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Letters From the Lost World 3/24-3/27

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Letters From The Lost World 3/24-3/27, 1998

I thought some of you might be interested in the following series of letters from a reader and former cast member at Walt Disney World, Sean Ogren. So informative were these letters as to corrections, and new information about the park's operation that Sean is the first official Correspondent from the Lost World. I hope you enjoy these, and take away as much info from them as I have.

The First Letter:

Subject:Regarding your Lost Legacy page
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1998 15:36:47 -0800 (PST)
From: Sean Ogren

Well, I don't know your name or too much about you, but I have to congratulate you on a superbly done page.
A lot of your information brought waves of memories back to me that were quite wonderful to recall.
I worked at the Studios from 1992-1995 serving as a Tour Guide for the Inside the Magic: Special Effects and Production Tour, as well as working crowd control for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Meet the Muppets!, Beauty and the Beast, the Aladdin parade, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground.
Here's the answers to some of your questions:
Yes, Meet the Muppets did run for a brief time at the current sight of Mermaid. It had performers dressed in the first human-sized Muppet costumes that were slightly silly looking. I only saw it once, less than a year after the Studios had opened in 1989, but you're right, it was not all that great. As soon as Mermaid opened they changed the format of the show and moved it outside to the stage behind the present Muppetvision building. There it became the Muppets, still in the same silly costumes, doing lots of showstopping tunes. And during the middle of the show Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, Bean Bunny, and Gonzo would come down for a meet and greet with the guests while the Electric Mayhem played a couple of tunes. Then they went back up onstage to finish the show. All told it was a little less than half an hour long, and they continued running it after 4-D opened. (Thankfully they gave them much better costumes in the summer of '92.) As a matter of fact it ran through most of the summer of '93 before they disbanded it. The set is probably still there however. When you come out of 4-D and head down its exit ramp your headed straight for the old sight. (I haven't been back to the Studios in a couple of years though. So they could very well be using the stage for something else.)
Let's see, just some other general comments.
As much as I love Jeremy Irons leading the guests through Spaceship Earth I sadly miss the original narrator. Do you remember who it was?

At the kingdom, you have of course marked the passing of many greats:
the Magic Shop, the Penny Arcade (dumb dumb dumb), 20K, and the Mickey Mouse Review (one of my childhood favorites), but you have missed one major change made in the last couple of years that has to be one of their gratest blunders. A major event that they used to hold for three nights on the square-side wall of main street station. They've skimmed it down and moved it to a month long unimpressive stretch at the Theatre of the Americas in EPCOT. Do you know what THAT is?
I'm not sure of the exact title, but the original 360 film in tomorrowland was something like Magic Carpet Ride. It was the first 360 film in any of the parks and so innovative for its time, but even my parents, I remember, always found it extremely dull. They were just testing out what they could do with the cameras and taking you around the world to different countries, showing all the big landmarks. It was really a dull precursor to American Journey.
And finally, I am very impressed by your knowledge about the Studio Tour. As I said, that is where I worked from 1992-1995, and my early days there were one of great fun, great pleasure. I was quite upset when they started messing around with the whole system. When I started as a tour guide the tour guide had a much larger role. WE chose all of the volunteers for the water tank and the bee, stayed with our group for all of the SPFX shows and then led them, as you said, through the soundstages, through The Lottery with Better Midler, the making of The Lottery,... and CARRIED ON through video and audio post production (featuring the George Lucas video and extremely funny Pee Wee/Mel Gibson video) and finally to the Walt Disney Theatre for coming attractions. All in all the tour guide was with their tour for a little over an hour. By the time I left in '95 all the tour guide did was meet the tour AFTER SPFX and lead them through Bette and the soundstages to let them out about 15 minutes later on Mickey Avenue. They really took a lot of the personal touch out of the tour. (Even worse than that however was a system they installed for about a month wherein every room had a different tour guide--like shifts. Talk about impersonal. And dull.) I must correct you however. Not only did they NOT stop doing the full tour when Pee Wee had his scandal, but they even brought back the Pee Wee video before eventually shutting down that section of the tour. We were not allowed to play that tape for about a year (it was actually made so we couldn't have played it if we had wanted to, which most of us did). But we still went through Audio post and simply spieled about the bays on our own. Then at the beginning of '94 they began letting us play the Pee Wee video once again, and played to VERY few complaints and much laughter. However, the summer of '94 was the last time anyone would ever see the full production tour. Around the end of June/beginning of July that year they finally closed off post production. I know the time because I was the tour guide who took the last full tour through its walls. The very next day, we began letting all guests out onto Mickey Avenue, and The Making of The Lion King began showing in the Walt Disney Theatre where guests actually entered and exited through the very same doors that used to end a magnificent tour.
AND, last but not least, in reality the tour used to be even longer than you say. During the Studios' first year there was no way to walk from the back of the park to the front. New York Street was closed to guests, The Muppet Courtyard did not exist, nor did Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground OR Mickey Avenue. You boarded the Studio Tour on the red trams near animation, were let off in the Loony Bin Shop, and HAD to take the walking part of the tour to get back to the main section of the park. All told, with the massive lines they used to have when the park opened, it was approximately a 2 1/2 to 3 hour tour! Yeesh!


