Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Milt Kahl

Milton Erwin Kahl (born March 22, 1909, in San Francisco, California, USA; died April 19, 1987, in Mill Valley, California, USA, of pneumonia) was an animator for the Disney studio. Kahl is often considered the finest draughtsman of the Disney animators. For many years the final look for the characters in the Disney films were designed by Kahl, in his angular style inspired by Ronald Searle and Picasso. He is revered by contemporary masters of the form, such as Andreas Deja, and Brad Bird. In the book The Animator’s Survival Kit the author Richard Williams makes repeated reference and anecdotes relating to Kahl.

Imagineering Bio: Ollie Johnson

Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr. (born on October 31, 1912 in Palo Alto, California) is a pioneer in the field of motion picture animation. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and the last living member. His work was recognized with the National Medal of Arts in 2005.He was a directing animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1935-1978. He contributed to many films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio. His last full work for Disney came with The Rescuers, which was the last film of the second golden age of Disney animation that had begun in 1950 with Cinderella. In The Rescuers, he was caricatured as one of the film’s most important characters, the cat Rufus. Ollie Johnston on his garden railroad in 1993 Johnston co-authored, with Frank Thomas, the classic reference book The Illusion Of Life. This book helped preserve the knowledge of the techniques that were developed at the studio. The partnership of Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas is fondly presented in the documentary “Frank and Ollie”, produced by Theodore Thomas, Frank’s son.

Personal life:

Johnston attended Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Chouinard Art Institute.Ollie married a fellow Disney employee, Ink and Paint artist Marie Worthey, in 1943. Marie Johnston died May 20, 2005. Ollie’s lifelong hobby was live steam trains. Starting in 1949, he built a 1″ scale backyard railroad, with three 1/12th scale locomotives, now owned by his sons. This railroad was one of the inspirations for Walt Disney to build his own backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, which again inspired the building of the railroad in Disneyland.In the 1960s Ollie acquired and restored a full-size narrow-gauge Porter engine. This engine was sold to John Lasseter (of Pixar Studios fame). On November 10, 2005, Ollie Johnston was among the recipients of the prestigious National Medal of Arts, presented by President George W. Bush in an Oval Office ceremony.

Mickey’s 10 Commandments – Marty Sklar

Every theme park designer should know what’s been done in the past.  Benchmarks and precedents are extremely important.   With that in mind, you should learn the ten guidelines to theme park design developed by Walt Disney Imagineering President Marty Sklar. Mickey’s 10 Commandments

1. Know your audience – Don’t bore people, talk down to them or lose them by assuming that they know what you know.

2. Wear your guest’s shoes – Insist that designers, staff and your board members experience your facility as visitors as often as possible.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas – Use good story telling techniques, tell good stories not lectures, lay out your exhibit with a clear logic.

4. Create a weenie – Lead visitors from one area to another by creating visual magnets and giving visitors rewards for making the journey

5. Communicate with visual literacy – Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication – color, shape, form, texture.

6. Avoid overload – Resist the temptation to tell too much, to have too many objects, don’t force people to swallow more than they can digest, try to stimulate and provide guidance to those who want more.

7. Tell one story at a time – If you have a lot of information divide it into distinct, logical, organized stories, people can absorb and retain information more clearly if the path to the next concept is clear and logical.

8. Avoid contradiction – Clear institutional identity helps give you the competitive edge. Public needs to know who you are and what differentiates you from other institutions they may have seen.

9. For every ounce of treatment , provide a ton of fun – How do you woo people from all other temptations? Give people plenty of opportunity to enjoy themselves by emphasizing ways that let people participate in the experience and by making your environment rich and appealing to all senses.

10. Keep it up – Never underestimate the importance of cleanliness and routine maintenance, people expect to get a good show every time, people will comment more on broken and dirty stuff.

Martin Sklar, Walt Disney Imagineering, Education vs. Entertainment: Competing for audiences, AAM Annual meeting, 1987

4. Theme Park Master Planning – The Attraction Mix

The Attraction Mix – by Peter Alexander

This is your big decision: what kind of attractions are you going to offer, and at what level of quality and professionalism?

Part of this depends on your competition, and just how good you need to make the park to be the best in its area. For example, today, Universal Studios and particularly in Florida, is known for it’s high tech, story oriented rides. But, if the Disney company hadn’t beaten Universal to the punch and opened their MGM Studio Tour before Universal’s in Orlando, none of those rides would have ever been there.

Universal had planned an upgraded version of their California tour, with a front lot “walking tour” with shows for entertainment, and a super-duper version of the Tram Tour on the back lot. In fact, before we opened Universal, Florida in 1990, the company had never before built a ride, and didn’t much want to be in that business. But Disney got to Orlando first with their own improved version of the Universal Hollywood tour. The competition, Disney, had stolen Universal’s thunder, so the only way to compete was with high tech, state of the art rides like “King Kong,” and “Back to the Future.”

In the long run, it was good for both companies and good for the theme park business, because the state of the art of theme park attractions took a huge leap forward.

Now, everyone doesn’t have a Disney park next door, so not everyone needs a “Back to the Future” Ride. But you are going to need something fresh and new, and you have to consider the big factor when you are picking your attraction mix: demographics.

Demographics, the age and income characteristics of the guests, follow attraction mix, and vice versa. If you want a lot of teenagers, you put in a lot of roller coasters. Keep in mind though: even though you’re targeting coaster fans DOES NOT mean you sacrifice on theming and landscaping. Families like indoor shows, if for no other reason than they are air-conditioned and adults enjoy being able to sit for a while. Additionally sometimes, the theme park is the sole source of live shows/theatre in the vicinity, so this draws those people that don’t feel like going to a big city to find that type of entertainment . And “the whole family” likes high tech, story-telling dark rides and simulators. So your attraction mix determines your demographics, or vice versa.

But probably the biggest factor in determining your Master Plan is the personality of the management. If they are “ride guys” who like those “white knucklers,” then at the end of the day you are going to end up with a park full of thrill rides. If they are from “show business” you’ll probably be exploiting some sort of intellectual properties (books, movies, films, etc), like we did at Six Flags with the Batman Stunt Show. If they are risk takers, your park will feature custom, one of a kind rides, or if they are more conservative, they’ll guide you in the direction of selecting proven, off the shelf equipment. In theme park design, as in most other fields, you follow the Golden Rule: He Who Has The Gold Rules. But it’s essential that the theme park designer educate the management so they understand the downside of under cutting the theming, landscaping and ride variety—eventually it will catch up with you and guests will stop coming in DROVES.thus the “gold” dwindles.

You will notice that I did not mention budget as a primary factor in determining the Master Plan of your park. That’s because budget follows the risk profile of the management-the high rollers will go for the biggest budget they can justify, the more conservative managers will pinch the pennies. There’s no one answer, as both well funded, and very lightly funded parks can achieve success. For example, at Six Flags when they were owned by Time Warner in the mid nineties, all the Batman, Looney Tunes, Dennis The Menace, Police Academy and other movie themes were added, increasing both attendance and per capita income, while the capital budget was actually CUT.

When you put all these factors together, and your park is sized properly for the market, your attraction mix is right, you have just the right amount of food and merchandise, and the parking lot is big enough to handle your largest predicted crowd: look out! It’s probably going to be a big hit, and the owner will be asking you why you didn’t make the darn thing a little bigger!

And that’s the last element of a good Master Plan: room for expansion. Given the fact that you are going to have to add new attractions after you open, having space for them without making the place so darn big that you exhaust the guests trying to walk the park, is quite a trick. But a good Master Plan allows plenty of space for new rides, shows or even whole “lands.” When you don’t have enough potential for well-themed additions, you end up planting your new roller coaster over a parking lot, which can ruin the whole effect of adding a new ride.

There are a million factors that you need to take into account when developing a good master plan. For instance, food concessions need to be plentiful and located in the busy sections of the park, so that guests are not waiting in long lines. There are too many of these factors to delve into in one short article, but there is one final design element that should be mentioned. Probably the most important factor in making sure your guests enjoy their day at the park is employee training, so don’t forget to design a good “cast center” where your employees can learn what it takes to serve the guests. You can have the best attractions in the world, but if your staff is rude, indifferent, or incompetent, all the rest of your design goes right down the drain.

If you take all of these factors into account, however, you’ll have one heck of a park.

So, you want to design a theme park? Well, now you know a few tricks of the trade, so have at it!

To learn more about theme park master planning, or to inquire about a possible project, contact Peter Alexander of the Totally Fun Company.

3. Theme Park Master Planning – Park Layout

by Peter Alexander

Park Layout

When people think of Master Planning, a lot of them think of how the park is arranged, which is what we call “park layout.”

There are as many ways to lay out a park as there are designers who do it, but a few have been used more often than not, so we’ll touch on those first.

The Disney approach, seen in the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, is what could be called the Icon Design Philosophy. The big Icon for Disney is the Castle at the end of Main Street, and that is also the one “visual contradiction” in that park-as there aren’t a lot of fairytale castles at the end of most American Main Streets. That visual contradiction is designed to “pull” you down Main Street, and that’s basically what the Icon Design Philosophy does-it provides you with big, visual landmarks that pull you through the park. Once you enter Tomorrowland, for example, you’ll see Space Mountain, which is located at the back of that “land” and pulls you to that point. The other Icons, the Matterhorn and Big Thunder Mountain work the same way, and they also help you figure out where you are in the park. If you see Big Thunder ahead of you, then Frontierland must be that way.

Probably the most popular park layout is the “loop” which was first developed by Randy Duell for Six Flags Over Texas, and can be found in more theme parks than any other kind of plan. The “loop” is exactly what it sounds like, a big promenade that circles the park. The good thing about it is that you never get lost, because you are always somewhere on the loop, so if you want to find the exit, just keep on walking. The bad part comes when you decide that the next ride you want to experience is on the other side of the park, and then you have a trek in store to reach it.

Beyond these layouts, there are dozens of others, notably the Universal Studios front lot/back lot plan, and then a whole lot of “I kept growing and growing so this is how I turned out” plans. Those are the places you get lost in, unless the directional graphics are really good.

But no matter what kind of plan you end up with, what really matters most to the guest is how much fun they are going to have, and that is determined by your “attraction mix.”

2. Theme Park Master Planning – The Theme

The Theme

A “Real Theme Park” needs a theme, which is a funny thing to say, but have you ever noticed that a lot of the places we call “theme parks” don’t have much of a theme at all? That’s because a lot of them are not really theme parks, they are just amusement or thrill ride parks with some pretty scenery stuck in between giant iron rides that look like Martian machines from The War of The Worlds. For this discussion, we are going to stick to “Real Theme Parks,” a term which describes Disney, Universal, many of the Busch parks, and certain others such as De Efterling in Holland.

