Friday, June 15, 2012

My First & Favorite Haunt

   I know, I know. You were all expecting at post comparing and contrasting the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Mansions in place of this. Well, until I patch up my Dell Laptop, you more than likely will not see that particular post. Because I want the post to be visually interesting, I'm stuck waiting til I can access my ginormous mansion picture library on it's hard drive. I knew I'd be kicking myself for not moving that and my Mansion music library to my spare hard drive at some point. Okay, explanation over and out. Time to look at today's topic:

  What is this odd building above, you say? I know that some of my readers will know exactly what it is. But for those of you who don't know where this particular spook-house sits, and what it means to me; this is a post I'm hoping you'll read. This ride right here; it's the reason Strange & Frightening Sounds exists. It's the reason I'm obsessed with amusement parks and dark rides in general. If this ride wasn't in my past, I doubt I'd be as attached to Disney's Mansion, or any attraction anywhere as I am today. This ride above bit me with the amusement park bug at a young age. It fueled my interest in all things scary. This ride is know simply as The Haunted House; it's owned and operated by Trimper's Rides and Amusements in Ocean City Maryland. This is how it all began.

  If you grow up living in Maryland, there's a good chance you're going to be a frequent visitor of a town know as Ocean City during the summer. If your a frequent visitor to Ocean City, than you've probably taken a stroll on the boardwalk a few times at least. And if so, there is a good chance you've wandered down to the south end of the boardwalk; past first street and down towards the inlet. If you have, then you've probably seen for yourself a bizarre looking facade with crooked clapboard, a twisted chimney, and an ominously pointed gable among the many ordinary looking facades down this way.

  During the early to mid 1990's, I could frequently be seen on summer nights standing to the mid-left of the facade, looking into the lobby of this early 1960's Bill Tracy Dark Ride. What I was looking at was a headless man named Count Wolf Von Vinderstine. This animated barker character had been added merely months before my first memories of seeing the attraction, and he intrigued me. I was a bit to scared to actual hop into one of the eleven "Coffin Carriages" at the time, but that wouldn't stop me for spending hours on end watching the ride from outside. The facade alone is enough to look at. Bill Tracy pulled out all the stops when he designed it. There's not a single building on the boardwalk that can match this one for pure artistry and originality. If you don't know who Bill Tracy is, you'd better start reading here! He's on the same level with many of the Disney Imagineers who created our Mansion.

"Ah-ha! More Visitors! I am Count Wolf Von Vinderstine, and this is my home. Do you feel a chill of foreboding, or was that just a... passing ghost?"

  The Count (see left) could hold my attention for hours, even though his three and a half minute spiel about rooms that would turn upside down, and dreary dungeons would just loop over and over. I'd watch cars come in and out of the ride; crossing the balcony above, passing Bill Tracy's giant bat. There was something about this eerie facade and whatever mysteries awaited inside that had me hooked at four or five years old. I'd make my own Haunted Houses out of toys and action figures at home. I'd draw Haunted Houses, and even decorated the basement staircase in our house with paper cut-outs I would draw of crooked clap-board signs and even a pint-sized 2 foot paper version of the Count. It wasn't until the year 1999 or 2000 that I actually got on the ride for my first time. And after that fateful ride on my birthday of that year, I didn't ride it again until summer of 2009. That's all because of one or two gags that scared that bajesus out of me at that age; most notably a recently added modern gag featuring a man thrashing and screaming in an electric chair from distortions unlimited. (see bellow right)

  Even after that first ride on my birthday, I was still intrigued by the ride. If the Haunted House wasn't open, there wasn't any reason for me to be on the boardwalk. It was my connection with this ride that caused my fascination with the Disney Haunted Mansion years before I actually got to experience it first hand. Had I not been seduced by the dark side via Trimper's magnificent ride, I doubt the Mansion would have been my favorite ride at Walt Disney World. At that young age, I also had a love for pirates, fueled mostly by watching the Disney Animated classic Peter Pan. Captain Hook and the Crocodile where always my favorite parts. At that same age, I was just as excited to hear that Disney also had a ride based completely around Pirates! Watching a sing-along-songs video with "Yo-Ho, A Pirate's life for Me" on it; featuring footage from Disney's World of Color special from the 1960's was enough to get me excited about a pirate ride. (This explains my distaste for the recent movies and the change they brought to the ride. Look how long I've been a fan of the ride for!) The Mansion wouldn't have probably mattered as much to me if I hadn't been so interested in Haunted Houses and the scary, supernatural stuff.

