Lance’s Armchair Imagineer #10 ‘Main Street U.S.A. and Critter Country’
# 10 Critters and Main Street and Critters! 11/01/13
Yours Truly with an old friend on the 10th Birthday of Disneyland (or thereabouts)
Hello everyone! Welcome back to Lance’s Armchair Imagineer! This entry will be a little schizophrenic since we’re covering the two areas of Disneyland we haven’t picked apart yet. Critter Country and Main Street U.S.A. Once we’re done here, we’ve worked our way land-by-land through both California Disney Theme Parks. It’s sort of a wrap of the first wave of these Blogs.
I’m sure we will continue to talk about other aspects of the Resort (Downtown Disney, the Hotels, etc.), but for now, I’m content to let the first 10 speak for themselves. What I’d really like is to start some dialogue with these and talk them out before moving ahead to other things.
Did you know, I wrote the first 11 Blogs before posting the first one? It’s true. Wanted to give myself a good backlog, lead time, and some handy retro-writing. I also double back and tweak each one over time as new thought occur to me, new attractions are added and new ideas are inspired by YOUR feedback. The Forums on each blog are ‘living entities’. Always being added to….and they are half the experience.
Okay, let’s get started with CRITTER COUNTRY
Formerly Bear Country, (and often mistakenly called Critter County) this is an attractive rustic cul-de-sac area the other side of The Haunted Mansion. Of course, Fantasyland also has a ‘breaking the berm’ addition in Toontown. Disneyland is outgrowing it’s original parameters. One wonders if the park will eventually expand past Tomorrowland to the East, Fantasyland to the North and Frontierland to the West (appropriately).
Critter Country has a trio of listed attractions:
DAVEY CROCKETT EXPLORER CANOES: This attraction allows groups of guests (with a cast member in front and in back) to paddle long canoes around Tom Sawyer Island. It’s more fun than it sounds! Just be prepared to be splashed by less competent paddlers. If you go with a large enough group, let them know! If you can fill up two canoes (I think they hold 20 Guests each), they will line you up for a race! I did this once with a group and it was a blast (if exhausting). This is a seasonal attraction, available in the Summer.
THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH
I’m not a fan of this dark ride. I think it’s the weakest in that category for a number of reasons. The neon, black-light colors don’t evoke this gentle pastels of this pre-school property. It’s generally unambitious in execution and to add insult to injury, it replaced a masterpiece, classic (even Legacy) Disney Attraction, The Country Bear Jamboree. A Walt-influenced, Marc Davis-designed unique Imagineering experience. As I said a few blogs ago, CBJ can reopen over in the Challenge Trail area of DCA. It will fit well there. The Winnie ride needs a serious re-do. More dimensional environments, a better paint scheme, etc.
As kind of a salt-in-the-wound feature. The three wall-mounted characters from Country Bears are still in the building! This homage to the original attraction just has the effect of making me question the sanity of anyone who would replace CBJ with Winnie. It’s near the end.
When you see Winnie struggling in honey, look up and back over your shoulder and you’ll see this…
Your Humble Blogger and his good friend Lisa at a “Twisted Disney” party in the late 80′s. We were ‘Bear Heads’ (Ask your parents). (Yes, I drew those shirt designs after ‘Dead artist, Rick Griffin). Some 20 years later, It was Lisa’s daughter Denim I got hooked on Roller-coasters, starting with Gadget’s, then Big Thunder, then Matterhorn, then Space Mountain. Just call me the Uncle of bad-influence!
Let’s end this section on a high note. This Attraction is a definite Headliner (or “E-Ticket” for you longtime Disneyland-goers).
Probably the best ride at Knott’s Berry Farm is the Log ride. It’s a lot of fun with nice theming and a big thrill at the end. A definite childhood favorite of mine. It took a while, but Disneyland finally provided a competitive experience. Splash is a great log flume ride with beautiful theming and the repurposed cast from America Sings. The line on this one is always painfully long when you want to go on it (hot weather), so a Fast Pass is a must. There’s also a Single Rider option. The large drop at the end is Disneyland’s only extreme drop and only really wet ride, so bag those cameras and cellphones, fun lovers.
On a final note: Does it strike anyone else weird that a major attraction is themed after a ‘banned’ Disney feature, Song of the South?
This area also features a fantastic candy store where you can watch them make the treats, the inevitable retail outlet, and a Dedicated Pooh Character Signing Area.
The Hungry Bear Restaurant is to the right of Winnie. It’s a burger place with a, ‘eh’ menu similar to DCA’s Taste Pilot’s Grill. (It’s a short walk to the many superior eateries in New Orleans Square and Frontierland.) It’s worth noting that the lower deck is something of an oasis. Quiet, cool, and calm, with a very nice view of The Rivers of America. The kids can also feed the ducks here. It’s a nice little hideaway with a convenient bathroom.
Okay, time to double back to New Orleans Square for a fun Train ride around the Park to Main Street Station. Walt was well-known for his love of Trains. In fact, the VERY first notions of Disneyland started with a Train idea of some sort. The trains have four great Attraction Posters…and I had to post them all…
Many Trains have come and gone over the years in the park and we still have four routes. (Casey Jr., Big Thunder, and Monorail are the others) This is the most traditional and also provides the most comprehensive “Circle Tour of the Magic Kingdom”. I like to use the Train as a ‘shortcut’ when the park gets really crowded or to negotiate around parade crowds. I feel compelled to note that DCA is trainless, and so, not what Walt would have done…and there definitely needs to be some sort of transport between the front gate and the distant boardwalk. But, let’s get back to the land in question…
For those who don’t know, there is a special car named The Lilly Belle (after Walt’s wife Lillian). Sometimes, this enclosed car is attached to one of the trains. Club 33 Guests (see Blog #3) can gain admittance by asking…and so can the lucky and well-timed Park Guest if you ask politely at the Main Street Station early in the day. The car is a gorgeously-appointed luxury coach with gold-plated lamps, plush chairs, velvet curtains, etc. A Conductor will accompany you on your loop around the park with an interesting historical talk about Walt’s relationship with Trains, Train history at Disneyland, and other general park subjects. I’ve done this twice and it was fascinating and different each time. My all-time Favorite Cast-Member gave me the tour once and it was heaven on wheels. Make sure to get your punched Ticket from the Station Conductor. It’s a souvenir you can’t buy. (Ala the Steamboat Pilot Certificate).
