt

One of the bright spots in Martin Short’s film career is that of wedding planner Franck, in fellow Amigo Steve Martin’s two Father of the Bride movies.

martin_short_franck

At the Walt Disney World Wedding Pavilion, the Bridal Studio takes its name from the character, serving up a lavish setting for the those willing to sell their first born for the right to get married on the shores of a man-made Florida lagoon.

Martin Short himself is nowhere to be found. But hundreds of marriages begin in a recreation of his character’s studio, possibly by couples who have also seen The Making of Me. And that’s got to count for something.

Summary

So the next time you find yourself on the outs with the critics, slogging your way through some other less-talented-but-more-famous comedian’s screwball comedy, do yourself a favor and remember the lessons taught by Martin Short.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll host your own Circle Vision movie someday.

These Vintage Trading Cards Will Blow Your Little Park Geek Mind

Like all geek things, it started in the 1980s.

Pop culture’s most iconic characters debuted in that decade. We got Jabba and we got Ewoks. And Indiana Jones (three times). The Ghostbusters materialized. So did Marty McFly and Biff. The Goonies were good enough. E.T. phoned home.

The list is endless. Freddy, Rambo, Predator, RoboCop, John McClane, Terminator, Ninja Turtles, and the WWF. Half of us loved K.I.T.T. The other half loved the General Lee. All of us loved Lou Ferrigno.

And every Hollywood movie — from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Harry and the Hendersons — immortalized their beloved characters with a custom set of collectible foil-wrapped, gum-sticked, randomized trading cards.

That caption should say "Roy Scheider's Shame." That pose. Those shorts.

Should’ve said “Brody’s Shame.” That pose. Those shorts.

They were available on every grocery store end-cap, right where mom had her wallet out. The best were loaded with action poses from our favorite movie stars. The worst featured the cast of Growing Pains.

But we loved them.

Disney had dabbled in trading cards before, including a set for their 1979 sci-fi flop, The Black Hole. But by the middle of the 1980s, newly-crowned Disney CEO Michael Eisner (who would later go on to buy the Topps Trading Card Company) was in the midst of asserting Disney’s dominance at theme parks.

Watto's Grotto Snowspeeder

The Snowspeeder prop outside Watto’s Grotto at Disney’s Hollywood Studios actually uses a giant vintage Star Wars trading card as a plaque.

The 1980s would see the number of parks more than double worldwide, with the addition of EPCOT Center, Tokyo Disneyland, and the Disney MGM Studios.  And by happy accident, somebody in the Consumer Products division was turned loose to design a new deck of trading cards, one that featured the parks in all their glory.

It was called The 50 Greatest Park Characters of All Time.

The self-styled “Series 1” trumpeted the uniqueness of park-specific characters (movie characters like Brer Rabbit or Mr. Toad didn’t make the list). It was never clear just what criteria they used to define greatness, but the final deck seemed to reflect a mix of historical importance, forgotten scene-stealers, and sheer lovability. As one Disney wiki described it:

Disney theme parks come alive, thanks to the performances of great characters. Now you can collect a keepsake of these park heroes for your very own! Each character is unique to Disney theme parks, appearing in your favorite attractions around the globe. Keep them for your own or trade them with your friends!

I collected these in my youth, mainly acquired during yearly trips to Walt Disney World, or more frequently at the Osco Drugs store. I looked forward to each unopened pack with breathless anticipation. I treasured every new card, grumbled at finding yet another duplicate, and even cut my tongue trying to chew the brittle stick of gum inside every pack.

There were 50 possible unique cards, but my collection puttered out around 35 — of which a full 17 were duplicates. I had the worst possible luck when it came to this set. Around the time of my sophomore year, I got rid of the duplicates, wrapped the remaining 18 unique cards in a rubber band and shoved them into my desk drawer, where I promptly forgot about them for the next ten years.

Flash forward to the late 90s. I’ve become pretty good friends with a guy from Chicago named Ted. One night we get to chatting on AOL, and the subject of the cards comes up.

And it turns out that I am not alone in the world.

Ted had done his own collecting, in much the same manner as myself. He had 20 unique cards, stored away in clear plastic binder sheets. We compared and found that between us, we had 30 of the possible 50 cards.

What happened next was a great quest, as the two future Parkeologists pooled their resources and scoured the globe. eBay was the obvious choice (and we got most of our cards that way), but there was also a comic store in Michigan, an internet friend from California, and incredibly, a next door neighbor who was a former Cast Member and just happened to have three rare cards we needed.

I am pleased to announce that as of last Christmas (thanks to a special relative who answered the call — you know who you are!), the Parkeology collection of the 50 Greatest Park Characters is finally complete.

As far as we know, the entire set has never been presented online. We debated posting them all at once, but thought it would be more fun to dole them out 5 at a time, as if you the reader were collecting them yourself. So expect a few more weeks before you see them all.

Here, without further ado, is the first card I ever got.

06_hitchhiking_ghosts

You can’t go wrong with Hitchhiking Ghosts. You’ll have to forgive the quality of the scan. This thing is 30 years old and has been tucked away in a drawer.

The other nifty thing about this set is that each card came with its own trivia section on the back, like baseball card stats. The factoids tended towards the humorous side, but also contained valuable information about the character’s history.

back_hitchhiking_ghosts

Here’s a more recent addition to the collection, sniped off eBay for a mere 5 bucks:

47_henry

Henry may not be the most beloved character from the Country Bear Jamboree, but there’s no denying his importance. He deserves his spot on the list. And for those of you anxious to see the backside of bear…

back_henry

Now the next card on our list is probably completely unfamiliar to the average park guest, but I guarantee that if you’re reading this blog, you know who he is:

26_uncle_orville

We were able to track down Orville thanks to our friends at Imagineering Disney. It’s interesting to note that while the series favored a portrait layout, it did sprinkle in a few landscape cards from time to time. And as for Orville’s backside (“No privacy at all around this place!”)…

back_cousin_orville

This next card is one of the things I love about this set. You get the obvious ones, as well as the ones that are kind of familiar. But you also get a few that have been lost to the vestiges of time.

30_hamm_and_eggz

Kitchen Kabaret was relatively new at the time the card was released. But an entire generation has grown up without the experience of watching robotic food perform vaudeville comedy about good nutrition. Perhaps a history lesson is in order:

back_hamm_and_eggz

And finally, I’ll end this week’s installment with one of my personal favorites.

04_rex

Star Wars is still big business, and Captain Rex clearly has earned his spot among the all-time greats, as the card back shows.

back_rex

And just like that, we come to the end of this week’s pack. You can try the chewing gum, but I don’t recommend it unless you have dental insurance.

Next week, Ted will share 5 of his favorites. Until then, hold on tight to these guys and don’t trade them for anything, not even a vintage Tron card. I hear those things are easily faked and don’t hold their value.