End of an Era

Image result for great movie ride

This past weekend Disney held its annual D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, where they as always made a slew of big announcements regarding upcoming projects  from every division of the company.  It was revealed, for example, that over at EPCOT the Ellen’s Energy Adventure pavilion would be getting a complete makeover into a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction,  They also informed us all that a Tron roller coaster would be built next to Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.  They shared sneak peeks at footage of various upcoming film projects, including Mary Poppins Returns and Avengers: Infinity War.  The one that hit me closest to home, however, was the confirmation of the recent rumor that the centerpiece attraction of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Great Movie Ride, would be closing down.  The plan is to replace it with a high-tech Mickey Mouse attraction.

I’m saddened by this news.

The current and former Walt Disney World cast members who work and have worked at The Great Movie Ride (GMR) make up a very close community and call themselves MovieRiders.  Their go-to slogan is “Once a movie rider, always a movie rider.”  They have been all over social media the past couple of days since the announcement, pouring out their emotions and sharing their memories of this attraction, their home, and the fellow people who worked there, their family.  It is a difficult time for them, but they are strong and are there for each other, and they reluctantly accept this event over which they have no control.  I am a part of their Facebook group, and have been right there with them as they go through this, but I’m neither a current nor former cast member.

My dad was.

Dad worked at a data processing company in downtown Chicago for many years until the company chose to outsource his entire department, forcing them all to take severance packages and clean out their desks.  Dad and Mom decided to move to Florida, and the first thing he did when he got here was apply to work at Walt Disney World.  He was always a Disney fan and loved WDW from vacations past.  He also was a huge movie aficionado and thought that GMR was one of the greatest attractions in all of the Disney parks.  When he went for his interview, he told me, he didn’t specifically say that he wanted to work at that ride, because he knew he’d be happy just about anywhere at WDW, but he did mention his love of movies.  Apparently his interviewer was good at reading between the lines, because when he was hired that was exactly where they put him — Tour Guide at The Great Movie Ride, at what was then Disney/MGM Studios.

After he’d been there for a while, Dad once told me that even though he could have gotten a job working with computers and data processing like he’d done for so many years, where he would have been making a heck of a lot more money than he was making at this hourly theme park job with co-workers the majority of whom were half his age, he truly believed that he’d probably put ten years back onto his life by being there.  There, at GMR, in the happiest place on Earth.

Of course with my father working there I and the rest of the family rode The Great Movie Ride far more often than we might have otherwise.  We had helped him learn his lines when he was training early on, and we got to the point where we knew the script almost as well as he did.  Whenever we were on it and there was even the slightest mistake by the Tour Guide or Gangster or Bandit on that particular show, we caught it and would smile to each other knowingly.  My kids liked to go on the ride when they were little and they knew that their grandpa was working, although we made sure not to go on it when he had to play one of the “bad guys.”

He worked there for several years, first as Tour Guide and then eventually as Gangster and Bandit, and even became a Trainer.  The GMR cast hosted their own awards night regularly for a few years, and Dad won Best Male Tour Guide and Best Gangster a couple of times while he was there.  As a trainer he was popular among the other cast members, and I was told by one of them once that everyone knew if Keith was reviewing their performance they had to make sure to give a really big “Ta-da!”  Unfortunately, as he got older, the part of the job where he had to run up and/or down the stairs in the Temple of Anubis scene started to bother his back.  And so after a bit Dad reluctantly transferred out of The Great Movie Ride and over to Walt Disney World Transportation.

As much as he insisted starting work at GMR added ten years to his life, I have to say that leaving GMR turned out to be what led ultimately to those years being taken away.  In Transportation, Dad worked on the boats, ferrying guests back and forth between resort hotels and the theme parks across Disney’s various networks of lakes and lagoons under the beautiful Florida sunshine.  He died in September 2015 after contracting melanoma, skin cancer.

The outpouring of emotion from former coworkers at GMR after Dad died was really amazing.  I heard from and met people whose names I had heard Dad mention in conversation about work years before, and more people than I could count whom I hadn’t heard about at all.  I never realized just how much my father meant to so many people at Disney.  Many of them he hadn’t seen or spoken with in years.  “Once a movie rider, always a movie rider,” as they say.  Many of these people I am now friends with myself through Facebook, and I am glad for that.

The Great Movie Ride has gone through a few changes over the years.  The cast got new uniforms, which I think took a bit away from the original concept of the ride.  The script changed a few times, often not for the better in my opinion.  Some of the mechanics of some of the animatronic figures stopped working and didn’t get repaired.  Newer, snazzier, thrill-inducing rides opened up in the park and the crowds were drawn there instead.  There came a time where it was obvious that this attraction’s days were numbered.  It’s a shame, really, considering what it used to be.

