Thursday, September 3, 2015

Where have you been?

   It's been a while since I last said I'll see you all a little later... about two years, give or take?

   I'm sure anyone who's been following S&FS for the past half a decade has noticed a decline in content and posts over the years. So I'm here to answer questions about what's been going on behalf of one loyal fan who suggested I do so.

Q: So first thing's first: Is this blog dead, or is it you're imagination? Hmm?

A: Well, I don't really have a concrete answer. I'd like to say no, but I can't guarantee that ether. A new post could materialize randomly one day. But I just don't have the time right now to write, nor do I have the motivation, which is key. You'll also notice I've been wiping some of my old posts and revisiting some too. Expect this part to continue at a random pace. Several post may vanish. A new paragraph may join one. Pictures may disappear from one post and a new picture or two may materialize in an older post. So don't mark us down as dead yet on any death certificate... we may just hurry back here at some point...

Q: There's been a noticeable lack of "Strange & Frightening SOUNDS" coming out of S&FS. What happened to all the monthly mixes and downloads and stuff? All the cool stuff you used to release?

A: It's gone. It's over. It's not coming back. A surprise or two might turn up but an effort is being made to change the S&FS image. It's not about handing out music or media. It's tribute to the Haunted Mansion, Phantom Manor, and other related attractions and media ventures like movies and Halloween stuff. That might have been what jump started S&FS, but it's not the big picture I have for the S&FS brand. I want a nice little tribute site, a blog, and an active Facebook community that all love the same things. It was cool to share stuff for a while but I've learned I can't always trust my fans with the policies I released the stuff under, and I don't want the Mouse coming after to me. So the time has come to put that part of our brand to rest.

Q: What's up with the site? Is it ever coming back?

A: At some point it will be back, but it's a slow process. I can't give an estimate because I don't have one. Expect virtual written tours with pictures and some fan art and fan fiction galleries when it's ready for launch.

Q: Where did the battle of the Mansions post go?!?

A: Away to be re-written and re-posted someday.

Q: What's up with "A Night in the Haunted Mansion"?

A: It's in creep mode. It's still in the works. It's not dead. Think of it as being in development hell except it's not producers or studio executives holding us back. It's time, money, and resources. I don't care what it takes, I will see that project through one day. It may be in 10 years, it may be in 50. But an indie movie based on "The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion" record will exist one day. I want to see it so I'm going to make it. 

Q: How can I stay up to date with S&FS and what's going on?

A: Facebook. That's where it all happens these days, if anything is happening.

   So yeah, we're not entirely dead. But when have we ever been alive?


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mystic Manor: Not A Mansion, Just an Awesome Stand Alone Attraction

   Welcome, Foolish Mortals...

   Today, we are going to cover a very current, very controversial topic. Well, okay, it may not be as controversial as the interactive queue updates, but in my eyes, it's controversial. Today, we are going to explore Mystic Manor; something I have said time and time again on various S&FS media outlets that our site will not cover. Let me restate that much used phrase. We will only cover it for instances because it's a "related attraction or medium", not a Mansion, and that's the whole reason why we're going to look at it today. Because it's not a Mansion. I'm not against it like I used to be, but that's only come to light very, very recently. I have very strong opinions about it, and much like the others who blog about my local Mansion in Orlando without ever visiting it and trying to make a point about how terrible something is. I'm going to be a hypocrite and do the same thing.. well, sort of. I'm going to post strong opinions about something I've never seen in person, and am only relying on videos and images to piece together my strong opinion. Unlike the other bloggers though, I'm not going to force you to agree with me. I just want to make a point, and you can choose if you want to agree or not. But because I strongly believe in my point on mystic point, this blog post may be a bit bias. I've never been to Hong Kong Disneyland before, nor do I have any plans in the foreseeable future to do so. You'll understand why momentarily. Let's begin.

   I don't want to sound overly negative throughout this entire post because that is no longer my mindset on the subject of Mystic Manor, but we can being this post on a sour note and get a little more positive as we reach the end. I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to address some issues about the park in which this ride exists without giving the issues their own highly negative post to exist in. Our story begins before Mystic Manor even made it's first appearance on a drawing board. Back in September of 2005 when Hong Kong Disneyland first opened, let's face the facts. It was the lamest Disneyland Park on paper at the time when it opened. When Disneyland opened, it was an innovative concept, and the fact that it lacked any big rides was completely okay because at the time, no one really knew what a Disneyland was; other then those in the company who had been working on it for so long. When Walt Disney World opened, the map was far from the full day's experience of today. But it had major E-Ticket attractions like the Haunted Mansion and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, drastically improved versions of Disneyland rides that were not even present at the time when the original first opened. Tokyo Disneyland opened with a great amount of big name rides. Even more big name rides debuted on opening day at Euro Disneyland, later renamed Disneyland Paris. But Hong Kong Disneyland was a dud in terms of what it opened with on paper in comparison to the previous two parks.

   You have condensed versions of four lands. No Frontierland in sight. Just Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, and... yeah, that's it... short list, eh? And you're only big name attractions were it's a Small World, Space Mountain, and if you want to count it, a heavily modified version of Jungle Cruise. The park's opening day turned out to be a repeat of  Disneyland's Black Sunday all over again. The park ran out of burgers, and lines for food around the park equaled that of those in queue for Space Mountain. But all the issues with lack of major attractions and space stem down to one major mistake when planing the fifth Disneyland park: a crescent shape hill that the designers just had to work into the backdrop. It's that hill that caused all of the additional attractions added to the park to be squeezed outside the berm, because they built the railroad around the tiny little park they debuted on opening day. Thus, an effort has been made to squeeze in mutated versions of various missing classics.

   The single mutated offspring of Expedition Everest, Grizzly River Rapids, Big Thunder Mountain, and Silver Dollar City's Power Keg made it's debuted in Grizzly Gulch; a small land standing in for Frontierland under the overly long name of Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. Take a look at this themed thrill ride lovechild bellow:

   Sure, it looks like a pretty awesome ride if you try and keep out of your mind the fact that it's a stand in for several other attractions combined into one to save space. Thus, we can assume Hong Kong Disneyland will never receive any of the attractions that were combined into this one to save space. One less Big Thunder Mountain... That's just the point though; other than Space Mountain and it's a Small World, every single major ride has been downsized or mutated into another to save space by combing the experiences of several rides into one. Jungle Cruise now takes place in the rivers or america shaped water way, and functions as a transportation ride to reach Tarzan's Tree House. And don't even get me started on Toy Story land, which should not exist in a Disneyland park, period. Big ugly carnival rides have to business in the heavily themed park, no matter how much themed overhaul they try to toss on them. They just don't belong. Send that stuff over to a Studio back lot park where it can exist without ruining the atmosphere!

