The Sprats, a real fairy tale couple we can aspire to on Valentine’s Day

 

JackSpratt Valentine

Love is in the air, but in fairy tales, there are not frequently couples we can aspire to.

When you think about fairy tales and romance, you might first think of innumerable princess stories. However, in them, you will find dark themes hiding beneath the surface. Many of these stories were cleaned up by Disney in order to make them more palatable to a 20th century audience, but these original stories are riddled with jealousy, attempted murder, poisoning, and abusive families. Perhaps the most blatant example of “what not to do” in a relationship is the tale of the imprisoned  and abused wife of Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater!

In these romance stories, physical beauty is revered, while those possessing inner strength are often locked away and forgotten to toil on backbreaking chores. If one theme holds constant, it is that in the end, only the most beautiful, and pure princesses find mates.

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Thinking about this, I found myself searching for a realistic couple I could respect in the fairy tale world. I wanted a pair that exhibited unconditional love for one another, and whose traits make them complete partners by virtue of their opposite strengths. I came to the unexpected realization that maybe this ideal couple is not the most obvious husband and wife. They weren’t beautiful, or wealthy. They weren’t refined. In fact, in all of my travels, I’ve only encountered one (somewhat terrifying) interpretation of them at the Magic Forest.  (Though while researching this post, I did locate a second example at Rock City’s Fairyland Caverns in Chatanooga-Which is going on the list of future visits!)

I digress, the couple in question is Jack Sprat and his wife, Joan. For you scholars, there are additional lyrics to the rhyme, (though most of us only know the first stanza pictured above). I’ve included the song in its entirety at the end of this post. There are several interpretations of this tale, with some believing it is a reference to King Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Others believe it is actually referencing Richard I.

Ignoring British history, let’s read this purely as a children’s rhyme. We get to know Jack and Joan only through one short verse, but it is clear that they work in tandem to accomplish their goals (as most successful marriages do!)  Jack and Joan make due with what they have, always ensuring that the other is cared for.  Throughout the rhyme they both have enough to eat and consistently demonstrate their love one another (just as they are).

In a comedic, but romantic gesture, after they are married, Joan is too fat for the carriage, so without judgement or hesitation, Jack wheels her home in a wheelbarrow. The plump wife, and skinny husband seem perfectly paired. When trouble befalls Joan upon falling out of the wheelbarrow, Jack is first concerned for her safety. Once settled into their roles, Joan brews beer and cooks dinner; while time and time again we see Jack portrayed as a doting husband who makes sure Joan’s clothes are mended, and her belly is full. We see him hunt ducks and buy her anything she needs. Despite the mundane life they seem to lead, we even see two embark on international travel together, while their little cat has adventures of his own.

You’ll find no beautiful princesses here, and no dashing princes. Just two simple people sharing a life together, and there’ something quite admirable about that.

For the full picture of the Jack and Joan Sprat’s life, I encourage you to read their entire story in these lesser known verses below. The thing I love about this is that even though we see both of them fail and make foolish mistakes, their love for one another stays constant. Despite the odds, the love and respect for one another never falters.

THE LIFE OF JACK SPRAT, HIS WIFE, AND HIS CAT.

This one ear’d Cat,
Belongs to Jack Sprat.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean,
And so between them both,
They lick’d the platter clean ;

Jack eat all the lean,
Joan eat all the fat,
The bone they pick’d it clean,
Then gave it to the cat

When Jack Sprat was young,
He dressed very smart,
He courted Joan Cole,
And he gained her heart ;

In his fine leather doublet,
And old greasy hat,
O what a smart fellow-
Was little Jack Sprat.

Joan Cole had a hole.
In her petticoat,
Jack Sprat, to get a patch
Gave her a groat ;
The groat bought a patch,
Which stopp’d Joan’s hole,

I thank you, Jack Sprat,
Says little Joan Cole.

Jack Sprat was the bridegroom,
Joan Cole was the bride,
Jack said, from the church
His Joan home should ride ;
But no coach could take her,
The lane was so narrow,
Said Jack, then I’ll take her
Home in a wheel-barrow.

