Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Boy and His Frog

Taking a break from Disney here for a moment, but those posts will be back in force within the next 48 hours -- I promise.

I think I'll tug on the heartstrings a bit with this entry. I love the Muppets. And any child of my generation who says they didn't love the Muppets, well, they are either crazy or they are lying. I think my recent rediscovery of Sesame Street with Hanna has kind of awakened that part of me again. I've been listening to old Muppet soundtracks in my car lately and spending a lot of time on various Muppet websites. While browsing, I came upon a very moving tribute to Jim Henson, who as everyone knows is the creator of the Muppets and who tragically passed away in 1990. By all accounts, Henson was a very decent person, kind and down-to-earth, despite his great fame. The entertainment he created with his Muppeteers was wholesome and imaginative and could appeal to both kids and adults. Such a thing is rare these days, and I am introducing my daughter Hanna to the Muppets that I knew as a kid. I hope that all of my friends who have recently had kids will do the same. SpongeBob is great, but he's no Kermit.

This song was written by Tom Smith. He isn't a Muppeteer and he didn't work for Henson, he's just a fan who appreciated what Henson created. This is a song sung by Kermit (as performed by Smith), mourning the loss of his "Dad", Jim Henson. What follows are the lyrics, with a video at the bottom of the page. Get the Kleenex! Enjoy....

Life is unfair, so they tell me,
Because they think I wouldn't know.
They only can see a cheap gimmick
On their children's favorite show.
They say, "Oh, that's just foam and a wire,
Attached to a green velvet sleeve,Anyone can do that" -- well, that's true, I suppose,
But who else could make them believe?
What can I say without you there to guide me?

How else am I supposed to give?
How can I sing without you there beside me?
How else am I supposed to live?
You could never just do the expected,
I was just an idea in a bog,
But you sewed up your dream and we made quite a team,
Jim and Kermit, a boy and his frog.
It was me, Rolph, and you, but I think that he knew
There was something that you and I had.
The magic we made just kept growing,
And none of it ever was bad.
Then came Ernie and Scooter and Gonzo,
Doctor Teeth, Cookie Monster, and more.
But now all of those voices are silent,And I want to go on... but what for?
No one can make me what you did,
No one could walk in your shoes,
Nothing can make me forget you,
But that's not a thing that I'd choose.

I can't just let it be over,
And you wouldn't want it that way,
So I'll stand up and I'll face it,
And, though not quite in your voice, I'll say:
I will go on without you there to guide me,
There's so much more I can give.

Whenever I sing, you will be there beside me,
As long as I keep you, you'll live.
We just wanted to make people happy,
I was always much more than your toy.

I will never regret and I'll never forget
What we had,I'll miss you, Dad,

This frog and his boy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tockstein Disney History, part 3.5

Our first taste of Disney on this trip actually began in Ocala, Florida, which is about 90 miles north of Orlando. Disney operated a Disney Welcome Center in Ocala along Interstate 75, giving road travelers their first taste of the Disney parks a few hours before they actually arrived in Orlando. I remember feeling that we were getting very close, and the excitement was building.

We again stayed at the Polynesian Village Resort. We didn't have a lakeview room this time, but that really didn't matter to me. It was still a great place to stay. On our first night we went to the lagoon to watch the Electrical Water Parade and catch the fireworks.

Strangely, my memories of this trip aren't quite as sharp as those of our first two. Maybe the video camera captured it so I wouldn't have to remember? However, I do remember my first ride on Space Mountain...

And it was on this trip that I purchased a blue Mickey Mouse cap that would seldom leave my head for the better part of a year. I still have this cap, stored away in a box in the very room that I'm typing this.

One day we traveled over to the Kennedy Space Center. That place fascinated me. This was 1988, two years after the Challenger disaster, so it was a period where NASA was not flying shuttles. It was still an interesting place, and I enjoyed the tour very much. Now, as a resident of Florida, I keep telling myself that I need to get over there to see a shuttle launch before they stop the shuttle program in 2010.

After a week at Disney, we would head across the state to Madiera Beach in the Tampa Bay area. On the drive from Orlando we got into a fender-bender which caused us some delay in getting to our condo, but no one was hurt and our vacation continued. This second week we went to Busch Gardens (didn't compare to Disney in my opinion) and spent a relaxing week on the beach. Who could have guessed that 13 years later I would move here?

