Revisiting Disney


Soon I will be traveling with my family to Walt Disney World in Florida.  I’ve previously visited Walt Disney World on three occasions (1976, 1981, and 1982) as well as once visit to Disneyland in California in 1980. So it’s been 35 years since my last visit to a Disney park, and my have things changed.

When I last visited, there was just the Magic Kingdom and some hotel resorts.  EPCOT was under construction and Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom were not even on the drawing board.  This guide and the film below show what it was like on my last visit (kind of disappointed we didn’t take advantage of the free loans of Polaroid cameras!).

Growing up in the 70s and 80s meant a different relationship with Disney than the generations before and after.  The classic animated movies were re-released to movie theaters from time to time, but weren’t shown on television (even on cable) or available on video until the late 80s, when I was a teenager and not as interested.  I do remember seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a stage adaptation at Radio City Music Hall, but other than that it was The Wonderful World of Disney and later The Disney Channel that provided glimpses of classic Disney films.  Meanwhile the Disney studios were going through a troubled period and while I loved The Fox and the Hound, most of the movies released in the 1970s and 1980s were not very memorable.  Kids who grew up during the Disney Renaissance starting in 1989 don’t know how lucky they had it.

So in a strange way, the parks were the main thing for Disney when I was growing up.  There were all these rides and characters based on movies we never saw and vaguely knew the plots.  People dressed as characters have always been part of Disney World, but planning for this trip I’m surprised to learn that they no longer walk around the park greeting visitors but instead it is required to queue up for “character experiences” and even pay good money to have diner with characters. It seems strange to me but apparently it is an extremely popular thing to do.  Luckily, my kids are interested in going on rides, which I think is much more fun.

With that in mind, here are ten things I loved at Disney as a kid.  It will be fun to see what lives up to memory, and what new things will join the list.

 

  1. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – the roller coaster so good that even my roller coaster hating mother liked it.  I remember riding it three times in a row one afternoon.  And we didn’t even need a FastPass.
  2. Contemporary Resort – also known as the hotel that a monorail goes through, which is freakin’ awesome!  We didn’t stay here, or any Disney hotel, but we did have dinner her one night, and apart from the freakin’ awesome monorail going through the lobby I also enjoyed playing in the video arcade.
  3. The Enchanted Tiki Room – audioanimatronic birds singing and telling bad jokes, what could be better?  And as my Dad noted, the birds won’t crap on you.
  4. The Haunted Mansion – a ride that is fun because it’s funny, from the stretchy portraits to the hitch-hiking ghosts.
  5. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – another funny ride I absolutely loved, from the oncoming train to the trip to hell. I suppose that might’ve scared some kids.
  6. Pirates of the Caribbean – the ride so good that they made it into a movie.
  7. The Skyway – Who doesn’t like a bird’s-eye view of the magic? (Apparently the people who decided to tear this ride down)
  8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – It may have been a kid’s perspective, but it really felt like one was going on a submarine voyage.  Can anyone explain why Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, The Skyway, and this are all gone but the boring-ass Carousel of Progress still survives?
  9. Space Mountain – the coolest ride at the center of the coolest land, Tomorrowland (my impression is that Tomorrowland is not so cool these days because the future came and it’s nothing like what we were promised)
  10. WEDWay PeopleMover – I was an impressionable child and believed them when they said that peoplemovers would be the transportation system of the future in big cities.  I’m still waiting.

 

To prepare for our visit, I’m going to try to watch some animated Disney movies I’ve never seen before, so you’ll be seeing my reviews here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RetroMusic: Shriek of the Week Playlist


I recently signed up with Rdio, a music streaming social network that provides access to a boatload of music for a monthly fee.  I’ve enjoyed being able to listen to a lot of new discoveries and digging up old favorites.  For example, I listened to Prince and the Revolution’s “Around the World in a Day” for the first time in at least 25 years.  That was a new album around the time we moved to a new house in 1985, and while all my other tapes were packed in a box, that one had just arrived in the mail so I ended up listening to it over and over.  It’s surprising how many of the songs seemed completely unfamiliar despite that.

On that same nostalgia vibe, I also payed tribute to one of my favorite New York area radio stations of my youth, which was known as 92.7 WDRE-FM when I listened to it, but was also known as WLIR.  This was the “left of the dial” radio station that played Post-Punk, New Wave, Modern Rock, Alternative Music, whatever moniker you wanted to slap on it (oddly, the term “alternative” became most popular around the time that R.E.M and Nirvana lead the music into the mainstream in the early 90s).