Sometimes you start with a theme, and sometimes you evolve one over time.

For example, at Universal Studios Florida, we started with the theme that we were a working movie studio. Thus, when you arrive at Universal, the first thing you do is walk through the “studio gate.” Now it so happens that the original Universal Studios in Los Angeles never had a studio gate. To get on to the Universal lot, you just drove past a guard shack and waved at a guard named “Scotty.” However, since Scotty passed away, we decided to “borrow” the Paramount Studio main gate for Universal, Florida, and a replica (somewhat improved) of that is what is there today.

The rest of Universal in Florida follows the layout of a standard studio. Once you enter, you are on the “front lot,” which looks like a bunch of sound stages. Some of them are real, and some happen to be rides cloaked in “sound stage themed” (i.e. concrete box) buildings. But if you turn right on to Hollywood Boulevard, like most people do when they enter a theme park, you find yourself on the Back Lot, an area themed to look like the exterior shooting sets of a movie studio. If you walk behind a set, as you often do when you are standing in line for a ride, you’ll see the structure that holds it up-unlike Disneyland-because that’s what you see when you walk behind the façade of a shooting set in Hollywood. It’s all Movie Magic at Universal, and everything in the park flows from that theme.

In other cases, you might end up “finding” your theme after you’ve been in the design stage for awhile. One example of this is Disney’s EPCOT. Walt wanted to build an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, that is, a working city showcasing future technology. But by the time I arrived at Disney in 1979, that theme had morphed into what it is today: a permanent World’s Fair.

It doesn’t matter how you get to the theme. It might evolve, like EPCOT or be someone’s brainchild, but however you get there the theme determines everything else that you do. And why? Because, as our Executive Art Director at Disney, John Hench, used to say, if you are a real theme park, you cannot have “visual contradictions.” What Mr. Hench meant, basically, is that if you are standing on a 19th century Main Street, you can’t have Space Ships landing in front of you, it ruins the experience, and your theme provides you with the guidance to make these kinds of design decisions.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but we will get to that in our next section, park layout.

1. Theme Park Master Planning: So you want to build a theme park?

by Peter Alexander President;

Totally Fun Company.

So you want to build a theme park?

What do you do? Where do you start? How about taking some cool rides, and putting them together with some good restaurants, fun stores and pretty landscaping? Well, you can do exactly that, and some people have, but if you want to make your theme park work you’d better do some master planning.

The Numbers Game

If you want to build a theme park, the safest place to start is by doing a feasibility study. This study will tell you what kind of market your park will draw upon, what kind of attendance you can expect, and therefore how big to make the park. Now, this is sort of a Catch 22, because unless you have some idea of the type and quality level of the attraction you plan to build, you can’t really pin down how many people will visit it. But given that you have some general idea of what you want to do, a good feasibility study can narrow down the parameters about what you should plan.

There are a million formulas we use when we do these studies, but at the end of the day, they all boil down to one number: The Design Day. To calculate the Design Day, you have to figure out how many people will be coming to the park during a day in peak season, and how many of them will actually be in park at the peak time of day. That number basically tells you how big to make everything-from the size of the walkways to the size of the parking lot. It tells you how many “entertainment units” (i.e. ride, show and game capacity per hour) you need to plan, how many restaurants and stores you’ll need, and just about everything else, except maybe how big to make Mickey Mouse’s ears.

The money guys will use this feasibility study to help them figure out if you are going to make a buck on the park, or go broke. There are two key factors here: your total attendance per year, and the per capita income you can expect from each guest. A lot of this depends on what kind of attractions you have, and how long you can entertain the guests. At a big theme park, like the Magic Kingdom or Universal Studios, there’s more to experience than you can do in one day, so you can charge more for a ticket, and people will spend more on food and merchandise because they stay longer. At a small park, it works the other way.

Even considering all the science and statistical formulas we use, a feasibility study can only provide an educated guess at how big to make your park. For example, at Universal Studios, Florida, despite the fact that the park had a “rough opening,” it exceeded the highest feasibility study attendance projection in the first year, and just kept growing from there. That is to say, more people came than we projected in our wildest imagination! What that meant for the park guests is there were some long lines at first. These exceeded our wildest expectations as well. For example, I had designed the E.T. ride with a pleasant indoor queue themed like a pine forest, but the actual lines stretched well outside the building. Our quick response to that was to improve the queue line experiences with videos, bigger shade structures, and live entertainment, but from a master planning point of view, so long as you leave space for the queues, you are pretty well covered.

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Mary Blair

Mary Blair (October 21, 1911–July 26, 1978), born Mary Robinson, was an American artist best remembered today for work done for The Walt Disney Company. Blair produced striking conceptual art for such films as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Her style also lives on through the character designs for the Disney attraction “it’s a small world”, as well as an enormous mosaic inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Blair was honored as a Disney Legend in 1991.

Born October 21, 1911 in McAlester, Oklahoma, Mary Browne Robinson moved to Texas while still a small child, and later to California when she was about 7. Having graduated from San Jose State College, Mary won a scholarship to the renowned Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles, where teachers included Pruett Carter, Morgan Russell and Lawrence Murphy. In 1934, she married another artist, Lee Everett Blair (October 1, 1911–April 19, 1995).

Both Blairs soon began to work in the animation industry, joining the Ub Iwerks studio. Lee went on to work at the Harman-Ising studios before ultimately joining the Walt Disney studio where he was joined by his wife in 1940.

After leaving the studio for a brief time in 1941, Mary traveled to various South American countries with Walt and Lillian Disney and other artists on a research tour as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy. During those trips, Mary and Lee worked on concept art for the animated feature films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros with Mary credited as art supervisor on those films.

She also worked on Make Mine Music, credited as art supervisor, Song of the South, credited for background & color, Melody Time, credited for color & styling, So Dear to My Heart and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

The early 1950s were a busy time for the Disney studio, with an animated feature released nearly every year. Mary Blair was credited with color styling on Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951 and Peter Pan (1953) and the artistic influence of her concept art is strongly felt in those films as well as several animated shorts she designed during that period.

After the completion of Peter Pan, Mary resigned from Disney and worked as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, creating advertising campaigns for companies such as Nabisco, Pepsodent, Maxwell House, Beatrice Foods and others. She also illustrated several Golden Books for publisher Simon & Schuster and designed Christmas and Easter sets for Radio City Music Hall.

At the request of Walt Disney, who highly regarded her innate sense of color styling, Mary began work on the attraction “it’s a small world”, originally a Pepsi-Cola sponsored pavilion benefiting UNICEF at the 1964 New York World’s Fair which moved to Disneyland after the Fair closed and was later replicated at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World as well as Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. (The attraction will also be part of the scheduled expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland).

In 1967, Mary created mural art for Tomorrowland’s Adventure thru Inner Space that was covered over during subsequent renovations of that Disneyland area in 1987 and 1998. That year, she also was credited as color designer on the film version of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.

Her design of a ninety-foot high mural remains a focal point of the Disney’s Contemporary Resort hotel at Walt Disney World, which was completed for the resort’s opening in 1971.

Mary Blair died of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 26, 1978.

While the fine art she created outside of her association with Disney and her work as an illustrator is not widely known or appreciated, her bold and groundbreaking color design still serves as an inspiration to contemporary designers and animators.

Ask an Imagineer!

Do you have a question about themed entertainment design?   Feel free to ask it here.  We’ll answer back as soon as we can.

As well, if you are an experienced professional in themed entertainment design and would like to help answer questions, we’d love to consider you as a moderator.

Imagineering Bio: Marty Sklar

Martin A. “Marty” Sklar is The Walt Disney Company’s international ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, the subisdary of the company which designs and constructs the Disney theme parks and resorts across the world. Sklar was formerly vice president of concepts and planning for the company, before being promoted to president, and then eventually taking the position of vice chairman and principal creative executive of the company before his current role.

Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Sklar was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper in 1955 when he was recruited to create an 1890s-themed newspaper, The Disneyland News, a month before the theme park opened. After graduating, he joined Disneyland full-time in 1956, where he held responsibility for most of the park’s publicity and marketing materials.

In 1961, he moved to WED Enterprises, renamed in 1986 to Walt Disney Imagineering, where he worked on attractions for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. For nearly 10 years, he wrote personal materials for Walt Disney for use in publications, television and special films. In 1974 he became vice president of concepts/planning, and guided the creative development of EPCOT Center (now known as Epcot) at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort.

As vice president of creative development, executive vice president and then president of Imagineering for nine years, Sklar supervised the design and construction of Tokyo Disneyland, the Disney-MGM Studios, Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s California Adventure, Tokyo DisneySea, the Walt Disney Studios Park and most recently Hong Kong Disneyland.

On February 16, 2006, the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the unit of the Walt Disney Company which serves as the umbrella for Walt Disney Imagineering, Jay Rasulo, announced that Sklar would resign from his current position and take up the new position of international ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering. The occupation entails travelling around art and design and architecture colleges, universities and other institutions around the world, offering seminars attracting new talent to the company, as well as being a presence at future attraction and park openings, representing the company. Sklar said in a joint statement, “I knew that as my 72nd birthday and my 50th Disney anniversary approached, I would look for new challenges, so when Jay Rasulo asked me to talk about the future, I was ‘all ears’ to a challenging proposal Jay made. It not only seems to be one of those ideas that is overdue, but it was clear to me that I am the perfect casting (perhaps the only candidate) capable of originating and organizing this assignment.” [1]

In 2001, Sklar was recognized as a Disney Legend and was the second recipient of the Themed Entertainment Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Sklar serves as president of Ryman Arts, whose Ryman Program for Young Artists honors the late Herb Ryman, an artist, designer and fellow Disney Legend.

Magic Markers for Theme Park Designers

20 Apr 2012 Design Tools

One subject that themedattraction.com has not addressed yet is the question of design tools: That is, what tools are used by designers to create theme park attractions?

Magic Markers

There are three brands of markers that seem to work the best for rendering, and each have their advantages. Prismacolors are nice because they are a dry marker. The dry marker allows you to get more detailed with your color. The triple tips allow you to work in detail or on larger surfaces. There are scores of colors in a variety of different sets. They work well for most applications. Pantone brand markers are very similar to Prismacolors in function and performance, very dry and usable for many applications.

