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MousePlanet Mailbag for July 28, 2005

[Beginning this week, MousePlanet staff member Stephanie Wien is taking helm as our Mailbag Editor. For any general comments to MousePlanet, please email our Mailbag here. You can also contact Stephanie directly here.]

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish them all, the following may be of interest to our readers. This week, we are pulling out some of the that Brian Bennett got that we hadn't yet run. Suffice it to say, response has been overwhelming positive from our readers in welcoming his return to MousePlanet as a regular writer after his sabbatical. For Brian's articles, see his Eyes On Orlando column.

Feedback for Brian Bennett

James Garlock writes:

Dear Brian – I have been reading your articles for a while now and I just have to write and say thank you so much for these Photo Tours! They are fantastic! I always look forward to reading all the details! I can't wait for more! I hope you were thinking about some Photo Tours of Animal Kingdom while you were there with your boys! I am also so happy for you and yours that your move to Florida is going well! Thanks again!

Hi James – Thanks so much for the kind note. I'm having a lot of fun putting these pieces together, so I'm glad you're enjoying them too.

Regarding future pieces, just let me say that I have more ideas than I have time to implement them.


Jeffrey Contompasis writes:

I thought that the wooden leg in the lost and found was inscribed with the name of its owner, Smith. Either that or the leg itself is named Smith. A wooden leg named Smith? A wooden leg named Smith… A wood… hee hee ha ha. I love to laugh.

Hi Jeffrey – I went back over to the Frontierland train station today to check on our friend, “Smith.” You were absolutely correct! I took a picture and will show it in an upcoming MousePlanet mailbag piece along with your email that “kicked off” the investigation.

Thanks again!


Lights, Motors, Action! Show Letters:

On Brian's review of Disney-MGM Studios' Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show, Andy McCullough writes:

From looking at some of your photos of the new stunt show, I noticed that you can view several of the other sites around the park from within the stadium including the Chinese Theater, Mickey Hat, Muppet Ballon, and I assume ToT. Was this as distracting in person as it seems in the photos. They have created a nice backdrop of European village and the “real world” pokes through. I assume that they treat the show as its within the movie studio and not a show in Europe. Otherwise it would break the illusion. It just seems like bad show. I wonder why Disney didn't just turn the theatre around to face the other direction or build a higher backdrop. If you can see that much of the park from the stadium, what does it look like when on New York Street?

Hi Andy – I almost mentioned this issue in the article. When I first sat down, the park landmarks you mentioned were very obvious. Once the show started, though, the action was pretty much concentrated down on the show pavement, and the distraction wasn't as bad as I'd thought it might be.

You're right, the show is intended to be a “film shoot” so the bad show is excused by proxy.

I think they built the stadium the way they did, though, because Catastrophe Canyon is right behind the stadium stands. If the whole thing was turned around, the studio tours would be affected. (Incidentally, the trams run right by the stadium and riders get a pretty clear view of the show area as they drive by.)


JJK writes:

Brian – Saw the show on Wednesday. Coincidentally, I saw the same show the previous week in the cold of Paris. The stunts were essentially the same, though I saw no jet ski in either, and the cyclist failed to catch on fire in either. The difference in Paris is that there were more audience volunteers and they provided two hosts--one speaking French, the other speaking English. Confusing as this can be providing translations, it filled the long periods of time between stunts.

The show in Orlando is different. Here the length of time between stunts is even more obvious. I place the reason squarely on how unentertaining the director and assistant director is. The director that day has been in dozens of Disney shows. And the assistant director is from Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I've watched her several times, and once I sat across her in the hot seat. Every time on that show she was witty and entertaining. Here she look bored or confused, it's hard to tell that far up in the stands. Either way, the stretch of time between stunts was embarrassingly awkward. Maybe the performers had better scripts in the other shows. Maybe they just haven't gotten their stride. Maybe they lack any improvisational skills. Or maybe their hands are tied. But it made for one very long show.

It seemed to me that Indiana Jones wasn't going well in the very early days when it was being tweaked, As I recall, some strong comedy writers were brought in by the suits in Burbank to create funny and interesting business between the stunts. Whoever the author, the end result was a series of skits between the action scenes that were nearly as good if not better than the stunts themselves. Since I don't see comedy coming from the performers, I think someone needs to be called in. And soon. At 5,000 attendees per show, word is getting out quickly.

