Monday, December 30, 2013

Give A Little Whistle Whilst Two Fathoms Deep

"Passengers taking this favorite river steamer will embark on a romantic story-book cruise of our American Rivers, enjoying elegant scenery and interesting views of many historical places."

ircumnavigating the waters of the Rivers of America in all of her graceful majesty, she was the first paddle steamer to be built in the U.S. in over 50 years - and simply because Mr. Disney and his talented crew made it so.  Well before the incongruous phenomenon of Disneyland's Dapper Day, there still existed the Mark Twain Riverboat – since four days prior to opening day in 1955, in fact - departing daily and nightly.  A quarter of a century later, the Mark Twain has persevered, offering generously to its passengers a plethora of one-of-a-kind experiences. 

    Besides the sheer kick out of actually being on a steamroller in Southern California, I offer you examples what else the Mark Twain Riverboat has to offer. Let's see if you've been fortunate enough to have enjoyed some of these: nightly musical performances of Monette Moore and her Dixieland jazz band (and with special guests like Louis Armstrong!), ragtime piano players tickling the ivory keys with Happy Birthday songs for celebrating Guests, 30th wedding anniversary parties, reveling in the beauty of the boat's midway lighting reflecting on the Rivers of America as it eases through the rural backwoods of the quiet Frontier, floating along with the Disneyland marching band rum-pa-pumming their soulful opus live from the bow, leaning against the railing of the Texas deck while watching the water tumble across the paddlewheel and allowing yourself to be baptized by the steaming stacks and good smells of food and kerosene, a birds eye view of the Plantation House Restaurant and then of New Orleans Square, appreciating a sightseer's paradise for spotting the Rivers' magnificent wildlife and a burning cabin and a cascading peak, too!, a deck to wave hello from above to paddling canoers, bobbing keel boat passengers, fort explorers and young fishermen alike, and being witness to one of the most beautiful and inspiring visuals a Disneyland show has ever brought us; Steamboat Willie piloting the Mark Twain in that unforgettable Fantasmic! grand finale. 

I'm totally waving, right now.

    And still, with all of these mentioned, there is one delight I have carefully left unsaid. Its reveal is something I share with you as one of the most sacred of Disneyland experiences and is honestly so significant, it's deserving of its very own blog post.

Just subtract about 40 years...
    Imagine, if you can, holding all of that rich history in your very own hands. Incredible that it could fit there, right? Well, get this - YOU CAN, and at no upcharge! Similar to being passenger on the Disneyland Railroad's Lilly Belle observation car (but quite a bit more appropriate if you're looking for an early taste of a bone fide Disneyland experience), you and/or a limited party are allowed to partake as first mate to the Mark Twain Riverboat's Captain while up in the wheelhouse for a route around the Rivers of America. All you have to do is request to ride with the Captain at the dock gate prior to boarding. You'll likely have to hang out on the dock few go-rounds while you wait your turn, because this surely isn't a secret, but I promise you, it's wholly worthwhile. I know this, because Eric and I have recently had the pleasure for the very first time.

    The experience on this Mississippi stern-wheeler is unique in its isolation of civilization and also in its isolation from the passage of time. Though some parts of the Mark Twain lie mysteriously quiet while fraught with almost-forgotten moments from the past, standing in the wheelhouse of this legendary riverboat only solidifies that a trip on the Mark Twain is one of the last truly authentic and originally intended experiences of Walt Disney's Disneyland. In true WED style, the Captain's Quarters of the Mark Twain is an all-inclusive class act and revives not only the spirit of the romantic era, but also the golden days of Mr. Disney's empire. Complete with bed, sink, and wall-lined photos of Mr. Disney enjoying his time on the paddle steamer he mortgaged his summer home for, the energy in the wheelhouse is heartfelt and reminds you first-hand that in that little space, the park that Mr. Disney built is still very much alive.
... and voila!
Not only is there a giant wooden ship's wheel you can steer, a view from every angle and a working door that leads straight out to the roof (that is off-limits), you also have the opportunity to sign the guestbook and leave your sentiments for years to come. As an added bonus, just when you're ready to make your way back to land, you are awarded with your very own Captain's Certificate! My favorite part of all, however, are the dangling pull-chains (you know, the ones that also go straight to my heart) that trigger the Mark Twain's bell and whistle - and my dream came true when I learned that they allow you to personally operate them, per instruction, too!
  I must say, besides the undeniable feeling of genuineness up in the wheelhouse and enjoying the Rivers of America from a never before seen perspective, nothing will quite beat the thrill of ringing the bell and blowing the whistle of the Mark Twain Riverboat alongside Mr. Disney and with my very best friend.

