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Trip Report- Disneyland/Disney Cruise 10-2011 [Part 2]

After a couple days at Disneyland we boarded the Disney Cruise Line’s second ship, The Wonder. We’ve been lucky to cruise three times in recent years for almost no cost (thank you, various perks). 

7 Day Mexican Riviera Cruise. After arriving and unpacking our bags in our windowless inside stateroom, Guest Services knocked on the door. “You have been reassigned to a different stateroom.” Whuuu? “Here are new room keys for you and the other couple in your party.” Ummm... this person/friend (you know who you are) made our week. We walked into the new “Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms with Veranduhs”. Boy do those private balconies make a difference. Especially when the upgrade was unexpected and free. Did I mention the guy at port check-in asked if we wanted veranduh room upgrades for $2,600?

Andreas Deja. The next highlight was the fact that animation great, Andreas Deja, was on board for the week. He gave two presentations while at sea. Both fantastic.

I’m a long-time fan of Andreas’ work. He is considered to be one of what some might call the “Nine New Men”. He was very influential in the “Second Golden Age of Animation”. His work includes many characters on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, King Triton in The Little Mermaid, Mickey Mouse (as both the Prince and the Pauper) in The Prince and the Pauper, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Jafar in Aladdin, Scar in The Lion King, Mickey Mouse in Runaway Brain, Adult Hercules in Hercules, Goofy in How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, Mama Odie and Juju in The Princess and the Frog, Tigger in Winnie the Pooh, and much more.

The first presentation was about “The Nine Old Men”. Part of Andreas’ animation credibility comes from having professional relationships with most of the the Old Men. He was wise enough to consult with them before they all passed away. He was more or less a student of these animation greats. And the stories he tells are first-rate.

On the last “sea day” Andreas shared stories from his own career. Aaaaannd he drew some stuff.

We saw some devolopment work for Belle.

And some of the evolution of Gaston. 

Fantastic animal studies.

Excellent marker sketches. Later Andreas gave away the sketches to audience members who answered trivia questions. 

I had a couple of great conversations with Andreas. We talked about the Little Mermaid ride. Since he had done so much on the film, I wanted his take on the new ride. He said he liked it but that it still needed work. It sounds like there will be upcoming improvement to the "going under the sea" effect as well as one or more of the Ariel figures. He said he wishes there were more scenes and that certain scenes were a little better represented. In a joking manner he said, "a little more Triton would be nice", seeing how he designed the animated character! Lasseter has given WDI many notes, many of which will be implemented in the Magic Kingdom version of the ride. Andreas also shared that he is reworking the Mickey on new Walt Disney Company logo along with the Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey on the new Walt Disney Imagineering logo.

A Real Life Adventureland. After we anchoring at the first port we took an hour-long boat ride to this beautiful jungle beach south of Puerto Vallarta.

A trained parrot circled the boat several times as we approached to dock. Exotic native-looking women and men greeted us on shore. A number of small monkeys climbed on our shoulders. The head salesman offered us two of his heads for one of ours. 

Movie director from the 1940s-1960s, John Huston, owned the place until his death in the 1980s. After snorkeling (in very warm water), paddle boarding, coconut milk drinking, and kayaking everyone ate amazing ribs and Mexican food at Huston’s former house and surrounding buildings and patios. It reminded me of eating at Disneyland’s Tahitian Terrace. According to the posted memorabilia, Huston’s home was not entirely enclosed (same as today) which allowed for wild jungle animals to enter at will. He reported having jaguars enter the home at night while he slept.

Mickey Drawing Class. The guys decided to go to the character drawing class while our wives relaxed on the deck. I learned a few things about Walt Disney I had never heard before. Probably because they never actually happened. According to the instructor girl, Walt “forgot” to sign his first drawings of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit therefore “he lost all rights to this character he created”. Hmmm. Is that what happened?? “So sign your drawing of Mickey today so you don’t make the same mistake Walt Disney made”. I guess I own the rights to Mickey Mouse now. (My sketch on the right.)

Cabo San Lucas was beautiful. Puerto Vallarta is on mainland Mexico and is super tropical. Cabo is on the peninsula and is very much a desert. We went to Cabo twice because cruise lines don't go to Mazatlan anymore? For $8 we had a private boat tour of Arches. Sea lions were everywhere. The place was stunning.

The water was unbelievable. Not far offshore large rocks protrude out of the water. The water is as deep as 80 feet around the rocks. The snorkeling was outstanding– clear water, thousands of fish, colorful plants, and even dive-bombing pelicans. 

