I can’t believe the Backlot Tour lasted as long as it has. It’s had the Devil’s Luck, outliving dozens of truly wonderful, iconic attractions—so I won’t believe it’s closing until whatever replaces it celebrates its ten-year anniversary.
On the off-chance that Backlot really is unrolling the ol’ garage door for the last time in November…wow. The ride was crappy, and its subtext of futility created such a stimulating working environment—full of fun and inspiration and love and frustration and confusion and growth. It was home, for all the good and bad that implies.
So if this really is the end, then Backlot: good riddance, and thank you.
There was a gaggle of Italians on the boat with us, but they were only there incidentally. They didn’t wanna feign interest in my performance, or appreciate the ride’s atmosphere, or look at the robot animals.
No, they wanted to gossip so loudly that my microphone and I couldn’t compete with them, and boy, were they good at it.
That is, until the elderly English lady began pounding her fists—as fiercely as Donkey Kong—on the seats in front of the Italians. When they noticed her, she scolded them with the primmest accent this side of Julie Andrews.
“You are being inexcusably rude!” she snapped.
I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for the respect.
“You’re not letting him tell his little jokes!” she added.
While I appreciate the elderly English lady’s help, I’d like to assure everyone that my jokes aren’t little. They’re girthy.
My friend, Brice, launched his portfolio online yesterday.
So far, the main attraction is his queue for a Great Gatsby dark ride. It’s a labor of love for the source material, and it evokes that heartbreaking, “Why can’t I ride this right goddamn now?” feeling by the boatful.
I love poring over his art and insights. This kid is a burgeoning master of the form, and it’s a pleasure to watch him hone his craft.
Skippers don’t spiel in the Jungle Cruise's Cambodian Temple. There isn't a clear reason why.
Some claim it’s because the acoustics don’t pair well with the tinny microphone. Some are content with the explanation that, “The script doesn’t provide any material for the Temple, so we’re not allowed to,” which is a long way of saying, “Because I said so.”
Personally, I don’t like it because it’s a gorgeously themed space. The tone is so eerie. To me, it’s the purest icon of Adventureland: nature reclaiming humankind’s efforts. It’s a sobering moment of meditation amid the puns.
All that said, I spieled in the Temple the other day—without the microphone, I hasten to add—so it wasn’t wholly disruptive. I hate how much I didn’t hate it.
Here’s the bit: when we pass the tiger, I leap to the opposite side of the boat and explain to the nearest guest that I’m allergic to cats. Then, when we pass the cobras, I leap to the other side of the boat and explain that I’m allergic to venom.
I’m torn. On the one hand, I hate spieling in the Temple, but on the other, I love the joke. So I thought, hey, maybe there’s a compromise…? Maybe I’ll only do it with boats who aren’t playing along! Screw ‘em, they don’t deserve the ambiance!
Then I realized that I was considering punishing people by telling them a joke I love.
This is the life I’ve chosen.
I’m now a skipper on the Jungle Cruise. I’ve always, always, always wanted to be one.
Like, none of that, “I wanna be an astronaut when i grow up.” Screw that. Jungle Cruise Skipper.
So if you’re reading this, and you have a career or a marriage or a child, don’t feel bad! Those things are great! They’re silver medals, but they’re great!
Besides, hey, this race isn’t run yet! Keep at it, work as hard as I have, and someday you too can tell puns in a fake rainforest!
Asked by gatheredrosebuds
I’m as annoyed by its existence as the next park snob. Why does a single franchise merit an entire land to itself, why is it this particular franchise, what does it have to do with the “California” theme, and so on.
All that said, it’s a masterpiece. For every nitpick I think of, my subconscious responds with a, “Yeah, but…”
"Mater’s spinners are painful and that song is a goddamn war crime."
"Yeah, but it’s a junk yard that’s so well themed that I actually want to spend time in it."
"It’s weird enough that we’re riding around in gigantic tires, but why on Earth are we riding them horizontally?"
"Okay, but that ride system is as much fun as you’ve ever had."
“‘Radiator Springs Racers’ is…I mean, I don’t even know what it is. It’s just…uggh.”
"True, but the animatronics are jaw-dropingly apt, the ride system is more satisfying here than it is in ‘Test Track’ and adapts the film into a ride more successfully than ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,’ and the little kid beside me who was petrified at the Load Dock clearly loves this ride more than he loves his mother."
None of which excuses the content.
Normally, I hate the argument that cartoons are “just for kids,” but ‘Cars’ is an exception. It’s a half-baked pie comprised of low-hanging fruit. It’s designed for the same sort of demographic that immortalized ‘Transformers.’
