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Early Minnie and Mickey at Disneyland

1 Feb
Just one of many of amazing pictures from Stuff from the Park, which I discovered courtesy of John Frost of The Disney Blog.

Perhaps Some Balm for the Post-Traumatic Soul

11 Sep

On this sad anniversary of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Mr Broke Hoedown (aka Collateral Damage) reposts an article from one year ago yesterday, speaking to us of Finding Nemo:

Nemo is a movie about the experience most of us had as a result of the event: learning how to live in a world filled with dangers that you can no longer deny by pretending they are irrational. It opens with a huge loss that happens in a single horrible moment — Marlin loses his wife and 499 of his children. Understandably Marlin loses all his trust in the rest of the world but still manages to raise a relatively well-adjusted son who then gets snapped up by a yet another unstoppable force. In his quest to fulfill the movie’s title he meets up with Dory who is so odd that I would argue she, too, is a trauma survivor. (And yes, I do think Ellen DeGeneres deserved the best supporting Oscar for that performance.) In the end, of course, Marlin does learn to not be so afraid of the world and to enjoy his life and he and Dory and Nemo create an odd family of survivors that wouldn’t have existed before the tragedy. Now that’s 9/11.

He speaks also in a separate post about his experiences that day, both the mundane and the shattering.

Like many frequent business travelers, I was on the road that day. and spent the rest of the week trying to get home, both literally and figuratively. A moment of silence, please, for those who were not so lucky.

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Video of Chinese Fake Disney Park

10 May

Have any doubts about whether Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park is a Disneyland knockoff? Just watch this:

Man, seeing those beloved characters represented through ill-fitting, cheaply-made fur costumes . . . and when they take their heads off in front of Guests . . . I can’t help but shudder.

But does anybody else find this all a bit amusing, especially in the context of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act? And the fact that many of Disney’s best-loved classic characters are based on public-domain folklore?

And there’s more on the Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park situation today from DIS News:

Disney bosses are in crisis talks with the owners of a ‘fake’ Chinese version of the famous amusement park.

The Shijingshan Amusement Park included a raven-haired woman with seven men in elf suits, a ‘Mickey’ mouse and other Disney-style characters.

Deputy general manager, Yin Zhiqiang, said: “The characters in our park just look a little bit similar to theirs. But the faces, clothes, sizes and appearances are different.”

“We do not have any agreements with Disney.”

Injury Rates Among Disney Fur Characters

4 Mar

The Sun Sentinel has an article this morning about the high rate of injury among Disney CMs playing fur characters.

Lisa Loves Tigger

In an age of $100 million thrill rides, Walt Disney Co. is still struggling to perfect one of its oldest and most low-tech forms of entertainment: the costumed character.

The thousands of performers who wear the costumes at Disney parks around the world are exposed to physically demanding conditions and injuries from heavy and stiflingly hot costumes, overzealous children and other hazards.

Performers at Walt Disney World’s four Orlando theme parks reported enough injuries in 2005 to affect more than a third of the local 1,900-person work force that portrays 270 different characters, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of injury reports found.

The article also mentions that “Children or adults were cited as a cause in 107 injuries, in which they pushed, pulled or otherwise hurt performers in costume.”

So kids, the next time you think it would be fun to punk Tigger, think again, okay? Dude’s got a tough enough job as it is.

Tigger Punches 14 Year Old Guest?

7 Jan

From the Orlando Sentinel:

A Disney employee playing the famed cartoon character is under investigation after a New Hampshire family accused him of punching their 14-year-old son during a home-video session at Disney-MGM Studios.

Later in that same article, I’m embarassed to tell you this made me laugh:

Friday’s incident is the second in nearly three years involving Tigger-costumed Disney workers.

So, what is it about Tiggers, anyway? Are they just mad they didn’t get in on that Euro Disney scene with Minnie?

John Frost’s post in the Disney Blog has some commentary, and links to a few different versions of the story.

[A late addition: CBS4Boston has a videocast including the alleged punch. Looks to me like Tigger was trying to hug the kid, and perhaps got tripped up by the low visibility in some of those fur costumes. And the best quote?

“The general manager apologized to me everyone came up to apologize but Tigger he won’t be a man about it get out of the costume and apologize to my son.”

Enough said. Good night.]

More Hi-Res Images from Walt Disney World, Plus a Special Thanks

10 Oct

I’ve noticed that my blog posts with images for desktop wallpaper get a decent amount of traffic, so on my trip to WDW last weekend (yay!) I took a few more pictures that might just make good desktop wallpapers. The first one in the list below currently graces my own Thinkpad.

Rock’n’ Roller Coaster:

Magic Kingdom WDW Railroad:

And the Railroad again, for those who prefer the image off to the right:

Bear in the Big Blue House, in the Disney/MGM Studios Stars and Motor Cars parade:

Mickey, Minnie, and Donald, in that same parade:

I also wanted to say a special thanks to a few Cast Members who made our trip last weekend extra-special, as my son and I were visiting with my super-duper old-time best friend Lisa, celebrating her fortieth birthday. CM Chris, riding a Segway near Mission Space on Friday evening, spent some extra time with us and gave us a little VIP treatment. CM Jack laughed with us as we took silly pictures at the Crystal Palace on Saturday. A monorail driver, whose name I have sadly forgotten, gave us inside tips about the Electrical Water Pageant, and made my son very happy with a Monorail Co-Pilot’s license and a trading card. All of these were special, magical moments . . . and each one of them even more special to us than the official Year of a Million Dreams moments we were fortunate enough to have that weekend as well! (More on that later . . . I’m still collecting my thoughts after such a great weekend, and will blog more on it anon!)

