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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Let’s say you’re like me, a high school kid who finds the monotonous routines in school to be, well, dull.  You look forward to that day when you work for one of the largest entertainment companies in the world.  If you had the chance, you would stay at home for a full week and watch all of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collections both with and without commentary.  Once finished with those, you might speed read through Fantagraphic’s Popeye comic strip collections so that you could have time to browse through Dave Smith’s Disney A to Z.  Maybe you’d even pop in a Walt Disney Treasures DVD so that you could watch the unveiling of the Matterhorn in the 1959, or the classic Oswald cartoons of the 1920’s set to music of the time.  If any of this at all applies to you, I have your cure for those days of endless boredom and unhappiness.

It’s the brilliant combination of victory and animation memorabilia in these two auction websites  that generally gets me through the day: those being Theme Park Connection  and Mouse Surplus.  From these two websites, I’ve amassed several authentic, one-of-a-kind Disney Parks collectibles.  For example, for just $40, I won 3 operation manuals for Disneyland rides dated back to the 1960’s.  In addition, I’ve also won authentic uniform patches that cast members wore at Walt Disney World during the 1970’s.  However there have been major auction losses along the way, such as when I lost the auction for a Mickey Mouse flag that flew over the Disneyland Main Street train station.  Quite frankly, it was a heart-breaker.

You may think at this point, “Hans, I don’t see the advantage to your websites!  I already can find the specific collectibles I am looking for by just searching them on ebay.”  Well, silly reader, the problem with your method is it is irregular, sporadic, and unorganized.  In order to get the good stuff, you need to have consistency, and both Theme Park Connection and MouseSurplus provide this in their ebay stores!  It is true, my fellow fan, they have their own sections of the internet reserved specifically for selling Disney memorabilia.  The integrity of the two sellers gives them the connections with Disney that give them a first shot at selling anything the company is throwing out, such as ride vehicles, signs, or other various park decorations.

Now, before beginning to browse, you have to know what your selection will be.  While MouseSurplus has a smaller collection of items, they possess more valuable products.  Often you will find here authentic cels, full uniforms, and occasionally something as special as a ride vehicle or store decorations from Main Street U.S.A. shops.  On the other hand, Theme Park Connection auctions off the smaller collectibles, such as patches, limited edition park give-aways, employee gifts, and maybe sometimes rare park signage.

And so, now we come to a decision you must make.  Let’s say you’ve found that rare Disney Cruise Line cast member uniform on the Theme Park Connection eBay store.  You’d love to have something unique, something that is un-purchasable elsewhere, but before you click the “bid” button, a voice in your head continually advises you not to bid on it.  “It’s too expensive; it’s a waste of money; you’ll never have a use for it; it’s gross, someone else wore it; you don’t really need a Disney employee uniform,” the voice claims.  My advice to you: shut that voice up and hit bid!  Perhaps it’s expensive (around $300), but who cares?  Wouldn’t you like to fill your day with the excitement of an online auction, instead of working until your head blows off?  It’s the thrill of the competition, the thrill of the final few minutes in which you and five other bidders try to pound in your final offers, the thrill of winning and knowing you beat somebody who most likely wanted it just as badly as you did!  These are the rewards of online bidding.

If you find yourself, like me, to be an animation fan, fascinated with the prospect of owning a 1970’s horticulture patch worn by Walt Disney World gardeners, but looking to spice up your dull, daily routine, I recommend the online auction sites of Theme Park Connection and MouseSurplus.  In a business as competitive as animation, both fans and employees alike can find enjoyment in the high tension competition provided by the final few minutes in an auction for a patch somebody wore 40 years ago to work.  It works even for Christmas shopping as the rare items here up for sale easily guarantee there will be no embarrassingly awkward gift duplications.  The roller-coaster of emotions these auctions can take you on are sure to add a little zest to your currently average life.

Examples of the incredibly rare, classic pieces you can purchase from online auctions. Often items range from full cast member uniforms to park signage to vintage patches These two patches are specifically from Theme Park Connection

In the Disney parks, rides, characters, scenery, and merchandise only make up a portion of the Disney experience.  To complete the bare necessities of a Disney trip, you have to include food.  Disney knows full well the power of food.  In fact, food can be more powerful at times than a plush Perry the Platypus doll, in terms of generating revenue that is.  A sobbing child demanding a head-sized lollipop is just about guaranteed for any Magic Kingdom/Disneyland visit.  You see, those Mickey shaped ice cream bars, or the Mickey shaped pretzels, or even those Rice Krispie Mickey heads can’t be purchased anywhere else in the world.  It’s without a doubt a unique experience to buy a candied apple off of a turn-of-the-century street vendor, and then eat it while waiting for a train down the street from a towering castle.  When we think of Disney, the smells of popcorn and fresh pastries wafting from the Main Street bakeries and carts are more subconscious essentials to that mental vision, rather than extra additions the Mouse House threw in just to make a quick buck.  Sure these make money, but they’re also about memories.  Following are my top 4 Main Street Treats:

4.  The Casey’s Corner Chili Dogs

Though not a traditional dessert, I’d absolutely include this among Main Street’s Top treats.  For a filling meal or snack, this beats the other park quick-service and sit down restaurants by a long shot.  A relatively cheap chili dog is sure to fill as a snack alone or as a meal when ordered with the whole deal.  In addition to this, the baseball decor and quieter sitting areas provide a peaceful place to eat with a great view of the castle.

