This week’s SATURDAY SIX is possibly our favorite of the entire year, as we proudly present the Seventh Annual Theme Park “Turkeys” of the Year. Gather ’round as we continue the time honored tradition of awarding six Theme Park “Turkeys” to the craziest, most outrageous, or just downright weird stories of the year, concluding with the coveted Golden Turkey award.
First, let’s send a shout out to artist Brian Cooper. Every single detail you see in the main Turkeys drawing this year will be covered over the course of this article, and we couldn’t believe all the amazing details and Easter Eggs that Brian squeezed in. But that’s not the only great news we have for fellow art fans…
That’s right, artist @SonderQuest is going to provide an exclusive “digital watercolor” for each of the six Turkeys this year! I love the cute, charming and quirky style that SonderQuest uses in all his drawings (which is a loving homage to the style created by artist Scott C). SonderQuest’s stylized caricatures have a general format of each drawing consisting of a small amount of characters – usually two, but sometimes more – that relate to each other in some fashion. Because SonderQuest is a theme park fan, these characters often come from our favorite theme park attractions, such as: John and the burning oven from Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Buzzy and General Knowledge from Cranium Command, and even the Wonders of Life Pavilion itself! So for this week’s SAT 6 we are having the theme park version of “when chocolate met peanut butter” and will have a SonderQuest drawing for each Turkey subject!
Okay, with the pomp and circumstance out of the way, let’s kick off another next level bonkers year with a look at Cinderella Castle,
# 6 – That Time We Found Out Cinderella Castle Was a Giant Paint-By-Number
Over the years, we have seen a lot of refurbishment to Cinderella Castle. Generally speaking, any time the castle is touched it is the number one reason used for “my vacation is ruined!” The biggest culprit is the large crane which was brought out every year to both install and take down Christmas lights. We here at this fine blog series once created the crane in LEGO form as a “photo ruining accessory” for the LEGO Cinderella Castle set.
This year something shocking happened during the Cinderella Castle refurbishment this summer. When guests got close enough to the castle, they saw that the individual bricks were numbered, with the numerals indicating which exact color they were to receive during the repainting. This paint-by-number format is very reminiscent of the murals that guests get to paint during festivals at EPCOT, such as the Festival of the Arts.
Even though many of these colors can look similar, there are slight variations to each one. I personally found this out the hard way when “we” decided to repaint our bedroom at home and I was introduced the alleged differences between plain white, eggshell, pearl, snowfall, dove, and about a dozen other types of white paint (which I’m still not entirely convinced aren’t the exact same swatch with different names printed on them).
Let’s take a look at the finished product.
# 5 – That Time Ospreys Took Over Universal Orlando
Talk about The Neverending Story…
In a year of theme park fans getting news of delayed or cancelled projects, Universal going full steam ahead with a new roller coaster in Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure was a reason to rejoice. In early July, the last piece of the coaster track was installed, and it just so happened to be the “top hat” located at the highest point of the actual coaster.
However, the story then went in an interesting direction, as an osprey soon decided to make this new E-Ticket attraction its home.
About a month after the top hat was installed, multiple bloggers noticed that an osprey was building a nest on the track.
Here’s an aerial photo looking down at the nest on top of the track.
At sunrise on August 23rd, a drone was spotted observing the osprey from a distance. This could be Universal asking advice from outside experts on what to do about this situation. One person on social media said that they “know someone who is working on the project and management at Universal is trying to figure out a solution. Right now they send a drone up there and are using a high reach to remove the nest.” Because ospreys are a protected species, Universal can only remove a nest if there are no eggs or chicks in it.
During the course of an average day, workers were seen making adjustments to the track.
The osprey kept a keen eye on things.
In a true meta moment breaking the fourth wall of theme park blogging, here is the osprey in Hosgmeade village looking up at a blogger in a helicopter – who may or may not be @bioreconstruct – being photographed by a blogger on the ground, who may or may not be @bioreconstruct (but definitely is).
Back to our regularly scheduled program: after several nests were removed over the course of several weeks, Universal than put a blue cling wrap over the track in order to discourage the osprey from building a new one.
As it turns out, osprey talons can, in fact, tear through blue cling wrap pretty easily.
