Well, this took me back.
I found myself stuck in a YouTube wormhole today, watching various Disney attractions from the parks around the world, when an interesting video popped up on my autoplay list.
The video was titled “Top 10 Disney Fails, Bloopers & Animatronic Malfunctions” and looked incredibly professionally put together by the YouTube channel TPMvids.
I gave it a look and it immediately took me back to my time working as a cast member at Muppet Vision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
I’ve told this story before back in the day on “Inside The Magic,” but I was witness to one of the greatest animatronic fails that attraction has ever seen.
You see, back when I worked the attraction in 1999 and 2002 (for reference…from what I understand, the attraction still functions this way today), three cast members were scheduled to open the attraction a couple hours before the official park opening.
The job of the first two cast members was to arrive about two hours before park opening and drive a van that was parked behind the large gate with Kermit drawn on it between Muppets and Star Tours over to Journey Into Imagination over at Epcot to deliver used 3D glasses from the day before and pick up the clean glasses that were to be used that day.
This happened every…single…day. Sure, buying another glass cleaning machine and keeping it at Muppets (like Tough To Be a Bug has at Animal Kingdom and Mickey’s Philharmagic has at the Animal Kingdom) sounds like it would make a lot of sense…but that’s another story.
While these two cast members are restocking glasses, another gets to the attraction a little later to set everything up and get the attraction running so it is ready at park open. This includes cycling through an entire preshow and theater show.
So, one day, I was opening the attraction and went and grabbed a seat in the front row of the theater and put on my 3D glasses to watch the show. Here, we were looking for things like making sure the movie was in focus, watching the physical theater effects in the room (arrows show in walls, fireworks animations over your head) and…most importantly…making sure the audio animatronics were working.
On this one day…they were not. Statler’s head popped off in the balcony. The Swedish Chef pulled out his cannon at the start of the show and had it aimed at the screen the whole time. The penguin orchestra went nuts. Their cannon raised and spun in circles. On top of that, both sets of doors began to open and close uncontrollably.
I rushed over to the speaker box underneath Waldorf and Statler’s balcony seats and quickly hit the E-Stop button, which is the emergency stop button that every attraction has. The show SLAMMED to a stop and the insanity ended…for now.
I had to contact our operations team who came to fix the show…which lasted until 5pm that afternoon. It was the longest shutdown of the show in the park’s history at the time…and I hope it’s a record that still stands today.
So, check out this video and have a laugh at the insanity that can happen at Disney attractions…and while things look perfect often times when you visit…these malfunctions happen much more frequently than you might think.