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Entries in Entertainment (5)

Saturday
Dec042010

Little Box of Treasures

While working with animatronics and props I would find myself emptying the pockets of my work clothes at the end of the day to find scraps of that day's work.  I decided to keep some of this stuff in a box so years later I could remember the variety of materials I once used.


Humor me as I share what might look like a pile of garbage.  For me, this garbage represents a whole lot of theme park ingenuity and memories of getting my hands dirty early, early in the morning...

Pieces of Brer Frog's pipe stem made of surgical tubing, covered in fabric tape and painted to look like bamboo.  Good ol' Brer Frog had the habit of smacking himself in the face with his previous, unforgiving, rigid pipe.  Speaking of smacks... Doesn't Brer Frog look a lot like the Sugar Smacks frog??

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea plants.  We would find these in the dirt after they filled in the lagoon.  I imagine there are still colorful plastic plants like this out there today.  Thank goodness they tore out that "too-expensive-to-keep-alive" ride.  << I'll explain my theory one day on how this is NOT so accurate.  Sometimes at night after they closed 20K I'd walk the catwalks in the caves only to pee my pants (figuratively) ever time.  So dark and damp and drippy- not to mention all the sea creatures sticking out of the dirty, half-drained water.

A genuine real piece of Walt Disney's backyard Carolwood Pacific train tracks! Given to me by a man who worked on site at Walt's Holmby Hill home in Los Angeles.  I like it because Walt himself played around with this stuff-- unlike a lot of park props.

Butyrate, skin, etc. from Pirate animatronics.

Coins from the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade.  Some coins were thrown out during a rehab we worked on.  Why is the Genie from Aladdin on them??  Don't ask me.  Fortunately the character artwork on the coins is not visible to guests, right?  It's Frontierland after all. 

A piece of George Washington's Hall of Presidents hands.  We'd pull a rough hand skin from the mold, "butter" it up (trim and add detail with a flat metal tip on the end of a torch), paint, and install.  Always enjoyed that.

We would remove hair and beards from Haunted Mansion ballroom ghosts once they lost their bright white shine.  Darker hair is much harder to see from the Doom Buggies.  I'll leave it to you to figure that one out.

Skin-like rubbery old paint would come off in large pieces.  Head skins too needed to be bright in color for the illusion to work.  The green rubber came from the old attic bride, I believe.

Madame Leota and Little Leota share similar projected effects.  Old portions of film would be thrown out when worn.  Above you see film from both Leotas.

In the Carousel of Progress 8mm film runs footage of a boxing match- projected from the basement below.  Remember the grandma exclaiming “Give’m a left you big lug!”

How in the world did a Mad Hatter nose end up in the box?  Don't ask me.  I believe the smelly thing was given to me for some reason.  Still stinks all these years later.

Spectro Magic lights.  Remember when Main Street Electrical Parade retired "forever" the first time and they sold light bulbs for $35??  Well these ain't those.  Am I the only one who never loved Spectro but always loved the Main Street Electrical Parade?

 

Related posts:

Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It
The Haunted Mansion Like You've Never Seen It
Pirates of the Caribbean Like You've Never Seen It
Surviving Pieces of Journey Into Imagination
Audio Animatronics 101
  
What Disney Characters Love 

 

Wednesday
Sep012010

What Disney Characters Love

Article by Lilly

 
Ten things to consider when meeting characters in the parks. 

Okay so my co-writers are rolling their eyes at me for writing this post, and I realize this post takes on a much different energy than the rest of our blog, but I don’t care, I really feel that there are many out there that would really appreciate this post (so what if most of them have fur).

Having spent some time with our fuzzy friends at the Disney Parks, I picked up on some things that really make them smile. Okay so they’re always smiling, but you know what I mean. So, here are some tips when visiting your favorite Disney characters.

1.  Disney characters will not accept money or food, but they CAN accept small gifts, drawings, and letters. Want to make a Disney character remember why they love to hug your kids everyday? Have them write a letter to their favorite character or draw a picture (drawing it is way cuter than a coloring book picture) and bring it to the park to give to the character. It’s adorable and will probably end up hung up behind the scenes or permanently placed in a scrapbook.

2. Consider the limitations of characters. If you had really big hands would you want someone to hand you a tiny pencil? Characters can spend less time signing and more time hugging your kids if you just hand them a nice big empty page and a large uncapped pen. If you really want to impress them, give them a retractable Sharpie like this.  

