Land of Wonder #1

2K15 marks a special year, for it is not only 30 years since my Mum & Dad met each other, but also 30 years since the opening of the largest theme park in the Southern Hemisphere – Australia’s Wonderland.

Sometime that year, 1985, Mum had suggested to Dad that he should go and see if he could go and get a job at Wonderland – given the word had spread that Wonderland was in the process of being assembled at that time. Mum said, “Why don’t you go and see if they have any positions available”. Thankfully Dad acted upon this suggestion. He went to Wonderland during the Winter, made an introduction at the front desk in administration – asked if they had any jobs, and she said there were no positions available. So Dad asked “What about entertainers?”. She asked what Dad did, and replied“A magician”. She said to hang on a minute, came back with Martin Mowlam, who asked Dad to come back in the next day to meet the Managing Director Keith James.
Dad met Mr. James on the verandah of ‘Lasseter’s General Store’ [mid-construction in the Gold Rush], along with Mr. Mowlam and performed a couple of close up effects for them. Mr. James said to Mr. Mowlam “Hire him, he knows what he is doing”. And thus, ‘Merlin the Magician‘ was propelled into motion.
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In this gigantic, two-part posting, I would like to share a short era, early on in the life of my Mum & Dad – documented through Photographs, Paper Ephemera and Home Video made during 1985-88. For me, I gain great insight to the wonders of great fun had, prior to my time on this earth, when looking at the scenes within these images. You can see the emotions that fill the atmosphere – a unique sense of freedom and a colourful reflection of Australian Entertainment in the mid to late 1980s.

Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #17
‘Merlin’ performing Magic in his favourite spot – First Day of Operation (Pre-Opening Day), Saturday the 2nd of November, 1985.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #1
‘Merlin’ posing for a picture with park guests – Summer, 86/87.
Thank you WonderlandHistory.net
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #2
Whitebeard Merlin – caught on the bridge in Hanna-Barbera Land – Summer, 86/87.
Thank you Jodi Munday!
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #3
‘Merlin’ posing for a picture in front of Toohey’s Tall Ship (aka The Buccaneer) – Early 86.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #5
‘Merlin the Magician’ demonstrating the wonders of Magic for park guests in front of ‘Boo Boo’s Balloon Race’ – Early 1986.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #6
Male Chaperone catches up to ‘Jabber Jaws’ as ‘Merlin’ awaits guests to entertain – Early 1986.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #7
Mum would photograph Dad, with and without his “knowing-of”….
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #8
‘Merlin’ atop a stack of Coca-Cola barrels in front of both ships, in ‘Endeavour Baye’ – 1986/87.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #9
‘Merlin’ performing Magic for guests in front of the ‘Buccaneer’ – Medieval Faire, 1986/87.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #10
‘Merlin’ backstage in the Dressing Room of ‘Character House’ – Early 1986.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #11
‘Merlin’ casting a spell, in Medieval Faire – later-1986 (pointy hat).
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #12
Merlin’s favourite spot in Medieval Faire.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #13
Merlin the Magician would walk across this very Waterfall. Through the ancient Art of Magic, Merlin would pace across the ravaging-waters edge. Management believed what they saw, advising Dad that it is very dangerous to be up there walking across the water – not knowing that there was an illusion and simple method to the foolery.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #14
‘Merlin’ performing a hanky trick in front of the ‘Dragon’s Flight’, Medieval Faire – mid-1986 (flat-hat).
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #15
‘Merlin’ performing a coin trick for guests, in Medieval Faire – mid-1986 (flat-hat).
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #16
‘Merlin’ atop the Executioner’s Block, just inside the entrance of Wonderland (Medieval Faire) – 1986..
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #18
‘Merlin’ spotted, under the rainbow in Hanna-Barbera Land – Early 1986.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #19
‘Merlin’ welcoming guests to Wonderland in the evening – 1986/87.

There was only one parade held, back in ’86. A “Test Parade”, in which the team of Hanna-Barbera Characters made a march through the park, from the top of the hill, down to the bottom. In this parade, Julia Marshall accidentally blew-out the backing of Yogi Bears costume, and it separated apart, down the middle from top to bottom. A lady with balloons had to stand behind to cover the revealing split. Once at the bottom of the hill, it was too difficult to get back up again, so a van would take everyone back up around the dirt roads, back to ‘Character House’.

Wonderland - HB Characters #3
The beginning of the one and only Wonderland Parade, in ‘Hanna-Barbera Land’ – Early 1986.
Wonderland - HB Characters #1
Julia Marshall as Yogi Bear, waving us “Hello!”.
Wonderland - Merlin the Magician #4
‘Merlin’ in the one and only Wonderland Parade – 1986.
Wonderland - HB Characters #2
The one and only Wonderland Parade, passing the “Gold Nugget Theatre’ – Early 1986.

