Thursday, October 19, 2017

Costumed Characters, July 1972

Remember when the beloved costumed characters could roam the streets of Disneyland, or at least stand around in a general area for the enjoyment of passersby? Nowadays you don't see the characters "in the wild"; Mickey and his pals have to rely on handlers and carefully scheduled appearances. Just like the Beatles in their heyday!

There's Pluto, one of the most huggable characters, since he is covered in a luxurious plush fur. The sight of that little girl hugging him is pretty adorable! Guests to our right wait patiently for their turn, but this father and son team wait for nobody, capiche?! The cigarette in dad's left hand might "accidentally" surprise the little girl, if you know what I'm saying. We don't got all day!

Goofy (real name: Gooferelli) recognizes a fellow paisan. "Lookin' good!", his attitude says. Who needs words when you are a master of the colorful gesture?


Nanook said...


Even back "then" there should be a handler just out of camera range. And on another subject - Oh, those pants-!!

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

My niece got burned by a cigarette on the arm at Disneyland. The woman said she was sorry, but still. I'm glad smoking is restricted now.

Goofy is the coolest! Thanks, Major!

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, I've always wondered if the characters had handlers back in the day. I guess they were just more discreet about it? Today those handlers are standing right next to the characters, ready to thwart any unruly actions from guests.

And yes, those pants! I bet if a cigarette got near them, they would literally melt due to their polyester content. I've seen vintage polyester shirts from this time period, that have perfect circular holes melted through them from cigarettes.

I see the Wonderland Music Co. store was still open for business in 1972. I wonder if they had any copies of The Happiest Millionaire soundtrack for sale? Okay, I'll stop now. Maybe.

Chuck said...

That's the location for your Happiest Millionaire dark ride, TM! Tear out that old, dated Lincoln Savings and Loan ad and all that clutter about Walter E. What's-his-name. Nobody cares about that ancient history stuff anyways. Or maybe make it into a giant plush store/pin trading station/character meet'n'greet/time share sales kiosk. Lots of unrealized possibilities for this wasted corner of the Park.

I remember saying to a fashion-conscious classmate in 1984 that I wished some of the '70s styles would come back. His response was "Ugh! The seventies were nothing but brown!" These pictures provide evidence that his memories weren't exactly accurate and show the bright colors and patterns I was thinking of when I made my comment. Of course, this was also the kid who sewed his finger into a sweatshirt in 8th grade Home Economics, so maybe paying attention wasn't his strong suit.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, in those days the handlers dressed like regular guests, only they knew deadly kung fu. Why don’t stores sell pants like those anymore?

K. Martinez, smoking is the worst (sorry, smokers out there). I have a brother who smokes, and he has apparently has no idea that he smells like an old ashtray most of the time. I don’t like driving him around in my car, because the smell lingers.

TokyoMagic!, I wonder if fights ever broke out because people wouldn’t wait their turn? Maybe handlers became necessary because the guests were too nutty. And I don’t know if those polyester shirts had holes because of cigarettes, if you know what I mean.

Chuck, what if they built a Happiest Millionaire LAND instead of a Star Wars Land? Cast members would walk around in the guise of Fred MacMurray or Tommy Steele. Your story about your friend not liking 70’s fashions reminds me of my own thoughts… “Why would anybody want to dress like they did in the 70’s?”. Little did I know that there would be a big 70’s revival, and that disco would make a comeback, for a while anyway.

K. Martinez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck said...

Major, I'm willing to bet that there probably have been a few fights over costumed characters over the years.

I remember walking through the MK's Hub one Christmas season en route to meet my family for lunch when I encountered a long line of people waiting to meet and have their photo taken with some character (I forget who; let's pretend it was Cordy Biddle). Some guy (he sounded like an Italian tourist) had stopped his family right next to the character and pushed his kid in front of the folks in line to get a picture. The handler was trying to politely tell him that there was a line and his daughter would have to wait her turn. He became progressively more indignant, arguing that "it will just take a second" and "it's just one picture!" while the handler was doing her best to get the guy to play nice as the crowd was starting to turn ugly.