Hi JJK – The good news is that the show is still in preview mode, so there is time (and hope) for those improvements to be made!


Richard Kaufman writes:

Hi Brian – There is no James Bond tie-in at the Paris stunt show. It was something discussed, but never implemented. Just anonymous cars driving around for no reason. And I agree with you entirely about the show: the one in Paris is boring. There's far too much talking and too little action, and the action is nothing new. Also, the jet skis were pulled from the Paris show years ago because too many guys were injured. I gather you didn't see them in Orlando, either.

Hi Richard – No, I didn't see any jet skis… But clearly the stadium was built to accommodate them with a good sized “water feature” running the length of the stunt floor.


Kim Adams writes:

Brian – I saw the same show on Wed, March 16th, and I have to say I really agree with your assessment. While it was neat to see the cars once, I really have no desire to ever see the show again. I thought the show dragged on too much and I saw many families with small children get up and leave after about 20 minutes. Also the ending was quite boring. What a disappointing waste of money! The only good thing I can think of is maybe it will pull more rider away from Tower of Terror so I can ride it more!

Hi Kim – I must agree with your assessment of my assessment.


Scott writes:

Just a couple of things you might want to add or take away from your LMA review. There are no cars with 4 wheel steering. The car you saw with the rear wheels steering was actually the reverse drive car. Rear wheel steering would actually work against us with slides and drifts.

Plus you might want to give the show another shot. The day you were there was one of the first full run-thru performances we had. And even though we are still in rehearsal shows now, you will find a much tighter show than you saw and getting better every day.

By the way, you may have guessed I work there.

Hi Scott – Excellent point on the four wheel steering. I used to work for GM's steering division (now part of Delphi Corporation) and I happen to know that the Opel Corsa was the very first true electric steering application. I also know that GM trucks had the very first true four-wheel steering.

So, when I saw the Opels in the show and the rear wheels turning, I just assumed that the four-wheel steering had finally been applied to the small cars.

I will definitely see the show again in a few weeks. I want to give all of the cast members a chance to work out all of the kinks and get to a smooth operation before I go again, though. I'll make sure to share an update on MousePlanet when I do so.


David Cutler writes:

Dear Brian

My name is David Cutler. I was the man on fire in the pictures you took. I am glad that you liked the stunt show and had so many good things to say about it. Also being in the show you donŐt get much of a chance to see what you look like out there on stage. Thanks for the pictures and comments. Come see us again soon.

Hi David – Thanks so much for your note! It was a pleasure to receive it.

You and the rest of the cast of “Lights, Motors, Action!” did a great job in performing all of the stunts.

I'm looking forward to seeing the show again, after you all have had a chance to get the kinks out of the “story line” and it's tightened up.

In the meantime, be safe!


One of the show's cast writes:

Hello Bryan. You have a pretty in-depth site. I love the pictures. If you haven't seen the show in a while, You should come out and see it again. It has improved a bit and we have added a few new things since our soft opening. The show runs a lot smother now and the show time is down to 31 minutes. During the soft opening it was a much longer show. And yes our grand stands hold 5,000.

I am one of the Stunt Managers and Trainers at Lights Motors Action. I have not yet read all of your Web site, but there is one part that is incorrect. None of our vehicles are equipped with four-wheel steering. They are all rear wheel drive and only the front tires turn. It's basically a rally car with a motorcycle engine and very tight suspension. You probably came to that conclusion watching our reverse car. It looks like the back tires turn but they are actually the front tires because the shell is on backwards. If we had four-wheel steering we would not be able to two wheel or High Ski the car.

Thanks for your honest and pretty accurate review of the show.

I'm sorry that you weren't all that impressed with the show but I am glade you liked the driving. I'm sure your children will like it. The target audience is young children under 15.

Hi Eric – Thanks for your kind comments about MousePlanet.

I promise to go see the show again soon. My boys just got out of school (ages 5 and 8), so I'll make a point of taking them both over to see it! I agree that the target age is toward the younger ones. I'm fairly certain that my sons will really enjoy the show.

Now that it's tightened up a bit, I think I'll enjoy it much more myself.

Please pass on my congratulations to the whole crew and cast. You folks (actually all cast members at WDW) do a marvelous job!


