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The Quick 10: When I See an Elephant Fly

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If you think one flying elephant is impressive, how about 16 of them? Today’s “I’m almost on vacation” post pays tribute to the ride that’s the favorite of kiddies everywhere (but not of Harry Truman): Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

2. Dumbo should have opened when the park did in July, 1955, but the ride was a mechanical failure at the time. Karl Bacon of Arrow Development, a company behind many of the rides at Disney, said:

“Dumbo didn’t work right. They were flying but not satisfactorily. The hydraulic system was spewing out this foam. The nitrogen was mixing with the oil and creating this ‘shaving cream’ that was throwing the whole thing out of stability.”

3. The first batch of elephants weighed 700 pounds each, which was way too heavy for a flying elephant (but quite trim for a real one). It’s part of the reason the ride didn’t work well enough to be ready for opening day.

4. Elephants aren’t cute to everyone. When Harry Truman visited the park in 1957, he said “thanks, but no thanks” to a ride on Dumbo. The reason? He didn’t want to be photographed riding gleefully in a symbol of the Republican Party (even an adorable baby one).

5. The original ride vehicles are worth a pretty penny – nearly 20 years ago, one of the original fiberglass elephants sold for $16,000 at a Disneyana convention.

6. Standing at the top of the ride, presumably directing traffic, is Timothy Mouse. He holds a whip at Disneyland and Tokyo, but the magic feather everywhere else. No one has ever said that the whip insinuates animal cruelty, but that would be my guess as to why he’s holding a feather at some parks (and perhaps Disney just didn’t want to change the original).

7. Though the ride has been there since just three months after park opened, those aren’t exactly the original elephants. The first version of the not-so-little guy had hinged ears that were supposed to flap up and down to help you fly, but they never worked properly and were replaced with stationary ears.

8. The Disneyland version of the ride comes with music unique to that park – tunes provided by a 1915 Gavioli band organ. At full power, the organ can be heard for more than a mile away. Don’t worry – Disney keeps it at a reasonable level.

9. In 1989 and 1990, Dumbo’s support arms malfunctioned a couple of times, sending a few people to the hospital to get bumps and bruises treated. In 1989, one of the support arms partially separated from the elephant, and in 1990, one the arms collapsed entirely. The ride was revamped after the 1990 incident.

10. If you close your eyes, you can pretend you’re riding Dumbo even if you’re in Dollywood, Silver Dollar City or Lion Country Safari. That’s because theme parks across America have been ripping off Disney’s elephant since he first popped up in the park – and they don’t really even bother to hide the imitation.

That’s it for me! I’m out all next week but leave you in the capable hands of Adrienne Crezo. If you want to get your Disney fix, check out my Tweets – I’ll be providing pics of the latest construction around the park, detailing how badly I do in the Princess Half Marathon on Sunday, and even sneaking off of Disney property to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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Food
Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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