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
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!
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.
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.
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
As far as the MMC goes, I knew Josh briefly before he became one of
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
So anyway, have a fortuitious day!
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.