The difficulty in using these markers is keeping a ‘wet edge’. When filling a surface, if you let a surface dry and then try to add more color you’ll get a bleed line within the space. Bleed lines can ruin a drawing and must be avoided. Of course, if you scan the drawing, the lines can always be photoshopped out. But there is something to be said about a perfectly rendered marker drawing.

Chartpak is another brand of markers that are used quite often in themed attraction development circles. The difference is that unlike Prismacolors, they are extremely wet. The wetness is an advantage because you can quickly cover an area on a piece of paper with a nice wash of color. Care must be taken to stay away from edges, because this marker bleeds a lot. However, an astute illustrator will use the black lines on a drawing as a buffer zone within which the bleed will stop. The Chartpak markers bring a wonderful, water color-like feel to a drawing and unlike Prismacolors, can be blended together to some extent. A disadvantage of these markers is the high level of toxicity. Use only for short periods of time.

Photoshop is quickly replacing the need for markers. A paint bucket tool in Photoshop eliminates a lot of mistakes and allows for editing later. Still, there is a rich quality that can be obtained with a properly rendered marker drawing. It is an art that we should not soon forget.

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Marc Fraser Davis

March 30 , 1913 – January 12 , 2000 ) was a prominent artist and animator for Walt Disney Studios. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men , the famed core animators of Disney animated films.

Some of the animated characters Davis mainly designed and animated are Thumper from Bambi ( 1942 ), Brer Rabbit from Song of the South ( 1946 ), Cinderella ( 1950 ), Alice of Alice in Wonderland ( 1951 ), Tinker Bell in Peter Pan ( 1953 ), Maleficent and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty ( 1959 ) and Cruella De Vil of 101 Dalmatians ( 1961 ).

Davis also designed the characters for many Disneyland ride and show animatronics: The Enchanted Tiki Room, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Ford’s Magic Skyway, Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, America Sings, The Haunted Mansion, “It’s a Small World,” Western River Expedition, and the Country Bear Jamboree.

His wife Alice Davis created the original costuming for figures in the Disneyland rides Pirates of the Caribbean and “It’s a Small world.”

In 1989, he was named a Disney Legend . He was also the receipient of the much coveted Mousecar.

Davis died in January 2000; that same month, the Marc Frasier Davis Scholarship Fund formally was established at the California Institute of the Arts .

Quotes

On Disneyland rides: “We really don’t have a story, with a beginning, an end, or a plot. It’s more a series of experiences building up to a climax. I call them experience rides.”

Working on the Jungle Cruise in the 1970’s

Terry Speicher: Theme park designer with ITEC Productions and a former Walt Disney World Jungle Cruise Skipper from the opening days of Walt Disney World.

Interviewer: Tell us about how you got started at Jungle, and how long you were there.

TS: OK. It was a very cold winter in Indiana, around December, 1972. Eastern Airlines was advertising on the Larry Lujack Show out of Chicago, with the slogan, “If You Had Wings,” and all kinds of hype about Disney, ending with clips about Disney World, Mickey Mouse, and warm Florida. I couldn’t resist. I’d had enough of gray skies and wet snow. I took $500 and my old Corvair, kissed my folks goodbye, and drove down: I was going to work for Disney. What I didn’t know was how many other people had the same idea. There were 30,000 applicants for 7,000 jobs when the park opened, and this was only a year later. I was lucky enough to be hired and assigned to Main Street Adventureland, where Ed Beaver took one look at the three guys with me and said, “Trains.” Then he took one look at me and said “Jungle Cruise.” I still have no idea why, but I was given a script and told to go home and memorize it by the following Monday (this was Friday). I’d never memorized any script before, and I was nervous, but I learned how to give the spiel, and then the fraternity experience began. I found the Jungle to be more than an ordinary job and the people who worked there more than ordinary people. Most of them were overqualified for these positions, and they provided a certain camaraderie and humor akin to what you see on M*A*S*H. You’d get on the boat, where the previous captain would tell you he’d loaded the gun (a real Smith and Wesson .38) for you as a courtesy. You’d get to the hippo pool and fire, and the first two shots would go click, click. On the third shot, an unbelievable ka-boom would resound–he would have double loaded one of the blanks for you. In those days, each captain would work out his own interpretation of the script, including me. There was an ongoing war (and probably still is) between the official script and the one that was actually delivered once the boat was ten feet away from the dock.I stayed at Disney for 4 1/2 years, of which I probably spent a year and a half on the Jungle. I wound up as lead on the Jungle at several different times, worked as opening lead at “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and was also a lead on Main Street. During rehab, I had the pleasure of replacing the hair on the animals in the veldt.

Interviewer: Do you have any favorite Jungle Stories or memories?

TS: We used to go into the rock rooms to cool off. We had “borrowed” a special key, but that became a slightly risky enterprise. One day the landscaping crew obligingly left a set of pruning shears behind when they went to lunch. Jerry Starcher (“Stump,” for short) and I decided it was high time the Jungle Cruise had more than a dock box for comfort, especially for the leads. We went into the room in the queuing area and used the nippers to cut through the AC ductwork, added a leftover grille, and voila! the Jungle Cruise office was born. (I tended to make offices wherever I went. Eventually I created a lunch area on the catwalk above the lagoon at Pirates. They never could prove I’d relocated the WDW bandroom’s water-cooler/refrigerator to the Pirates tower, as all identifying  markings had somehow disappeared.) The very best early Jungle Cruise exploit I remember (though I wasn’t involved myself) was about a captain who intentionally disabled his gun so it wouldn’t fire. After he pointed it at a hippo and it went “click” several times, he put a rubber knife between his teeth, jumped overboard, stabbed the hippo, swam to shore, jumped back on the boat in the shrine, changed shirts (he’d stashed one under the bow), received a standing ovation at the end of the cruise, and would have gotten away with it except for the congratulatory cards and letters that poured into Operations two weeks later, including photographs. Unfortunately, he was fired. (He had set the whole thing up so that a plain-clothes Jungle Cruise captain was on board, so the safety of the guests was never in question.) But my favorite memory of the Jungle Cruise involves a father with a little kid on a very hot, extremely hot July afternoon. This guy was shuffling along in the queue with the kid on his shoulders, and whenever he got really hot he’d lift the kid up in the air. Each time he did this, he’d hear a “thwacketa-thwacketa-thwacketa” sound and look around to see where it was coming from. It took about three times for him to realize that he was sticking the kid’s head into one of the ceiling fans. The kid was too surprised even to cry.

Interviewer: What are you doing now?

TS: That, of course, was all many years ago. In the intervening time, I’ve raised a family, opened and run my own electronics company, gotten a pilot’s license, traveled, and recently come full circle working for the entertainment industry, as an engineer for a company that builds ride and electronics systems for Disney and Universal. Strange how once it gets into your blood, it seems to stay there. My experiences on the Jungle made an extrovert out of an introvert and provided me with an extremely pleasant memory. On subsequent visits to the park with my family, I’ve noticed that things on the Jungle Cruise seem to be somewhat subdued by comparison.

Interviewer: You submitted a photo featuring you and Julie Nixon – tell us about that experience.

TS: As I turned the corner after Trader Sam, I saw every Disney dignitary who was anybody was standing on the dock, along with half a dozen secret service men and a gaggle of tongue-tied Girl Scouts who were there to provide a PR photo op. Somewhere in the middle of this mass of people was Julie Nixon Eisenhower. At the time, Nixon was still the president, and I’d voted for him, I regret to say, so this was a pretty big deal. It isn’t often that you get to give a “command performance.” Julie, the secret service guys, the girl scouts, and the “ambassador” tour guide were our only guests on that voyage–the people who’d been waiting on the dock were shuffled into permanent wait mode until the hubbub died down. The secret service were on the back of the boat and all over the dock, and, although I didn’t think about it until afterwards, I suppose there was a dangerous moment when I brandished the gun and shot the hippo (in those days we used real Smith and Wesson 38s, just blanks, of course.) You can bet their guns didn’t have blanks in them.

It wasn’t all that exciting because we got lots of celebrities, as you probably did as well, working on the Jungle. I was actually more impressed with the armed guards than with the president’s daughter (I was also more interested in the tour guide.) Just as a side note, on another occasion, when I was working at Pirates, Cliff Robertson damned near got me fired–he called to tell my supervisor what a great job I’d done the previous day of giving him a “behind-the-scenes” (very abbreviated, but he didn’t know that) tour of Pirates, which of course I wasn’t supposed to do. All my time at Disney, both on the Cruise and in Main Street/Adventureland, convinced me that even “important” people were just people, and to this day I use the skills I learned there every day.

Working on the Jungle Cruise in the 1990’s

JGR: Nathan, welcome! Thanks for being with us!

NN: Thanks.

JGR: The first thing I have to ask is how did you become one of the few skippers to work two Jungles?

NN: Well, the hardest part was getting hired into the college program at Disneyland, where only about 10% of applicants made it in. Actually, I didn’t even make it at first. I got a rejection letter. But I started a letter writing campaign to my recruiter. They offered me the job the day after I gave up hope. And lo and behold, the offer was for what I consider the best job at all of Disney. . . the Jungle Cruise.

JGR: Wow! That’s great.

NN: Then after college I decided that I wanted to design theme parks for a living. Sort of a dream of mine. So I moved to Orlando, where a lot of the design companies are located. I figured since I was in town, why not do the Jungle Cruise again? Getting hired on at WDW was easier. I basically walked in the door and begged (and flirted) to get them to send me to Jungle Cruise…. and they did! I was ecstatic! My friends at all WDW roll their eyes every time I start to talk about Disneyland Jungle. But I have a lot of great memories from the place, so it’s really still a part of me. It was like living in a parallel universe. Everything was the same, yet everything was different.

JGR: Cool. Now, we all know about the WDW Temple/Shrine – what are some of the other major differences, from your point of view as an operator?

NN: Well, the spiel is more or less the same, but the jungle is all backwards. At DL the elephant pool and “temple” area is more or less first. At WDW, it’s last. Besides that, they don’t use spotlights at night, which makes a big difference. WDW has much better “stick” microphones, which allows you to do a lot more things with your voice.

JGR: That’s funny, because when I was at WDW, we had the old CB mics and Spotlights (showing my age, I guess).

NN: I tried to get out the spotlights one night, but no one else would use them. They take a bit of coordination. I still like the CB mikes. They are perfect for pulling off a good, dry spiel. Oh, and of course… the ride at WDW is 10 minutes, as opposed to 7 at DL.

JGR: I know you’re probably asked this a lot, and I don’t want any sissy-I-like-them-both-equally- momma-with-two-sons crap: Which is the better jungle?

