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I'm not lion, folks. This may be the most gruesome edition of "Why For" yet

I'm not lion, folks. This may be the most gruesome edition of "Why For" yet

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First George K. writes in to say:

Jim

I really enjoyed today's story about the Muppet Mobile Laboratory that's going into DCA next year. But in that listing of all the "Living Character Initiative" projects that have gone into the parks already, you left out the first (and my personal favorite) : Push the walking, talking trash can.


Photo courtesy of Google Images

So could please you amend today's article so that Push finally gets the acknowledgment that he deserves, so that this talking trash can assumes his proper spot in Disney theme park history?

Dear George K.

Actually, as fun as it is to see Push the Trash Can in action (And -- just for the record -- Push reportedly made his first public appearance at WDW's Magic Kingdom back in 1997) it appears that there was another "Living Character" at the Disney theme parks that actually predated him.

"Which character?," you ask. Would you believe Donald Duck?

Take a look of the two image captures below from Disneyland's "Fantasy on Parade." Which was presented at the Anaheim theme park back in the mid-1960s.


Copyright 1966 Walt Disney Productions

That's Donald & his nephews riding -- all by themselves -- in an old fashioned, open-top roadster. This remote-controlled car (Which was reportedly the size of a "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" vehicle) could supposedly traverse the entire parade route on battery power. The Disneyland cast member who was walking in the street behind the roadster guiding the vehicle would deliberately make it swerve from side to side, nearly hitting the park guests who were seated along the curb. As if Donald barely had that car under control.

Of course, the main reason that this cast member would do this was so that Disneyland guests wouldn't notice that the Donald, Huey, Dewey and Louie dummies that were seated inside the vehicle couldn't actually move. Mind you, the figures were reportedly loosely attached to the car's seats. So that -- as the roadster swerved back and forth across the street -- the characters would also shift in their seats. Which sort of gave the illusion that these characters were alive.

Then when you add in the reel-to-reel tape player that was hidden under the car's seat (Which reportedly played a recording of Donald & the boys singing the "Quack, Quack, Quack Donald Duck" song) ... The illusion was complete. To Disneyland visitors of the mid-1960s, it really did appear as if Donald himself were driving a tiny little car through that theme park.

"So what became of Donald Duck and his roadster?," you ask. The way I hear it, this remote-control vehicle was so difficult to operate safely inside the park that the people who ran Disneyland's parade eventually took this unit out of the regular line-up. Which meant (from then on) that Donald & his nephews only made an appearance in the parade when Walt personally requested it.

And then -- when Disney passed away in December of 1966 -- Donald's roadster was permanently pulled from Disneyland's "Fantasy on Parade." Which is why so few Disneyana fans know anything about this particular parade unit.

But isn't it funny to see that -- decades before Push or Lucky actually began wandering through the Disney theme parks -- that the Imagineers were already toying with a similiar concept? Doing the best they could with 1960s-era technology.

Speaking of things that have been removed from the Disney theme parks, Robert T. writes in to say:

Jim --

I finally got to see Disneyland's new improved "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction this past weekend. And as impressed as I may have been with all of the new figures & effects, I still found myself missing the original version of "Pirates." The one where the horny old pirates chased the women around the square.

Is there any chance that, when the Imagineers put in those Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly AA figures next year, that they could un-PC this New Orleans Square attraction? So that these randy rogues can start chasing some strumpets again?

Robert T.

Sorry. But POTC is going to stay PC. At least for the foreseeable future. After all, Disneyland's goal is to always entertain its guests. Not offend them.

That's why -- since the 1960s -- the Imagineers and/or Disneyland's ops staff have quietly been making changes to various rides, shows and attractions at the park. Pulling out elements that may have unintentionally offended some theme park guests.

Don't believe me? Then how many of you remember the old version of the African veldt sequence in Disneyland's "Jungle Cruise"?


Copyright 1963 Walt Disney Productions

Way back then, there was just no way that a joke like "Oh, look. Those lions are protecting that sleeping zebra" could be used to gloss over this particularly grim section of the ride. Given that the other members of the pride ...


Copyright 1963 Walt Disney Productions

... clearly had chunks of dismembered zebra hanging out of their mouths.


Copyright 1963 Walt Disney Productions

The more blatantly-carnivorous members of that pride of lions were culled out of this Adventureland attraction about the same time that the "Lost Safari" vignette was added to Disneyland's "Jungle Cruise." Which is where you'll see these hyenas ...


Copyright 1963 Walt Disney Productions

And speaking of hyenas ...


Copyright 1964 Walt Disney Productions

How many of you remember when this scene used to be in Disneyland's "it's a small world" attraction?

