The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

October 25, 2013

Disneyland Facts that are Not True: The Complete Collection (so far)

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:01 am

Update 4/24/14:  A few more of these have been posted from other recent visits to Disneyland.  Please see this post for some more Disneyland Facts that are Not True.

Yes, I am aware that posting has been light again recently.  I’ve actually got a more substantial post on the way soon, but it’s looking at this point like that will be coming sometime next week.  In the meantime, I’ve been meaning to consolidate all of my various Disneyland Facts that are Not True into one place, which will be this post.  For a bit of explanation of what you’re reading here, when me and my friends make trips to Disneyland (which happens quite a bit these days, since we have Annual Passes now and a place to stay when we go down, which makes it relatively inexpensive for us to go)  I try to post one of these for each day we spend in the parks.  As the title says, none of these are actually true, but as we go through the parks we have a tendency to make up our own little stories about things, and over time a sort of improvised fiction comes out of it, and occasionally even manages to stick (whenever we go on Pirates of the Caribbean we still debate whether the real-water version or the fake-water version was better, for example.)  Sometimes these come out of various incidents that might occur.  Sometimes they just sound ridiculous enough to be vaguely plausible.  Other times I just decide to make things up out of thin air in a (usually futile) effort to sound like I know what I’m doing.  Either way, sometimes it’s just more fun to make things up than to talk about real ones, so here you go.

And yes, you may have seen some of these before, either in earlier Blog Posts or on my Facebook feed if you happen to be on that.  Mostly I just wanted to consolidate all of them into one place for future reference (although I have no idea why the heck I’d ever need to refer back to any of these.)  Anyway, without further ado…

Disneyland Facts That Are Not True:

  • Due to declining bird population, most birds in the skies over Disneyland are now animatronics that fly around the park on pre-programmed flight paths throughout the day. Occasionally one wanders away from the park; if you find one and return it, you will be rewarded with a free churro on your next visit to the parks.
  • In order to avoid having to put a State of California Proposition 65 warning on the ride, in 2007 all of the water in Pirates of the Caribbean was removed and replaced with an innovative new nitrogen-based substitute fluid. Most people do not notice any difference between regular water and N-273 (the less-than-inspiring code name of the new substance), but Disney junkies endlessly debate whether the real-water version is better than the fake water version on Internet forums. Ironically, if water gets into the “water”, they have to take the ride offline for cleanup. Real boats would sink in this substance, so the boats had to be specially modified.
  • As a show of Disney’s commitment to alternative energy, King Arthur’s Carrousel has recently been converted to be powered by four oxen.  A herd of twenty-four oxen have recently joined the horses, goats, sheep and other livestock that live at the Circle D Ranch just outside the park’s outer perimeter.  Teams of oxen work three-hour shifts during the day to power the Carrousel,  A recent report cited a reduction in energy usage by the ride of nearly 40% since this was implemented, prompting Disney to consider the use of similar animal-powered propulsion systems for the Mad Tea Party ride.
  • In order to move the phases of the Moon to a more convenient time for photo-taking opportunities within the parks, Disney has created an artificial moon over California Adventure which keeps its phases eight days out of alignment from the real moon, but can also be modified on the fly as necessary. On October 27th 2005, the fake moon malfunctioned, and for roughly three hours there were two separate moons over the park.
  • Although many theories have been made about the origins of the name of Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33, the club received its name from the fact that when it opened in 1967, the cost of a meal at the club was $33. Among the many special benefits that Club 33 members enjoy is the fact that they are each allowed to bring home up to six of the park’s feral cats each year.
  • For a number of years, among Disney Cast Members there has been an underground “scene” devoted to tuning and customizing Autopia cars. Twice a year after hours, they hold races on the Autopia to determine whose car is fastest. The current record was set in 2008 with a time of 2 minutes 28 seconds, with a top speed of 11.78 miles per hour. Unofficially, a car in 2003 reached a blistering 18 miles per hour on the main straightaway, but was disqualified when an illegal nitrous system was discovered.
  • As a cost saving measure, several of the floats used in the parks’ iconic daily parades are built on top of riding lawnmowers. This allows them to be repurposed to mow lawns throughout the park when Disney creates a new parade. In order to make sure guests do not find out about this, they only mow lawns in the parks late at night.
  • In 2009, the American Chiropractic Association honored the Matterhorn Bobsleds with their coveted Amusement Ride of the Year award, in recognition of its 50 years of exemplary contributions to the Chiropractic profession.

