The Theme Park Turkey of the Year Awards have become an annual tradition for the SATURDAY SIX. For almost a decade we’ve been covering the wackiest, weirdest, and downright bizarre stories in the world of Disney and Universal. Over those years we have featured the artwork of some of my favorite artists in the community. For the 2016 Turkeys, we had Juliette Elton create a drawing that memorialized the insane moment in time when Disney decided to price gouge people stuck in their resorts during an actual hurricane. For the following year, superstar HHN artist Sterling Denham drew a wonderful picture representing the time an adult at Disney’s Magic Kingdom decided to strangle a teenager for having the audacity to stand during fireworks. In 2018 the talented Joel Carroll put pencil to paper and created the wonderful drawing of the Maleficent float from Festival of Fantasy parade catching fire. Last year’s Turkeys gave us the dazzling debut of SonderQuest and his magnificent digital watercolors featuring Bob Ross, wannabe influencers, and an osprey that tormented Universal Orlando.
In 2019, the Turkeys were blessed to have our first ever piece of artwork from Brian Cooper, and it featured the characters of Toy Story fixing the problems from the opening of Toy Story Land in DHS. Brian would go on to become the featured artist of the SATURDAY SIX, including drawing my favorite “Do’s and Don’ts” articles featuring David & Derek (and Bacini). Brian drew the headline photo for the 2020 Turkeys, which I personally consider one of the greatest pieces of theme park artwork ever created and belongs in a museum next to pieces from Mary Blair, Marc Davis, and Herbert Ryman.
For last years drawing, pretty much everything in the artwork was featured inside the actual Theme Park Turkey of the Year Awards. The pallet on the side of the road, Jose Carioca flat on his face, the “Hi-Res Thinking” banner… you’ll learn about what each of those items is referring to and a whole lot more when reading the Turkeys. Brian did add some wonderful little Easter eggs in for everyone though. The Ospreys sitting on top of the Walt Disney World signage were referencing the bonkers story about Universal building the VelociCoaster, so the Ospreys were being attacked by two of Universal’s feathered friends, Woody Woodpecker and Harry Potter’s owl, Hedwig. Because of social distancing, the lines for theme park attractions were extending into some crazy areas once the parks reopened, so Brian threw in the huge line that seems to extend for miles in the background along with a Cast Member at the very start holding the “Line Starts Here” lollipop sign. It’s a small touch, but it’s hilarious.
Preparation for the 2021 Theme Park Turkeys of the Year began months ago, and the biggest thing we needed to crack was the headline drawing. I was so in love with how the 2020 headline drawing came out, that I wanted something similar, a drawing that could reference multiple stories in one image. Several ideas were batted back and forth and then we were delivered a gift by the Gods Of Humor with the debut of KiteTails at Animal Kingdom. The seating area at Discovery River for KiteTails gave a reason for a whole bunch of different people to all be in the same place. Even better, I thought that we could include some of the good things that happened this past year along with all the goofy stuff. So I started making a master list of the usual suspects, which included all the the craziness, along with several people I thought did amazing work this past year.
I pitched my idea to Brian, along with a hope and a prayer that he could somehow work his magic because I sure as heck couldn’t figure out how this idea could actually be drawn!
Brian replied with a quick sketch and even in its most roughest form, I knew this artwork was going to be AMAZING. It was already better than what I had pictured in my mind. This was bad news for Brian though, because it just made me think of more stuff I wanted to add into the drawing!!
So I wrote back with some more suggestions, and received a still-rough-but-more-finished sketch. Similar to The Grinch, seeing this drawing made my heart grow three sizes that day. I could not believe this dream was becoming a reality!!
With some colors added and the figures inked, everything was coming into place.
Finally, the drawing was complete.
The finished product is – in a word – a MASTERPIECE. There were so many details in the picture that I felt it was time to do them justice with the first ever Turkey Addendum.
#1 – Our infamous Water TikTok Guy, whose story was featured in the 2021 Turkeys of the Year article. On the wall behind him is a sign that reads “DO NOT drink the water! Especially for TikTok!”
#2 – A Baloo kite that has crashed at the end of a KiteTails “daytime activation.” This story is covered in the 2021 Turkeys of the Year article.