   I guess this brings us to our main point of origin for the post. Mystic Point. This land stands in for... well... if I had to guess, it stands in for a new land because there was no room left in Adventureland, and because more lands on paper can lead a bumbling idiot to assume more rides on paper, the decision was made to not just expand Adventureland beyond the berm for this attraction. Anyhow, Mystic Manor is in Mystic point, and since it was announced, the general idea was that this was going to be Hong Kong Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. I was one of the very few who seemed to vent my anger and disagreement with this idea. The idea of the fifth Haunted Mansion revolving around a Monkey wearing a Fez drove me to rage, and still does. This video leaked earlier today, and it's clear to me now that this is NOT a Haunted Mansion, but a stand alone attraction. A really awesome stand alone attraction. Take a look this soft opening view inside Mystic Manor, which officially opens in May of 2013, and then continue reading; or stop reading this post if you for some reason don't want to spoil Mystic Manor for yourself, because the video is integral on getting my point across, so you really have no need to read on, because it won't matter. Anyway, take a look:

  Pretty awesome, eh? But it's no Haunted Mansion. Why so? Well, besides my issue with the Monkey wearing a Fez, it's doesn't fit certain criteria.Things that Phantom Manor fits, as well as the other three Haunted Mansions. Just because the concept art presented was overlaid on Rolly Crump's infamous indigo wallpaper doesn't mean it's automatically the fifth mansion. First and foremost, there is a certain lack of ghosts! Due in part to the fact that apparently for cultural reasons, it is frowned upon in Hong Kong to represent the dead as ghosts. So we don't have that grand ballroom scene or anything like it in Mystic Manor. No ghosts at all in fact. How can you call it a "Haunted" Mansion if it's not even haunted? Mystic Manor is cursed, not haunted. Phantom Manor and the other three Mansions are haunted, Mystic Manor is not. There's not Grim Grinning Ghosts, even though I'm sure Danny Elfman's Mystic Manor music is fantastic. There's no Doombuggies, or ride track for that matter. And there's a Monkey with a Fez. It's not Hong Kong Disneyland's Haunted Mansion; it's the ride Hong Kong Disneyland ends up getting in place of a Haunted Mansion, which is a ride they will never have due to spacial constraints.

   I don't blindly hate Mystic Manor as I did when it was first announced. After seeing the footage, I can safely say it's not a Haunted Mansion without needing to convince myself of that fact. It's not haunted because there are no ghosts. Maybe someday we will see that fifth Haunted Mansion get built. Mystic Manor isn't it. Mystic Manor is an awesome stand alone attraction that pushes the limits of what can be done with rides today. I'm honestly pretty impressed by what I've seen. It does not fit the criteria to put it alongside the Haunted Mansion in Anaheim  Orlando, Tokyo, and Phantom Manor in France. But it is an awesome little ride that makes Hong Kong Disneyland just a little bit better. With all the past failures in the short history of Hong Kong Disneyland, Mystic Manor looks like a step in bright direction. Now just tear down Toy Story Land and build a Splash Mountain in it's place, and it will finally be worth a visit!

   Who's idea was it to go all Cedar fair in a Disneyland Park? Seriously... not cool...

I'll see you all a little later...


Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Case of the Missing Pirates

Avast thar' mateys!

  A Happy St.Patrick's Day to all! Just so you all are aware, tomorrow is the 46th anniversary of Disneyland's classic attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean. So for today, we're going to do another post all about Pirates. Actually, this post is going to center around two particular pirates for the most part. You may have heard one of them if you own the Disneyland Forever Pirates CD, and you might have seen both of them if you've ever looked at concept art or pictures of WED's miniature model. But the one place you have never seen these two pirates is in the ride. Which two pirates am I talking about?

  The two buccaneers seen in the Marc Davis concept art above very nearly made it into the ride's burning the town scene. While the quote accompanying the image above from Jason Surrell's Pirates of the Caribbean: From The Magic Kingdom to the Movies says otherwise...
"Walt loved this 1965 Marc Davis concept of drunken pirates in a dinghy overloaded with rum bottles, but the gag never made it off the drawing board."
...there's more than enough evidence to support that his claim is bogus. It did indeed make it off the drawing board, and there's enough evidence to say it even made it past the model stage. Surrell covers so much in his book that I can't really get on him for overlooking these two guys. Get yourself a copy of the book if you don't already own one, because everything until the last section (about the films) is worth reading over and over again. Anyhow, back to the two pirates...

  As seen in the artwork above, the duo of drunken pirates in the boat appear again in Claude Coat's panoramic rendering of the burning town scene. Besides the two missing pirates, (and the tenor in the musical trio playing what appears to be a tuba or trumpet) the rendering is exactly the same as what the scene would look like in the finished attraction. Compare bellow:

  Notice all that space between the boat with the pilfering pirate and the seawall off to the left of the shot above? That's about where the duo of drunks in their boat would have been if they had made it into the show. As I said before, the duo made it off the drawing board. Bellow, photographic evidence shows that they did make it into the 3-dimensional stage of production.

Photo from

  When creating a new attraction, the Imagineers always make a scaled model to work out any issues before moving into the full-sized version. This is a tradition carried on to this very day. Even New Fantasyland got a scaled model...

  Notice the slight difference in placement of the pirates between the black and white shot and the colored shot. In the B&W shot, there is a pirate holding a jug of rum sitting on a treasure chest behind the pirate stealing the loot. Notice that in the colored shot the treasure chests are there, but the pirate is not. Several alteration were made to the models before they decided on what would make it into the finished show. Every shot available (that I myself have located. If you know where to find more, I'd love to see them) of the burning the town scene features these two drunks in the boat, furthering the idea that they were cut late in the into game... very late actually... because one of the two pirates even had an audio track recorded for them.