Jack Sprat was wheeling
His wife by a ditch,
The barrow turn’d over,
And in she did pitch ;
Says Jack, she’ll be drown’d,
But Joan did reply,
I don’t think 1 shall,
For the ditch is quite dry.

Jack brought home his Joan,
And she sat on a chair,
When in came his cat,
That had got but one ear,
Says Joan, I’m come home puss,
Pray how do you do,
The cat wagg’d her tail,
And said nothing but mew.

Jack Sprat took his gun,
And went to the brook,
He shot at the drake,
But he kill’d a duck,
He brought it to Joan,
Who a fire did make,
To roast the fat duck,
While Jack went for the drake.

The drake was a swimming,
With his curley tail,
Jack Sprat came to shoot him,
But happen’d to fail ;
He let off his gun,
But missing his mark

The drake flew away,
Crying, quack, quack quack.

Jack Sprat, to live pretty,
Now bought him a pig,
It was not very little,
It was not very big,
It was not very lean,
It was not very fat,
It will serve for a grunter,
For little Jack Sprat.

Then Joan went to market,
To buy her some fowls,
She bought a jackdaw
And a couple of owls;
The owls they were white,
The jackdaw was black,
They’ll make a rare breed,
Says little Joan Sprat.

Jack Sprat bought a cow,
His Joan for to please,
For Joan she could make
Both butter and cheese,
Or pancakes, or puddings,
Without any fat,
A notable housewife
Was little Joan Sprat.

Joan Sprat went to brewing
A barrel of ale,
She put in some hops
That it might not turn stale
But as for the malt,
She forgot to put that,
This is sober liquor,
Says little Jack Sprat,

Jack Sprat went to market,
And bought him a mare,
She was lame of three legs,
And as blind as a bat,
Her ribs they were bare,
For the mare had no fat,
She looks like a racer,
Says little Jack Sprat.

Jack and Joan went abroad,
Puss took care of the house,
She caught a large rat
And a very small mouse,
She caught a small mouse
And a very large rat,
You are an excellent hunter,
Says little Jack Sprat.

Now I have told you the story
Of little Jack Sprat,
Of little Joan Cole,
And the one ear’d cat.
Now Jack has got rich.
And has plenty of pelf,
If you’d know any more,
You may tell it yourself.

Here’s to all the really real couples out there that are taking care of each other and making sure their loved ones stay fed and happy!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

When Dinosaurs Fought In The Civil War

Between 1861 and 1865 the bloodiest battles in US history were fought on American soil during the American Civil War. For more than four violent years, armies fought and died after 11 Southern Confederate states seceded from the United States of America over the right to own slaves. After 750,000 American citizens died, combat finally ended with the abolition of slavery and surrender by the Confederate army. But what if something else had happened?

Try then, to imagine that 200 million years earlier (on land that would come to be known by us as a historic Civil War battlefield) massive dinosaurs walked on the same ground fighting their own bloody battles for survival.

Leave it to the imagination of Mark Cline to show us what things might look like had these two events taken place concurrently.  In his now defunct attraction Escape from Dinosaur Kingdom (2005-2012), visitors could see what might have transpired had the Union army captured and used carnivorous dinosaurs as weapons against the Confederate troops!

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Located in Natural Bridge, VA’s tourist complex, Cline had created four unique and separate attractions. Visitors could stop to his free sculptural attraction “Foamhenge” (a true to scale Styrofoam replica of Stonehenge), the could “Hunt Bigfoot with a Redneck” (I’ll give you one guess who the Redneck was!) and they could walk through his beloved Haunted Monster Museum (which turned out to be one of our most popular Enchanted Kiddieland posts!). Included with your value price 2 for 1 admission to the Monster Museum, you also got to travel back to 1863 and visit his imaginative”Dinosaur Kingdom.”

