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Why For? : Enjoy a Kreuzfahrt down the Rhine on Epcot's never-built Germany boat ride

Why For? : Enjoy a Kreuzfahrt down the Rhine on Epcot's never-built Germany boat ride

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Okay. Picking up where we left off last week (when JHM readers actually came forward with answers to earlier "Why For" questions), it would appear that veteran Disney animator Bill Justice actually *WAS* wrong about the origin of that "Applecore ... Baltimore" gag that's featured so prominently in the studio's January 1952 animated short, "Donald Applecore."

During an interview I had with Mr. Justice back in the early 1990s, Bill claimed that this memorable bit of business was something that he and the other gagmen had invented specifically for "Donald Applecore." Well, if that was really the case, then please explain this e-mail from Jeff D.:

Hi Jim--

I don't know the exact origin of the whole "Applecore-Baltimore" thing, but--

The gag was used prior to "Donald Applecore" -- back in "Melody Time" during the Johnny Appleseed sequence. It is incorporated into the song the pioneers are singing during the Apple Jubilee. This at least proves that the whole thing didn't originate with the Donald short.

Love your site--keep up the great work!

Jeff D.

And you know what? Jeff D.'s right. I pulled out my copy of "Melody Time" (which was originally released 'way back on May 27, 1948) and fast forwarded to the "Legend of Johny Appleseed" sequence. And -- sure enough -- here are all this animated settlers square dancing to a tune that prominently features the refrain "Applecore? Baltimore! Bite that apple to the core!"

So -- if Disney didn't really invent this intriguing bit of business -- then who did? To be honest, I'm not sure. But -- a recent e-mail from Charles suggests that this gag may go back a whole lot further than the 1940s.

Thanks to Google, Charles was able to unearth a letter that had been written by a man who was born in 1892. In part of this letter, the man -- as he reminisces with an old friend about what they used to do in the school yard back when they were kids -- listed some of their favorite games:

When I began to recall the events that you and I shared, starting almost 60 years ago, it took some mental gymnastics to reach that far back--probably to the second grade in Miss Birdie Brock's room.

I remember the favorite time for the two of us in those days was recess. Besides tag football and softball, we added "One-and-over," "Keepers marbles," "Apple core, Baltimore" and a demolition derby we played with spinning tops in a circle.

According to Charles, the letter in question was written back in 1990. So -- if you take into account that reference to "almost 60 years ago" (as well as assuming that the author of this letter was just 7 years old when he originally attended second grade) -- that would suggest that this "Applecore Baltimore" game was still a fairly popular schoolyard game in the late 1920s / early 1930s.

Charles also (again, thanks to Google) came up with a fairly funny story about how this "Applecore! Baltimore!" actually ended up in both "Melody Time" as well as "Donald Applecore." According to the amusing anecdote that this loyal JHM reader recently unearthed:

... that classically cryptic "Apple core! Baltimore!" joke (the one you have seen in the old Chip and Dale shorts with Donald Duck). I once asked one of the old Disney animators what it meant, and he just shrugged and said, "I never understood it either -- Walt told us to put it in."

Those of you who'd like to read the above Googled quotes in context, Charles was nice enough to provide the appropriate links. A full length version of that letter that looks back on childhood games circa 1930 can be found here. And those of you who'd like to read for that "Walt told us to put it in" story will want to visit here.

Before we continue here, let me offer up a special thanks to Charles. For really going above and beyond the call to uncover a definitive answer to this particular Disney-related trivia question.

Okay. Moving on now ... let's deal with the somewhat more bizarre question. I.E. What's the deal with those "Wuzzle" costumes that keep popping up in movies and on the tube? Are they the real deal? The actual costumes that Disney cast members used to wear back in the mid-to-late 1980s, when they'd walk around the theme parks and portray Bumble-Lion and Eleroo?

And the answer is ... apparently yes.

I've had a number of veteran Disneyland employees chime in over the past few weeks. And each of them told me pretty much the same tale. That -- back in the mid-1990s -- the Mouse sold off a large number of older, worn costumes that the Disney Company used to use in the theme park. Both to clear out some old inventory as well as create some room on the racks.