  • Since the mid Nineties, Disney has had a genetic engineering program devoted to creating topiary bushes that grow into and maintain specified shapes (programmed into the plants’ DNA) with little to no maintenance. A number of the simpler topiaries on It’s a Small World have now been replaced by these modified bushes.  Disney has been tight-lipped about the program, but current rumors suggest that maintenance costs of the plants in Fantasyland have been reduced by at least 27% through the use of the self-shaping shrubs.  The topiary buffalo found near the ride, planted in 2008, represents the current state of the art in self-shaping bushes, and has been replaced on at least three occasions with newer (and more advanced) versions since the program began.
  • Anyone who has been visiting Disneyland for long enough knows that the old Mine Train ride Through Nature’s Wonderland was replaced in 1979 by the much more thrilling Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but few people know that the creation of BTMRR was prompted by an accidental discovery of a significant deposit of rare earth minerals underneath Nature’s Wonderland in 1975. As the ride was being built, a small but productive mining operation was commenced several hundred feet below the attraction, and continues to this day. For most of the past year the ride has been closed, ostensibly to facilitate a replacement of the tracks, but in addition to the work above ground, an exploratory shaft is currently being dug toward the Matterhorn in hopes of finding even larger deposits.
  • Although the Haunted Mansion is widely advertised to house 999 Happy Haunts (with room for 1,000,) in reality Disney’s internal standards allow for a variance of plus or minus two percent on any given day to account for scheduling conflicts or other issues that might arise among the attraction’s spook population. Although they do manage an exact count of 999 on most days, the Mansion can be considered to be operating normally with as few as 980 Happy Haunts or as many as 1,019. On March 14th 2009, a mishap in scheduling resulted in a record 1,143 Happy Haunts inside the Mansion for a short period of time before the problem was discovered by cast members and the ride brought down to rectify the problem.
  • In July of 2009, the Captain Jack Sparrow animatronic in the final scene of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride suffered a major malfunction. Rather than risk extended downtime to the ride during one of the busiest parts of the year to make repairs, Disney hired Johnny Depp to replace the broken animatronic in the ride for three days. He did such a good job of staying in character that the ruse was not discovered until several weeks later by Disneyphiles reviewing YouTube videos of the ride and noticing discrepancies in the motions compared to the existing figure.  To this day, Disney denies that this ever happened.
  • Although it is rarely seen by park guests, there is in fact an alternate path on the Indiana Jones Adventure ride that does not lead you to the Gates of Doom. Naturally, you get there by not looking into the Eye of Mara, which is nearly impossible to get 12 tourists on a ride car to cooperate on at once. If you are fortunate enough to reach this alternate path there will not be untold riches or eternal youth, but you may get free t-shirts, snacks, Disney gift cards or possibly even free admission to the park. Naturally, the ride is considerably shorter than normal along this alternate path.  In order to minimize operating costs, Disney does not advertise the existence of this alternate path, and swears all who manage to find it to secrecy.
  • In spite of the fact that the new version of Star Tours has been running since 2011, this has had little effect on protracted litigation that has been ongoing since at least 1992 between the Walt Disney Company and Reubens Robotic Systems, manufacturers of the notoriously unreliable RX-series pilot droids that led to numerous incidents in the original version of the ride. Although this has become a well known case study in many prestigious law schools, no resolution to the ongoing case is expected anytime soon.
  • A recent deal between Disney and Starbucks has recently resulted in a brand new Starbucks location being opened in the former Market House on Main Street USA, as well as the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe which opened along with Buena Vista Street in California Adventure last year. In keeping with Starbucks’ standard expansion strategies, there are currently plans for at least 12-18 more locations within Disneyland Park to be opened by 2016, and another eight planned for California Adventure.

