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. The 2020 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.
Back 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 a 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 artwork 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.
The 2020 Turkeys drawing by Brian really opened up what was possible, so preparation for the following year’s Turkeys began months in advance. 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. We had so many wonderful artists doing fantastic work over the years, but it was all focusing on the “bad” things that happened in the theme park community and it was high time to celebrate the highpoints as well. So I started making a master list of the usual suspects, which included all the craziness, along with several people I thought did amazing work this past year. The result was straight up E-Ticket.
For the 2022 Turkeys of the Year drawing, a couple ideas were put on the white board, including the idea of watching Hank Lonely battle Kylo Ren on the Galactic Starcruiser. A crowd would be watching Hank and Kylo on the bridge above them, with Bacini awkwardly handing Hank a lightsaber. This would be referencing when the Starcruiser opened back in March and the climactic battle between Rey and Kylo having a distracting moment when Rey switched out the “real” lightsaber Disney had been teasing fans for months for a regular one. Like the seating area for KiteTails in 2021, the crowd watching Hank Lonely and Kylo Ren would be comprised of people and events that took place in 2022. So that was the plan for a while…
…until Harmonious caught fire in October.
That was the “lightbulb” moment where it would be a natural tie-in to to have the artwork take place at EPCOT. A couple of weeks later it was time to put pencil to paper and draw out a rough sketch for Brian Cooper. When doing this, I shared the work in process with TouringPlans head honcho Len Testa.
I use various levels of detail when it comes to drawing layouts for other artists. Some get pretty detailed sketches, but Brian Cooper and I are at the point now where I can do the quickest, almost incomprehensible, scribblings and he knows exactly what I’m talking about. Below is the version I sent Brian. When you see numbers on the drawing (1-4) it means I didn’t have enough space on the paper to describe what I was drawing, so I included a second page of quick notes.
Brian got immediately to work and from his earliest sketches I knew this drawing would once again be even better than what I imagined in my mind.
When Brian sent an updated sketch with pretty much everything in place, it let me see the areas where we could have even more stuff put in.
Below is an updated version with more detailed line work and coloring. You can see in the drawing below that the character of Bob Chapek flying his money copter has been changed so that instead of an evil grin and overall happiness from lightening so many wallets, he is upset while reading Bob Iger’s book “The Ride of a Lifetime.”
Below we have the final version, with all the signage filled out and t-shirt designs applied. As we can all see, another MASTERPIECE. Can you spot all the references?
Okay, think you have them all identified? Let’s see how you did…
# 1 – Len Testa’s alter ego Hank Lonely wielding a lightsaber in a heroic pose. Hank made a big splash when he was on the first Galactic Starcruiser sailing in March of this year.
# 2 – Artist Brian Cooper. Brian is offering Hank Lonely a plastic lightsaber “carrying case”. We covered these plastic bags in this year’s Turkeys.
Brian is wearing an Every Day Is Halloween t-shirt that was offered during this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. The artist for that shirt was Luis Orazi.
# 3 – Derek – from the David & Derek series – painting Julia Mascardo’s Bad Figment Sketch from this year’s Turkeys. Derek is wearing a Pirates of the Caribbean “Dog With Keys” shirt from this year’s Turkeys.
One detail that I absolutely adored in the drawings is that because the Bad Sketch Figment was drawn in black and white, only the black paint has been touched on the palette.
# 4 – Bacini – the official dog of DisTwitter – holding a Figment popcorn bucket from this year’s Festival of the Arts at EPCOT.
# 5- Dale from the wonderful Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers movie that was released on Disney+ in May. Dale is holding a Handwich from the #RetroMagic50 fan convention. The convention was run by the talented cats over at RetroWDW.com and took place in April.
# 6 – Chip is holding the miniaturized model of “A Bug’s Land” carried by Ant-Man and the Wasp in Avengers Campus. To see more pictures (and video) of this amazing-ness, CLICK HERE. Avengers Campus replaced A Bug’s Land in Disney California Adventure.
# 7 – The Creature From the Black Lagoon, @Skipper_Hoss, and The Bride of Frankenstein from the Dead Coconut Club. @Skipper_Hoss is one member of the creative team responsible for the mega popular Dead Coconut Club in Universal CityWalk during this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. The focus of the downstairs area of the club was The Bride of Frankenstein while the upstairs version put a spotlight on The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Their faces are showing the disappointment of the Bad Figment Sketch artwork that Derek is working on. Skipper is wearing an awesome shirt featuring iconic HHN snacks that he designed and was available at HHN and through Universal’s website.
# 8 – The Disney+ Day poster with Post-It Note. This sounds impossible to believe, but last year we joked about how Disney put more thought and effort into Disney+ Day (November 12th) than they did for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Well, this year’s Disney+ Day was “celebrated” on September 8th, as pointed out by this Post-It note. The reason Disney had to put the date on the Post-It is because no one actually knows when Disney+ Day is since it changes every single year based on when Disney has programming ready to stream. Also related, similar to last year, Disney put more effort in Disney+ Day than they did for EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary.
# 9 – Signage for Universal Halloween Horror Nights NFTs, placed where they belong, in a trash can. We covered this story in the 2022 Turkeys and you can read my full thoughts there. tl;dr version, Universal should be embarrassed these were in the park.
One great detail you will see ONLY if you zoom into Brian’s artwork? HE INCLUDED THE TYPO THAT WE MENTIONED IN THE TURKEYS!!!
