Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dragon Troubles | DizLander - 03

Here we have an interesting video about a big Disney event. You can see from the comments that some viewers are suspicious about the authenticity of this film, but I can tell you that everything seen here is absolutely true. I was employed at Disneyland during this period, and I was at the Riverbelle Terrace Restaurant next to the Fantasmics venue every night. Behold the simple facts...

Most people hired at Disneyland are lifelong fanatics so you can't be surprised to learn that just about anybody who works there is obsessed with every little detail about what happens in this magical land. When you are approved as a new Disney employee, you get to see a list of what the other people said when they applied. You will read things like, "I've loved all things Disney my whole life," or, "I want to make people happy," or, "I just need to be part of the magic." People work at Disney because they love it.

I had been there for a few months, and I remember finishing work around midnite, passing by the big Cast Member's wardrobe building, and I saw a newbie approaching who said, "Wow, that's a great bag," because I had a "Nightmare before Christmas" backpack with Jack Skelton's skull face on it. I said "Thanks," and for a moment we stood there looking at each other. 
He was suddenly overcome with sincere emotion, and gushed, "Look at us, working at friggin' Disneyland. Oh my God, we get to come here whenever we want. What could possibly be cooler than that? How lucky are we? Isn't this fantastic?"

I wholeheartedly agreed with him, but as a jaded employee I was compelled to say, "Yeah, but the novelty wears off pretty quick. After all, it's just a job." And then I passed him, hurrying to get home. However, I immediately regretted saying that. I really wish I'd told him, "Hell yeah! This is absolutely awesome, dude. We get to come to Disneyland for free every fuckin' day and they actually PAY US to be here! This is heaven on Earth, buddy, and don't you ever forget it! Hoo-yah!! We're living the supreme dream, amigo. Enjoy every minute of it!"

Those of us who have been there during the holidays -- such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, and especially Christmas -- can recall special times when we were privileged to witness amazing secrets that are only revealed to Disney employees. That's when we are free to visit attractions without the filter of extreme special effects. For instance, we can see "Peter Pan's Flight" as it appears fully illuminated in normal light, or walk back stage at "The Haunted Mansion" to get an up close and personal view of every incredibly detailed exhibit.

It is at times like these when the Park briefly shuts down and Cast Members giddily run free with no paying guests to interfere, and operators of attractions happily allow fellow employees to experience the shows as no one else will ever witness them -- with no ultraviolet effects or clever illusions. We can see thru the imagineered falsehoods to behold what is really there, and it's all totally awesome.

Eyewitness to Disney History: First Appearance of New Fantasmic Dragon

While working at Disneyland on this special night, I beheld the first appearance of this magnificent creature from the River Belle restaurant next to the Fantasmic show. I carefully pretended to be working, but I was actually checking out the new dragon -- and so were all my coworkers.

This formidable behemoth was expected to begin performing in June 2009 for the Summer crowds, but a variety of technical problems had delayed its appearance for quite awhile.

Our spies (fellow employees who stayed after hours to watch the secret 3:00 am experiments) whispered about the many problems the animatronic teams were having with this beast. The long neck had a tendency to collapse into the torso, and the flame-throwing mouth could easily set fire to nearby onlookers.

Personally, I was surprised that Disney could only afford to make one robot, and they didn't have another back-up copy. Honestly, it's almost as easy & cheap to make two robots as it is to make one, and even if you don't need the backup, at least you'll have a source for spare parts in the future...

But it seemed like nobody ever listened to me. I often offered detailed plans to improve things at Disneyland, but nobody ever followed up on my advice. Finally I realized that this was not because I had bad ideas, but the supervisors realized my suggestions would reduce tasks for their Cast Members, and they themselves would have to work harder to keep everyone busy when things were slow. So be it...

Back to the Fantasmic Maleficent Dragon... All of us Cast Members had been nervously looking forward to this grand debut, and for many weeks we had been told that tonight would be the night... but it never happened. Some said the dragon wouldn't be ready until the Christmas season, if we were lucky. Finally, unbelievably, this problematical robot took its first impressive bow. And I was there to see it...

Older Version of the Dragon

You will note in this video that the dragon does not breathe fire on its first day, tho it routinely did so in later showings. This debut performance was just to prove that the robot could behave as expected without killing anybody... and that dangerous possibility was a real concern. A catastrophe could very well have occurred, considering the multiple difficulties that had plagued this attraction for months. 

I had heard that one of the trickiest problems to overcome was the flame-throwing capacity. The earliest test rehearsals revealed trouble with the fire-into-the-crowd factor, and this required meticulous adjustments. They were afraid that the dragon would literally incinerate people, so that needed to be monitored very carefully.

Fortunately, this big night occurred without a problem. I was excited to be there on that special nite, and I was also happy to tell my daughter, Elora, about this big historical moment. She was also working that at Disneyland on that nite, but she was a cashier at WOD (the World of Disney store) in Downtown Disney. I finished up at my job at 10:PM, and went Downtown to meet her at the California Hotel where she exited her chores after 11:PM.

Later we would drive home together, but first I told her about the big Dragon debut as we were leaving the hotel, and some passing tourists overheard us. They said, "Hey, we got the dragon. Want to see?" So Elora and I watched their SmartPhone video of the Dragon's first appearance, and Elora was absolutely thrilled to see it. I wished I had told these people that it was the first historic appearance of this new animatronic miracle, but I forgot to inform them about that. Oh well, maybe they figured it out later...

So, soon TV was carrying commercials for this new Fantasmic extravaganza. Like this one...

And on one particular evening, I had a chance to make a big difference in a little girl's life. I figured out that she had been honestly terrified by this commercial, and it became my solemn job to put her mind at ease... I will always remember this as the moment when I made the biggest difference as a Cast Member, and it was at this time that I truly earned my ears.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Best of Early Email - 07

The Simple Life 
These pics are from a PowerPoint email attachment that made its way into almost everybody's inboxes in 2005-2006. At 56 pages it was a bit too long so I trimmed it down to the best 40 images.
For more like this, go to  Best of Early Email - 01  &  - 02  &  - 03  &  - 04  &  - 05  &  - 06

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Graphic Novel in Progress - 07

Unfinished Science Fiction Adventure Series
Story & Art by Grady Lyda

I got these Japanese movable models at a SciFi convention in the 1980s, and then I painted, assembled, and decorated them... They served as useful reference material to design mechanical Time Travel suits for my ongoing story, "Forever Endeavor"


TOC Suit - For more details see PDF: Suit Equipment Labels

For more like this, go to  In Progress - 01  &  02   03   04   05   06