What Big Eyes you Have!

Little Red Riding Hood, Never Never Land, Hill Island, Ontario
A barefood Red Riding Hood & Overall clad Wolf  from  the now defunct Never-Never Land in Hill Island, Ontario. (1967-1980)

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? You might be when you see some of these photos!

Ellicott City, MD
In Ellicott City, MD a vintage postcard shows a living breathing Red Riding Hood on her walk near Grandma’s House at the now defunct Enchanted Forest.

Little Red Riding Hood is a classic European fairy tale that has been frightening children since the 10th century. In it, Red takes a walk through the woods to visit her sick grandmother, and take her some food. The simplicity of the story means that despite its age, it rarely deviates much in theme and language. There is always a little girl in a red hooded cape, a basket of food, and a big bad wolf disguised as grandmother in her bed. (The implication being that the wolf has already consumed dear old grandma as an appetizer and has stolen her nightgown.)

Red enters the house and launches into the memorable exchange with her grandmother:

What big eyes you have!
The Better to see you with, my dear

What big hands you have!
The Better to hold you with, my dear

What big teeth you have!
THE BETTER TO EAT YOU WITH MY DEAR!

Most parks wisely focus on the climax of this conversation and the best ones feature a terrified red riding hood and a scowling wolf.

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In What was formerly Storytown USA (now the Great Escape) Red Riding Hood and the Wolf  are found in Grandma’s filthy concrete bedroom. This 2007 photograph of the scene found on The Tourist Trap almost makes it appear as though Red won the battle! A victorious Red Riding hood stares at guests as a dead looking wolf lies nearby in bed like a hunting trophy. I don’t believe this display still existed when I visited a few years later.

Storyland Red Riding Hood

Over in New Hampshire at Story Land, We are warned by signs notifying us both of the path to Grandma’s house, as well as the wolf spotted in the bed. Red doesnt’ seem to frightened in this one, as Grandma Wolf pants happily. Their eye contact and expression sort of makes it seem like they are catching up after a few weeks away from one another! Maybe we have caught her in her last moments of innocence and she hasn’t yet realized that this is the wolf in disguise.

Story Book Forest RedRidingHood
Storybook Forest in Pennsylvania has signs that also warn of a wolf in the woods,. Another (bearing a wolf illustration) recommends that we take the high road. This sign reminded me of a cartoon, as I imagine that the wolf put it there himself in order to lead Red right to his big teeth! This scene is very effective, despite featuring no Red Riding Hood figure. I believe that the viewer is meant to play the role of Red here, which thrusts you right into the story. As you approach the door of the house, the wolf inside can be seen in bed with one eye open awaiting a delicious morsel!

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Holiday World’s (in Santa Claus, IL) is now known as a coaster destination, but it had its start as both a Santa park and a Kiddie park! Most of their vintage fairytale figures can be seen from the train ride, so of course this is where we found Red and the wolf hiding! This simple scene is also quite effective and features an innocent looking child who appears to be unaware of the sinister wolf lurking a few steps behind her. Though they abandoned the Grandmother disguise motif, I believe that the thoughtful positioning of these two figures convey the mean-spirited nature of this story more than some of the displays with stronger attention to detail.

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At the Enchanted Forest in Old Forge, NY, a brightly colored house from 1956 contains this familiar scene with a smiling mannequin standing in for Red Riding Hood, while a scraggly wolf sits upright in Grandma’s nightgown and cap. The wolf’s neck is so thin, I sort of want him to get something to eat!

Storybookland Red Riding Hood

Finally, my favorite Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf are busy  terrifying children in Egg Harbor, NJ at Story Book Land. The display is newer, but I think that works to its advantage. First, take a moment to appreciate the location of Grandma’s house. Once you walk through the woods, down a winding brick path to a somewhat remote cottage (by tiny kiddie park standards, anyway!) you could be lucky enough to be the only person at the window when these two figures begin to move…that’s right. They move! Audio-animatronic figures retell the story in frightening detail. The wolf blinks, opens his mouth, and grabs at Red Riding Hood with a growl before resetting to scare the next group of kids. This display either mesmerized or horrified children and parents were seen either dragging them toward it or away from it. That alone puts it high on our list!

