SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We STILL Can’t Believe Actually Happened at Walt Disney World

by on March 28, 2015 17 Comments

Filed under: Attractions, Magic Kingdom, Saturday Six, Walt Disney World (FL)

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We STILL Can’t Believe Actually Happened at Walt Disney World. Late last year we did an article on Six Things We’ll Never Forget Disney’s 2014 (No Matter How Hard We Try) but as crazy as things can be in the theme park world that we love today, things were even more unbelievable in the past. Ace Ventura at Disney-MGM? A Power Rangers meet-and-greet? Goosebumps Live?! Even with photographic evidence it’s hard to believe some of this stuff actually happened, but today we’re gong to look at the six most incredible moments, starting with…

# 6 – Teenage Mutant Turtles at Disney-MGM

The turtles are popular now, but in the late ’80s and early ’90s they were a phenomenon. Cartoons, video games, movies, comic books, breakfast cereal, traveling stage shows, and enough merchandise that would make even Anna and Elsa jealous. Starting in 1990, TMNT performed a stage show in New York area of Disney-MGM, followed by a meet-and-greet. TMNT left Disney in ’96, but the Turtles have proven the test of time, connecting with each new generation of kids. While both Disney and Universal could score a coup by having the turtles in their parks, right now they can be seen at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Orlando

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The heroes in a half shell with April O’Neil in the Streets of America. (photo by PopRewind)

# 5 – Barbie celebrates her birthday at Epcot ’94

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Still waiting for the Diamond Edition Blu-Ray for this one. (photo by the movie’s Wikia page)

Not sure which part is harder to believe in this story, that the Mattel character Barbie celebrated her birthday at Walt Disney World, or that the actual name for Epcot back in 1994 was Epcot ’94.  I’m not sure where that name fits in the list of Worst Things Ever Done at Epcot, but it has to be somewhere between Journey Into Your Imagination and that hideous wand over Spaceship earth in 2000.

The video itself was only available with the purchase of certain Barbie dolls, and speaking as a kid who sent away for the GI Joe versions of Sgt. Slaughter and William “the Refrigerator” Perry, this is certainly an interesting add on. While the 30 minute movie is exceptional cheesy, for me it has the same charm as seeing the old episodes of Full House or Family Matters that were set in Walt Disney World. There is also the joy of seeing the two main characters of the movie (Lisa and Stephanie) visit various World Showcase pavilions such as Mexico, Japan, and Italy.

In a surprise twist worthy of M Night Shyamalan, the birthday party video is less an actual movie and more of ad for the Barbie cellular phone and the Magical World of Barbie show that would be making its debut at the American Adventure pavilion in World Showcase later that year. So you get a lot of behind-the-scenes information on the making of a stage show which not many people remember fondly. However, while the live show did not last that long, the VHS tape can still be yours relatively cheaply at eBay and Amazon. As for Barbie, with Mattel no longer a sponsor at Walt Disney World, she has taken her talents down the street to SeaWorld.

Entertainment Factor: 1/10

Nostalgia Factor: 10/10

Overall Score: Still better than John Carter.

# 4 – Cinderella Castle becomes a pink birthday cake

If you are an Orlando local, or a two time runDisney medal winning theme park blogger like your humble author, multiple trips per year (if not month) to Walt Disney World can start to make you focus on the little things rather than seeing the big picture. The average guest returns to the vacation kingdom once every three to four years. So imagine that you are an average guest, finally having saved up enough money to take the family to Orlando. You board the monorail from the TTC over to the Magic Kingdom, walk through the main gates, and turn on to Main Street USA to see this….

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Keep this picture in your head next time you complain about a crane being in the background of your castle shot. (photo by WDW Magic)

In 1996, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World, Cinderella Castle was turned into a giant pink birthday cake for over a year. If this happened today, the complaints at Guest Services would be heard all the way in Ocala, FL. But believe it or not this pink nightmare was not the strangest thing ever to happen to Disney’s iconic castle, that award goes to the day….