The guy just kept getting angrier and angrier, and he started jumping up and down, fists clenched by his sides, with his neck muscles bulging as the exasperated handler was trying to keep her cool. I secretly hoped that she did know deadly kung fu and was about to pull out a big 'ol can of whoop*** and clobber this dude with it. He finally screamed "THIS IS STUPID!!! YOU ARE STUPID!!!" and stomped off just as I passed the scene.

I took a few steps towards the Castle, then turned around and walked back to the handler. When I got her attention, she had this expression on her face that said "Lord, please help me keep my cool while I deal with another idiot guest." I told her I had seen the previous scene and just wanted to thank her for holding her ground. I also told her that I knew this could be a tough job, that she was doing a great job and to keep up the good work. The look of grateful appreciation on her face is one of the most moving things I've ever seen; I honestly thought she might start crying. She seemed to catch herself, said "thank you so much for saying that," and turned back to her work with a huge smile on her face and what looked like the strength of ten Grinches (plus two).

My work here done, I turned and wandered away into the Florida sunshine.

Anonymous said...

There usually was someone nearby...even a Security Guard would suffice...but it was normally was discreet. The Characters would take breaks behind Hills Brothers and walk out/in the gate to/from Town Square. It was tough work on hot days and I give them kudos for a job well done. KS

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I didn't know what you meant! I was wracking my brain trying to figure it out so that I wouldn't have to ask you what you mean! It just now came to me.....duh!

Ken, I can totally see them doing that to that space. At the very minimum, I could see them turning it into one of those $600 a day private cabanas. Sigh.

Chuck, too funny.....I wouldn't mind seeing a Happiest Millionaire ride, but not in place of Lincoln! And gee, that guy's daughter must have been a huge fan of Cordy Biddle to try and get her to the front of the line without waiting. ;-) I know people were waiting three hours to meet the Frozen princesses a few years back. I'd wait that long to meet Cordy Biddle.....if she was being played by Lesley Ann Warren.

Major, I love your idea of a Happiest Millionaire Land. It seems like a no-brainer. It could have an alligator petting zoo, an antique auto ride to the city of Detroit, and "vamping" lessons given by Joyce Bullifant. Who really wants lessons in how to battle Darth Vader with a light saber? And yes, why aren't they building THAT instead of Star Wars Land?

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, the funny (or scary) thing is that I have read proposals from Disneyland fans (online) that are far more crazy than what Chuck suggested. I’m not saying that Chuck is crazy (I’m also not saying that Chuck is NOT crazy). I wish every restaurant at the parks was an exculsive club that most people were not allowed to visit. By the way, I had one opportunity to visit the old Club 33, and I just wasn’t that interested. Now that it has been changed I kind of regret not seeing it, but I didn’t care that much.

Chuck, you get a gold star for making that cast member feel appreciated! Were heavenly sunbeams shining down on you as you strolled into the distance? I remember being at the park on a very crowded day, and I watched a young lady rearranging the Space Mountain queue with remarkable efficiency while a woman with a stroller was speaking angrily to her about… well, I don’t know what. The cast member was calm and polite. When I passed her (heading into the tunnel entrance to the mountain), I said, “You’re doing a great job!”, and she smiled back. Not quite as dramatic as your story, but I was glad I said something to her.

KS, it is pretty remarkable to see what those performers can do in those bulky costumes. And I’m sure that most of the time, they are glad to bring smiles to people’s faces. But I heard on a podcast that jerks have tried to throw characters into the moat, or that people kick and hit the characters as if there is not a real person inside. It’s crazy.

TokyoMagic!, clearly I was referring to the very unsafe practice of playing with sparklers. Do you know how hot those things are? Come on, man! Also, I have heard rumors that the legendary “third gate” might be a “Million Dollar Duck” land.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, oh yeah...sparklers. And the larger holes were caused by playing around with "Smokey Joe." Major, are you secretly a fan of Million Dollar Duck? Sandy Duncan is at her Sandy Duncan-iest in that film. I JUST LOVE 'EM! I mean, I just love her! A "Million Dollar Duck" land is pure genius, Major. I'm imagining an "E" ticket "hot rod ride" that includes a madcap escape from the U.S. Treasury Department and an audio-animatronic Joe Flynn.

