October 31, 2010

Halloween treat

Crypt doors creaked and tombstones quaked around our house tonight as goblins, and ghoulies ascended for a swinging wake. We always turn our yard into a miniature Haunted Mansion, and I'm now exhausted! Tomorrow we start packing it all up for next year.

Our homemade haunt is too big to fit into this wonderful old Disneyland souvenir, but that doesn't make the Secret Panel Chest anything less fun. Inside its sliding pieces lurked an early spirit from a New Orleans Square that had yet to hear of Jack Skellington and company. The little wooden puzzle box comes from a time when things "could only happen at Disneyland." The era may have been Imagineering's pinnacle.

The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean were both still relatively new when I got my Secret Panel Chest sometime in the mid-seventies. The thought of a "secret panel" evoked memories of walking fearfully into the portrait gallery with "no windows and no doors." Finding a way into the hidden compartment wasn't quite as thrilling as having "to find—a way out" of the gallery. But the chest is still a treasure.

If you haven't explored it, you can get a detailed look at the Secret Panel Chest here. Happy Halloween!

October 12, 2010

Classic cars

"Enter The Grand Stand where cars on a big screen discuss life as they know it. They cover big topics like street smarts, the birds and the bees ("There comes a time in your life when bees will fly right into your grill!"), and the challenges of waiting for green lights."

"When the checkered flag is waved, step on the accelerator to start the race in one of the sleek hotrods. Each car has its own personality. The cast of car characters includes Suzy the cute coupe, Dusty the off-road vehicle and Sparky the stylish sports car."

Stop.

Look both ways.

Didn't you have as much or more fun back then?

Didn't you feel just as much excitement and anticipation listening to Jack Wagner, "the Voice of Disneyland," tell you how to drive a real car as you ever have listening to cars discussing life as they know it? Wasn't Autopia enough of an experience for a kid that it didn't need "enhancing" with such features? Why is it that I can type out those instructions word for word, probably close to forty years later:

Attention, Autopia drivers:

To make your car go, press your foot down on the pedal.

To stop, take your foot
off the pedal.

For your own safety, and the safety of other drivers, please do not bump the car ahead of you

or stop your car in the middle of the track.

Thank you.

Maybe kids today wouldn't enjoy the attraction without talking cars and funny billboards. Or maybe Disney is just playing down. Some of Walt's pictures had cartoon cars, but he must have sensed that kids would get more excited about real ones. And those little racers were really something. Their Kamm tails and clean lines made them seem a lot faster than they actually were. Hopping into one and pulling out onto the quiet track was one of the most thrilling adventures I could have imagined as a kid.

Unfortunately, today's Autopia cars still lack the one feature that the attraction now sorely needs.

Reverse gear.