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Entries in Animatronics (20)


Surviving Pieces of Journey Into Imagination

...and Fresh Roasted Corn!

The original Journey Into Imagination ride was a quality, imaginative, creative, original, spectacular ride if I ever did see one. You wouldn't know it by looking at it's current state. The company killed of the main characters and eventually brought back Figment but Dreamfinder is still six feet under.

But pieces of the original ride still exist. Some of them in my home office. A few years back my ol' pal Hoot Gibson asked if I'd like pieces of the famous blimp!  His wife, a lot like mine, valued space over dusty old iconic treasures. I was thrilled.

Good old Dreamfinder flew his blimp with a red and gold control panel in front of his pilot seat and a glass-like dome above with binoculars attached.

At one time I had the original blue suit with original shoes, goggles, hat, and gloves and bow tie. Of course I would wear them around the house while playing with the control panel and fake binoculars. I wore them around my office at Disney a couple of times at the risk of being unprofessional. Now why can't I find the photos of this?? I don't know. Over the years these items sadly slipped through my fingers.  

Ok.  Possibly to coolest thing about this is what you see in the above.  That decorative cap is a jello mold.  Not just any jello mold.  Underneath there's a price tag from Disneyland! (Photo to come)  Who thought of this??  How did this come about?  I mean it does fit the style of the vehicle but did they say "I bet the west coast gift shops have a perfect jello molt that would look GREAT on this"?  A mystery.  Any early 80s W.E.D. people out there who helped build this thing? If so, drop me a line.  Hoot showed me this.  How rad is that?  By the way these pieces were originally given to Hoot by those determining the fate of the blimp.

Fresh Roasted Corn you ask?  This story is ten times cooler as told by Hoot himself on a new blog brought to us by none other than our favorite Horizons adventurers Hoot and Chief of Mesa Verde Times.  Their new blog tell the prequel to what you've just read, and the blog is called "Fresh Roasted Corn".  Check out photos of Chief popping out of the blimp as Figment once did.  Click here.


And if you can gag your way through what is Epcot's Mouse Gear store to look up on one of the west walls you'll see more of the blimp vehicle.


Related posts:

Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center

EPCOT Construction from the Air

Love, Hate, and John Lasseter

HORIZONS the way you wish you knew it



The Haunted Mansion Like You've Never Seen It

This blog was created partly to showcase how rides are made. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at parts of Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion. These original photos have never been posted online until now.

It's been over a year since we started this blog and I'm shocked that this is the first post entirely about The Haunted we've ever done.  Shocker because the Mansion has been #2 on my "Favorite Attractions" list since childhood-- right between Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise with Carousel of Progress, Tom Sawyer Island, PeopleMover, Country Bear Jamboree, Tiki Room, and Matterhorn following closely behind.  Also to add to the shock of there never being a Haunted Mansion post is the fact that a couple of us here at the blog have spent many many quality hours in every corner of the Mansion.  And what a dream that was. 

Ballroom Organist head.  Every few years animatronic head-skins wear out, become covered in fingerprints of engineers, or fade-- or all three.  Every few decades (it may seem) they get fixed. The colors need to be bright for the ghostly illusion to work- I'll say no more. 

Nice hands, buddy.

Nice neck, Lady.

Butyrate (clear plastic) makes up the outer shell of most every Disney animatronic figure- although the shell is almost never seen by guests except in the Mansion where it remains visible to give the illusion of transparent spirits. You'll notice it turns very yellow with time.

The howling sounds you hear outside in the queue area are those of this dog. A skeleton dog with a streak of hair on it's back moves forward and back with a bit of head movement.  You may have never noticed him there on the back hill of the cemetery across the singing busts unless he has clean layer of white paint.

(Above right) The backside of a pop-up head and tombstones. 

(Above Right) The underside of the bat-covered moving walkway at unload.

The now extinct spider and web. The Mansion spiders were identical to the ones you see in the Jungle Cruise temple. (And no, that ain't a freekin' hidden Mickey).

Guess who's who.  Junk piles collecting dust in a space behind the Grand Ballroom.  A portion of a projector- one of Madame Leota's projectors perhaps?  You can see bits of film still inside.

Broken fiberglass torch-holding hand you'll see above the unload walkway.  I'm sure you recognize the blue guy on the right.


This was not meant to unveil any special Mansion secrets- there are plenty of sites dedicated to that.


Related posts:

ABANDONED DISNEY: Country Bear Max (old animatronic dear head found under Haunted Mansion Track)

ABANDONED DISNEY Series Announced (with old Horizons animatronics found under Carousel of Progress)

I Miss Paul Frees

Hidden Mickey Controversy [Part 2]



America Sings

[ UPDATED 7-6 with new images and info ]

A look back at the Marc Davis / Al Bertino patriotic animatronic wonder and how some of it's pieces live on today.

Think of Carousel of Progress meets Country Bear Jamboree meets American Adventure.  It was hosted by an eagle named Sam, voiced by the great Burl Ives, and co-hosted by Ollie Owl.  Shows ran from 1974-1988 in Tomorrowland's Carousel Theater, Disneyland.  It replaced The Carousel of Progress which was moved to The Magic Kingdom in 1975.  The empty round building with it's rotating outer ring of seating and stationary set of inner stages was a perfect fit for such an idea.  Though I've always thought the Tomorrowland setting was not entirely fitting, America Sings was a really swell! 



After closing in 1988, a number of America Sings' audio animatronics were repurposed in the 1989 E-Ticket log flume adventure, Splash Mountain- Sam and Ollie, were not included in the move.  Splash Mountain's Song of the South premise with Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and friends was an inviting setting for these friendly Marc Davis critters.  Costumes, props, and character poses were changed to fit the new storyline.