We return to Orlando in 1992 with two new parks to explore: the Disney/MGM Studios and Universal Studios. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tockstein Disney History, part 3

JULY, 1988

This is probably the longest family vacation I can remember. Two weeks of Florida-bound road trip fun! Our first week was going to be spent at Walt Disney World, and for our second week we were heading to Tampa Bay for 6 days in a beach-front condo. For the purposes of consistency, I will focus mainly on the Disney portion of our trip.

On this trip we were plus one. My cousin Amy from Illinois was staying with us for the summer. She was exactly between my sister and I in age -- she was one year younger than me and one year older than my sister. Of course her and my sister were inseperable, and caused me massive hardship for the length of Amy's visit. But looking back, maybe I deserved it.

As you read this, you may notice several video clips peppered throughout the blog. This was the first time we took a video camera on vacation. As I have mentioned before, my Dad had an old 8 millimeter film camera on our first trip, but it didn't record sound and you couldn't play it back in your VCR. It's funny to think that the video camera we were using on this trip was the size of a small suitcase and required it's own backpack to carry it around. Interestingly enough, my current video camera is smaller than a soda can.

This was also our first vacation with our new chariot, the Dodge Ram Conversion Van. It was completely awesome. It had a TV, VCR, great stereo, 4 reclining captain's chairs, a couch which folded down to a was interstate luxury! Here is a brief look at the Queen Mary of the roadways...

I was 13 at the time of this trip. And what an obnoxious and awkward specimen I was! The video camera was a new toy to me, and I felt the need to record everything. And yes, I mean EVERYTHING. I'm sure my family was prepared to leave me at a rest stop along Interstate 75. Listening to myself on these tapes is horrifying. You have been warned. Here is a sample:

So just imagine two weeks of that. Two weeks with a 13-year old kid with a camcorder in your face all the time. And that accent! Good grief!

We split the drive from Knoxville to Orlando into two parts. We drove from Knoxville to around Valdosta, Georgia in the first leg of the trip, with a stop in Macon, Georgia to get some Cracker Barrel for dinner. We finished the drive the following day. Here is a brief montage:

So, we made it to Florida and I haven't even started the Disney portion of the story yet. I think I'll go ahead and post this, and we'll continue with this particular trip report very soon. I need a break from my 13-year old self right now!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tockstein Disney History, part 2

JANUARY 1985 In January of 1985 my Dad once again had business in Orlando, which meant that after 4 years the Tocksteins were heading back to Walt Disney World. During our first trip in 1981, we stayed at a hotel that was on Disney property, but was not a Disney owned and operated resort. That particular hotel is located in what is now known as the Downtown Disney area. For this trip, we stayed at the beautiful Polynesian Village Resort, just a monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom. We had one of those rooms that you usually only see in Disney World commercials. We had a balcony that overlooked the Seven Seas Lagoon, with a perfect view of the Castle across the lake. We watched the fireworks from our hotel room! Disney also put on a nightly water parade out in the lagoon with a bunch of illuminated floats, all set to music. I have a vivid memory of sitting in our room on the first night and hearing the water parade starting and no one in my family knowing what the heck was going on. But it was really cool to see all of this from our balcony. I remember getting up in the middle of the night and looking out the window to see if they kept the Castle lit up all night long. They did.

This trip is more of a blur for me, but I do remember this was the first time I went on a roller coaster...Big Thunder Mountain. It was amazing! My favorite part was zipping under the dinosaur bones that are sticking out of the side of the mountain. I didn't yet have the courage to conquer Space Mountain. That would happen on our next trip.

This was the first year we visited when EPCOT Center was open. EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it opened in 1982. I actually recall seeing EPCOT under construction during our first trip in 1981. EPCOT is the scene of what is probably one of my most vivid, and disturbing, memories ever...

We got in line for Spaceship Earth, which is the large geodesic sphere that is the symbol of EPCOT. You know...the big golf ball. There is a ride inside Spaceship Earth that takes you on a tour of the history of human communication. As my Dad was fond of saying, "It's slow, dark, and air-conditioned." We had almost made it on the ride, when up in front of us came a terrible scream. "My foot!" yelled a woman. "My FOOOOT!" Somehow, this woman had gotten her foot caught underneath the ride vehicles on the track. I can only imagine the damage that it caused. My Mom told me and my sister to look at the ground, but the sounds of that woman screaming is something I will never forget. Paramedics were on the scene quickly, and the ride was shut down. As I recall, we rode Spaceship Earth later that day without incident. To this day, I will sometimes call my sister on my cell phone while waiting in line for the ride and we will recall the terrible story of Spaceship Earth and "the foot". We never found out what happened to that woman.