  • Visitors to the Disneyland Resort soon become aware of the green tape is used by cast members to make improvised queues as needed for rides, shows and other various purposes. What they may not be aware of is that this tape is the product of years of research by Disney Imagineering. The current version in use in the parks was introduced in 2011, and represents some the very latest innovations in adhesive technology. Shortly after the new version of the tape was introduced, a cast member on his last day on the job decided to randomly create a queue out of the green tape in the middle of Fantasyland. Such is the power of the green tape that the improvised queue attracted as many as 300 visitors, some of whom spent nearly an hour  waiting before they finally managed to figure out that they weren’t actually in line for anything.
  • As a result of the recent government shutdown for lack of a budget, the National Parks Service advised Disney that they must shut down the Grand Canyon diorama along the Disneyland Railroad between Tomorrowland and Main Street USA until the government was back in operation. Orange cones were hastily placed along the route, and during the shutdown guests were being advised to look in the opposite direction as the train passed by the diorama. Naturally, little actual enforcement of this edict happened, and most visitors just assumed that the cones were there for maintenance purposes.
  • Although haunting duties at the Haunted Mansion are typically handled by a team of roughly 1,550 rotating Happy Haunts (typically 999 at a time, give or take a handful,) for three months out of the year the Haunted Mansion becomes the Haunted Mansion Holiday, a Nightmare Before Christmas version of the mansion that requires far fewer spooks to operate than the standard version. During this time of year, several hundred Happy Haunts are assigned to other attractions throughout the park, including It’s a Small World, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and even the Matterhorn on occasion. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of this policy takes place on the Autopia, where during HalloweenTime you can opt to let a ghost do the driving for you by controlling only the gas pedal in the car. Naturally, the ghost drivers aren’t very good at it.

October 11, 2013

Too much magic? Maybe.

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Brian Lutz @ 9:39 am

Last night I was visiting with my siblings at my parents’ house since my brother was in town for a few days, and my sister made the observation that lately it seems like I haven’t been doing anything but working or going on vacation.  To be perfectly honest, I think she has a point on that one.  It does seem like I’m either spending way too much time at work or I’m not spending much time at work at all.  I can’t remember the last time I actually worked a regular 40-hour week, since I seem to be either working well in excess of that (including weekends on occasion) or being out for a day or two.  In the end it all seems to even out, and even with plans to take two whole weeks off in December. I still suspect I will be pretty close to the standard 2,080 hours that comprise a year of 40-hour work weeks. 

I’m fortunate to work at a place that allows the flexibility to travel as much as I do, even if I do occasionally end up working long hour.  One of the people I work with on my current project actually spent a month in Europe visiting family recently, then got back here and promptly got sent to England for work for two weeks, came back, then got sent over again.  Another one got sent to Japan for several weeks as well.  So far I haven’t had to do any business travel in my job,  but I suspect it’s a matter of time at this point.

As often seems to be the case, I’m writing this on an airplane, taking my typical Friday morning flight down to LA for yet another weekend at Disneyland.  Yeah, I know I seem to be spending an awful lot of time there lately, but given how much I’ve spent on my annual passes, I figure I should try to get as much use out of the things as I possibly can.  I don’t I would be able to visit nearly as often as I do if I didn’t have friends whose parents generously allow us to stay at their condo in Orange County when we go down there, thus saving us the cost of hotels.  As long as we have that available, we can do a trip for a few days for basically the cost of plane tickets, a rental car, food and incidentals.  Granted, all that can still add up pretty quickly (there’s still no such thing as a cheap Disney trip unless you’re a local) and the whole thing is entirely dependent on having an Annual Pass ($650 for the premium one when me and my friend bought them, $670 now) but add long as you’re spreading out the costs of that over several trips, even that becomes cheaper in the long run.

