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
# 5 – Barbie celebrates her birthday at Epcot ’94
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….
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.
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.
# 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!
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
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.
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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.)