Thursday, August 30, 2018

Motor Boat Cruise

I have some scans of some vintage photo prints, hand-dated "May 1977", and featuring the Motor Boat Cruise. This incredibly exciting attraction was 20 years old at the time these photos were taken, and yet it was still considered to be too intense for the faint-of-heart. 

These prints have turned all sorts of interesting colors - yellowish in one area, greenish in another, blue-tinted somewhere else - like a bruise! I tried to even things out a bit, but they still look odd. Nevertheless, this is a great view of the MoBo loading dock. At some point after the ride's closure, I believe that this area was called "Fantasia Gardens". It also became a designated smoking area for a while,  and now it is a dining area.

Mom is in tears because she can't steer. It's OK lady, the wheel doesn't do anything anyway! I see that this boat was named "Shaggy Dog", I wish I had a complete list of all of the boat names. Was there a "Monkey's Uncle" (whoa whoa)? Or a "Zorro"?

In spite of the terror that most riders experienced, you can see that the waterway was beautifully landscaped. Much of the areas where the boats used to putt have been filled in. 

The pale yellow (or white?) boat is the "Tinker Bell"!


Nanook said...


Many a seasoned skipper has been moved to tears upon discovering the ship's wheel on these vessels is a mere "prop". Mom is definitely in good company. I can bear witness to just such a disappointing experience.
(You wouldn't see that sort of 'cheat' on the Phantom Boats-!)

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

I remember riding in the "Darby O'Gill" motor boat once. I loved the "Motor Boat Cruise" for the scenery and that it felt like early "old-timey" Disneyland to me. No big theme or special effects. Just a simple pleasure. Not everything has to be an 'E' ticket to be fun. Thanks, Major.

Chuck said...

I would never have gotten into a boat named Darby O'Gill. I'd have been terrified it would lift off and try to take me to the Land of the Dead. I'm dead serious - I was still having nightmares about the Banshee as a senior in high school.

Here are my votes for other motor boat names:

Boy Blue
Johnny Clem
James Boone
Tom Hadley
Arliss Coates
Jimmy Bean
Francis Robinson
Toby Tyler

Anonymous said...

We ride operators used to call it "The Cruise", since it was such a laid back ride. No big hustle for capacity, sitting at the console, the boats slowly winding their way into the loading dock. Supervisors never came by to check on hourly counts. A real kickback Summer shift. In the #1 dock position, there was a device called a de-weeder. It blew compressed air at the boat's prop to clear off accumulated grass that grew on the lagoon floor. When there was no boat there, we'd throw a little barf dust in the water, and the ride operator at the console would turn the air valve, making foaming bubbles in the water.. We'd tell the youngster waiting for a boat that there was piranha in the lagoon. They usually jumped back a foot or two. Fun stuff.

MRaymond said...

No real piranhas? I had been trying to toss my sister in for years, and now my Disney moment is dashed against the rocks in the rapids. Don’t tell me those were faked as well.

Stefano said...

The Motor Boat Cruise was the only attraction that didn't live up to the illustration and description in the guide books: "treacherous rapids and tricky currents", ha ha. Still, a leisurely boat ride through beautiful landscaping, interesting vehicles gliding overhead and alongside, what's not to love? Except for the atrocious Gummi Glen overlay in the early '90s. That plywood decadence signaled the real start of Disneyland's decline.

There was a big addition to Busch Gardens in Van Nuys that I wish I'd seen, also with a pleasant- looking motor boat cruise, a flume ride and a highly regarded haunted house called Turvey Manor. This area was well photographed in the book "Above Los Angeles".

JC Shannon said...

A great attracion, gone but living on at GDB. I always rode the Motorboats, as a kid I loved the idea of plying the waters of Disneyland in my own boat. A water ride that wasn't a thrill, (you had to use your imagination) but very cool anyhow, in my opinion. I miss 'em. Ken kinda summed it up. Thanks Major for the voyage.

Melissa said...

Hey, Jill St. John loves the Motorboat Cruise!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, am I crazy, or did the steering wheel actually make the boats move a few inches to the left or right? It’s been so long, maybe my brain has made that up. And as a kid I was very frustrated by the slow speed, even though I know that they couldn’t allow it to go fast.

K. Martinez, Darby O’Gill is a good one! “King Brian” wouldn’t be too bad either. I never experienced the “Gummi Glen” version of the Motor Boats, but those plywood flats (in broad daylight) felt very cheap and cheesy, based on photos.