  On the official Disneyland Forever Pirates of the Caribbean CD, a track called "Drinking Pirate" is offered, but listed as "never used", preformed by legendary voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft. The track consists of the sounds of gulping and hiccuping sounds that play in sync with the instrumental of "Yo-Ho A Pirate's Life for Me." You can hear a sample of the track here. This track would obviously fit at least one of pirates in the boat, or perhaps even the pirate who went missing from the black and white model still. While many have said they believe the track is used at Disneyland Paris for the pirate bellow, I can safely say this is not the case; having been on the French version of the attraction myself. The sleeping pirate bellow has no audio track.

  So, we are left to assume that they were pulled for aesthetic reasons, or perhaps noise pollution? Much like the muting of the Knight's vocals in Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion as of 2007, the idea of too much noise from one area makes sense to some degree. Maybe it was because there was too much happening on the left side of trough, and not enough on the right side. Maybe they got rid of them to even the action out a bit. On the left side, you have the two drunks clinging to one another; the drunk clinging to the lamp post; the pirate with the tower of hats and loot; and even the parrot on the bridge is technically off to the left side of the bridge. Then you have the drunk with the hairy leg in the center. On the right, there's the drunk in the mud with the pigs, and that's it. So many pirates off to the left... an there could have been at least two or three more...

  Before I wrap this post up and bury it in the graveyard of former posts, I'd like to touch on a few more addition that never made it into the final version of the show. Several pieces of concept art reveal scenes that would make the infamous pooped pirate blush. These risque scenes are much more suggestive then the final scene which was altered in the mid 1990's due to a few complaints about the sexual tension lingering around it. I wonder what these would have looked like had they made it off the drawing board into the final version?

  The lower one in particular peeks my interest the most. Although some audio snippets of what could have come from the artwork above it do exist, the concept of Pirates playing tug-of-war with a young maiden... I don't know, it takes the pooped pirate gag and amplifies it's provocativeness tenfold. It's not longer a chase, the pirates have captured their quarry. Surprisingly  this scene made it into the most recent version of the attraction in a less physical, silhouette form. Disneyland Paris's Pirates is the only version to still feature the "original" version of the chase scene. While there are a few differences; such as the dialogue being in French; several new additions were included to this version. The most famous of these additions are the inclusion of a  pirate and a townsman engaging one another in a sword fight, but my favorite addition can be seen in the video bellow:

  So what if it's inappropriate? It's France! You see naked women in adds all over the place in France! A little roughhousing (if you want to look at it in a glass half full style scenario... just whatever you do, don't call it a rape scene... that's all that needs to be said and this gag would be scraped) between two drunken men and a young woman isn't that outlandish, especially when all we can see it the outline.

  Well, that's all I've got to say about that... now off with ya'!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Visual Comparisons: Part 1

Ah, there you are...

  As you can see, this post's title is accompanied by a "part 1" indicating that it will be the first in a series. This series won't be a back to back installment with a final chapter though. Think of these Visual Comparison installments as small trivial posts. There are many things that you can compare with photos when it comes to the Haunted Mansion; especially if you have a constantly growing photo library the size of mine. So, let us begin this first installment:

  As many of my readers already know, I'm an avid Orlando Mansion supporter. I'm used to receiving negative feedback from some of my readers for my constant nagging about the Anaheim original. In this initial installment of Visual Comparisons, we will take a look at some elements in the attraction, comparing the Anaheim versions of the element to the Orlando version of the same element. You can't argue with visual proof.

  I think we'll start in the Attic, because I don't like to go in chronological order all the time. Plus, I was specifically asked to share a comparison of one of the most infamous elements that all S&FS readers should be familiar with: The dreaded garage door of ugly in the attic scene. Both the American Mansions have a garage door locate at the same point in the attic scene off to the left of the track. The only thing that makes them different is, well; just look:

Photo Credit: R. Padilla
  That's Disneyland's Attic garage door. Now here's nearly the exact same shot, taken at Walt Disney World in the same spot:

Photo Credit: A. Grancoin-Vinet
  Both shots were taken using flash; you can see the glare on the back of the Doombuggies in each shot. But the Orlando version of the door doesn't reflect the light of the flash like the Anaheim version because it's been painted black. From the look of it, I'd say at one point the Disneyland door may have been painted black, although it's pretty clear that it hasn't been painted in years. The shiny metal finish of the Disneyland door is further illuminated due to the brighter lighting in the attic scene. While I don't have good enough pictures to prove it visual for you, take my word for it, as I've been on both fairly recently.

  The Ballroom scene has two sheets of reflective materials dividing you from the show set. One of those is between you and the ghosts, and the other is between the ghosts and the set. The later is the huge sheet of glass which is used to achieve the pepper's ghost effect while the former is a sheet of plexiglass used to keep anything a guest might throw over the balcony from landing down bellow where it could turn into a "ghost object" in the show scene. (Another fun fact about the plexiglass is that it can be used to explain why your reflection can sometimes appear in the ballroom scene without spoiling the entire effect for someone. If a first time rider sees the glare or reflection, you can simply tell them that the plexiglass is there so that the ghosts can't get onto the balcony where you are) Anyhow, the plexiglass bounces off the lighting in the attic scene, creating a pretty crisp visual reflection in the final pane near the Duelist, Organist, and Dancers. Both American versions reflect the attic scene, but at Orlando, I've noticed that it isn't as harsh as it is in Anaheim. 

  I've never liked that the reflection was there in Walt Disney World's Mansion, but when I visited the Disneyland version in May, I noticed how much brighter the reflection was. After re-riding the Orlando version several times over the past months, I've realized how much less of a reflection there is in the Liberty Square version. This is one place where I must give proper acknowledged to Phantom Manor. They don't have any issues with reflections of another scene in their Ballroom. That can partially be attributed to the fact that they have a long dark hallway in place of the the first stretch of what is normally the attic scene. Also, they don't even have a garage door; only an indent where one normally would be:

Photo Credit: M.Brilhart
  So yeah; that's one more post about the ugly garage door.Who knew it was possible to do two full posts on such a lack-luster element in the Mansion? Next time, we'll look at something that isn't as technical and more show-related. Until next time...