So why did this particular vignette get cut? The way I hear it, back in the late 1980s, an African tourist reportedly expressed outrage over this specific scene in this Fantasyland attraction. Supposely because they found it extremely offensive that a group of African children would be placed in such close proximity to an animal that (in real life, anyway) is as filthy as a hyena.

So -- because one person of color allegedly registered a complaint -- this particular gag in "it's a small world" had to be completely restaged. First the four laughing kids had to be moved to a  different section of  "small world" 's Africa scene. Then that solitary hyena was given a brother to yuk it up with. After that, these two were paired with a rhino & a zebra. And several thousand dollars later, the hyena-proximity crisis was finally averted.

That's an awful lot of time, money and effort to expend, don't you think? All because of a single complaint?

And speaking of color, Kenny C. writes in to say:

Jim --

This Sunday is the 45th anniversary of "The Wonderful World of Color."


Copyright 1961 Walt Disney Productions

Do you have any "colorful" stories to share about that historic television program to share?

Dear Kenny C.

Indeed I do. Looking back from today's wireless world, where it's now possible to watch movies & TV shows on your iPod, it's kind of hard to imagine the enormous impact that "The Wonderful World of Color" had when it debuted on NBC back on September 24, 1961. But this one television program actually convinced tens of thousands of Americans to buy color TV sets that year.  

Don't believe me? Then check out this quote from Neal Gabler's excellent new biography, "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination" :

Shortly after the premiere Card Walker, who was now the head of advertising at the studio, wrote Walt that sales of color televisions were soaring -- 105 percent of the previous September. NBC couldn't be happier.

Mind you, one of the ways that "The Wonderful World of Color" convinced people to go buy color TV sets was through a rather ingenious giveaway. To explain: Take a gander at that rather odd duck in the photo below.


Copyright 1961 Walt Disney Productions

No, not the peacock. The rather professorial-looking fellow standing on the desk to the left of Walt. That's Professor Ludwig Von Drake. A then-brand-new cartoon character that the artists at Walt Disney Studios created just for "The Wonderful World of Color."

Voiced by the late, great Paul Frees, Ludwig made his debut of the very first episode of this new NBC show. Which was titled (what else) "An Adventure in Color." And Von Drake was hilarious as he tried to explain how exactly color TV worked.

Now where this gets interesting is that -- during "The Wonderful World of Color" 's commercial breaks -- RCA Victor (Which, FYI, was NBC's parent corporation) ran ads encouraging people to drop by their local RCA dealership to experience the wonders of color television in person. And -- just for dropping by the dealership -- these people could then receive a free promotional box of Disneykins ...


Photo courtesy of Google Images

... which (surprise, surprise) prominently featured a very tiny version of Professor Ludwig Von Drake.

So the kids who had been watching that first episode of "The Wonderful World of Color" immediately pestered their parents into taking them down to their local RCA dealership. Just so they could then get that free box of Disneykins. And -- of course -- once the parents got in the door and saw how good the picture on those color RCA televisions actually looked ... Well, they just had to have one.

Mind you, once CBS and ABC saw the huge ratings that NBC was getting with "The Wonderful World of Color" ... Well, then they had to start producing television programs in color as well. Which -- of course -- spurred the sales of color TV sets even more.

So thanks to this single TV series, the television industry was literally transformed. Thanks -- in large part -- to a free set of Disneykins. Which are now (appropriately enough) a highly-sought-after Disney collectible.

And speaking of Disney collectibles ... You baby boomers out there remember how "The Wonderful World of Color" started, right? With Tinker Bell flying through the air as colorful bursts of fireworks exploded behind Sleeping Beauty Castle?


Copyright 1961 Walt Disney Productions

Well, in honor of the 45th anniversary of this program, the talented folks over at Master Replica have created this beautiful statue of Tinker Bell. Who is sculpted so that it appears as if Tink is flying straight out of an old color television just as "The Wonderful World of Color" is just getting underway.


Copyright 2006 Master Replicas

FYI to all you Tinker Bell fans out there: This piece is limited to an edition of 3000 and will begin shipping later this fall.

Now you're going to have to excuse the somewhat jarring segue that I'm going to try & make now, folks. As I shift from talking about the world of Disney to the world of horror.

Here. Let me ease this transition by showing you another shot of that lion chewing on a chunk of zebra in Disneyland's old "Jungle Cruise."


Copyright 1961 Walt Disney Productions

Oooh. Gruesome, isn't it?

And speaking of gruesome things ...


Terry Pendt, one of the very nice guys behind KeepToTheCode.com (the official fan site for Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movies) has been having some awful health problems lately. To help Terry get out from under those huge medical bills, the fine folks at FrightFest (I.E. This annual horror-themed event that actually held up here in New Hampshire during the month of October) are throwing a fundraiser. This two-night party will feature an appearance by Kane Hodder (AKA Jason Voorhees from a few of the "Friday the 13th" films).

