Foxxfur, proprietress of the outstanding Passport to Dreams Old and New Disney themepark design critique blog (previously) has opened a t-shirt store featuring designs celebrating the lost, lamented design-flourishes that lurked in the corners of early Walt Disney World: the crowning glory of the store is this Bring Back Weird Epcot tee that really tells it like it is. Read the rest
Passport to Dreams Old in New is the absolute king-hell best Disney design criticism blog, written by Foxxfur, a former cast member who is thoughtful, encyclopedic, and razor-sharp in her observations of the Disney theme parks, especially Walt Disney World. Read the rest
Foxxfur has published "The Theme Park Trope List," a first approximation attempt to summarize the narrative gimmicks used in theme park attractions to move the action along, for example, "the book report ride," which "shows exactly the same events which occurred in the source film in the same order." Read the rest
The amazing Foxxfur has spent 3.5 years assembling a new installment in her "Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World" series, pulling together audio rarities from WDW in the late 1970s to create a six-hour soundscape that faithfully recreates the incidental music, cast member spiels, and ride narration from one of the golden ages of Disney themeparks. Read the rest
On Passport to Dreams Old and New, the world's greatest Disney themepark critic Foxxfur traces the history of the Jungle Boat Cruise queue-loop, makes some shrewd guesses about where the Imagineers found their material, and (most importantly), what the addition of the music did to the overall design story of an iconic ride.
The WDI-created loop is widely available and runs 47:30. In order to create the loop, WDI had to get very creative in editing the music. Certain songs had slow sections which had to be removed, while others had their vocal sections entirely omitted. The Cole Porter song "I Get A Kick Out Of You" had an entire verse dropped to exclude a reference to cocaine. As a result, the entire AWOL loop as it appears in park, with narration and breaks in the music for announcements every few minutes, has a shorter run time than all of the selected pieces of music played together. Certain songs were compressed, others extended. It's a very elaborate effort.
Since the "final WDI edit" is widely available, here are the songs as they appeared on the original 78 disc releases, unrestored. The "WDI mix" versions of these songs often includes a bit of ambient reverb, which changes the sound of the some of the songs considerably, and made identifying the Dick Powell track particularly challenging.
The Jungle Cruise and AWOL Airwaves Read the rest
On the always-amazing Passport to Dreams Old and New, a fantastic piece of detective work about the evolution of the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion. FoxxFur starts with the observation that the traditional story about the Florida stretch rooms going up (unlike the California Mansion, whose stretch rooms descend) is that the water table was too high to permit a descent, but quickly demolishes that. From there, she undertakes some remarkable detective work in exploring the inspiration and thinking that went into the Florida Mansion's design. Read the rest
On Passport to Dreams Old and New, FoxxFur continues her unbroken record for highlighting insightful, deep design truths by examining the minutae of the design and evolution of the Disney theme parks. In the current post, "The Awkward Transitions of Disneyland!", she looks at the way that the designers of Disneyland managed their space-constraints when butting up one themed area against another (comparing this with the much more spacious, and relaxed, transitions in Walt Disney World). By reconstructing the history of these transitions, she's able to reconstruct the history of the theory and practice of using physical cues to signal mood-transitions in built environments.
I seriously can't wait for FoxxFur to write a book about this stuff some day.
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Disneyland built things where it could, and so very often buildings are dropped down perfunctorily, only very rarely placed to achieve any specific pictorial effect. Depending on where you are, there can be three levels of themed design occurring around you on different registers. This makes Disneyland visually dense while retaining a somewhat prosaic thematic effect. This is what people mean when they say Disneyland is charming: it's a massive pile of ideas slammed down, one atop the other, with very little room to spare. This means that it's very common to find areas where one kind of texture or surface treatment just ends because it collides with another. This is what I mean when I say Disneyland is naive....
...What you're seeing here more closely resembles a movie set than a theme park - which makes perfect sense since this is the first theme park and it was built by Hollywood craftsmen.