I'll see you all a little later...


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Non Omnis Moriar

Ah, there you are...

   No, the Strange and Frightening Sounds blog isn't dead yet, as the title says. (If you can read Latin, and no, we won't be talking about Phantom Manor in this post. It's just a phrase after all) It's been quite a few months since I last got around to writing an entry on this blog. A lot has happened since my October 2012 visit in the last entry, but for the sake of time and keeping up with what's going on now, I'll cover those events as briefly as possible. Let's start back in November of 2012, when I took my first Disney Cruise.

   I really wish I would have sat down and done a full entry or two on this while it was still fresh in my mind. All I can say is if you ever get the chance or opportunity to take a Disney Cruise, do it. For an amusement park obsessed soul such as I, the Cruise provided a taste of what a real vacation feels like. Instead of rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off attempting to cram in as many rides as possible, I sat and relaxed in a hot tub; where I could look down through the floor and see the ocean bellow. I when to Broadway style shows nearly every night, dressed up in lavish suites. I dined in the company of an amazing team of hosts and hostesses on the finest of cuisine. I visited the islands of Puerto Rico and St. Thomas; seeing the real life locations that inspired the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction's environments. At first, I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy the cruise because it lacked amusement attractions, which is what I always base my vacations around. By the end of the week though, I was dreading having to disembark from the Disney Fantasy; even though I knew an overnight (literary over night, with extra magic hours keeping in the Magic Kingdom park until 3:00 in the morning) visit to Walt Disney World was waiting ashore.

   Of course, the vacation can't last forever, so I had to return to my normal life for a bit. Of course, that was only for a few weeks. By the end of November, I returned once again to the most magical place on earth to experience Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party for the first time. I think it was during this visit that I really began to notice how great the condition of the Haunted Mansion was. Several things were missing, but I looked them over because part of me said that their demise wouldn't really hinder the ride overall. The sound for the Raven in tree next to the attic and the wolf in the graveyard were not functioning; and the pop-up ghost in front of the Phantom Five band was missing too. But other then that, the ride was looking better then ever. All the audio animatronic characters were preforming up to high standards. The ride sounded and looked great! I don't know if I can say the same for some of the other attractions.

   Over the course of 2012, I watched the condition of Splash Mountain get worse and worse. It's been reported by well-known sites like MiceChat that the mountain itself is falling apart due to an issue with the pipes inside that supply water to the live plant life covering the mountain. That tarp added over the loading area isn't just meant to block out the sizzling Florida sun; it's there to catch falling chunks of chic-a-pin hill. The audio animatronic cast has dwindled in size as more and more characters vanish for repairs and never return. The ones that remain are constantly acting up, and sometimes, not operating at all. Certain characters like Br'er Frog in the Laugh'n Place scene and the Porcupine in the Time to be Turning Around scene are never on cue with the rest of the singing and underline music, and seem to reset themselves mid-song; never actually carrying out their full loop. Certain speakers are way to loud, causing popping and static to degrade the sound coming out of them. As of this writing  the attraction is down for a nearly three month refurbishment. Hopefully, some of these issues will be addressed; but I'm still hoping that Splash will be the next candidate for a year or two long refurbishment, similar to the ones that both American versions of Space Mountain have received. It's desperately in need of it, especially if the mountain really is falling apart as many sources say it is.

   As for Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom, I can safely say somebody heard my complaints. They have been constantly trying to repair the condition of the attraction since my ravaging rant last year about the ride's quality, story and show issues. The Pirates are looking as good as they have in recent memory, although it's clear that the cuts in maintenance over the years have taken their toll on the Magic Kingdom version's cast. Somebody seems to be taking my personal issue with the quality of the musical trio of pirates to heart. I can see the improvements in their range of motion over the past few visits; although I still say replacements are in order whenever the funds are available to do so. Compare the Walt Disney World trio to the other three versions of the musical marauders from the other versions of the attraction around the globe in the images bellow. Maybe you'll see why I complain about them so much:

   The Very Merry Christmas Party was pretty cool. To see the snow on Main Street was neat, even though I was wearing shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt. The great thing about these special ticket events is the lack of lines everywhere. You can't beat walk-on's to Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, which are a rarity at any time of the year. I was pretty spot on with my guess that I'd enjoy it, but it wouldn't top the Halloween party; but that's because I'm more of a Halloween type of person.

   This brings us into January of 2013. After surviving the impending Mayan Apocalypse and enjoying another 13 Days of Christmas event, the time came to make one last visit. My annual pass is nearing it's expiration as I write this... I just returned about two days ago, so this visit is fresh in my head, but I won't linger on it for too long. After all, with so many visits in such a short span of time, what more is their to talk about? Those missing elements in the Haunted Mansion returned. Instead of a Droopy Eyes pop-up (see image, Droopy Eyes is the one to the left) in front of the Phantom Five band, we now have a Mister Winky (the one to the right) with an ear-ring. The extra Droopy Eyes pop-up switched places with the former location of this particular head, over by the crypt featuring arm holding the trowel. The sounds for the Raven and Wolf are back; but the Raven has been drastically turned down in volume, which isn't an issue as he's been too loud for years.

   There really is a lot more I could cover about my recent visits, but if I cover one thing, I'll feel like I have to cover another, an so forth. So we'll leave off here. I've had the most amazing year owning an annual pass. The 14th is going to be a terrible day for me, but I know deep down that I'll return to the most magical place on earth someday. Just not in a few weeks as has been the norm for me for the past year. I've got plenty of non-vacation report entries I've been dying to write. So keep up with the blog, because we're only just getting started...

 Hurry Back...   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Ravaging Rant about Pirates of the Caribbean

Avast there mateys...

As you can see from the title, I've decided it's finally time to do that Pirates of the Caribbean mega-post I’ve been hinting at on and off for a year or two now.  What better day to talk Pirates than international Talk like a Pirate Day? It’s time I gave a long, drawn-out explanation for my distaste for the Hollywood cash-cow, and what sort of crimes it committed to the attraction it was based on.

