Disney parks have always been known for their legendary storytelling. Imagineers take every opportunity to sprinkle an extra dash of Disney magic in their work, whether Maximus’s hoofprints on the pavement, a whiff of banana rum on Pirates of the Caribbean, or a cast of fantastical characters inhabiting the Most Magical Place on Earth.
These characters immerse us in magical stories and represent the wonder of Disney. While most of us are familiar with park icons like Figment or Orange Bird, there are many ensemble characters we often cast aside. These are a few of my favorite forgotten stars of Disney lore.
Soarin’ Around the World is an attraction unlike any other. The invigorating fragrances and inspirational symphony make this attraction unique. Just as memorable is the ride’s sole character Patrick, who presents the most amusing safety spiel in all of Disney World; his speech is an integral, not to mention insanely quotable, part of the ride experience. Patrick Warburton plays this iconic character makes him all the more fun. Who wouldn’t want Kronk to be their chief flight attendant? Patrick is beloved in niche super-fan groups, but I still consider him an obscure character because he is noticeably absent from any Epcot branding or merchandise. I can only hope our favorite flight attendant gets his moment in the sun.
Splash Mountain is home to myriad whimsical creatures, ranging from a dapper roadrunner to sassy opossums. The gophers are my absolute favorite of all the critters who inhabit the Laughing Place. Although they are nameless, they never fail to make me smile. I especially love the gopher who pops out of the ceiling and squeals, “FSU!” which is not only a neat Easter egg for those who boast this university as their alma mater but also a hidden surprise for intrepid Disney fans to discover. Hopefully, Imagineers will find a clever way to incorporate these loveable creatures into the upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Country Bear Jamboree always promises a hootin’ and hollerin’ good time with our favorite musical bruins. However, it is not Teddy Beara or Big Al I am recognizing today, but Sammy, the singing raccoon who lives in Henry’s top hat and happens to be my mom’s favorite character in the show. Although Sammy only boasts a single solo line at the show’s end, his endearing soprano and fluffy, striped tail add a sprinkle of whimsy to Country Bear Jamboree.
Speaking of classic Magic Kingdom shows, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is home to a flock of vibrant, talented birds and two comical macaws. Clyde and Claude, the parrots who welcome guests to the tropical serenade, don’t receive much praise, as their crooning counterparts overshadow them. However, their preshow is among the best in all four parks, and their fun banter guarantees a laugh, which is necessary on boiling days after hours of trudging in merciless humidity. Claude and Clyde, birdbrains though they may be, are the real stars of the Sunshine Pavilion.
Even though Spaceship Earth is among the more jaded attractions at Disney World, I still return to this attraction, again and again, to travel through the history of communication with Dame Judi Dench. Time travelers encounter many ancient figures who shaped our present on the journey, including a lute and violin player in the Renaissance’s midst.
They may not be as legendary as the Phoenicians, but they deserve more than a passing glance. These aren’t any old animatronics; they are John and Patty from Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress! Disney often recycles animatronic molds, which is how this pair came from their great, big, beautiful tomorrow to the vibrant past. The next time you ride Spaceship Earth, look for these musicians as they embrace the Renaissance spirit of art and progress.
While these characters are easy to ignore, they deserve our appreciation nonetheless, for they help to create a foundation for the stories we love. What are your favorite obscure characters?