Sanrio Puroland: My Favorite Non-Disney Theme Park

23 Sep

Astute readers may have noticed that I go by the name Kitty-chan, which is the way the Japanese refer to Hello Kitty. And yes, there’s a story here. In addition to being a Disney fan, I’m a bit of a Sanrio geek as well, which has also had some impact on my family travel agenda.

In June of 2002, my extended family and I spent two weeks in Japan, splitting our time between Tokyo and Kyoto. The trip was amazing, truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We visited temples, rode the bullet train, found the Toho Studios’ Godzilla statue, visited the truly amazing Arashyama Monkey Park, and visited plenty of other places both on and off the well-beaten tourist path. (Note: images below are all thumbnails — click on them for larger image.)
Night on the Ginza
My son, then five, in the Ginza

But the attraction that spurred my interest in visiting this beautiful and varied country in the first place? Sanrio Puroland, a five-story indoor theme park dedicated to Hello Kitty and her friends. I’d seen a commercial for the park at the end of a Hello Kitty video my brother-in-law had brought back from Tokyo for me, and I was hooked.
Sanrio Puroland is located in Tama City, about 30 minutes outside Tokyo. You can take the subway there, if you don’t mind traveling through a good number of stations where the signs are written only in Japanese and Chinese characters. Luckily, I had a Japanese friend in Tokyo who gave me excellent directions, and my then-five-year-old son and I found our way there with little difficulty (the rest of the family decided to spend the day in Tokyo rather than visiting Hello Kitty’s homeland . . . gee, I can’t imagine why!).

I didn’t see any signs for Sanrio Puroland when we exited the train, so we just started walking and hoped we’d see the place. I will never forget the moment we turned the corner and saw the building, coming over the horizon looking like a sickly-sweet birthday cake.

Sanrio Puroland

We stumbled around for a bit looking for the entrance, and when we finally found it, we were greeted warmly but not without confusion by the cashier, as I fumbled my way through basic Japanese to buy tickets. I understood her confusion once we entered the theme park: it was populated almost entirely by Japanese women and their very young children. My son, even at 5 years old, towered above the others, and of course we were both quite obviously gaijin. But no matter, I was entranced, and part of the appeal for me was to have a thoroughly non-American theme park experience (I was saving Tokyo Disneyland for later in the trip).

Once we’d recovered from the initial shock and excitement, we grabbed a bite to eat (no easy feat, given my lack of significant Japanese language skills), and then hit the arcade to play a few games. I was glad to see that my favorite Sanrio character, Badtz-Maru, was well-represented.

Badtz Maru Basketball

Badtz Maru and Friend

Another Badtz Game

We then moved along to the feature attraction, the Sanrio character boat ride. Oh. My. God. Every Sanrio character you can think of, and then some.



Pom Pom Purin! (Surrounded by the pleasantly strong aroma of baking cake, no less!)

Bad Badtz Maru
And the infamous, the well-loved, Bad Badtz-Maru!

But was the day over? Oh no no no. It was time for the afternoon parade! Now, being an indoor theme park, Puroland can darken the room at 2PM and hve a “nighttime” parade. The costumes were stylish, the choreography strangely stunning. We sat on the floor, surrounded by people who no doubt wondered what on earth these gaijin were doing here, and watched enrapt as Hello Kitty and her various dancing friends came through.

Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty!

Dear Daniel
Dear Daniel!

Badtz and Friend
Bad Badtz-Maru, and an attractively-dressed friend!

And alas, as the parade ended, so did our energy; jet lag was taking its toll, as was the contact culture shock and excitement of visiting Japan. So, it was time to head back to the subway. But not without a hug goodbye for a new friend.

Hello Kitty's Grandfather

Now, you might think that our little adventure at Sanrio Puroland would have quenched my thirst for all things Sanrio. You, dear reader, would be wrong. I haven’t been back to Japan since that trip, but when I do return, I’ve got a new destination in mind. Sanrio Harmonyland is located in Oita prefecture, in the southern part of the country where many Japanese vacation. There’s footage of Harmonyland in that same commercial that got me hooked on Puroland in the first place. Since Japan is such a beautiful and welcoming place to visit, how can I resist?

More Trouble for Hong Kong Disneyland: Buzz Sues Over Injuries

8 Sep

The Raw Story has more bad news for Hong Kong Disneyland: A 22-year old former Cast Member is suing over neck injuries sustained in a Buzz Lightyear costume.

Is this a big deal? Maybe. On the one hand, I’m sure there have been plenty of Cast Member lawsuits over the years; any company of this size will surely be sued now and then, and the conditions that “fur” characters work under are gruelling under the best of circumstances. On the other hand, Disney has had more trouble with lawsuits, unions, and general worker unrest overseas than they have stateside (see this article from EIROnline about a two-month strike at DL Paris in 1998), and given all the recent press on missing their initial attendance goals, this is bad timing.

On a related note . . . if you’re curious about what it’s like for “face” and “fur” characters, this bittersweet story on MousePlanet (warning, pop-ups) details one person’s experience, written by someone who “miss[es] the job with all [her] heart”.

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