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Jim’s Attic: Missing Merlin

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Jim's Attic: Missing Merlin By Jim Korkis

Every two weeks, Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World.

“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Merlin, adviser to King Arthur and right now it is my job to discover which one among you is qualified to be temporary royal ruler. Since the responsibilities are so great, I will be selecting several people throughout the day to share these burdens of leadership. So, have no fear! If you get selected, it is just a part time job!”

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Not only do I personally miss the Sword in the Stone Ceremony with Merlin in the Magic Kingdom, but the walk-around Merlin has been missing since 2006 even though he is the star of the popular Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive experience.

What a missed opportunity not to have Merlin personally welcoming new apprentice sorcerers or dedicating the New Fantasyland!

Disneyland, as part of the Limited Time Magic promotion, temporarily brought back a truncated version (no comic performer) of the beloved Golden Horseshoe Revue from January 10, 2012 through February 4, 2012 to packed houses.

However, reportedly, a handful of guest complaints about the raciness of the can-can dancers and Miss Lilly going out into the audience to harmlessly flirt help doom the show being temporarily revived at WDW's Diamond Horseshoe.

If Walt Disney World would really like to do a Limited Time Magic entertainment promotion, then I would cheer for a return of Merlin, especially since the mechanics of the sword still work fine and several “friends” of Merlin are still employed by the company, as well as director Chris Oyen, who shepherded the original show for over a decade as well as doing writing on the script.

“Walt [Disney], the wizard, never knew that I patterned Merlin the magician after him when I wrote the script," remembered storyman Bill Peet who gets sole credit for scripting the 1963 animated feature “Sword in the Stone”. "In his book, T.H. White describes the wizard as a crusty old curmudgeon, argumentative and temperamental, playful at times and extremely intelligent. Walt was not quite a curmudgeon and he had no beard, but he was a grandfather and much more a character, and in my drawings of Merlin, I even borrowed Walt's nose.”

The beloved live action show where Merlin selects a young guest from the audience to attempt to pull the sword from an anvil to become the new temporary ruler of Fantasyland (until the next show in a half hour) premiered at Disneyland in the Summer of 1983 after the opening of the New Fantasyland so this year marks Merlin's 30th anniversary as a park character.

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At Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the show opened in 1993 (though other sources claim 1994) and delighted guests until its final performance on August 15, 2006.

I clearly remember the August 15th date because that is my birthday and in the Fall of 1995, I assisted in the portrayal of Merlin. When I was a “friend” of Merlin, people could clearly see what Disney costumers called “Santa Claus cheeks” and the animated black eyebrows barely hidden by glued on white eyebrows.

The costume was heavy, the props cumbersome and eager autograph seekers often thought the character was Father Time or Pagemaster from the 1994 film but it was a delightful little show that gathered substantial crowds.

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My personal feeling is that Fantasyland could use a little more magic and the man for the job is a return of Merlin.

RELATED LINKS
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Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim KorkisABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of two new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:

Who's Afraid of the Song of the South AND
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


The previous post in this blog was Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - June 2013.

The next post in this blog is Jim's Attic: The Park Princess Problem.

Comments (23)

Claire Gregory:

I agree, Merlin should return! I must claim ignorance, I didn't realize that the Merlin show wasn't still running at WDW. I just assumed that I wasn't in Fantasyland at the right time and must have missed it. My daughter is about to turn seven and LOVES the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game. She even came home last week from school with a drawing of Merlin and all the portals!! The cast members always did a wonderful job of copying his rather distinctive voice and mixing in a lot of humour.
Thanks for the interesting articles!

Debra Knowles:

I agree! It was one of my favorite parts of the Magic Kingdom, and made it even more magical! I want him bought back to, the little ceremony where a kid got to pull a sword from the stone bought amazement to so many children's faces! I don't know why they did away with it.

Herbert:

" However, reportedly, a handful of guest complaints about the raciness of the can-can dancers and Miss Lilly going out into the audience to harmlessly flirt help doom the show being temporarily revived at WDW’s Diamond Horseshoe. "

Oh dear, can I complain about the complainers and keep them out for good ?

Excellent article !

Jill:

I personally would love to see this show, but I fear it may not get revived in this Harry Potter age because too many guests might confuse Merlin for Dumbledore, thus inadvertently promoting Universal Studios.

Mouse Junkie Adam:

I agree with your conclusion that "that Fantasyland could use a little more magic and the man for the job is a return of Merlin." That would be a great encore.

What a great idea for merlin to return. I feel like he should come back permanently and look like the Merlin we know from the movie, in blue...not purple.

Another character I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have return to Disney World is Dreamfinder and Figment. I almost remember meeting them when I was little and have pictures. I know figment is still there in costume but it is a shame that they decided to forgo Dreamfinder and figment.

Jim Korkis:

Yes, that is indeed Mom and Dad Korkis (who passed away several years ago) standing next to their son before he goes off to become an animation instructor at Disney Institute.

Luana Sallows:

My son was chosen to pull the sword from the stone in 1994 on his sixth birthday. I always wondered how Merlin knew that it was a special day! We are taking him back in December for his 25th birthday. Will also be taking my grandson. What special magic and memories!

gena yates:

Are you sure the last show was Aug. 15 ,2006 ? We go to wdw the last week or two of Aug. every other year and I am almost positive we saw Merlin in 2006 . The year 2006 was the first year I started taking my boys to wdw. Maybe I am mistaken about dates, but , we saw Merlin once and then never again .....and my now 14 year old still remembers the show because he was called up and the sword did not move. I have a hard time remembering him being called up, but, i do remember seeing Merlin. We have always been sad his little brother didn't get to experience Merlin . YES , bring him back !!! Little kids love the sword and the stone !!!!!