That way even if your kid clicks it, the character can easily click it back. They also write really well and last a long time. Characters also love it when kids make their own books. Homemade books are so cute and you can put more pages in them than the overpriced books you buy in the parks. Just make sure you put something solid behind it. It’s really hard to write on a flimsy piece of paper especially if you have big fuzzy hands.

3. Having characters sign clothing is fine, but here’s a few tips. First, characters won’t sign anything while you are wearing it. So, if you want your shirt signed, bring it don’t wear it. Also, it’s really hard to sign material. You kind of have to stretch it out which is hard to do while you are trying to sign. What is really nice is those people who have the part they want signed already stretched out and stuck in one of those cross stitching hoops. Something to think about.

4. If your kid has something contagious like chicken pox or pink eye, think about that before letting them hug characters that will be hugging hundreds more children that day.

5. Babies. I am sorry to tell you this but characters don’t want to hold your baby. Someone had to tell you and it might as well be me. They are little fragile things and it’s just more responsibility then they want. They also have a tendency to get all kinds of fluids on fur and lovely princess dresses. So don’t throw your babies on characters if you want to get on their good side.

6. Along the same lines is crying and/or terrified children. I know you waited for 20 minutes in a long hot line to see Donald, but if your kid gets to the front of the line, takes one look at Donald and starts screaming, please don’t take the next 7 minutes trying to get your child to take a picture with him. You’re wasting so much time that Donald could be spending with other kids and it isn’t going to be a good picture anyway.

7. Don’t ask them to do stuff that is out of their character. Pinocchio doesn’t want hold up a piece sign for your picture. Snow White doesn’t want to say “holla back girl” for your video. Don’t ask.

8. Even though characters shrug their shoulders and shake their heads whenever you ask them the silly question of “are they are hot in there,” they are standing in a 40 lb. costume in Florida in the dead of August, you do the math. So don’t whine and complain when the character attendant lets you know that Pooh needs to get some honey and he’ll be right back. Just calm down, he really will be right back. Character attendants are usually really good about closing the line when the character is going for good, but just know all characters–furry or not–will not likely be outside longer than 20-40 minutes depending on how hot it is. And don’t pull the “I have to catch a plane in an hour and Belle’s my favorite princess and I didn’t get to see her” stuff, because it will never work.

9. Ask them questions. They are ready to answer them whether they can talk or not. Characters love to know that you have actually seen their film/cartoon/attraction. Ask Mary Poppins how Uncle Albert is doing. Ask Cruella if she still works with Horace and Jasper. Ask Friar Tuck how Skippy, Sis, and Lady Cluck are doing and if he still parties behind the waterfall. Most people don’t even know who Friar Tuck is when they see him. Believe me. Have your kids get their questions ready before they get their turn with the character and I guarantee you’ll get more one on one time with characters while everyone else gets the “love and shove” treatment.

10. Last but not least, stop suing Tigger. Seriously, he just has a lot of energy. Give him a break.

 

 

Related Posts:

Disney Characters: Maybe We Should Rethink A Few Things

Originality In Theme Park Design

 

Sunday
Jun062010

Why Shows Fail

I have to admit, before actually working at Disney I didn’t care much for the parades or shows. As far as I was concerned, the times that shows were playing were the best times for riding the attractions surrounding those shows. However, after spending a lot of time with entertainment, I have become quite opinionated about the whole thing. 

One of the most mind boggling things to me is the consistent pattern of the company spending time and money on shows that any person in their right mind could tell you are incredibly lousy and doomed for failure. Many of their shows don’t even last a year and yet they spent boatloads of money on them. How does it happen? Why does it happen? Well, I’ll tell you.

It starts with an idea. Now I wish I could tell you it was an idea like “You know what would really be a cool show?” or “I just had this amazingly creative and artistic idea pop into my head for a show...” but I can’t. The idea usually comes from The Suits and starts more like this: “You know what’s been popular? Show’s like Turtle Talk and The Laugh Floor. Let’s make another one like that.” Or, “Nothing’s going on over in that area, let’s put a show there.” Or, my personal favorite, “You know what people love? Stitch and princesses. We need more shows with Stitch and princesses.”