Anthony's Reply:

Hey Sean,
Something that has been bothering me for a while was during the early 90's I heard of some attractions that were going to be built at MGM, but never seemed to surface. At the time, I don't even remember what I had heard, but I distinctly remember once talking to a CM who told me that the park was only 1/3 complete, and that I was going to see a lot of building in the next few years.

Also, I was always a big fan of the Mickey Mouse Club, and had the pleasure of going to the taping of one of their segments once. Did you ever have a run-in with any of those cast members? I'd really like to hear about that.

Thanks again

P.S Walter Cronkite hosted Spaceship Earth from its opening up to about 1994-5 I think. I loved that ride when you were first going up the ramp, and the announcer said "and here's your host, Walter Cronkite" and he would say in his deep voice, "For Eons, Man has searched for ways to communicate with one another" or something to that effect.

P.P.S And I don't know the name of that show which has been scaled down and moved to the World Showcase in Epcot.

P.P.P.S They went with the staniding room only Monorails to fit more passangers onto the monorails and to ease unloading time.

Sean's Reply:

Subject: Another chapter of the Disney Encyclo-trivia
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 1998 13:48:23 -0800 (PST)
From: Sean Ogren

Okay, not that I have some more extra time at work, let me start by correcting an error in my message yesterday. The remodeling of the cars was not begun AFTER the fire, but had actually been in process for some time before that event. I talked to another former cast member and she gave me that info. She also told me that the reason for the fire was of an electrical nature. The fire, however, was still the obvious cause for the appearance of emergency exits.
Other monorail facts: the original monorail cars held four doors on each side and had a capacity of 60 people where EVERYONE could sit down. The new monorails have a capacity of 80 people but you'll notice that they're almost NEVER filled to capacity even during the busiest times (i.e. park closing). And is that really surprising? I mean you try telling 25-30 people to stand in one half of a car all crammed together like they were on the New York subway AFTER they've already stood in line in the hot sun all day!! So the new monorails actually CARRY the same amount of people. So why the new design a few years back? Well, to ease unloading time is a good probability, and I'm sure you're right. But the main reason for this thinking was wheelchair access. With the old monorails you could only put two wheelchairs on one train. Rather cumbersome. So the new monorails make sense...... but the real problem that still exists is loading time. Do you remember how quick the trip around the lagoon used to take? With the efficiency of the old system, guests could take an entire trip around the lagoon in less than fifteen minutes! Nowadays it can take you nearly 45 minutes to travel all the way around. It's really atrocious if you think about it. Why the delay today? Well, sure, there is the extra stop of the Grand Floridian. But ONE STOP! That should hardly add a half an hour. The problem is the unprofessional attitude of the nearly the entire group of monorail cast members (Not All! There are some wonderful cast members on the monorails, but on the average they're the most lazy and unfriendly of the cast members), but more importantly the problem is the system. Why? Think about it, the new system involves cast members lackadaisically ushering guests to one or more gates to wait for the train, opening up the gates, and then letting the guests choose on their own time which car to get into. Then the train will usually sit in the station for 3 or 4 minutes while other guests slowly board, then the train will leave and almost assuredly sit on the tracks for another two minutes or so between stations because the train in front of them is following the same lazy approach to loading. So with 5 stations at 4 minutes per station, and five expanses of track at 3 minutes for each of those, you end up with at least 35 minutes on the full circle! Not with the old system. Old system: all cast members on the monorails had to be at least 21-the position was one of prestige and everyone therefore loved their job no matter how grueling it could get; it was even more prestigious to be a driver of a train; time spent in each station was -- drum roll please -- one minute! The