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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunchies and Crunchies (with Gurgi, Lumiere, Mickey D, and Friar Tuck!)

March 20, 2011

One of the greatest things about dining in the Disney theme parks is getting the chance to dine in an environment themed to a specific Disney character or movie.  One can sample Mickey Mouse's cooking at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Resort or get a taste of some old western burgers at Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn in Frontierland.  Also in Magic Kingdom, guests can enjoy Italian pizza at Pinocchio's Village Haus in Fantasyland.  Pinocchio was lucky enough to have guests visit his own themed restaurant since the park opened in 1971 and to this day his name remains.  Other Disney characters were not so lucky and though they had the chance to "operate" a particular eatery at the park, their time was limited.

Having a very King Arthur-esque theme, the surrounding shops and eateries in Tournament Fantasyland were aptly named such as The Round Table and The Lancer's Inn, both opening with the park in 1971.  Before Pinocchio started serving pizza in recent years, Fantasyland guests knew to satisfy their pizza cravings at the Lancer's Inn, the tiny counter service restaurant next to The Round Table, an ice cream stand, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

 
Here is The Lancer's Inn provided by photographer King Coco, found on the Widen Your World Facebook Fan Page.  Widen Your World (http://www.omniluxe.net/wyw/wyw.htm) is a terrific website that takes a look back at the history of Walt Disney World.  

Over time, Fantasyland was freshened up and changes were made to stay relevant to Disney's animated film library at the time.  In 1986, the Lancer's Inn was closed and reopened on October 26 as Gurgi's Munchies and Crunchies.  "Who the heck is Gurgi?" you ask.  Many guests in the late 1980s and early 1990s didn't know either.  Luckily, today there's a cult audience and hardcore Disney fans who know that Gurgi is the furry little creature who was always hungry for "munchies and crunchies" in Disney's 25th animated feature The Black Cauldron from 1985.  Unfortunately, the animated epic fantasy was a production nightmare taking 7 years to make and had a disappointing return at the box office, losing out to animated fluff like The Care Bears Movie. 


Black Cauldron Theatrical Poster from Disney.go.com

Despite all this, the Imagineers chose to retheme the Lancer's Inn with their most recent fantasy themed adventure in efforts to promote the film and stay true to the Fantasyland theme.  Though the film was quite dark, Gurgi's was a kid friendly eatery, selling kids meals with chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwiches in a fun meal box with a toy (sound familiar?), though adult items were also available.  The restaurant was decorated with a full color mural of characters from The Black Caulrdon with the fairfolk and King Eidilleg flittering around the condiment station.  Fearing I would find nothing about this place in my research, I was quite please to stumble upon Disney fan Scott Osborne's blog, where he wrote about his experience working at Gurgi's in 1991 for his Disney College Program.  You can read how he constantly had to explain to guests the Disney reference to this restaurant at his blog "Disneyphemera" and also see some great vintage photos of the restaurant (http://disneyphemera.blogspot.com/2010/07/gurgis-munchies-crunchies-photos.html). 

Here is a taste of what Scott Osborne has documented of his time at Gurgi's Munchies and Crunchies.  Check out the awesome Black Cauldron mural!  Image from Scott Osborne's Disneyphemera blog.

This incarnation of the Fantasyland snack stand is probably my favorite because the name is so witty and fitting and it references an easily forgotten Disney animated feature.  Unfortunately, just as guests today and even back in the 1990s do not understand this legitimate Disney reference, the Imagineers knew they had to update the eatery again.  After 6 years, Gurgi was traded for a more popular and recognizably Disney character: Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast.  Lumiere's Kitchen opened on February 13, 1993, serving up a similar menu to Gurgi's while The Round Table was converted into a cupboard where Mrs. Pott's took over ice cream duties.

     
Lumiere's Kitchen sign, from WaltDatedWorld.com.  Mrs. Potts' Cupboard sign, from Reuben G.

Mrs. Potts proved to be a great saleslady while Lumiere's Kitchen began the terrible fate of seasonal status and soon it simply stopped opening at all, disappearing from park maps all together in the early 2000s.  The lights were out for Lumiere, but by 2006 the original Lancer's Inn had changed names again.  This time, no character had taken its place, but instead a corporate partner.  Around the late 1990s, Disney had established a 10-year contracted partnership with McDonald's, agreeing to have McDonald's sell Disney toys with their happy meals and Disney to sell McDonald's food at their resort.  The identity crisis Fantasyland counter service stand was reopened to be a location selling hot dogs and McDonald's French Fries and Disney wanted to make sure you knew it.  Since there were no McDonald's in the world of Beauty and the Beast, Lumiere could not return, so the stand was given a generic name, the Village Fry Shoppe.  With a new name, a new sign was needed and the famous golden arches were incorporated into the design. 


That's shoppe with pe because it's the olden days. Image from Yesterland.com

As with the box office blunder of The Black Cauldron, the evils of corporate politics found another way of leaching into Fantasyland, so the Village Fry Shoppe was bestowed the shortest lifespan of all the Fantasyland counter service stand incarnations.  Around 2008/2009, Disney's contract with McDonald's had ended and due to the decade's health related movements against the fast food corporate empire, Disney chose not to renew it.  With this action, Mickey Mouse needed to erase any evidence that his parks were ever associated with Mickey D's. 

The most recent and most surprising change occurred in 2009 with the axing of the golden arches and instating a friendly Fryer-I mean Friar.  The Village Fry Shoppe found a new French fry supplier and owner, so the name changed to what we know today as The Friar's Nook.  It's odd that Disney didn't take the chance to go for a recent or even upcoming film-this time they went backwards to honor a Disney classic while being witty at the same time.  Kindly, old Friar Tuck of 1973's Robin Hood came out of retirement to be a friar fryer for Fantasyland's fry shop.  I mean shoppe, it is Fantasyland after all.


The Friar's Nook sign, from Reuben G, features Friar Tuck and the date MLXXI or 1071, around the time the story of Robin Hood took place.  The 71 is probably in reference to 1971, when the original Lancer's Inn opened.

Only time will tell how long Friar Tuck will be operating the fry stand, but for now, let's hope he's here to stay.  The Lancer's Inn/Friar's Nook is only one example of name changing as a result of times changing.  Perhaps over time, Pinocchio will get the boot to make way for a Magic Kingdom version of the Snugly Duckling from Tangled!  Just kidding, I wouldn't want that to happen.  Overall, it's great to see that this most recent change was not in the direction of promotion of the latest movie, but a result of the Imagineers being smart about what classic Disney characters are best suited for the environment. 

Research Bibliography

Alison, Mousketeer. Walt Dated World. n.d. 18 March 2011 <http://waltdatedworld.com>.

Osborne, Scott. Disneyphemera. 26 July 2010. 18 March 2011 <http://disneyphemera.blogspot.com/2010/07/gurgis-munchies-crunchies-photos.html>.

Tallarico, Tony. This Day in Disney History. n.d. 18 March 2011 <http://thisdayindisneyhistory.homestead.com/feb13.html>.

Weiss, Werner. Yesterland.com: McDonald's Food at WDW. 2009. 19 March 2011 <http://www.yesterland.com/mcwdw.html>.

Lancer's Inn Photo Credit: Widen Your World's Facebook Page

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=194635830556081&set=a.139918122694519.19888.139910379361960&theater

 

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