Despite all of that, I’m sure that if his back hadn’t started bothering him, my dad would not have left GMR to go drive boats in the cancer-causing sunshine.  He would have stayed there and worked through the frustration because of how much he loved the place and the people.  He would have grumbled and complained about the things that were going downhill, but he would have kept on doing his best job, knowing that every guest deserves the best show he can give them.  He would have learned the new scripts and gone along with them because that was his job and he had to,  but he’d also stubbornly hold onto hope that eventually TCM’s sponsorship deal would end and they’d go back to the old script, which made a lot more sense and told a much better story.  As crazy as this might sound, The Great Movie Ride would have kept my dad alive.

But of course that’s not what happened and there’s nothing we can do to change that.  Dad passed away much too soon for any of our liking, and now The Great Movie Ride is following suit.  As I said earlier, I’m saddened, because for a lot of years, this ride was part of my family, and after Dad passed the people that worked there with him showed me that they were, as well.  I hope that everyone still working at GMR finds happiness at whatever new adventure they move on to after the closing.  I also genuinely hope the new ride being put in its place turns out to be a successful one.

Hopefully I can make it out to the park one more time before the end of the day August 13, 2017.  That’s the day that will mark the end of an era for Disney Hollywood Studios, and for the MovieRider family as well.

My Triumphant Return!

I’m a terrible blogger.  I started this blog out with great intent, and wrote less than a dozen posts before I disappeared from WordPress for nearly two years.

In my own defense, I have been busy on that last project I had mentioned.  During NaNoWriMo 2015 I successfully wrote my first novel.  Since then I have devoted all my writing time to editing, rewriting, and polishing that novel.  Now, at last, it has reached its pinnacle — publication.

Lost or Found: A Justin Case Adventure, the first in what I intend to make a series of novels, is now available for purchase in paperback from CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com.  It is also available as an eBook exclusively from Kindle.  Here is the back cover copy, if you’re interested:

Private Detective Justin Case’s 15 minutes of fame are up. The world has all but forgotten him, he is out of money, and he hasn’t had a client in weeks. If not for his awesome girlfriend Sue Crose, he’d most likely be out of business and flipping burgers for a living. But now Sue seems to have gone missing, and before Justin can even begin to search for her a government agent shows up at his door with a lost item case like none he’d ever imagined — one that brings him face to face with people who don’t exist, technologies that haven’t been invented yet, and a trip he never thought he’d take. But no matter what happens, this case must be solved quickly. The fate of the Earth depends on it.

Now that this is finally completed, I hope to have the time to get back to the blog here, at least until November when I’ll tackle this year’s NaNoWriMo to write the next Justin Case story.  Of course, if this really takes off, I might be too busy on the worldwide author’s circuit to do any blogging.

Kidding.

So What’s This Blog About, Anyway?

If you are reading this at all then there are pretty good odds that you already know me, as I admit to not having a worldwide audience quite yet.  If that’s the case, then there is also a high probability that you are already familiar with many of my views on assorted topics.  But for those who might not be, I’m going to put in a bit of a warning:

It is possible that you may get offended by something that you read in this blog.  I do not plan to do this, but at the same time I will not be pulling any punches, either.  If you can’t handle the concept that my opinions, beliefs, theories, etc. might be different from yours, or that they might not necessarily be “politically correct,” then it might be best that you not continue reading.

The first post I made last week about my father is not representative of the type of posts that will usually be here.  Well, I mean, of course all of my posts will have the same high quality writing style and top notch witty humor, but they will not all be memorials to people who have passed away.  Nor will they be emotional tear-jerkers straight from the depths of my heart and soul.

That being said, I really can’t tell you right now what my future posts will be, as I don’t truly have a detailed plan.  I intend to use this blog as an outlet for my unique ideas, my blunt opinions, and my wild creativity, so you never know what you may find here.  Sports, movies, religion, music, celebrities, holidays, television, politics, economics, education — no topic is off limits to my ramblings.  I’ll probably throw in some of my own fiction, poetry, or personal anecdotes, too.  Reader beware, I suppose.

For those who might be reading this who don’t know me very well, let me also take some time here to give you a bit of a background on who I am before we really get going.

I am a mid-40’s Caucasian American male with British and Eastern European ancestry.  I am heterosexual with a wife of 20 years and a pair of teenagers learning to drive.  I am a dog person – no cats – and presently own a Shih Tzu/Jack Russell Terrier mix who is easily the smartest canine I’ve ever seen.  In my lifetime I have lived in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Southeast, and I am sure I demonstrate traits common to all three areas in some way or another.  I am registered to vote as a Republican but find myself often taking the Democrats’ side on various topics.  My mother’s side of the family was Jewish and my father’s side was Protestant.  Despite this, I don’t really label myself as a member of any known religion – but no, I’m not an Atheist, either.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida with a minor in English Writing.  I have been working full-time in retail management since 1990, although I still will tell you that it’s not what I want to be when I grow up.  I consider myself a geek, with particular concentrations in Star Wars and super-hero comic books, and am not ashamed to admit it.  Oh, and I absolutely love the Buffalo Bills.