Speaking of Club 33, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to go a couple times before those changes were made to it. Now that I've heard the details of the horrible remodel job and seen the pics, I have no desire to ever go back. They ruin everything, don't they? Club 33 does just happen to have a phone booth that was specially constructed using parts of the phone booth from The Happiest Millionaire. You can read all about it in my upcoming "Happiest Millionaire" blog post in December (seriously).

Nanook said...

@ TM!-

Sorry I didn't get this info out sooner. I too, was surprised to see The Wonderland Music Company was a going concern as late as 1972. As a matter of fact, it didn't close until [around] January 1, 1973, to eventually make way for the exit from The Walt Disney Story, beginning [around] April 8, 1973.

TokyoMagic! said...

KS, thank you for that info about the character's "handlers" from back in the day.

Nanook, thank you for that info, too. Now I'm wondering if that's where my parents bought my brother and me our "101 Dalmatians" long-playing story record in 1970. I thought I remembered it coming from the Emporium, but I also remember seeing Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln at the end of that visit and either getting the record right before or right after that. Maybe we bought it as we exited Lincoln. It appears that the music store was right there at the exit, almost like the way that the Mad Hatter shop has now been extended into the exit area.

Chuck said...

That may also be where my parents or grandparents bought my copy of the Disneyland records LP of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. I saw the film for the first time in the Fantasyland theater in '71, and I do remember us being outside on the east side of Town Square in the dark for a bit before we left. I know part of that was spent buying my Mickey-ear balloon, but it would have been really easy and convenient for one of the five adults in our party to have slipped over and picked it up then. It would've saved them from having to lug it around the Park, too.

Anonymous said... are right about what you heard about incidents the characters would encounter. But that was a very rare event.

However the frequency of such events has escalated dramatically since the 70s primarily as a result of the overcrowding that occurs in the Park these days. Makes people surly. And then there is the generation behind me that grew up feeling entitled to everything upon demand. KS

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, that visit of yours sounds very similar to least the end of the day part of it. We always left just after it got dark (unfortunately). I remember the lights coming on on Main St. and I remember going to see Mr. Lincoln, buying that record, and then getting a Mickey Mouse balloon before leaving. We always bought the balloons on our way out of the park.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, fireworks are no joke. “Safe and sane”, that’s the way to go. I did like “Million Dollar Duck” a lot when I was a kid. Haven’t seen it for decades. The fantasy of a duck laying golden eggs was just too good. And I did love Sandy Duncan. It makes me sad that kids these days don’t know Sandy. WHERE IS SHE?! Joe Flynn, I never liked him. Of course he played unlikeable characters, but he annoyed me. That voice. I thought the whole phone booth thing in Club 33 (that it was supposedly from “The Happiest Millionaire”) was debunked?

Nanook, I can verify your dates. Thanks to the document that you shared with me!!

TokyoMagic!, I know that my parents (and grandparents) bought stuff for us at the park, but mostly it seemed like they said, “No”! I do have a picture of my brother and me (maybe ages 3 and 5) wearing mouse ears and carrying “pop guns” with corks in them. If I could find them I would share them. All I remember is that I am looking very well-fed!!

Chuck, I don’t know if I had any albums from Disneyland, but I sure listened to my “magic mirror” version of “Peter Pan” and “Bambi” a million times, not to mention my “Jungle Book” and “It’s a Small World” albums. Now that I have the IASW album as an mp3, I love listening to Winston Hibler’s comforting voice.

KS, I’m sure that the rate of hooliganism increased as the years went by. Those poor CMs! How can people, even teenagers, have such a lack of empathy?

TokyoMagic!, one time I got my Mickey balloon on the way home, only to lose my grip on the string once we exited the car in our driveway. I just watched it get smaller and smaller. But I didn’t cry. Well, maybe a little.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I hope you find your mouse ears and pop gun! As for the debunking of the phone booth in Club 33 being from The Happiest Millionaire, I think they used to say that it was the actual prop from the movie, but now they say that just the lead glass panels were taken from the prop in the movie and reused in a newly-built phone booth. The ornate windows do look identical to the ones in the movie, but the rest of the phone booth does look slightly different. It makes sense that they would have used the actual windows since Club 33 construction would have been taking place right around the same time that production on the film would have been ending. They also have a table in the club that was used in Mary Poppins. Anyway, I will have pics of the phone booth from the movie and pics of the phone booth at Club 33 in my upcoming post in December.