Already an expert after building more than 400 dinosaurs for roadside attractions and theme parks, Cline knew that his Dino park would need to be different if it was going to stand out. valley-of-gwangi-pic-3Lucky for us, he possesses an incredible imagination and an even more powerful sense of humor! The park’s concept is loosely based on the 1969 Ray Harryhausen film, Valley of the Gwangi, (Which pits cowboys against dinosaurs in a special effects Dynamation spectacular!)

Cline imagined a similar scene substituting cowboys with Union Soldiers as villains who use the Dinosaurs as weapons against the South (after all, this attraction is in the former Confederate state of Virginia!) Before you get too upset about the political ramifications of the south winning the Civil War, Cline has stated that he had hoped to build a second Civil War dinosaur park in Gettysburg wherein the Confederate soldiers are the bad guys. Regrettably, that dream never came to fruition.

Dinosaur Kingdom begins its storytelling through journals violently strewn about a campsite with pots and pans, and overturned wagons. By reading the notebooks, visitors can surmise that a family of paleontologists entered a cave in search of fossils only to find living dinosaurs that had escaped (and were now being used by the North to win the war!)! You can see the civilian mother and father Garrison danging precariously in the trees above the sharp teeth of a hungry carnivore.  Dinosaur Kingdom

As guests entered the self guided wooded park, they’d hear the sounds of nature; sticks cracking under shoes and birds- but beyond this, was the omnipresent laughter of children (and adults!) as they were welcomed into wacky the mind of Mark Cline for a short while. A button with a hand painted sign reading “Feeding Time” begs to be pushed, only to discover that you are standing directly beneath the motorized jaws of a hungry T Rex and a dangling deer carcass! A sign tacked to a tree warned “Don’t Look Up!”, but of course you did, only to see an angry reptile climbing straight toward you. In one scene, a herd of curious raptors surrounds farm animals who had all stacked themselves on top of one another until there was a trembling rabbit sitting on the back of a deer who was sitting on the back of a cow resulting in classic cartoon imagery. One of my favorite gags was a full sized port-a-potty that looked no different from any other, but if you were brave enough to open the door you were met with a shocked looking Yankee soldier being attacked by dinosaurs that had busted through the back walls while he was taking care of business.

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Part Wild West park, part Dinosaur Park, part Roadside tourist trap, this place was a dream come true for some road weary travelers who didn’t even know it was here. The park opened in 2005, and our visit was in 2008, meaning it was in a mostly complete state. However, as an ongoing project, Mark Cline continued to add characters and beasts as the years went on. I’m told that later iterations included Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address, and even a gorilla wearing a cowboy hat. (Hey, don’t tell me you’re getting upset about historical accuracy now!)

Unfortunately, along with the heartbreaking loss of the Monster Museum, much of the attraction was destroyed in a devastating fire in 2012. The park sat vacant for years with an online notice to “check back in 2013.” Folks like me started to lose hope, checking back not only in 2013, but in 2014, and 2015  as well finding no status change.

However, you can’t keep a good dinosaur park down, and like a Phoenix  no, like a Pterodactyl rising from the ashes, the park has some exciting news on the horizon. Last fall, the dinosaurs made a limited engagement appearance at Clark’s Eliok Farm  to terrorize some fairy tale characters (YES, PLEASE!) in the temporary “Enchanted Dinosaur Forest“.  Clark’s Farm, which regular Kiddieland readers will recognize as a sanctuary for rescued Enchanted Forest, MD figures housed the salvaged dinosaurs from September to November 2015 in a hysterical mash up of Dinosaurs and storybook characters that could only come from the off-kilter mind of Professor Cline!

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Photo Courtesy of Enchanted Castle Studios

We were so thrilled to see that many of the dinosaurs had survived, but this story has an even happier ending. According to his Facebook page, Mark Cline is planning to bring Dinosaurs back to Natural Bridge, Virginia with the opening of Dinosaur Kingdom II in June 2016! Based on this concept art, my guess is that guests may be riding through this one on by train? Oh, I am so there!

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Photo Courtesy of Enchanted Castle Studios

So don’t fret, though you may have never gotten to experience the weirdness of the original Dinosaur Kingdom and Haunted Monster Museum, it looks like this summer you may be able to marvel at these Jurrassic giants once again in Natural Bridge!

