Disney fans following The Optimist were treated to another once-in-a-lifetime experience today, following in the footsteps of Walt’s own past on a journey to the future.
Last week the alternate reality game developed by Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Studios promoting next year’s “Tomorrowland” film had players following clues to a few of Walt’s haunts: Chili John’s, Griffith Park, and even inside and throughout Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33 - a rare treat almost never offered for free. Hints to these locations were featured in artwork posted on game character Wallace’s web site.
Following those events, two stops still remained in a step-by-step journey to relive Walt Disney’s early days of Disneyland and the 1964-65 World’s Fair.
On Sunday, July 28, 2013, Walt Disney’s Carolwood barn opened for four hours specially for those seeking answers in The Optimist. This location features a barn Walt used as a workshop for miniatures and model trains, now home to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, which Walt helped found.
Wallace’s art pointed players to search for new clues inside the “Redlaw 1″ combine train car, not normally part of the standard Carolwood tour. The hint stated “Flash photo opportunity inside.” Our resident optimist Jeremiah Daws once again documented this latest leg of The Optimist journey in the video below.
Video: The Optimist takes players to Walt’s Carolwood barn
When a flash photo was taken, a mysterious message magically appeared pointing players to New Orleans Square’s telegraph.
But before jumping back to Disneyland, no Disney fan could leave Carolwood without taking the full tour and ride on the miniature train.
Video: Guided tour of Walt’s Carolwood barn
Video: Full ride on the Live Steamers railroad
It’s a must-visit location for anyone wanting to take in the full history of Walt Disney, including the passions and interests that led to the creation of Disneyland.
Speaking of which, Jeremiah then drove to Disneyland, once again in the name of seeking answers in The Optimist. Finding himself back in New Orleans Square he, along with other players, listened carefully to the telegraph recording playing throughout the area.
(Thanks to Jeff Heimbuch for originally recording the audio.)
The telegraphed Morse code that normally loops in New Orleans Square decodes to Walt Disney’s dedication speech from Disneyland’s opening day. But the mysterious forces behind The Optimist secretly swapped out this recording, which I - from my home in Florida - immediately started to sift through. Quickly teaching myself a bit about Morse code and using a tip from my wife Michelle to look at the audio’s waveform instead of trying to decipher by ear, I translated the clicks and clacks of the telegraph to the following Morse code message:
.– . .-.. -.-. — — . / … — -.-. .. . – -.– / — . — -… . .-. … / — ..-. / .—- —-. -…. -…. / .- -. -.. / — ..- .-. / -. . .– / .. -. -.. ..- -.-. – . . / .-. -.. -…
And that translates to:
“Welcome society members of 1966 and our new inductee RDB.”
RDB likely refers to Ray Bradbury, sci-fi author and frequent collaborator on futuristic Disney projects. The “society” is still a bit of a mystery in the grand scheme of The Optimist.
From there players waited for the final element of Wallace’s artwork, dated August 1 at 8 a.m., depicting “The Bench.”
Jeremiah reluctantly had to remove himself from The Optimist at this point, having long ago planned a cross-country trip for his sister’s wedding. Lead character Amelia even chimed in to show her sadness for his departure, tweeting: “We’ll miss you, Jeremiah. But have fun! Best wishes to your sister and family. #familyfirst”
But I quickly recruited a few new investigators to continue the hunt, including Shawn from The_Con_Fluence Covers, Louella, and Brandon, who were kind enough to share pictures and video of the next series of particularly jaw-dropping events.
“The Bench” Wallace referred to is linked to the previous visit to Griffith Park, a bench currently located at the entrance to Disneyland’s Opera House, home of the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction - a World’s Fair creation.
Inside timed tickets were handed out and everyone was led into the Great Moments theater.
A few minutes later, a very special guest appeared.
Video: The Optimist leads players into Disneyland’s Opera House
It was Wallace, in person. After speaking to players on the phone in Club 33 just a week earlier, he made his first live appearance, informing the small crowd that he would soon be sharing new artwork on his web site based on Edison Square, an area of Disneyland that conceived but never constructed. He then invited everyone to embark on a brief, but quite exclusive tour.
The Optimist then led players on a trip to Walt’s private apartment, a visit that’s on the bucket list of every Disney fan. Stepping into what was once Walt Disney’s own private space above the firehouse at Disneyland is easily the most memorable and magical moment any Disney fan can possibly describe. Today, it’s an experience available only to those who book the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps tour but for those in attendance for The Optimist, it was an extraordinary free event.
Unfortunately no photos or video were allowed inside. But those in attendance - Shawn, Louella, Brandon, and others - made it clear that it was as fairly standard tour through the apartment. Fortunately, back in January, I had the pleasure of accompanying game developer Warren Spector on Disney Interactive’s “Epic Mickey 2″ tour of Disneyland, which included a visit to Walt’s apartment, shown in the video below.
Video: Tour of Walt’s private apartment at Disneyland
Here’s an old photo of Walt and his family in the apartment:
The only standout clue offered during the tour was extra emphasis placed on Walt’s phonograph and its wax cylinders, one of which had the Eiffel Tower on it, immediately reminding players of the similar symbol found in Club 33 last week.
Immediately following the tour, Wallace added his new “Edison Square” artwork to his web site, pointing players not only to Walt’s apartment, but also to the Mark Twain wheelhouse and Tomorrowland’s PeopleMover track.
From there, only a few cryptic clues were revealed. Certificates given out on the way out of the wheelhouse were dated “12:00PM Saturday, May 31, 1932″ - the date Amelia Earhart completed her transatlantic flight.
And on top of the old PeopleMover track, as seen from the nearby Astro Orbiter, three symbols were clearly visible: circle, diamond, circle.
But what does it all mean? After hours of searching, nothing more was found.
But there is clearly more to The Optimist. The alternate reality game will culminate at the 2013 D23 Expo in just one week. Wallace will be there at booth #539. And in the just-released D23 Expo Guidebook, a full page ad invites attendees to visit the “Cartography of Disney” booth, also offering a small puzzle to solve.
With highlighted words “secret,” “message,” and “border,” taking the first letter from each of the represented attractions surrounding the page reveals “PASSWORD IS PROGRESS.” And the page instructs, “Just say the word and he may have a surprise for you.”
When recently asked how The Optimist will end at the D23 Expo, D23 head Steven Clark couldn’t say. He admitted it was all in promotion of “Tomorrowland,” which will be featured in the Walt Disney Studios presentation on Saturday, August 10. But beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess as to exactly how this mystery will end.
Stay up to date on all the latest clues and developments in The Optimist with our collaborative Google Doc. And if you find anything, please add it there to help us all unravel the mystery.
I will personally be at Disneyland next week to see the conclusion of The Optimist and to cover the entire D23 Expo, so keep checking back to Inside the Magic for all the latest excitement.