Remember my mild obsession with submerged animatronics (and animatronics in general?) Well it experienced a resurgence a few weeks ago when I learned via Twitter that the remnants of Moby Dick, one of the most terrifying submerged animatronics ever made, were lost ages ago and never found.
Some FASCINATING stuff on that Twitter thread about the Moby Dick whale of Pleasure Island. (not my own lost Pleasure Island, a different one.) Can you imagine seeing it in action and up close?!
Anyway (possibly as a result of that tweet?) someone got hold of an underwater drone and they FOUND IT! Found proof that it’s still in the original lake! Check it out.
Hmmm maybe someone should write a book about this, the relentless hunt for a white whale. Anyone got a good idea for a title?
Poor old Disneyland Paris, it was always the underdog of the Disney parks, insofar that anything pulling in millions per year can be an underdog. It’s considered the worst of the Disneys. But it’s not, I promise you it’s not! It has its own French flavour and I really love it.
And here’s what it looked like in 2001…
I’m a big fan of animatronics and DLP hosts two terrific ones: the Dragon and the Giant Squid. If you have submechanophobia like me, try not to think too hard about how the squid is cleaned and maintained, mmkay?
A lesser-known animatronic in the park is this guy, the crocodile which sits outside of the Rainforest Cafe. He was still there as of 2017!
Here’s some shots of the parade through the Magic Kingdom. This was before the Studios part of the park opened, so no parades there.
But there was only one year to go until it DID open, so you could still see the entry gates and the water tower, you just couldn’t go in.
This is the Main Street Electrical Parade, which I’m sure looked MUCH better in real life. Sadly it exists no more, at least not in Paris. :(
And lastly… There’s no photos of me in here because I was hideous-looking in 2001, acne and puberty hit bad, so please enjoy this picture of the castle which I luckily am not in.
Those two favourite things being 1) The Terrifyingly Good Engineering Work That Goes Into The Disney Parks and 2) The Concept of Submechanophobia, Which I Definitely Have, But Viewed Safely From Behind A Computer Screen.
I am interested to know that the Disney submarine ride triggered submechanophobia in some people! But for me it was always that damn Jaws ride, an entire theme park away from the Magic Kingdom and now sadly departed. Can’t blame Disney for that one. I can blame them from not taking better care of their Nautiluses, Giant Squids and Sea Serpents though. Dammit Disney.
One of my lesser-known obsessions is animatronics, especially the stuff which comes out of Disney. For example, the other day I saw this-
and I felt honest-to-god very sad, although admittedly that may be just the pandemic and the lockdown and the uncertainty getting to me.
But hey, while we’re on the subject of Disney animatronics, let me tell you the story of one of my favourite ones! This one:
Poor, poor Yeti. Disney had such high hopes for him and he was SO expensive. I mean, look at him moving! That sort of technology doesn’t come cheap. They built a whole rollercoaster around him! Heavily promoted him as one of the most sophisticated robotic creations out there! And then he broke.
Now the Yeti is in “Disco Mode” which means he basically has a light under him to give the illusion of movement. Because if he actually moves too much, he’ll damage the actual rollercoaster itself and, uh, we don’t want that. The Disney corporation also surprisingly considers that human lives > one multi-million hairy boi. So for almost a decade now, the Yeti has been unmoving while it lurks over passengers.
Here’s what the Yeti’s boss, I mean Imagineer Joe Rohde, said about the situation back in 2013:
“You have to understand, it’s a giant complicated machine sitting on top of, like, a 46-foot tall tower in the middle of a finished building. So, it’s really hard to fix, but we are working on it. And we continue to work on it. We have tried several ‘things’, none of them quite get to the key, turning of the 40-foot tower inside of a finished building, but we are working on it… I will fix the Yeti someday, I swear.
So that got me thinking… Disneyworld is obviously closed for the time being. Maybe, ONCE the coronavirus has retreated to a safe distance (human lives still > one multi-million hairy boi) they could keep Animal Kingdom closed for just a little bit longer, depending on how things go with regard to opening very crowded places, and finally/safely fix the yeti?
Anyway here he is in his original glory back in 2006.
Pssst. Bored while on lockdown? Why not take to the wonderful world of Disneyparks vlogging and treat yourself to the fascinatingly ridiculous saga of Buzzy, the dearly departed Epcot animatronic?
It’s like watching a murder mystery unfold in real life, except with far fewer stakes because the victim is a puppet. Enjoy:
It’s the ’10s and Buzzy has been out of a job for quite some time. Disney being Disney, once they decomissioned the ride he was part of (Cranium Command in Epcot) they just… left him there. Obviously the area he was in was inaccessible to all but staff, but Buzzy was still there, just sitting around smiling with childlike innocence in the dark.
He was quite beloved to Epcot fans I gather, but whatever. It’s Disney. Then in late 2018 it all suddenly kicks off! Buzzy’s clothes have been stolen. Or has Buzzy himself been stolen?!
A Twitter account called DreamfinderGuy, who says he’s spoken to someone else known as BackDoorDisney, claims that Buzzy was ripped outta the old attraction wires and all.
