Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Snapshot: Frap-Off at the Village

Perhaps it is just endemic in the nature of this blog to dwell on obscurities. I did name it after a single line of a song in a minor attraction which has been closed for a generation, so maybe even my best intentions early on already showed the direction I was fated to go in. But in the universe of Walt Disney World research, your options are somewhat limited. Everything from around about 1985 onward is pretty well covered on the Internet - EPCOT Center researchers only have to dip into "speculative history" for the very first few years of that great park. Similarly, Magic Kingdom's general historical outline is pretty firmly in place, even if she will not so readily give up all her secrets.

I often joke that I became an expert on Lake Buena Vista and the Village by accident. As of the early 2000's, there was little useful information about the southeastern portion of the Florida property circulating and so interested parties, such as me, had to reconstruct it from scratch. And because the Walt Disney Archives have been closed to outside researchers for some time now, this was less about gathering information as discovering it. Think of it like archeology. For years I followed cold trails, occasionally unearthing a small piece of the story here or there. Only slowly could I knit the whole thing together by drawing reasonable conclusions from available evidence.

I don't open my discussion of today's subject this way to impress you, but because it's central to why and how this article exists. It is a dead lead come back to life.

Toys Fantastique opened with the rest of the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village in April 1975. At that time, Lake Buena Vista Village News, a sort of newsletter which also doubled at the Village's guest guide map, described the shop as "A see-to-believe collection of European toys for a child of any age - including yours." It was a small affair located right next to Heidelberger's Deli, but it must have been popular. As was the fashion of the time at the Village, traveling special artists and experts filled the store with miniature Victorian mansions, collectible bears, and usual hand-made trinkets. I have exactly one picture of the inside of the original Toys Fantastique, but it isn't much to look at.


I mean, really, that could be shot in any depressing cubicle in the universe. Not very useful. Regardless, the popularity of Toys Fantastique is evident enough in the fact that in 1976, when the first round of changes and cuts were made in the Village, the toy shop not only remained, but greatly expanded, moving across the street and evicting Posh Pets. From the October 8, 1976 issue of Eyes and Ears of Walt Disney World:

"In the first year and a half that the Village has been operating, it has become quite obvious that certain popular shops needed to be expanded to offer our guests an even better shopping experience.

This month you will see the beginning of the replanning of the Village which will include a considerable amount of interior redesigning. And that means construction... an inconvenience and employees in the Village alike, but it will all be worthwhile when complete.

Shop by shop, the "new" Village will look something like this... Toys Fantastique will move to a larger building formerly occupied by Posh Pets. Posh Pets has already closed. The Flower Garden will be merged into the Pottery Chalet patio area, thus consolidating all of our plants and garden accessories. The existing Cash Control/Post Office complex will become the Vintage Cellar annex to Village Spirits, selling wines and cheeses. Cash Control will be moving to a new location in the Pottery Chalet/Wardrobe stockroom. The Post Office will relocate to the LBV Preview Center. Michael's will be closing to become Footlights, a shoe store annexed to Miss Merrily's Madness. The old Flower Garden shop will become Miss Merrily's Fashions. The old Toys Fantastique store will become Sassy's, a fashion shop catering to pre-teens. This will be annexed to the new Miss Merrily's Fashions, thus allowing guests to enter Sassy's and walk through the entire fashion complex, exiting through Footlights."
I hope you got all that, because there will be a quiz.

This new, expanded Toys Fantastique really was something to behold. With an elevated loft, carved dimensional dioramas of scenes from Pinocchio, and a vaulted ceiling, it was one of the major attractions in the Village. Toys Fantastique even hosted special events.

And what events...!

Now, put yourself there with me while this happened. We are dutifully pouring over old issues of Eyes and Ears, looking for some nugget of information about the Village, the Villas, anything. And this is what is found in an August 12, 1976 issue:

LAKE BUENA VISTA

This October, the Village will host its third Boat Show. Owing to the success of previous Boat Shows there, this one has been extended to 10 days! The show will open Thursday, October 6, and run thru Sunday, October 17. Sixteen dealers will be participating with some of the boats being on display in the Lagoon itself. A total of 130 boats are currently set for display.

Hey, do ya wanna Frap?"

...what?!

"...Coming September 4 & 5 is the first Village Frap Tournament, and it's also the first in the Central Florida area! Frapees and Frapers will gather on the area around the Garden Courtyard for a frap-off to decide our champs. Lake Buena Vista will provide the frapping equipment and even a Frumpire!"

....what?!

"A tie-in promotion with a local radio station will advise the general public of this major Frap event. But wait a minute...do you know what Frapping is? No...then watch upcoming issues of EYES & EARS for more details."

That's it. The article ends there. An Internet search yields no relevant results for our "Frapping", though of course plenty of other interesting things come up. And of course, there is no telling which issues of Eyes and Ears the information will appear in. Although they aren't terribly rare on the secondary market, the likelihood of stumbling across the exact issue I needed was slim. The fact that Eyes and Ears was not exactly reliable in their dating or numbering schemes (which could go weeks without being updated, jump over numbers or even go backwards) made the possibility even more remote. Yet the question loomed large, unresolved, almost monstrous: what was frapping?

...And why does it sound so unclean??

The answer was, thankfully for my sanity, forthcoming. It was delivered through an unanticipated means. Thankfully Lake Buena Vista did not exist in a vacuum and was covered by a variety of media sources. One of these was linked to a charge card. The Lake Buena Vista Village Charge Card was a curious little phenomenon from the resorts earliest days, apparently offered to Florida locals. I haven't yet found one of the cards itself, but here's the little cardback it arrived in:


Those who had a Charge Card were also directly mailed a newsletter in the form of an "Exclusive Credit Card Edition" of Lake Buena Vista Village News, condensed from 4-6 pages down to just two and printed on remarkably hideous yellow paper.