    Disneyland has become respected and established enough to reach is goal of preserving and transcending the history and global awareness it was purposed around, and is now just as historically significant in its own rite. We have things like the Mark Twain Riverboat to thank for that, and also, the elusive fans on the inside that still fight for Mr. Disney in a time when gross commercialism suffocates a once factually magical oasis of artistic craft and impossible ideas come to fruition. Every time you hear the bell and whistle of the Mark Twain Riverboat, remember, it is most likely a sound prompted by a fortuitous Guest helping to keep Walt Disney's Disneyland alive, whether they realize it or not. Make sure that at least one of those times, it's you!

Plainly, all this excitement has my world completely upside-down.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holiday Grinnin' To Follow The Sun!

t's happened once more - Christmas time has come upon us.  And so, we dedicate: to art, friendship, wellness and family - those we've been gifted by blood and those we've earned by circumstance.  We hope this season brings to you and yours the merriest and the brightest there is to offer in the great Frontier of life - and in tartans and leathers, too!



Friday, October 11, 2013

Conjuring an Anaheim Ritual

omething is brewing down in the dungeons of ‘…But It Wasn’t Always That Way’. Rest assured in peace, our recent absence has been a silence of just cause. We’ve been busy, you see – Not lost in a steam-powered time slip to the Primeval World, nor have we lost our heads to the enigmatic Jungle tradesman (not literally, at least). Ginger and I have been getting our hands dark and dirty with the 89th annual Anaheim Halloween Parade! We’ve spent our weekends painting, constructing, laboring, and loving... all in the spirit of our favorite Celtic carousal: Hallowe’en!

The parade itself has an older history than its neighboring attraction, Disneyland, and one that is just as rich in the cultural roots of the city of Anaheim (which, by the way, we learned was named by the Germans for its ‘view’ of the Santa ‘Anas’). Debuting in 1924, the parade was once an honored and thriving tradition of the then-small town of Anaheim, particularly in the 1950’s. Excitement and efforts for the parade have waned since the 1980’s, but this year the design team of Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily have gotten their talented and mischievous little claws on the production, and hope to steer the parade right back to its gory-ous luster!

When the cat and witch together are seen, there's mischeif brewing on Hallowe'en.

You’ve surely seen the illustrious results of Kevin & Jody’s talent if you’ve been to Disneyland lately. Besides supplying hungry vintage Disneyland nerds like us with sweet morsels of retrofitted merchandise and art found in the Disney Gallery, they designed the Soundsational Parade currently running every day in the park. They are also responsible for the drink-supplying tiki paradise, Trader Sam’s, located in the Disneyland Hotel. (Don’t act like you haven’t enjoyed the fruits of that labor.) Most recently, the pair bestowed their talents to Tokyo Disneyland’s 30th Anniversary Parade, ‘Happiness Is Here’.  In short, these gentleman know design, they know parades, and they are a force to be reckoned with this All Hallow’s Eve. For more proof on the matter, just sift through their facebook page for a minute (or a hundred) and see Mr. Kidney’s blog.
You would laugh too if you had seen what the Moon saw on Hallowe'en!
Enjoying the art of these two visionaries is only half as sweet as experiencing it first hand. Not only do Ginger and I get to frolic around in a fountain of Hallowe’en spoils, we’ve been able to do so under such inspiring and esteemed artisans as Kevin & Jody. And if it wasn’t enough that I could howl their praises all night, we’ve also had the fortune of working with a wonderful team of people as well. Builders, craftsmen, artists, and enthusiasts… They’re all just the loveliest townfolk you could ever dream of celebrating your favorite time of year with.

One touch of the wand and elves appear on Hallowe'en, but have no fear... They only come for mischief and fun. This night is their's till the rising sun...
The spotlight tale of this parade is one of hope and rebirth; hope that it will once again flourish and stir the community with a sense of celebration, bringing them together once again as it did half a century ago to regale in one of history’s most colorful, diverse, and spirited holidays. With the event still weeks away, the community really has come together and already shown that the Anaheim Halloween Parade has plenty of (after)life coursing through its veins. Pretty retro, i’n’t it? I can’t say enough times how enriching it is to be a part of it, and the great news is: Anyone can! The parade – preparation and execution – is open to any and all. You’ll never hear the phrase “room for one more” in our spookhouse; there's room for everyone! The more, the scarier!

