Most people tend to get lofty when giving thanks. Or else they consider “the little things,” easily overlooked until brought out and magnified in thoughtful prose. Today’s meditation is neither of these. This is about being thankful for big pieces of colorful plastic. Specifically, themed souvenir popcorn buckets and other food-adjacent ephemera offered up at Disney theme parks.
Thankful may seem a bit much for these hotly desired commemoratives. But I cannot tell a lie: Whenever I see the frenzy surrounding the latest and greatest release, I am thankful I do not have to have it. I really don’t. Not me. Not at all.
All kidding aside, I do not have many of these, but I know collectors who have quite a few. And there is something about them that brings back a rush of recognition and even joy when I see them. These are not perennial items that are found throughout the year, or ones that make annual appearances with the seasons. No, these are limited (by both time and number) and represent a moment in time.
True, some are things that have been with us since the parks began back in 1955, such as the recent release of the Disneyland Railroad engine, for example. Others are for beloved attractions of the past (the Figment bucket, sold at a single location at Epcot caused a frenzy during its limited availability). Some are tied to specific theater releases (Tangled had a nifty light-up container based on that movies instantly iconic floating lanterns). And many are valued for their exclusivity, including the inventive and whimsical buckets that are created and sold at the Tokyo parks.
How is it that park guests found themselves rushing from an early morning rope drop to… a popcorn cart? After all, popcorn has been sold at Disneyland and all subsequent parks from the very first day at Disneyland. Walt Disney himself enjoyed the hot ’n crunchy treat. Of course, in his day, it was sold in decorated boxes and paper cartons. In later years, larger plastic cups with lids were introduced. These were often “wrapped” in themed decorations, based on time of year, park promotions, or important anniversaries.
Truly figural buckets are a more recent phenomenon. Snowman Mickey was an early hit, and variations were produced for a couple of years. Sippers followed, along with other specialty items (a Jungle Cruise boat themed ice cream dish, for example). The Haunted Mansion Holiday promotions kicked seasonal offerings into high gear. (Do you have Zero’s dog bowl?) Some were obviously destined to be hits (Cinderella’s coach), while others caused unexpected shortages as soon as they appeared (Disneyland’s iconic Mickey balloons, eventually available in five colors).
This year saw the Hat Box Ghost sipper materialize, and vanish (snatched up by eager Mansion fans), as well as the amiable frenzy surrounding Mickey in a skeleton costume. As these words are written, someone is patiently waiting in line for the Mickey Toy Soldier bucket, available for this holiday season only.
So if you have your favorite themed popcorn buckets/sippers/mugs/bowls/whatevers… be thankful. And if you (like me) do not need yet another giant piece of colorful plastic in your life, be thankful as well!