Winnie the Pooh movie. We loved watching this movie. (All movies are free of charge in the two theaters on the ship.) The classic style, the traditional animation, the simple and charming story. It was also a treat to watch an animated film in the same room as one of the supervising animators of that film. Andreas was there. I had asked him earlier in the week if he enjoys watching his own work. He said he didn’t. He said he loves watching the work of other animators but doesn’t revisit his own past animation much. But there he was. I also loved Pixar’s Bud Luckey as Eeyore. You might recognize his voice from his Pixar short Boundin’. The Ballad of Nessie short that preceded Winnie the Pooh was also fantastic. I loved the style that resembled old shorts like Johnny Appleseed and Pigs is Pigs– two childhood favs.

Our new former Jungle Cruise Skipper friends. Most passengers got all hyper-silly-giddy when they saw some “magical” thing happen. I would guess that very few of these passengers are deeper than surface-level Disney fans. I mean few really seek out the deeper geek side of Disney and its history. And that is just fine. But it’s always nice to know that there are fans out there that like some of the things I like. Fans of say, old EPCOT Center. One of these three guys was wearing a great vintage EPCOT t-shirt. Turns out they did the Walt Disney World College Program a few years back, skippering the Jungle Cruise. And they’ve kept in touch ever since. How cool is that.

Character meet-and-greets. You gotta meet Mickey and Minnie on the Disney Cruise. And the Flinstones.

All in all it was a fantastic week. The Mexican Riviera was surprisingly as great as the Caribbean. In some ways it was even better. Who knew? My once apathetic views of Disney's involvement in the cruise industry have definitely changed. The ships are classy (save for a few small areas). The itineraries are great. The live shows were grand, although the writing was quite terrible. I don't know much about pricing, but I imagine it's rather high, but perhaps worth it. We had only excellent service. Wish I could say that about Disneyland the week prior! 


Related posts:

Trip Report- Disneyland/Disney Cruise 10-2011 [Part 1]
A Disney Artist's Designs for a Hanna Barbera Land
Original Visions of CalArts
Magic Highway U.S.A... It doesn't get much better than this.
Walt Disney Studios Post Production Behind-the-Scenes



WDW Before Opening Day 1971

Walt Disney World opened 40 years ago today. Here we bring you photos of some of the work that went on before Opening Day- October 1, 1971.

On the left (below) you see the foundation of Cinderella Castle taking shape and the utilidor tunnel being built under what would become the castle moat. Now on the right you see the same tunnel but covered in dirt. What looks like a trench next to the covered tunnel is not actully the tunnel. I imagine it was the last bit to be filled in or was used to access something. Notice the underground offices, shops, utility access, storage, etc. behind the castle foundation. This area exists today under Fantasyland.


Below you see the back end of the castle with views of restaurant construction and what is now the Castle Suite.

Looks like a fancy tool for inserting strands of hair into this Jungle Cruise lion. In more recent years I remember using a needle with half its eye cut off with the point inserted into a wooden handle.

Notice the maquette of the gorilla holding the rifle next to the full size figure of the same gorilla.

Check out the guy in back of the station wagon filming the elephant on its way to the Jungle Cruise.

Anyone know exactly where this yellow building is today? I always figured it was in downtown Orlando but really, I have no way of knowing.

UPDATE: Thanks to comments by World Famous Dave Ensign and Cousin Orville we have the location of the "yellow building". Seen here is the building in Plant City (as predicted by Dave) at the corner of Highways 39 and 92. The photo from Google Street View (as found by Cousin Orville) shows the building today almost exactly how it looked 40+ years ago. Mystery solved!

Speaking of where things are today... below we bring you a little bonus. A quick search on Bing Maps shows us an old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Nautilus submarine at backstage Epcot of all places. And right in front of it, an old Jungle Cruise boat. Yep, still hanging around. Used now and again for special events.

Before any of the above photos were taken, this model was built:

Click to enlarge and look closely. Clearly on the right you'll see the never-built Thunder Mesa. Look in the background. Behind John Hench on the right, is that a model of the Magic Kingdom Monorail Station? Towards the center it looks like a rather large model of the Contemporary. And to the far left, a tiki bird!

Happy b-day, Walt Disney World. You haven't changed a bit.

Thank you, The Story of Walt Disney World Commemorative Edition for the great pics. All photos ©Disney.

Related posts:

Magic Kingdom Map Found in a Main Street Wall
Swiss Family Treehouse Model
THEN AND NOW: MK Adventureland [Part 1]
THEN AND NOW: Liberty Square [Part 1]
Disneyland in 1955
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63



Marc Davis and His Early Days at WED

Marc Davis is my hero. He is the best Imagineer to ever live. His influences in theme park design continue today more than a decade after his death. But his early Imagineering experiences weren't all sunshine and lollipops.


An Animation Legend

His contributions to animation are significant– Cinderella, Alice, Tinker Bell, Maleficent, Auroro, Cruella De Vil, and so on. Though he didn't particularly like animating "bland female characters" he mastered the difficult task. Marc once told Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston that "he got a lot of crap characters (to animate). Moving a girl around with a rotoscope [tracings of live action] is a pretty rotten way to make a living."