3.  Plaza Ice Cream Parlor

Maybe I’m a little biased on this selection, but my love of ice cream only naturally leads to this selection.  A snack here works either coming into the park or on the way out.  Personally, I’d prefer to stop here between noon and the afternoon parade.  With younger visitors off in Fantasyland, and a slower entry flow, an ice cream cone is the perfect treat to fuel a guest up for the second half of the day.  To top it all off, we aren’t talking mini cups of ice cream, nor wimpy sugar cones with a scoop and a half of the cold stuff.  No, the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor serves up heaping 3 and 4 massive cones.  While they come at a price, the fuel and satisfaction they provide are simply unbeatable.

2.  Mickey Mouse Shapes-On-A-Stick

It’s a bit broad, but I want to try and be as inclusive as possible here.  The ice cream bars, Rice Krispie Treats, candied apples, and other assorted confections in the shape of Mickey’s head really add a nice touch.  While eating these, you know truly are in a different world.  You’re in Walt’s world, and in Walt’s world, the real world is long gone.  The real world is abandoned, magic is alive, and in a world where those classic ears appear everywhere from bushes to the clouds, it’s only natural that the food should take shape after that famous profile as well!  Sure they may just be everyday treats, but it’s the magic, nostalgia, and completion they add to the general surroundings that make these Mickey head confections so special.

A wrapper from the Mickey Ice Cream Bar. Notice how they’ve used an older style of Mickey’s head here, one that is more like the 1950’s design rather than the modern version of Mickey’s face. This could either be to label the package with a head that more closely fits the shape of the ice cream bar it contains, or it simply could be a nostalgic nod towards the 1950’s when Disneyland first opened.

1. The Turkey Leg

It is not theme park food.  That is the reason it is my number one.  The fact that this delicious but strange edible has had such strong approval ratings in the parks makes its fame respectable.  Since the 1990’s, Disney has been serving up these steaming fowl appendages.  Though delicious, what I love so much about this treat is its iconic nature.  Theme parks do not serve turkey legs, and quite frankly, when do we eat them besides around Thanksgiving?  Disney has made the turkey leg it’s own. You don’t buy a turkey leg at Six Flags, because it doesn’t belong there.  The turkey legs are much like the hidden mickeys: Newer guests may not take notice of them, but veterans cannot imagine a Disneyverse without them.  For its deliciousness and the unique belonging it has in a Disney park, the turkey leg is my number one Disney treat.

A testament to the popularity of the seemingly out of place Disney park treat, the turkey leg.

At this point, Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise is old news.  Honestly, I’ve never seen an entire Star Wars movie, so as an average person, I’m really not qualified to have much of an opinion on this deal.  On the other hand, as a Disney fan, this purchase means very much to me about the future of the company.

This is Disney’s strategy.  Specifically, they want to buy up the top prospect titles of the past, present, and future.  The company has actually come to be a lot like Google, which is now infamous for its swallowing growth among digital industries.  Except, instead of buying mere startups, Disney has been out hunting for bargains with some of it’s own industry’s top names.  Recall the Capital Cities/ABC purchase back in 1996, which since has brought into Disney’s realm titles like ESPN, the Lifetime Networks, and ABC Television (ABC Television, ABC News, ABC Family, etc.).  This agreement helped reorganize The Disney Channel into one of the most profitable, highly watched stations among kids.  Then, the next big deal came in 2006 when Disney bought Pixar from Steve Jobs, who had taken the group from Lucasfilm back in the 1980’s.  More recently, we have seen Disney buying Marvel properties for movies and Avatar rights for the parks.  And we can’t forget Disney’s purchase of Jim Henson’s muppets.  In a way, the Lucasfilm acquisition is actually very similar to the history of Disney’s Muppet ordeal.

In the early days of Hollywood studios, the Muppets were king.  Disney had plans for the characters to essentially control an entire section in the park, complete with restaurants, shops, The Muppet Movie Ride, stage shows, and other side attractions.  The only remnant of that plan now is Muppet Vision 3D.  With the death of Jim Henson, these plans were shuttered.   On the other hand, Disney’s license to use the Star Wars and Indiana Jones properties of Lucasfilm in its parks has created a much stronger presence of those attractions at Hollywood Studios, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, and Disneyland’s Adventureland.  Housing Star Tours, the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, and the Indiana Jones Temple of Doom attractions has allowed the host parks to sell merchandise themed around the Lucasfilm properties across the parks.  On the other hand, Muppet Vision’s small, quiet presence doesn’t allow for it to have quite the dominant merchandising schemes in the gift shops.  Anyway, the point of these observations is that Disney and Lucasfilm have had a growing relationship for years that is much different than Disney’s relationship with Marvel or The Muppets.

So, returning to Disney’s new strategy, we begin to wonder, “What’s the point?”  How does buying up the top prospects really help Disney, and what does it mean for the future of the company?  Under (soon-to-be-ex) The Walt Disney Company’s CEO Robert Iger, acquisitions have been the norm.  Pixar came under Disney just after he took power.  The more Disney acquires, the less originality there is, and that’s the bottom line.  Even Iger himself has expressed his regret with the number of sequels and outside characters with which Disney has come to be associated.  In an interview, he explained how watching a parade full of Pixar characters in Hong Kong Disneyland really made him think about the company’s original products.  Thankfully, under the supervision of John Lasseter, we’ve seen the death of Disneytoon’s cheap sequels like Cinderella IIBambi II, and Pochahontas II.  Now Disney is trying to revive its originality with titles like BoltWreck-it Ralph, and Tanlged.  Now, with Iger on the way out, and sequels for The Avengers and Star Wars already in line, let’s hope Disney can maintain its originality.  It would be a shame to see the Disney name become known only for distributing different properties, instead of the legendary movie magic the Bob Iger era has worked so hard to re-establish.

At the end of the day, the acquisition is still a cool thing.  Lucasfilm once owned Ed Catmull’s computer division that went on to become Pixar, and now both properties are under Disney’s roof.  It’s just clear proof of Disney’s Circle of Life.