One of the features of WDRE was a contest for the best new song of the week called the “Shriek of the Week.”  Apparently, during the WLIR days there was the rhymeless “Screamer of the Week” that did the same thing.  There is a list of all the Screamers & Shrieks from 1980 to 1996 here: http://www.advancedspecialties.net/wlir.htm

I made a Rdio playlist of the Screamer/Shriek of the week covering my junior high and high school days from 1985-1991.  Rdio had many, but not all, the songs from the list and sadly it seemed to be the quirky one hit wonders that didn’t make it to the playlist.  Still it’s a good playlist that gives one the sense of those exciting days of the 80s and early 90s, if one can excuse a little too much exuberance for artists such as The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Erasure, U2 and Morrisey who seemed to have entire albums elected as Shrieks over the course of several weeks.

http://www.rdio.com/people/Othemts/playlists/8452784/Shriek_of_the_Week/

If you are on Rdio and have the time and energy to populate the rest of the list, have at it.  I may go back and fill in the earlier days of the 1980s.  I feel it may be too sad to go forward in the 1990s and watch the musical erosion, especially when you get to the third week of June 1994 when alternative music officially jumped the shark.

Oh, and apparently WLIR lives on as an internet station with some of the original DJs.

 

 

Old MacDonald’s Farm


I often find myself idly surfing the net and making discoveries of something from my past. Recently, I became reacquainted with Old Macdonald’s Farm, a place in Norwalk, CT that I loved to visit when I was very young.  Before being closed and replaced by a corporate office park, Old Macdonald’s Farm had:

  • an old-fashioned country-style restaurant that looked like it was in a barn with the booths decorated as stables (complete with the names of horses on plaques over the booths)
  • a candy store with lots of different types of penny-candy including every imaginable flavor of candy sticks.
  • a petting zoo with goats, sheep, cows and other farm animals.
  • a small amusement park with a train ride and other rides that appealed to small children

When it closed, I was heart-broken, especially since a covered wooden bridge was preserved to connect the very modern office park to its parking lot.  My younger self cursed the corporate suits who destroyed this little bit of Americana every time I passed and saw that bridge.  Okay, maybe not, but it was some similar emotion.

There’s not about Old Macdonald’s Farm on the web, but I found a couple of photos.  I was awestruck by how the photos look just as I remember.  The first picture is of the restaurant from a website called Cardcow which collects old postcards.

Vintage Postcards from Cardcow.com
Wow! The pot-belly stove, the rafters, the farm implements, the barrels, the checkered table cloths -- all just as I remember!


Cardcow.com

The next picture is from a photo blog called Serendipitous by a woman named Kathy Chiapetta.  The photos appear to be scanned from a 2005 Darien Times article which is not available online.  The one thing I don’t see in any of the photos is a big waterwheel that impressed me as a child.

This picture looks like it was taken well before I was born, but otherwise it's pretty much how I remembered it. I was convinced that these stalls were actually once used by horses.

Thanks for indulging me. If you have memories and pictures of Old Macdonald’s Farm please let me know.
Previous Trips Down Memory Lane:

A Little Late for Thanksgiving


…but I can save this for next year.

So if you want to join me in recreating a Thanksgiving tradition of my childhood, follow these simple steps:

  1. Get a DVD of the original version of King Kong.
  2. Periodically stop it and watch a part of this Youtube clip instead:

Oh this is just too perfect.

Commercials of my youth


I read this post called Forgotten Boston TV Commercials (via Universal Hub), and it stirred up nostalgia for some of the crazy local commercials of my youth.  Of course, since I grew up in Connecticut, my commercials are of a New York/Connecticut vintage.

Here’s what I found on youtube:

First, there’s the Mount Airy Lodge which defined the Poconos for me as a chain of mountains where hokiness prevails:

watch?v=3dOsgyw7yBw

Then there’s the Lulla-BUY of Broadway.  I always wondered why the Milford Plaza advertised so heavily in the New York market where their audience presumably already had a place to stay.

watch?v=UwlvkUMsDgI

This guy wasn’t Crazy Eddie but his incredibly annoying commercials probably didn’t make people miss the business when it went under.

watch?v=Yi5HfjEFrF4

Tom Carvel had a voice for telegraph.  Is it just me or does that ice cream squishing into the cake pan actually make it look really unappetizing.

watch?v=Cs1Vc_w9Nc8

French dancers go nuts for canned foods in this perrenial Shop-Rite ad.

watch?v=VdpYxZzhATQ

Sadly, I was not able to locate commercials for a New York radio station had claymation characters promise “love songs, nothing but love songs,” Gary Carter having the best shower ever for Ivory soap, and the classic low-budget ads for Mashuntucket Pequot Indian High Stakes Bingo (precursor to Foxwoods Casino).

Enjoy!