NN: Okay, I’ll give ya a clear answer, but you’ve gotta bear with me. First of all, I think that both have some great advantages over the other… I like WDW because I’ve had time to make a lot of great friends, whereas in College Program at DL, as soon as I got there it seemed like it was time to go home. But if I had to pick one… it would have to be Disneyland for several reasons: 1. It was the original. 2. Being from Oregon, I grew up on the west coast, and Disneyland was what I grew up with. 3. They actually have more animals to talk about (no toucans at WDW, or water buffalo at the python, no monkeys right near the veldt, etc). The Disneyland show scenes are spaced out a whole lot better. It’s much easier to spiel to, and there seems to be a nice flow to it. A lot of times WDW show scenes are close together, and then there are large gaps. For some reason at the end of the WDW ride, there is a big blank spot where we are supposed to point out the plant life. Talk about anti-climatic! The longer WDW ride is nice, in many ways too though. But most of all, and I know you are gonna think I am crazy for saying this: when I worked at DL Jungle, there were only guys. It was sort of like a fraternity… a boys club. Everyone looked up to the “Jungle cruise” guys for some reason. And not being around girls for a while wasn’t too bad. After all, there was plenty of good flirting potential at Fantasmic guest control.

JGR: Actually, I don’t find that crazy at all – I worked with an all male Jungle at WDW. Nathan, tell us a little about your theme park designing job – have you worked on anything we’d recognize?

NN: Well, I am just Mr. “almost good enough to scrub floors” designer. So I am just getting started. But my company did some of the major show sets for the new Twister Ride at Universal Studios Florida. They also designed the look and feel for the Batman roller coasters at the Six Flags parks. Besides that, they designed the sculptural characters above the “World of Disney” store.

JGR: Cool! How did you get involved with that (besides working at Jungle, obviously)? NN: Well, when I was at Disneyland I kept trying to get into Imagineering, with little luck. But I fell in love with the idea, so I changed my major to the closest thing I could find to it (and still graduate reasonably on time): architectural engineering… and about that time, I made contact with a CEO of a company that designs such attractions. He basically laid it all out, in terms of what I needed to do to get started. I followed it to the letter, and started networking and learning the things I thought I needed to know.

JGR: Any plans for the future to try again to get into Imagineering?

NN: The first thing I learned about this business is that it is very turbulent. When I got to Orlando, I was almost immediately hired by a company that designs sets and exhibits. Shortly thereafter, I was fired (It’s kind of fun to say you’ve been fired, actually). Then I got my “Dream job” with a company much like the one I am with now. We were designing theme parks in China and Korea. But with their financial crisis, they couldn’t afford to pay their bills, and our company went under. Generally, in this business (including with Imagineering) you work on one job (say, a ride like Splash Mountain). When it is complete, you lose your job. With luck, there is always a project right behind it that you can get signed into, but that’s not always the case. After EPCOT was finished in the 1980’s, about 2000 Imagineers lost their jobs.

JGR: Wow!

NN: In answer to your question, though, yes I would definitely like to work at WDI at some point down the road, given the right fit. But for now, I love where I am in work and in life. My friend Carley and I both want to stay at Jungle until we are 70! No joke! That’s the plan.

JGR: Great plan!

NN: We will be CT (seasonal) by then, I’m sure…

JGR: Do you ever get back to the DL Jungle for a visit?

NN: No, I’ve never been back. And I do miss it a whole lot. But then again, Disney is never too far away from me.

JGR: Any advice for Present Skippers, or Future hopefuls?

NN: Well, I think for new skippers, it’s best not to try to be too much of a crowd pleaser. I mean, it is very easy to get carried away and start throwing offensive one liners into a spiel to try to get a reaction. But the bottom line is that some boats don’t react to anything you do. I have had back to back to back boats. The first one where they are rolling on the floor, and the second one you give the exact same spiel, and all you get are blank looks. The third time, they are crying because they are laughing so hard. So after 18 months at DL and WDW jungle, I came to the conclusion that it’s up to the guests to have fun. I’ll always have fun, whether they do or not!

JGR: Last question (fodder for the message board – like it needs it): If ten WDW skippers and ten DL skippers had a rumble in a dark alley, who would win?

NN: Hmm… let’s see… Ya got those tofu-eatin’ Californian blondies on one side… and those rough and rugged southern boys on the other side (and me)… I think I’m gonna have to go with the Floridians on this one (and all those New Yorkers who seem to find their way to Jungle).

JGR: I was gonna say WDW cause they’re used to the dark from the shrine!

NN: Maybe that too. . .

JGR: Well, thanks a ton, Nathan, for joining us this month.

NN: Oh, no problem. Hope you got some stuff you can use. Remember, “If loving the Jungle is wrong… I don’t want to be right!”

JGR: Great tag line!

Much luck to you

The Disney Jungle Cruise Spiel

20 Apr 2012 Show Writing

We have made this list in an effort to preserve the many hundreds of witty jokes that have been “spieled” on Disney’s Jungle Cruise for the last 45 years since Disneyland opened. Many of the very best lines are lost over time as even the official Disney scripts change every few years. We hope that this will be a permanent repository for some of the best (and worst) humor ever delivered in the “Tropical rivers of the world.” This is not an official script.

While in line:

Those of you adventurers entering the world-famous Jungle Cruise, please notice there are two lines, one on the right and the other on the left. If you’d like to keep your family together, please stay in the same line. However, if there is someone in your family you’d like to get rid of, just put them in the opposite line and you’ll never see them again.

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please. Would the party that lost the roll of 50 $20.00 bills, wrapped in a red rubber band, please report to the turnstile … we have good news for you. We found your rubber band.

To speed things up, we ask that you tell the loaders — the men who will be helping you into the boats — how many there are in your party. For instance, if there are four people in your party, say “Hi, Mr. Smiling Boat Loader, there are four people in my party…” and he will save you four seats. If there are eight people in your party, say ” Hi, Mr. Smiling Boat Loader, there are eight people in my party…” and he will save you four seats.

Those of you who have just entered the Jungle Cruise are probably resigned to the fact that, being at the end of the line, you have a long wait. Well, we aim to please here at the world-famous Jungle Cruise. So, on the count of three, I want everyone to turn around. One … Two … Three. There- those at the back of the line are now at the front. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Your attention, please. We do not allow cutting in line here at the world-famous Jungle Cruise. Anyone caught with a pair of scissors will be asked to leave.

There are 87 varieties of poisonous snakes on the North American continent. We at the Jungle Cruise are proud of the fact that we have 82 of these varieties in the wooden rafters directly over your heads. Fear not, though, they will NOT attack a moving target, so please try to keep the line moving. If the line won’t move, simply run in place.

Today only, ladies and gentlemen, we will be allowing veterans to board the world-famous Jungle Cruise without waiting… veterans of the Civil War, that is, in full dress uniforms, accompanied by their great grand parents and their horse. Everyone else will have to wait in line.

Some of our scouts here at the world-famous Jungle Cruise claim they have spotted tigers in the waiting area the last couple of days. But we know that’s ridiculous. After all, tigers are striped, not spotted.

We have some pretty smart animals back in the jungle. Take monkeys, for example. You ask them to name one of their relatives, and they go ape. And snakes, they’re pretty clever too. Ask them what the 19th letter of the alphabet is and they’ll say S-S-S-S-S. Tigers are known for their intelligence, but you can’t trust them. Yeah, you never know when they might be a lyin’ (lion). But I think rhinoceroses are by far the smartest animals in the jungle. Just last week, I asked what four minus four is, and he said nothing.

Adventurers and adventurettes, horseplay is not allowed while waiting to board the world-famous Jungle Cruise. If you want to play with your horse, you’ll have to do it elsewhere. We do, however, allow you to monkey around in line just as long as you don’t go bananas.

It’s a four-hour wait from there. Have you been upstairs yet?

Other Assorted Jokes:

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhinoceros? Eckiphino. Well, that’s not really what you get, but you must understand, this is a family attraction.

Why did the elephant ride on the Jungle Cruise? Frankly, I don’t know, but I wish someone would find out- he’s sunk five of our boats in the last week alone.

Why did the ape get a job? He was tired of monkeying around. Why did the elephant quit his job? He was tired of working for peanuts.

Knock, Knock… Who’s there? … Toucan. … Toucan Who? … Toucan not fit through the turnstiles at the same time.

Knock, Knock… Who’s there? … Safari. … Safari Who? … Safari, so good. You’ll be on the Jungle Cruise in just a few minutes.

Boat Loading:

That cushion in that back of the boat is actually a whoopee cushion. Don’t believe me, go ahead sit down. (People sit, Skipper makes farting sound over PA.) How embarrassing and in front of people you don’t even know.

(To the boat loader) So how does that new vacuum of yours work? Boat loader: It sucks!

Watch your step as you enter the boat. If you’re entering from the back, come up to the front. If you’re in the front, just follow the simple instructions of your simple-minded loader.

Please listen to the boat loaders. They used to work in a sardine factory until they got canned. They didn’t mind too much though- they worked for scale.

Come all the way to the front- up by me. There’s no truth to the rumor that you get a longer ride in back.

Slide all the way forward now… That’s the only way we have of keeping the cushions clean!

Some of you might want to come up and sit on our sacrificial altar (pointing to the center cushion). We like to balance out the boat so when we sink, we go down evenly.

Please move in together as close as possible and try to cover up all of the blue seat cushions. There have been extensive scientific studies that have proven that the color blue attracts deadly flying piranhas. (Using color of boat for blue.)

Please remember that the tighter you get the better the heating system on the boat works.

(As people load in the back) There’s no dancing in the back there, folks… no dancing… you will have to be seated. Dancing is only allowed on the promenade deck.

If you could just sit in the doorway there- it keeps the wild animals out and the chickens and turkeys in.

I get paid for the number of people I take out… not the number I bring back!

Don’t worry if it’s crowded now… there’ll be lots of room on the way back.

How many of you are on the Jungle Cruise for the first time? Good! So am I.

Let’s get one thing straight… if we start to sink, the captain will be going down with the boat. I’d like you to meet your new captain (looking at nearby guest)… What did you say your name was?

Those of you sitting in the back are going to get a charge out of this trip. Yeah- you’re sitting on thebattery. Some people find that revolting, but I think that there is a positive and negative side to everything. Shocking, isn’t it.

Pulling away from the dock:

Were out of here like a bad LA football team.

Well, folks, there’s the Jungle, and as Captain EO used to say (in a high voice) “Fire up the thrusters! We’re going in!”