First off; for those of you who haven't learned the truth yet, (I assume that's only very small handful of readers) Pirates of the Caribbean has been a ride long before it was a movie. It was the one successful film during that phase in the early 2000's in which Disney decided to make films based off their amusement attractions. If you didn't know this prior to reading this post, then I suggest you do well to remember it now that you know. Now for a history lesson, because knowing the history will help you better understand (and /or sympathize with) my point and mindset later on.

When the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction opened in March of 1967 at Disneyland, the sheer size and spectacle was unmatched by anything in the world. What was originally planed to be just a run-of-the-mill wax museum had evolved on the drawing board into an elaborate fifteen minute boat voyage. Even to this day, it’s still one of the longest, largest, and most complex amusement attractions in existence.

The attraction received unmatched amounts of media coverage for a single amusement attraction making its debut in the off-season. In comparison: the recent opening of Disneyland’s Cars Land may have received a great amount of media attention, but it opened in-season. Radiator Springs Racers may-or-may not be as grand a spectacle as Pirates; depending on whom you ask; but attractions with the amount of audio-animatronics and larger-than-life scale that Radiator Springs Racers, Splash Mountain, and even our beloved Haunted Mansion have would not exist if Pirates hadn’t broken the barrier before them.

With media coverage that ranged from Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color Television show to the world-famous Time Magazine, Pirates of the Caribbean; the attraction at Disneyland; had become a household name. Considering that this was way before the dawn of the internet and social media alone makes the media coverage Pirates received more impressive than Cars Land’s. Check out the Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color broadcast bellow; featuring the entire, professionally shot, original version of the attraction:

So popular was the Disneyland original that when Walt Disney World opened in 1971 without Pirates of the Caribbean, the guest relations department was bombarded with inquires from guests who had assumed that the east-coast Disney Park would have included duplicates of all of Disneyland’s signature attractions. They we’re confused, and demanded that a duplicate be built in Orlando as soon as possible.

I’m not going to re-tell the fateful tale of Marc Davis’ Western River Expedition here. Okay, maybe in brief, and only because I don’t want to rely on other people’s posts to bring any sense of relevance to mine.  There’s plenty of other places you can go look that up at. (Just Google Western River Expedition, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of content to sift through) Just know this if you don’t already: An attraction similar to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean was in the works for the first expansion of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom that would have taken buccaneers and replaced them with Cowboys and Indians...
...and it never got built because Pirates of the Caribbean; the Disneyland attraction; was a household name all across the country back in the 1970’s. The general public’s demand for a Pirate boat ride was placed over the similar Wild-West boat ride; and so, this brings us to our next point of interest; Walt Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean:
I’d highly suggest you read this, this and this so that you have a better understanding of what I’m talking about in this next section. Not that I don’t intend on explaining things clearly or in any depth, but those posts provide a general knowledge (and an unrelated ghost story that’s quite interesting) and sense of place that my handful of rides on the original version of Walt Disney World’s Pirates won’t be able to create.

So, continuing onward; Walt Disney World’s mob of angry pirate lovers got their wish… well, sort of. I did use the word “duplicate” in my brief summary of their demands. Well, they got Pirates, but didn’t get a duplicate. What they got was the shortest version of the four Pirates of the Caribbean attractions in existence. Orlando didn’t get a Lagoon or Bayou scene with an accompanying indoor restaurant. Nor did they get two waterfall drops. They only got one slide, one or two of the haunted grotto vintages (the scenes depicting the skeletons of dead pirates) and the attraction only took about half the time it took to experience the original in Anaheim. This is where many (including me when I get angry about the state of Pirates in the Magic Kingdom as of today) would end this portion of the post with the following words; summing up the version of Pirates that Orlando received at the end of 1973: Half-Assed.

But this isn’t the end of this portion. Walt Disney World’s Pirates was (you’ll understand why I’m using past tense in regards to certain aspects of the Orlando incarnation once you’ve gotten further into the post) a different attraction all together. It wasn’t meant to be a direct lift, if you will, of the Disneyland version. It had a unique story of its own. Unlike the Disneyland version; where you experience plenty of “time-travel” and jump hundreds of miles across the globe to various locations; all within a little over fifteen minutes; everything that happened in the Walt Disney World version was meant to be happening exactly as you experienced it. What do I mean by this? This will require a little bit of time-travel in itself to explain; we’re going to jump back to Disneyland’s Pirates for a brief explanation that will better your grasp on what made the non-time-traveling version in Orlando unique.

For those of you who don’t know, or have never realized (this explanation could cover a very broad spectrum of readers) the Disneyland version of Pirates of the Caribbean begins in the blue bayou. When guests enter the blue bayou, they are still in what we’ll call the present (meaning that they are not experiencing any form of time-travel) storyline-wise. They have, however, jumped quite a few miles from their storyline point-of-entry; New Orleans Square; into the backwoods somewhere out of town; only by walking a short distance. Only once the boats enter a dark, brick-lined, sewer-like passage off the bayou do they begin to experience the “time-travel” that’s crucial to the original version.

The boats spills over a waterfall in total darkness, and emerge in a cavernous grotto filled with the sounds of roaring water, and the skeletal remains of Pirates, posed in what can be thought of as their final acts before death. Example; the pirate seen here was examining his vast amount of plundered treasure right before he died; thus, his skeletal remains sit untouched in that same position in which he died. What has just happened, though; storyline wise; is that we’ve been transported from that calm little bayou, all the way to a grotto somewhere in the Caribbean; and all by going down a waterfall. Whether or not we’ve experienced time-travel yet is up to the rider’s interpretation as of this point. Although I doubt that a cave filled with millions of dollars worth of gold and unidentified human remains would go untouched anywhere in the world as of 2012, I guess there’s that chance it’s a secret cave nobody knows about? Or maybe we’ve just jumped back in time to a point right after the pirates died? (And had time to decompose) Ether way, the misty tunnel at the end of the grotto is where the real time travel occurs in the storyline. Now occupied by the disembodied heads of Davy Jones and Ian McShane projected onto a waterfall, used to be only a tunnel with ghostly narration tracks. It is in this point in the ride that we are most definitely experiencing storyline time-travel.