  We can fast-forward to 2007 or so, when I discovered a fan-based website for my childhood changing ride. Turns out I wasn't the only one who had been influenced by this boardwalk staple. This sprung me back into the world of dark rides from which I had been disconnected for so long. After years of being to timid to ride again, I finally got back into a coffin carriage in 2009. One ride lead to another, and than another, and than I began to loose count. (Thank heavens for wrist-bands!)

  When I told my S&FS followers that Disney's Haunted Mansion wasn't my favorite dark ride, I had a feeling you were all aghast. The website's main subject wasn't the list topper? Well, there's always been a good reason behind that. Had it not been for what many out there would call a "Cheesy old carnival style spook-house" on the boardwalk at Ocean City all those years ago, I doubt I'd have such an interest in Haunted Mansions and stuff of that nature. The ride changed my life, and I owe it to the Haunted House to keep it at #1 in my lists purely because it's had such an affect on me. For more information on this ride that has played a huge part in my interests, please go check out my friend Brandon's website; it covers just about everything you'd ever want to know about the ride. It's like the equivalent of a for the Ocean City haunt. Bellow is a video I shot in May 2012 of the Haunted House. Please note that the ride isn't the same as what you see in the video today. An extensive renovation has taken place, and the ride looks better than ever now:

Still the best $4.00 you can spend on the boardwalk!

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


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Disneyland - May 2012 Trip Report

Ah, there you are...

  If you've been keeping up with me on Twitter and Facebook (as well as the last blog post), you should know that I recently visited Disneyland for my second time. I spent three full days (and two half days) wandering around the resort taking it all in again. Back in November of 2008 when I first visited, it was Haunted Mansion Holiday season, so I didn't get the "original" mansion experience until this trip. Now, I can make a full analysis of the Anaheim version, but we'll save that for the next post. On with the report...

  First off, the whole Disneyland part of the vacation was a complete surprise for me. Originally, the vacation was to be five days in Las Vegas. However, the night we arrived, my Aunt surprised me and my cousin by letting us know over dinner that we wouldn't be spending the entire vacation in Vegas; that on Sunday, we would be flying out to Disneyland. It was one of those moments that made you feel like a kid again (although for me, that wasn't exactly very long ago), the whole surprise of going to a Disney park wasn't exactly something I ever got to experience before. Anyone who has been on Disney's Magical Express knows what kind of moment I'm talking about. You know? The one where the kids open up the pizza box and start screaming with excitement because inside, it says they are going to Disney. Or the one where the kids are woken up early and driven to the airport, then told right before they go in where they are going. That kind of exciting moment was something I never really got to experience back when I first went to Walt Disney World in 2000, since I knew about the trip a good half a year in advance.

  While the reveal was something special, I do partly wish I would have known ahead of time so I would have been fully prepared. Luckily, I had brought my Cameras and an extra memory card on a whim, so I was set to go and do my thing at the parks. I had just come back from a camping trip in Ocean City, Maryland, the day before we left for Vegas, so all of last week and the week prior were quite possibly the best conjoined days of my life. I got to ride my favorite dark ride on Sunday the 20th; Trimper's Haunted House*, and then spent the time through the 24th camping and enjoying the beach with my friends. On the 25th, I flew to Las Vegas for the first time in my life, and on the 25th, I got to see my favorite Musical, The Phantom of the Opera, preformed in the amazing custom built theater at the Venetian. The next day, I got to spend half the day in the Adventuredome at Circus Circus, and then flew to Disneyland later in the afternoon. The very same day, I got to ride Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean all before going to bed in the Disneyland Hotel. To top it all off, we stayed an extra day! Originally, we were only staying till the 30th, but because we were having so much fun, and Disneyland is all the way on the opposite side of the country for us, we decided to stay another day! Talk about an amazing couple of weeks!

 (*SAY WHAT? I'll explain your confusion behind why the Disney Haunted Mansion isn't the owner of that honor in a later post; just know that I wouldn't be writing all this, and managing S&FS like I do if I didn't love the Disney Mansion as much as I do

  I'm going to say this right now; if I had to pick which Disney Park I like best out of the three Magic Kingdoms I've been to, I'd have to say the Original is just a notch above Paris, and Orlando is behind the two only for a number of reasons that could be fixed. Disneyland gets my vote over the other two for a number of reasons:

  1. More Attractions; Even better, they are in a smaller foot-print, which is kinder on my feet.
  2. Upkeep; For the most part, nearly all the Audio Animatronics were functioning properly, and some of them were even up there with Tokyo Disneyland as far as fluent movements. The Pirate Musical Trio in Disneyland look even better than they do in the World of Color ride-through from opening year!
  3. It's the Original; there's something special about a park that can squeeze so many A-class attractions into such a small space, and that set the standard for the rest of them.

