Streetmosphere Pirates Dig For Treasure In Their Noses

It happened during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. A week when the parks are so crowded, you have to wait in line just to scoff at the latest DVC sales booth.

I’m pretty sure this was an “Apocalyptic Crowds Season” deal, and that this will not become a regular occurrence in Adventureland.

But for a brief time, on one glorious afternoon, the entirety of Caribbean Plaza was infested with pirates.

Pirates in Adventureland

Normally when it comes to Streetmosphere, I’m a fan of the less-is-more approach.

Streetmosphere too often acts as the artificial sweetener for tasty three-dimensional placemaking. You’re at the mercy of someone with a theater degree — sometimes a perilous proposition.

pirates_safety

As opposed to being at the mercy of someone with a law degree, who always makes theme parks more fun. Photo courtesy of Castles, Capes & Clones

It’s not that the performers aren’t talented (most are), and it’s not that they rely too much on zany I Love Lucy accents (far too many do). It’s that these unscripted encounter are taking place amid throngs of sweaty tourists, who in that particular setting are all too aware that the whole thing is fake.

Streetmosphere works best when it stays in the background. A perfect example is DeVine at Animal Kingdom, whose whole gig consists of remaining motionless so that guests won’t discover that a leafy space creature is planning to dine on their children when they turn their backs.

Front-and-center acts like the Dapper Dans blend in, because barber shop quartets were an actual thing. But snooty Hollywood Starlet Greta Glamourpuss is just somebody’s workshop character of the week.

And when is the Mayor finally going to stop glad-handing and do something about Main Street's terrible homeless problem?

And when is the Mayor finally going to stop glad-handing and do something about Main Street’s terrible homeless problem? Photo courtesy of Castles, Capes & Clones

And while we’re at it, a bunch of drumming janitors make as much sense in Future World as roving bands of stockbrokers in Dinoland.

But pirates are perfect for Adventureland.

On the surface, this is exactly the sort of cash-grab synergy you’d expect from Disney. They already have a pirate version of the Jedi Training Academy set up there, clogging up the Adventureland arteries like a brisket burger from Electric Umbrella.

Why not up the pirate quotient and turn this area into an everyday re-enactment of every single Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party I’ve ever been to?

But here’s the great thing about these pirates. They weren’t doing Johnny Depp impersonations or bandying about cliche pirate phrases. You know what they were doing? I’ll tell you what they were doing.

Nothing.

Pirates Who Don't Do Anything

Like this, only less nutritious.

They sat for long periods on random barrels and planters, snoozing under their hats or draped over branches. Every single one of them looked hung over from whatever fort-sacking they had completed the night before. If there had been a patch of muddy pigs, one would have been snoring in there with them.

Pirates at Tortuga Tavern

People would pose for pictures with them and they barely blinked. It was done with such understated laziness that they truly did blend into the background. The hundreds of people moving past the ride on their way to Splash Mountain or Big Thunder seemed hardly to notice them. It was a rare glimpse of pirates in their natural habitat. And every now and then you would spot another one — just as lazy as the last.

And yes, some even pillage their nostrils for a few gold doubloons.

Pirate Picking His Nose

You might think I’m making fun of this guy, but I’m not. This was absolutely hilarious and intentional on his part.

These pirates truly did not give a rip what the tourists were doing. They had to rest up for another night of marauding, embezzling, and even hijacking.

The scene just kept getting better. At one point, an English naval officer, who might as well have been Commodore Norrington, wandered through the scene, accompanied by two red-coated guards. This character was more likely to interact with the guests, but with disinterested courtesy, as if he always had one eye on the various rascals, scoundrels, villains and knaves lounging in the courtyard.

Pirate in a Tree

That beard is not “Disney Look”

Eventually Captain Barbossa himself showed up, searching for Jack Sparrow. This act played as more traditional Streetmosphere, but in reality was just an extended lead-in to the normal Jack Sparrow Trials of the Pirate Temple show that plays several times daily.

Pirate on the balcony

I call this fellow a “balconeer.” Get it??

The whole effect was fantastic and struck exactly the right note. One can imagine too many dim-witted guests complaining to City Hall that the drunken pirate wouldn’t sign his autograph book, but I hope the reaction is positive enough that Disney keeps this idea going, even if it is only seasonal.