Welcome aboard the Leaki Tiki. Adventure lovers, my name is (name) and I’ll be your captain- unless we run into trouble- in which case your new captain will be taking over. (Looking at nearby guest)… What did you say your name was?

Hello, everyone. I’d like to welcome you aboard the world-famous Jungle Cruise. My name is (name) and I’ll be your skipper for as far as we get.

Hello, everyone, and welcome aboard the Jungle Cruise. My name is (name), and I’ll be your skipper, guide, social director, and dance instructor for the next three months.

Hello everyone and welcome aboard the World famous Jungle Cruise. My name is (name) and I’ll be your SKIPPER today — on a three hour tour. (pause) On a three hour tour. (the last line should sound like the gilligan’s island song a bit more than the first one)

Where are you from (sir/madam)? (Guest answers) Sorry? (Guest repeats) Oh- I heard you the first time, I was just sorry.

Everyone turn around and wave good-bye to the folks back on the dock… They may never see you again.

Now, let’s everyone turn around and wave good-bye to those people on the dock we’ve left behind. (In low voice) Come on folks… pretend like you’re having a good time.

OK… before we go much further, everyone raise your right hand and repeat after me. “I hope…. we do return.” Good! Better turn and take one last look at the dock- you may never see it again!

Before I came to the Jungle, I worked in an orange juice factory, but I got canned because I couldn’t concentrate. My boss almost beat the pulp out of me…

You know they saw you can always judge the quality of a ride by it’s line, well how long did you folks wait? My point exactly. (Good at night with short lines)

Hello and welcome to the world famous Jungle Cruise. My name is (name) and I’ll be your captain, cruise director and dance instructor for the next five exciting days and six romantic nights.

A Jungle Cruise version of the Haunted Mansion spiel:

Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this boat actually leaving the dock? Or is it your imagination? And consider this dismaying observation: this boat is completely surrounded with water, and I’m you skipper. Which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! Of course you could always swim away!!! (flash lights on and off and make the sound of thunder at night)

Other Disney Attraction spiels to repeat for rowdy crowds and annual passholders:

Ala Pirates of the Caribbean: (In a high voice) I think you knows too much. You’ve seen the cursed treasure. You know where it be hidden. You may not survive to pass this way again. (Deep echoing voice) DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. . .

(In high pitched pioneer voice from Thunder mountain) No hold on to those hats and glasses folks. Cause this here is the WILDEST RIDE IN THE WILDERNESS!

“Cinnamon Toast and Taco’s In the door.” In case you have ever wondered what the spanish speaking announcement is saying in the line for the Matterhorn Bobsled ride – that’s the translation, folks!

Welcome to Fantasmic, tonight our friend and host Mickey Mouse uses his vivid imagination to create magical imagery for all to enjoy. Nothing is more wonderful than the imagination, for in a moment you can enjoy a beautiful fantasy- or an exciting adventure. But beware, because it can also turn your greatest fears into an overwhelming nightmare. Are the powers of Mickey’s imagination strong enough, or bright enough to withstand the evil that invades Mickey’s dreams? You are about to find out. So sit back, relax and experience fantasmic. A journey beyond your wildest imagination. . .

Rain Forest:

As we leave the last outpost of civilization, we travel deep into the mouth of the Irrawaddy river of Asia into a tropical rain forests, where it rains some 365 days a year. (Alternate: We’re now leaving the last outpost of civilization and entering the jungle by way of the Irrawaddy river of Burma.)

As you can see, countless varieties of plant life grow in abundance here. In fact, we’ve counted more than 100 varieties of rare bromeliads in this area. Many of these tropical plants get their nourishment simply from the air.

Now please watch out for these carnivorous vines (pointing). Last week, one of them reached into the back of the boat and pulled a woman right out. It was awful! And just before she disappeared, she was feeling just vine.

(Pointing) In fact she was sitting right where that (lady/man/girl/boy) in (color) is sitting!

Feel that mist on your faces… Don’t worry that’s only the monkeys in the trees.

Feel that mist on your faces… Don’t worry that’s only poisonous bacteria that will eat you all alive

Indiana Jones Ride:

Look here we have a bunch a very strange jungle species, ya see that one there (pointing to a male) the one with the wider hips that’s the female of the species.

Look here we have a bunch of Asian albino hairless apes. Ya watch (waves to people, they wave back) monkey see, monkey do.

Over there is what we call the Indiana Jones Adventure and the Temple of the Four-Hour Line.

Those folks over there are all lost, looking for the Jungle Cruise I think. Hey guys! The Jungle Cruise is that way!

Ancient Shrine:

See those crocodiles over there we have trained the to stay perfectly still so you can take better pictures.

Do you know what the difference between the crocodiles and alligators are. The crocodiles are made of plastic and the alligators are made with fiberglass.

You know the crocs are always looking for a hand out. Ya but be careful, I once had an English teacher on board and she didn’t listen to me and now she’s teaching shorthand.

Just so you know, all of the animals at the world famous Jungle Cruise are real. Except for the ducks. They are mounted on rails, just like the boats.

Elephant Pool:

Look here…it’s the republican national convention. You can take picture because they all have their trunks on. Oh by the way… If you want to see the Democrats they’re back at the Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival of Fools.

And it looks like a whole herd has come down to bathe! Don’t scare them now… of course, the big shot gets the private shower… but I kind of like the little squirts myself.

And look at all the elephants out here today! This comes as a complete surprise to me cause I had no idea these guys were going to be here. If you want to take pictures go ahead- all the elephants have their trunks on.

And just ahead, you’ll notice an alligator playing with an elephant. That’s something you don’t see everyday. (Long pause) But I do.

See that elephant right there, that’s the richest elephant in the whole jungle. Yeah – it’s ‘Donald Trunk’.

Hey look (pointing at the elephant facing away from the boat). There’s a full moon in the jungle tonight.

Bengal Tiger:

(In low voice) That’s no house cat over there. Bengal Tigers can jump over 20 feet, and we must be at least, well… 19 feet away! Don’t worry, he’ll jump right over us.

That Bengal Tiger over there weighs about 500 pounds. He’s looking right at you (sir/ma’am)- better keep smiling.

That Bengal Tiger can jump up to 35,000 feet…out of a plane that is.

Everyone look at that huge Bengal Tiger! Bengal Tigers weigh 500 pound and can jump over 20 feet.

Squirting Elephant:

As we leave the elephant pool, we head into… uh-oh- a big one is coming up on the right and it looks like he’s aiming for us! (Elephant squirts over bow and goes down again, then comes up) Oh no! He’s coming up again – you folks on the right get down! Well… I guess he didn’t have time to reload. (Or) Well… I guess he didn’t have enough trunk space.

OK, we’re leaving the elephants now and pressing further into the… Wait a second, it looks like one of the larger elephants did not want to be disturbed. He’s coming up again… you folks in the back get down! (After elephant does not squirt) Sir in the (middle/back)- that was very clever the way you hid behind your (child / wife / that lady… do you know her?)

As we leave the elephant pool, we head into… uh-oh- a big one is coming up on the right and it looks like he’s aiming for us! (Elephant squirts over bow and goes down again, then comes up) Oh no! He’s coming up again- you folks on the right get down! (Elephant comes up but does not squirt — make a silly laugh at them) I guess he forgot to reload.

Safari Outpost:

You know, a lot of safaris camp around this area. Hmm…. that could be one up ahead. (Points) Uh-oh… this one has some uninvited house guests! They do have a unique way of washing the dishes. (Points to water) Those gorillas sure did a sloppy job parking that jeep! But I guess monkeying around comes naturally to ’em.

You know, a lot of safaris camp around this area. Hmm…. that could be one up ahead. (Points) Uh-oh… this one has some uninvited house guests! One of those gorillas is going to have an eye opening experience. Should be mind blasting. I couldn’t get that jeep started. They got it to turn over.

Well, safari so goodi. Let’s move along.

Nothing to be concerned about. Just a bunch of gorillas having a good time. I wouldn’t get too close, though. They may look like a nice bunch, but let me tell you- those guys are really animals.

Now please, if you’re wearing yellow, don’t make any noises like a banana… it drives them ape! They find it very appealing.

Ah, that explains things! It looks like that safari has some uninvited house guests! (pause) (Yelling to gorillas) Hey! Where’d you guys learns to parallel park anyway? (Back to guests) Ah, they’re not listening. I guess they’re too busy monkeying around.

Plants:

Since we are in an area filled with rare tropical foliage, I’d like to take a moment to point out some of the plants to you. There’s one, there’s one… (Point left, point rear left, point right, etc)

I’d like to take a moment to point out the plant life and tell you everything I know about them. (point with silence)

Anybody know the names of those? Anybody? Oh well.

See that bamboo over there? It grows to be 6 stories tall, but people say it can grow to 7 stories but that’s a whole other story.

Gorillas & Crocodile:

Now there’s a croc with a snappy personality! Ha- he’s going to get himself a knuckle sandwich if he’s not careful.

Well, will you look at that- some of the camp’s food made it downstream. But I don’t think it’s going to waste.

Look there that’s something you don’t see every day… I do.. Every day every 15 minutes

Schweitzer Falls:

(Skipper has back to falls, distracted by the gorilla/croc scene) Uh- oh, lean in back there! Lean in! (Motions to guests and spins wheel around) Whew! That was close!

And now, we’re approaching the beautiful Schweitzer Falls, named after that famous African explorer, Dr. Albert Falls.

This is the backside of Schweitzer Falls, named for the backside of the famous explorer, Dr. Albert Falls.

Ahead is beautiful Schweitzer Falls, and I (wheel appears to jam and skipper tries to free) Oh no! You folks in the back lean in! Duck! Whew! That was close! (Best to use body language with all foreign crowds)

Don’t worry about the waterfall; it won’t get you wet. The water in the falls, like everything else at Disneyland, is completely synthetic. To the left is the beautiful Schweitzer Falls, and if you look over here to your right…. and then back to your left, you can have a second look at Schweitzer Falls.

Nile River:

We’ve turned on to the Nile river of Africa, the longest river in the world, winding across more than 4000 miles.

We’ve now turned down the Nile River the longest river in all of Anaheim that’s right a whole 200 feet.

We’ve now turned down the Nile River and if you don’t believe that you must be in denial.

Bull Elephants: Up on the Elephants bank, we have African bull elephants. Those enormous ears and great tusks distinguish them from the Indian elephants we saw earlier.