Then they bring in people to carry out their dirty deeds. Possibly some very overworked show writer that has been writing pretty much the same show since 1980. Then, instead of giving this “creative team” the time necessary time to develop a show that could possibly be any good, they give them about a fourth of the time it takes and half the staff they would need.

After the underdeveloped show gets finalized, they bring in a director who probably won’t even be there half the time because he’s directing 7 other shows at the same time, and a choreographer who will probably make up the choreography as he goes and once again, the cast and crew will get about half the time they need to put this show on. It’s incredible to watch them do this over and over again. 

Aside from this atrocious method of show development, Disney does a few more things to set themselves up for failure. Something that I’ve noticed is their pattern for using the Abbot and Costello character roles over and over again. Let’s Have a Ball: Lucinda was Abbott, Simon was Costello. Storywalkers: The violinist was Abbot, the actor was Costello. Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial: Jack is Abbot, Mac is Costello (Since when did Captain Jack Sparrow need a silly sidekick anyway?). Hyperspace Hoopla: Guy with the Blue Jacket is Abbot, girl with the crazy hair is Costello. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Another thing I’ve noticed is a pattern of not thinking things through very well. Example: Storywalkers. Storywalkers was a little show they put in Asia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that lasted probably less than a year. It was originally created because there is a dead spot in Asia between Expedition Everest and the siamangs (the apes in the temple) so they decided to put a show there. First mistake. Then they write a show with two characters that act like Abbot and Costello, but are dressed like they work at Pizzafari. Second mistake. Then they put this show in a major dead spot where people don’t care to see a show, because they are on their way to Expedition Everest. They could not get people to watch this show. I literally saw actors grabbing people walking by to try and get them to watch this sad show. Third mistake. So, to try and get people to watch this show, they moved it to two locations where people are standing around anyway, right outside the bathrooms and right below the roller coaster where people are waiting for their loved ones to get off the ride. Trouble is, when their loved ones get out of the bathroom or off the ride, they don’t want to be in your show anymore (They used “volunteers”). Fourth mistake. The fifth mistake was sound. At what point did they not recognize that setting a show between screaming monkeys and a roaring roller coaster with a giant body of water in front would completely drown out the sound? I remember watching one of the performers pause every time a car would come down that big drop on Expedition Everest so that she didn’t get drowned out by the rumble of the coaster and screaming of its riders.

Okay that’s small scale. Let’s look at something big scale. Stitch's Supersonic Celebration. Originally created because Space Mountain was going to be under some major maintenance and they didn’t want there to be dead space there. However, they didn’t seem to consider the fact that nobody has any reason to go to that part of the park when Space Mountain isn’t operating. Not to mention that a cheesy show can in no way compensate for missing out on a classic roller coaster.

Next, they thought they’d throw all the right ingredients together to make a good show: a little Stitch, a little music, a little dancing, girls in boots, and the ever so popular animated characters talking to audiences live. It didn’t really occur to them those things don’t always go together that well, and by the way, Stitch doesn’t really talk that much, but who cares about character integrity anyway, right?

Then there is logistics. An outdoor screen with no covering and the sun shining on it, means people can’t really see what is on the screen. An uncovered stage with no seating doesn’t really entice guests to stand in the blazing sun to watch a forty minute show.

And let’s not forget about content (the thing that should have been stimulus for the whole project, but instead is an afterthought). How did that script make it past someone’s desk, let alone into a full blown show? That host? That choreography? What were they thinking? I could have told you it was going to fail before they even started.

I thought that Walt Disney World was the only culprit for these obvious eye sores, but I was walking by the Plaza Inn at Disneyland the other day and saw this.

His name is Pat E. Cake and I can literally look at this picture and tell you this is not a good idea....but then I saw the show. He sings a terrible song and breaks out into a rap in the middle. See for yourself.

You know, after watching that video I really have nothing else to say about it.

So here’s my dream. No more crappy shows. It’s that simple. I want the parks to be full of things that I love as much as the Dapper Dans, the atmosphere characters on Main Street and Hollywood Boulevard, or the ragtime pianist pianist that plays in the evenings at Disneyland. Remember when you could go into the Diamond Horseshoe and see all those little variety shows and maybe a can-can or two? Those were the days (although I like the little band they have in the Golden Horseshoe, they can stay). It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to come up with ideas that really add to the parks instead of take away from them, or at the very least, aren’t complete failures. But I guess it is.