We round a corner and exit the caverns to find ourselves in the middle of a harbor under siege. We have made the jump from the present (and from New Orleans Square) back to the golden age of Piracy (in the Caribbean) in approximately ten minutes time. Of course, at some point, we have to go back to the present, right? Well, we magically climb a waterfall near the end of our voyage; just in the nick of time too, as the pirates have set fire to the town, and are now firing pot-shots at one another in the town’s arsenal. We can safely infer that at some point; most likely right after we begin our time-travel to the present, that one of the plastered pillagers hits one of the many kegs of gunpowder in the arsenal, causing the whole town to basically go boom.  Prior to the 2006 rehab of the Disneyland version, you even passed the skeletal remains of a group of pirates who died while trying to escape with their heavy loads of treasure on your way up the waterfall to the present; sort of like a flash of what was seen earlier in the grotto before reaching the furthest point back in time.

The Orlando version is housed in a Spanish Fortress, and everything that happened was meant to happen in the present prior to 2006. Sure, you do time-travel to get back to the golden age of Piracy; but that time-travel had already occurred before you even stepped foot into Caribbean Plaza. That Spanish Fortress is meant to be the same fortress you see from the harbor during the battle scene inside the ride. In fact, you used to be able to hear canon fire outside as you approached the fortress from Adventureland. You used to be greeted by an audio-animatronic parrot barker; complete with a peg-leg and eye-patch. He’d squawk about what adventure awaited inside the fortress, and sing Yo-Ho every now and then.

Inside the fortress is one of the Orlando versions few one-ups on the original version in Anaheim; the dungeon themed queuing area. You can read a much more in-depth description of this amazing environment here. Just know this; the dungeons used to include a vastly different arrangement of audio compared to what is there now. Today, you will find that George Burn’s Pirate Overture is the only piece of audio that you’ll hear until you reach your boat. Prior to 2006, however, the Pirate Overture was never heard in Orlando. Instead, an eerie piece of music called Pirate’s Arcade was used, and only in certain parts of the queuing area. The sounds of the Spanish Soldiers marching and pacing around on the levels above the dungeons; preparing for the oncoming pirate assault could be heard echoing about the queue. The main underline chorus track of Yo-Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me would echo down the halls using an early “soft-spot” speaker system, (Basically a very early processor to what is now used to amaze the ears in the Haunted Mansion’s stretching room, allowing the Ghost Host’s voice to float about the room) leading one to believe that the pirates had already found their way into the fortress and could be waiting around any corner. You can enjoy a rare source mix of what this all sounded like bellow:

Pirates of the Caribbean Queue (WDW - Pre 2006) by Strange&FrighteningSounds

In the Orlando storyline prior to 2006, guests would board boats in a cove under the fort as a means of evacuation to safety. The Pirates aren’t something to joke about, as the sounds of the soldiers preparing would tell you. Guests were sent on their way in the boats down a cavernous passage, and what is assumed to be safety. However, nothing ended up going according to plan. Wherever the Spaniards intended to send guests to safety wasn't where the tide carried them off too. Even before boarding, guests could hear the distant sounds of pirates digging for loot in a cave off to the side of the boarding area; inferring that they we're getting closer by the minute. The cavernous abyss the boats entered was probably one of the scariest environments that ever existed in a Disney Theme Park. Listen to this audio cue to get an idea of what the environment used to sound like after rounding the first bend in the Orlando version, prior to 2006:
Howling wind; thunder claps; rushing water; skeletons and darkness; that’s what awaited riders in the grottos at Orlando prior to 2006. Sure, Orlando only got two of the five vintages that Anaheim had; but they made up for it by creating an atmosphere that would be enough to make anyone under the age of seven piss their pants. The skeletons seen in the Orlando version could have been inferred as the remains of pirates whom had died prior to the storyline events that guests experienced. Orlando also had a talking skull; but he didn’t spot off any recycled audio from Anaheim; here’s the transcript for the talking skull in Orlando:
Ahoy there mattes; Man the helm and hold on tight; there be squalls ahead. Huh-huh-ha; Dead men tell no tales.

Avast there lubbers; there be rough waters ahead. Sit close together and keep yer’ ruddy hands in-board; Dead men tell no tales; Arrh!
The boats then proceed over a slide (I’ll never be able to call it a drop) into a short tunnel, (Where the boats encounter a really rough portion of the trough that tosses the riders around) where a shortened version of the spiel used in Disneyland’s time-travel tunnel was heard. The boats then precede onward into the same scenes as the Disneyland version; the harbor and town scenes. Even then, there were some unique additions to the Orlando version in these parts. Most notably, the character known as Old Bill with his stray cats was an Orlando original. You heard that right; Old Bill was in Orlando before he showed up in Disneyland. He was added to Orlando because he’s used to distract riders during an extended section of trough in the chase scene where; on the opposite side of the river; the maintenance trough splits off from the show-portion of the trough. At Disneyland, this section of track is found earlier in the ride, so the addition of Old Bill in Anaheim happened only because he was so popular in Orlando and Disneyland wanted one too. 

Something not as many people mention was the shattering flower pot in the Auction scene. At Disneyland; and as of 2006, Orlando as well; the guard on the left side of the trough shoots at the hecklers on the left side. When he does this, he always misses. (Can you imagine if they had decided to have one of the pirates get shot? He’d be getting shot and killed on cue once every minute!) As of now, the guard ends up hitting a metal sign-post. But prior to 2006 in Orlando, his stray bullet used to ricochet and shatter a flower pot. Amazingly, the pot would shatter, and then piece itself back together for the next go-round; as the scene replays itself once every 60-seconds. While I don’t have video of this amazing effect, you can hear the pot shattering in this video.

The most noted addition to the Orlando version was the treasure room finale. This scene, which replaced the Arsenal found in the Disneyland version, had the Pirates coming out on top in the end. Bound and gagged guards sat in the middle of the room while the pirates partook in similar drunken target practice to the characters in the arsenal scene in Anaheim. Treasure was a big theme in Orlando; even bigger than in Anaheim. (Even though Pirates and Treasure go hand-in-hand) The Pirates were heard burying their treasure right before boarding the boats (and they still can; they haven't completely muted the old speaker in the cave. You've just got to listen really closely if you want to hear them); they ended up raiding the town treasure room as the show came to a close. But even before 2006, the chase scene in Orlando has been about treasure too.