The always, always, always fantastic Passport to Dreams Old and New blog traces the history of the Snow White rides at the Disney parks around the world, with an emphasis on the horror motifs in the original film and how they made their way into the rides, only to be removed (and re-added) at various times throughout the years. The Snow White ride in Florida's Magic Kingdom was just shut down, and is due to be replaced by a roller-coaster. As Passport's Foxxfur notes, rollercoasters are nice, "...but will it satisfy on the level of the scary old dark ride?"
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One remarkable aspect of Snow White's Adventures is how well it used very simple animation and motion gags to enormous effect: by concentrating on heavy atmosphere in place of constant character vignettes, nothing ever seemed crude or like it moved less than it should have. Many of the Witch's sudden appearances resulted entirely from the perspective of riders moving through the scenes; the figures themselves were often static props. Several, such as the crocodile logs which "chased" the cars in the Forest, could only ever be seen by a small number of riders. Additionally, even more than most "ghost train" style rides, the track layout here created a lot of the character of the ride; as seen above, it's obvious how the bus bar was laid in such a way to force cars to "leap" out of the way of each new threat, especially in the last third of the ride as the pursuit is really on.
FoxxFur at Passport to Dreams Old and New has created a PDF template for printing out your own MAPO stickers. MAPO (MAry POppins) is the Disney division responsible for fabricating many of the limited and one-off mechanisms and infrastructural gubbins that make up the Disney Parks' underpinnings, and each of their products ships with a MAPO sticker proclaiming its origin. These stickers are highly sought-after souvenirs, especially among cast-members (employees) at the parks. FoxxFur's template can be used to produce your own stickers and add them to things that need a little exotic back-story.
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MAPO manufactured basically everything that ended up in Disneyland or Walt Disney World between 1964 and 1990 - they must have printed these things out by a thousands because they're stuck to props, motors, figures, power junction boxes, chain lifts and practically everything else you can think of in the World's Fair attractions, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Horizons, and dozens of others.
As you can imagine, MAPO stickers are prized possessions amongst cast members, who are apt to peel the nearest one off the first available prop. The backstages of Mansion and Pirates are full of tiny rectangles of less-aged areas where MAPO stickers have absconded the premises. Here's mine. It's direct off the actuator frame for Herbert Hoover, which was being thrown away:
The problem is that as time goes by and the gap between the shuttering of MAPO and our own age widens, these stickers are becoming increasingly uncommon and most of the good ones have already been thrown out - attached to props in, say, Mr.
More fantastic, barn-storming Disney theme park theory from Passport to Dreams Old and New: On Integrity, an indictment of the wholesale destruction of the unique identity of Florida's Walt Disney World and its replacement with generic theming imported from Disneyland. "I love Disneyland dearly, but when it comes to Walt Disney World -- to hell with Disneyland." Read the rest
Passport to Dreams Old and New -- the smartest Disney blog I know of, and some of the best design criticism I've ever read -- discusses the role of pop-up ghosts in American spook-houses and ghost trains, and how the original designers of the Disney Haunted Mansions incorporated them into their design, borrowing from the tradition and ultimately transcending it.
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So what separates the pop-up ghouls in the Haunted Mansion from the Jersey Devil lurking in the dark corners of some Pretzel ride seventy years ago is context. Unlike rides with names like Pirate's Cove and Laff in the Dark, the Haunted Mansion seems to pull all these disparate elements together into a tightly woven tapestry which combines a lot of distinct ideas, styles and methods into a single unified whole, something which has structure and life. Even those pop-up ghosts have meaning and form, you know, and I'd like to demonstrate why these simple gags deserve your respect...
I'm not pointing all this out to be pedantic but to establish that far from being careless "scare-em" afterthoughts to the texture of the Haunted Mansion, these simple gags were carefully thought out and integrated into a fully realized environment. In fact, the pop-up ghouls are a far more important part of the attraction than they currently appear to be...
Even in Florida, where there never was a Hatbox Ghost for the bride to menace, the connection was perfectly clear. Dastardly deeds were afoot in this house long before the other ghosts moved in, deeds seemingly confirmed by the presence of the ghostly bride.