Chuck, the banshee scared the crap out of me when I saw that movie as a kid! Your list of names is very good, but you left out “Charlie” (the duck from “Million Dollar Duck”, America’s Greatest Movie), and of course, Major Pepperidge (blogger to the stars)! I’m sure we could cook up more good names… “Johnny Tremain”. “Merlin Jones”, “Spin” and/or “Marty”, “Ludwig Von Drake”, “Mr. Stubbs”, “Pollyanna”, “Dexter Riley”… the list could go on and on.

Anon, that sounds like the job for me! Minimal effort, maximum relaxation. If hourly counts were a regular thing for other attractions, I wonder why they didn’t do it for the Motor Boats? I like the piranha gag, though I would take it too far and want a cloud of red to form, and maybe a nice rubber hand could be floating nearby. Sure, I’d be fired, but I had my fun!

MRayond, the piranhas didn’t take to the Anaheim climate, but electric eels thrived. Some of them were as big as your leg! That’s why you never saw ducks in the Motor Boat canals.

Stefano, now that you mention it, I wonder if the Imagineers had actually planned on making the Motor Boats a bit more thrilling? I’m not sure how they could do it in reality, but some simulated rapids (with some real oomph behind them) would have been pretty cool, and maybe winding through some dangerous rocks would have been good too. Wow, I am totally unaware of “Turvey Manor” from Busch Gardens Van Nuys! Time to do some research.

Jonathan, kids set a pretty low bar when it comes to what attractions offer - think of the hundreds of carnival rides that merely go around in circles for 90 seconds. And the Motor Boats certainly offered more than that, with beautiful scenery. I’d take them back any day.

Anonymous said...

While I can't say that this ride was a must-do every trip, it was definitely a fun time. Sort of a wet Autopia. The previous comments have hit all the high spots already; the phony rapids, beautiful plantings, fake steering wheel etc., but I never knew about the piranhas.

And definite strong agreement with Stefano about Gummi Glen, that was, unfortunately, my last contact with the Motor Boats, riding through with my young children and wondering seriously who thought that would have been a good idea to do it.

I wish current-day Disneyland had more of these quiet little backwaters. My favorite remaining is the Winnie-the-Pooh ride. It's corny as can be, but perfect for tired parents with young children. Somehow, Winnie managed to avoid adding Johnny Depp, but I bet there will be a speeder chase laser battle sequence added in soon, or worse, some kind of tie-in to the live action re-make of WTP.


Anonymous said...

Anon and JG sum up my thoughts about the Cruise. It was a place to lay back and relax while the kids had something 'real world' tangible (rather than a video screen and joy stick) to amuse themselves. Very little of that left now. KS

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, hmmm, I’m not sure I’m getting the joke. Is it Natalie Wood related? If so, I approve! Nothin’ like a little black humor, ha ha.

JG, I had heard about Gummi Glen (never saw it), and until I saw photos, did not know just how terrible and cheap it was. Not worthy of a Disneyland attraction. I just looked it up, and that change was implemented in 1991, during Eisner’s era (but before Paul Pressler, much to my surprise). It really seemed that at some point the executives believed that Disney fans would swallow anything, no matter how crummy (see: early DCA). I guess real estate is too valuable to allow quiet areas in the park, and yet I believe that they were more important than some might think.

KS, yes, you make a good point - it wasn’t a motion simulator or a ride where you stopped to look at screens. Those things can be done well, but often it feels like a cop out.

TokyoMagic! said...

I also enjoyed the slower pace of the Motor Boat Cruise. As Ken said, not everything has to be an "E" ticket. And not everything has to be a thrill ride. From what I remember, the steering wheel did absolutely nothing when you turned it. The only control over the boat was the gas pedal. Now I'm trying to remember if the boats moved along slowly, even if you didn't step on the pedal? I also remember a "rapids" area with rocks in the water, similar to the rocky area in the very back of the Rivers of America that sometimes the canoes would end up going through.

Stefano, I remember riding the motor boats at Busch Gardens, after they had added more rides to the park. And I loved the Turvey Mansion Funhouse! It was a good old-fashioned type of funhouse with moving floors, rocking rooms and even a mirror maze. Gee, I guess you can't have that kind of attraction in an amusement park these days.

Melissa said...

I just thought the glamorous red-haired lady getting into a boat in the first picture looked like Jill St. John circa Diamonds Are Forever.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, OK, I’m sure I am thinking of the Autopia when I remembered the steering wheel doing something, however little. I think even the gas pedal did almost nothing - it certainly didn’t make the boats go faster! Man, those things were slow. I’ve seen photos of the “rapids”, but they weren’t very impressive.

Melissa, ah, I see who you mean!

Melissa said...

On second look, I spy a blue babushka on the far right!