After numerous complaints from guests about the sexual tension in the vintages pictured bellow…
…Disneyland and Walt Disney World ended up altering their respective versions of what is commonly referred to as the chase scene in the mid 1990's. They call it the chase scene because no matter what incarnation of the scene you look at over the course of the ride's history, there's always someone chasing someone else in it. Disneyland decided to have their pirates looking for food instead of sexual adventures. Walt Disney World decide to have their pirates looking for treasure instead of grub. The Pooped Pirate, as he’s called, was given a treasure map (along with a new costume) to hold in place of the women’s underwear he had been clutching since the ride had opened. Here’s a (rough) transcript of what he had to say in his pre-2006 treasure hunting days:
Avast mattes; it be treasure I’m after; I’d been’ lookin’ for the X that marks the spot; but now I be tired as a Swabby in the stars. Me and the treasure be westward bound. Here I be seeing the X’s a’ forming; X marks the spot says me, but there be no X’s around the location. *Sigh* Aye’ should’ve known better then to steal a treasure map from a pilfering, cheat’n old bilged rat of a Pirate! This map I be hold’n says X marks the spot; but I be seen’n no X’s around on this spot! Ahoy there ya lubbers; if ye’ be seeing any X’s about, shove off! The treasure chest be mine I tell ye’, all mine! Tell me where the X lies or I’ll be kick’n yer’ stern side off the end of a choke-heavin’ plank! *Laughs*
The young lady remained in the barrel behind the morbidly obese pirate in Orlando all the way until 2006. Alas, this is where I think we need to jump to the release of the movie. We’ll return to the ride in a moment.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was launched onto the silver screen in the summer of 2003. Surprisingly, it didn’t tank. In fact, it did the complete opposite of tank. It did wonders at the box office. You can read a previous, much shorter post here which covers what this post (the one you’re reading now) was going to be about before I decide to write it. What it really does is describe what caused the movies to end up finding their way into the ride. I really don't want to copy and paste a previous blog post into this one. It's long enough as it is.

The original Disneyland attraction was the first to get the modifications that followed the sequel Pirate’s of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Three Jack Sparrow audio-animatronic were added to the ride, along with one Hector Barbossa audio-animatronic; a Davy Jones waterfall projection effect; several new music cues (made to sound similar to the style of the film’s score by Hans Zimmer; or in some cases, actually composed by Hans Zimmer). You can hear the new instrumentation of Yo-Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me in the video bellow:

At Disneyland, I’d have to honestly say that the rehab was handled better than I would have anticipated. The new pipe organ versions of Yo-Ho are some of my favorite cues of music; and while I enjoyed the original underline instrumental to the burning the town finale, I really prefer the new accordion, strings and acoustic guitar rendition of the jolly pirate song. The pan-flute version of Yo-Ho in the grotto scene is calming, but fitting where it’s been placed. We’ll save my problems with the whole update once I explain the disaster that took place in Orlando when they added the movie additions in 2006.

Disney likes to re-write its history to be in its best interest. That’s always been clear. But the terrible explanations I heard directly from the mouths of the Imaginers in charge of the Orlando version’s enhancement project (if you really can call it an enhancement) while watching The Magic Kingdom: Imagineering the Magic, a 2-Disc DVD that you can find available at various stores in the parks. The way they explained it on the DVD, you’d think they had never been to the Orlando version of Pirates before. The way they spoke made it sound as though they thought it was just a shooter version of the original in Anaheim (where they all spend most of their time) without any sort of storyline variation. All smiles, one of them claimed that they were putting a figure back in the barrel behind the Pooped Pirate after a cat had been in there for a number of years.

At Disneyland, when they modified the chase scene and turned it into the gluttony scene; yes; they did remove the girl in the barrel and replace her with a static cat that popped out of it. But that was Disneyland. Orlando has always had a figure in the barrel. I mentioned that the one was “all smiles”, because that’s part of what makes me angry. They didn’t do their research, and they screwed up the Orlando version. Yes; as of the 2006 movie refurbishment, I will agree with my previous finding; it’s Half-Assed. What was once a unique, slightly shorter version is now just a half-assed attempt to bring the same storyline to Orlando in a rushed fashion. It’s like they didn’t even try to work with what was already there.

Orlando lost far more then Anaheim did in the refurbishment. No longer does Orlando have its unique barker bird; its unique queuing area music; its talking skull; and its shattering flower pot. The treasure room scene; which once featured seven audio-animatronic humans; has been reduced to one drunken Johnny Depp robot and a talking Parrot. The grotto’s once terrifying mood has been completely inverted. What would once cause children to mess themselves has been reduced to an atmosphere in which the same children could be lulled to sleep by the gentle pan-flue version of Yo-Ho. Not to mention that time-travel can now be inferred in the storyline, as nothing in the queuing area gives you any indication that the fort is actually begging used to combat oncoming pirates. Yes sir; they didn’t do the Orlando version any real favors during the rehab.

So yeah; why don’t I like the movie series? I’ll be honest here. They really don't do a whole lot for me. I don’t hate really them though. They are, at best, tolerable. They aren’t the easiest things to follow, and I've never really wanted to actually look to in depth at them due to the result of what they did to the attractions. They aren’t terrible though. Terrible would be the movie based on Country Bear Jamboree, which I urge you all to forget even exists. But it’s that added factor of knowing it only takes another movie to either remove more from the attractions to make room for more movie based additions; and it only takes another film to force Disneyland Paris to change their version of the attraction; which is the only one left in its original state. (And it should stay that way; you can read my review of it, and see my HD Video of it here) That’s the reason I don’t like the Hollywood franchise known as Pirates of the Caribbean. Because I’ve been a fan of the attraction since I was very young, and I’m flabbergasted at how many people I meet who don’t know that the attraction came first. Over 30 years before it was a movie, it was a ride that broke ground, and was known across the country. Now it’s a movie franchise, and you’re hard pressed to find someone who knows it was a ride before it was a movie. That’s why; because I miss what it used to be.

Now onto the final portion of this massive post: deciphering the new storyline. To better understand what I'm talking about in this section, you should probably watch this video of the Disneyland version I filmed earlier this year to get a grip on what's going on in the attraction as of today, unless of course every detail in the ride is common knowledge to you.
"Alas, I'm not alone in the world after all..."

