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

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

50 Greatest Park Characters- Welcome Letter

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

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

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

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

50 Greatest Park Characters_henry_mystic

A fellow member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers

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

50 Greatest Park Characters-Mystic-Back

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

50 Greatest Park Characters_warden_wilson

Keeping an eye from above.

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

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

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

50 Greatest Park Characters_mr_johnson

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

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

50 Greatest Park Characters-Mr-Johnson-Back

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

50 Greatest Park Characters_dairy_goods

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

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

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

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

50 Greatest Park Characters_tiki_gods

A great 8 for 1 special is going on.

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

50 Greatest Park Characters-Tiki-Gods-Back

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

50 Greatest Park Characters_uncle_theodore

Simply the best.

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

50 Greatest Park Characters-Uncle-Theodore-Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

50 Greatest Park Characters: Aztec Heat

Last week Shane showcased another five of his favorite cards RIGHT HERE.

As I have discussed in the past I was around 14 when EPCOT Center opened. As an adolescent boy my hormones were raging like bulls in Pamplona, out of control and seeking something to gore. Unfortunately I was also a Disney fan and the parks offered precious little in the way of tantalizing and enticing images that a teen boy may be longing to see.

There was however one exception, one magical moment housed in the most unlikely of places that, shall we say, always got a rise out of me.

Aztec-Heat

It was only a movie that played in my dreams but what is inside that pyramid certainly was HOT.

Within the Mexico Pavilion of World Showcase was the otherwise unremarkable “Rio Del Tiempo” boat ride. It never knew quite what it wanted to be; a little bit “It’s a Small World”, a touch of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a dash of “If You Had Wings”, it is debatable how well those disparate elements blended together. Regardless, after cruising past a lovely Mayan pyramid perpetually backlit by a purple setting sun guests entered a chamber showcasing Mexico’s “ancient times”. As they rounded the turn screens featured recreations of ceremonies and rituals… and then on the main screen, there she was!

A beautifully exotic women with tanned skin, bare feet, a perfect smile and an exposed midriff. She gyrated and pulsated with the power of a thousand suns. She was stunning; the highlight of any trip to World Showcase, hell she may have been the highlight of any trip to Walt Disney World!

Therefore you can imagine just how excited I was to find out that The Aztec Dancer actually made the list of the Top 50 Greatest Park Characters of all time, well of course she did! Despite my best efforts I could never find her card “in the wild” forcing me to pay up for it on Ebay, I’m not going to tell you how much I dropped for her but it was worth every penny!

50 greatest park characters trading cards Aztec Dancer

The stuff of a teen boys dreams. You can have Figment, I’ll take her any day.

50 greatest park characters trading cards Aztec Dancer Back

I love the massive amount if in depth trivia this card has.

The rest of today’s cards cannot possibly compete with the first one but I do love this next one as well. Harrison Hightower is part of the fantastic Tokyo Disney Sea version of Tower of Terror. He is seen throughout the attraction including the pre-show and the queue and was the first over-seas character we saw featured on the cards.

Harrison Hightower 50 greatest park characters trading cards

I’m not sure who the model for Hightower was but rest assured that he must have a very small ego.

50 greatest park characters trading cards Harrison Hightower Back

I have also written about these next two characters, you should check that out HERE. They may seem like an odd choice (and like the Aztec Dancer don’t have official names, or even species) but they have been featured in three different parks and a world’s fair… I love them.

50 greatest park characters trading cards T-Rex

They chose to use an older photo of the dueling pair. I appreciate that. There is no reaosn to tart them up like prehistoric street walkers.

50 greatest park characters trading cards T-Rex back

Trader Sam also holds a soft spot in my heart since I used to work on the Jungle Cruise years ago. Of course I worked at WDW where (at that time) Trader Sam was called Trader Namé, but that’s a whole different story. At least he has an actual name and now bars as well!

50 greatest park characters trading cards Trader Sam

I prefer when he is pouring rum drinks.

50 greatest park characters trading cards Trader Same Back

Finally is Dr. Grant Seeker, a character I always found somewhat annoying but that is probably the result of being trapped in a pre-show and forced to watch his spiel over and over and over again. He is memorable though and I appreciate that Disney wanted to spread the love around to characters from all the parks.

50 greatest park characters trading cards Dr Grant Seeker

Ok the first time you meet him, annoying by the third, excruciating thereafter.

50 greatest park characters trading cards Dr Grant Seeker Back

So that’s it for today’s update. Shane will be back next week with five more; believe it or not we are not even half way through the list of cards yet.

if you have missed any you can get back to the start of our list of the 50 Greatest Park Characters of all Time right HERE.

50 Greatest Park Characters: Trading Card Commandos

In case you missed last week’s unveiling, here’s Ted’s set.

When they set out to make a trading card deck of the 50 Greatest Park Characters, it was fairly obvious to fans who should be included. Ted landed the primo card on his first try. Mr. Numero Uno himself, Figment. And when you consider the ten cards we’ve shown so far, you won’t find any major surprises.

The creators of the set did a great job of keeping the logical choices. For instance, this next card was from my second pack:

05_dreamfinder

Dreamfinder was a lock for this list. Though he’s not ranked quite as high as his co-star (assuming we can trust the numbering system), I do think he’s worthy of his Top 10 status. Here’s the back:

5-Dreamfinder-Back

I acquired this second deck at Walt Disney World on the same trip (though not at the same time) as my first deck. This one was purchased on the last night of our trip, at EPCOT Center’s long-gone Centorium.

The second card in the pack is again no surprise. But it does show that this deck was pretty heavy on EPCOT (it was the new park at that time).

18_buzzy

Buzzy’s ranking feels a tad high at #18, but I don’t have any complaints with him being on the list. I also feel compelled to point out that with this second pack, I avoided any duplicates that plagued me later. Here’s the back to Buzzy.

18-Buzzy-Back

Probably my favorite thing about this set is that the designers are not afraid to spring a few oddballs on you. Not that I disagree with their inclusion at all. It’s refreshing to see some appreciation for lesser known but highly worthy park characters. For instance this one:

43_chili

Flik himself is not in the deck, of course, because he did not originate in the parks. But you’d be hard pressed to find a better character from It’s Tough To Be A Bug than our friend Chili.

43-Chili-Back

Speaking of interesting choices, here’s another character that appears only as a voice (we already met the Submarine Captain in Ted’s last post):

08_miner

Modern fans known him for a short safety spiel — probably the most memorable safety spiel in all of Disney park history. And of course the Miner had a long (and much more involved) role before Big Thunder Mountain:

8-The-Miner-Back

To round out this pack, we stay in the Magic Kingdom with Alien Encounter’s sinister pre-show host:

33_sir

S.I.R. may be my personal favorite from this particular pack. I think he may have been unfairly ranked in the back half of the deck, but part of that may be due to the fact that Alien Encounter is simply not as beloved as some of the other attractions featured in this list.

33-SIR-Back

We’ve now unveiled 15 of the 50 Greatest Park Characters trading card set. I hope you’re enjoying this series as much as we enjoyed collecting that cards that made it possible. Check again next week as Ted reveals 5 more cards. Happy trading!