13 December 2017

Some Anthropologists

As we make our way through the shimmering living room and kitchen of the Carousel of Progress’ family, all decked out for Christmas, it is almost impossible not the feel like there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow. Yet, tucked away behind the computer monitor, pinned up on the family bulletin board, is a note that Marty Called Wants Changes. Perhaps one of the best known secrets of the park, this note is a reference to Marty Sklar, the wordsmith and Imagineering legend who passed away earlier this year. It is said that Marty wanted to see real change to the attraction that had been a part of the Disney lexicon since the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, as the final scene had fallen out of date with modern innovation. Some witty Imagineer took it upon themselves to place the note and make Marty’s aspirations known for all the world to see. While the note has remained, and the monumental changes have not yet come to pass, it isn’t the only thing worthy of our attention on the bulletin board.

We can actually find out a lot about our family from the postings on this board. There are plenty of family photos to explore, many of which feature Santa or a Christmas theme, likely photos that were included in Christmas cards, showing off how their relatives have grown over the past year. To drive this point home, there are even a couple of photographs that definitely look like wallet-sized school photos. Moving on, we can see some typical family scheduling, such as emailing for Rover’s vet appointment, a meeting with Melissa and Nicole at 1:30 on Friday, or the school meeting on October 20. Clearly, this being Christmas, this school meeting posting was just never removed, just as so many items are never removed from my refrigerator at home.

It seems clear that the daughter Pat, or Patricia or Patty, is fairly popular around the household’s phone. There is one post-it note for her to call Becky and on another we find that Corbin, Bryce, Drew, and Brooke called. Now, while this note isn’t specifically directed at Patty, we do tend to see her on the phone more often than her brother, Jimmy, throughout the attraction, and this message could just as easily be for him.

Then there are the newspaper and magazine clippings. Some of these postings talk about new computer programs or inspirational thoughts, you know, the original Pintrest. However, the one clipping that truly draws in my attention is the small cartoon that is barely visible in the upper right corner of the bulletin board, just below, and partially hidden by, Marty’s note. One of the more popular comic strips for cutting and posting, or passing around the office, has always been Gary Larson’s The Far Side. Our Carousel family is no exception, as here we find one of Larson’s favorite subjects, anthropologists. In the clipping, from October 27, 1993, we see a caveman running out of a cave that is engulfed in flames, the caveman is yelling, “Bummer!” The caption from the cartoon reads, “Some anthropologists believe that the discoveries of fire, shelter and language were almost simultaneous.” Definitely worth a pinning on a bulletin board if you ask me.

While Marty’s message may be the one we, as Disney enthusiasts, are attracted to, there is much more to be uncovered from this bulletin board that speaks to the everyday lives of the Carousel of Progress’ family. For many of us, this bulletin board is like a page from our own personal stories, as I’m certain many of us had very similar looking pieces in our own homes at one time. Using it as a window into the attraction and real world history makes us, dare I say it, Disney anthropologists in our own rights.

06 December 2017

Chearffel Tower

1989 was a banner year for Walt Disney World. It opened whole new worlds of entertainment through a new park (Disney-MGM Studios), a new water park (Typhoon Lagoon), and a new nighttime entertainment district (Pleasure Island), to name just a few of their accomplishments that year. And yet, through it all, the folks at Disney didn’t forget the little details that would seasonally change the environment and spirit of their parks and resorts. To prove this point, we need look no further than Disney-MGM Studios’ iconic water tower, the Earffel Tower.

Even during the park’s first holiday season, the Earffel Tower had its yuletide spirit on display! In fact, during that time of year it even changed its name to the Chearffel Tower. And in case you think that simply adding a hat isn’t that big of an undertaking, notice how many individuals it took to get the Santa hat properly placed atop the water tower.  And is it any wonder with a hat size of 342 3/8, with a diameter of 28.5, and a weight of 500 pounds?

The Earffel Tower would don many disguises over the years, but none were as iconic as the Santa hat. This tradition continued from 1989 until early into the new century, but it was eventually retired. With the removal of the Earffel Tower in 2016, so to was the idea of the return of the Santa-clad water tower. Still, we keep the season in our hearts and not in our décor, but it was fun while it lasted and definitely showed that park’s dedication to the season.

01 December 2017

A Port Orleans Specialty

The era of faux newspapers has evaporated from Walt Disney World, but these publications were some of the greatest storytelling and information devices the resorts had. Case in point, The Sassagoula Times, the newspaper provided to guests when they checked in and which supplied them with recreation and dining information, while also feeding into the backstory of both Port Orleans (now known as Port Orleans – French Quarter) and Dixie Landings (now known as Port Orleans – Riverside). The newspaper was a staple throughout the early years of both resorts and while the stories are wonderful, the classified section, with a page each for both Port Orleans and Dixie Landings, is even more of a gem.

On the Port Orleans side of the page you have wonderful advertisements with specifics on Scat Cat’s Club Lounge, Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, Jackson Square Gifts, the Landing Marina, Mardi Gras Pool Bar, the Sassagoula Steamboat Co., and the now shuttered Bonfamille’s Café. Story elements include clever puns around blacksmiths (Baudelaire Buckets… everything else “pails” by comparison) and tooth extractions (Dr. Pullsmore, DDS.), as well as more earnest entries for things such as sales of middle aged mules and chimney cleaning service providers.

Flipping the page over to the Dixie Landings section, you have similar advertisements for actual activities and establishments of the resort, including Boatwright’s Dining Hall, Dixie Levee Marina, the Fishin’ Hole, Colonel’s Cottom Mill, the Sassagoula Steamboat Co., Fulton’s General Store, the Muddy Rivers Pool Bar, and Cotton Co-Op Lounge. Reading through the list, it’s fairly clear why some of these names, including the resort itself, needed to be changed. Moving over to the humorous side of the classifieds there are you weather predictors (Noah Vail) and a whole host of puns from Fulton’s General Store (licorice sticks, lye soap flakes, and cast iron sinks). There are also the more straightforward entries for timber hoisters boat building or the warning to pet owners about a runaway alligator.

Both sides, however, feature a cleverly disguised posting featuring someone from a well-known brand other that Disney. From Port Orleans is the 10 Great Gator Recipes, which will all more than likely make the alligator meat taste like chicken. These recipes come from none other than the Colonel & Mrs. Sanders. I wonder if one of the recipes is for 11 secret herbs and spices for fried gator? Meanwhile, over in Dixie Landings, a poundcake has been lost and the baker is seeking to know whether or not she needs to bake another for the birthday celebration. The baker is Mrs. Crocker, which makes me question if her first name isn’t Betty.

Peruse the remaining of the classifieds for yourself at your leisure. What sticks out, makes you remember something you had forgotten about either resort, or makes you giggle?