Realistically, nothing in the last paragraph should matter to you at all if you are a fair and open-minded person, but it may give you an idea of where my thoughts might be coming from sometimes.

I’d really like for this blog to become successful, which of course depends mostly on me, but if you like what you read you can help by clicking on those “like” and “share” buttons regularly, and also by making sure you “follow” Scott’s World.

So with all of that being said, I’ll wrap up this introductory post.  I appreciate your visiting the blog and reading what I have to offer, and I promise to try very hard to hold up my end of the bargain by posting quality content at a regular pace.  Ta ta for now!

–Scott

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Keith Edwards, One-of-a-Kind Dad

Below is the speech I gave this past weekend at the Celebration of Life event we held for my father, Keith Edwards, who passed away at the beginning of this month.  I’m posting this here not out of my own vanity, but because several people were apparently impressed enough by it that they asked me to make a copy available.  So, here it is:


Hello.  I think everyone here knows me, but for the record I’m Scott, Keith’s son.  And before you say it, yes, I know I look a lot like him.  I hope everyone enjoyed the slide show.  I had to leave a lot of great pictures on the cutting room floor or else it would’ve run far too long.

So anyway, I’m going to read my speech straight from the page rather than try to follow all of the standard public speaking rules because frankly, emotions are already a bit of a roller coaster today and I’ll muck it all up otherwise.

First of all, thank you all for being here for this.  It really means a lot to me to know that my dad was loved and will be missed by so many people, and judging from the Facebook responses we’ve seen, there were many more folks who feel the same but were unable to be here today.  I will tell you that I really didn’t need people to be here for me, but something in me really needed people to be here for him, and again I thank you all.

It’s common in these kinds of speeches for people to say something about things that they feel they learned from the departed, so I gave it some thought and decided I’d go with that.  My dad taught me that white shirts have a magnetic attraction to spaghetti sauce.  He taught me that there are things that sometimes always happen and there are things that usually never happen.  From Dad I learned that when driving, “whatsa behind me doesa nota matter!” and that you should occasionally really rev that engine to “burn out the gunk.”  And probably most importantly, he taught me that the best popcorn in all of Walt Disney World comes from the little popcorn cart just inside the entrance tunnel of Magic Kingdom, all the way to the left near Guest Relations.

Of course I could probably have gone on and on with these kinds of silly, quirky little things, and I’m sure everyone out there could think of some as well.  But I stopped there because these aren’t the kinds of things that people really want to hear when you’re giving a speech like this.  These things aren’t deep or philosophical, they’re not dramatic or heart-wrenching, and they’re certainly not full of elderly wisdom that opened my eyes to some aspect of the meaning of life.

So I gave it a lot more thought, to try to come up with something better — something more fitting for this celebration of my dad’s life.  I thought about it a lot.  Through drives to and from work, while mowing the yard, while watching tv shows or football games.  I got frustrated because as much as I loved my dad, I couldn’t really think of any of those kinds of things – those deep meaningful things — that I’d learned specifically from him.  I felt like maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention to him.  Maybe I’d missed something important he’d taught me.  Maybe I’d let him down, and he’d died disappointed in me.

Now here’s where I’m going to go off on a tangent for a moment to tell a story.

When I was a very little boy we lived near Rochester, New York, and my parents had season tickets to the Buffalo Bills football games.  This was back in the old O.J. Simpson days, when O.J. was running for touchdowns and not away from police.  Anyway, one time my dad took me to one of the Bills games when I was maybe five or six years old at most.  There was a tradition amongst the people who sat in the section of the stadium my parents’ seats were in where any time something went bad for the Bills, the whole section would stand up and shout, “Oooooooooh shit!” and then sit back down.  Dad explained this to me along with all of the other football things he needed to explain during that game, and he told me that even though this was a bad word that I was not usually allowed to say, it was OK for me to say it here, with the crowd, at the game, when our team had any bad luck.  As you can imagine this was immensely entertaining for a five year old, and I probably had more fun with that part of the game than with the entire rest of the experience.  By the end of that game I had decided that I wanted to be a football player when I grew up, playing quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and having my dad and a large group of strangers yell “Oh shit,” whenever anything bad happened to me.  I remain an NFL and Buffalo Bills fan, and if you know about football then you can probably guess that means I’ve yelled that phrase a lot over the years.