Everyone with a modicum of taste raised an eyebrow at it. Chances are, that includes most of the Imagineers who adapted it into the park.
Which, to me, represents a rare artistic achievement. Think of a franchise you hate. Got one in mind?
Okay, now adapt it into a theme park land. Not a cynical one, either. It’s gotta be the truest, most fun land it can possibly be. If it doesn’t have food, figure it out. If it doesn’t suggest two hours’ worth of background music and an alternate Christmas playlist, that’s your job, too. And so on.
All that said, I know this isn’t the prickly response that one expects from a snob who’s been asked about ‘Cars,’ so let me end on a darker note.
To me, the most emblematic part of Cars Land is near the end of the queue for ‘Radiator Springs Racers.’ After walking through one of the most magnificently, painstakingly immersive queues ever constructed, we pass a gas station, and this gas station is called “Butte Gas.”
We exit one of the most magnificently, painstakingly immersive queues ever constructed—not with a whimper, not with a bang, but with a fart joke. It’s the sort of nihilistic joke that amused me back in high school—“All that perfection, leading up to scatology. Rather like life, no? Kill urself lol”—only it’s preceding a Disney E-ticket instead of on my LiveJournal.
While I admire Cars Land as much as anything built in this current theme park renaissance, touches like “Butte Gas” keep me from liking it, and would keep me from grieving, on the off-chance that it’s ever demolished.
My family loves Disney World. This year they decided to purchase year passes to the parks and visit every few months. Among our favorite rides to go on is Pirates of the Caribbean. And that’s where… we met… him.
Meet #Vince, the guy my family loves taking selfies with in Adventure Land. Last I saw him, he was working the Pirates Of the Caribbean ride as a line manager.
I believe when we took this picture, the context was basically that we were trying to get a picture with ourselves, and he mentioned that he never got selfies with the patrons. So, we did the natural thing and got a selfie with him as well (Thankfully it was a really slow night at the time).
Then the ridiculous happened.
We took another selfie with him during the Rock Your Disney Side 24 hour event. it was hurried and everything. But we had to get another picture with #Vince. He was extremely nice and I don’t think he remembered us, but we remembered him.
Its now becoming a running tradition that we find him and we get a picture with him. I really think more people should do this as well. We love you, #Vince, and hope that your time at Disney World is the greatest. And that you never grow tired of us taking selfies with you as long as you’re there. @rak1954, thanks for the pics and sending me the latest one done today.
To Cast Member followers, if you know this guy or want to know him, you should totally find him and tell him about this post, please. AND GET A SELFIE AND SEND IT TO ME.
The tale of one of my most photogenic crew mates!
Asked by enkblogs
I have just read through it, and thank you for sending the directions to the piece anew! I in general hesitate to ‘critique’ the theories of others, as don’t wish to be dismissive on accident if I happen to disagree - in the world of the Disney themed attraction, I have my own viewpoints of course but never been one much to directly attack a discourse by other person (the final product - being an attraction, show, special effect, etc - of course is something I will analyze and state my feelings of bluntly in some cases, but try and resist back-and-forth insisting of the view of another is wrong or invalid).
Obviously, with the Mansion, a lot of ‘struggle’ between backstories - some dating back to 1954 - as well as creative teams and overarching concepts occurred. Walt seemed to favor something simple, in later years, during the Pirates project and NoS being built: a tour of the retirement home for ghosts and the fact there’d be a ‘museum of the weird’ for even more haunted artifacts before or after the show. How much he wanted a solid a-to-b plot at that point for the ride is a mystery and totally unknown.
The experiential/observable tug of war aspect of the attraction is honestly not a concept I had considered before, but not without merit. I think the observable story is very slight, or should be - they’ve tipped their hand at Disneyland more than necessary with all the business about Constance and making her definitively the woman in the stretching portrait who gave her husband the axe, and far more damaging, the ‘interactive’ crypts in Florida linking to characters inside the attraction for sake of puns and ToonTown style kiddie appeal, plus the doubling down on the ‘bride’s ring’ and Master Gracey things being intertwined. Little Leota and the Ghost Host definitely ‘see’ us as guests and playfully threaten us - but I never really viewed that as being some big plot to get a new ghost that is essential to the narrative. It’s a ‘accidental’ find for what they might talk to us about and involve the visiting theme park guest in an organic way, that makes sense in overarching progression of experience.