So -- as one webmaster -- I'm asking you now to please help out another webmaster by attending this event next month and/or sending a donation Terry's way.

And on that charitable note ... I'm outa here. See you folks next Monday morning, okay?

j

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  • Whoa, the hyena's been gone?! Since the 80s?! Have I been away from Disneyland for THAT long? I could've sworn I saw it a couple years ago... or maybe it was just my imagination "filling in the gap" that was there. Wow.
  • I'm glad they took out those lions.  That's disturbing...I'm trying to eat breakfast!  When I was looking at the picture of the hyena, I thought, hey, doesn't WDW have hyenas?  I believe they do, but there's a pack of them, swinging back and forth, but they're not with children.  And, that's neat how "TWWoC" influenced people to buy color TV sets.  I'll have to ask my parents or grandparents whether that show influenced them to buy color TVs.  Great edition of "Why For".  And, I agree, it was maybe the most gruesome edition yet.
  • I have to say, this article contained the worst tranistion i have ever seen.. and it wasnt the last one to halloween.

    You called a person from africa "colored" just so you could make a smooth transition?  That's really bad Jim.  Lets get your racism out of the 60's era, just like your television
  • moose said:
    "You called a person from africa "colored" just so you could make a smooth transition?  That's really bad Jim.  Lets get your racism out of the 60's era, just like your television."

    And maybe you should get your vision back to 20/20 ... Jim called him a "person of color", not "colored."

    Check your facts before you bust out your knee-jerk racism rant next time.
  • It's the super sensitivity police like "moose" above that has forced the PC changes in the Disney parks.  Quit looking for that crap and get on with your life.  Geez!
  • It's the super sensitivity police like "moose" above that has forced the PC changes in the Disney parks.  Quit looking for that crap and get on with your life.  Geez!
  • Sorry for the double post.  Hope I didn't offend anybody.
  • No harm ... I think it was worth saying twice anyway!
  • la_resistance28 said:
    Whoa, the hyena's been gone?! Since the 80s?! Have I been away from Disneyland for THAT long?

    You're not going crazy. The hyena (actually two of them) are definitely still there, but the vignette is staged differently now. They're positioned in-between a bongo-playing rhino and zebra.
  • As if a rhino and zebra are any cleaner...
  • The hyenas are actually still in the Disneyland attraction.  They just aren't next to any african children.  There are two just randomly laughing together.
  • Tomoyo said:
    As if a rhino and zebra are any cleaner...

    It's the hyenas that are positioned between the rhino and the zebra, not the kids. The kids are off in their own section, away from the animals. The only potential offense that could occur now is if a rhino or zebra lover takes exception to them being too close to the hyenas. In which case, said person should be ejected from the park.
  • Hooray for Professor Ludwig Von Drake! When it come to brains, he takes the cake!
  • What's gruesome about Lions doing what they do? I don't think a single image you posted was gruesome in the slightest.

    The Jungle Cruise is heavily based on Disney's True-Life Adventures, and "The African Lion" in particular. In those films, you'll see far far worse than a lion with a hunk of zebra in his mouth.

    If anything, these images were more in keeping with the spirit of the movies that inspired the ride, and I'm disappointed they're gone. I'm just as upset about that kind of tinkering as I am with the "Pirates Chasing Food" alteration to the POTC attraction.  

  • I think there's a point where pushing PCness goes a little too far, and I think that the changes to the Jungle Cruise and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride weren't entirely necessary. I mean, there are far worse things that you could be showing than pirates chasing women around, seeing as that's who they were and there are several Disney villians who had similiar goals of persuing unwilling females, right from the beginning with the original Mickey Mouse shorts. I'm not advocating that kind of behavior, and I certainly don't think that the ride was, either. It's just telling the truth with a more light-hearted spirit. Also, as far as the lions go, you can see that sort of thing going on on the Discovery Channel.

    I suppose it is the Disney company's obligation, as far as the public is concerned, to gloss over this sort of thing. But everyone's obsession with being ultra-PC makes us a little unhuman and superficial, and as far as I'm concerned, the Disney company already gets attacked enough by adults for "glossing things over" and making everything hunky dory and superficial, and yet whenever the company inches one toe over the line someone else has drawn they're immediately scolded, slandered, and villianized. I think while it's important not to offend anyone, it's also equally important for everyone to be a little less accusative and hyper-sensitive.

    On a lighter note, Professor Ludwig Von Drake is one of my favorite Disney characters, and I think if I had been born at the time I probably would've pestered my parents into getting me one of those lovely Disneykins sets. It's amazing to think about just how much influence the Walt Disney Company really has had over the last century.

    Great article!
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