Do you know how you can tell that that’s an African elephant? (wait for response)… It’s because we’re in Africa

On the left bank there- it’s a huge bull elephant. The large sloping forehead and enormous ears mark the African bull; the second most feared animal in the jungle. On the other, THE most feared animal in the jungle- his mother in law

Look there, that’s Skippy (alt: Speedy, Dumbo) the fastest elephant in the jungle watch (lights first elephant then flashes it to the elephant on the right) Pretty amazing huh?

African Veldt:

Look at that family of baboons, there’s Pat & Shirley Baboon, Daniel Baboon, and the hair stylist Vidal Baboon .

Don’t worry kids! That zebra is just sleeping. Those lions are his friends!

The Lions are protecting the sleeping zebra.

Do you know why it’s so hard to eat zebra? You keep getting white meat – dark meat – white meat – dark meat.

Look it’s Simba and Nala from the Lion King.

How do you tell the difference between the male and female Zebras? The males have black and white stripes and the females have white and black stripes.

(Pointing) By the look of those baboons up there, something’s up on the great African veldt. Ah-ha! It looks like that pride of lions has made a kill, and the clean-up crew, those hungry vultures, are waiting for their share. This region points out the basic law of the jungle- “survival of the fittest.”

Oh, it looks like the entire baboon family has come down to the water’s edge today, along with the other residents of the African veldt. See the striped animals over there? Those are zebras. And the big tall ones with the long necks? Those are giraffes. And the black ones over here with horns- well, I’ve never seen them before. They must be gnu!

We’re about to enter the Africa veldt, an immense grassland home to an endless variety of wildlife- baboons, wildebeests, giraffes, gazelles, gnus, g-lions, g-zebras. (hard g-sounds)

Here’s a little advice. Never play poker in the jungle, because there are lots of cheetahs around. If they say they’re not a cheetah, then they’re probably just a lion.

Okay, I have a confession to make. I was once the second giraffe on the grassy knoll.

Up on the grassy knoll, a fake giraffe is choking on a plastic leaf.

Just for your information, all of the animals here on the veldt are real. But their feet have been bolted to the ground for your safety.

(Pointing to Lions eating zebra) Over there is the original hard rock cafe.

Over there is an example of the first Law of the Jungle: Don’t be a zebra.

Watch out for those vultures folks, they are always looking for charrion bags.

Trapped Safari (Rhino):

There’s that lost safari we’ve been looking for. Obviously mixed up in some kind of native uprising. That rhino seems to be getting his point across, and I’m sure that guy on the bottom will get the point in the end! Hey I know that guy on the bottom, his names Juan. Ya, and it looks like that rhino is going to get a hole in Juan. Well, bottoms up, fellows!

Uh-oh… look! That safari’s in a tight spot there. But that rhino seems more than willing to give them a lift.

On the bottom, there’s Ahontis. Looks like the Rhino is trying to poke Ahontis.

Well- you know what they say… safari, so good-ee. So I guess we’ll be moving on.

Hippo Pool:

We are now turning onto a pool of dangerous hippos, so please, sit still and don’t rock the boat. These huge creatures are quite curious and could easily upset our boat. So please, don’t do anything that might attract them!

Last week, they overturned six of our boats… only FIVE of them were MINE, though!

Don’t worry, the natives tell me that they are only dangerous when they wiggle their ears and blow bubbles….

Don’t worry, the natives tell me that they are only dangerous when they climb up in the trees and start doing big hippo cannon balls right down on top of us

How many of you are willing to go on? (Show of hands) How many of you want to turn back? How many of you are apathetic about the situations? Uh-oh… it looks like one of them’s going to try to charge our boat! (shoots) Looks like we’ve scared them off. I bet he’ll have a headache tomorrow!If we’re all real quiet, you can sometimes hear the baby hippos calling for their mothers. (Low voice) Shhh- be real quite now… listen …. (leaning out of boat, yells) “Hey mom!”

Uh oh, that large hippo is going to attack us! Watch out! (shoots) I just saved your lives, folks. (pause) YOUR WELCOME! (If applause) Please. . . . Don’t. . . . Stop. . .. . Please don’t stop!

Now as we enter the Hippo pool, I want to tell you about a ancient ritual that they have… They place their young in the trees to feed on the leaves until they are 6000lbs and then they cannon ball through the jungle foliage to the boats below and sink them to the bottom of the jungle rivers a whole 2.5 feet down. Oh, look there’s one now (shoots up into the trees).

Entering HeadHunter Country:

We are now entering the most dangerous part of our journey. Shhh. . . This is a bad place to be headed.

Over there are the remains of my last crew. (pointing to the skull canoe) You can tell they had a good time. Look, they are still smiling! That’s what happens after about 10 hours at Disneyland, folks. Those smiles are just plastered right on their faces.

We’re entering headhunter country now… be very quiet. In that canoe over there… the remains of my last crew. They had a good time, even to the end- they’re still smiling.

Shhh… we’re entering headhunter country now… don’t make a sound. In that canoe over there… some of the native’s arts and crafts. Art’s the one on the top!

We’re not out of danger yet- this is headhunter territory. Remove your jewelry please. The natives have been complaining of indigestion.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the headhunters. They normally only attack children wearing glowing jewelry (for night cruises)

Native Village:

The natives seem to be celebrating the kill of that lion… maybe we can sneak by. Don’t attract their attention.

I studied their language in college lets see if I can translate for you… Put your right foot in, shake it all about, Put your right foot out, shake it all about…

Hey look it’s the Village People, let’s see what they’re saying.. Y-M-C-A…

This group is trying to come up with a name for themselves for their upcoming CD, they have two choices, either the Village People or Fine Young Cannibals.

Attacking Natives:

Keep your eyes on these bushes on the right there. (Turns around quickly) They’re on the LEFT this time.

(Pick the color of the shirt of a child) Head hunters always attack kids wearing (blank) colored shirts

Uh-oh, it looks like a native war party on the left. You folks, please get down on the floor. (Makes whooshing sound into mike) Ah, those are spears by the way.

sshhh sshhh shhh sshhh shhh (eventually changes from shhh sound into a panting sound. Then in a surfer dude’s voice) WHOA! Great sound effects!

Women and children- stand up! All the men- get down! If they hit you with a spear, just pull it out and throw it back at them- we’re not allowed to keep souvenirs. We certainly don’t want you to be stuck with it for the rest of the trip.

On the left, a friendly group of native traders. Ukka Mucka Lucka… Ubonga Swahili Ungawa… Wagga Kuna Nui Ka… It’s a good thing I speak their language. (Turns to guest) They want to trade their coconuts for your (wife/child/husband)… I think we should hold out for at least four.

Okay ladies and gentlemen the natives usually attack from the right hand side of the boat. (Native attack) Wait one minute here! What are you guys doing on the left side of the boat? You know I told you to attack from the right and another thing what are you doing just standing looking stupid with those spears in your hand your supposed to throw them! Get back down and try that one again! (Timing is right so the natives go back down on skippers command)

If you get hit by a spear, pull it out at throw it back. You can’t keep souveniers. We wouldn’t want you to get stuck with one.

Falls:

Beautiful Schweitzer Falls is upon us again. The overhanging rock formation will afford us a different view this time. I have a special treat for you, folks. You may never have seen this before… there it is- the backside of water!

Now hold onto your seat cushions because we’re about to do something really special- no extra charge. Are you ready? We’re now going UNDER water!

Toucan:

On that old stump there are spectacular toucans, some of the most colorful birds in the jungle.

Toucan do much better than one can.

Over there are three toucans- also known as a six pack of birds.

Rapids of Kilimanjaro:

Uh-oh, up ahead- the treacherous rapids of Kilimanjaro. Very sharp and dangerous rocks through here… notice the huge waves crashing against our hull. (Makes crashing wave sounds in mike)

Ho hum… here we are at the famous rapids of Kilimanjaro. We’ll probably have to shoot them. (Leans over and shoots rapids with thumb and index finger.)

(Steering wheel back and forth) Notice the skill and finesse your skipper uses to guide the boat through safely. Those of you who wish to take pictures, feel free.

If we start sinking, we’ll have to lighten our load. (Turns to guest) You folks over there want to get your belongings together? You may be leaving us shortly.

That last rock on the right is a 1:100 scale model of the Matterhorn Bobsled ride! (check it out, it really looks like it. .. )

Hang on… we’re coming across some white water here. One of those jagged rocks could easily rip the bottom right out of our boat. If we start to go down, just grab for the bright red seat cushions. (color not on boat) They’re the only ones that float.

We’re now entering the incredibly dangerous white water rapids of Kilimanjaro. Grab hold of something solid, like those safety bars of the person next to you because we’re going to be bouncing up and down a lot! (jumps up and down, side to side) Whew! Did you feel the sheer power of that?

On the right here are some fascinating rock formations. Really interesting. It’s sad though. I come through here all the time, point these out to people, but they just take them for granite. (Alternate: See that rock right there, it’s actually made of limestone, but many of my crews just take it for granite.)

Python/Water Buffaloes:

Hey look there, what kind of snake is that? (People answer with the names of kinds of snake) No, it a plastic snake.

Python’s are one of the less intelligent animals in the jungle. If they were smart do you think that he would be hugging that dead tree stump when food is all around him.

Up ahead is our pet snake, Monty. (pause) Monty is a python

Yup, there’s one little python, sitting in a tree, H…I…S…S…I…N…G

Uh-oh… Look ahead there! A huge python. It looks like he tried to put the squeeze on that baby water buffalo… Actually, he’s very affectionate, and if we get much closer, he could get a crush on you!

And on the left, a huge python, one of the jungle’s most fascinating and studied creatures. After all, look at all the animals that totally get wrapped up in the subject!

That huge python is over 24 feet long and known to swallow little children whole!

Trader Sam:

There’s old Trader Sam, head salesman of the area. Business has been shrinking lately, so this week only, Sam’s offering a two-for-one special: two of his, for one of yours!

There’s old Trader Sam… Three explorers came through here last week and Sam invited them for dinner. When he told them what the menu was, they completely lost their heads.I got their late. All I got was the cold shoulder and some finger food.Trader Sam was thrown out of college, ya, he was caught buttering up one of his professors, now he’s a psychologist. You can tell who is clients are, he a shrink to the ones on the left and the ones on the right are his basket cases.

Return to Civilization:
Thank You for riding and have a good day. And as Michael Jackson would say (In a feminine voice)

Thank You for riding and have a good day. And as Charley Browns teacher would say (In the teachers weird voice) Wa, wa, wa…etc. And now as Millie Vanilli would say (mouths the words) Thank You for riding and have a good day.