Marc's WED Legacy Begins

After his work on 101 Dalmations, Marc with a few other animators produced preliminary work on an animated film they hoped to eventually make at the studio. The film "Chanticleer" was never made because management deemed a chicken movie to be not-so-interesting. Note: Some of the work did go on to influence the studio's 1973 "Robin Hood". After "Chanticleer" was bagged, having not been assigned to any specific animation effort, Marc Davis would unknowingly begin his WED legacy. 


Improving Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland

In 1962 Walt Disney asked Marc to head over to Disneyland and take a "good, hard, critical look" at Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland which opened in 1960. "See what you think about this thing." Walt was less than satisfied with this somewhat boring attraction.

Upon viewing the attraction Marc quickly saw that "there was an awful lot of things wrong" with Mine Train and other attractions. He had plenty of constructive feedback for Walt and many ideas for improvement. "They had no gags in it, no story at all," Marc said about Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland. "One kit fox's head is going up and down, then about a hundred feet away another kit fox's head is going left to right, so I took the two, put them nose to nose, so one is going up and down, the other moves side to side, So immediately you have humor!"

Marc made about 40 drawings of how the park could be improved. At this time of Disneyland history, park management was very unhappy with the men sent to Disneyland from the Walt Disney Studios to help with the park.  Marc's wonderful wife Alice remembers that the Disneyland people "seemed jealous".

Marc quickly found himself (within 2½ hours of telling Walt he had drawings) in a meeting with the entire WED crew. "Everyone who was important was there, and here I am, a stranger from animation. So I stood up and I started explaining piece by piece." When discussing animated figures his knowledge of anatomy gave him the credibility that no one in the room could compete with. He expressed frustration with the way people were seated in the Mine Train cars (all facing center). He described how we look forward when driving a car because forward is where the danger and excitement will exist. This and everything else he spoke of impressed Walt and "he was buying everything I had done and he was quite intrigued with it," Marc said. Interestingly enough, I do not believe Marc's suggestion for the modified seating arrangement was ever fully implemented. 


Marc's "Little Pencil"

Quickly Marc Davis was Walt's choice for some of the most interesting and challenging assignments at WED. Other crew members resented this, as you could imagine. One short-sighted WED executive once walked by Marc's desk and said, "And what are you doing with your little pencil now?" Jerk. This would not be the end of Marc's run-ins with prominent Imagineers.


Jungle Cruise Improvements + Ride Posters?

It's no secret that Explorer Boat Ride a.k.a. Jungle River Cruise a.k.a. Jungle Cruise was nothing to laugh about in its early years. By that I mean it was more serious and less funny than the versions we know today. Marc was asked to pretty much do with Jungle Cruise what he did on Mine Train. He often mentioned that he got a kick out of the Elephant Pool in particular. He also mentioned, "I really did most of the ride posters as well." Interesting! Any we haven't seen?? Most certainly. 


Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

Holy moly how did he do it? I know he wasn't alone in any of these but by golly his visible influence out ways that of all others. Could you imagine a grass hut with dozens of robotic birds singing above you... WITHOUT the Marc Davis charm? This (and quite possibly every other Marc Davis attraction) would have had the potential of being creepy on the level of third-rate (yet still fun) local amusement parks. Or even crazy Japanese rip-off parks.


1964-65 World's Fair

Walt assigned not only Marc Davis to the World's Fair efforts but his lovely wife Alice Davis as well.  The character work in all four Disney-designed Fair atrractions– "it's a small world", Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress, and Ford's Magic Skyway– were all heavily designed by Marc. Alice's costume designs were also a significant contribution.

Marc, Alice, and Mary Blair (what a trio!) with a small handful of other WED-ites created all of "it's a small world" in what, 11 months? Dang.


All This in the First Couple Years

So with no prior "3-D" experience and in a very short period of time, Marc Davis would create and/or strongly influence some of the theme park industry's most successful attraction experiences ever. "This was quite a change to get up from an animation desk and find out all of a sudden there were people with bulldozers and they wanted to know where you want his pile of dirt!"


Shortly After:

Marc's greatest achievement of his career followed by his second-greatest achievement– Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland and The Haunted Mansion. After that, his greatest unbuilt acheivement– Western River Expedition. Other fantastic Marc Davis attractions after Walt's death were and are also fantastic– Country Bear Jamboree, America Sings, etc. 

More to come.


Thank you Alice Davis, John Canemaker, World Famous D.E., and others for the stories.


Related posts:

The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 1 ]
 Davis and Disneyland's Rivers of America Rehab
America Sings
Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It
Diana Lai: An Original Enchanted Tiki Room VIP Hostess
Jungle Cruise Commercials
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63 [Part 2]