#3 – The wagon of a Disney personal shopper/reseller who – through “rumor and innuendo” – had their annual pass revoked by Disney and quickly closed up shop. There is runDisney merchandise in the wagon because allegedly this person was bulk buying items during a run Disney weekend, was photographed doing so, and the runDisney runners who couldn’t buy merchandise for the race they ran in were extremely upset.
#4 – A Disney+ hat from the absolutely ridiculous Disney+ Day that was “celebrated” on November 12th. More TLC went into Disney+ Day than the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World a month earlier on October 1st.
#6 – Jim Hill, co-host of the Disney Dish podcast. The two men are recording an episode of the podcast. Presumably the two are discussing the best shows at WDW which took place on water, the best – of course – being Hulk Hogan’s Thunder In Paradise.
#7 – The Cardboard Caballeros, a trio who kicked off the 2021 Turkeys of the Year article.
#8 – A kite from the KiteTails pre-show which has crashed into a tree.
#10 – Black Widow Cosplay Character Protesting Disney. The 2021 Turkeys detail the story of Black Widow and other Marvel superheroes protesting Disneyland over the vaccine mandate. However, the sign our Black Widow is holding up references the lawsuit Scarlett Johansson filed suing Disney over money from the Black Widow movie.
#11 – A hastily made Lightning Lane sign. This is referencing that – here in Florida – Disney kept Lightning Lane such as secret that they had to quickly make up signage for it rather than risking word get out a head of time. This led to Lightning Lane wraps being plastered on top of FastPass+ signs overnight. So our sign has the FastPass+ logo crossed out with a sharpie and Lightning Lane written in underneath.
#12 – Bob Iger taking a picture. When Disneyland finally reopened after their coronavirus shut down, Bob Iger was pictured taking photos of the returning guests. Many memes were created using the format of Bob taking a photo on a one side, and what he would be taking a photo of on the other. You can read more about this viral meme by CLICKING HERE.
#13 – Bob Chapek as Genie. The Genie is to reference the debut of Genie+ at Walt Disney World. The Genie is counting money because, well, you know.
#14 – The Moon and Figment as featured in Journey to Imagination with Figment in EPCOT. During the attraction, Dr. Nigel Channing’s face essentially becomes the moon. This is referencing our Golden Theme Park Turkey of the Year, the time Eric Idle (who played Dr. Nigel Channing) got into a verbal spat with DisTwitter and referred to Figment as “the animated little f—er.”
#15 – Alicia Stella is sitting next to Rizzo the rat and eating a slice of pizza. Referencing the article THEME PARK HILLS TO DIE ON: Alicia Stella defends PizzeRizzo. Alicia is wearing a PizzeRizzo shirt that was shockingly available for sale at the recent Destination D event.
#16 – Universal Orlando Social Media Team. Definitely wanted to include these marvelous guys and gals because they – like the social teams at @SeaWorld and @MCO – are great follows who provide a good mix of entertainment and information. This particular grouping is referencing a moment during the Grand Opening of the VelociCoaster in which they had a merchandise giveaway (to be continued in #22.)
#17 – Space 220 Stellavator. Rising high into the sky, the Stellavator is the #story explaining how guests on the ground in EPCOT travel 220 miles into space to enter the restaurant. It is based off concept art from the Patina group showing how this elevator works.
#18 – Harmonious barge from EPCOT. Earlier this year we had a fun article featuring Harmonious memes after everyone realized how
ugly large it looked once inside the park
#19 – The helicopter is representing the blogger-in-the-sky @Bioreconstruct, a person/artificial intelligence-gone-rogue who breaks all rules of time and space while being the hero this community needs (although certainly not the one it deserves). The banner hanging from the helicopter is advertising ParksCon. If you don’t remember this, well, consider yourself lucky.
Back in April, there was an event teased called ParksCon which was billed pretty much as an online Comic Con-like convention for theme park fans. It would feature guest speakers like Imagineers, as well as panels hosted by people from within the community. These included a panel about the International parks hosted by someone who has never been outside of this country. That was pretty much ParksCon in a nutshell. ParksCon then had the two worst days of Public Relations since the legendary rise and fall of DISFLIX.
