Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Disney World Lone Ranger Connection


I have extensively documented the choosing of shirts for Disney World, how they get their own grid, and how many are older than the Cast Members who compliment them in the parks.
Most are obvious Disney themed choices, but several are not, and have become Disney shirts for reasons that are usually connected to an accidental initial selection leading to a memorable story that earns that particular shirt a place of honor on the list.
This is the tale of how my Lone Ranger shirt has earned a coveted spot in the Disney World rotation.
I have owned a Ralph Marlin, all over print Moore and Silverheels Lone Ranger shirt for close to forty years.  I have been able to wear it on our most recent Disney trips thanks to my wife’s epic sewing skills that rescued seams formerly reduced to only three shirt molecules.  One might logically think Frontierland would be the optimal place to make sense for this selection, but my stories are never filled with much in the way of logic or sense.   

Instead this became an official EPCOT shirt, based on its use in the distant past, before I owned enough Disney shirts to wear every day on a trip. It was also before Disney acquired several franchises I already had multiple shirts from. (Star Wars, Muppets, Marvel)  I always get compliments for the Lone Ranger shirt from guests and cast members alike who hail from all over the world in that park.  This proves someone should really work on making, (or at least have had faith when releasing,) a new interpretation of the character.
The reason it became an official EPCOT shirt stems from one of my family’s trips in the early years of that park.  There will always be something extra special to me about EPCOT.  Yes, the Magic Kingdom is the Disneyest of Disney parks, but it had Disneyland to precede it by decades, making there a history to the Kingdom from the beginning.  Universal had a working studio theme park well before MGM opened.  And, as filled with unique attractions as it is, Animal Kingdom still kind of feels like a zoo.
When EPCOT opened, it was my favorite parts of Disney distilled, without obvious branding. There were no characters, but it maintained the Disney spirit through cast attitude, immersive pavilions, and scores of animatronics.  Much of that has been replaced by thrill rides, but the feeling remains in many locations, mostly in World Showcase.  The animatronic filled Future World rides went beyond what’s left in the Big Ball and Imagination, to throw in all sorts of mechanical and video tricks to enhance the experience.  The post show areas were all larger, more fun, and more informative than the ones that remain.
Yes, I’m once more veering into old and cranky Disney World fan territory before the story. Deal with it.
While, here in the future, we have online booking for meals half a year in advance, when EPCOT opened it had a different kind of future feel for setting up food options.  It was much more of a “Jetsons” style predicted future. Over by Communicore (the initial central areas on either side of the big ball that eventually became Innoventions) was a big, weird white, tent like building.  It had a whole series of futuristic looking “Video Phones” used to make reservations, via live awesome happy Disney operators, in the brand new mass of restaurants that had just been added to the World.
There were several reasons that led to much more exploratory dining in EPCOT in those early days.  One was, obviously that there were only two parks.  There was only the Garden Grill breakfast for a character meal in EPCOT, and even the Magic Kingdom just had the Castle "Occasional Princesses with Some of their Friends" Breakfast and one or two others.  Additionally, the Kingdom often closed early in those days, and park hopping was cheaper.  Finally, on those early trips the ONLY meal plan consisted of three of what now counts as Table Service meals a day, including appetizers!  There were some trips where it got close to them having to roll the four of us out of Orlando when we finished.
The system was designed to allow guests to funnel into the largest conglomeration of sit down restaurants on property at the time, World Showcase, for dinner.  Without having often visited old friends and “Must Do” character meals like now, we tried a bundle of different nations.  China’s Nine Dragons was a long standing family favorite in those early years. Luckily, they moved Grandma’s chicken to the counter service place and she gets to revisit those days on our EPCOT Death Marches. 

We even tried a high end French place once.  Then the four of us decided that the tiny portions and “OK” to us fancy food didn’t align with our tastes or culture, and we went somewhere else to fill up.
Somewhere between France and China on our frequency chart was the nice sit down place in Italy, the food was excellent, the paintings on the walls were beautiful…
And the entertainment is the story of today, since it was on this early trip that I first decided to wear my Lone Ranger shirt on a Disney Vacation.
Our family of four was seated to eat, on one of the many trips Mom and Dad took Kim and I on, planting the seeds of our current day huge, Grandma sponsored, family excursions. 
While we ate, a talented Opera tenor was wandering between tables, belting out Italian songs.
Accompanying him was a cute little guy with an accordion, who in a twist of TV synchronicity, kinda resembled Vito Scotti. Both men looked very serious and into their music…
At least they did until they were walking past our table between songs.  The accordionist looked toward me and exclaimed, “DA LONE A-RANGER!!!” and played a few bars of the William Tell Overture on his instrument. 
That would have been cool enough, but something happened the next time he started playing along with the slow, sweet song of the singer.
Any time the singer would pause in his performance, the accordion player would run over mid song, lean in to me and play a couple more bars of the classic Rossini theme, occasionally punctuating it with:
“He’s a gonna kill-a me.” 
Before dashing back to the singer.
And that’s how the Lone Ranger became an official Disney Trip shirt.


Kim Luer said...

Such an awesome trip / story / meal / accordion player. I love the character meals but dang I miss that Italian food.

I even ate in the German sit down once on a non family trip I had there, the show at the time was hysterical. Featuring a random diner who was a large man (well over 6 foot tall) named Tony from Brooklyn being pulled from his dinner to be taught the German Schuhplattler (the foot slapping dance) I was laughing too hard to eat. It was great.

Jeff McGinley said...

There are so many elements in World Showcase beside the "classic Disney stuff" the more thrill rides they add to Future World, the more time I want to spend on the other side of the park.

I really have to write down some more "McGinley Retro Disney Stories"
Thanx for reading, and being part of the stories.