So, what do you think? Are you afraid of the Big Bad Wolf now?

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Open Sesame-Ali Baba’s Cave at the Enchanted Forest

Fairy tales are part of our shared cultural history. They seem to occupy a part of our subconscious, so it is no surprise that many parks feature derivative sculptures we’ve seen a dozen times before.  Just about every park I’ve been to has their version of a Humpty Dumpty,  Mother Goose, The Old Woman who lived in a shoe, or Jack and the Beanstalk. Most have Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, an Itsy Bitsy Spider, and a Cinderella. Every now and again you’ll see 3 blind mice and Hickory-Dickory dock. That’s why when you stumble onto something you haven’t seen before, it is so exciting! Some might even say it is like wandering into a den of thieves, and finding gold. This is how I felt when I happened upon the Enchanted Forest’s Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Cave.

“Ali Baba found the Cave” 

The cave is at the bottom of a steep incline, set back away from the crowds. I had to wonder if this was intentional, meant to be found only by true treasure hunters. The truth is, It  began to pour just as I saw it in the distance; and it made an excellent shelter to wait out the storm.

“and he beamed with pleasure.
He did battle with forty thieves
to keep the treasure.”

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The attraction itself is small-Just 3 figures are inside, along with a gold chest, and some low lighting by faux candlelight. It was built in 1956, the same year as the park, indicating that it was likely original to the property.

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Apparently, The thieves have returned since then as it appears Ali Baba used to have 4 gold Chests surrounding him based on this 1957 post card photo. It also appears that the 2 other figures may have been added to the scene later, or perhaps moved from another part of the cave.

Ali Baba Postcard

Sadly, times have changed and the Old Forge park now focuses more on its water slides and pools than its history as a Fairy Tale Park. I’m glad they have left these statues for those of us that cherish this part of the park’s story, and I hope you’ll continue to express your interest to the Enchanted Forest so we can keep these statues alive for years to come.

Maybe it was being trapped inside during a rainstorm, or maybe it was the rarity of this scene, but I was so happy to have found the cave and known the password. I’m only aware of two other Ali Baba attractions, and both are now long gone. One was at Fairyland Forest in Conneaut Lake, PA, and the other stood at the Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City Maryland. It does not appear to be among the surviving rescued statues at Elioak Farm.

Here’s another version of the now defunct Fairyland Forest version.

FairylandForestAliBaba

Do you know of any other Ali Baba dioramas out there? Let us know in the comments!

 

Snow White’s Scary Adventures

Although I’m a huge fan of Disney Parks, I haven’t touched too much on them here. I think there’s plenty of coverage of Disney on countless other blogs so we usually prefer to focus on smaller lesser known parks. However, last week I got to visit the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World on opening day of the brand new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I was so thrilled to be among the first riders that we booked our trip just 3 weeks in advance upon the announcement so that we could be there on this ride’s opening date! As much as I love the new coaster, I want to take a moment to honor Snow White’s history in the park and  pay tribute to the little ride that was removed to make way; a creepy dark ride I’d grown to love called Snow White’s Scary Adventures.

I was present at the 2011 D23 Expo in 2011 at the Parks and Resorts presentation where New Fantasyland was announced and was able to see concept art  and ride vehicles for the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I was also fortunate enough to visit the park 6 times during construction of New Fantasyland and see the various phases of construction culminating with the May 28th opening of the coaster.

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Here is some mine train concept art and a vehicle prototype from the 2011 D23 Expo in Anaheim.

In Disney World, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was an original Magic Kingdom attraction that opened along with the park on Oct 1, 1971 and it took riders through the dark for the  next 41 years. The ride went through a few revisions, most notably in 1994, where it became “less scary” and  finally closed  for good on May 31, 2012. There are still three operating versions of the ride at Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Disneyland in California, but each slightly differs from the now defunct ride in Orlando.

As Disney dark rides go, it was scarier than most, though I was never able to ride the pre 94 “scarier” version.  Still, even post revision, the ride included dark forests with terrifying enchanted trees, spooky skeletons, strobe lights, menacing vultures, and riders had at least 7 terrifying encounters with the witch!