In the summer of 1977 my dad took me to a drive-in theater (remember those?) because he wanted me to see this movie that had come out that he thought I’d like.  I’m pretty sure most of you have heard of it.  It was called “Star Wars.”  It began like a lot of movies did back then, with music playing while some boring words scrolled up the screen.  But then a spaceship flew past shooting lasers back the direction it came from.  Then, when the second, much bigger, spaceship began to thunder across the screen I, Scott Edwards, experienced a fundamental change in who I was as a person and who I was going to be forever.  I am still a huge Star Wars fanatic, and you can probably tell that I did not become a football player.

About ten years later Dad got me a summer job working in the building where he worked in downtown Chicago.  I worked with a couple of other guys in the production center of Heller Financial’s data processing center.  Huge reports hundreds of pages long would come off of these gigantic dot matrix printers and we’d have to properly collate them and distribute them to the correct offices and individuals throughout the building.  As tedious as that could be, I loved that job.  Dressing up in shirt and tie, taking the train downtown, walking the streets of the big city, delivering important information straight to the desks of executives, and even going to lunch sometimes with my dad and his friends all made me feel adult and professional.  Since then I have always strived to be professional and to make a difference at work.  Oh, and I am still definitely a city guy.

So back now from the tangent to me being unable to think of something profound that Dad has taught me.

I was telling the Star Wars story that I just shared with you to somebody recently when I had an incredible realization – an epiphany, if you will.  I had been having trouble thinking of specific examples of important things I’d learned from my dad because it is impossible to describe those things independent of myself.  So much of who I am today, standing before you, is a product of things I learned from him, experienced with him, or gained as a result of having him as my father.  Before he passed away I made sure I told him that I loved him, but looking back now I’m pretty sure he already knew that.  What I should have told him was “Thank you.”

The Edwards men have never been especially expressive of our emotions, but there were a few times over the years where Dad mentioned things to me about how he felt about certain people that I don’t know if he ever said to their faces, and I want to share a couple of those right now.

I know he loved Mom more than anything, and that seeing her smile or laugh always made him smile and laugh as well, even if it was at himself.  I am certain that he never for an instant regretted marrying her, even in the midst of huge arguments – or as Dad liked to call them, “loud discussions.”  He once told me that what he loved most about doing DJ gigs over all those years was getting to do most of them with Mom.

I know that he was very happy with my choice of a wife, and that he thought of Torie as a daughter he never had.  He valued her opinions and felt comfortable sharing private thoughts or concerns with her to see what she thought.  I’ve never told anyone else this, including her, but Dad once told me that he thought that Torie was not only good for me, but that she was good for all of us in the Edwards family.

I know that he deeply loved and was proud of both of my kids, Nicolas and Jacqueline.  He told me that when he first found out he was going to be a grandfather he wasn’t exactly excited about it.  He said he was kind of worried that he wouldn’t know how to be a grandpa or wouldn’t like it very much, but once the twins were born and as they grew older and developed their own personalities, he realized that he loved being Grandpa, or “Grampaw,” as little Jacqueline liked to say.  He told me that he was sure they will both make something great of themselves someday no matter what it is they choose to do when they grow up.

If you knew Keith Edwards at all, you know that he was a huge movie buff.  He loved movies of all genres and from all eras.  He always thought it would be pretty cool to create his own montage sequence made up of his favorite clips from films.  He never did get a chance to do that, but I’ve watched a few of them that other people have made and posted online, and I found one in particular, and although it doesn’t specifically contain clips from all his favorite films or all his favorite quotes, it really makes me think of Dad, both in the images and the words.  I’d like to share that clip with you right now, if you don’t mind.

–YouTube Video:  “Film Montage – Great Moments in Film History” by davidtylersheets

I hope something about that little video made you think of Dad as well.

Whether working in data processing at Xerox and Heller or at Disney World on the Great Movie Ride and in Transportation; whether in bowling leagues, fantasy football leagues, or DJ’ing people’s weddings, my Dad made not just acquaintances but friends wherever he went.  He loved talking to people, educating people, and even debating things with people.  As somebody said recently, “he never seemed to meet a stranger.”  Sometimes when we were all out together as a family this would drive the rest of us crazy.  We’d sigh and roll our eyes.  “There goes Dad again, rambling on to some poor soul about how great Disney World is, or how speeding tickets are just legal theft, or that when he orders a plain cheeseburger it means bun burger cheese and that’s all.”  But really I think the world would be a better place if we were all a little more like that.

There’s so much else I could say about my dad as a person, but I’m fairly certain that if you’re here it’s because you already know him, so I don’t think I need to describe him to you.  Plus I’m thinking I’ve probably gone on for far too long already, so I’ll thank you one more time for being here, and I’ll ask you all one small favor, for me.

The next time you are at the Magic Kingdom, stop at that little snack cart at the front near Guest Relations and buy a popcorn.  But before you take the first bite, lift the box skyward and offer Dad a handful.  After all, it is the best popcorn in all of Walt Disney World.  I’m sure he misses it.

–Scott

“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”