Sunday, November 9, 2008

Scott And Carol Present: And Now For Something Completely Different Part 1

The city of Branson is realistically described to an entertainment buffet. With hundreds of live shows, museums, and other attractions, if you can’t find fun there, you’re either not trying or you are related to the Grinch. Here is a very brief report of several different attractions we visited during a recent trip “out west:”

You’ll never guess who we saw there. The outside of the building of the Hollywood Wax Museum has its own version of Mount Rushmore, honoring John Wayne, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Charlie Chaplin. Yes, Johnny Depp was there, reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean blockbusters. With a head made of four pounds of wax themselves, the figures require hundreds of specialist hours and thousands of dollars to appear realistic. Hair, eye, teeth, and makeup specialists are all require just for this small part of the whole figure.

To incorporate the rest of the scene, original props from the movies are sometimes borrowed, to be recreated as an exact replica of the original. Identical fabrics are sourced and many times memoridelia auctions supply other items needed on the set. Warner Brothers donated the head, hands, feet, and costume from Tales from the Crypt so the items you see are the ones used in the original filming. The horror scenes piqued our interest since we were there on Halloween. The museum will begin bringing out some more interactive displays after the holidays.

Our next stop was Ride the Ducks. Our WW II veteran 1944 DUKW took us on a tour up into the mountains above Table Rock Lake and then out onto the lake itself. The operation shut down in 2005 and the ducks operated around New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. How amazing that these veterans served their country in two different centuries. Some other military vehicles are in the area where the rock for Table Rock Dam was blasted out back in the 1957-58. It’s a big lake and the vantage point shows just a portion of its waters.

Captain Boggy delivers and interesting narrative of both the vehicles and the scenery as the tour progresses. The fall colors were beautiful due to the changing leaves. From far above we descended to the very level of the lake, the lowest it had been all season. As we splashed into the water, that was the signal for the rains to begin. It rained so hard we were glad to be in a boat! Captain Boggy gave Scott a lesson on how to drive a duck, imperiling all the passengers aboard. Scott earned his Honorary Captain’s License for not colliding with “Gilligan’s Island.” This picture shows just how easy a competency test that is. The rains eased slightly as we headed back into town for our next adventure.

We had planned to do another outdoor related activity but Carol nixed that by saying she wasn’t going risk ruining her cameras by carrying them out in the rain. The forecast said the rains would stop after lunch so we decided to visit the Titanic Museum. This attraction based on the world’s most notorious maritime disaster. It is built as a one-half scale replica of the ship striking the iceberg.

Before you enter, you are directed to touch the “iceberg” built into the wall at the entrance. You receive a boarding pass with the name of an actual passenger on the Titanic. Something new is an Audio Tour that is optional with your admission. You can listen to short recordings giving even more depth to the 400 artifacts that are displayed. A monstrous model, considered the largest and most accurate ever built, is in the first gallery. A recreation of the ship’s bridge shows what officers saw on that fateful night.

Put your hand into the chilling North Atlantic to feel what the passengers unlucky enough not to be in a life boat experienced. A replica life boat lets you sit in various positions and hear the stories of survivors. You can walk down the actual staircase used in the making of the movie. Paintings by Ken Marchall adorn the walls showing how the ship would have looked if anyone had been there to observe. At the end you discover your fate in the Memorial Gallery. This is a compelling story that only seems to have grown over the years.

The Butterfly Palace is more than just a butterfly aviary. You journey begins with a 3-D movie about life as a caterpillar and as a praying mantis. The incredible transformations in these insects existence are chronicled in exquisite detail, giving you a very up close view of their trials and tribulations. Then it’s time to see over 1,000 free flying butterflies as they flitter among the plants.

During our visit, the staff was preparing for the “White Flight,” where the species are limited to just black and white and large poinsettias were positioned to appear as scarlet trees. The butterflies live for between two and three weeks in their flying stage and the aviary colors slowly rotate as they end their life cycle. The insects are imported from Central and South America while still in their chrysalis and the nursery has a glass wall for viewing.

Chinese Button Quail walk around the plants, quickly eating any bugs that manage to gain entry into the aviary. They also have an insect zoo, with giant millipedes, tarantulas, scorpions, and colorful tree frogs. If your have even more energy, find your way through the mirror maze, but remember to keep your hands in front of your face, because seeing isn’t always believing.

Because it was Halloween, we visited a haunted house. The Haunted House and Monster Asylum on the other side of the Dinosaur Walk building.

Set as an Ozark Cemetery, meandering through the various crypts, the insane asylum, the ghostly castle, you hear things in the night and the resident ghouls scare you from all directions. It’s very well designed and constructed. Some of the best animatronics you’ll find in a purely haunted attraction. The hall of screen legends is especially well done, and pause to enjoy the finale, it is very worth the wait. Happy nightmares!

We would like to give a special thanks to Anthony Gagliardi for his help on this trip. And, look for more from Branson coming soon.