If you never got to ride, you can see a ridethrough tribute below.

I wish I’d taken more photos, since I found many of mine to be on the blurry side, but I’m going to share them anyway as this ride took you through strobe lights, and quick turns so at times, what you saw actually was disorienting and blurry!

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The ride stood in Fantasyland, on the left side of the rear entrance of Cinderella Castle (next to Sir Mickey’s).  Above, you can see some of the ride Signage in May 2012 before construction began. The image of the witch handing snow white an apple was painted on a mirror, so you saw the reflection of Fantasyland all around them.
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As you boarded your mine car named after a dwarf (or should we say mine cart?) you got to enjoy the amazing Snow White mural featured on the ride’s facade. I hope that Disney preserved the painting somewhere! The exit featured an ominous image of the wicked queen and a the woodsman painted in the same style.

SnowWhiteScary

Once inside, you took a quick trip through the 1931 movie, where you encountered haunted trees, vultures, and witches! Again, apologies for the blurry shots, but here are some of the scarier elements of the ride interior! As your cart tripped the gag in the forest, the trees would quickly turn toward you scaring the smaller riders in your cart. That forest was downright frightening (and I loved it!)

SnowWhite

Here are a few more shots of the interior and the dwarfs which have (thankfully) been re-purposed in the final scene of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride (The dwarf band can now be seen playing its instruments as the coaster breaks and guests encounter the cottage scene of Snow white dancing with Dopey and Sneezy prior to exiting!) Our vulture friends also made the move and now perch atop the first lift hill on the exterior of the ride.

So that there is no confusion around the location, the Mine train did not replace the Snow White’s Scary Adventures, at least in terms of location. Disney just did not want to devote 2 rides to the same princess in Fantasyland. Here’s a short history of the changes that took place:

In April 2010 Pooh’s Playful spot moved its large tree across the way to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride along with an updated interactive queue. Pooh’s playful place was closed and we now know that this was to make way for the Seven Dwarfs Mine train. In May 2012, Snow White’s Scary Adventures closed permanantly and the building reopened in September 2013 as Princess Fairytale Hall, a princess meet & greet area. (Currently you can wait in 5-6 hour lines to meet the Anna and Elsa from Frozen, if you are so inclined..I was not!)From 2011-2014 construction on the Mine train took place. Disney was kind enough to open little peep holes for curious guests like myself! And those of us willing to bend the rules and climb on benches could sneak a few photos over the construction walls. Here are some shots of the construction.

MineTrainConstructio

Since I was too excited to ride, I barely took any photos, but for an in depth look at the mine ride, visit Inside the Magic’s awesome article or watch this early ridethrough video! I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but if you watch all the way to the end, you’ll see that there is a little nod to the scary side of Snow White.

Disney Parks will always change and update themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled about the new Mine ride. It will surely become a favorite here in Kiddieland, but we’ll always miss the simple charm of a good scare found in Snow White’s Scary Adventures. We hope Californians keep their nostalgia for this ride, and it remains open there, along with other lost Florida attractions. Until then, stay away from poison apples and don’t go running into any dark forests alone.

 

Update: I have just come across this fantastic 1991 light attachment video of Snow White’s Adventures showing the ride pre refurbishment. Definitely employs some classic early dark ride tricks (Did you see that mine car!?) Enjoy!

Please step out to your left. Step out to your left please.

 

Funspot, World’s Largest arcade and Former Home to Storybook Forest

Anyone who has seen the 2007 documentary King of Kong has heard of Funspot in Laconia, New Hampshire. This famous arcade museum now holds the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest arcade in the world with over 600 games! It’s where Billy Mitchell breaks high score records, and if you’re lucky you might even see Steve Weibe reach a Donkey Kong “kill screen“.

