Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Here To Change The World

n this day of August 29th, we bring forth a loving celebration of Michael Jackson’s Birthday. And what better place to throw a party for him then on a Disneyland blog labored by a pair of avid Walt Disney fans? Growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s like we did, there were two things every kid worshipped: Disneyland and Michael Jackson, and that is in no order, and with no exception. Even if you were a child in the 50’s, 60’or 70’s, you were lucky enough to grow up alongside Disneyland and Michael Jackson, considering he was alive – and then, famous - for almost as long as Disneyland has been around.  And it comes as no surprise that the two are synonymous with each other these days, and those days too; Michael had a great role model.

I have such admiration for Mr. Walt Disney and what he accomplished with the help of so many talented artists. When I think of a joy he and his company have brought millions of children & adults the world over, I am in awe.” – MJ, 1984

Like most of us, Michael’s love for Mr. Disney and Disneyland began at a very young age. Of course, it doesn’t take long for an artist to spot their kindred. Given Michael’s young start in show business and his tumultuous childhood, it's probable that Disneyland simply brought Michael the same thing it brings to all of us... a little permission to just be ourselves. Michael also idolized Mr. Disney’s businessmanship and creativity so much that Jackie Jackson has been quoted saying, "(Michael) always studied Walt Disney. He loved Walt Disney. He read books on him every day on the road. He worshipped the guy." It is with great pride that we can say Michael Jackson was not only one of the greatest entertainers of our time, and even as untouchable as he seemed to be, he was also one of US.

Just like artists (and usually one-in-the-same), Disneyland aficionados can also spot each other right away. Even without the blaring attribute of Michael’s very own home, Neverland Ranch, complete with a main entrance homage to Disneyland and steam train (giving Grand Circle Tours!), it’s easy recognize that Michael knew how to hang with Disneyland’s finest. A fan photo with Ward and Betty Kimball or an after-hours snapshot as a passenger on a Main Street Omnibus couldn’t be more suitable examples. Michael knew the who’s and the how’s of Disneyland's heartbeat because he loved and understood art and the social struggle the world has in order to find inner happiness. The playful-yet-powerful message in his music perpetuates this, and therein live the fibers of a true Disneyland aficionado.

When we were kids and we'd hear the news report a 'Michael Jackson sighting' at Disneyland earlier that day (which was always top news!), MJ would suddenly upgrade all of his talent - as if that had even been possible! - and transform into a magical creature simply by merging with the most fantastical thing we knew, and the world had significantly changed. But - as we’ve come to find with our research - Michael Jackson had been changing the world long before we were in it.

It’s quite appropriate that the first words the world ever heard Michael Jackson sing were to ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’, as the opening track of The Jackson 5’s debut album, ‘Diana Ross presents The Jackson 5' back in 1969. 

Not long after, MJ’s first official Disneyland-related appearance happened in ‘Sandy in Disneyland’, an incredible 1974 Disneyland TV special starring Sandy Duncan. Young Michael is aboard the Sailing Ship Columbia (as the former ruler of the Queen’s navy!) with The Jackson 5. We’ve seriously never wanted to dance on the closed grate to the Sailing Ship's below-deck museum more in our entire lives and we do so every time we can:

And just a few years later in 1980, we find Michael in yet another Disneyland TV Special, helping celebrate Disneyland’s 30th Birthday – kalamazoo style. I bet you want to stand on that rock now, don’t you? It looks more inviting on every visit:

Fortunately for us, the best was yet to come and we were about to be lucky enough to take part in it. In 1986, and at the very height of his career, Michael Jackson made Disneyland history – and just about blew the minds of every kid alive - featuring in an actual Disneyland ATTRACTION. And, get this, it was in 3-D!!! Captain EO quickly swooped into our hearts when it crash-landed in Tomorrowland’s Magic Eye Theater, and with all the talent behind the attraction and film, what was there NOT to love?? Children began peeking beneath their purple 3-D glasses as the Supreme Leader threateningly snapped her claws at them and loved every moment of it. Adults enjoyed the sensational performance and appreciated the skill of the talented cast and crew. In our opinion, Captain EO is easily one of the best short films of all time. It is one of the last of its kind, style-wise; a swan song testament to an era when art that you could make with your body was more important than
Here, Eric lets us see his Gift.
what you could make a computer do. Just add the talents of Michael Jackson to that magic and you have quite a Gift on your hands. We'd also like to point out that when they pulled Captain EO from Disneyland in 1997, nothing could properly replace it. It was a pleasant surprise in 2010, even considering the many years of jeering fans begging for a re-run, when the Disney suits decided to return the attraction from its undeserved exile. It seems it's true that when an artist dies, the value of his work increases. Even as a ‘Tribute’, Captain EO still holds true to the test of time and continues to captivate us creatively and artistically each time we join this rag-tag band as they embark on their very important mission that we can "not only SEE, your highness – but HEAR!".  And speaking of aural sensations, it is also quite important to mention that this coming Friday, August 31st, marks the 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson's 'BAD' album,  including Another Part Of Me, Captain EO's featured track!