# 3 – Stitch covered Cinderella Castle in toilet paper

On November 16, 2004, Cinderella Castle was covered in toilet paper and was “tagged” with the phrase Stitch is King to mark the opening of Stitch’s Great Escape. This prank, which seemed to come out of a 1980s John Hughes film, has the same fundamental problem that the attraction does: believing that guests like “bad” Stitch. One day Disney is going to understand that everybody likes “good” Stitch, similar to how we like Beast in his Beast form and not Prince Adam, and Rapunzel with long hair instead of her short do at the end of Tangled.

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They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words, which is a good thing because many of those words we can’t print here after looking at that photo. (photo Mickey Xtreme)

Looking back, we should be happy that WDW stopped at just toilet papering the castle and didn’t put forks sticking up in the hub, pour soap into the fountains, and light a flaming bag of Pluto’s waste on the front stoop of Mickey’s house in Toontown Fair. #blessed

# 2 – Disney’s Flying Dragon

To celebrate the opening of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Disney unveiled a flying fire-breathing dragon. Pretty much the coolest thing that ever happened in a theme park, right?

Well, not exactly.

The dragon was brought out for one night only, during a media event, and has not been seen since. In fact we’re probably more likely to see Steve Bartman make public appearances in Chicago than see this Dragon in Orlando again. While no one has outright come out and said it, there have been rumblings that the Dragon sounded extremely loud, thanks to the huge fan that helps operate its “flying.” It also has to be seen in the perfect lighting situation, otherwise a lot of the illusion is lost, similar to why the Velociraptor puppet wasn’t that effective at Animal Kingdom last year. Even though it wasn’t a home run, you have to give Disney a lot of credit for this one and hopefully technology will catch up to their imagination and one day we will be seeing dragons fly across the sky.

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There were tests of the Dragon being flown in California before it was brought to Orlando. (photo by The Bakersfield Californian)

# 1 – Daredevil Circus Spectacular at EPCOT

While I sit fondly reminiscing over Horizons and Kitchen Kaberet, there is actually a “forgotten” attraction at EPCOT that deserves a lot more attention. In 1986-87 the park was home to the Daredevil Circus Spectacular, which used Mickey Mouse as a ringmaster for a traditional circus show set within the confines of Future World. AMAZING!

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Elephants walking in World Showcase. When they left the park, Imagineers honored this slow moving gray beasts that could carry one person by creating the ECV. (photo by Tim Grassey)

See more pictures of this incredible attraction at ImagineeringDisney.com

While we joke about some of the items on the list, seeing them together makes us nostalgic for when Walt Disney World took legitimate risks creatively. We appear to be in an era where everything we get in Orlando has been watered down by committees and is the safest possible bet. Pardon the expression, but changing Cinderella Castle into a birthday cake is ballsy. While it seems ridiculous to keep asking the question “What would Walt have done,” it is obvious going by his career that doing something crazy like that is exactly what he would have done. He was a risk taker, and often took the big gamble. When others said no, Walt said yes. And while there were couple swings that missed, there were a lot of big hits. A lot.

So while we can’t believe these six things happened at Walt Disney World, we are sure glad they did. And we’re looking forward to next six. Because for every Stitch toilet papering Cinderella Castle you get a Horizons, a Splash Mountain, a Wilderness Lodge, an Electric Water Pagent, and a Kilimanjaro Safaris. We’ll take that trade seven days a week, and twice on Sunday Saturday.

HONORABLE MENTION – The Dapper Dans sing boy band songs

One day, after we get over the emotional pain, we will do an entire SATURDAY SIX dedicated to Disney’s Limited Time Magic promotion. To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. One of the next level bonkers ideas to come out of the hastily put together promotion was having the Dapper Dans – a legitimate national treasure – singing tunes from the songbook of One Direction and N*Sync.

And now you know why Zayn Malik quit.

