Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wonderland-Themed Options at the Disney Parks

By Ron Baxley




Published Wonderland and Oz author Ron Baxley, Jr. leaps down the rabbit hole to illogical, mad adventures and shows us some Wonderland-themed options at the Disney Parks for his latest Disney Avenue article. Join him and be sure not to be late for this very important date...








In “Alice in Wonderland”, a lost Alice asks which way she should go in Wonderland but then states she does not care where she goes, and the Cheshire Cat replies, “Then it doesn’t really matter which way you go.”

To me, a Wonderland, Oz, and Disney fan and author, who co-wrote a Gwendolyn Tennille-illustrated Oz/Wonderland cross-over series with James C. Wallace II, it really did matter which way I went during my visit to Disneyland in the summer of 2015. I wanted to go straight down the rabbit hole to where all the Wonderland attractions, especially ones unique to Disneyland and California Adventure, were. Therefore, finding and seeing the Wonderland attractions made me grin like a, well, Cheshire Cat...








As a life-long visitor to the Magic Kingdom and other parks in Disney World, I was used to only seeing the tea-cup ride and visiting Wonderland characters there. (On my proverbial bucket list is seeing the hedge maze and other Wonderland attractions in Disneyland Paris and anything else Wonderland and Oz-related at the parks throughout the world.)




Original Alice in Wonderland attraction




What I wanted to see at the Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, among many other things, was the Alice in Wonderland dark ride. In its early formation in the late 50s from what I have read in multiple sources, the Alice in Wonderland dark ride had a somewhat cheesy fun-house effects. Painted plywood cut-outs of the characters would appear much like in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which itself is still at Disneyland but has been replaced with the Winnie the Pooh ride at Magic Kingdom in Disney World.



THE ALICE IN WONDERLAND DARK RIDE






The modern refurbished Alice in Wonderland dark ride that greeted me not only had what appeared to be the large floral set pieces from the ride’s past in the line and the caterpillar cars but also audio-animatronics, projection effects, and new voice-overs as seen here...

(For your viewing pleasure, please be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player at the top left-hand corner of the page before playing the video below if you are on a desktop computer.)








I laughed. I cried (yes… the golden afternoon song with the singing flowers brought back memories). I nearly lost my head.

The animated sequences and the herky-jerky movements of the caterpillar car coupled with the amusing painting the roses red sequence and a mirrored (perhaps Looking-glass?) effect which made hundreds of walking Red Heart cards out of a few animatronics were highlights as was the very animated croquet scene with figures, effects, and projected animation in use as well. The Queen of Hearts, perturbed with outcome, showed out with her usual scream of “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”… and more than any ply-board figure or even costumed character could at times.








My favorite scene on the ride, as in the film and the Lewis Carroll book, was the mad tea party scene and the “Very Merry Unbirthday” song with the audio-animatronic Mad Hatter and March Hare. (Side note: not only did I get a first time visitor button at Disneyland, but when I was looking for Mr. Potato Heads in the Toy Story area of California Adventure, a cheery clerk heard me mention that I heard they gave buttons for birthdays too and that it was not my birthday…. I kid you not… she put the angular insert text here symbol on the button with a Sharpie and put “un” above it… she made me a Happy Unbirthday button. That attention to personal service is why I love Disney. Earlier this year, I was able to get a traditional birthday button during a two day visit to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, where I had visited many times and could not get the first-time visitor one.)


DISNEY DETAILS IN WONDERLAND


 Not only did the Alice in Wonderland dark ride have special effects and voice-overs which emulated the film a lot more than its early predecessor, but many Wonderland details surrounded the ride and nearby areas – more than I remember near the tea cup ride at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. Granted, I believe some Alice in Wonderland topiaries have been added in the version in Florida. But like in other parts of Disneyland in California, I believe that Walt Disney himself made sure that the Imagineers added plenty of details. I could see that “Uncle Walt” had asked for them to do plenty of what he called “plus-ing” (adding extras to make things extra-ordinary) here and there. Imagineers have added other details through the years there as well.

A storybook sign on a toad-stool leads people into the attraction...








There is a Cheshire Cat built into a wall on the side of the Red Queen Castle/Alice in Wonderland dark ride as if to ask, “Lost, per chance?”...








A Queen of Hearts emblem in millwork adorns the exit of the dark ride itself (watch your head)...








The White Rabbit makes an appearance as a statue not far behind the ride (he carries a pocket-watch too for when you are late…so very late… meeting somebody at the park)...








Even the men’s and ladies’ rooms have his and her Queen of Hearts and (ahem) King of Hearts respective emblems (OFF WITH YOUR… germs… be sure to wash your hands)...









And a nearby lamppost with a glowing red heart (similarly-themed sconces too which are not seen) makes you definitely feel like you are in the Kingdom of Hearts...