I’ve always swung to a simpler point of reference: the 1969 release of Story And Song From The Haunted Mansion LP record, which predated the actual ride opening. It describes nearly beat-for-beat the 1969 attraction, complete with Hatbox Ghost as he was intended to be seen, with a ‘story’ of a couple of teens getting soaked out by the rain one stormy night and inadvertently embarking on a tour of a ‘typical’ haunted house. Mike and Karen are led on by an unseen voice through the house (foyer, portrait room, upstairs halls, seance circle, ballroom, attic, down to the graveyard) and see many ghosts and specters before they escape just as dawn breaks, and their ghostly ‘tour guide’ bids them farewell and invites them to come back any time. No mention is made of the hitchhiking ghosts in particular on the record - that was a surprise intended to be kept for the attraction experience I daresay.
As a result, I’ve always viewed the finished Disneyland attraction as mimicking basically, you being the ‘teenager’ or lost person who happens to enter the Mansion one dark and stormy night. It’s a fixed temporal point, could be happening in 1915, 1969, or today. You are given a tour of the home: entertained, threatened and ignored at various points, and certain spirits do respond to you being there, while others are seemingly ‘fixed’ in repeating their hauntings, or are poltergeists/nonhuman entities or so forth. The maids and butlers and the vehicles are gracefully handled ‘necessities’ of theme park operations and don’t matter in terms of what little story is to be found. You enter most likely in daylight, but get inside the house a little ways and it’s thundering and nighttime - just like the record. You are taking the archetypal haunted house tour, and that is as in-depth as it goes. There are hints of course of history for certain ghosts, if they died there - the hanging man, the coffin-trapped ‘thing’, Constance or the old eerie bride (Emily, if you like), some of the tombstone poppers in the graveyard - but some are just there because that’s where the party is. But unlike the scripts dating back to Ken Anderson in 1954, the ‘point’ of the tour isn’t a special event or related to the back story of one particular ghost - a wedding, for instance, or the drama between the sea captain/pirate and the young bride he murdered, or the Headless Horseman, or any other related element. You see the house and the grounds, and a variety of spirits and illusions, who would be there anyway even if you were not - some notice you, some don’t. You get the impression they likely party in the graveyard every night. The HHG’s again are a subtle requirement of the theme park experience - the desire to end the attraction with a notable, talked-about gag - married to a well-known ghostly trope (the vanishing hitchhiker), and are a bit outside the experience of a general tour of a haunted house, but don’t cause it harm at all by inclusion.
So, those are my basic reactions to the ‘war’ between types of story inside the Mansion - and sorry for rambling nature of it!
Lilly’s response to my essay about the Haunted Mansion, which I very much appreciate.
What’s the harm in rambling when it’s full of this much insight?
Have you had a Crocodilian today?
Here’s one of the most revolting GIF Stories in Disney.
Mercifully, the vehicles in Dinosaur are so fast that we don’t spend much time watching these lizards suffocate each other. Still, imagine breaking down here, and watching this scene for a solid minute.
please you guys just die already
Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!
I love this as a GIF Story.
You guys could’ve walked wherever you’re going, by now!
John Hench, Designing Disney
Fellow cast members: please, remember what it was like when you visited a Disney park for the first time.
How it was familiar, yet different. How many simple things couldn’t be taken for granted any more.
How high your expectations were set, and how they inspired you to dream up even higher expectations. How easily the words, “They should…” leapt to the front of your sentences.
How exciting and confusing it was. How many “dumb” questions and behaviors it provoked from you.
You were a family member, coming home for the first time.
Well, you live here now, and we’ve got newcomers at the door. Let’s look after ‘em.
The Haunted Mansion: an attraction so evocative that guests have been deducing its fictional history since it opened in 1969.
Who owns the house? Is it the Ghost Host, or Master Gracey, or—hey, are they the same person? Does the Bride push us off of the balcony, or is it a coincidence that we enter the graveyard on our backs? Why are the maids and butlers loitering in the Stretching Room when there’s a mansion’s worth of cobwebs that need dusting?
It’s a ride full of open-ended questions, and its fandom has been trying to answer them for decades. Most of the resultant fanfic it is convoluted, much of it is harmless, and—for better or worse—some of it has been canonized.
This belief is nonsense, but it’s a dangerous breed of nonsense: the kind that prevents progress. If we hope to see more attractions like the Mansion, it’s crucial to understand what its story is, why it’s easy to miss, and why the ride is still fun if we miss it.
If you’d like to understand it, I recommend reading my new essay!
Ariel’s Magical Vagical Tornado,
from the Little Mermaid dark ride
Just imagine the bearded, middle-aged guy who probably animated this.