3 Secrets To Rediscovering If You Had Wings

I’m just old enough to remember when “Tomorrow” meant peoplemovers, wrap-around movie screens, and acres of vanilla buildings.

Tomorrowland circa 1971

The people of Tomorrow just didn’t have time for decorating, what with flying to Mars every other day.

Now we live in a Stitched up Tomorrowland, where all the goodie 1970s futurism has been Monstered out of existence by a slew of animated Lightyears. Twenty years ago, Tom Morrow moved out and George Lucas aliens moved in.

New Tomorrowland, they called it.

Pfffft.

Probably the worst thing about WDW46 was being called “middle-aged” by seemingly every news organization in the country. In my mind, middle-aged means a hair piece, an alcohol problem, and some kind of manufactured crisis involving a red sports car.

But no, really it means you spend too much time at Walt Disney World hunting down memories from your past, like the remnants of If You Had Wings.

You remember this one, right? A TV commercial for Eastern Airlines masquerading as a dark ride. Walt Dated World has a great introduction for you novices, but Widen Your World has a truly epic breakdown—even taking its name from the attraction’s lyrics.

The basic gimmick was that you rode past flat projection screens that were cleverly integrated into three dimensional sets. Waterfalls in Jamaica, flower boats in Mexico, straw markets in the Caribbean…

In other words, it was exactly like El Rio del Tiempo in Epcot—right down to the annoying theme song.

Your Omnimover would pan past these locales and you would think to yourself: If I had wings, I could totally fly to all these exotic locations. Wait a minute! Why do I need wings when I have Eastern Airlines?

Eventually Eastern lost its wings and Delta re-imagined the ride as Dreamflight (Wait a minute! Delta also has wings!). Then a certain double-chinned space ranger moved in and the ride lost all of its crass commercialism.

Buzz's Start Command

Ummm…   (Photo © Michael Kappel)

Now with the power of middle-aged nostalgia, we can recapture some of that bygone era. Hiding in Tomorrowland are three things that can jolt you back to a time when projected seagulls and haunting melodies introduced one of the quirkiest Disney attractions ever.

Listen to the Theme Song … Without Leaving the Park!

Someone over at Disney—probably Buddy Baker’s grandson—has an appreciation for the past. Even though If You Had Wings has been gone for almost 30 years, an instrumental version of the repetitive theme song can still be heard in the background music loop for Tomorrowland.

There are some real gems in the Tomorrowland background loop and If You Had Wings is one of them. Now is the Time from the original WDW incarnation of Carousel of Progress also makes an appearance.

The loop plays everywhere, but I’m most aware of it when sitting at a quiet table in Cosmic Ray’s, enjoying a quality Grade C Mostly-Beef burger served to me by a high school kid who does not know if there are any more napkins.

Unmask the Airplanes in Disguise

I have only one clear memory of If You Had Wings.

Projected seagulls.

It was sort of a recurring motif. Most rooms would have a flock of three or four basic white gull shapes that would fly over a wall in the background, to give the static sets a more kinetic feeling.

When Delta Dreamflight took over, I remember a silhouette of a flying plane instead of the gulls. There were also airplanes in If You Had Wings (almost as if the attraction was sponsored by an airline). The plane was not animated at all. It was like a slide projector on a turntable, which would pan the wall to give the illusion of flying.

If you ride Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin today, you will not see gulls or airplanes. However, in the very last room right before you exit the ride, you will encounter a scene with Zurg caught in a claw.

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin Ending Scene

(Photo © txcrew)

Pay attention and you’ll see a very bizarre projection of Buzz riding in one of the ride vehicles. It will zip over the background.

I have no way of proving this, but it is such a weird detail and very static—exactly like those airplanes. I feel in my heart that this is one of the very same If You Had Wings airplane effects. Or maybe it’s just a nod to the past.

View the Ride From the PeopleMover

Just as the PeopleMover looks in on Buzz Lightyear today, the PeopleMover used to offer a glimpse of If You Had Wings.

The view of Buzz is just one room—essentially the second room of targets, with the volcano in the background. When you’re riding Buzz Lightyear, you can usually visualize the PeopleMover track (hint: any time you are going in a straight line with a low ceiling, you are directly under the track).

However, when If You Had Wings was in operation, the WEDWay PeopleMover looked in on the ride in three separate locations, finishing up just before the “Speed Tunnel” scene (which is now the “You Won’t Score Points By Shooting at Bad CGI Renderings” scene).

The best part is that the windows into those other locations still exist and are plainly visible from the PeopleMover today. Yes, with glass and everything. The tunnel is still dark and the windows are blacked out, but there’s enough ambient light to spot them if you’re looking for them.

Yes, only a parkeologist would get nostalgic about something as obscure as a dark window. But you have to admit, those windows are a piece of history.

 

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WDW46: The Video and the official Parkeology challenge

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

My how time flies. It’s been two months since Shane and I completed WDW46 and over a year and a half since we created the idea of riding every Walt Disney World ride in one day.

Since then we are happy to see others becoming excited about WDW46 and attempting it themselves. We have heard from readers from all over the country and even other parts of the world who have asked for advice and informed us that they were going to attempt similar challenges themselves. We are pleased to have inspired so many who now have a guide map to follow.

Shane and I were interviewed on national radio shows, featured in newspapers and on Podcasts and even turned up on both local and national news television programs. Perhaps strangest of all was being interviewed by the in-flight magazine of Norwegian Airlines! Who would have ever thought WDW46 would be so far spread? To say that was unexpected would be an understatement.

We created WDW46 not for notoriety but rather because it is crazy, silly, challenging and just plain fun. It represents everything we enjoy about the Disney parks and doing it with your friend makes it that much better.

Today we are proud to not only premiere the video of our WDW46 attempt but also to announce that we have started the official Parkeology WDW46 Challenge! You will see new links on the page (or click here) that will take you to the Parkeology WDW46 Challenge page. We will be keeping track of all the attempts and we may even be awarding prizes for successfully completing it.

To date several have tried and though most have met with failure remember that the real fun is in the attempt. Our first attempt at what was then WDW47 fell short because of the weather. Though we had proof of concept it has to be looked upon as a technical fail. Regardless we came back stronger than ever and I am sure many others will now follow in our footsteps and complete the challenge as well.

Get a team together, get in touch with us and get out into the parks. Good Luck!

Do us one favor; share the link to the video and get the word out!

If you are one of our many new readers who just discovered us recently make sure you watch our attempt at WDW47 last year:

Finally one last thank you to all the folks who cheered us on both on Twitter and especially to those who turned up in person and tracked us down. Thank you so, so much, it meant the world to us!

And now without further ado Parkeology presents WDW46: Redemption (make sure to watch to the very end):

All the best:

Ted and Shane

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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…

 

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