Monday, June 18, 2007

Small Stuff

I was recently elated to obtain what you see to the left. You're not starting to hallucinate; it's an ordinary paper napkin. It has "Disney" printed above it and several rodents below it, and if you've been going to Walt Disney World for any length of time it is probably very familiar to you. I'm not so sure when they stopped using these, but I do have a wonderful memory about them. It was when I was younger, eating in the Dixie Landings food court one beautiful Florida morning before heading into The Magic Kingdom with my family.

The memory's not too clear, but several months ago I saw a picture of the old plates which had the "multiple Mickeys" pattern and became very nostalgic because of that memory. So although twelve napkins may not be the most exciting thing in my small collection of Walt Disney World empheria, they are among the most appreciated.

The experience of going into Walt Disney World involves a few big memories and a lot of small ones. Big memories can be hitch-hiking ghosts or superspeed tunnels, but it's the small ones we like the most. I have a number of small but dearly missed things. I can't honestly tell you or anyone that these things interfere with my ability to enjoy myself in the parks the way that lacking a lot of the big dearly missed things does, but sometimes, it's never bad to take a short stroll down memory lane...

The Mile Long Bar
A handful of the really accomplished Disney attractions effectively "follow you home"; and although the Haunted Mansion is one of them, it is not by dint of the famous hitch-hiker gag and more of the atmosphere built by the last two scenes, with Leota Thomas chanting "Hurry Back!" and Thurl Ravenscroft & company's haunted refrain of "Grim Grinning Ghosts". One of the trickiest things to do is to get the atmosphere of a dark interior space to spill out into the harsh Florida sunlight, and one of the best ever was Country Bear Jamboree and the Mile Long Bar. Visitors who saw the show prior to 1998 will probably remember that the original Country Bears exit area spilled out into the Bar, where additional Melvin, Buff and Max audio-animatronics were hung. They would continue to sing and tell jokes, and when I was young, this was literally the only thing I remembered about the attraction. As a punchline and a delightful surprise, as well as one of the most unique attraction extensions ever devised, this went the way of the Dodo in 1998 along with the Mile Long Bar and much of the character of the far Western end of Frontierland.

House of Treasure
Originally, Caribbean Plaza was full of beautiful niches and side rooms of intrigue and beauty and House of Treasure, a kind of conceptual extension of the ride's treasure vault final show scene, was the place where every kid knew the real good stuff was kept. That was the place to go for your rifles and ships in bottles and attraction branded t-shirts, and the sombreros and carved cocoanuts could be left outside in the open marketplace to rot. I still remember that vaulted ceiling and those stashes of treasure above the shelves. As one of Magic Kingdom's most beautiful and characteristic shops, its' current status as a stock room is pretty sad (if not surprising).

Ichabod's Landing
Also known as the Keel Boat Hat Shoppe, this little souvenir niche outside the Haunted Mansion was incredibly lame, but at least enjoyably dank and the only place for the generic gothic brick-a-brak that used to be sold outside the Haunted Mansion prior to the advent of Madame Leota's cart. Featured items were gargoyle reproductions, candles, foam rocks, invisible dog leashes, and one (singular) Haunted Mansion t-shirt. I don't really miss this, but the dark interior on certain late afternoons is, for me, as potent a memory as really important MIA park elements like the Skyway.

The Fireworks Factory
Back before places like TGI Friday's filled every suburban shopping center (or even most of them) and it wasn't too easy to go out and get a full rack of ribs, french fries and a subpar baked potato, this place was awesome. Although the food was blah at best, I was obsessed with the atmosphere of being in a building where a catastrophic explosion has taken place - and the antique firecrackers hanging everywhere didn't make you feel too much safer that it wouldn't happen again. It eventually became a lame Western nightclub and is now an even lamer youth-oriented top 40 place. Pictured is the glass I bought from the product display case in 1996; it came filled with cinnamon candy "fireballs".

There are other, and in fact better things I miss more (now that a year has passed I'd like to assert, for example, how lame it was for them to have removed the parrot from in front of Pirates of the Caribbean), but these four minor establishments still hold a warm place in my heart.

So what're yours?

(Special thanks to Allen Huffman for again pulling me out of a tight spot and letting me post his photo of the inside of the Mile Long Bar - take a moment to look at DisneyFans.Com and his excellent photo galleries of all sorts of places.)


Biblioadonis said...

Another stroll down memory lane.

As strange as the napkin may have felt to you, you're not alone. I have a large collection of those same napkins in a box in the closet. Along with napkins from various eateries.

One of my favorite pieces of memorabilia is a red plastic cup from the original Chef Mickey's at the Village Marketplace. It was 1994 and I ordered Goofy's Grog. We were there for a late lunch and the cup ended up clipped to my multi-colored Mickey fanny pack while we went dancing at Pleasure Island. It is still in the cabinet, but it is far too precious for me to use.

Thanks for the inspiration, Foxx. Any closer to that PhD?

TiKiMOOSE said...

I loved that mile long bar and its mirrors to create the mile long effect. To this day I still want a moosehead like Melvin in my house. I can't believe they're gone! How sad kids today will never be able to enjoy their fun banter.

Michelle said...

They had those napkins at Disneyland too. I remember getting mustard all over them and being kinda sad because there was just something about that design I liked.

Thanks for posting this.

Jessica said...

Thank you so much for posting an image of that napkin! I have been looking for that image forever - the sight of Mickey staring hungrily up at me is burned into my brain. Now I need to start looking on obtaining some, as I sadly can not find the ones that I saved.

rer1972 said...

Something my cousin and I would always look forward too was the Penny Arcade. We'd make sure and take change to the park just so we could play the games and watch the animated pictures. Really something I miss now.

tamajinn said...

I don't know why I liked it, but the statue of "His Master's Voice" in the Space Mountain entryway was always a welcome sight to me. Maybe I liked how that little dog, fooled by technology, was a symbol for every guest at the park.