Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Originally known mainly as a character actor in his native country, British actor Bob Hoskins took a major risk when he accepted the role of Eddie Valiant in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Not only was he playing against a non-existent co-star who would be added to the film later, he also had to deal with the murmurs around Hollywood that the film would be another big budget disaster like Howard the Duck. Of course, the film was actually something very special and Mr. Hoskins became a household name. It turned out he was perfect for the role of the hapless, drunken Eddie who needed the help of a special Toon to snap out of his funk and prove how valiant he really was.
Mr. Hoskins retired from acting in 2011 after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and passed away yesterday at the age of 71.
It is virtually impossible to walk into any store these days and not find something with Mickey Mouse or some other Disney character on it. The world's favorite mouse appears on billions of dollars worth of goods sold worldwide. Of course, this wasn't always the case. Believe it or not, but character licensing and merchandise wasn't always a big business. Many comic strip artists rarely licensed their characters to merchandisers and those who did never thought of the possible profits from the merchandise itself. They saw merchandise as just another way to promote their work.
Walt Disney, however, saw merchandise as something that could make as much if not more money than the pictures themselves. These profits could be used to make more and better quality pictures. So Walt eagerly licensed his little mouse. The first item to be released was this simple notebook. It would be just the first of many fun items featuring Mickey Mouse.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Imagine a park themed to the state of California. It would feature restaurants serving fresh California vegetables cooked by California chefs. Unique shops and attractions would highlight the Golden State, in the hope that it would inspire its guests to explore more of California. Sound familiar? It describes DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE, right? Actually, it describes DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA LIVING, a theme park idea dreamed up by Walt Disney in 1961, a full 40 years before DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE opened in 2001.
In the map below, the proposed DCL park's location is highlighted in red. DCA's current boundaries are marked in gold. Other than its proposed location, little is known about DCL. Harrison Price, who helped Walt Disney locate a suitable location for DISNEYLAND and did the original feasibility studies for the park, says he didn't know many specifics about the park, only that Walt just got too busy and ran out of time to build it.
The official company story is that DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE was devised completely independent of any plans for DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA LIVING and that the project team knew nothing about Walt Disney's original plans. That could be true. Maybe the idea was so good that it was an inevitability. At the very least, it shows how many of Mr. Disney's ideas were truly ahead of their time.
“Yesterday, a man walked up to me and said, ‘Isn’t it a shame that Walt Disney couldn’t be here to see this?’ and I said, He did see this, that’s why it’s here.”
-Art Linkletter July 17, 2005
Monday, April 28, 2014
When Walt Disney needed money for DISNEYLAND, The ABC Television Network was willing to provide some of the cash in exchange for the weekly DISNEYLAND TV Show, but had no real interest in the theme park itself. The network quickly cashed out its investment in the park, but eventually noticed he huge amounts of cash generated by DISNEYLAND. ABC owner Leonard Goldensen decided that ABC would diversify by getting into the theme park business.
The network bought a parcel of land in Redwood City, California and announced plans to build an aquatic park- ABC Marine World. During an elaborate television special produced by future Disney CEO Michael Eisner, ABC introduced its new park to the world in 1968. ABC Marine World was a huge success, but ABC soon realized something that Mr. Disney had instinctually known years before; that a steady stream of new attractions and shows were needed to keep guests happy and coming back. ABC had hoped that the park wouldn't need further investment, so despite the project's success, it decided to sell the park. The buyer was a San Jose businessman who owned a struggling Safari themed park. He decided to move his animals up north to create Marine World Africa USA. ABC had left the theme park industry.
The combined park struggled for several years before it eventually became a non-profit enterprise, run by a group of conservationists. When the land the park sat on became too valuable, the park relocated to nearby Vallejo and continued to evolve, becoming The New Marine World Theme Park, Six Flags Marine World and now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The land it used to stand on is now the world headquarters of the Oracle Corporation and ABC became a division of The Walt Disney Company in 1995 in a mega-deal orchestrated by Disney CEO Michael Eisner.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
"His dedication was not just making people smile- he taught in his very special way respect for life and land the world over making people realize if you wish upon a star, fantasies really can come true. Many times I visited his Magic Kingdom and believe me when I say my dreams came true."