Also, if you can’t get enough entertaining reading about pirates, you should totally check out my book, Johnny Shipwreck. It’s available for a limited time discount on Amazon right now, and it’s awesome.

Johnny Shipwreck Book Cover

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5 Times Ben Franklin Made Me Want to Punch Him

Ben Franklin is an unrepentant theme park windbag and he deserves to have his butt kicked.

I’m not going to focus on the petty stuff, because that is beneath me. If you want to wear your stringy dishwater hair like a half-bald Michael Bolton, more power to you.

Nor will I pick on his frilly-suit/white-socks ensemble. Wear whatever feels comfortable, even if it makes you look like a blue turd suiting up to play for the ’75 Lakers.

Instead, here are 5 very specific episodes from Ben Franklin’s theme park repertoire that make me want to wipe that smug, jowly grin right off his polished wooden teeth with one good punch.

Surely I’m not alone in this.

#1 – Ben Franklin is a Credit Hog

Ben Franklin gets credit for inventing everything from Electricity to Democracy. I’m pretty sure God invented the former, the Jedi invented the latter, and the only thing Ben Franklin actually invented is the pen-name Silence Dogood, as a way of writing anonymous snarky commentaries about famous people.

What a tool.

Ben Franklin’s gift for glomming onto every little success and claiming it as his own extends even to theme parks. For years, EPCOT Center boasted about how Ben Franklin was the first Audio-Animatronic figure to walk, when he climbs a flight of stairs to visit Thomas Jefferson in The American Adventure.

Ben Franklin Climbs the Steps

This is all fine and good, except that Ben is clearly attached to the wall like the world’s most ridiculous stair chair, with maybe one mechanical peg leg to keep him balanced.

This is like me claiming to be the first Animatronic to cook stir-fry by holding an empty wok and making sizzling sounds.

Sorry, Ben. You lose to a freaking dinosaur.

Sorry, Ben. You lose to a freaking dinosaur.

And does Ben show any shame at this mockery of technological achievement? No, instead he berates Thomas Jefferson for being tired — this after acknowledging that he slept through the entire afternoon session of Congress.

Oh, sure, Ben did eventually walk in a theme park. But only because they hired an actual human to do it for him.

#2 – Ben Franklin Shakes Hands Like a SeaWorld Otter

Mark Twain, as we know, is a man’s man. Mark Twain worked on steamboats for a living. Mark Twain grew a burly mustache. When Mark Twain needed a pen name, he didn’t invent some middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood as his alter ego.

Mark Twain smoked cigars and let his work speak for itself. Mark Twain wore all white, like a good cowboy or John Travolta. If Mark Twain was a hugger, he’d give you a bro hug.

Ben Franklin is not a hugger. Ben Franklin is a limp noodle.

When the two shake hands at the end of The American Adventure, Ben can’t even touch him. He just sort of flops his hand around like a dying river trout. It’s like one of those movies where the silly aliens don’t know you are trying to give them a fist bump. Mark Twain just lets him flail around, cocking one eyebrow and blowing smoke in Franklin’s face as a test of manliness.

Franklin fails miserably.

Ben Franklin and Mark Twain Shake Hands

On the bright side, maybe Ben is now the first Animatronic to turn purple and cough delicately like a middle-aged widow.

Just grab the man’s hand and give it a firm shake, Ben. It’s not hard to grasp (no pun intended). Especially for a mental giant who had the brilliant foresight to fly a metal kite in a thunderstorm.

Maybe he could learn a thing or two from his own insignia for the Philadelphia Contributionship over in Liberty Square (fire insurance – another thing he “invented.”)

#3 – Ben Franklin Hawks All Over His Lines

Why Ben Franklin gets any screen time in something called The Hall of Presidents is beyond me. The only thing Ben Franklin was ever president of was The Ben Franklin Fan Club.

But for some reason, past incarnations of the attraction found Ben Franklin “inspiring” his feeble-minded countrymen (also known as “Future Actual Presidents”) with phlegmatic speeches about the importance of what they’re doing.

And here I’m using phlegmatic in its “disgusting mucus throat coating” meaning, not “self-possessed and calm,” which the dictionary seems to think is correct.