Thanks for all the memories, Mark!

What In God’s Name? The Chapels of Kiddieland

One of the most unusual things you’ll begin to notice when you visit a lot of kiddie parks is the amount of churches you’ll find. When you think about an amusement park today, it is hard to imagine that something so blatantly religious could be an important part of a family’s vacation. Don’t forget, most of these parks were built in the 1950s at a time when the majority of Americans were practicing Christians that attended church every Sunday. In post-war America, the nation was prosperous, and the culture shifted to a more conservative set of values. Families moved out of small city homes and into large suburban ranches. Boomers saw the church as an important pillar of these newly developed suburban communities. It was a place for families to pray, but also to socialize with their neighbors. For parks, building a church was not just culturally appropriate, but it also made good business sense. At a time when families would spend weekend getaways visiting these new amusements, many still wanted a place to worship. This unique intersection between family fun and faith resulted in many kiddie parks having small chapels on their property.

It is in these small churches that families could gather to quietly pay respect to God and step away from the commotion and excitement outside. It is no surprise that many of these small structures are nestled away in quiet forests away from the park’s sensationalism. As parks grew, many are now surrounded by noisy rides and video games. You might walk right by them today without even realizing that they are churches. In fact, most people seem to do just that! Today we’re going to take a moment to peek inside the pews of these small houses of worship.

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At Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY, you’ll need to cross a foot bridge in the rolling hills to find this serene chapel with a bright red roof hiding between the trees. This is Saint Nicholas Chapel, and once inside you’ll find a simple rustic church with German influenced design.
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With a mood that differs from most of the whimsical music shows, a group of actors presents a live Nativity Pageant nearby daily.

 

StoryBookLand

Story Book Land in NJ welcomes visitors to the “Chapel Of Peace”. This tiny church, The Chapel was built by 18-year-old Andrew Cresci as a gift to his parents Celestine and Augustus Cresci in 1885, and stood at their home in Vineland, NJ. Benediction was held in the chapel on the feast days of each saint until the family property was sold, and the chapel was moved to a cemetery in Union NJ where it fell into disrepair. It was later rescued by Story Book Land, who kept the interior and exterior intact, including the intricate stained glass windows made of sand.

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Nearby a ramshackle nativity is set up using mannequins with wigs, false beards and fabric clothing.

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At Santa’s Village in New Hampshire, an awe-inspiring church sits between the Sugar and Spice Bake shop and the  SS Peppermint Twist ride. A fantastically ornate interior surprises guests entering the rustic log structure. Contained within is an altar built in 1864 for the Cathedral of Manchester. Seven Bishops were consecrated in front of this impressive structure which was graciously given to Santa’s Village by All Saints’ Parish in Lancaster NH when the church was renovated.

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A young elf can be seen worshiping on this late 60s or early 70s postcard of the church.

 

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In what appears to a running theme, A fiberglass nativity is spread out in a wide area of the park, including the Three Wise Men traveling to the manger on camel back.

 

StorylandNH

Down an unassuming path, a short little building with a Queen Anne dome turret stands amongst the landscaping. In Storyland of Glenn, NH, a simple miniaturized church houses two small rows of single seat pews that lead up to fabric draped altar holding just an acrylic encased bible and a vase of fresh flowers. A token sign outside reminds visitors to finish their food and drink before entering the chapel. This is, after all, a house of the lord.

 

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Santa’s Land  inVT features one of the only open air areas of worship I’ve seen, and it happens to be hog sty adjacent. I suppose no other scene more accurately captures the feeling of the nativity stable than one with live pigs running around. A crazy-eyed goat seems tacked on and out-of-place amongst the more detailed figures. There are also pipe organs mounted above the entrance, which seemingly attach to nothing. They do give the whole area a “churchy” vibe though, so its nice to see that they are still being displayed!