Antro:

Where can you meet Figment? There are so many great characters that have come and gone. I always wanted to meet Chicken Little but missed the chance.

ALLEARS: No Figment meet and greet - it went away a long time ago :(

Can we do away with having the same 10 characters dressed in 6 different attires scattered around WDW and have a whole host of characters that we know exist. e.g Figment, Robin Hood (fantasmic! boat, Stitch (with 4 arms) and dare I dream... Steamboat Willie!!!

To get back on topic...

Merlin was a great addition to Fantasyland. To me he is as vital as "push" I could stand and watch Merlin for show after show. I remember as a child spending ages trying to pull the sword out to suddenly have Merlin appear and have someone do it.

I was a CM for 2 and a half years (I am now back home in the UK) and managed to see some special things. I wish Disney would focus on the little special things that we all cherish.

Meredith Rule:

I too agree! We have Merlin and his lil show on video from our 1995 trip. I miss Merlin everytime I see the sword in the stone statue on our trips. This is one way of keeping these characters alive and fresh to new generations minds. This would be a great time to bring him back with the new game in MK! Bring back Merlin! And for complainers of can can dancers boo! This type show has been at other theme parks. If it offends u do not go. Pretty simple. Don't take away from all.

heather:

I so agree! when i was 5, my first time in WDW, i had the honor of seeing merlin. my dad was able to try and pull the sword out of the stone. when i went to Disney two years ago they still had the stone but no Merlin. They should bring him back, he was a fun and magical character. when i was 5 he brought joy to my life for those short few moment's.

Mike Wright:

I would love Merlin back in the Magic Kingdom. I see no reason any limited time characters should be limited. Nostalgic characters in the parks make it even more amazing.

Stories like the one above about the Diamond Horseshoe just make me said. I heard they removed Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum because they were too hands on. In my opinion, they were the best characters in the parks. They were perfect representations of the characters from the movie.

Kevin Wigge:

You are right that the sword still works. My kids were pulling on it for pictures, when Peter Pan came out of nowhere and told them to pull harder. The sword came up for pictures. After that, Peter disappeared for a parade. i don't know why he was the one chosen, but he did make a magical experience for my two kids.

Farrell:

I agree! I remember seeing videos and pretending to lift the sword myself!!!

John S:

Jim, I always love your articles and your books as well! We didn't start taking the kids to Disney until after the Merlin fun must have ended. It's always one of my favorite Photo ops and the kids love charting their "growth" over the years as compared to the sword in the stone! Love to see Disney bring this back, even if the teenagers in my gang are probably as tall as Merlin!

Herb Edetsberger:

Yes, we have visited Disneyland virtually each year with our kids for over 10 years now, and I wistfully wish they still had the sword in the stone show with Merlin that I last saw several years ago. We have a tradition of taking a picture of myself and our two boys trying in vain to pull the sword out of the stone each time we visit. I sure wish they could see that magical show and have a shot at being "the chosen one" !

Syndi Sills:

The "Merlin" show is especially loved by me, because during the show at about 1pm on 8/16/99 my husband, who at the time was just some guy on vacation with his parents, was chosen to be the "bodyguard" of the new King. Merlin had him attempt to pull the sword from the stone, and of course, he couldn't, so he made him stand in the background and strike bodyguard poses. LOL. While he was on stage striking poses, I was in the audience with my brother (we were on vacation too)and we locked eyes for the very first time. We even have the whole show on video (including the first time he looked at me) and watch it from time to time. We even showed it at our wedding. Thanks to Merlin, I am now Mrs. Sills. We are visiting the Magic Kingdom in Sept this year and plan to stand on the very spot where the show was (in front of the carousel), on our 1 year anniversary 9/22/13 (it took a little while to tie the knot). It would be so wonderful if Merlin were there too.

Dana:

I wish I could have seen this show! My fiance and I love Sword in the Stone. So much so that we're going as Merlin and Mim to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party during our honeymoon in October. :D

E.M. Chernak:

I didn't know Merlin was gone either; I just thought I wasn't there when he was. This is a disappointment as I love the movie, The Sword in the Stone, and this little ceremony was one of those little magical extras that makes Disney World the very special place that it is. It can't be too expensive for them to do it and I think that they should bring it back, especially with the celebration of the New Fantasyland completion.

Dana:

When my son was 3 we got to see merlin. He did his show and then picked 2 people from the audience, my son was one. He had an adult try and pull the sword out of the stone. It didn't happen. Then he had Zackary try. He pulled the sword out and merlin proclaimed him ruler of the realm for the day. He got to wear the royal crown and robe and was presented with a scroll and the most beautiful medal. It was one of the last times merlin was in the park. It is something we will never forget and pictures to help remember don't hurt either.

Darrell Shortt:

I vaguely remember seeing the Merlin show when I was a kid. Now every time I see the Sword in the Stone in front of the carrousel I wish they were still doing it. However, I have two questions...1)What is the meaning of being a "friend" of Merlin? Is it to preserve the magic? 2)Why is the sword still there if they are no longer doing the show? It obviously is not part of the Cinderella story so it really doesn't fit there. Also, people who complain about the Can Can Dancers should not watch the Villains show during the Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party. The female background dancers are surprisingly sensual for a Disney park production. They are nothing compared to the typical music video, but still. I find it interesting that people complained about one but apparently not the other.

Eric Wilson:

Hello my friend, always like hearing your stories!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 17, 2013 7:16 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Mid-Month Mousy Mindboggler - June 2013.

The next post in this blog is Jim's Attic: The Park Princess Problem.

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