One visit to Walt Disney’s Disneyland, and you will undoubtedly end your day wanting to give immense credit, and a big fat ‘WOOOO!’, to those who created it. One of the defining assets of this land is that it “is YOUR land” and with this, we the fans find a great camaraderie with the generations of people that have grown up with and fallen in love with Disneyland on their way. One of these Guests just happens to be the late, great Michael Jackson, and on this amazing man’s Birthday it is important to remember that when Michael sang to us that he was ‘here to change the world’, he meant it, and he certainly did.

Happy Birthday, Michael Jackson. We love you.

Taken on August 29, 2012. Sort of.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bertha's Fountain of Youth

Dearest Jungle Cruise Skippers, Present and Future;

         I pray this letter finds all of you well and bright, as I understand there are risks you take every day for the better of your adventurous, and sometimes naive, crew. Yet, come snapping crocodile, hippo pod or the dangerous waters of Headhunter Territory, your bravery and prowess prove tried and true, each tour a shining triumph of exploration as you safely return to civilization. It is often you that puts the 'World Famous' into the 'World Famous Jungle Cruise'. I also understand that your job is a nearly thankless one. Your clever satire is frequently balked or mocked at, your persistent enthusiasm sometimes only a show-for-one, and you recurrently find yourself at the helm of a boat loaded with unforgiving, havoc-wreaking, civilians that loudly ask if Ducks are jungle creatures or if they, themselves, can jump in the Nile and do the backstroke (and all too often ruining your brief chance to exhibit that you've single-handedly trained the most dangerous African Bull Elephant to 'speak'). But for the integrity of the tour, you stick to your cap-guns and incorporate originality and audience participation into your spiel every way you're allowed to without getting written up. I applaud you and admire you, and I even aspire to perhaps be like you, one day. And yet, among all this praise, there is one troubling little piece of feedback I feel compelled to give you, and this is the purpose for which I am writing.

        I begin my conviction by asking you to appreciate that each time I climb aboard the Jungle Cruise, I bring with me a fresh pair of eyes and ears. I am your one-in-a-few crew members who is always listening and enjoying the sites and sounds of the Jungle River. I see everything with you and love your wisecracks and the unique way each one of you chooses to deliver them. I look forward to the next 5 exciting days and 10 romantic nights I am about to spend with you. Even though I don't often get hear about the Toucans in the Rainforest and I sorely miss the scene I barely got to know with the Hornbill being teased by hungry Crocodiles, I look past this and instead choose to accept your comfort when you assure me that the Bengal Tiger (who can jump over 25 feet!) will simply jump right over our boat. But it is next, when we enter the Elephant Bathing Pool, which determines whether I want to throw you overboard or not.

        As a seasoned explorer, you know as well as I do that it is very important to understand the "nature of the beast" for which you are about to encounter - or risk everything.  I don't expect you to know the kind of intensely geeky things I stick my nose into when it comes to Walt Disney's Disneyland. Though it would be ideal, it is not essential for you to know that if it were 50 years earlier, I'd be seated on blue velvet cushions next to you or that Bob Gurr's Rhino will be attacking our boat just around the bend. After all, this jungle adventure often just means a paycheck to some of you and nothing more. I respect that as much as I'm able to. But when we head on into the Elephant Bathing Pool, I do expect you, as my fearless leader, to be knowledgeable of one important fact and I am continually alarmed when you are not. You are my skipper and I need to trust you, my life is in your hands! There is one wisecrack many (though, not all!) of you are constantly fumbling. And here it is:
"That's Big Bertha, she's been in the shower for over 57 years... I think it's time for her to get out, look at all those wrinkles!"
(Or some type of variation on Bertha's age, thereof.)