DutchWonderland

At Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA a simple Amish church is on the park property. Traditionally, the Amish do not include ornate or decorative elements in their building techniques, and this church is no exception. It resembles many of the larger churches found in the area, but this miniaturized one seats just 8 people!

 

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We have talked a lot about the Magic Forest on this site, and we often chuckle at some of the creepy statues that inhabit their grounds. I have to tell you that when I stepped inside this log building, I was genuinely shocked at what I found inside! Despite the run down exterior typical of this overgrown park, the inside of this rustic log church blew my mind. Log elements intersect with roman catholic elements like stained glass and a stone holy water font. From the woodsy carved altar and colored lightbulb chandeliers the design elements of this Catholic church come together to create an altogether surreal house of worship.

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You might think that park chapels are only for the wholesome family focused Santa parks and Fairy Tale Lands that popped up in the middle of the twentieth century, but there’s another kind of park that we’ve yet to scratch the surface on here at Kiddieland, Giddy up- it’s the Wild West Park! Once plentiful, there are only a few of these parks remaining. At Wild West City in Netcong, NJ actors recreate a day in the life of Dodge City, KS in the 1880s and while gunslinging cowboys fall off real horses and stage coaches drive by, there is a quiet escape from the shootouts on main street. Near the back of the park next to Boot Hill, a nondenominational chapel welcomes all. You can take a moment to quietly reflect while you mourn your fallen bandits at this historic house of the lord. Uncle Floyd is purportedly a fan of the chapel, as it features one modern convenience that was not available in the old west-air conditioning!

Although I’m not religious, I grew up in a town that boasted the claim of “America’s smallest chapel” which, as a fan of tourism, always attracted me, and I know this is where my fascination with tiny churches originated. As a small town teen (with no church affiliations), I remember going into the chapel with my brother and just taking in the strangeness of the place. Having grown up in a primarily Catholic area, we were accostomed to seeing ornate churches with giant steeples, and rituals we didn’t understand. This simple little place made no sense. We took rosary beads and signed the registry book even though we weren’t Catholic. My brother used to say that when he got married, he wanted to have his tiny wedding there, and coming from a very large family, we thought that was hilarious. I guess we pictured our 15 aunts and uncles and 50+ cousins crammed in the small pews. Now that I’ve been to some of these small churches, I’m not sure Decker’s Chapel can continue with their draw of “smallest church in America” (though they still claim to be!)Whether you are looking for a quiet escape from a noisy day at the park, or want a unique place to hold an intimate wedding, these small park chapels are another way that vintage attractions are keeping things weird.

Parks like Holiday World have even continued the tradition and recently transported a historic 1880s church to the park in 2012. At Knott’s Berry Farm, you can get married at the Chapel of Reflection and Snoopy can even attend your wedding, and late to the game Walt Disney World built their 300 seat nondenominational Wedding Pavillion  on the Seven Seas Lagoon in 1995 so that guests could have a fairy tale wedding with a “picturesque backdrop of Cinderella Castle”.

There’s something special about these small spaces. Whether they are built by families out of love for each other and their god, or because  that was all that was affordable for a tiny community, these humble churches are a unique testament to a time lost. Regardless of your religious affiliation, there’s something special about that.

Peace be with you.

 

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!

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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.

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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?

Hansel and Gretel – Lost in The (Enchanted) Forest

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The holidays are coming, and soon you’ll begin to smell warm baking sweets wafting in the air.  After your delicious Thanksgiving meal, you too will want to stuff yourself with pies and cakes. But watch out – if you eat too much, you might be offered a long walk deep into the forest. Its starting to get dark early, and it’s very easy to get lost in those woods.

Such is the tale of Hansel and his sister Gretel, whose father reluctantly lured his children into the woods after being convinced by his new wife that the family could not afford to feed four mouths. Hansel, over-hearing the evil plan, cleverly decided to drop a path of breadcrumbs along the way so that the children could easily find their way back home. Poor Hansel, he didn’t account for the birds. On a night a lot like tonight, and after many days of wandering with no food, they had grown very desperate and hungry. The two children could hardly believe their eyes when they came upon a house made entirely of gingerbread, held together with icing, candies, and sweets. Just a little nibble won’t hurt anyone, right?