But perhaps the biggest effect of having the annual pass is that it completely changes the way you do Disneyland.  The last trip me and my friend took a couple of months ago was nothing like some of the other trips I’ve been on.  Neither of us was inclined to bother rushing to do anything.  We didn’t really care if we got to do every ride and see everything.  We didn’t bother rushing to your drop or staying excessively late to cram in the last couple of rides.  There are some obsessive planner types who would consider a trip like that up be a total waste, but to be honest, that was one of the best trips to Disneyland that I’ve been on.  Given the fact that this trip will be with a much larger group, I’m not sure how this one will turn out, but it should still be interesting.

October 3, 2013

Yet Another Stupid Idea: Pop Culture for the Easily Distracted (or I Want my ADDTV!)

Filed under: Culture, Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:36 am

One of the main challenges I have with this Blog is trying to come up with a steady stream of good ideas for things to write about.  Naturally, this is a lot harder to do than it looks.  After all, there are only so many dead shopping malls I can write depressing travelogues about around here, and most of them are taken (although I do really need to do some followup posts one of these days.)  In fact, it’s pretty common for me to be pretty much out of good ideas at any given time.  Because of this, I am getting ready to resort to plan B:  Bad ideas.  I’m pretty sure I’m not going to run out of those anytime soon.

Over the past few weeks, one of the things I’ve watched with unusual interest is all the hype on the Internet surrounding the final season (or half-season, as the case may be) of Breaking Bad.  As it has transpired over the course of the past eight weeks, I’ve seen no end of analysis, theories, speculation and other assorted discussion  running rampant all over the Internet.  After each episode, detailed summaries of the plot were plastered across the Internet in numerous places, and dissected in great detail by commenters.  People practically wrote entire dissertations trying to figure out how to interpret what happened and speculate on what hidden meaning might be behind it.  Eventually, it seemed like virtually everyone had some theory as to what was going to happen in the end (mine was something along the lines of Walter going out in a big “everyone ends up dead” style shootout and the big pile of money getting set on fire and burning to ashes, which turned out to be kind of semi-accurate but not really.)  The conclusion came this past Sunday as the final episode aired, and now with the full story told, people seem to be speculating endlessly on what it all meant, and how it’s supposed to be interpreted.  It was interesting to watch how Breaking Bad went from being considered a reasonably good cable drama to being a must-see show in its final season, to becoming almost a cultural phenomenon of sorts as the final episodes aired.  There’s really only one problem with the whole thing as far as I am concerned:  I can’t be bothered to actually watch any of it.

For reasons that I’ve discussed in previous posts on similar subjects, I just can’t be bothered to actually watch most TV, movies or sports these days.  That isn’t to say that I’m not interested in it, just that in most cases I’m not interested enough in it to actually watch it.  Lately, I find that I’ve all but completely stopped watching TV, and although my overall movie viewership is up over the past couple of years from the virtually zero that it used to be, I still don’t watch all that many movies.  Even for sporting events I typically don’t bother watching at all, and just look up the scores later.  I must also confess that on more than one occasion I’ve excused myself for a restroom break during a movie in the theater and used the time to look up a plot summary for the movie I’m currently watching on Wikipedia.  Yeah, I know, spoilers and things like that, but to be honest, spoilers just don’t bother me.  As I’ve said before on this Blog, I have basically no ability to suspend disbelief, so I tend to take most movies at face value.  Knowing what’s coming next doesn’t really affect that, and as long as I’m not spoiling it for anyone else I don’t see much harm in doing it.  But I digress.