EPCOT also holds more pleasant memories for me, chief among them was Figment, the purple dragon who was the mascot of the Imagination Pavilion, which was a great ride that was a journey through the world of imagination. I really liked Figment. I bought a Figment cap that I still own to this day, and a Figment stuffed animal, which my Mom has now given to her granddaughter. Although the original Figment ride has changed somewhat since then, my daughter Hanna loves Figment. She has several plush Figment dolls and a Figment pin in her very small (but growing) Disney pin collection.

Another aspect of this trip that was great was that my folks pulled me and my sister out of school for a week. I have memories of doing homework assignments just before going out to watch fireworks. The ironic thing is that school up in Knoxville was snowed out almost that entire week, so I was a week ahead of everyone else when I got back from Disney World!

This was a great trip, even with the nightmare of "the foot". It was my first exposure to EPCOT and the incredible Polynesian resort. It would only be three short years until we returned, and this time we brought along a video camera! See you soon.

Me in front of the Fountain of Nations at EPCOT Center.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"To all the parents who remember..."

"To all the parents who remember, and all the kids who are just finding out."

I'm on a Disney kick right now. My folks and my sister are coming to Orlando in a few weeks, and it will be the first time since 1996 that we've all been at the Magic Kingdom together. And it makes it even more special now with Terri and Hanna as a part of that group. Three generations of Tocksteins, and we all share a history with Disney World.

This is my favorite Disney commercial. I think it encapsulates everything I like about Disney. It really plays on that generational thing, that the parents brought their children, and now the children's kids are starting to relive that, and they get to do it through their grandparents and parent's eyes. I really like it. Look for more "Disney Memories" posts in the coming days! Enjoy....

Tockstein Disney History, part 1

Since I've been told I don't blog enough (thanks Mali), I have decided to begin a new series of posts about my trips to Disney World before moving to Florida. Hopefully, some people will find this of interest. If not, it could work as a sleep aid if you have insomnia. Nothing like the warm glow of a laptop computer in a darkened room with an essay from Jared Tockstein on the screen to lull you to sleep. I'm better than Ambien!

Without further delay, let us load the old Monte Carlo and begin the 700 mile journey from Knoxville, TN to Orlando...


My Dad had a business meeting in Orlando, and he thought this would be a perfect opportunity for us to visit Disney World for the first time. I was the ripe old age of 5, just 2 months shy of 6. My sister was also just a few months short of 4 years old.

Up to this time, my exposure to the world of amusement parks had been limited to several county fairs and a few trips to Silver Dollar City (now known as the world-famous Dollywood). Now I thought Silver Dollar City was pretty cool, but when we got to Disney World I think my 5 year old brain went haywire with sensory overload.

Keep in mind that this was 1981. It was before Epcot, before the Studios, and before Animal Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom was the only kid on the block, except for Sea World (but dumb old Shamoo couldn't hold a candle to Mickey).

As I recall, this was the middle of January, typically one of the slowest times of year for the Disney parks. The park was empty. My most vivid memory of this trip was the first ride that we went on: Mister Toad's Wild Ride. Honestly, I had never experienced anything like that before. You climb aboard an old roadster and proceed on a madcap trip through the English countryside, crashing through various barnyards and pubs before finally smashing head-on into a train and meeting eternity in the bowels of Hades while the Devil looks on. Not a very Disney-like ride when you think about it. But it floored me! I didn't care or notice that the "train" was just a bright light in a dark room, or that the entire ride was simply plywood cutouts lit by blacklight. It was completely unlike anything I had experienced before, and it really set the tone for the completely immersive experience that I would have over the next few days.

Another vivid memory was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. You actually boarded a submarine and took a ride underwater! Now granted, you were really only about 3 feet underwater and all of the undersea life you were seeing was plastic, but do you really think that mattered to a 5 year old? We went to Sea World that same trip, and even seeing REAL undersea animals wasn't as cool as 20K Leagues!

And then there was the Haunted Mansion. The ride was unsettling to me, but I wasn't scared. The most vivid scene of the ride I remember was the long hallway with the floating candlestick. To this day whenever I see that scene, I think about my first trip. And of course I loved the scene where the ghosts seem to share your ride vehicle with you.