Here is an osprey in action bringing pieces for their nest. For me personally, I am in huge awe and have total admiration for how these birds can build these nests, piece by piece, traveling large distances and somehow have the nest stay together even when built on uneven surfaces. I honestly don’t think I could build this very same nest using a crane and was given every piece of nest. I guarantee after every couple minutes everything would just fall through the coaster track and into the water hundreds of feet below.
Let’s take a quick look at some other things the osprey would do during the day, such as “fishing” in the Islands of Adventure lagoon.
Another successful catch!
One way that Universal tried to solve the problem was building platforms for the ospreys to build nests on located outside the park. The platform in the photo below is at Dr. Phillips high school stadium, located near Universal. Ospreys love building their nests on tall objects, so next time you’re driving in or around Orlando, take a close look at the top of some of those billboards and lighting poles.
Here is a close up look at one of the nesting platforms that were installed.
So the platform worked and the osprey left Universal for a better home, right?
Instead, a second osprey showed up at the park.
So here’s where we are at today. Universal has started testing for the Velocicoaster. What that means is – for guest safety reasons – they can’t put any more blue cling wrap on the track to deter ospreys. The coaster has been certified for operation and anything put on the track would force Universal to have to go through certification all over again. Right now the vehicle testing for the coaster is being done primarily at night. So the ospreys will start building a nest during the day, Universal removes the nest at night to test, and then we repeat the cycle. Soon, Universal will begin to test the Velocicoaster during the day, and we can safely assume the ospreys will voluntarily move at that point.
OR more birds will arrive and take over. Could go either way…
# 4 – That Time One of Three Caballeros Died
We’ve all been dealt a lot in 2020, but no one was ready for a video showing the Jose Carioca audio-animatronic down during the Gran Fiesta boat ride at EPCOT. However, that was only the beginning of this strange story…
It all started when people saw a video on social media showing Jose lying face first on the ground.
It didn’t take long for people to have fun with this news, including using the downed Brazilian parrot A.A. in a popular meme format at the time.
Artists were inspired to draw as well.
Instead of just closing the ride, Disney instead placed a bunch of stuff on the stage which appeared to be straight from the nearby Mexico Pavilion gift shops.
So, naturally we got an appropriate follow up drawing…
After that, a lot of the junk was removed from the stage and some flowers were laid in Jose’s place.
REMINDER: WE’RE NOT MAKING ANY OF THIS UP.
Which led to this amazing piece of artwork.
New attraction signage was suggested.
The good news? Jose was back in action as of this writing. Just another you-won’t-believe-this-happened moment from the wacky world of theme parks.
Wait, maybe we spoke too soon…
— Phillip Robertson (@phrobertson) November 8, 2020
# 3 – That Time Theme Park Shirts Were Next Level Bonkers
It’s hard to imagine anything will ever top 2020 when it comes to theme park clothing, and – as the kids say – the year came in hot when this mind blowing shirt was seen on a guest all the way back in January. Look at this shirt below. Take it all in. Don’t try to figure it out, it’s impossible. Just bask in the wonder of it all. A shirt like this makes you realize there is still beauty left in this world. The “Lightening” typo? Cherry on top of a unicorn sundae.
A Walt Disneyland spirit jersey? Let’s face it, these Disney Outlet Stores aren’t going to fill themselves!
They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words, but this one is worth just 3 letters…WTF.
What can you even say about this “camouflage” Mickey shirt.
This Spring Break 2020 shirt was not only sold on ShopDisney.com, but could actually be found in the parks. It looks like one of those airbrushed t-shirts you’d see on the Jersey shore in a bin marked “3 for $10.”
This one doesn’t even make sense!!
I’m wondering who the audience is for these meme shirts, as we’ve covered them several times in our sister series, the Disney Outlet Store Photo Report. In theory, the people who would want an animated Beauty & the Beast shirt probably aren’t the demographic that would want a meme shirt. The people who wouldn’t mind wearing an obnoxious “Weird Flex But O.K.” shirt are probably wondering who the guy in the chair is. Just another amazing merchandise decision made by Team Disney.
When I first saw this Frozen shirt it reminded me of something but I couldn’t put my finger on it…
Then I remembered.