Here’s mine. Notice the tiny Train punch?
Your Faithful Blogger in The Lilly Belle with The fabulous Cast Member and dear friend Roberta. Best. Tour. Ever.
Like Club 33, this car was meant as Walt’s Invitation-only hideaway. Sadly, smoking murdered him before enjoying either.
Lastly about the Train….you know about Grand Canyon / Primeval World, yes? Many don’t. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just ride the Train from Tomorrowland to Main Street Station and it will blow your little mind. Those ‘Real’ Grand Canyon animals are actually taxidermy purchases, not the result of Imagineering. Creepy? My Note here…replace those poor critters with some animating AA Figures ala Big Thunder Mountain.
Disembarking at Main Street Station …
MAIN STREET U.S.A. is a beautiful transition from the real world into the fantasy that is The Magic Kingdom. This isn’t about Attractions, it is about atmosphere and shops and eateries, with a few exceptions. I don’t have any comments about the stores. There’s something for everyone. They change over time, but the overall experience remains the same. For inexpensive souvenirs, I like the Silhouette portraits. I have two on my wall. One at 6 1/2 Years old and another at 49.
Main Street is also a great nexus of services. ATM, restrooms, lockers, etc. Let’s look at a few non-shops, starting with the very first thing on the right side as you cross under the Train Station.
THE DISNEY GALLERY: An absolute Must-Do. This beautiful gallery features rotating subject matter, relating to all the Disney Parks not just Disneyland. There is always a fantastic collection of artwork, models blueprints and misc. items. Previous subjects have included: Trains, Boats, Castles, and artist Mary Blair. Additionally, you can order high quality on-demand prints of the key artwork on display with size, surface, and framing options. I got a few of the Mary Blair prints myself (of her Tomorrowland Murals) and they are gorgeous.
Connected to the Gallery is GREAT MOMENTS WITH MR. LINCOLN
This venerable attraction features the first sophisticated Audio-Animatronic figure of the 16th President. Decades-old, it’s still pretty darn lifelike and inspiring. The entire production is very well put together and the lobby of the theater “The Opera House” is a great little museum in itself.
I will admit, this is also the best place in the park for an emergency nap, should you need one. This attraction was very close to Walt’s heart and I’m glad it’s still there for that reason. This was one of the 4 Attractions created for The World’s Fair before being integrated into the Park.
MAIN STREET CINEMA
Is basically a round theater with no seats and small screens circling you. Each screen is continually showing vintage B & W Disney shorts from the 20’s and 30’s. I find the whole thing overwhelming and tedious. Is there anyone who enjoys this? It’s empty whenever I’ve peeked in. I’m sure a better use can be made with this space. Perhaps turn it into an actual screening room and run older Disney shorts continually in a more traditional setting.
A few other Main Street items of Note. City Hall hands out Birthday, 1st Visit, Anniversary and other celebratory buttons as well as providing vital customer relation services and answers to any question you may have. The Firehouse provides some fun photo opportunities. You know about the lamp in the window above? Sure you do. At the end of every afternoon, there is a very Patriotic and impressive Flag Retreat Ceremony. Catch that at least once. I made a point of seeing it on Memorial Day and it was something special.
MAIN STREET VEHICLES
These are are fun to try a time or two. The drivers are very glib and entertaining with patter worthy of The Jungle Cruise.
This is a great place to mention Parades and Fireworks since Main Street from the Square to the Hub is the best place to enjoy these events. These two shows change now and then, but they are always beautiful and detailed. As I write this, The SoundSational Parade is working Disneyland and Pixar Pals Parade is over in DCA. Both well-worth catching.
The Fireworks show in Disneyland is always spectacular. I love the technological update, allowing Tinkerbell and Dumbo to actually maneuver through the air. In spite of my ‘Pixar in DCA’ attitude (see the first Blog), I’d love to see Buzz Lightyear or Wall-E zipping about up there too…and so would you.
How could I have notes about either elaborate, first class (and very costly) ‘free’ entertainments? I do not. But I have a little advice: Pick your spot about an hour ahead to get a good, unobstructed view. After the Fireworks, there is a mass exodus from the Park. Either get ahead of that mess if you’re leaving or get out of the way and avoid Main Street for a while.
Parade time and Fireworks lead to lower lines elsewhere. Take advantage. Both events clog up the center of the Park. Sometimes it’s faster to take The Train from one side to the other.
And with that, we have Main Street U.S.A. A very dense, useful, and picturesque area of The Magic Kingdom.
As we wrap up this tenth Armchair Imagineer, I’d like to thank you all for Reading and Imagining. May all your Dreams Come True (Disney and Otherwise)
See you soon!
(Click the READ MORE button to see Reader Comments and, better still, to add your own!)
Posters from the past….
Adding insult to injury, losing the exceptional Country Bears was like losing three Legacy attractions. This show had no less than three versions which could be swapped out seasonally. The basic show, a Summer Holiday Version, and a special Christmas version. ALL are greatly missed. F*ck Winnie the Pooh!