train pulled in and stopped on its mark, the doors were immediately popped and the passengers got out, as soon as the exiting guests were out of the way the gates were pulled safely aside (making sure not to catch anyone's fingers) and the waiting guests went straight into the train and sat down, a cast member quickly walked down the length of the train checking all doors and, if clear, slamming them closed, the clear was given, the train pulled out! And since every train was on this tight, safe, and efficient schedule - there was rarely any waiting on the tracks. Why, you ask, don't they use this system anymore? Why did they change it? I don't think anyone has a logical answer to those questions. All I know is that every time I sit in the station for 5 minutes I always get a little perturbed. There's no excuse for it.
To answer one of your questions: I don't know about the extra 2/3 of missing Studios yet to be built. The major portion of building, it would seem to me, HAS to have been completed. Do keep in mind that the current park with New York Street and Mickey Avenue access and Sunset Boulevard DOES add those 2/3 to the original parK. As the Studios opened in 1989 with no Mermaid Theatre, no Star Tours, and basically nothing past the Great Movie Ride, The Studio Tour, the Monster Sound Show, and the original Hollywood Bowl, it WAS extrememly small. Where they could possibly put any more attractions I don't know. I'm not sure of what the small extension is that's going in behind The Tower of Terror but whatever it is it's already reached the road across from The Boardwalk AND caused the cast members to have to park at the hotels, any extra space on the left side of Hollywood Avenue will probably be used for the Florida Animation Department, Cat Canyon and the Studio Tour (and I-4) diminish any idea of heading in that direction, and what's on the left side of the park? -- oh gosh, look, it's a big parking lot! So if they are going to expand I would be very interested to see where they try to do so. In my opinion, The Studios is the worst park in terms of setup and expansion possibilities. They were in too much of a damn hurry to open it before Universal opened their Studio that they didn't even think about the logistics of its layout and location. Oh well. It's still fun to visit.
As far as the MMC goes, I knew Josh briefly before he became one of the Mousketeers.
The scaled down show that's now in EPCOT is none other that Disney's Candlelight Service that they used to hold around Christmas time in Town Square and featured the Dickens Carolers (The Voices of Liberty), a "Live Tree" of singing cast members, herald trumpeters on top of the train station, a thousand voice choir, a full orchestra, and some of the most beautiful carol arrangements interwoven into the story of Christmas as narrated by a guest speaker (who over the years was personified by such great voices as George Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, and James Earl Jones!) It was a magnificent piece of entertainment. The epitome of Disney entertainment at its best. And the thousand voice choir was filled by high school choirs from across the country that had to audition to get in, so a vast number of young students got to participate in what was truly a remarkable and memorable experience. And now..... not only is it toned down to fit on the tiny Theatre of the Americas stage, but it's also dragged out to a full month with numerous different speakers, is not as polished, and you have to pay to see it! Dumb, dumb, dumb. They've made a joke of it as far as I'm concerned.

And that's enough ranting for now! If you can't tell, I'm of the general opinion that the Disney of old is vastly superior to the Disney of new. Why? Quality. Not quantity. And when they still strive for quality without sacrificing other already existing pieces of quality, THAT's when I still love them. That's why I still love their films. And I love Tower of Terror. But I believe your right when you say they've gotten too greedy. Just a tad for their own good.

but enough, I said I'd stop ranting. For today anyway.

But one more thing before I go - I am so happy to see that there are others out there that love The Happiest Millionaire! What a wonderful film.

So anyway, have a fortuitious day!


Anthony's Response:

By God, someone else who likes The Happiest Millionare. That is my FAVORITE FILM OF ALL TIME. I think Disney should skip bringing their animated films to broadway, and concentrate on bringing that film there.