Then it got worse. It came out that many involved (possibly everyone?) with ParksCon were being incentivized with an elaborate pyramid scheme based on affiliate links. Essentially, the more “tickets” they sold the bigger prizes they would get. It was like a sales contest straight out of Glengarry Glen Ross and the prizes were bonkers. 1st prize included the ridiculous notion one of these influencers/salesmen would take home $100,000 in cash plus a first class all-expenses paid trip to California for a taping with a theme park designer heavily implied to be Tony Baxter. 2nd place got a cash prize of $50,000 and the trip. 11th-20th place people would get $1,000 giftcards to Southwest Airlines. 31st to 35th place would get iPads.
Saps like you and me were expected to pay up to $200 for a “lifetime” access pass to these videos and panels, and with each pass sold the influencers/salesmen would get a notch on the board. Sell 15 passes and you’d get an Amazon Echo. 100 pass sales gets you a “brand new GoPro.” 1,000 pass sales earns a first class flight to Cabo. Should have been a flight to FANTASYLAND.
Believe it or not, it actually went downhill from there. A user on Twitter named David Wasman did a little digging on the technical side of ParksCon. What he found is what many were suspecting, ParksCon was less a “conference” and more a “marketing ploy.” The lack of overall transparency was troubling to say the least. In the end, ParksCon completely imploded and never took place. The CEO said they were going to pivot to something different, but as of this writing there has been nothing to that claim.
tl;dr version: Billed to its attendees and presenters as a way “for fans to share tips for the best parks day ever,” ParksCon was to be a “virtual” convention costing upwards $200 for “lifetime” access to many content creators who normally release their content for free on places like YouTube. Teasing both contributors and fans to access to Imagineer Tony Baxter (who clearly had no idea what the scheme really was).
#20 – Shrek looking mournfully at a pink slip. This is referencing Universal Orlando announcing that Shrek 4-D will be closing forever in early 2022.
#21 – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. He is also sadly looking down at a pink slip because Disney announced the NBA Experience would not be reopening in Disney Springs. You may remember that the opening of the NBA Experience was a 2019 Theme Park Turkey nominee.
#22 – Here we have Alyse and Allison taking a picture in front of the Universal Orlando social media team (#16). It is referencing a wonderful moment from the Grand Opening of the VelociCoaster where the two woman were taking a picture of themselves not realizing that the Universal social media team was having a contest right behind them.
#23 – Speaking of the Grand Opening of VelociCoaster, here we have Greg Hall and Shelby Honea, two of the creative people responsible for this incredible E-Ticket attraction. In fact, the VelociCoaster may already be pound-for-pound the best roller coaster in Florida.
#24 – Earl the Squirrel. An adorable character featured during Universal Orlando’s Christmas season. For years, Earl was a small Easter Egg hidden inside the giant Christmas Tree displayed in Universal Studios Florida. This version of earl is based off the wonderful designs of Andrew Stonecypher.
#25 – Bill Davis. President of Universal. You can read more about Bill holding his churro by CLICKING HERE.
#26 – A Mr. Toad burger. For whatever reason this monstrosity was part of Walt Disney World’s 50th celebration and is featured in this year’s Turkeys.
#27 – Jack the Clown and Chance from Universal Halloween Horror Nights. The selfie stick and iPhone is referencing a memorable Facebook Live event the two did on October 13th.
#28 – Don’t tap the glass sticker. Jack and Chance are behind a highly controversial plexi-glass wall. There was a lot of debate in the HHN fanbase about characters inside the haunted houses behind being behind plastic and plexi-glass. They were originally installed for COVID safety precautions (similar to how Disney had plexiglass throughout their indoor queues when reopening post shutdown). There was a secondary “purpose” when some scareactors felt safer behind the walls because people in general have been acting more unruly than ever this year, and that includes at the theme parks. I personally fall on the side of letting people err on the side of safety. Others, well, get ratio’d into oblivion.
#29 – Derek from the David and Derek series. Derek is wearing a “She Wants The D” t-shirt. You never know what story is going to go “viral” in this community, but it always tends to be the dumbest one. The incredibly tacky “She Wants The D” and “He Game Me The D” shirts have been around for a while, but for whatever reason got national attention in October. Derek is holding up a scorecard like you would see judges hold up in the Olympics. He is judging the crashing of kites in KiteTails. The score “2” that Derek is holding is referencing my actual birthday, February 2nd (2/2).
#30 – Bacini is the official dog of Universal Orlando. The score “8” that Bacini is holding up is referencing that this is the 8th annual edition of The Turkeys. It is also a subtle reference to the core of their characters, in that Bacini is much nicer and would be more forgiving of any mistakes.