Big, ugly “temporary” things

We have made it to number 8 on our top ten list of the biggest park controversies.To catch up on the earlier entries click here.

Today we look at a trend that started in the late 1990′s and in one case still plagues us today.

8) Cakes and Wands and Hats OH MY!

Back in 1996 in order to celebrate the resorts 25th anniversary Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom was painted pink, covered with faux fondant, mock candles, synthetic sprinkles and turned into something roughly emulating an 18-story birthday cake. Shane hated it… a lot… but most people actually enjoyed it. While it lasted a bit too long (15 months) Disney did return the castle to its original appearance in a fairly timely manner and all was well. Very few normal (***cough***Shane) people minded it and many quite enjoyed it.


Garish? – yes… but it was only short term. Sadly it created a monster.

The park was setting attendance records during this period and Disney assumed at least a portion of the popularity was due to the novel idea of defacing a park icon. BING! A light bulb went off and suddenly desecrating the resorts most cherished landmarks was all the rage.


For a while they really got off on vandalizing park icons… in this case literally.

In 1999 a colossal, unsightly, exposed raw steel structure most reminiscent of an industrial construction crane was erected arcing over Spaceship Earth. It loomed above the park; it dwarfed the once majestic sphere now cowering below the crane. Somehow the edifice was made even worse when a primitive Mickey Mouse hand holding a magic wand was bolted to the side. Shockingly Disney was still not done; above the flat glove fashioned out of sheet metal Disney added the number 2000 covered in red glitter, sparkly red stars sprinkled off the wand onto Spaceship Earth itself. It was horrific.


Gorgeous! You can hardly see the supporting structure at all.

Fans were told that this was a temporary salute to the turn of the millennium. It was ugly, out of scale, out of place and really a slap in the face to all EPCOT Center was originally intended to be. But the worst offense was that Disney’s idea of temporary was roughly eight years. For the better part of a decade this unsightly mess lorded over the park as jolly park managers congratulated themselves (no doubt slapping each other on the back while hoisting glasses of aged scotch served neat).


Yea, it looks like we should start screwing around with this…

The wand was finally, begrudgingly removed in 2007 once a new sponsor took over the attraction. For that eight-year stretch many fans vocally complained about the monstrosity… but not only did Disney pay them no heed… they actually upped their icon destroying game!

Sorcerers Hat

In and of itself it is “OK” but as they say in real estate… location, location, location.

In 2001 high on the “success” of the massive wand Disney constructed a 122-foot tall Sorcerer’s hat at the end of Hollywood Boulevard in what was then called Disney-MGM Studios (Disney’s Hollywood Studios). Not unlike the Epcot wand this structure features a flat simulation of Mickey’s hand this time grasping a massive three-dimensional clone of the hat he wore in Fantasia. One could argue that the execution of the hat was better than that on the wand. It is not ghastly, executed slightly better and very little of the supporting structure can be seen. The problem is less about the actual hat and more about the placement.


Ah yes, Hollywood of the 30′s, romance, glamour, oversized metal cartoon hats… it’s all here.

Disney decided that the only logical place for a twelve story, metallic cartoon hat  housing a pin trading station was directly in front of what used to be considered the flagship attraction at the park; The Great Movie Ride.

The Great Movie Ride is housed in a painstakingly detailed recreation of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This replica of the famous Hollywood landmark was meant to serve as the main icon for the park; it’s Cinderella’s Castle. It sits perfectly at the end of Hollywood Boulevard and is a sight to behold… that is if you could actually see it.

The Great Movie Ride at DisneyÕs Hollywood Studios

It’s stiull hiding back there obscured from view… you just need to look for it.

A couple years back we wrote a sarcastic article about the new Carthay Circle Theater at the rejuvenated Disney’s California Adventure being obscured by a similar mess, it was a joke (read it here). However no amount of sardonic commentary can truly do justice to the actual reality still being played out at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Imagineers worked for years to design and build a temple to the movies. They wanted to create an idyllic representation of a Hollywood that never was but should have been. The perfect image of the entertainment capital of the world captured at a very specific time… the 30’s and 40’s. The structures, the streets, the lamps, the vintage cars, the themed characters it all is there to develop a sense of time and place that Disney does better than anyone else. And then in one incredibly idiotic move the marketing team destroyed it. There is no way to explain away this clearly modern (or perhaps post modern) monstrosity. It not only does not fit the theme of the area but it actively hides one of the prettiest parts of the park… it is a massive failure on every level.

Fans were upset to varying degrees about all of these moves and fortunately the idea of ruining years of careful work for easy short term promotional gain seems to have fallen out of favor. Since the hat no other icon destroying gimmicks have surfaced and we only have one remaining. Sadly unlike Spaceship Earth there is no sponsor for the Great Movie Ride and until the day comes that they overhaul that attraction and want to call attention back to it the hat will likely remain.


One more look at this beauty (seen here post 2000 when the numbers gave way to some horrible script font).

As a side note I understand that some fans enjoy the wand and the hat. They find them playful or enjoy the added Disney connection. I would argue that virtually all of those fans enjoy these things simply because they were in place when they were first introduced to the parks. If the wand or hat was there when you were a child and you never knew the parks any other way then the removal of these things may ironically feel like a loss of a beloved memory. But this is not the same as removing original attractions; this is in fact destroying the original attraction for nothing more than a marketing stunt.

Shane may not like the cake but man… I hate that hat.

Click here for #7

Forget Star Wars Land. Give Me Guardians of the Galaxy.

