Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Pre-Show Keeps Things Gender Neutral

The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster pre-show is an exercise in awkward celebrity acting. Nothing reminds you that you are at the Happiest Place On Earth like the sight of a bad-boy rock band playing thumb-kissy with a C-list actress and pretending to care about their fans.

As if we were fans of Aerosmith to begin with. Okay, maybe we are. At least I am.

Giant Fender guitar outside Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
Fender is a type of guitar.  I call this shot “Fender Bender.”  Tee hee.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster comes from the Age of the Preshow, a period of theme park development spanning more than a decade, beginning with Tower of Terror’s Library and culminating in Mission: Space’s poorly acted astronaut training corp. These pre-shows are easy to recognize, as they fall into one of two categories.

Or sometimes both at once.

Something Goes Wrong

This was uber-popular during the time period. The idea was that the audience was always entering the ride at the worst possible time. And no, I don’t mean right after Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage just let out. In this scenario, you find yourself paying for the mistakes of some clown who just couldn’t leave well enough alone.

It might be as benign as a rogue scientist trying to extract a giant death lizard in the middle of a meteor shower. Or as terrifying as the arrival of a Level 3 Prisoner. But whatever the case, you knew that the next 5 minutes were going to be spent running for your life.

Can’t go much more wrong than that.

You Are Junior Trainees

In this scenario, the attraction attempts to cast you as some low-level employee of whatever imaginary organization is fronting the show building. You might be Junior Astronauts, Junior Interplanetary Prison Guards, Junior Imagination Research Scientists, or even the lowest guys on the totem pole: crash test dummies.

Oh, who are we kidding? This is the lowest of the low.  You are Junior Hollywood Celebrities… Ugh.

Because you are at such a junior level, you have no exposure to Level 3 Lock-Down procedures. You don’t know how to design cars and you are virtually unproven at limo driving. So the idiots in charge run around in full-scale meltdown mode, trying to compensate for your failures.

Amazing then, that in spite of all the chaos (and frankly, the repetitiveness) of the Age of the Preshow, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster pre-show turned out to be pretty harmless. (well, maybe not)

The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Pre-Show

Your goal is simple: Catch a ride to Aerosmith’s next concert. They’re going on ahead, because you know, they have to do mic check. At least they’re nice enough to leave you in their recording studio. You can see all their instruments scattered about.

In the early days of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster pre-show, there was actually a studio technician roaming around in the recording area. The band stayed comfortably at the mixing board behind glass. This technician was a live Disney Cast Member (CM). They would pretend to straighten sheet music and dust the consoles, because trust me, you do not want to see Steven Tyler sneeze. At one point, the CM was even given a very minor role to play. As the rest of the band is filing out the door, lead guitarist Joe Perry leans over the mic and says his immortal line.

“Chris, can you grab my black Les Paul?”

Joe Perry has several lines in the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster pre-show.
And while you’re at it, can you grab my black les comb?

The live Cast Member would nod to the video to indicate that he heard Joe. Then proceed to pick up the black Les Paul (Les Paul is a type of guitar, for you non-musical types) and carry it out of the studio. Neat, right? It’s like Joe Perry is really there, barking out orders!

At some point, the bean counters must have realized that this little interaction between man and video was fooling no one. And since it required a full day’s pay for somebody to stand in the preshow room and take that guitar in and out, the bit was cut. The new backstory is that Joe Perry is a drug-addled imbecile who can’t see too good. Maybe that’s more believable, I don’t know.

But there is one thing of note about this whole gag, something that gets lost now that the live CM is no longer there… In the video recording of Joe Perry, he actually says the Cast Member’s name. Ever wonder why the tech’s name was Chris?

See, Rock-n-Rollercoaster is non-discriminatory attraction. In some cultures, it’s believed that women know a little something about rock-n-roll too. That technician fumbling around the with the prop guitar might be a dude, but it might just as easily be a chick. And so rather than trust Joe Perry to nail two solid takes — one with a masculine name and one with a feminine name — they just went with the gender neutral “Chris.”

In fact, this sort of foresight is at play on many attractions. The Great Movie Ride is another example.

And what if you’re a Cast Member who showed up for your shift and forgot your nametag? Rides like Kilimanjaro Safari have you covered. They keep a couple spares on hand.

The names on the tags? Chris and Pat.

I think Julia Sweeney deserves some kickback here.

Comments (8)

  1. Ah, not bunk at all, Katie! I am very close to someone intimately familiar with Safari, and such a practice does indeed exist (or did at the time of the writing of this post). That’s not to say that it is always required that you be Chris or Pat. Just that those were at one point provided as the gender-neutral options.

  2. Just wanted to say that the nametag thing is bunk. If you forget your nametag, they just have random ones. No worries about gender-neutral. You just make sure to pick up one that works.

  3. Good catch, Troop! I haven’t noticed it, but I’ll be sure to look for it next time. I’m usually too busy admiring Steven Tyler’s puzzled expression.

  4. I also wondered what happened when the live CM wasn’t there…until I noticed right after Joe Perry asks Chris to grab his black Les Paul, someone comes into the screen and says “yo, Joe I’ll get it for you Man” and leaves. Most people don’t notice this because Steven Tyler starts his whole spiel, but apparently they didn’t need the live CM at all.
    Don’t know if you ever caught that or not. Took me only 100 or so times riding the ride to see the guy saying he’ll get it for Joe Perry.

  5. I was revisiting this post in preparation for another post, and I know find Russ’s comment eerily prescient! In fact, the Tiki Room did catch fire, and Iago was permanently damaged, resulting in them planning a new show. Russ, you can hide out here. I’m sure the cops are looking for you.

  6. I have a theory about storytelling, which goes something like this: You have 3 days to read a book, 2 hours to see a movie, and 5 minutes to ride a theme park attraction. I think that experiences like Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Splash Mountain are more well suited for storytelling in the 5-minute range, since you don’t have to waste time setting up the problem.

  7. I wish the Tiki Room would burn to the ground and take Iago with it.

    Interestingly enough though, with your premise, I wonder what the ride would be like if nothing went wrong and if on the second trip through, you were no longer treated like a trainee.

    And the nametag thing just makes sense on several levels. I am in awe of their command of logistics.

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