The Enchanted Forest in Old Forge New York opened in 1956, and at first glance,many would assume that the gingerbread house was built early in the park’s history. In the late 50s and early 60s story parks were booming and the Enchanted Forest was expanding attractions rapidly. In actuality, work on Hansel and Gretel’s house didn’t begin until 1981, and due to the complexity and size it took approximately 4 years to complete. The final cherry was put on top in time for the 1985 season, which means that next summer the house will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary! The Gingerbread house was designed by Jack Molesky who was the park artist for many years, and the level of detail and artistry are stunning to behold. The dripping rooftoops and giant candies really do look good enough to eat!

As you walk through Storybook Lane, the path winds through the ubiquitous tall trees of the Adirondacks, and when you’re deep in the woods you begin to feel as though you are lost too.  Once you reach the end of the path, the first thing you’ll encounter are the tall candy canes and lollipops among the trees, and just beyond those, you’ll catch your first views of the Gingerbread house. Plucked from a child’s dream; surreal, and out of place in nature, the house has dripping ice cream doorways, shingles built from frosted cookies, and candy cane frames. Chocolates, cookies, candy, and pretzels decorate the awnings. Its not until you look into the windows, that you realize the real treat is inside the house!

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As you approach the ice cream door, there is a tiny step for small kids to easily peek inside an open window. I can’t help thinking if this wasn’t designed deliberately to allow smaller children an opportunity to assert their independence. Surely looking in this window is a rite of passage for children eager to prove their bravery to their siblings and parents. Kids can look inside without an adult’s help. In fact, as a full grown adult I had to kneel if I wanted to look inside. I heard mom’s say “What’s in there? What’s inside?” But this wasn’t built for mom and dad. From its bright candy exterior, to the creepiness that lurks inside, the design accomplishes what the house in the story set out to do, to lure in and ultimately frighten children.

There is no sugar coating what’s behind the glass, the sweet candy house quickly turns sinister when you catch your first glimpse of an innocent Hansel held prisoner in the  back of the house, with a forkful of spaghetti and meatballs (still grasping a lollipop in his left hand). In the main room- a kitchen and across the gingham tablecloth, a scowling witch stands watch over a feast she has prepared with the intent of fattening up the lost children.

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Her green face, black pointed hat, and robe are inspired by Margaret Hamilton’s best known role in the Wizard of Oz. The archetypal pointed hat wearing witch with the green face did not exist prior to 1939, and even her angular features are reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West’s.

This witch appears to be deep in thought, trying to decide the best way  to cook these two little morsels that have wandered into her house. Hansel’s plans don’t always work out, and he doesn’t look smart enough to hatch a scheme to turn the tables on her in this scene either, so we’ll just have to assume that the story ends well. Maybe Gretel’s got the brains in the family.

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The exterior of house was very well maintained and it likely gets a fresh coat of paint regularly. It appears to have gone through some changes over the years, but I was unable to locate any other shots of the interior in my research. (If you’ve got any, I’d love to see more!) I was able to locate a few older images of the exterior. The first shows a very natural earth tone house with biscuits and donuts. This is a vintage postcard and I’m not convinced that this is an actual photograph. It could be a miniature artist’s rendering.  Perhaps it is a model created for concept or promotional artwork.

EnchantedForestGingerbreadEK

Another photo shows a dazzling 1980s rainbow color scheme with bright candy store reds, yellows, and greens as opposed to the current mint green and pastel pink palette used today. This paint job is straight out of Rainbow Brite’s or Strawberry Shortcake’s colorful world.

HanselGretelHouseEnchantedForestEK

 

This house became an unexpected favorite of mine when I found it at the park, and I had to be pulled away from it, like most of the kids there. It’s a little off the beaten path, and can’t be seen immediately. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it, but there was something so wonderful about the mean spirited nature of the story baked into a sweet pink candy house, that I wanted to stay for dinner too.