I suspect that a lot of the speculation and rumor that has surrounded Breaking Bad over the past couple of months is coming from the types of people who couldn’t stand the thought of writing a book report back in high school, yet probably didn’t realize that they were practically doing just that without even the prospect of being able to get any credit for it. Although I seriously doubt that any of the classic literature being studied endlessly in high schools around the world is at risk of being replaced by television dramas anytime soon (for one thing, I seriously doubt you could get the average teenager to sit still for 62+ hours of anything, much less if they were going to end up being graded on it)  I doubt all the interest in this type of thing is going unnoticed among the academic community.  I suspect it’ll be a matter of time before some random college out there is offering a credit class on Breaking Bad (and somehow I don’t think it’s going to be a chemistry class.)  And yet, I wonder just how many of those people speculating on the Internet are in the same boat as I am, watching the whole thing from a distance but not actually partaking in any of it?  There’s an entire subculture on the Internet that seems to thrive on this type of thing (although Breaking Bad is the latest and perhaps most visible example to date, a similar phenomenon can be seen around many other popular shows, with Game of Thrones being another prime example) but there’s no way that all of them are actually watching the shows all the time.  Even the Breaking Bad finale got only around 10.2 million viewers, good for only about #82 on this list of the most watched TV series finales (For comparison, the two season premiere episodes of The Big Bang Theory shown last Thursday on CBS each had nearly twice as many viewers.)  Although those numbers don’t account for people watching on DVRs, I suspect that a lot of the interest is coming from people who aren’t actually watching the show.  This is where my bad idea comes in.

It’s when you start to think phenomenon in terms of sports that it all starts to make sense.  On a typical Sunday during the NFL regular season there can be as many as 14 games being played, and the average fan with the average TV setup would be hard pressed to actively watch more than 3 of those games, and they can sort of watch maybe 5 or 6 games if they flip around the channels.  The problem with all that flipping around is that a game like football has a lot of dead time in between plays, not to mention about half a zillion commercial breaks per game.  And there’s always the nagging sense that while you’re sitting there watching the refs stare into their replay box as they deliberate a coaches challenge on one channel, something exciting could be happening on another one.  You could see how someone could be driven to distraction pretty easily by the whole thing.  Fortunately, the NFL has figured this out already and come up with their own solution: NFL RedZone.  RedZone is a cable network that basically distills an entire Sunday’s worth of NFL action into a single channel, switching around between games just when things start getting exciting.  Last year Rembert Browne of ESPN sister site Grantland wrote a fascinating article about spending a Sunday in the RedZone studio and seeing firsthand just how much effort goes into trying to distill a Sunday’s worth of NFL action into a readily digestible form.  When you think about it, it’s basically the ADD version of football.  Why not do the same thing with other television?

Granted, the TV version of this type of thing wouldn’t necessarily need to be an eight-hour live studio broadcast with teams of dedicated people scouring the airwaves for juicy little tidbits during prime time.  I’m thinking of something more along the lines of a Sportscenter type highlight show for television, with assorted commentary and analysis thrown in for good measure.  Of course the big-name shows would get most of the airtime (in much the same way that the more important games get most of the airtime in a sports highlight show) but they would still have the flexibility to put stuff from other shows in.  Naturally, most of the show would be composed of highlight reels from the shows being covered, covering all the interesting bits from the latest episodes while leaving out most of the filler.  This way, in an hour (or two, if a network has enough good shows) someone can get their pop culture fix for the week and know all they need to know to overanalyze and/or speculate wildly about whatever show happens to require overanalysis or excessive speculation at any given time.  And then they have the rest of their week free to just ignore the TV.

Naturally, there’s no way the networks would actually go for this kind of thing, since they’re kind of dependent on having people watch the actual shows to sell advertising and make money.  For some odd reason, the various studios and networks haven’t had much luck trying to monetize random speculation about their shows from people on the Internet speculating about their stuff without actually watching it.  Just ask the producers of Sharknado how well that one has been working out for them (although to be fair I did actually manage to watch a decent portion of that one when it aired.  Best comedy of the year, by far.)  Ideally, I could see something like this being best done by a third-party network in order to keep the whole thing from turning into an exercise in slobbery self-promotion, but if something like this ever happened it would probably be the individual networks doing it with their own shows (and yes, any network actually crazy enough to do something like this would probably find it necessary to hire a number of new executives dedicated to doing nothing but meddling with this show all day.)

In other words, there’s no way it’s ever going to happen, at least not in any sort of useful form.  But it would certainly be a lot more convenient than actually watching television, wouldn’t it?

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