Great Disney/Themed Entertainment History With Larry Nikolai and Sam Carter

Learning new theme park nuggets is an obsession of mine. The thing about nuggets, they are rarely served on a silver platter. You have to dig for them. A perfect example is a new interview with Larry Nikolai I recently found on Sam Carter’s YouTube Channel.

For those unfamiliar, Larry Nikolai has had a colorful career as an artist for various attractions within Disney, Six Flags, Universal and beyond. His latest interview with Sam Carter covers over a dozen projects throughout his career and his experience is fascinating.

For example, early in his career, Nikolai worked on Monster Plantation with Gary Goddard at Six Flags Over Georgia. Some may not know, but oftentimes attractions like this are designed by Imagineers. Sometimes those WDI folks are between projects or move on to form their own companies. Larry Nikolai made the maquettes for Monster Plantation and it was his first major theme park design gig.

Long before Islands of Adventure, Bullwinkle had a series of pizza joints scattered around the country. You read that correctly. Many restaurants wanted a small animatronic show to entice visitors and families to come in. Larry Nikolai designed the animatronics for not only Bullwinkle’s but Circus Playhouse and several other restaurant animatronic shows.

What’s really cool about Sam Carter’s interview are images like this. Universal Studios had a show themed around “An Americal Tail”, a wildly popular Don Bluth animated film. The star of the show was a huge puppet named Tiger. Seen above is Larry’s drawing of how this enormous puppet would work in the show. You’ve got to see this thing move for yourself in Sam’s video.

Speaking of puppets, here is a costume that Larry Nikolai designed for a Figment walk-around character. Before you ask, no this is not the infamous “Figzilla” seen at Epcot in the late ’90s. What I found interesting is that there was more than one design for a Figment walk-around character without Dreamfinder!

Talk about great memories. Larry also designed the Colonel puppet in the Adventurer’s Club at Pleasure Island. Believe it or not, the figure was designed in only two weeks!

Finally, Larry discusses The Little Mermaid attraction at Disney’s California Adventure. You’ll be fascinated to hear about the influences of the attraction and its design that Sam Carter and Larry Nikolai discuss. Who is Sam Carter anyway?

Sam Carter is actually an artist himself. He’s done work for Universal, Cedar Fair and yes, even Disney. You can check out his website at Also his YouTube channel is filled with some great throwbacks to Disney shows and attractions you may have forgotten about. His interview with Larry Nikolai is only his latest one in the podcast series and from what I understand, he’s got even more lined up! Check out the interview with Larry below!

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