Inside job? Very possibly! But either way, somebody’s hands are REDhydraulic-fluid-coloured I guess a sort of yellowish-orange? with the BLOOD of Buzzy.
Offhand Disney lays out the basics in January 2019, making fabulously silly use of film noir tropes. They interview BackdoorDisney, who claims to have seen a police report regarding Buzzy. This will be important for later!
Everyone wants to know WHO TOOK BUZZY?!?! Some people in the comments of that video appear to point the finger at the guy who did this urban exploration trip into the unused bits of Epcot in 2017 (getting what was probably the last known footage of poor Buzzy:)
It was not him. (He did get banned from Disney though.)
NOW apparently at around the time that stealthy video was taken Buzzy had a “do not destroy” tag on him put there by Disney! So Disney was apparently planning to move him somewhere, just don’t ask me how or where because MAN Disney is wasteful as hell when it comes to the cool stuff they own, those beautiful submarines from the 20000 Leagues ride ended up rotting in a junkyard even!
Unsuprisingly BackDoorDisney, who is actually a man called Patrick Spikes, was arrested. PATRICK SPIKES? Okay, that… sounds like a too-on-the-nose name Disney would make up for a movie about a baddie who goes around murdering innocent robots. The situation gets weirder!
His Twitter account, which amassed more than 17,000 followers before going dark last week, promised to give fans an inside view of Disney World. In its seven months of operation, the account uploaded pictures of Disney control rooms, secret maps, and Disney cast members pretending to have sex while dressed as characters from Toy Story.
Value your childhood? Don’t click that link.
The people who are in charge of putting out these things released a PDF of the details. Turns out Spikes was ACTUALLY arrested back in December 2018, before he spoke Offhand Disney and made out he didn’t know what was going on. He’d altered a search warrant and stuck it up on YouTube to make it look like he was innocent. Oh and he had ALSO stolen a bunch of other expensive Disney stuff from the Haunted Mansion and thereabouts.
Here’s Offhand Disney discussing their interview with Spikes:
And from The Daily Beast:
In July, police alleged, Spikes printed a fake Disney employee card for his cousin and snuck him into the park. The pair allegedly snuck into the Haunted Mansion, a popular ride, and stole a collection of wigs and outfits from backstage. The clothes, which were designed for the ride’s animatronic ghosts, cost between $40 (a tiara) and $1,746 (a robot’s jacket), adding up to more than $7,000.
Spikes and his cousin allegedly took pictures throughout the heist, and posed in the wigs at a nearby 7-Eleven. A video from shortly after the theft allegedly shows Spikes’ cousin’s girlfriend wearing a robot’s stolen dress.
(Wouldn’t “Robot’s Stolen Dress” be a great name for a band?)
Anyway, there’s even a video of Spikes being questioned by the police and it is… weird.
Oh, and according to the police report, Spike and his magnificently named cousin Blaytin (also in on things) whipped up a fake employee ID with the name “Jack D Marrow” on it. Jack Marrow… like… Jack Sparrow? Geez it’s like they wanted to be caught. Anyway…
A former Walt Disney World employee has been sentenced to a decade of probation and 250 hours of community service after pleading guilty to stealing costumes and props from Magic Kingdom, some of which he allegedly sold online.
On Tuesday, Patrick Spikes was served 10 years of probation, hundreds of community service hours and restitution, plus orders to stay away from Disney parks, WESH reports. The Winter Garden, Fla. man and his cousin Blaytin Taunton, also a former Disney World employee, were arrested in May 2019 for allegedly using their Disney IDs to sneak into the theme park and steal memorabilia.
“I’m going to Disney World,” WESH reports that he declared, apparently referencing the famous phrase often shouted by Super Bowl champs after victory on the field.
He, ur, he did not go to Disney World.
And that’s the whole Buzzy Saga, for now! Poor thing probably ended up faceless in a dump somewhere, but on the other hand Disney does that to a lot of their stuff anyway…
…Words cannot describe how much I love this stupid wacky robot-theft story, and I want it turned into a dumb heist movie like, now. (Just not one made by Disney.)
Sometime this year, the Marvel Universe will arrive at the Disneyland Resort when Avengers Campus opens at California Adventure in Anaheim. We’ve seen in concept art already released that Spider-Man can be seen swinging around the campus, just as he does in the movies. But that was all just pie-in-the-sky concept art, right? Nope. It…
disney built the biggest and most expensive animatronic ever in their history and then built a mountain around it and it BROKE a couple of months after the ride opened and it’s impossible to fix it without dismantling the entire mountain structure and that’s honestly the most hilarious verified disney fact™
the second most hilarious being that the chum animatronic on the finding nemo ride at epcot used to pop out of the barrel to scare guests but one time a cast member was walking past it during an opening/closing procedure and it popped out and smacked them clean in the face so now it’s turned off permanently
TL/DR version: the structural layout of the Expedition Everest attraction is so complicated that Disney had to use a technique called “previsualisaton” to construct it – essentially a four-dimensional blueprint that specifies not only how the structure should be put together, but the exact point in time that each step should occur. That precision in timing is actually kinda critical, because if certain parts of the structure are subject to stress too early (e.g., before the concrete is fully cured, before additional supports have been installed, etc.), they’ll be permanently weakened.