Franklin’s speech can be heard at 2:18 in the following video.

When he says “infallibility,” it sounds to me like he should be shaking his jowls like Boss Nass.

Boss Nass

Yousa no tinkin yousa greatest inventor of all time?

Fortunately, this version of the show is no longer around. But the line reading has stuck with me, because nothing is so attractive as saying the word “infallibility” like you are about to blow snot all over 43 leaders of the free world.

Maybe he can invite them all over to the Ben Franklin Room at the Liberty Tree Tavern and regale them with more appetizing lung loogies over a nice turkey dinner. Don’t doubt the infallibility of this gravy, Washington, my good man.

I could go on about how he refers to the Declaration of Independence as an “instrument” instead of a “document,” but I suspect Ben Franklin is only trying to take credit for inventing marching bands.

#4 – Ben Franklin Brings Out the Worst Cosplayers

Warning to you internet-savvy readers: Do not google for “hot Ben Franklin.” There is no good to be found down that path. It will only lead to darkness.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped cosplayers from trotting out the turd-suit/Laker-socks uniform. They even do it in the parks.

The worst offender is Grandpa, at the Carousel of Progress.

Grandpa in Carousel of Progress

The sight of this poor old man — just a few stringy hair extensions away from mastering the art of the floppy handshake — is enough to break anyone’s heart.

#5 – I Hate Ben Franklin’s Stupid Self-Congratulating Jokes

Word to the wise: If you happen to find yourself in an austere patriotic theme park presentation, opposite one of the most gifted wits in literature, who is not only smoking a cigar on stage without lighting his mustache on fire, but also has provided enough one-liners to fill an entire Riverboat narration track — don’t fire off an ill-conceived joke about one of your tacky inventions.

Mark Twain says:

“We now face the danger, which in the past has been the most destructive to the humans: Success, plenty, comfort and ever-increasing leisure. No dynamic people has ever survived these dangers.”

Ben Franklin, master of clever witticisms like pretending to be a middle-aged widow, fires back:

“I may have invented these bifocals I’m wearing, but I can assure they are not rose-colored!”

Wha…? I mean, huh? You invented… okay, you invented bifocals, I guess. And that’s important for us to know because–well, I guess because everything is about you, Ben.

I get it now. So clever.

I may not have invented the idea of silly food metaphors, but I can assure you that you are about to enjoy a tasty knuckle sandwich.

Man, I just hate that guy.

 

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Admiral EO Indicted by Cosmos Corp Tribunal

Effective December 6, the Corp has unexpectedly ceased all space missions and recalled dozens of starships back to base, following allegations of corruption and mismanagement within the High Command.

At the center of this debacle, of course, is the infamous Admiral EO.

EO is no stranger to controversy. When he first joined the Corp in the early 1980s, the young cadet scored high marks on his entry tests in leadership and creative problem solving, but his final year at the Academy was tarnished by accusations of cheating when he became the first and only cadet to achieve a perfect score on the difficult moon walk exam.

The case made headlines because of the lurid details involving EO’s instructor in the exercise, one Lt. Commander Billie Jean, who disclosed an improper romantic relationship with EO. The young cadet denied the relationship at the time, but declined to take a paternity test regarding Lt. Jean’s infant son.

With only circumstantial evidence and intense pressure from the EO family, the charges were eventually dropped and EO was allowed to graduate.

Admiral EO, with Siblings

Admiral EO, shown here with his brothers, many of whom still hold rank within the Corp. Not pictured: his sister, Ensign LaTOYO

He was fast-tracked into officer training, and was eventually promoted to Captain in 1985—one of the youngest ever to achieve that rank. But his first several missions were so disastrous that he and his entire crew were almost drummed out of the Corp.

EO managed to resurrect his career with a diplomatic mission to the planet of the Supreme Leader, an outlying industrial world known mainly for its trash can export business and its dictatorial government.

This success made him a media darling and brought him back from the brink of a dishonorable discharge. But when court records from the Supreme Leader’s planet surfaced, naming Captain EO as the recipient of a 100-year prison sentence, some in the media began to question whether EO had actually carried out the peace-keeping mission as instructed.