In my opinion, Disneyland has the best versions of Splash Mountain and Pirates with Johnny Depp; (take out Johnny Depp, and it will take the crown for best Pirates due to the quality of maintenance it has over DLP; if Paris adds Depp, I guess Disneyland will get the crown too for that matter) the Matterhorn is awesome, and even though it wasn't open this time around, it's still a great asset to the park visually. The Castle at Disneyland might be lackluster and small, but it's colorful at least. (Disneyland Paris gets my vote for best Castle) While Disneyland's Tomorrowland can't hold a fading candle to the Walt Disney World version, it's Fantasyland and New Orleans Square areas sure make up for it. Disneyland Paris is still missing Splash Mountain and the majority of the rides are in a language I don't speak; the up keep isn't the greatest either. Walt Disney World suffers from maintenance neglect, and while they have some top tier versions of many rides, the quality of the up keep really brings them down under the other too; partially because the resort is about twenty years or so younger than Disneyland Paris, and the neglect has been going on a bit longer. They are all great places; don't take this the wrong way; but management seems very dedicated to keeping every robotic character operating smoothly, and every attraction running in tip-top shape in Anaheim, a little more so than in Paris and Orlando.

  Sorry I went into that little off track segment about which park I like best, but perhaps that will let you all know that when my next post turns the tables on Disneyland in favor of the east coast park, It's not a matter of which park I live closer too being the "best" just because of that.

  Overall, the trip only provided a few "firsts" for me in the form of rides, as I had done almost everything the previous trip in 2008. I finally got to experience the Mansion without the nightmare overlay, as previously mentioned. I rode California Scream'n for the first time too, which I have to say, is an amazingly unique stand-in for Rock'n'Roller Coaster. World of Color. What I went into thinking would be a generic, overrated Disneyland Nighttime show with a generic Disney Parade/Show soundtrack turned out to be an amazing. While it still had the generic Disney Parade/Show soundtrack, it was visually amazing. 

(For those of you that don't know what I mean by "Generic Disney Parade/Show Soundtrack", that entails basically everything but the Main Street Electrical Parade, and a few others; all of it is done with a chorus and orchestral arrangement that sounds like the same old thing when your hear a clip of it. Like World of Color, nearly every Fireworks show that's not seasonally based.)

  This whole trip report has turned into a compare and contrast, hasn't it? Oh well. That's partially because I plan on doing several of these compare and contrasts in the coming months. So I guess this leaves us in a good spot to call it a day for now, and wait for the next post. Next time...

...we'll be looking at the Mansion. It's going to be compare & contrast time for Disneyland and Walt Disney World's homes of 999 happy haunts.

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


Friday, June 1, 2012

Disneyland Paris: August 2011 Trip Report & Review - Part 3

... Continued from Part 2...

  After day three, there are very few "firsts" left to talk about. So besides this first part, the rest of this post will look over the rest of the rides, areas, and other things in random order. The only "first" I can think of from day four is when my brother and I took on the last roller coaster left in Disneyland Park; Indiana Jones & the Temple of Peril. I can easily say that this one had me worried as well, because it had an actual complete vertical loop in it. Unlike the other two (Space Mountain & Rock'n'Roller Coaster) which had only half loops in them. Not only that, but it was a tight loop too. Tighter than the one on Sooperdooperlooper. So we hopped into those really snug mine-carts and chugged up the lift hill; something the other two rides lacked. Instead of me telling you what happened on each turn, you can just watch this video bellow (again, not mine; I had too much on my camera to film rides like this already) and see for yourself:

  Before I forget, I want to make sure I point out the oddity in the queuing area for Indy. My brother and I debated on weather or not Indy would go anywhere without his trusty whip and fedora; plus, his clothes are on the line. While he might have another pair of clothes, I doubt he has another whip or fedora; so we came to the conclusion that Indy is probably running around the jungle somewhere in the nude. I mean, all the clues are there as though it might have been an in-joke or something. So yeah, onto the rest of the vacation.

  I think we might as well start off with the Disneyland Hotel; you know, the most expensive hotel in the resort? The one that serves as the entrance to the park? That one. If your only planing on coming to Disneyland Paris once, (someday, I will return) then you'd better do it right, and stay here. You're missing out if you don't. You can actually spit into the park it's so close (I haven't tried this myself) and it's magical at the end of the day when you don't have to walk far to catch some z's.

  I am going to bring this post to a close now. While there is more I could cover about the Disneyland Paris trip, the fact of the matter is that it's old news. I need to get cracking on a few new ones since I have just returned from a surprise outing to Disneyland. After a trip report, prepare yourself from S&FS's official compare and contrast of the Disneyland Mansion and the Walt Disney World Mansion.

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