We’ll close with a look at some shirts that were put out by Busch Gardens Tampa when they first reopened this summer after the coronavirus shut down.
It’s important to remember the context at the time, and how completely tone deaf the “Thrill Seeking Is Essential” shirt was. As bad of an “optics” as the shirt is now, it was much worse then as nationwide there was a spirited discussion on what jobs were considered “essential” at time. We all understand and realize that jobs like doctors, nurses, firefighters and teachers are essential, no questions asked. However, America was in the thrall of debate on making jobs like “cashier at Publix” or “server at Chili’s” essential to justify people leaving their homes and possibly putting themselves and everyone they come in contact with, in danger. Some were angry, some were scared, and many were overwhelmed with everything going on in the world. The last thing anyone needed was a t-shirt put out that trivialized the situation.
By the end of the first weekend that the “essential” shirts were released, they were pulled from the shelves, never to be seen again.
# 2 – That Time a Guest Grilled Their Own Hotdogs at Disney Springs
Like the rest of Walt Disney World, Disney Springs was closed to guests at the end of March because of the coronavirus. And similar to the WDW theme parks which welcomed guests back in late May, the reopening of Disney Springs came with some new rules for guests. Face coverings were required and social distancing measures were put into place. However, with all the new safety procedures, Disney forgot to mention that bringing your own grill to cook hot dogs was not allowed.
Gonna have to take a Mulligan on that one, because much to the chagrin of Disney security, some guests brought their own bbq. Hey, we all like to save money and bring our own food to the parks, but sometimes ya gotta show some common sense.
To say we enjoyed this story at SAT 6 headquarters is an understatement.
We even recreated the moment in our Plastic in the Parks series.
That Time Disney Passed Off Hotdog Rolls as “Gluten-Free” Hamburger Rolls
Cookes of Dublin wasn’t the only place on Disney property with a weird hotdog-related story this year. At Disney’s Magic Kingdom, a guest ordered a bacon chicken sandwich at Cosmic Ray’s and found out the “gluten-free” hamburger rolls were just ordinary hotdog rolls.
# 1 – That Time People Took Photos in the Middle of the Road at WDW
For those of us in Florida, one of the most frustrating things this summer was being plagued by the locusts known as Disney Influencers taking pictures for “the gram.” With the theme parks shut down, traffic in and around Walt Disney World was lessened. Because of this, many people decided this was the time to stop their cars, get out into the middle of the road and take a selfie. Cropped out of each picture were ALL THE SIGNS TELLING YOU NOT TO STOP ON THE ROAD.
Honorable Mention – Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs…
Late in 2019, we created the illustrious Disney Signage HALL OF SHAME. This was a place where we could keep track of all the bananas signage that has appeared at Walt Disney World over the years, including the infamous EPOCT and Amimal Kingdom road signs along with the jaw-dropping “Wax Been Done” sign at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Upon seeing this collection of bizarre signage, Disney had only one response…
“Hold our beer.”
The first sign we are going to cover this year is the Covid-19 Attraction Poster. In early July, the attraction poster for Happily Ever After was removed from it’s spot underneath the train station at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. One can assume this was because Disney was temporarily stopping all fireworks shows at the parks and didn’t want guests asking about Happily Ever After because they saw a sign for it when walking into the park.
However, they left the spot where the Happily Ever After poster was, empty.
Several days later, a Health and Safety Reminders poster was put up on the wall. As you can see, it stands out from the attraction posters surrounding it and looks like, well, you know.
Several days after that, the safety poster was finally put into a frame so that it matched the attraction posters it hung next too.
Interestingly enough, the health and safety reminders poster hung directly next to the two most controversial attractions in all of Walt Disney World.
In lieu of the Happily Ever After fireworks show, one social media user suggested using the HEA projection mapping technology to put the health and safety reminder poster onto Cinderella Castle.
Speaking of signs…
Anyone who has been to a theme park since they have reopened knows that everywhere you go are signs. Warning signs. Helpful Reminder signs. Don’t Forget To Wash Your Hands signs. Social Distancing signs. Are You Sure You REALLY Want To Be Here signs and more.