This is sort of interesting in and of itself, but hold on - this charge card is the reason information about frapping comes to you today. The answer was found on one of these "Credit Card Editions", apparently saved by its local recipient. So you, gentle reader, will not have to endure my many months of anticipation and mystery. I can tell you right now what frapping was. This is the relevant part of the article, from September 1976. Read it slowly or you'll choke.

"Something special every weekend
A FRAP 'N' FORUM FALL!

How long can you keep the fuzzies flying? Keep 'em going long enough and you could be the frampion of Lake Buena Vista's First Fantastique Frappin' Frappening. It's the start of a (Toys) Fantastique September highlighted by three big weekends of fun, each sponsored by the Village's popular toy shop.

What's Frap? It's the newest frad - oops! - fad. And it can be played indoors or outdoors by practically anyone. Here's how it works: a frapper and a frapee, both armed with wooden frapaddles, volley with frapballs or frapfuzzies for as long as they can. (You might want to go over that slowly. If you're still frantically confused, Toys Fantastique will be happy to give you a demonstration.)

Anyway, The Village invites all frapees and frappers, even if you've never frapped before, to the the First Fantastique Frappin' Frappening, Saturday and Sunday, September 4-5. There is no entry fee and nothing to buy. All you have to do is come to Toys Fantastique and register for the Frap Fixins (qualifying round). If you and your partner cam keep your frapfuzzie flying for forty-five seconds, you'll qualify for Sunday's semi-finals and, possibly, for the Frap Finals. Winners will receive Village gift certificates."


Look, I didn't make this up, here's a picture of the newsletter to prove it:


Look! There's even a picture! Visual proof!

Look at them! They're FRAPPING!

This is the part of the blog post where I, your historian, offer some perspective on the meaning of all this, why it was relevant, why you should care. But I honestly just am at a loss for words. I wonder if the entire thing was concocted to be as bizarre as possible and use a shocking surplus of letter F's littering the Village landscape. This is true obscurities, folks. This is two days thirty-five years ago when people with light-colored flare-legged pants bounced fuzzy balls back and forth at each other trying to win gift certificates. It could have happened anywhere. But it happened at Walt Disney World and it wasn't just silliness, it was.... FRAPPING. That memorable period in our lives when everything stopped for some good old-fashioned down home Frapping.

I mean, seriously. Could there have even been a second Frappin' Frappening? Was this even a real fad? I haven't yet been able to produce a single human being who even remembers that there was such a thing as a Frapping. Maybe some of you, dear readers, were hard core Frumpires in your youth. Maybe you toured the Frampionships with your trusty Frapaddle in one hand and your elite class Frapfuzzy in the other. Maybe it's all just a hazy memory now, an earth-toned Frapever dream of a Fraparade long gone by.

I think I need to go lie down now.

---

Buena Vista Obscura:
The World Cruise
Captain Cook's Hideaway (plus followup)
The Lake Buena Vista Story: Part One
The Lake Buena Vista Story: Part Two
The Lake Buena Vista Story: Part Three
The Lake Buena Vista Story: Part Four
The Golf Resort

History and Esoterica:
Snapshot: Frap-Off at the Village
Snapshot: Marines Capture Coke Corner
Snapshot: Mysteries of the Second Floor
Snapshot: Olde World Antiques
Snapshot: The Great Southern Craft Company


This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.

8 comments:

Steve said...

Great stuff! Say something like that now, and you'll be in trouble!

Jessica said...

Haha this is one of those great off-kilter bits that you won't find anymore. I love reading about the Village on your blog since it isn't often covered elsewhere. Great article!

George Taylor said...

You have to admit that discovering what the frapping deal was seems to have been worth the wait.

I assume that PAssport is really going to get a lot more hits from certain types in internet searches!

Jeanine said...

I am sure it goes without saying, but this is very (fraptastic?) good. Thanks!

Tannerman said...

The beverage reviewer in me was thinking "frap" = drink. Boy, that was way off! Great find. So when do we start up a new Frap league?

weepstah said...

I can't believe everyone didn't know what frapping was! It was all the rage for all us kids back in..uh...ok, I'm not fooling anyone here, am I?

I have to admit I was a little disappointed to find out that it's what we always called beach paddleball or paddleball in NJ. Ok, maybe not with the fuzzy balls. That's kind of creepy. Like the picture of the ho-ho-hocus-pocus magician is.

I caught the reference to local radio station tie in, but I really suspect that this raging hot fad was local to the area - as in Toys Fantastique itself. Speaking of which, your description sparked an old but strong memory of the fascination I had for the store - those Pinocchio images and the loft, it was a very cool place. I always liked how the old village had such a strong identity that was completely different than anything else in WDW, or anywhere else I had ever been for that matter.

By the way, what is going on in the last image? The poor kid looks shocked, not excited. I hope dad didn't wear that thing around his neck all day.

Joey V said...

I must admit it. I may have been young, like 5 or 6, but yes, I remember doing this. Not at WDW, though I think that's where we got the idea. (Whew. Feels like a weight is off my chest.)

walterworld said...

In the last picture of the boy with the boat---I bought that same boat in 1980 at the Tinker Bell Toy Shop in Disneyland.

It was expensive, about $50. It had real canvas sails, rigging and trim and was swimming-pool worthy. Boy, I had a whole lot of fun playing with that boat.

Thanks for the memories!