And how could I forget If You Had Wings, which was a bit of an oddity and is barely remembered today. It was essentially a ride-through commercial for now-defunct Eastern Airlines, which at that time was the official airline of Walt Disney World. You rode through this attraction looking at posters and projections of all the places that Eastern Airlines flew. There was even a travel agent waiting at a desk at the end of the ride...just in case you wanted to book your next vacation right then and there!

20K Leagues sailed for the last time in 1994. The lagoon has been filled with cement and a replica of Winnie the Pooh's Hundred Acre Woods stands there now. Mister Toad had to make way for a Winnie the Pooh ride in 1999. If You Had Wings was gone by 1987. Several attractions have come and gone in that building, and it is now the current home of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. The Haunted Mansion is, of course, still there and still one of the park's most popular attractions.

Oh yes, this was also the trip where I first saw the ocean. That was pretty cool. But let's be honest, it wasn't as cool as Mister Toad.

My parents still have most of the pictures from this trip, and my Dad even took some old 8 millimeter film footage with our old movie camera. All of this photographic evidence remains at the Tockstein home in Knoxville, TN. I did come across one picture however. Those two colorful blurry spots in the middle of the picture are me and my sister Julie.

Come back next time for details of our next trip...JANUARY 1985.

Pictures and research for this entry came from the excellent Widen Your World website, which is a treasure trove of information on extinct Disney World attractions. Check out the website at

Saturday, October 18, 2008


As many of you know, Terri and I are huge fans of Walt Disney World. We spend a lot of time (and money) there. Hanna is probably starting to think that the Magic Kingdom is her personal playground.
Many people can't stand the place, and I can understand their feelings to some degree. Critics have often accused the Disney Company of being no more than a money-hungry Empire, selling pre-packaged "magic" to the unwashed masses of mindless tourists who eat it up, gladly paying 15 dollars for a hamburger that would fetch 3 bucks outside the park, or paying hundreds of dollars for their daughters to become "princesses" for a day in a cheaply made dress with the Disney logo stamped on the tag and a plastic tiara in their hair.
With things like that, you either buy what Disney sells or you are turned off by their seemingly endless and evil revenue stream. I mean, God forbid Disney makes money for their shareholders.

I, for one, buy what they sell. Because despite what other people think, there is genuine warmth and a sense of good feeling that gets me whenever I visit. What follows is one of those stories.

In 1995, there was a statue created for Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Orlando called "Partners". It is a very famous bronze statue of Walt and Mickey holding hands at the hub in front of the castle, with Walt pointing out in front of him and Mickey looking on. The man who designed this sculpture is named Blaine Gibson. He worked with Disney for many years, and among his works are the pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, the Presidents in the Hall of Presidents, and the ghosts in the Haunted Mansion. For years afterwards, Mr. Gibson maintained that the sculpture in the Orlando park was not finished, although it was identical to its California cousin in every respect, and the sculpture in Anaheim was considered complete. So what was Gibson talking about?

In 1999, Gibson completed a bronze statue of Roy Disney, Walt's older brother. It depicted Roy sitting on a bench with Minnie Mouse in Town Square just under the flagpole. It was called "Sharing the Magic". Gibson then declared his "Partners" statue was complete. He then let the rest of the public understand his reasoning and filled them in on the story he was trying to tell with the two statues.
Walt Disney passed away in December of 1966, just a few months after announcing the Florida Disney World project. The Disney company was hit very hard by his loss, having just purchased the thousands of acres of Florida swamp that was supposed to hold Walt's biggest dream. They didn't know what to do. Should they go ahead with the project? Should they not? Roy Disney came out of retirement to see Walt's dream brought to life. He lived long enough to oversee the project, and on opening day in October of 1971, Roy Disney dedicated the park with a speech. He passed away 2 months later.
The statue of Roy and Minne has an empty space on the bench. This space is for Mickey. As Blaine Gibson explains it, in the Florida version of the "Partners" statue, Walt is pointing at his brother Roy, who is seated way down at the end of Main Street. Walt is telling Mickey that he can't take him any further, but his brother is waiting at the end of the street to finish the job.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hanna's Afternoon at the Beach

Hanna and I decided to head out to Sand Key Beach on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 15, 2008. Despite the fact that it is two weeks from the end of October, we enjoyed 90 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Enjoy the video!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tockstein Home, circa 1988

Join us as my sister Julie (age 11 in this video) takes us on a tour of the old Tockstein Home at 3200 Walnoaks Road in Knoxville, TN, circa July 1988. Enjoy!