I hope you’ve been paying attention. If you decide to go out walking in the forest, just remember those breadcrumbs won’t do you any good. Please, be very careful whose house you decide to nibble on, or you could get swallowed up by the woods on your way home…or something worse. And if your host keeps filling your plate this Thanksgiving, make sure you’re not the only one eating. She might still be preparing her feast.

 

A Coach to take you to your Halloween Ball

We’ve talked about Pumpkins before on this site, but they seem to hold a special place in the fairy tale world. Besides being houses, they can also be transportation! Sure we could post lots of scary things during the Halloween season, but in keeping with our fairy tale roots, we’re taking a look at the well known tale of Cinderella; the poor girl whose fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a golden coach so she could attend a ball at the palace and meet Prince Charming. If you don’t think its a story about Halloween, I’d argue that its a supernatural tale of masquerades, dressing up, villains, and of course- pumpkins, so put up your glass slippers and unwrap that pumpkin spice muffin while we check out a few of the pumpkin coaches we’ve come across in parks around the northeast!

EnchantedForest

The Enchanted Forest has an impressive coach that I could  barely fit in my viewfinder.  They have captured the action of the story with a larger than life Fairy Godmother adorned in a lavender dress, pumpkin stems swirling about as she creates a footman from a horse, and a coach from a pumpkin. The movement in this one is really stunning, and I found myself walking around it a few times to take in all the angles and the flowing fabrics. Its just gorgeous in person! Kids (and kids at heart) can climb inside for a photo.

MagicForest
The Magic Forest’s Cinderella somehow managed to land herself square on top of the palace, but once you enter, it looks like she eventually made her way to the ball. Her ugly stepsisters are the highlight of the display here, with their jealous scowls captured perfectly. Since the piece is primarily indoors, the sculptures here are in very good condition (compared to some of the other spider-webs and dirt we saw on other Magic Forest dioramas!) It looks like it is in a different style than the rest of the park, so these may have been sculpted by a different artist.

StoryBookLand
Meanwhile in New Jersey, a glass slipper guides us to a guarded coach inside a gazebo, locked behind an inaccessible gate. It may be that the park is trying to preserve the vintage coach, as you can see that it does appear to have seats for riders. If anyone has evidence of the Story Book Land coach in Egg Harbor with passengers, please let us know in the comments! We’d love to see it in action!

StoryLand
Story Land in NH had one of the most advanced coaches we’ve ever seen, with two motorized horses pulling a gas powered pumpkin with a full door. You can ride the coach up the hill to the castle and back, but they have preserved their history by displaying an older  pumpkin coach (photo on the lower right). This smaller coach likely pulled Cinderella through the park  before the motorized coach was added.

StorylandVintage

Here is a third coach we found on a 1957 postcard. The curved windows and  arched door is different from both of the above, and we’re not sure what became of this coach. Do any of you helper mice know?

Storytown USA

Finally, at the Great Escape (which stands on the Storytown USA land) a memory from the past has been preserved. A pumpkin coach and footman (with a full pony rig) still stands near the fontain and small castle replica of this Six Flags owned park. The coach has lived through decades at the park and can be seen as a white pumpkin in the 1956 Viewmaster Slide. (Thanks to Chuck Miller for scanning the original slide).

Have you ever ridden in a pumpkin coach? Which one is your favorite?
Happy Halloween!

CinderellaPumpkin

 

 

 

 

Pinocchio: The Wooden Puppet who Dreamt of Becoming a Real Boy

You know the story, The old woodcarver  named Gepetto makes a puppet, and the mischievous marionette wants nothing more than to become a real boy. He gets in a lot of trouble, tells a lot of lies, and learns some valuable life lessons . He gets a little help from a blue fairy and a talking cricket…who may or may not be killed by Pinocchio with a mallet (depending on the adaptation you’re most familiar with)  and eventually the boy becomes an upstanding citizen, and is allowed to fulfill his desire to be a real boy…or does he? In the original serialized version of text, Pinocchio is gruesomely hanged for his sins and lies and he dies at the end of the story.  Later when published as a children’s book, and at the request of the editors, a happier ending was substituted whereby Pinocchio gets his wish granted by the blue fairy and becomes a real boy. Really- I wouldn’t lie to you about this, my nose might grow!