Even those surreal, obscure hammer-headed birds that hammer nails and then remove them using the backs of their heads made an appearance as statuary on the side of the Alice in Wonderland dark ride (perhaps unintentionally symbolic of the times the ride has been remodeled… Mr. Disney did basically state his kingdom would always be changing)...








NOW-ENDED CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE WONDERLAND SHOW FIT ME TO A "T"






As I visited Disneyland and California Adventure in the summer of 2015, I was able to see the “Mad T” party, a kind of Alice in Wonderland rock show with props and sets in California Adventure, before it ended in the spring of 2016. 

A Mad Hatter look-alike cavorted on a flamingo on stilts in a different approach from the film in that the flamingos were used as croquet mallets (he was a good “flamingo” dancer… I sometimes found his performance to be a little “stilted”… seriously, though, it was superb and skilled… I felt like I was at a Wonderland circus)...








Giant playing cards (some being used interactively by kids and adults to build giant houses of cards) and teapots abounded in the d├ęcor during the Mad T party itself...









When the Mad Hatter asked if I wanted MORE tea, the above was not really what I was expecting.

I did not record or photograph the rock concert/show itself, but many Wonderland costumes and sets abounded, including one of a kind Mad Hat-ress doing a dodo (just teasing and referencing) instead of duck face here and gigantic playing cards as part of the stage itself...









PASSING ON PASSE TEACUPS BUT DREAMING OF THE TEA PARTY FOREVER


Yes, the tea cups were present in a spinning ride back at Disneyland (they were there first) just as they were in the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, but with mad tea party lanterns hanging from an oak instead of there being a covering like the one at the Magic Kingdom...








However, after seeing the teacups for many years, they had become, to coin a phrase, “old mad hat” to me. (Like the Dumbo ride in the Magic Kingdom, though, they are a must-do for those with children.) Seeing the marvelous details of the Alice in Wonderland dark ride and the areas surrounding it in Disneyland and the Mad T party in California Adventure was like a dream come true for this Oz and Oz/Wonderland author, “all in the golden afternoon” (well, several golden afternoons in this case) as the flowers in Wonderland sing.






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S.C. native author and former 15-year educator Ron Baxley, Jr. has visited Disney World since he was three in 1978. His mother, Marleen Baxley, was originally from Jacksonville, Florida and had family there who facilitated going to Disney World. Ron has been invited as a guest author at Oz festivals and science fiction cons since 2010 and was recently awarded the honor of a lifetime membership by the International L. Frank Baum and All Things Oz Foundation in Chittenango, New York, birthplace of L. Frank Baum, in June for his lifetime Ozian achievements. Within the past year, Ron posted a social media article with photographs entitled simply “Dad and Disney” in which he compared a lifetime of experiences in the Magic Kingdom in Disney World with his Dad including his first-time experiences in Disneyland after attending as an authorial vendor at OzCon in San Diego in 2015. From having a plush Mickey Mouse as his favorite, earliest toy to watching Disney films, Ron has been a Disney fan as long as he has been a fan of “The Wizard of Oz.” If he is not occasionally traveling to the closest Disney Store outlet in Concord, N.C., he enjoys yearly trips to the Disney Parks and collects different types of Mr. Potato Heads there and elsewhere.

Ron is an Oz, fantasy, science fiction, children's, and young adult author of 25 years and part-time correspondent/reporter for the Orangeburg “Times and Democrat” in Orangeburg, S.C. He has most recently had an article on Eugene and Eulie David, former M.G.M. Wizard of Oz “Munchkin” actors and brothers who lived in his hometown of Barnwell, S.C. published in the August - October 2016 issue of the glossy national magazine “Filmfax” after it appeared in three newspapers. He placed this article and a fictionalization of it as well as stories which followed his previously published Oz books in a brand new Oz fan-fic collection, After Th’Oz, available from Amazon. A full listing of his Oz, co-written Oz/Wonderland, fantasy, and science fiction books (some of which were traditionally published from Maple Creek Press) can be found by clicking here and information on his other projects and updates can be found at his author page, here.

You can find all of Ron's articles here.

2 comments:

  1. An intriguing piece that makes me want to experience all of this myself.

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  2. Attention: Wonderland fans! Author Ron Baxley Jr.'s combined Oz/Wonderland gothic young adult fantasy trilogy with co-author James C. Wallace II and illustrator Gwendolyn Tennille is being moved from Maple Creek Press (http://www.maplecreekpress.com) and will only be available from Maple Creek Press through November of this year at https://www.amazon.com/Cabbages-Queens-Flying-Dismal-Things/dp/0692556869/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475985344&sr=8-1&keywords=ron%20baxley . Get copies early while you still can as gifts for the winter holidays. A new edition through a different press may come out before the holidays, but it may be 2017 until it appears again.

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