"I had only worked at Neverland for a few weeks. It was a very warm day. I was in my suit (and thinking to myself it was a bit hot to be wearing a suit), standing near the front of the amusement park grinding ice for the snow cone machine with my back to the road that runs in front of the park. I see a golf cart full of people out of the corner of my eye; the golf cart stops right behind me. I keep grinding ice and I hear, "Sure is hot today, isn’t it?" I slowly turn around and agree then go back to grinding ice. Then … WHAM, a water balloon hits me in the middle of the back. As the golf cart speeds off I hear Mr. Jackson say, "It wasn’t me". I realized that I was feeling much cooler and a thought ran through my mind, "I have never had a boss throw a water balloon at me, I think this is going to be a fun place to work.”
This incident really sticks out in my mind because I had only been working at Neverland for a few weeks and had not had any contact with Mr. Jackson yet, other than running a few rides for him.” Big Al Scanlan - Director of Maintenance at Neverland Ranch from 1990 to 2005
via UK Loves MJ -“It is here, standing next to the hospital beds, that one understands the essence of Neverland to its owner, amusement is hardly the point of the place. This is actually the world Jackson would fashion were it left in his charge: safe and clean and timeless as a fable.”
Neverland ~ David Friend [Life Magazine Photographic Editor] sums up Neverland and Michael’s vision for the World perfectly with this quote.
These are some of my favourite pictures of Michael (the entire shoot), taken by the now late Jonathan Exley who passed away last year (2011) on Michael’s birthday believe it or not, due to Liver Failure.
When Michael died one of Exley’s photographs from the same shoot as these two above made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Before his death these photographs were pretty much hidden away, I think fans had one picture available from the session.
When he passed many fabulous photographs of Michael that had been hidden away for years suddenly appeared in magazines, internet sites, television shows. Jonathan Exley was not alone in having his work with Michael find the light once MJ was gone, but his photographs indeed stood out. He captured Michael in one of the most natural ‘shoots that Michael had ever been a part of as an adult man. It captured him honestly, at home, during a terribly difficult period in his life. No fancy outfits, no Pop Royalty pose, no made up settings or looks… just Michael.
These photographs will always have a special place in my heart and I guess many others too.
In Loving Memory of Michael Jackson & Jonathan Exley. Two fabulous artists.
Unless you live on another planet, you probably know that last week was another “Michael Jackson week”. The “This Is it” documentary and CD album were released and a major Michael Jackson exhibition opened last Tuesday in London. I thought it would be the perfect time to introduce to you one of Michael’s most secret - and really fantastic - projects: the Peter Pan’s Neverland theme park that never was. Let’s first go back in time to 1997, when Michael Jackson and Prince Al-Waleed - Disneyland Paris’ biggest private stock-holder - created a company called Kingdom Entertainment and purchased 50% of Landmark Entertainment, giving the company a huge infusion of cash. Prince Al-Waleed had 45% and Michael had 5% of the shares. I remind you that Landmark is the famous company directed by Gary Goddard which created the Spider-Man ride at IOA and the Jurassic Park and Terminator 3D attractions at Universal Studios.
So, what had to happen happened, Michael asked Landmark if they could design a theme park, a real one, not only for him but a park where anybody could go, just like Disneyland. And this theme park would have been named Peter Pan’s Neverland! Here is a bird’s eye view of the park - please double-click on the image below to see it in big size.
Fully inspired from Peter Pan’s story, the park would have started with a grand London entrance. A replica of Kensington Gardens, where anyone can see the famous Peter Pan statue, as well as Big Ben and the House of Parliaments in the background, not to mention horse guards at the entrance, all of which would have set a stunning replica of the Victorian city.
From that point guests were supposed to go to Neverland Island, and Landmark designers had designed two different way to go there, both of which were attractions. The first one, which would definitely have been an E-Ticket attraction, was… to fly to Neverland! As you can see on the artwork below, the take-of was over London, with a fly over Big Ben and other famous London landmarks like the Tower Bridge (note that on the artwork Big Ben and the Tower Bridge are close together but two miles separate them in reality) and then, lead by Tinkerbell, they would fly all over Neverland, the Mermaid Lagoon and Skull Rock and finally land near the Lost Boys home and woods.
And how would Landmark have achieved this wonder, you ask? First, no, the ride was not designed like Soarin’ over California - which, by the way, was not built at that time. Instead, guests would have sat on a platform which would have turned down on a 50 degrees angle, a bit less than on the “flying” coasters, and the movie would have been projected on a huge Omnimax dome located under the platform, giving to the guests the illusion of flying over London and Neverland! What a great ride it would have been!
The other way to reach Neverland would have been by boat. During this short boat ride the boat would have go through mysterious caves before arriving to Neverland Island with its lush vegetation and waterfalls.
Once at Neverland, guests would have had the choice of six different areas:
"Lost Boys area" would have been a fun play area for young kids with slides, jumping fountains, a tree house but also a great roller-coaster with tracks going all over the land.
In “Mermaid Lagoon” guests would have had the choice between a boat ride going through Neverland Island caves or to enjoy a meal at a beautiful restaurant located underground with a huge window looking towards the lagoon where a Mermaid show was envisioned. Close to Mermaid Lagoon, the “Indian Village” would have been another area of Neverland where a raft ride was envisioned.
On the other side of the huge Neverland rock, guests would have find “Pixie Kingdom”, a great area for young children with giant mushrooms playground and re-themed carnival rides.
Another major area - not so far from Pixie Kingdom - would have been the Pirates village with Skull Rock nearby as well as Captain Hook’s ship.
It’s there where guests could have watch a great live action show, including a flying Peter Pan fighting his eternal ennemy, Captain Hook. And of course the Crocodile was part of the show.
So what happened? Why this Peter Pan’s Neverland theme park was never built? Well, some years later, Michael Jackson and Prince Al-Waleed ended their association, and considering the cost of a concept like this one, it was very unfortunately the end of the Peter Pan’s Neverland project. Although Michael lived in his Neverland Ranch, he never got to walk in this “real” Neverland. However, years later, Landmark designed for Michael a great statue showing Michael as Peter Pan!
Does this mean that we will never see this great park concept become real one day? Who knows, with all the different Michael Jackson celebrations that will happen in years to come - not to mention that Neverland Ranch could become for Michael Jackson’s fans what Graceland is to Presley’s fans - maybe somebody who has enough money will find, just like we do, that it would be great to build this Peter Pan’s Neverland for real? And, hey, there is plenty of land available inside Neverland Ranch. Who could imagine a better place to build Michael’s dearest dream?
From Ms. Taylor’s private wedding album, rare Herb Ritts photos of Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson on the day she married Larry Fortensky. Jackson hosted the wedding at his Neverland Valley Ranch