Jack Sparrow and Barbossa’s introduction to the ride has altered the storyline of the ride, no doubt about it. Sure, it could have been far worse and far more destructive in terms of what got pulled to make room for it; but it sure as hell could have been far less confusing. For starters, why the hell is Carlos the Mayor hiding Jack Sparrow from the rest of the pirates during the well scene? I can understand him not revealing the location of the town treasure room; but why would he take any sort of chance on his life to protect a pirate from another pirate? You can assume that Carlos does know the location of Jack Sparrow, merely because Jack's attention is focused on the dunking. Why would he be watching Carlos being tortured with such interest when a a group of windsom women are being auctioned off across the river? He clearly fears that Carlos might be "chee-kin", and that he'll rat him out at some point. This leads us to another unexplained plot hole: why the hell does every pirate want to find Jack Sparrow just as much as the treasure? It’s revealed in the chase scene that the Pooped Pirate is the one in possession of the treasure map, and “this lovely key to the treasure room”, so why do they need Jack if he’s not the one with the two items needed to obtain the treasure with? These simple questions alone reveal just how sloppy the new storyline is. But I’ll stop the complaining about it there. I don’t need them to mess around with it more just to make the storyline clear. That might mean more dialogue changes, or the removal of several more original scenes, or characters, or audio clips, or music cues, or…yeah, you get it...

I know the movie additions aren’t going away any time soon. I've gotten used to them, because I had to. I don’t like all of them a whole lot, but I deal. That’s something you haters of the Haunted Mansion’s new queuing area need to start doing. There are plenty of people who prefer seeing Jack Sparrow in the ride the Movie was based on. I may not be one of them, but I have to deal with it every time I ride the attraction, because I can’t go to a Disney Park and not ride Pirates of the Caribbean.

I hope you enjoyed my ramble, or at least got something out of it. Be it entertainment, new found knowledge, or enlightenment, or whatever. I never really thought I'd ever be able to do this particular post. I know it was hard enough trying to organize my thoughts into something that was understandable. This was never really intended to be anything more than a rant; an outlet for my personal views on one of my favorite attractions. Happy International Talk like a Pirate Day ya' swabbies!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ah! There You Are...

...sorry I've been absent from the blog for so long foolish mortals. Although it wasn't my intention to wait this long to post something new, I've been busy. Busy with the things that this post is about to inform you of. S&FS has quite a few things going on, and quite a few plans for the near future.

First off, I'm sure many of you know that we're making a movie. Not just any movie; but a movie based on the infamous Story & Song of Disney's Haunted Mansion LP album. If you didn't already know, we have an official website; which I recently re-haunted; an official Facebook Page (go like us!), and now, we have a separate blog that will follow all of the behind-the-scenes goodness that's going into the film. Keep up-to-date with this brand-new blog as much as you would this one; even more so I'd say; I plan to do a lot of stuff there. So if the posts here start to dwindle again, there's one reason why. There's more to read on our other blog!

Secondly, I'm still having computer issues. After the screen on my Dell laptop cracked, I lost access to many of my Mansion files for a few months. A few weeks ago, I was able to transfer much of the content to my external hard drive, so I once again have access to it. However, this new HP notebook I'm using presents it's own issues that are responsible for further delays. Because I can't beat my old ways, I'm still trying to multitask whenever I'm on the computer. And the HP doesn't like it when I multitask. I'm obtaining a new monitor to use with my Dell soon; sometime this week or next week; and once I get that, I'll have a boat-load of things I'll need to do.

I have lots of footage I need to edit together for YouTube from my Disneyland trip. My new HP doesn't have a disc drive, so I can't install the program that came with my video camera to extract the footage properly. New HD videos of Pirates of the Caribbean, Mr.Toad, Splash Mountain, and of course the Haunted Mansion will be up once they get edited and rendered. Let me just say they are some of my better videos; I used some new lighting techniques.

My anti-virus program expired on the 6th of June, and my very short trial for my new HP's own anti-virus expired recently as well. So, I'm trying something new for the first time and using a free program that you have to manually set to scan. This has it's advantages; Norton and other programs are notorious for slowing the system whenever they are scanning. Those programs would scan whenever they felt like it; and you never had to worry that they'd do their job. With this new program, I have to be the one to initiate a scan if the computer starts acting funny. However, I have to worry that I'll only discover the problem once it's already to late.

And now we get to the surprise. Guess what I've been working hard on lately, foolish mortals? Do any of you recall a website that opened back in 2009, only to vanish about a month later? It returned the following summer only to vanish again, forever? A little website called www.Strange & Frightening Remember that? It was Strange & Frightening Sounds; the website; that started this whole S&FS online entity in the first place. Well, that site that allowed users to download audio from the attraction for personal listening use has been resting in peace for two or three years now... well... it was resting in peace... until recently...

That's right foolish mortals! We're re-materializing slowly, but surely! The site is stretching its content covering though, no pun intended. (Okay, pun intended) No longer will it be all about audio; when we return, S&FS v.III its going to be a full fledged Mansion & Manor fan-site, covering a wide range of multimedia content. We've got virtual tours for both the American Mansions, Phantom Manor, and even a few seasonally available specials in the works. (See above) A library; a gallery where you can look at both photos and artwork from the S&FS archives, as well as contributions from our loyal fans. Of course, the music room will retain the heart of the original S&FS site, with more content and more information regarding the creation, discovery, and use of the content. We don't have a set date for our full relaunch yet, but the disquieting metamorphosis continues to take place.

If you'd like to contribute to the fan-credited content in the various sections of our new site, you can find out how by visiting this note on our Facebook Page.

Okay; now onto what the future holds...

Obviously, A Night in The Haunted Mansion will hopefully begin production soon. We're snagged on a few things at the moment that are holding us back, but we will, someday; sooner or most likely later, finish the film. We are not giving up on it!

I'm going to Walt Disney World a few more times before the year is over to make the most of my annual pass. Once for the Halloween Party; (again... second year in a row!) another while I'm down for my first Disney Cruise in November; and again at the end of November into early December for the Christmas Party, which I've never been to before. I'm always up for meeting some of my fellow mansionites if your down there while I am (as long as it fits into my schedule) so just let me know.

I think that about wraps things up for now. Til next time...

I'll see you all a little later...