# 10 – Churro the bird, the official mascot of Orlando Informer.
OI ran a series of extremely popular meet ups at the Universal parks this year and in November Churro the bird joined the festivities as a meet and greet character.
11 – The Weeknd taking a selfie. One of the most surprising houses in this year’s Halloween Horror Nights 31 featured the musician The Weeknd in After Hours Nightmare.
The Weeknd is holding an iconic HHN snack, a Twisted Tater.
# 12 – The Weeknd is taking a selfie with Disney Josh D’Amaro. There is a mini-controversy on DisTwitter that – because of his conventionally good looks and charming personality – Josh D’Amaro has been spared of most of the online abuse fans have given to Bob Chapek. Instead, D’Amaro has been seen inside the Disney parks getting his picture taken with many excited fans.
# 13 – Also getting his picture taken with Josh D’Amaro is Major Sweets, a character in the Sweet Revenge scarezone at HHN 31. This was my personal favorite scarezone of the year and one my favorite HHN scarezones of all time. The character of Major Sweets was also seen in the HHN Tribute Store. I mentioned the controversy on DisTwitter with fans taking selfies with Josh D’Amaro? There’s also an even smaller controversy on HHNTwitter with a group of hardcore super fans upset that the guests have turn HHN scarezones from being “scary” to taking pictures with all the scareactors. This “moment” in the Turkeys was referencing that as well.
# 14 – Josh D’Aamro is driving the Synergy Machine.
When Bob Chapek announced the 2022 Disney+ Day, it brought out one of the all time greatest quotes from Our Dear Leader:
This led to @n8creative to create the following meme while referencing a famous moment from the movie Mean Girls. The Synergy Machine is designed to look like the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo.
# 15 – Lil’ Boo. A breakout character from last year’s HHN 30, Lil’ Boo came back in a major way in HHN 31 and even had a full merchandise line.
# 16 – This one was for the true Universal hardcore fans. While the Dead Coconut Club overlay in CityWalk was a huge critical success and loved by all who went, many others discovered the hard way that the club opened late – or was outright closed – for many nights because the venue was being used for private events.
# 17 – A piece of rock work from the Journey of Water: Inspired by Moana walkthrough attraction that is seemingly in year four of its construction and still nowhere near ready. The “Wet Paint” sign is having a laugh at the fact that it is STILL being worked on.
# 18 – The Spider-Man robot from Avengers Campus who crashed into a wall. This story was covered in this year’s Turkeys. The SPLAT is a cartoon-like sound effect you would see in Marvel comic books.
# 19 – A Harmonious “taco” Barge. There are two Harmonious “taco” barges in the World Showcase lagoon. #19’s LED screen says “lightly used” and is referencing Disney announcing they are already looking ahead at replacing both the Harmonious and Enchanted nighttime spectaculars, at EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom, respectively. Both shows have been underwhelming to guests, and that’s putting it mildly.
# 20 – The Harmonious “Stargate” Barge on fire. This is referencing the night of October 21st, when Twitter user @Tim_Beekman took the photo below.
DisTwitter had a lot of fun with this story, with many joking that the show was doing us all a favor by burning down. Many tweets and memes were created, including this one showing the interactive MagicBand+.
As it turns out, the fire was contained to a Harmonious fireworks barge, but it still made for a very memorable night for Disney fans.
# 21 – Genie upset with Genie+. Genie is in his vacation clothes, as we saw him at the end of Aladdin. Genie is angry with his Genie+ app, and this is referencing an entire section of the Turkeys that was cut when the news of Bob Chapek being fired was announced.
# 22 – A second Harmonious “taco” Barge. See #19 for more details. The whimsical “For Sale By Owner” screen is referencing Disney getting rid of the nighttime spectacular after a short run
# 23 – The Jurassic Park River Adventure show building post Hurricane Ian. I mean c’mon, we had to have SOMETHING related to Hurricane Ian and its shutting down Disney and Universal, right? The arrow is pointing to the damage Hurricane Ian’s winds did to the show building.
# 24 – C.C. Pazzini – “The Inventor of Cici’s Pizza.” If you blinked you may have missed an advertisement earlier this year from Cici’s Pizza featuring a character that we’ve all seen before. Be prepared, this ad is NEXT LEVEL BONKERS.
That’s right, Cici’s pizza straight up ripped off Dreamfinder.
# 25 – @bioreconstuct’s Helicopter. It’s become an annual tradition to feature our favorite blogger-in-the-sky, and this year Bio’s copter is flying a banner referencing to a line Bob Chapek used to describe those pesky Annual Passholders still visiting the Disney parks.
# 26 – Disney CEO Bob Chapek as The Leader, from the Simpsons episode The Joy of Sect (Season 9, Episode 13). The money bags referencing all the up-charges and micro-transactions he has put into place at Disney over the past several years (which were mentioned in detail in a Turkeys section that was cut once Chapek was fired).
# 27 – Bob Chapek is crying and holding Bob Iger’s book “The Ride of a Lifetime.” This is referencing the shocking news of Bob Chapek being replaced by Bob Iger, which we cover in this year’s Turkeys.
Let’s hear it for artist Brian Cooper, who can take the scraps that Bacini and I send to him and make a Michelin star-level meal that everyone can enjoy.
And a HUGE thank you to @bioreconstruct for taking the time to separate all the elements from the drawing!