Now somehow (and no one seems to know exactly how this happened ) the "Wuzzle" costumes ended up in the middle of that pile of old theme park outfits that Mickey sold off. When this error was brought to Disneyland execs' attention, they supposedly shrugged it off. After all, what's the worst thing that could happen in this situation?

What these Disney executives hadn't counted on was that these "Wuzzle" walk-around character costumes would eventually end up in the hands of one of Hollywood's top costume houses. Supposedly Western Costume of North Hollywood, CA. So -- for the past two or three years -- Western Costume has reportedly been renting these "Wuzzle" outfits out to any production that's looking for Disney-esque costumes to use in their film, video or TV shoot.

And -- based on the e-mails that I've been getting over the past two or three weeks -- these "Wuzzle" costumes have really been getting around. Witness this note from Sketch105:

The movie "Old School" with Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and Luke Wilson features a cameo appearance by the infamous Eleroo costume...Theres a birthday party sequence where the boys are hosting a party for Vince Vaughn's character's son, and on of them is dressed in the costume. It also appears in a deleted scene on the dvd, and they refer to it as "the elephant" costume.

As well as this note from Dan Alexander:

Hey Jim,

I've been wondering about the Wuzzle costumes also-----because they also appeared in an episode of the sitcom "Grounded for Life" a while back in an episode that was a take-off of "Gay Days" at Disney parks. The characters on the show were at a theme park (not a Disney park) with the Wuzzles in the background.

I think they may have been on an episode of "Malcolm in the Middle" as well.

Yes, Disney did have costumes for the Wuzzles----they made an appearance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on a Disney Float. I'm thinking Disney must have sold off these costumes to make money, since they wouldn't be used to promote the show in the parks (maybe like what they are doing with the stuff on Ebay).

As far as Disney not getting mad about their usage-----maybe today's Disney executives don't know who the Wuzzles are.

One wonders what the folks back in Burbank are going to do now. Once word gets back to them about how these "Wuzzle" walk-around costumes were supposedly accidentally sold off. More importantly, how these outfits are now being used to make fun of the Walt Disney Company. Do you suppose that the Mouse will then attempt to do a little damage control? Maybe contact Western Costume and see if they can buy back these "Wuzzle" costumes?

Continuing with expanding on earlier "Why For" questions ... in response to that photo that we ran back on August 29th (as part as Rob S.'s explanation about the precise location of the entrance of Epcot's long-postponed "Rhine River Ride"), JHM columnist Andrea Monti (AKA Mickeyfantasmic) recently sent along a note that offered up quite a bit more information about this cancelled World Showcase attraction.

At the resort where I was staying this summer, I encountered a Chef de range who used to work at Alfredo's over in EPCOT from 1983 to 1987. This gentleman and I had a number of conversations about that theme park. I really gave him the third degree. Pumping him for information for anything and everything he knew about Epcot. And this guy had some really interesting things to say about the park's proposed Rhine River Ride.

He did confirm that Epcot's Germany pavilion had a huge empty space inside of it and that this area was often used for storage and/or rehearsals. (How'd he know this? Because Alfredo's backside is actually face to face with this area in the German pavilion.)

When I asked this guy for specifics on the Rhine River Ride, he said he didn't have any. Other than to say -- during the time when he worked at Epcot -- every World Showcase pavilion was supposed to get its very own ride or show. Italy was supposed to have gotten a gondola ride (probably something similar to the one featured in TDS's Mediterranean Harbor area), Japan was supposed to have gotten its infamous "Meet the World" Carousel-of-Progress type show, while Germany was supposed to have gotten something that was modeled after "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Since I didn't really get of new info out of this guy (But what did I expect? After all, this Chef de range worked in a restaurant. Not as an Imagineer), I was kind of frustrated. But -- after reading today's "Why For" article -- I had a brainstorm.