I bet what you didn’t know is that at one point Funspot was home to a Storybook park of it’s very own! When Bob Lawton opened the “Weirs Sports Center” in 1952 with $750 borrowed from his grandmother, no one had even heard of video games! In fact, for 25 years, Funspot operated as a family fun center offering little more than a mini golf, a penny arcade, and a snack bar. However, by 1964 Bob had expanded to a larger 21 acre location and renamed his business Funspot. After the expansion, in 1971 they added a new theme park called “Indian Village”. Five years later, Bob opened his first kiddie park, a walk through attraction based on fairy tales, and called it “Storybook Forest”.

storybook forest funspot map

The park featured walkaround characters like the Gingerbread Man and the Big Bad Wolf, fibergass figures made by Peter Hall, and housed a famously gingerbread shaped lake!

FunspotHistory
A promotional video from 1982 shows us everything the park had to offer, including some great shots of Storybook Forest and it’s shows.

By the following year, Indian Village would have closed, followed by the closure of Storybook Forest. Now the only remaining structure from the park is a lone  red schoolhouse which still stands on the property.

But lucky for us, Bob still works at Funspot every day and he respects his history because 60 years of memories can be found on display in the snack bar, the “Braggin’ Dragon“. While you enjoy a slice of pizza or some nachos between games, we encourage you to stroll around the restaurant and take in the history that Bob has lovingly preserved here. You’ll find old park maps, menu boards, costumes, props, and signs from the park’s history. Nearby, you can still find some of Storybook Forest’s figures rescued from the trash heap and on exhibit for the enjoyment of future generations. We never like to see attractions close, but what a wonderful way to pay tribute to a fallen park! Here are some of the items I found on display. (Do you recognize anything?)

Old King Cole, Hansel and Gretel, and the witch, Farmer in the Dell, and the Gingerbread Man costume head are all on display.

Old King Cole, Hansel and Gretel, and the witch, Farmer in the Dell, and the Gingerbread Man costume head are all on display.

Funspot

Closeup of Peter Hall figures, Walk-around Gingerbread Costume head, and some more great signs!

Troll at Funspot

My favorite figure is this evil Frog Troll! (Does anyone know what he’s from?)

Thanks for saving these things for us, Bob! Keep on playing!

 

 

A Horse is a Horse, Of course, Of course.

Ok, I want to preface this post by saying that I have been vegetarian for over 30 years. I love animals. I never want to see one harmed, but I have to share this fact with you. The year is 2014…and you can still see a Diving Horse show in the United States! WHOA.

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Surprised? I was too. Our friends at the Magic Forest continue to keep things bizarre with this throwback attraction that I sincerely thought died in the 1920s.  Apparently not. File this under  “Things you just don’t see anymore”. These are the kinds of attractions we imagine only existed when our great grandmother was alive. We remember seeing them in black and white news reel footage, or photographs in an old book about Steel Pier. In fact, plans to bring a diving horse back to the Jersey Shore were unsurprisingly scrapped in 2012!

Still, I assure you, I’ve seen a diving horse with my own eyes.
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For 37 years, The Magic Forest has had a diving horse show to entertain guests. First there was Rex, who dove for 18 years before going into retirement in the 1990s and living out the rest of his life at the park. Rex was followed by Thunder who has retired but still lives in the park, and now her companion Lightning takes the jump.

Twice a day for 2 months out of the year Lightning is lead up a 60 foot ramp, where he dives 9 feet into a 117,000 gallon pool before his crowd of stunned fans. Lightning then swims to the other side of the pool and gets a well deserved bucket of oats. The show only lasts 2 minutes, but I promise, it is 2 minutes you will never forget.

The park assures visitors that Lightning always jumps on his own, and is never forced to dive. Instead, he’s given positive reinforcement and is treated humanely. From my observation, I believe this to be completely true. Watch this video if you don’t believe me!He almost seems to enjoy the attention. Lightning is something of a celebrity at the park, and aside from the oats, he gets a heaping helping of fanfare from stunned kids and parents alike. He is a real showman and seems to pause and look at his audience before each jump building anticipation, and letting them know “yep, you’re really about to see this go down.”

The first diving horse took flight sometime in the late 1800s and to find one today almost unchanged is a remarkable throwback to a much simpler time in American amusements. Although I was conflicted about the show at first, I am thrilled to have had an opportunity to experience it first hand. So kids, now you know- the last diving horse show is alive in 2014 and if I were you, I’d get yourself to the Adirondack Mountains- and quick- to see it as soon as you can!