And now, probably the most dangerous part of our journey- the return to civilization! I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed our cruise. However, if your in-laws are still with you, you’ve missed a golden opportunity. However, bring them back later tonight for our “in-law” special… halfway for half fare, no questions asked.

Well we’ve laughed and we’ve cried. We’ve almost died! I love you like family. Now get out! I’m sorry, that was rude. Please get out.

And now, the most dangerous part of our journey- the return to civilization and those California freeways. Talk about a jungle!

The Jungle Cruise was brought to you in part today my the letters, “e”, “r” and the number “101”

You know, many times people ask me how many people work at Disneyland. (Counting the visible cast members) Hmmm, I’d say about one out of seven!

As we approach, please notice that there’s a dock on the left, and a dock on the right. But don’t let it confuse you. It’s a paradox.

Make sure you have all personal belongings with you… cameras, purses, small children… anything left on board will be thrown screaming to the crocodiles.

Any children left on board become property of the Walt Disney company after 24 hours.Please make sure you have all you belongings with you including your small children, if you leave them we will be forced to take them back to It’s a Small World and glue their feet to the floor and make them sing that hideous song over and over and over.

Please keep your hands inside the boat, I sure don’t want my new dock ruined. If you liked your ride my name is (name) if you didn’t my name is Tom and I work on the Submarine Voyage.

Unloading: Two of the world’s largest pygmies will assist you from the boat.

Please take your kids by the hand and watch your step.

You will be helped off the boat by two of the black footed albino pigmies over on the dock. These guys weigh over 500 pounds and can jump OVER TWENTY FEET!

OK rise like bread folks, no loafing around. I know my jokes are stale and crumby, and I’m sure I could do butter but its the yeast I can do on the sourdough I make here. I think I get my rye sense of humor from my dad. It’s no wonder. He’s Danish. I was born under a croissant moon and I used to be the toast of the town, until one day I just got spread too thin. Hey, where are you going, I’m on a roll! Oh well I guess you have to jam. OK, everybody stand up please.

Those of you on the dock side will be helped out by the front, those of you on the water side should turn around and you’ll be helped out by the rear… of the boat that is. This is adventureland, not fantasyland!

The jungle cruise has been brought to you today by the hippo farmers of America. Hippo: The other-other white meat.

When I count to three, everybody stand… the last one standing is a baby hippo. Ready? One… two… four! Look at all the baby hippos!

Do stand up… off your seats, on your feets. All right… if you don’t stand, you’ll have to go again! I knew that would get you up. Look down and watch your step as you exit. If you feel faint, don’t hesitate to throw your arms around the necks of the unloaders… that’s ladies only, please!

If you feel your feet getting wet as you leave the boat, you’ve probably gone out the wrong side. Don’t fall in the water as you leave… we’ll have to charge you extra.

Well folks, I hope you all enjoyed your trip around the jungle. I had such a good time- I’m going to go again! (low voice)… and again, and again, and again…

Bye now.. come back and see me again when you have the courage… and enjoy the rest of your stay in the Magic Kingdom. Aren’t you going to say good-bye, after all we’ve been through together?

Please be sure to tell your friends how much you enjoyed the Jungle Cruise… it helps keeps the lines down. Please don’t go out the window- you’ll get a window pane. That would be a shuttering experience. It would be enough to make a venetian blind.

Please exit the boat the same way you entered… pushing and shoving.

Watch your step, and please don’t step on small children indiscriminately. Pick the one you want and make sure you get him!”

If the unloaders grab you on the elbow or wrist as you pass, that’s their way of saying they love you. You can repay them by stomping on their foot or kicking them in the shin. Of all the groups I’ve taken on this ride, you’re the most … recent.

If you want to see me later, you can catch me at the Comedy Club at Pleasure Island. I’ll be the one in the restroom handing out mints and washing the combs in that blue water.

We hope you enjoy the rest of your day here in this magic and enchanting land that we call … work. If you would like to see me on the David Letterman Show next month… please write him a letter and tell him you would like to see me there!

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: John Lounsbery

John Lounsbery, one of Walt Disney’s legendary “Nine Old Men,” was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 9, 1911. He graduated from the Art Institute of Denver, in 1932. Moving to Los Angeles, he submitted his work to the Disney Studios and joined the animation team in 1935.

His character animation work included Ben Ali of “Fantasia,” Honest John in “Pinocchio”, Timothy in “Dumbo” and Tony in “Lady and the Tramp.” Moving into the role of Animation Director, he worked on “Alice in Wonderland”, “Peter Pan”, “Sleeping Beauty” and ‘Winnie the Pooh” to name a few.

His untimely death occurred in 1976, while working for Disney on “The Rescuers.”

John Lounsbery was posthumously named a Disney Legend in 1989.

Dark ride inventor John Wood

John Wood is one of the driving forces of themed entertainment today.  Here’s our conversation with the President of “The Great American Dark Ride Company,” the Sally Corporation of Jacksonville, Florida.

We have constantly been creating characters, shows and rides to satisfy our need to succeed and our customers hunger for entertainment. A company like ours has to reinvent itself to some degree regularly.

— John Wood

 

Nate Naversen:  Hi John, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

John Wood.  Thanks Nate.  It was my pleasure!

NN: First off, how did you get your start in the amusement park industry?

JW: We actually founded the company in 1977 with the idea of creating reprogrammable moving and talking mannequins for a variety of purposes. Our first trade show exposure of these exciting new products was at the National Association of Display Industries in New York (NADI). This show includes Christmas Displays and Mall Displays. There was some genuine interest in our novel products, but it proved to be a difficult market for us to sell.

I first learned about the IAAPA Trade Show during a product demonstration at Kennedy Space Center and immediately signed up for the 1978 show in Atlanta. The market response was much better and we believed we had found a home! Interestingly enough however, we also discovered that other entrepreneurial companies were creating animatronic figures and were getting started at the same time. Animator Aaron Fector from Creative Engineering (Showbiz Pizza) joined the association the year prior, Advanced Animations also exhibited in Atlanta that first year under the name “Kimchuk” and Creative Presentations was on the scene demonstrating some of Kenny Acton’s animation. At that time, CPI was located in Chicago. CPI has since dissolved but many of the individuals important to its success are still in the industry.

The amusement park industry proved to be a good fit for Sally’s personality and the company evolved to meet the needs we found in this fun industry. By the way, the original three founders of Sally were all named John and I am the last of the three original roboteers still involved in the business.

NN: Roboteers. Is that a term that you three coined?

JW: Actually, I have used the term to help described what I do. It seems to be pretty effective and most people catch on.

NN: I heard a rumor the Sally Corporation is named after one of your first robots, Sally. Is this true?

JW: Yes. Sally was the name of the first animated character we produced. She was actually invented by John Rob Holland, a dentist and friend of mine while he was in dental school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It seemed to be a catchy name at the time.

NN: What are your favorite kinds of projects?

JW: In our business, the new custom attractions are always the ones that are the most exciting and enjoyable (providing they are successful). We really enjoy the design/build projects that have allowed us to create themed attractions and dark rides from top to bottom. Our company has evolved from being a manufacturer of lifelike animatronics into a company that combines the special skills of electronic technicians, mechanical fabricators, talented scenic artists, professional sculptors and molders and talented designers of special effects, animation and show elements – all under one roof. It creates great team work and a superb sense of satisfaction when the attractions open to the public. Each department is interdependent on the other to achieve the quality our customers and, incidentally, their customers expect.

In addition, we have truly enjoyed seeing the success of the interactive dark ride in the worldwide marketplace. In 1986, we presented the concept of a shooting game and a dark ride adventure combination in the form of Ghostbusters – The Dark Ride. We knew the combination was a winner but it was not until 1995 when we had an opportunity to finally build and install such an attraction – The Great Pistolero Roundup.

NN: A shooting ride: Do you believe this was this the first ride of its kind?

JW: No, I have heard there were other shooting dark rides in the past and actually rode on one in China in 1985. It was a simple ride featuring fiberglass animals in an outdoor setting. A jeep-like car had two gimble mounted rifles and a scoring console. Tom Wages (currently general manager at Lake Compounce and at the time, president of IAAPA) and I would compete to see who was the successful shooter at each targeted scene. It was a blast!

NN: Do you think that the success of the Great Pistolero Roundup helped spur the development of Men In Black (MIB) and the Buzz Lightyear rides at Universal and Disney?

JW: I am not sure but we would be happy to take part of the credit! We had a lot of the Disney folks ride our first exhibit of “The Great Pistolero Roundup” but I believe they were already thinking of the idea at the time. It gave us great pleasure to have a number of interactive rides installed before either one of these came out.

Since that time, we have opened seventeen interactive dark rides in six different countries and I believe there will be many more in the future.

NN: Wow, that’s quite impressive!

JW: In the year 2000, we had the opportunity to take this technology full circle and create a major attraction with 3D animatronics with a high capacity performance (similar to the original specifications of Ghostbusters). The Labyrinth of the Minotaur at the new park Terra Mitica in Benidorm, Spain has set a new standard in regional fun attractions and certainly holds a special place in our heart.

NN: That’s wonderful! Will you describe the ride for us? What’s it like?

JW: The “Labyrinth of the Minotaur” features over seventy fully animated figures including Hydras, Dragons, Spiders, Centaurs, Minotaurs and a variety of other equally exotic figures. Like the great Greek myth, riders go through a maze-like cave where they must pass by a gauntlet of creatures. Each automatic guided vehicle (a trackless smart dark ride system) carries six people with crossbow like laser guns. Their challenge is to extinguish all of the targets in each scene and continue on their quest to meet and defeat the Minotaur. At two points in the ride the scores are tabulated and the riders are allowed to continue only if they have received a sufficient score. It’s much like a video game and it is really a lot of fun! We are also pleased that it is the most popular ride in the new park!

NN: Your web site talks about your role as both company chairman and as a developer of brands. How much do you get involved in the design process?

JW: In a variety of ways. In fact, the design team may say I get involved too much! In reality, it is my job to interpret the client’s needs to the design process. In addition, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world and see attractions that have worked and those that haven’t. Whenever possible, I try to utilize this successful elements that I have enjoyed and seen work for others.

NN. What do you see as the future of themed entertainment?

JW: Themed entertainment has enjoyed explosive growth since the early 1980’s. Its growth was fueled by the development of the Universal Studios projects and expansion of Disney’s parks. During the same time frame, Las Vegas and the Casino industry also saw the merits of immersive themed experiences and their relationship to customer satisfaction. To me, it has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that people enjoy the feeling of fantasy and escapism that one gets when they visit an exotically themed environment.