You see, Jim, I know ******** ********. Who's the *** ******** at Gardaland, Italy's leading theme park. And (20 years or so ago) this guy used to be an Imagineer who worked on both EPCOT and TDL.

So I called him just before I started writing this email to you and asked him what he knew about the Rhine River Ride. ******** said -- according to the original plans for this proposed World Showcase attraction -- Epcot guests would have boarded "Maelstrom"-like boats for a simulated night-time river cruise. The ride's first scene would have taken WDW visitors through a faux Black Forest. And then -- from there -- things would have gotten downright operatic.

What do I mean by that, Jim? Well, the storyline of this proposed German attraction would have been loosely based on characters and situations featured in Wagner's epic opera, "Der Ring des Nibelungen." So among the set pieces you were supposed to have floated past was a large statue of Odin, the northern god of ice and cold winds. (Cue the wind effects here.) You would also allegedly have seen a scene of the mighty Siegfried receiving the Ring from the elves as well as the Valkyries (complete with Wagner music if ******* was telling me the truth). The attraction's conclusion? A final plunge through the elves' caves of gold.

This concept admittedly was quite different from the one that you'd described in your original article about Epcot's Rhine River Ride. The one that would have taken Epcot guests on a scenic cruise past miniature recreations of various tourist spots in Germany. But maybe this version of the ride was created after Epcot Center opened, when Disney officials realized that they seriously needed to up the thrill & fun quotient at WDW's newest theme park.

What I really find intriguing is that -- even though Disney opted not to go forward with construction of Epcot's Rhine River Ride -- that this concept still survived long enough to serve as the inspiration for Norway's "The Maelstrom" ride. It looks like -- in this case, anyway -- all the Imagineers did was replace the elves with trolls and ... Presto Changeo! Epcot's World Showcase had its first not-so-thrilling thrill ride.

Anyway ... I just thought that I'd share what I'd heard with JHM readers. Look for another full-sized story from me sometime later this month, okay?

Speaking of JimHillMedia.com's old stalwarts: Some of you may have heard that it was my ex-wife, Michelle Smith (AKA the Fabulous Disney Babe), who (along with Jon Nadelberg) actually started up JimHillMedia.com back in August of last year. Well, starting next week, Michelle will go from being defacto publisher of JHM to contributing a regular column to the site. Her first article will supposedly be an in-depth report about the ABC Preview event that was held last weekend at DCA.

And -- in addition to contributing a new column to JimHillMedia.com -- among the other projects that Michelle will soon be starting up at JHM will be her very own line of Disneyland tours. In fact, next Sunday afternoon, Fab will be holding the beta test of her new set of DL tours. So -- if you'd like to be among the first to get in on the fun (Michelle's Disneyland tours used to be incredibly popular with her LaughingPlace.com readers) -- drop me a line here and I'll pass along the particulars.

On the other hand, if you're just not able to make it out to Anaheim this coming weekend ... Well, starting this coming Monday, the Learning Tree University is offering an on-line version of my ex's extremely well received Disney history class, "Manufacturing the Magic: History of the American Theme Park." If you'd like a little more information about Michelle's class, follow this link and then scroll down to the on-line classes offered under the "Recreation" heading.

Beyond that ... Michelle now tells me that (unfortunately) it's that time again. Time to pass the hat, that is.

Look, I won't lie to you, folks. I don't like asking for contributions. I honestly wish that JimHillMedia.com were in a position to start paying for itself. But it's not ... yet. Maybe in a few months that will change. But -- for now -- JHM has to rely on the generosity of nice people like you in order to keep our doors open.

So do me a favor, okay? If you like the stuff that you've been reading at this website over the past few months, please kick in a couple of bucks. That way, my ex-wife will get off my back. And I can then get back to what I'm supposed to be doing ... which is churning out even more long winded stories about the Walt Disney Company and the entertainment industry for all of you nice people.

Okay. That's it for this week, kids. Be sure to drop by the site this weekend for another intriguing two-part column by Jim Korkis (about Ub Iwerks, no less) that you won't want to miss out on.

See you on Monday, okay?

jrh

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