Monday, June 30, 2008

Project THOR

Today, faithful readers, we will venture outside the berm and over the Cajon pass to Las Vegas and the other MGM theme park, MGM Grand Adventures. This short-lived theme park
(1994-2000) at the MGM Grand Hotel offered just a handful of rides, but probably the most unique was Deep Earth Exploration.

Deep Earth Exploration was different in that for the first time a simulator was combined with a travelling ride vehicle. Riders experienced a projected movie similar to Star Tours, but the side windows would open several times to reveal actual show scenery that corresponded to the movie. Imagineers who rode this ride were so impressed that they immediately set out to take the idea of a travelling simulator to the next level.

Project THOR (Travelling Hydraulic Operated Ride?) was thus conceived and less than two years later was born as the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland.

For those of you that have been on Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom and Indiana Jones that had a sense of deja vu that you couldn't explain...maybe it was the fact that Indy and Countdown have an identical track layout! But it's not very obvious since the rooms that the vehicles travel through are completely different. For example, on Indy we get to vote for our destiny, but in Florida they don't get to vote. pictures. I'll let you know if I find my pictures of MGM Grand Adventures. You know, now that I think about it the park wasn't very grand or adventurous, but you can still say thanks to Mr. K next time you ride Indy.

Now it's time to choose your own adventure; would you prefer to go through the looking glass or go on the Darby O'Gill ride? Cast your vote because, unlike the Indiana Jones Adventure, your vote will truly make a difference.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Original Puppetmaster

Hello once again faithful readers...both of you. I have a special treat for you today.

Who was the original puppeteer in Fantasyland? It certainly wasn't Stromboli. He didn't show up until 1984. And am I the only one who wonders why Stromboli's wagon doesn't sell puppets??? Maybe it's part of the terms of his probation!

It turns out that the original puppetmaster was Bob Mills. The following is a wonderful article from 1991 that was published in the Disneyland Line employee newsletter. I wish every Disneyland Line could be this informational!

A feel that a couple of points should be clarified or updated:

Bob has since retired from his career as a makeup artist according to IMDB; hopefully he is in good health and the retirement was his choice and not the undertaker's.

The article mentions that Bob worked at Children's Fairyland in Oakland prior to coming to Disneyland. Another early Disneylander, Dorothy Manes, was hired from there also. Based on what other information I've found (thanks Progressland!) she was still working at Disneyland in 1970 and presumably retired prior to 1975 since she isn't listed as a Club 55 member in park literature from that year. I'm not sure, but I think she was the youth group coordinator. She passed away in 1984.

I wish I could tell you more, but that's all Walt wrote.

Next time: What does the Indiana Jones Adventure have to do with Las Vegas and Norse Mythology?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Close Encounter...

...of the Tomorrowland Kind.

Circles of Excellence was a program that was launched at the park in 1991-ish. One of the outcomes was a proliferation of departmental newsletters such as this one:

These may have been the orginal (but definitely in the first few years) Grad Nite Blast Offs. The intent was to allow Grad Niters that had come from far off places to come into the park early to relieve some of the crowding at the main entrance and to get food (and maybe a ride or two). The original Blast Offs were probably held at The Space Place. Mmmm...Cottage Fries...

Put on your thinking caps--this one is no piece of cake:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Instantaneous Capacity Study

Not a very exciting title for a first post, but this schedule reminder is the first concrete evidence I have of planning for the "Second Gate". Imagineering had been planning a second gate at least as early as 1988 (which is when I attended a presentation by Imagineer, Jeff Kurtii, where the idea was mentioned as an upcoming project).

The Second Gate was probably intended to be Westcot at the time of this study, but I think that the plans were still top secret in July of 1992. The information collected from the study was intended to be used to determine capacities of food and merchandise locations at the Second Gate.

So what is an "Instantaneous Capacity Study"? My memory is a little fuzzy but I think it was basically a report of how many people were at each particular location at various times throughout the day. For example, my assignment might have been New Orleans Square Restaurants. At set times I would be responsible for counting the number of people waiting in line at the French Market, sitting on the French Market patio, using the New Orleans restrooms, and inside Marche aux Fleurs.

I can only guess that Paul Pressler and friends didn't use these studies for planning DCA, based on the number of restaurants that were shuttered in the early days of that park.

Next time we'll visit the original Stromboli and catch a puppet show in Fantasyland.