If you should see a spook or two, you shouldn't let it frighten you...
One final thought: It would be unfair, if not controversial, to compare anyone to Mr. Disney, but I will say that this experience has brought me a stone’s throw closer to knowing the excitement and distinction of manufacturing within that holy grail of rooms, the Imagineering Department. You know, that simplest of office spaces always seen in the old Disneyland specials….
With the likes of Mary Blair, Rolly Crump, Marc Davis and so on just going about their crafty little business. It’s quite an acclimation to make that kind of lofty comparison, but with so many talented and friendly people under the same roof, toiling away with such merriment and cheer as they do, all for the love of Hallowe’en and the encouragement of Kevin & Jody’s artistic prowess, you can’t help but feel the grandeur of it. We truly are making magic. Black, of course.

See you on Saturday, October 26th!


Friday, June 28, 2013

'it's time we're aware'

have always loved rainbows.  Bright, effervescent colors leaning trustingly upon eachother in a complimentary camaraderie while arcing over our heads as if they feel the earth beneath is in need of a great big hug and a lot of love. And mostly, it really is.  Not surprisingly, Mr. Disney knew this and beginning in 1964 at the New York World's Fair, 'it's a small world' became the perfect place to go if you planned on chasing rainbows. While gilded on the outside in gold, white and kinetic energy when it was moved to Disneyland in 1966,  'it's a small world' is the quintessential celebration of the rainbow as a symbol of unity on the inside; the marriage of visual and aural feel-good sensations, resonating with - as Richard Sherman has emphasized so many times before - "a prayer for peace".

  As if to further the celebration, Imagineers incorporated a trailing rainbow lighting effect against the 'it's a small world' facade that appears as the Disneyland Railroad train passes through it, beginning in 2009.  This effect is lovely and, believe it or not, has become one of my favorite things about 'it's a small world'.  Sadly, it only works about half of the time. After a recent long and lonely hiatus, Eric and I were pleased to find it back in action during last weekend's Disneyland trip to wish Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room a "Happy 50th Birthday!".  It wasn't until this past Wednesday that I realized the return of the rainbow facade effect was the perfect precursor to another cause the rainbow is prominently and suitably used as a symbol for: Equal Rights.

  'it's a small world' teaches us that there is just one moon and one golden sun and that we can only get somewhere if we work together.  The fight for same-sex marriage has been a long one, but one more state has picked up on that message and now has a milestone to celebrate.  As residents of California, we are proud to show our support to the people that have been strong enough to stand up for themselves and their right to be whomever they want to be, and we are also proud to have been part of it. In the way that 'it's a small world' so innocently depicts, it is only under the beauty of a rainbow that we can truly find a world of hope, peace, unity and - most importantly- love.  But now, instead of the marriage of visual and aural, it will be marriage in the name of love - for everyone.  What better place to celebrate that kind of victory than in the land of Mr. Disney's Disneyland. Rainbows, I just love them.

A heartfelt congratulations, California!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Little Rain Must Fall

"Welcome to the magic kingdom of Disneyland. 
We're sorry that the weather is not more pleasant but you can still find much to see and do here." 
- Disneyland Rainy Day Announcement, featuring Jack Wagner 

Clearly, Eric is just as inspired by the rain as I am!
 'm pretty sure I wore my little red Bambi Read-Along cassette tape raw because of how many times I rewound the song "Little April Showers".  Sure, I loved Bambi and that trademark Disney chorale sound, but when I pushed play on a rainy day, I would sit at home behind the sliding glass doors (opened to just the screen) in an indian-style position, with my beloved Fisher Price tape player in my lap,  just to entertain the bursting rain drops bouncing off the backyard patio cement and daydream about how it was probably raining in Disneyland, too.   

  Never being caught in a Disneyland rainstorm before then, I'm willing to guess that my curiosity blossomed while tilting my head back and being lulled by the swinging rain boot-clad feet of the glamorously carefree Teddi Barra as she took the spotlight during 'Singin' in The Rain' during the Country Bear Vacation Hoedown. In fact, just thinking about her makes me pretty cheerful, myself! Or, perhaps, I was charmed from the several lucky viewings I had already enjoyed of the Water Birds episode from the Walt Disney's True Life Adventures series. Either way, I knew Mr. Disney's park transformed into a different world during the rainfall and I longed to be there just as much as I would on a sunny day.  Some things never change...