Wonderland - BTS #1
Group photograph including Pirates, Chaperones, Characters & Atmosphere Performers from Character House – 1986.
Wonderland - BTS #2
‘Thank You’ sign at exit of Staff Carpark – 1986.
Wonderland - BTS #3
‘Scooby Doo’ being fitted in the Dressing room – Character House, 1986.
Wonderland - BTS #4
View from the staff gates at ‘Character House’ – 1986.
Wonderland - BTS #5
Dad with Scooby Doo presenting Wonderland at the Yenora Woolsheds Travel Show – 1987.
Wonderland - BTS #6
‘Merlin’ with ‘Yogi Bear’ at the Yenora Woolsheds Travel Show – 1987.
Wonderland - BTS #7
‘Fred Flintstone’ casting a spell on ‘Merlin’ at the Yenora Woolsheds Travel Show – 1987.

Among Dad’s awesome posters of ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World – Hubert the Super-Magician‘, Mel Brooks in ‘High Anxiety‘, ‘Star Wars‘ and ‘Superman‘ – there are a few early ‘AWL Auditions‘ posters which I’d like to share here.

Wonderland - Ephemera #7
Front of the 1st ‘Auditions’ poster – 1986.
Wonderland - Ephemera #6
Back of the 1st ‘Auditions’ poster – 1986.
Wonderland - Ephemera #5
Front of the 2nd ‘Auditions’ poster – 1986.
Wonderland - Ephemera #4
Back of the 2nd ‘Auditions’ poster – 1986.

Also hiding in the “poster-barrel”, are a series of very special paper items. A concept map design showing the layout of the park pre-opening, the final map design used, and a collection of my Dad’s drawing designs for T-shirts and Character House Christmas Cards (also hiding somewhere is the concept logo design for the ‘Beastie’ ride).
These drawings are special indeed – During Year 10 (1979), for work experience, Dad went to Hanna-Barbera Studios in Sydney and was lucky enough to work on some Animation and Cel Colouring. Dad grew up with a passion and serious talent for Art – over the years, producing work privately, with great care and love for the craft. I love, appreciate and enjoy every piece of work my Dad has created – he really is an amazing artist. With that expressed, the following drawings are designs that went on to become a part of the park itself. Directly from the hands of a long-time Hanna-Barbera fan.
First, a colour rendition of the ‘Character House’ T-shirt design – produced in black and white – Employees would colour-in their clothing themselves with Hobbytex markers.

Wonderland - Ephemera #9
Dad’s ‘Character House’ t-shirt/jumper design – 1985/86.
Wonderland - Ephemera #15
Dad’s ‘Character House’ t-shirt/jumper design – 1986/87.
Wonderland - Ephemera #14
Dad’s Christmas message for Character House to deliver to all Wonderland departments – 1985.
Wonderland - Ephemera #13
Dad’s Christmas message for Character House to deliver to all Wonderland departments – 1986.

One day early on in the days of Wonderland, Dad went to go visit Hanna-Barbera Studios in Sydney to go and see if they could provide some drawings of all the different characters, to pin up on the walls of Wonderland’s ‘Character House’. With no response or pictures received, Dad went ahead and drew a series of works to be put on display in the Green Room, in Character House – to showcase the many wonderful beings that inhabit Hanna-Barbera‘s colourful Character Change Rooms.

Wonderland - Ephemera #10
Dad’s drawing of ‘Huckleberry Hound’, created to liven up the walls of Character House – 1985.
Wonderland - Ephemera #11
Dad’s drawing of ‘Yogi Bear & Boo Boo’, created to liven up the walls of Character House – 1985.
Wonderland - Ephemera #12
Dad’s drawing of ‘Top Cat’, created to liven up the walls of Character House – 1985.
Wonderland - Ephemera #8
Dad’s drawing of ‘Merlin the Magician’ – 1986.
The idea started from a conversation with Paul Venables (Assistant Entertainment Manager) who had some great ideas on events and rides that he would like to see in the park. One being the use of the abandoned open-cut mine behind Wonderland as a rollercoaster, similar to ‘Space Mountain’ (in Disneyland), and a fireworks and laser spectacular featuring ‘Merlin the Magician‘ on the rocks infront of the waterfall, shooting laser and fireworks from his hands – an idea pre-dating Disneyland’s Fantasmic! by 20 years. He thought the show could be operated permanently from a room set up in the roof space of ‘Merlin’s Notions & Potions‘.


Part Two
>>>

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One response to “Land of Wonder #1

  1. Pingback: Land of Wonder #2 | HICKEY GUY·

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