When I was on the WDW College Program in the Summer of 1990, I worked in Fantasyland Foods (FF). The flagship restaurant was Pinocchio's Village Haus, known
as Pinoch's in Dinsey lingo. The other restaurants that fell under FF were Troubadour Tavern (Troubs), Round Table, Tournament Tent (Tent), the Pretzel wagon, and the place I spent most of my time, Gurgi's Munchies and Crunchies (Gurgi's).
In July 1985, Disney released its 25th animated feature, The Black Cauldron, based off a series of books by Lloyd Alexander called Chronicles of Prydain. Probably the most recognizable and lovable characters from that film was Gurgi, a dog-like creature that not only talked, but had quite an appetite and provided comic relief to this rather dark picture by Disney standards. Ok, maybe he wasn't a dog-like creature, but, he was furry and he was funny and he always said, "munchings and crunchings", which, made him the appropriate character for the naming of this restaurant. Unfortunately, this film was a far cry from a box office hit. But, like Disney does for all of its animated films, it incorporates them into the parks in some fashion. The Black Cauldron was no different.
On October 26, 1986, Gurgi's Munchies & Crunchies opened, taking place of Lancer's Inn. A question I received frequently from guests while I worked at Gurgi's was, "what movie is this place based off of"? More often than not, when I'd tell people it was based off of The Black Cauldron, their response was, "I've never heard of that one". And, unfortunately, at that time, The Black Cauldron had not been released on video, so, guests really had no way to go view it. But, this provided me an opportunity to talk to guests, so, I'd give them a quick synopsis of the movie.
Now, if you aren't familiar with this restaurant's location, it is across from Dumbo and Pooh's Playful Spot. This was a walk-up counter service restaurant with five registers, two queues per register. Out front were maybe half a dozen umbrella covered tables for guests to relax and dine. The design of the restaurant was the same style as Pinoch's except themed to the lighter side of The Black Cauldron. The sign out front was very similar to the Lumiere's Kitchen sign, except it had a picture of Gurgi and had Gurgi's Munchies and Crunchies scrolled on it. I have scoured the Internet and have yet to find any photos of this extinct restaurant. And, I've said it many times in previous posts, but, unfortunately, we didn't have digital cameras back then. And, as a college student, I didn't "waste" my photos on restaurants, to my regret.
But, while looking through my photos from my 1990 experience, I did come across a couple of pictures that show this very small location. In the first picture, to the far right, you can see a door which led backstage to the ice machine. Judging from the locaction, I believe this cast member was on the middle register. You can catch a partial glimpse of the drink menu right above his head in the background. Of course, you can see the Fair Folk, including the Santa looking King Eidilleg flying with a cup cake. In the window, you can see some of the food items ready to be delivered.
Here are the drink items sold at Gurgi's that I can see on the menu and can recall from my memories:
Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta Orange, and Fanta Root Beer (I think they were Fanta)
Orange Juice and Apple Juice boxes (Minute Maid I believe)
Hot Tea and Hot Chocolate
100% Colombian Coffee
Whole or Chocolate Milk
As for the food items, what I can recall and can see in the window are the following:
Kids meal: Grilled Cheese or Chicken Nuggets (4 I think)
Chili Cheese Dog (yellow styrofoam container)
Chicken Sandwich (blue-green styrofoam container)
Chocolate Chip Cookie
The kids meal came with a cookie, chips, and a Disney PVC figure. Of course, I do recall us also using those Mickey Mouse straws on occassion when we ran out of the figures. The summer of 1990 had those yellow boxes as seen in the pictures. I believe that was supposed to be Mickey's house. I remember that Mickey's nephews, Ferdy and Morty, were on the box. I wish I had saved one of those.
The next summer, 1991, the kids meal boxes were Disney Afternoon boxes. I actually did save an unused one of these. This is yet another example of Disney promoting one of its properties in the Disney parks as the Disney Afternoon was just taking off. The box has the Gummi Bears, Tailspin, DuckTales, and Rescue Rangers on it.
The second picture is basically the same as the first, but, just a little more to the right. In the background, you can see where we put all the condiments which included ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, bar-b-que sauce, and honey mustard sauce. Although these pictures don't show a whole lot of this tiny establishment, it is currently the only pictures I've seen in the past 18 years. I'm hoping that some of my former cast members have them. I've contacted some of them and if they do, hopefully, they will send them to me. If you have any, I'd love to see them.
Now, I've got many funny stories from working there, but, a couple of specifically food related tales. First, almost every day, we would have Germans come and ask for beer. I'd tell them that there was no beer sold in the Magic Kingdom. Then they'd point at the sign behind me and said, "beer". For the first few weeks this went on, I'd spend a few seconds trying to explain to them that this wasn't beer. Then, I learned. As soon as they'd point to the sign, I'd grab a little cup, put some root beer in it, and hand to them. Without flaw, they'd make a grimacing face and say, "MEDICINE"! That never got old to me and I got quite a chuckle, as did the guests.
Another common occurrence dealt with the kids meals. And, when I say common, I mean about every fourth kids meal order. Parents would come up and say, "I'd like a Chicken McNuggets kids meal". I'd reply, "I'm sorry, we don't have Chicken McNuggets", with an emphasis put on the "Mc" part. They'd look at me with a blank
stare, and then after a couple seconds, they'd get their gaffe and start laughing. Just goes to show the brand identity McDonald's has on chicken nuggets in our culture.
Gurgi's finally closed February 13, 1993, and then re-opened as Lumiere's Kitchen, followed by The Village Frye. To Disney's credit, it is amazing that a location based off of such a little known picture lasted about 6 1/2 years. And, to my knowledge, this was the only attraction, show, shop, or restaurant based off The Black Cauldron. In my opinion, it really is too bad that more attractions aren't based off of some of the lesser known animated features.
As for the stories of my time as a cast member at Fantasyland Foods...I think I'll save those for future posts.