At this point in time, Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles may be reaching maturity in their themed attraction growth (at minimum, the pace will be slower in the future). However, the rest of the world is still catching up. Most of the regional parks are beginning to see the value of themed attractions designed for the whole family and not just the teenage market. As a result, there are countless new opportunities in this broader market. If the providers of themed entertainment will adapt to the new marketplace, they will be able to enjoy its growth and success but, it takes a different mindset in order to survive and thrive.

Universal and Disney utilize a variety of special contractors in order to achieve the dreams of their talented designers. Most regional parks and attractions do not have a creative team or the patience to put together the small pieces to this grand puzzle. Simply put, they want a product they can buy. The individual suppliers need to develop consortiums or strategic partnerships around creative new concepts that can be successfully designed, executed and installed in a timely and cost-effective manner. I believe the parks are looking for bold new ideas and unfortunately, most of the suppliers are waiting for the ideas to come to them.

NN: I suppose that’s a great niche for a company like yours that truly provides turnkey darkrides to the theme parks of the world.

Okay, next question: there is an industry slump that seems to be going along with the weakening economy. Has it affected Sally Corporation?

JW: The “industries slump” is coming on the heels of massive Universal, Disney and Warner Bros. developments worldwide. In addition, the Asian market has slowed down drastically due to their economic collapse and the failure of some of the new projects that have been constructed there. New investors and entrepreneurs have realized the fun business is not always that much fun and, like any business, it takes skill, work and management of the details in order to be successful. Three and four years ago, we were most certainly affected by the slump in the Asian economy but, we are currently enjoying a steady stream of business and continued growth. I believe we are still market driven but our market is much broader than Universal and Disney parks. In an industry as small as the amusement parks and attraction industry, it is best to design products that will fit everyone in the industry and not just the top few.

NN: That’s good insight. What advice do you have for young people who are trying to get started in this industry?

JW: The first thing that young people need to realize is the fact that it is a business and not an extension to their summer recreation. With that being said however, the best training ground is probably in the park itself where you can get a feel for customer satisfaction, product reliability and the operational requirements for the working park.

NN: I know that from experience! It really does make a difference.

JW: While you are there, be sure to observe the little things that make people happy, the small components that make attractions special, the things that work and the things that didn’t quite work and then ask yourself why. Be mindful of the power of a positive attitude and the infectious nature of teamwork, trust and success. For my employees, it’s important for newcomers to have a sufficient skill level to carry their own weight. Most of the additional training comes on the job working on a product that has to be built to a certain quality standard and within a certain restricted time frame. Skill, attitude, desire and the ability to work within a team are all invaluable resources for a young person to have in this industry.

NN: In a topsy turvy industry Sally Corporation has been around since 1977. To what do you attribute the stability and longevity of your company?

JW: Along the way luck has played a major role in our longevity. There have been a number of times when we had our backs up against the wall when we landed that new project, got that new idea or found someone who believed in us enough to invest in us.

Secondly, we are driven to succeed. In other words, we are driven to keep our employees employed and happy and keep the momentum for our company and our products building. Because of the fact we were not in LA or Orlando and could not rely on a steady trickle of business from the big boys, our business plan was structured differently. It was important for us to sell to retail establishments, museums and private businesses. In addition, we analyzed the pitfalls of our business and have done everything possible to avoid them (after we fell into them at least once!). Every company needs to analyze what makes them successful and aides them in obtaining their goals. They also need to try to forecast the potential dangers along the path and pick the direction that has the greatest chance for success. Most importantly, however, is the fact that when you are in the robot business, you have to make your own future. There is not a book you can read that will tell you what you can or cannot do. You have to analyze it for yourself.

NN: Maybe you’ll be the man to write that book! Please continue:

JW: We have constantly been creating characters, shows and rides to satisfy our need to succeed and our customers hunger for entertainment. A company like ours has to reinvent itself to some degree regularly.

NN: Especially in the last few years, there’s been a big move toward storytelling in the themed entertainment industry, led most notably by people like Bob Rogers and Jack Rouse. How much does “story” play a part in the rides, attractions and exhibits you create?

JW: The story always plays a key role. A dark ride is usually an abbreviated part of a bigger story. Often, it is the queue line and preshow that allows you to tell more of the story than the actual experience itself. Bob and Jack have been involved in many theatrical presentations where the audience is sitting for 10 – 20 minutes and a story can be told from beginning to end. A dark ride usually lasts 3 – 6 minutes and often becomes a condensed version of a broader story. Nevertheless, the theming needs to be consistent, the storyline inclusive of a beginning, middle and end and the method of communication both entertaining and believable.

NN: Do you have any advice for the readers?

JW: Communicate clearly, completely and honestly with your suppliers, your employees and most importantly, with your customer. Make every effort to provide the best customer interface possible. Secondly, get involved. 30% of our business comes from referrals and a number of those started with casual or deliberate discussions we had with designers and operators. Thirdly, make your own breaks don’t wait for someone else to make them for you. Finally, never stop thinking about your business – plan for the future and stick to the plan.

NN: Do you have a favorite theme park?

JW: Disneyland is still my favorite park although I’ve had the good fortune to serve on the Applause Award Committee for the past fifteen or more years and have visited some of the finest parks in the world.

NN: The Applause Award committee is through IAAPA?

JW: The Applause Award was actually created by Liseberg Amusement Park and was initially presented by their management team to individual parks like Disneyland. In order to obtain greater publicity for the award, they partnered with Amusement Business and developed a “Board of Governors” of individuals within the industry. The Board is responsible for visiting the various nominated parks and voting on a biannual recipient of the award. John Graff, CEO of IAAPA is a nonvoting member of the Board and the award is given at the annual meeting but is not an IAAPA award.

This year’s recipient Hersheypark, is one of my favorites as is the mega ride park Cedar Point, the beautifully themed De Efteling in the Netherlands, Liseberg in Sweden and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

NN: What’s your favorite dark ride?

JW: My favorite dark ride is the Labyrinth of the Minotaur. Although I admit for years, it was Pirates of the Carribean (today however, it has lost all its appeal to me). Years ago I really got a thrill out of the Eastern Airlines “If Man Had Wings” and I still love Space Mountain every time I get on it! My favorite small dark ride will always be Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – it is pure fun. I am also partial to our most recent award winning ride – Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion. It was great fun collaborating with the Paramount Parks Design and Entertainment team and the final product is something to experience!

NN: Which of the Paramount park(s) are home to the Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion??

JW: Paramount’s Canada’s Wonderland and Paramount’s Carowinds

NN: Thank you very much John. This was a very informative and fun interview!

JW:  You’re welcome Nate!

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: John Hench

John Hench (June 29, 1908 – February 5, 2004) was an employee of The Walt Disney Company for more than sixty five years, an exceptionally long tenure which saw the rise of nearly every Disney animated feature and theme park.Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Hench attended numerous art and creative schools across the country, including the Art Students’ League in New York City, the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Starting in 1939 as a story artist, he weaved his way through the animation department doing everything including backgrounds, layout and art direction, even effects animation and special effects. Walt Disney respected Hench as one of the studio’s most gifted artists and teamed him with Salvador Dalí on the animated short Destino, a project begun in 1945 that was not completed and released until 2003.

By 1954, Hench was in the studio’s live action department, as lead developer of the hydraulic giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, helping to win an Academy Award for Best Special Effects for the film.After working on that live action project, he moved to WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering), to design attractions for an innovative new entertainment medium; Disneyland. Since then, Hench has become synonymous with Disney theme parks, designing the iconic Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland and creating the original groundbreaking designs for Space Mountain. Because of his resemblance to Walt Disney and his frequent visits to the Disney theme parks, he was often asked to sign autographs and pose for pictures with park visitors who thought they were meeting Disney himself. One of Hench’s most recognizable works is the well known Olympic Torch. Nearly all of the most recent versions have been modeled after his design for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California.

In addition to all of these lengthy achievements, Hench also was the “official portrait artist” of Mickey Mouse, painting the company’s official portraits for Mickey’s 25th, 50th, 60th, 70th, and 75th birthdays. Hench and his wife were both longtime devotees of the Hindu saint Ramakrishna and members of the Southern California Vedanta Society.

In 1990 he was awarded the prestigious Disney Legend award, the company’s highest honor, presented to him by Michael Eisner.Hench continued to maintain an office at Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters in Glendale, California and worked there daily up until a few weeks before his death. His name tag and 65-year service award are prominently displayed in the building’s lobby, and permanent tributes by fellow “Imagineers” line its hallways.

In early 2004, Hench died of heart failure after a brief hospitalization in Burbank, California.

Imagineering Bio: Joe Rohde

Joseph “Joe” Rohde is a veteran executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, the division of The Walt Disney Company that designs and builds Disney’s theme parks and resort hotels. Rohde’s formal title is executive designer and vice president, creative.

He is the lead designer of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. He also is the principal creative force behind the park’s Expedition Everest thrill ride, which debuted in 2006.

Rohde joined Imagineering in 1980 during the development of Epcot as a model designer and scenic painter for the theme park’s Mexico pavilion. He later worked as a designer on the refurbishment of Fantasyland at Disneyland, the Captain EO 3-D film attraction starring singer Michael Jackson, the Norway pavilion at Epcot and the Adventurers Club, a 1930s-themed bar and lounge that opened in 1989 within the Pleasure Island entertainment district at Walt Disney World Resort.

Rohde was featured in an April 2006 Travel Channel documentary titled Expedition Everest: Journey to Sacred Lands. The program was produced by Discovery Networks during expeditions to China and Nepal in 2005 called Mission Himalayas. The treks were sponsored by Disney, Discovery and Conservation International to promote the Expedition Everest theme park attraction and conduct scientific and cultural research in remote areas of the Himalayas.

He was born in Sacramento, California and raised in Hawaii. Rohde received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Rohde is known for a collection of earrings he wears in his left ear, souvenirs of his travels to remote corners of the world.

Jack Lindquist

Jack Lindquist (b. March 15, 1927 in Chicago) served as the president of the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California from 1989 until he retired in 1993. He was a Disney employee from 1955 until his retirement, and was a marketing executive in the theme parks division for almost thirty years, including a stint as the first advertising manager for Disneyland.

As a child actor, Lindquist appeared as an extra in several episodes of Our Gang, and appeared in the film Best Foot Forward with Lucille Ball.

After Lindquist retired, he received a commemorative window on Main Street, U.S.A., at Disneyland that reads J.B. Lindquist, Honorary Mayor of Disneyland. In 1994, he was named a Disney Legend.

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