Captain EO Supreme Leader

Conspiracy theorists have had a field day with the idea that EO simply assassinated the Supreme Leader and replaced her with a lookalike. Archival footage from the 1980s appears to show marked differences in the Supreme Leader’s appearance.

EO’s crew from that infamous mission have not helped matters. Only one of them still has any association with the fleet. Commander Idy is listed as a navigator with the reserves, though it is strange that Idy’s conjoined twin, Commander Ody, is officially designated as retired from active duty.

Major Domo is also retired, though tax records show that he works part-time as a “logistics consultant” for Star Tours, LLC, a civilian travel company.

Minor Domo is deceased, killed in action during the Battle for Space Mountain in the late 1990s.

Sergeant Fuzzball never returned from the Supreme Leader mission, and his official status is MIA. Neither EO, Commander Bog, or the Corp Command have ever commented on Sgt. Fuzzball’s fate.

Only Private First Class Hooter is outspoken in civilian life, much to the Corp’s dismay. PFC Hooter held a brief position as a sales rep for XS-Tech, but poor performance and a lifelong battle with substance abuse led to his termination in 2002, ahead of that company’s bankruptcy restructuring in 2003.

Hooter now lives in a ramshackle trailer outside Baton Rouge, and occasionally appears at memorabilia conventions, hawking “authentic” Supreme Leader trash cans.

Hooter

PFC Hooter, seen in this still from an interview given to WBRZ Channel 2 in late 2013. Judging by the beer in his hand, this is likely before he entered rehab for alcohol addiction in November of that year.

Hooter has grown progressively more outspoken in his criticism of the Corp in general and Admiral EO in particular. Only last year, Hooter made national headlines when he claimed that Fuzzball was the real hero of the Supreme Leader mission, and that the tiny flying orange monkey managed to take out two whip warriors with a single knot maneuver, while then-Captain EO was incapacitated.

Hooter even went so far as to suggest that EO “got rid” of Fuzzball in order to claim all the credit for the success of the mission, and that his fellow shipmates are just “too scared to speak up.”

Then again, PFC Hooter’s credibility has always been in question, and he may only be trying to drive up interest in his “Official Map to the Supreme Leader’s Planet,” which he has promised to place on eBay next month in order to stave off some of his creditors. The validity of this artifact is still in question, but when asked by a persistent reporter if he would be interested in bidding, Admiral EO rolled his eyes and said that the map has long since been digested.

EO was promoted to Admiral in 1994 and effectively left the galactic space missions to younger captains in order to focus on the advance technology under development by the top-secret Imagination Institute. But with the mounting costs of missions and the sudden shuttering of the R&D division, EO once again finds himself the center of controversy.

Of particular concern are the deplorable conditions aboard many of the starships, which are rarely larger than a family car, and often cluttered with alien trash. There are reports of landing beacons that malfunction, terminals with keyboards that disintegrate at the drop of a hat, and onboard monitoring technology so inadequate that it is susceptible to even the most low-level jamming techniques on the market.

In recently declassified testimony about the Supreme Leader mission, Commander Bog (EO’s former superior officer) claims that he was unable to supervise the activity on the bridge, due to unknown interference.

Deplorable conditions about Captain EO's star ship

Clockwise from upper left: malfunctioning planetary landing beacon; PFC Hooter attempts to repair a damaged keyboard; Cmdr Bog’s jammed transmission; unidentified Corp captain sleeping in garbage.

Hooter, of course, claims that this was intentional on EO’s part, and that the Admiral had a vested interest in misleading command about the specifics of the mission. EO’s response is typical of Corp top brass, saying that controversy is “just another part of me now. I am here to change the world, not respond to baseless accusations.”

Of even greater concern is the propaganda flowing out of planets in the Supreme Leader’s region. Diplomatic relations have eroded of late, which coincides with an alarming rise of militant factions among former Whip Warriors. Many in the Corp have expressed concerns that the Supreme Leader may now be too old to control the extremists within her own party, and that the return to a music-less planet may be imminent.

Admiral EO dismisses these claims as fear-mongering, and says that he will do whatever it takes—even if it means demoting himself to Captain and going back into space—to make sure the cosmos remains free of evil.

 

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