So there you have it: Six Things We STILL Can’t Believe Happened at WDW. See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About

Inaugural SATURDAY SIX “Turkeys” Of the Year

2015 Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgies)

Six Reasons Animal Kingdom Is NOT A “Half Day” Park

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We asked 100 guests which theme park blogger they would most want to meet. Top 8 answers are on the board. SURVEY SAYS…

Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, Tim Grassey, and Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and Brian Carey. 

Did you know The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. PRE-ORDER this baby now! (For every copy sold, a percentage of the profits* go towards buying a DVD of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rap video.)

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Posted on March 28, 2015

17 Responses to “SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We STILL Can’t Believe Actually Happened at Walt Disney World”

  • Thanks for explaining the TMNT connection. I had no idea they were at some point a Disney “thing.” While I never got to experience any of these events, I agree with you that some pushing of the envelope is necessary for Disney to maintain an entertainment–and competitive–edge…but it seems like they only get pushback from the public. (I like the birthday cake castle!)

  • by Hank Scorpio on March 28, 2015, at 8:49 am EDT

    I have a picture of the Castle when Stitch TP’ed it. I thought it was great. I put it on my desktop background slideshow.

    But I get the point about people that might not get to WDW that often being a bit put off by the “vandalism”.

    • Imagine if you paid thousands of dollars to have a wedding at the Magic Kingdom and all of the pictures of the with the castle showed it looking like that.

      • by Bryan Klinck on March 30, 2015, at 8:37 am EDT

        I would think it was hilarious. I would also think that watching the reaction of a Bridezilla whose “dream wedding” was “ruined” by Stitch would be hilarious as well.

  • by Daisy Lauren on March 28, 2015, at 10:13 am EDT

    Wow, even I don’t remember some of these! I loved TMNT and have the autographs to prove it. (They were some of the first characters I remember using stamps.) Who remembers The Muppets on that same stage?? 🙂 Of course, The Muppets show in what’s now The Little Mermaid theater was much better: https://youtu.be/6EHvw44Rge4?t=6m

    I was young enough that I *loved* the pink castle cake. I remember being confused years later when I heard it being called an abomination. I thought it must have been something else I missed!! LOL

    • It’s always weird when people have violently bad reactions to something you like. Luckily as a person who grew up playing dungeons & dragons, reading comic boos, watching professional wrestling – and now as an adult enjoying theme parks – I’ve never had to deal with anything like that. I’ve only enjoyed normal things.

  • I would put either Nixon’s “I am not a crook” speech or the Beatles officially ending on the list.

  • I think that Dragon flying over Fantasyland is really cool. I hope they can figure out how to make happen someday.

  • Ah, the pink birthday cake castle! Is it terribly weird that I think of it rather fondly? My very first trip to WDW was during the Year of the Cake so it always reminds me of that magical first visit to Walt Disney World.

    • by bluesabriel on March 28, 2015, at 4:49 pm EDT

      When I look at it now, I hate it, and I totally get the hate. But my memories of it are fond, like yours. 🙂 I had exactly two trips to Disney when I was a kid- one when I was 7 and one when I was in high school and the castle was a cake. I thought it was ridiculously cool at the time, but given that a trip to Disney was a huge deal for a kid from Michigan, I may not be the bet judge.

    • What’s neat is just about everything in entertainment is somebody’s favorite something, and usually because of feelings associated with it. I’m still watching Sylvester Stallone’s Over the Top and even bought it on Blu-Ray. Why? Because when it came out I remember the days where I would go to the movies and see it while waiting for my grandmother to get out of work at a place nearby the mall where the theater was. It wasn’t like today where #Millenials get to choose between twenty films, so I ended up seeing movies like Over the Top and Can’t Buy Me Love like 20 times each and when I see them today I remember those days fondly.

  • by Julie Riley on March 28, 2015, at 9:21 pm EDT

    Great list, Derek.
    Hey! Did you know that Flying Dragon backwards would be Nogard Gniylf? Holy cow!

  • So true. So clever. And so many inside jokes/easter eggs. Always a treat to read…and decipher!

  • My sons were huge TMNT fans, and we had the good luck to visit the park while the Turtles were in residence. Somewhere there is still a photo of the boys with the Turtles.