        Frankly, it hurts to even write. Every time I hear this tidbit of misinformation, I am often so dismayed, it literally leaves me with my head in my hands. As much as I try to enjoy the rest of my tour, I can't. The more often I hear it, the more ruined my tour is each time. It also makes you look pretty silly in the bad kinda way, Skippers, and I don't like that, either. It's not that I don't like this joke, or the way you chortle after you make it, but it's a joke that works well even without any incorrect indication of Bertha's age, at all:
"And that over there is Bertha. Bertha's been in the shower just a little too long... look at all those wrinkles!"
        Yes , I did just use the words ‘misinformation' and ‘incorrect’. And with that, this Disneyland 'foamer' is about to have the audacity to educate you on the place of your own employment in order to iron out a few .. er... "wrinkles". 

        Like the rest of Disneyland, the Jungle Cruise has changed quite a bit since opening day, despite what the Mouse House tells you. It's first major (and most significant) change was in 1962 when they updated the ride by Mr. Disney's instruction, through his own direction and with the artistic and creative assistance of Mr. Marc Davis - as most things went, those days. The most significant part of this update was transforming the 'Crocodile Circle' into the 'Elephant Bathing Pool'. See where I'm getting at? Simple math tells you that even if you've cracked that Big Bertha has been in the shower for "over 50 years" instead of giving a specific number, you would still be 7 years amiss. Mr. Disney's 1962 update doesn't turn 50 until this year - and let's not go cutting corners, you guys have been misusing this joke for quite a while. Don't try and tell me that it's part of your schtick, either, because I won't buy it. Bottom line: Though the Jungle Cruise (aka Jungle River Ride) was an opening day attraction in 1955, the Elephant Bathing Pool was still just a twinkle in Mr. Disney and Mr. Davis' eye. 

        The fact that most Skippers sell this 'incorrect age' idea to crew after crew greatly upsets me because it directly effects me. Not only is it offensive to Bertha - for you should never insult a woman's age - but being a Disneyland nerd, I suffer a lot of the same type of abuse you receive on your tours. I put my heart into what I've learned about Disneyland because it is a passion and labor of love. When people find that out, they ask me ridiculous questions about pretty simple things and sometimes, just to get a rise out of me or contradict me. They also tune out after I begin speaking, even though I'm making an enthusiastic effort to entertain them with something wonderful and fascinating. When they learn incorrect information from Cast Members who actually work at Disneyland – information like Bertha being 57 years old - guests and crew alike take it as hard fact, because “Why would they lie?” and write me off as soon as I try to set them straight (and you'd be surprised at how well they are at absorbing false information!). Often, I am left feeling totally invisible in front of an unappreciative audience and yet I push forth through my mission because, like you, I need to protect my job.

        All I’m asking for here, in this open letter, is a little empathy and some mutual respect. If you promise to deliver this joke properly (or to at least put in the extra effort to say Bertha’s age in a mathematically correct manner), I promise, in return, to give you my undivided attention, laughter, and interaction each and every time we travel together, for I am one civilian that actually comes in peace. 

        Ok. Now that we’ve found common ground and you are fully knowledgeable of Bertha's Birthday, I have just one final comment to leave you with on the misrepresentation of these tyrannical age jokes, and it is presented in a way that I'm positive will resonate with you : 


I'm sorry, that was rude of me.



Friday, August 10, 2012

What's The Big Idea?!

hew! We've learned very quickly that once you start your own blog, the expression "sometimes life gets in the way" takes on a whole new meaning. Needless to say, things have been quite busy behind the scenes around here which is why you haven't heard much from us, lately. We definitely have a plethora of fantastic ideas in the works for you that we are so excited to share, and by 'in the works', I do mean you will see them very soon! However, as all quality production takes gentle care and scrupulous fact-checking - and we only want the best for our peachy-keen readers - fleshing out these ideas may occasionally take some extra time. And when life decides to get in the way, well, you've found yourself backed up by "Fate" a little. In the meanwhile, we thought we'd familiarize you with a case similar to our own most-recent haphazard blues courtesy of "no one but Donald Duck" (and the incredible talent of Burl Ives!). It seems Mr. Disney's animation studio is comforting us of our errs at being human, once again. We certainly hope your work week hasn't been as rough as Donald's was and while you float on in to your weekend, remember that you will be hearing from us soon, so enjoy your peace while it lasts, as it's nearly impossible to shut us up once we get started. Happy Friday!