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by Ken Pellman (archives)
May 22, 2002
Ken talks about some odds and ends - Star Wars, attractions made into films and even a farewell to Jerry Dunphy.

Well, here we are once again. May is always a crazy month for me. My attention is usually pulled in a dozen different directions, I'm hyped up on sugar from cookies (thank you, PK) so in this edition, you get my…

Thoughts on the Passing Parade…

Splish Splash
Looks like the longest refurbishment in Splash Mountain history is almost over. I don't think I was off the mark too far regarding what happened. The same logs will still be used, but a new seating configuration is being used. I haven't experienced the new seating yet. I will be interested in seeing how it actually affects safety and capacity.

Rattle You, This Theater Will
There have been five Star Wars films unleashed on the public now, and it has been over fifteen years since Star Tours opened at Disneyland Park. Despite numerous rumors over the last fifteen years, Star Tours has remained the same at Disneyland Park and each other Disney theme park the attraction is in. It is no longer such a unique attraction, but it is still effective, and it was insanely popular when it opened.

Star Tours was premiered with a sixty-hour party at Disneyland Park, complete with free digital logo watches for guests. The line seemed long, but it wasn't as long as the wait was to see Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones at Edwards Big Newport in Newport Beach. Located about half an hour from The Disneyland Resort, the Big Newport features the largest screen in the West, and very loud state-of-the-art sound. People line up all day long to see big new film releases, and they do camp out for Star Wars.

Organized through an unofficial site, BigNewport.com, what amounted to an extended tailgate party went very smoothly. Sure, some of the people there were a little weird. Yes, a lot of people gathered for an hourly ritual involving something called Yatta. But most of the people were well-adjusted people who are gainfully employed and do have active social lives. It didn't stop some boring types from ridiculing those in line, or asking questions like "Is anyone here dressed up like James Tyrone Kirk?"

No matter how much someone like Lucas and companies like Viacom try, some people will always confuse brands like Star Trek with Star Wars. Lucas is very good and branding, and so is Disney.

From Theme Park to Screen
Branding and synergy are two things Disney is known for. While Star Tours, like many other theme park attractions, is based on films, Disney is now heading into the taking theme park attractions to the big screen.

Some Disney fans have been asking for this for years. Just the potential for inside jokes and tributes alone would have them plunking down cash for multiple screenings. Someone at Disney must have finally figured out that theme park attractions that have entertained hundreds of millions of people and ingrained themselves in the pop-culture consciousness might have enough "marketing" behind them already to draw people into the theater.

As others have noted, however, what makes a good theme park attraction does not necessarily make a good movie. Theme park attractions are just a few minutes in length, not 90 or 120 minutes.

Have you ever noticed that most TV shows based on movies don't seem to do all that well? Sure, there have been a few successful examples, but not all stories or premises work in diverse media.

I don't want to give you the wrong idea - I'm one of the strongest proponents of synergy. That's evident from previous editions of this column. It is just that I have a tremendous amount of appreciation for The Country Bears, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion, and the last thing I want to so see is their brands tarnished with horrible film adaptations. The Country Bears is almost in theaters and we'll all get to see that soon. The other two adaptations are in the planning stages. Both of those have an enormous amount of potential and could be compelling stories. The characters, settings, and theme are all strong. A cohesive story is mostly left up to the imagination of the guest.

The acting, directing, special effects, music, and so forth will be important in those films, but it is the script that will be critical. It could be the difference between hokey and compelling. Let's hope Disney gives us hits instead of duds that bring down the image of some of the best-loved theme park attractions of all time.

From the Desert to the Sea
Finally, Jerry Dunphy, THE southern California news anchor icon, passed away on Monday. He had suffered a heart attack (he'd had at least two before - one as far back as 1978) last Wednesday. He was at least 80 years old, and was a military veteran who flew bombers in combat.

He was such the legend that an entire hour of prime time that was normally a standard news broadcast was instead a biographical tribute to Dunphy.

What does this have to do with Disney?

Good question.

When Disney bought KHJ-TV Channel 9 in Los Angeles about 12 or 13 years ago, it was lagged far behind the competition. Disney rebranded it as the glitzy KCAL, or "California 9". One way they got it all started was by having three hours of local news in prime time. It was a way to bring it lots of advertising money without spending exorbitant amounts for TV shows. Dunphy, who has been at the ABC affiliate on Los Angeles for what seemed like forever, helped launch it all and helped give Disney their foray into television station ownership.

Disney later had to sell the station to be allowed to by ABC, which owned the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles. The irony is that the regulations are now so relaxed that Viacom just bought KCAL from the folks Disney sold it to, and Viacom owns CBS, including the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, as well as supplying the UPN Network programming to yet another station in Los Angeles (which they do not own).

But I digress.

Dunphy had a distinctive look, a distinctive voice, and a distinctive opening to his broadcasts: "From the desert to the sea, to all of southern California a good evening." He was quite a guy, having survived a shooting by a mugger and, like I said, two previous major heart attacks. He also wrote songs, and according to his coworkers was quite a dancer.

He worked right up until the day of his fatal heart attack, saying he wanted G-d to grant him work as long as he lived, and wanted to live as long as G-d gave him work.

Even if you've never seen the news in southern California, you've probably seen or heard Jerry in numerous major motion pictures and television shows where he usually played himself. He is thought to be the inspiration behind Ted Knight's Ted Baxter character on The Mary Tyler Moore show and Kent Brockman on The Simpsons.

Jerry left KCAL for a while to work at another station, but returned to finish he work there. The news just won't be the same without him.

From the desert to the sea, this is Ken Pellman signing off… Rest in peace, Mr. Dunphy…

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-- Ken Pellman

Ken Pellman is a writer who has experience as a Disneyland Park cast member & annual passholder. He is fascinated with the sociological aspects of The Disneyland Resort. He can be reached directly at Kenversations@flash.net or at http://www.Pellman.com

Kenversations is usually posted on the fourth Wednesday or Thursday of each month.

The views, opinions and comments of Ken Pellman, and all of our columnists, are not necessarily those of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

©2002 Ken Pellman, all rights reserved. Licensed to LaughingPlace.com.

-- Posted May 22, 2002

 

 

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