Below you'll find side-by-side comparisons of these critters in both setting.  Also included are some Marc Davis concept drawings for America Sings.  Photos of sculpted maquettes- on display at Disneyland's Opera House (still there today)- are also presented.  Additional photos are from Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  

In October of 1992 the second and third Splash Mountains opened one day apart.  Tokyo Disneyland opened theirs on October 1 while Magic Kingdom opened their Splash Mountain on October 2.  To my knowledge, these rides did not receive any America Sings original animatronic figures, though they were both populated with many reproductions.


Foxes and Hens

In Act I - Early South -  foxes, hens and frogs sung Lay Down My Burden in gospel choir fashion.  The foxes and hens now can be seen aboard Disneyland's Splash Mountain's riverboat scene singing Zippity Do Da (without Uncle Remus... thanks to Michael Eisner, that rascal).

Also aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat are two musical pigs, a hound guitar-playing dog, and a goose playing the part of river captain up top, and 3 female geese- all from America Sings.  The can-can geese came from Act III of America Sings, featured further below.

Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain was given a mere 12 characters aboard their riverboat compared the 17 aboard Disneyland's.  No foxes and no hound dog.  In fact, no foxes other than Brer Fox exist in Magic Kingdom's version of the ride.  I imagine the happy foxes could easily be confused with the mischievous Brer Fox set out to kill and eat the attractions main character, Brer Rabbit.


The Swamp Boys

The Swamp Boys were made up of the gator trio, a harmonica-playing raccoon (above lower left), and singing frogs.  In Splash Mountain they were divided up, minus the gator trio which stayed together (above lower right).  Notice in the first video posted above the harmonica-playing raccoon is not part of the trio.  Must have been in maintenance that week (or year).  You'll see further down in the post where the raccoon ended up in Splash.

I love comparing the two Marc Davis concepts (above upper left and upper center).  It appears the raccoon was originally supposed to be a harmonica-playing possum.  Are raccoons cuter than possums?  Maybe he wanted variety, considering the fact that a mother possum with her babies was to sing right after the Swamp Boys. The second rendering includes the raccoon and the frogs as part of the Swamp Boys.  This time the gators get clothing.

The Swamp Boys frogs (above upper right) appear twice in the Early South act.  They sing Polly Wolly Doodle with the other Swamp Boys and they appear again at the end of the act along with the foxes and hens to sing Lay Down My Burden.  You can see where they are today (above lower left).  The closeup photo of the frog (above lower right) is a replica found in Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  Notice the white eyes, lack of spots, and the different style hat.


The Boothill Boys

Before ever looking down on human passers-by with their evil grins as the humans approach Splash Mountain's largest drop, the vulture duo appeared in Act II of America Sings (above lower left and center).  For some reason the Boothill Boys didn't keep their top hats or clothing in California (above upper right) but their counterparts in Florida (above lower right) do wear clothes and have hats.  Why?  Not sure because tuxedos and top hats don't exactly fit the story.


Mule, Jitterbug-era College Students

In America Sings a mule ridden by Sam and Ollie in Act I - Early South.  Another mule carries the hound dog in Act II - Old West.  One of the mules (below right) can be seen in Splash Mountain "pulling" a wooden cart with America Sings' Jitterbug-era College Students, two female cats, a male wolf, and a male fox.  This time they wear country attire.


Saddlesore Swanson, the Turkey

Saddlesore Swanson sings The Old Chisholm Trail in Act II - Old West (above center).  For his Splash Mountain debut (above right) Saddlesore loses the spurs, gets a new hat and trades in his country guitar for one made out of a turtle shell and tree branch.  He keeps a red handkerchief around his neck, but one with a printed pattern this time. 


The Rabbit

During the I've Been Working on the Railroad number in Act II, a rabbit and a fox riding on a rail cart (above left) travel across the stage from left to right and back again.  Is this Brer Rabbit??  Marc Davis was directing animator on the 1946 part-animated, part-live action film, Song of the South.  The rabbit is not supposed to be Brer Rabbit, nor is the fox supposed to be Brer Fox.  Of course not.  But I imagine they were influenced by the Song of the South characters Davis worked with decades earlier.  Today you can see the America Sings rabbit playing the part of Brer Rabbit in Splash Mountain riding the same rail cart (above right).  This time he's wearing pants.



I always loved the animation of the geese.  The facial expressions and the movement in their long necks.

Geese created for Magic Kingdom are given roles as fishermen (above left, center).  One has caught a boot.  The boot is no longer a real boot but one made of light-weight 'WonderFlex' to lessen the burden on the pole and goose figure.  One goose has caught the hat of another goose.  For more than a decade the hat was directly connected to the fishing line without a hook.  Finally at one point a hook was added. Hooray for details. One goose perpetually tries to catch the same jumping fish with a broken net.... that is if the jumping fish mechanism is properly functioning.  

A couple years before closing, America Sings donated the animatronic skeleton of a singing goose (above right) for the queue of Star Tours.  A binocular/Johnny5-like head was added with some other parts and some paint.  Compare the feet of the geese to the feel of the droid.  The droid definitely kept his webbed bird feet.  Of course a new voice was given.  He sings I've Been Working on the Same Droid, his own version of I've Been Working on the Railroad.  From what I know, Disney-MGM Studios in Florida was also given a goose for their Star Tours queue in 1989.


Storks and Can-can Geese

In Act III - Gay Nineties (above left) 4 female can-can geese take stage as another female goose sits in a bird cage above.  Two male storks with out-stretched wings rode old-fashioned bicycles.  The can-can geese still dance today aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat mentioned earlier.  The goose from the cage is now on a large mushroom, under a larger mushroom (above lower right) in Splash Mountain today.  The male storks now dance in Splash (above upper right)




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