Okay, not really. Give me both. We are only a few weeks away from the opening of the next Marvel Studios movie–a strange, weird, wonderful departure that has me remembering the giddy days of anticipating the next Star Wars or Lord of the Rings episode. Guardians sounds like a bizarre left hand turn from the tried and true super hero model that Marvel has perfected over the last decade. But already I’ve fallen in love with it.

Disney has been doing an interesting thing this summer. They’ve repurposed the Sounds Dangerous theater for 3-D previews of their summer tentpoles. First Maleficent, now Guardians of the Galaxy. On the one hand, this is a cheap, easy way to add an attraction, which looks even cheaper compared to what Universal is doing down the road. But on the other hand, each of the previews has been a generous length (10-15) minutes, the 3-D is sharp and clear, the theater is air conditioned, and there’s never a wait. At 10 minutes, Maleficent doesn’t look too bad. At 10 minutes, Guardians of the Galaxy looks like the best film of the year.

Obviously I’m speaking a little bit in hyperbole. The crazy fanboy side of me wants this to be amazing, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. As utterly ridiculous as this is, I could actually see myself going back and watching the 10 minute preview at the Studios multiple times. Let’s face it, I’ve got Muppet Vision memorized. I need new stuff. The movie is just so darn fun. It’s hard to find sci-fi that tries to be this funny, without veering into total camp. What was the last film to successfully do it? Firefly, maybe?

I do wonder if mainstream audiences will turn up. I’m fully aware that a talking tree and a homicidal raccoon seem like a weird pitch. But I hope people give it a shot I think it could really turn out to be something special. And then we’ll get that massive Guardians of the Galaxy dark ride that I’ve always wanted — at least for the last 6 months.

Starring Drew Carey

Starring Drew Carey


A Very Muppet Magic Trick

You know how magic tricks are great, until you know how they’re done, and then you can’t not see your Uncle Dave palm the quarter before he reaches behind your ear? Ever since I figured that one out a couple months ago, I just don’t have the same interest in going to magic shows every week, and my Uncle Dave has started to seem a little more creepy in retrospect.

Disney talks a lot about preserving the magic. And I don’t want to be the one to spoil anything for anybody. But you know, Mickey has his own dressing room at the Town Theater, and a little Sorcerer’s Apprentice set-up at the Studios, and a Character Spot in Epcot, and a Safari gig in Animal Kingdom. And in spite of there being only one Mickey, he somehow manages to greet guests in all those different locations at all times of day. I’m not gonna spell it out for you, but just think about that for a moment. Consider all the implications about the so-called honesty of adults. And then tell me how a fat man can possibly fit down a chimney. Especially if you have gas heating.

It used to be that Disney went through great pains to maintain the integrity of their character greetings. If there was a 3:00 parade in which Mickey was expected to appear, his character spot would shut down for half an hour. A mouse can’t be everywhere at once.

That’s why I’m shocked that a film like Muppet Vision 3-D, which has been around for nearly a quarter of a century, can so profligately shatter the illusion every time it runs. Like Uncle Dave’s quarter trick, once you spot it, you can’t unsee it. So be warned before you continue.

Most of us can recite MuppetVision in our sleep. Take this little test and see if you can fill in the blank. Those of you go 5-for-5 get an official Parkeology Certificate of Achievement. Those of you who don’t, study harder.

  1. “Look at the guy in the Goofy mask!” “That’s not a mask.” “Oh. Sorry ____!”
  2. “It’s called a Salute to All Nations, but ____ ______.”
  3. “Sorry folks, but Muppet Labs seems to have been temporarily, uh,  ____ __.”
  4. “Is there anything Bean can do in the final number?” “Gosh, maybe Be– Maybe Bean can ___ ___ ___ ________!”
  5. “Working the projector is a good friend of ours, the Swedish Chef. Chef, everything okay?” “___ ____ _____ ____ ______ _-___ ____!”

You know all the cues. You’re ready for Fozzie’s flower. You obligingly turn around to look at the Chef. You know which props Sweetums will be carrying (flashlight, then firebucket, for those of you that flunked the quiz).

Let’s talk about that Sweetums for a moment. He’s the live performer who gets to enter the show on three separate occasions. First to look for Bean, then to put out the fire in the orchestra, and then right at the very end, where he gets to say “Wow! What an explosion!”

There’s just one problem with this last Sweetums. He’s standing in front of the orchestra pit, jabbering to the audience while robo-Kermit pilots a firetruck into the gaping hole where the screen once stood, after Chef blasts the theater apart with the cannon (I told you there were spoilers).

But in spite of the all the smoke and Kermit being all 3-D at the end of a rescue ladder, what goes unnoticed is the second Sweetums.

Finkle and Einhorn!

Finkle and Einhorn!

Admittedly, you can’t tell jack squat from that poor screen capture, but in real life, that amorphous blob is clearly visible as Sweetums, standing outside the theater among the casual tourists who have just had their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Walt Disney World turned upside down by a bunch of puppet terrorists. It’s much more tempting to notice Pluto, who is also outside in walk-around form. Or maybe the old style Disney World balloons. Or the fact that it is daytime outside the theater, but you’re watching the show at night while waiting for Fantasmic. But regardless, Sweetums is in two places at once. So which one is the real Sweetums?

By the way, a few comments had mentioned this on a previous Muppet Vision post I wrote nearly four years ago, but I only just got around to noticing it myself. And I wanted to make sure everyone else got a chance to see it. Just in case you have an Uncle Dave.