Here, Eric takes a page from Goofy's book
and demonstrates what happens when
you do NOT properly prepare for the
rain on a visit to Disneyland. We've
learned since 2005, of course.
  As I've become old enough to enjoy the spoils of adulthood (and being a Disneyland Annual Passholder),  taking off on my own adventure to enjoy a rainy day at Disneyland has become a rare and highly anticipated treat, and believe you, me, I've been keeping a close watch on the weather for a token from this notoriously rainy season!  With hot chocolate in hand, I could travel on the Disneyland Railroad all day just watching the Mickey Mouse rain ponchos and umbrellas whir by while listening to the water beat upon the train roof, or take shelter underneath the cover of The Hungry Bear Restaurant deck and follow the paths of the rain droplets as they become the Rivers of America.  I assure you, there is no better time than this to take a tour of The Haunted Mansion, nor to venture on a bobsled escape from an Abominable Snowman through and around the Matterhorn, nor a boat tour scouring the untamed wilds of The Jungle Cruise.  And how lovely it is to see a just-rained on Disneyland freckled with only a handful of water-brave Guests determined to get their moneys worth - some of whom just might enjoy a wet Disneyland in the same way I do.  I fully recommend you pull on your galoshes, prepare wisely, and find out for yourself.  

  Something about the rain falling onto Disneyland accentuates the life it has taken on all by itself, despite being created by human hands some 57 years ago.  It gives it life, depth and peace.  It is one of few instances where the marriage of our every day reality and the escapism that Disneyland so graciously lends to us is not only comforting, but simply beautiful.  What a glorious feelin'.

*Special thanks to our mouskefriend, TokyoMagic, for the Rainy Day Announcement sound clip!*

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hang a Lantern in Your Window

ny other household in America tuning in to ABC for the live broadcast of Disneyland's Grand Opening could tell straight away - just like Mr. Disney could - that Annette Funicello, the little pirouetting Mouseketeer, was well on her way to becoming America's newest sweetheart.  But in one particular household there was an 11 year old girl watching the show who pursed her lips at the sight of Annette and decided from that moment forward, she couldn't stand her.
  Unlike most classic Disney fans, I do not have the privilege of saying that I have been a lifelong fan of Annette's.  The reason is simple: that precocious 11- year-old I told you about grew up and became my Mother.  I was raised on the principal that Annette was 'annoying' and was discouraged to have anything to do with her.  She was almost a taboo subject if I brought her up to my Mom, the only real Disney fan in my family, and I would simply get a dismissive response and the only time I heard my Mom say something thoughtful about Annette was when we would hear about her very public illness through the media.  It didn't take long before I almost completely gave up on having any kind of relationship with this One-Named Wonder at all. However, as any curious child would do, I admired Annette from afar because she was forbidden. On Hawaiian Day in our Kindergarten class, I shook my hula skirt to her version of 'Hukilau' and loved every illicit note of it ('Ama'ama and all).  On every mandatory visit to Disneyland's Tinker Bell Toy Shoppe, I would press my little nose against the glass case when no one was looking and say 'hello' to the Madame Alexander doll donning a Mickey Mouse Club outfit as I pondered the secrets she held from me.  I will never be privvy to the reasons behind my Mother's harsh snap judgement against this adorable little girl, but I can only laugh and deduce that Annette and my mother were only a few years apart in age and shared the same perky attitude, short thick curly hair and pronounced eyebrows.  My Mom is my hero and she will always be the winner to me, but I gotta admit - she certainly knew who her competition was.

Paying homage at Disneyland's
Tomorrowland Stage. Come
along and dance with us!
  It took me a long time to talk myself into understanding Annette. It wasn't until several years ago, when Eric and I began delving deeper into Disneyland's history, that I finally found what I was looking for in Annette after all these years of separation: a boy-crazy Scorpio girly-girl who I would love to become friends with.  Attending D23's 'Destination D: 'Disneyland '55' Mickey Mouse Club panel in 2010 was a major turning point for me when I realized how adored Annette was, but it wasn't even until this past year, thanks to the kindness of like-minded Annette fans, that I finally came to understand what everyone's been talking about all this time. Let me just say, the car trips home from Disneyland would not be the same without raising the 'ruff' with the big fat beat, and Eric and I are both better Mouskepeople because of it.

  Today, part of Mr. Disney's legacy dies with Annette Funicello.  We should all be so lucky to have had someone like Annette to share with the world - no matter what length of time each one of us had with her.  She is the face of Mr. Disney's empire, the voice of a teener generation, a living Disneyland fixture and she had the best hair and beach body I have ever seen.  I feel fortunate to have been given the chance to celebrate Annette while she was alive and I am am proud to spend the rest of my life discovering and being captivated by her - she'll make a lifelong fan out of me yet!