Haunted Mansion Letters:

Regarding Brian's photo tour of the Haunted Mansion, a reader writes:

Don't you know there is no flash photography allowed on the Haunted Mansion? You give real photographers a bad name.

Hi Sir or Madame – I normally do follow the “no flash photography” mantra while I'm in the parks. I certainly don't wish to ruin the attraction experience for other guests. This particular trip, though, I was fortunate to be almost by myself. There were four or five empty doombuggies in front and behind me, so I took the liberty of taking some flash photos.


Richard Kaufman writes:

Hi Brian,

In your piece today on the Haunted Mansion you continue the old idea that the Imagineers were pretty much on their own with this attraction. I'm sure you've read Jason Surrell's book on the Haunted Mansion, and it clearly proves that this is not true (the most common way you hear this is that Pirates of the Caribbean is the last ride Walt personally worked on). Jason's book clearly explains that Walt was involved in many aspects of the Mansion's creation since he'd been working on it with Claude Coates, Marc Davis, Ken Anderson, and many others for over a decade before he died. So, he had PLENTY of input into the mansion. The problem created by his death was that there was no unique vision to take all the elements that had been created by the Imagineers and form them into a whole, and so the Imagineers were left to figure out how to put it together on their own. It seems apparent that Walt saw and approved of most of the concept art from which the final mansion was formed. Also, Marc Davis has clearly stated that Walt did not want either the Pirates or Mansion attractions to tell a cohesive story. Disney wanted vignettes--scenes--and wanted these to have a quick effect before you moved onto something else. There is backstory to both the Mansion and Pirates, but it's buried in a drawer in Imagineering. I really don't think the sequence of events depicted in Pirates is any way a narrative, either--they're just flashes of events in the town that happen to be piled on top of one another because that's the order you see them in while on your boat ride. This is in contrast to Pirates and Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris, where they have attempted to tie some of these vignettes into a more cohesive story.

Hi Richard – I must admit that I have not ready Jason Surrell's book. I'll have to get a copy and read it through.

I have no doubt, as you point out, that Walt was involved during development of the attraction. After all, the Haunted Mansion certainly wasn't developed in just a year and a half (from Walt's death in December of 1966 until the Mansion opened in Disneyland in 1968), so I'm sure he was involved to some extent.

In any case, the result is a wonderful and timeless attraction, in my opinion. To what extent Walt was himself involved neither adds nor detracts from the wonderful job that the Imagineers did on this classic!


Chris writes:

Brian

The door at the front of the Haunted Mansion is life-sized, I have been up there and have pics of some fellow HM Cast members standing in the doorway. It is not an emergency exit, if it where the guests would then have to walk down the slope and hop over the fence….non Disney SOP. As I recall it took some maneuvering to get to the doorway as it sits between the two stretching rooms. The Stretching rooms occupy the left and right side of the “wings” of the house

Randall

Hi Randall – Thanks so much for the note and additional information!


James Garlock writes:

Thanks Brian for yet another great article! Have you ever seen the wedding ring left embedded in the pavement as you leave the Haunted Mansion? I have read about it and my son asked the cast member about it as he exited and was quietly taken to the spot where it lay! We remembered to late this past trip to look for it again so the whole family could see it !

Hi James – Thanks so much for the note. It was very kind.

Regarding the ring, yes, I have seen it. I probably should have included it in the photo tour, but it slipped my mind as I was taking pictures that day.


Tom Sawyer's Island Letters:

Grant writes:

Is Tom Sawyer Island handicap accessible? What parts might be?

Hi Grant – Much of the island is handicap accessible. Getting a wheelchair on the raft itself is possible, but may be a challenge. However, the island's walkways are all quite wide and can be navigated easily. It might take some doing to get up onto the suspension bridge, too, because I believe it requires a step up from the path level.

The places that are not easily accessible include: Injun Joe's Cave, the Mine, the inside of Harper's Mill and the Windmill, the fort's escape tunnel, the fort's battlements and towers (upstairs), and the barrel bridge.


Greg writes:

Great article on WDW's Tom Sawyer Island. But when did the fort change its name? I thought it used to be Fort Sam Clements.

Hi Greg – According to All Ears Net, “The fort's name was changed in 1996 after the release of the Disney movie Tom and Huck, which featured a Fort Langhorn.” Previously, it had been called “Fort Sam Clemens."


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Brian here.

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