There’s even signage on the ground, although sometimes they misspell a word (who doesn’t?).
The most infamous signs of all were the A-Frames throughout DHS and surrounding property – including nearby hotels – letting guests know that all boarding groups for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance were gone.
When Universal opened up the Beetlejuice haunted house for One Weekend Only, it repurposed the A-Frame with a little electrical tape…
Electrical tape plays an important role in theme park signage. Here at the Disney Outlet Store, electrical tape was used to cover up the phrase “TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE!” Well, almost cover them up we should say.
Electrical tape on signage at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Presented without commentary.
The parks use tape for more than just covering up signs though….
And in multiple colors to boot!
One of my personal favorite moments of 2020 involving signs was when EPCOT installed this sign for MouseGear that had “Future World West” on the top of it. Unfortunately, it was pointing to Future World EAST.
Here’s a closer look at the sign.
Not saying the two are related, but after I mercilessly mocked the sign on social media, it was soon covered up in plastic.
I was assured by Those Who Know Better that the sign being covered was definitely NOT Disney admitting they made a mistake. Nay Nay. Why then was it covered? Well funny you should ask…
However, once the plastic was removed from the sign, it now read Future World EAST at the top. Things that make you go “Hmmmmmmm….”
I ASSURE YOU WE’RE OPEN – Clerks
We all see huge banners on the sidewalks for businesses in our hometowns, but only recently has this phenomenon started showing up at the parks. After the Rainforest Cafe reopened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there was a gigantic sign letting guests know that the restaurant was “NOW OPEN.”
This reminded me of the sign put up a while back letting guests know that Tiffins was open for business and accepting guests. I’m no business major, but you probably shouldn’t have to boldly advertise a restaurant that is sitting directly at the entrance and exit of one of the most popular theme park lands in the world.
I mean, what’s next? Sign twirlers?!
Double Secret Honorable Mention – The Surprising Saga of Schmoofy’s Strange and Silly Search for SWGE Soda
It happens every so often on DisTwitter when everyone is minding their own business and all of a sudden a bomb is dropped. In this particular case, one person lived near a store which was selling cases of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge soda bottles for just $6.99.
So it turns out, the store selling these Cokes was a small supermarket located in Alabama.
Seeing this incredible deal, a member of DisTwitter said “feet don’t fail me now!” and made the pilgrimage up to score a case, only to discover a horrifying fact….
We found out what happened to all those sodas in short order.
Good news Schmoof, they can now be found on eBay!!
Recently, a user on social media found a unique way to display their SWGE soda bottles.
So we saw our opportunity to do a little X-mas trolling…
Triple Threat Honorable Mention – The HIGH COST of LOW-RES Thinking…
We’re going to end this year’s Turkeys with a story that started the year off giving us an clear idea of how the entire 12 months would eventually play out. In the very first week of January, Disney announced that the quick service restaurant in the American Adventure Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase would be changed to the Regal Eagle Smokehouse. This would include a light re-theme involving The Muppets.
The Muppets are one of the few things on Earth that everyone loves. The characters are adorable, their humor is razor sharp and yet is still accessible to kids, and overall they are one of the most positive things to ever come out of American entertainment. Over at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History is a true gem.
Turns out, not everyone was happy about this change, including an EPCOT historian at the ripe old age of 25.
This tweet was what we call “ratio’d” on social media, as hundreds of replies came in response, all disagreeing with the post. You would think this would give a normal human being an opportunity to pause for reflection, and maybe reconsider their thinking. Nay Nay, this is DisTwitter. Here we double down.
This response went about as well as you can imagine, eventually the author of the post deleted everything he wrote, which is something we all do when convinced we are right on a subject.
But at least the original poster learned a lesson, right?
As all these stories seem to go, after deleting all the original tweets, the poster locked their account and blamed “cancel culture” on what happened to them while denying any and all responsibility for what happened.
This however, was not going to stop DisTwitter.
So there you have it: The SEVENTH ANNUAL Theme Park Turkeys of the Year! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
Thanksgiving Leftovers (AKA: Previous Turkey of the Year Awards)
Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, superstar artist Brian Cooper, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, the charming and cute artistry of @SonderQuest, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.