Well, long story short, when the ride went into action, Disney’s engineers quickly discovered that the numbers weren’t adding up: the internal stresses the ride was producing every time they turned the animatronic yeti on were literally tearing the whole mountain apart. It’s clear that something got screwed up during construction: either somebody performed a step with the wrong timing, or in the wrong order, or the previsualisaton was messed up to begin with. The trick is, they have no idea what the actual error was – and the ride can’t be repaired until they figure out what went wrong in the first place.
So now they just point a moving strobe light at the motionless yeti to create the illusion of motion, which is why it’s been nicknamed the “disco yeti”.
When companies have too much money and need to chill
here’s an example of what the yeti looked like when it actually worked.
I am having an awesome time at Disney – we did Epcot on Tuesday, including Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure (I wonder if Bill Nye feels bad about or if he was just like BILL NYE GOTTA GET PAID YO, SCIENCE AIN’T CHEAP) and like at least three times on Mission To Mars or whatever it’s called where simulated G-forces make you feel like your ribcage is eating your internal organs. Also we went on the new Frozen ride, which is spectacular but also very, very short. You do go down a waterfall backwards in a simulacrum of a viking longboat, however.
Yesterday we went to Magic Kingdom where I made everyone go on the Haunted Mansion twice in a row because it’s my favorite ride maybe in the history of ever, and we went on the Mine Train and the big log flume ride, but kids.
We as a culture – nay, we as a species – need to talk about the Country Bear Jamboree.
I have developed a theory about the Country Bear Jamboree. My theory about the Country Bear Jamboree is that it is both a necessary and a terrifying exorcism ritual which protects the Magic Kingdom, and perhaps all of humanity, from suffering the wrath of dark, dire forces.
Stay with me. Country Bear Jamboree bills itself as an animatronic concert filled with bears who sing and dance and play various down-country style instruments. Grand Ole Opry with animatronic bears. That’s not the mystical part.
At one point, about two thirds of the way into the performance, a soloist bear on a guitar comes out and sings a forgettable country song about something, but right at the end, after he’s taken his “bow”, you hear sudden drumbeats, and green light begins to flash rhythmically behind him. There are no other drums in any of the performances. The bear begins to sway to the drumbeats, and then the curtain falls quickly.
It’s very weird.
But then another bear appears, with a very out of tune blues guitar, and he sings a song. It’s a song that may actually exist in folk music canon; I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before and may have sung it at some folkie get together or other. The song is about how there was blood in the water, blood in the sand, blood all around, blood on the ground. I think it’s about an old-timey murder.
It’s just one chorus or verse. But it’s very unsettling. There is nervous tittering from the audience, including me. Between the drumbeats and the song about OH MY GOD SO MUCH BLOOD, my ears were pricking a little and my what the hell alarm was going off.
Then the concert just…continues.
UNTIL, at one point, SERIAL KILLER BLUES BEAR comes back to SING THE BLOOD SONG AGAIN and literally every other bear in the performance appears out of whatever animatronic locker they keep them in, and all the bears all sing their individual songs to drown him out in a cacophony of country crooning.
And that’s the grand finale!
We walked out of the Country Bear Jamboree wide-eyed, and I immediately turned to my companions and went, “The fuck was that?” Only it was Disney so in concern for The Children I said “The heck was that?”
But I’ve worked it out.
Everyone who works at Disney is super cheerful and I think the vast majority of them actually mean it, which is a little bewildering to me. People clearly don’t HAVE to wish me happy birthday when they see my IT’S MY BIRTHDAY button, but they do. And so many of them, at eleven at night, seemed joyous to stand on the sidewalk and wave us goodbye as we left. People seem to love to work at Disney and while I don’t think that in itself is weird, the level of good cheer in what must be a very frustrating customer service job is startling. I commend them for it, I’m just confused by it.
So I have a theory. And my theory is this: Country Bear Jamboree is a swirling vortex of evil. The extra darkness, the crankiness, the ill-humor that normally one would develop working at Disney, and indeed perhaps some of the exhausted ire and weariness that people might develop just attending the Disney parks (Meltdown Hour is apparently around 6:30 for toddlers) is sucked down into Frontierland. It seeps through the dusty streets of a fake frontier America, and it enters the Country Bear Jamboree. It is absorbed into this one, brave, robot bear, who takes the evil into himself and sings his mournful song. And then, with drumbeats and singing, the evil is drowned out by the other bears, banished to some ether, an other-world whose only glimpse into ours is through the parks of the Wizard, Disney, whose fierce hairy country-folk guardians forever keep it locked away.
Woe betide us should the Country Bear Jamboree ever leave the Magic Kingdom. Misfortune unto us should the bears fall silent. The bears must sing, or God or Disney must have mercy on our souls.