Naturally a tale like this is perfect fodder for any story book park, and the Walt Disney 1940 film adaptation of this already canonized tale cemented the characters in American Children’s subconscious for all time. We’re going to take a look at  a few images of Pinocchio at parks from his Florentine roots to his familiar Disney appearance, and beyond, including those that are unofficially “inspired” by the look of the Disney version of this famous character.

Anyone that has traveled to Walt Disney World in Orlando with kids has probably felt that moment of panic at the Magic Kingdom when the kid’s pizza alarm goes off. There’s only one place in the park to get pizza, and if you use your Disney logic you’ll realize that since pizza is Italian, and Pinocchio is from Italy…OF COURSE-pizza can be found at Pinocchio’s Village Haus! The decor inside is themed like a small Italian cottage and is so charming featuring frescoes inspired by the film, and intricate wood cuts of the characters. (Bonus-if you sit near the windows you can see Small World boats pass by beneath you as you enjoy your meal!) I love the costumes worn by cast members and especially the little Pinocchio puppets held outdoors conveniently located at kid-height to lure you inside.

PVH

Further North, Pinocchio can be found at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor, NJ-But you have to know where to look. Although impressive, this giant Pinocchio statue is only visible from the train, so all aboard for a sight at this giant puppet!

PinocchioStorybookNJ

Also in the Northeast, our friend Pinocchio can be found at the Enchanted Forest in Old Forge, but I want to you prepare you for the nightmare fuel that follows. This one is special as he takes his look from the literary world rather than the films. He is quite disturbing, not unlike some of the illustrations from the text. It doesn’t help that it was a gloomy rainy day when I visited him. Oh man, is he coming toward us? Don’t make eye contact.

PinocchioEnchantedFo

Ok, let’s try to get that image out of our heads for a moment, and go back to something a bit less unsettling. At Storybook Forest (Ligionier, PA) tucked in the forest of Pennsylvania, you may come upon a small house in the trees. If you’re lucky a peek inside the windows will show Gepetto’s workspace, along with his beloved Pinocchio, and a blue fairy doll hanging from the rafters with fishing line. Hey-I think its pretty awesome! The details inside are classic PA with real antique sewing machines and furniture, and a large bound copy of Pinocchio sitting on the desk.

Storybook Forest

 

While we’re on the subject of wood carving, we can’t forget about the larger than life wooden Pinocchio at Storyland in NH that we covered in a past post about bootlegging Disney.

Pinocchio Storyland NH

Or the one we SHOULD have covered when talking about Whales, because-Pinocchio Sitting on Monstro in New Orleans-Duh.

Seems like everywhere we look, we see the little puppet boy. Here is is in a dark arcade in the middle of the day-probably skipping school, we also found him hocking his  70th Anniversary Blu Ray release, and climbing on top of a bakery roof in NJ (WE TOLD HIM NOT TO DO THAT!)

Pinocchio

One thing is for sure, we don’t expect to see him fading into the background any time soon. At Disney parks, you can still meet up with Pinocchio, Gepetto, or Jiminy Cricket for photos. They appear in giant shows like Fantasmic, and Jiminy even narrates the popular “Wishes” fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom. I caught up with the crew earlier in the summer at the brand new Festival of Fantasy parade which premiered at Walt Disney World in March 2014. Despite the parade spotlighting mostly new Disney princesses like the wildly popular Anna and Elsa from Frozen, Merida from Brave, and Repunzel from Tangled, our boy Pinocchio is holding his own. Here is is sitting proudly atop a Monstro float in this brand new parade, which leads us to believe he’s not going anywhere anytime soon!

Festival Of Fantasy

Pinocchio, seriously stop that. Stop kicking your feet like that. Do you even know how high that is? We told you not to do that! You’ll fall…man, this kid really never listens!