  If you are interested in helping support the fight against Multiple Sclorosis, the infamously devoted and incredibly talented Kevin Kidney teamed up with Zazzle last year and created Annette's Place, featuring some groovy choose-your-own-adventure style Annette merchandise that I highly recommend (though I'm still hoping for a version of Disneyland After Dark Annette - hint, hint!). As taken directly from the site: "All proceeds fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological diseases."

  Annette, thank you for giving us things to smile about and reasons to dance. We'll be sure to hang a lantern in our window just for you.  You do what nobody can do.

In Memory of Annette Joanne Funicello
                                              October 22, 1942 - April 8, 2013

"C" Ya Real Soon,
Eric & Ginger

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Love Will Live, Love Will Last

ebruary has to be one of my favorite months.  The new year finally begins to solidify, stores fill with the aroma of blooming flowers and bouncing balloons baring tidings of devotion, papered and celluloid goodies pop up in pinks and reds of all shades and - most importantly - the Holiday crowds disappear as quickly as they came and give our beloved Disneyland a chance to breathe for a little while.  Yes, February is the perfect time of year for a romantic, like me.

  In the spirit of this amorous season, I offer you one of the most precious Disneyland home videos on the internet.  This earnest love letter, written and preserved on magnetic tape, shows this Happy Place through the eyes of a group of friends that surely adore each other and their time spent in Mr. Disney's park.  With notable cameos from Disneyland's 35th anniversary parking lot catwalk, the Town Square CafĂ© patio and a pair of tight white pants, this video, simply entitled 'Disneyland 1987', imparts all of the elements that make the world go 'round: Friendship, Love, Fun and Happiness... and all in the original Magic Kingdom.  Be still, my beating heart! 


Friday, January 25, 2013

Now That's REAL Country, Boy!

“it’s a small world” has been honoring various countries for nearly 50 years. The great nations of the world have found a home here in Mr. Disney’s iconic contribution to the 1964 New York World’s Fair – a world of worlds with a song in its soul and the collaborative artistic identity of Mary Blair, Alice Davis, Rolly Crump, and of course the (here infamous) Sherman Brothers.

I’ve recently noticed another unsung Country getting its due tribute under the gleaming gold and white spires. In fact, it’s the first Country we sail through – befitting, as it is Disneyland’s very own Country: Bear Country!

Buffalo and Moose and Deer and Bears, oh my!
It seems as though we embark for our cruise around the world straight into a bank of nostalgia. Here our old friends from the Country Bear Jamboree are silently perched to remind us of another musical community which once claimed land only a few strides away. This Country may not have had a flag, United Nations rep., or rainforest-plowing cornfields (*groan*)… But it certainly had its share of anthems, not to mention a bear-y special place in Disneyland’s history as well as our hearts.

Wishin’ bout goin’ fishin’, and still on the shore.
As many of you know, the folks at Disneyland have made a rolling tradition out of reiterating a former attraction’s glory with an enigmatic homage found in its replacement. (I say this with some trepidation because I feel that if the attraction is really worth such an honor then it shouldn’t have been scrapped so flippantly in the first place…) After the Country Bear Jamboree (1972-2001) made its final curtain call we were “treated” to a bleak “nod” inside the catacombs of the Winnie the Pooh “attraction”. The three gaping heads of Max, Buff, and Melvin are stuffed unceremoniously on a back wall. Once lustered singing trophies, they now resemble decapitated taxidermy… I’ll say it again, these homages are bittersweet at best.

However, the topiary statues at “it’s a small world” feel like a more dignified honor. These west side residents – bears, trophy heads… and skunk! - are sorely missed (much more, it seems, than most other defunct Disneyland attractions) and deserve such respect. Now... I'll reluctantly admit that the topiaries could be a coincidence, but if folks'll bend over backwards to identify three adjacent circles as a 'Hidden Mickey', then I think we can all make room on our score card for this fuzzy find. So next time you sail around our small world, be sure to give a duteous (non-standing) salute to the great musical nation of Bear Country! 

Alright... One, Two, Three..!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

For The Sake Of Old Times

he idea of 'change' is a heavy-weighted subject, especially when you run a blog with a title like '... But It Wasn't Always That Way!', and when it's time for the New Year to roll around again, that's the big subject on everyone's mind. Along with your resolutions for 2013, we hope you bring not only our wishes of prosperity, but a small reminder that 'change' is only worth what you pay to make it with and sometimes some things are truly perfect exactly the way that they are.

We will be taking the time machine back to Disneyland during late 1980's this coming weekend to seek out our own version of perfection. With that in mind, we felt it only appropriate to send you off into the bright and brilling 2013 with a little 80's pizazz...

Like, have a totally awesome New Year!