Friday, April 25, 2014
The first Disney Villain is Pete, a gruff cat who originally began life as a foil to Mickey in Steamboat Willie. Vicious and menacing, he often stood in the way of Mickey's goals. Eventually, Pete became more domesticated and was associated with Goofy. He has more or less lost his villainous persona, becoming more of an annoyance rather than evil.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
When Walt Disney began planning DISNEYLAND, he bought all the land he could afford. He had faith in the success of his project and tried to get his wealthy Hollywood friends to buy some of the surrounding land. (Land that he could then buy from them at a later date.) None of them had the same faith in the project that Walt had and he helplessly saw the properties surrounding DISNEYLAND slip into the hands of people who wanted to profit off of his success. The city of Anaheim ignored Walt Disney's pleas to control the growth around the park and the area soon became what Walt described as a "second rate Las Vegas".
Many of the properties around DISNEYLAND tried to at least provide some semblance of theme and one motel in particular tried to take advantage of the excitement generated by the construction of the Matterhorn- the Heidi Motel. It holds a special place in our hearts as a memorable host to many fun trips to Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.
Originally built by an outside investor, it was acquired by DISNEYLAND in the late 1960's and operated as a non-Disney Hotel until the mid 1990's when it was demolished to make way for DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE. While much of the former property is now used as a back area for the new park, the northernmost section of the motel is currently the boarding area for Paradise Pier's California Screamin' roller coaster.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Mickey Rooney had many ties to Disney- he starred in Pete's Dragon and The Muppets, and provided voices for characters in Fox and the Hound and Lady and The Tramp II. It's a very impressive resume, however there's one thing Mr. Rooney repeatedly claimed in interviews that just wasn't true- that Walt Disney named Mickey Mouse after him.
In fact, Mickey Mouse was named by Walt Disney's wife, Lillian Disney, and there is no evidence to indicate that she or Walt had ever heard of Mickey Rooney at the time. In fact, Mr. Rooney wouldn't become a well known star until ten years after Mickey Mouse had already made his grand debut.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
After Walt Disney settled on a location for DISNEYLAND in the sleepy agricultural town of Anaheim, CA, he still needed to convince the people who owned the various properties to sell to him. One required parcel was owned by the Dominguez family, whose property comprised what would later become New Orleans Square, Critter Country and Frontierland. Mrs. Dominguez was a feisty woman, who initially resisted Disney's offers, but eventually caved in as long as Walt honored one request- to hire her youngest son. Walt agreed and Ronald Dominguez was hired on at DISNEYLAND, originally as a ticket taker.
Mr. Dominguez stayed on at DISNEYLAND, eventually becoming DISNEYLAND President, the highest position in the park. When Mr. Dominguez retired, he was honored with a window on Main Street. Located above the Market House, the slogan on the windows reads "We'll Care For Your Property As If It Were Our Own"- a clever reference to the fact that he literally lived and grew up on the property that would become DISNEYLAND.
Monday, April 21, 2014
DISNEYLAND Records was started in 1956 by Roy Disney as a way to release soundtrack albums from DISNEYLAND Park. Prior to DISNEYLAND Records, Disney soundtrack releases were contracted out to other record companies. By establishing its own record company, Walt Disney Productions no longer had to convince others to release its albums. As a result, a treasure trove of DISNEYLAND audio was made available like Date Nite at DISNEYLAND, The Golden Horseshoe Review, Meet Me Down on Main Street and Walt Disney Takes You To DISNEYLAND.
DISNEYLAND Records also pioneered the sale of read along records, which included a fully illustrated book. Millions of kids learned to read by hearing the DISNEYLAND Storyteller read a book to them, eagerly waiting for the sound of Tinkerbell's chimes which signaled when it was time to turn the page. Eventually, DISNEYLAND Records became Walt Disney Records, which still exists, releasing Disney soundtracks and music catering to Tweens and families alike.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Friday, April 18, 2014
Walt's miniature backyard train may have frustrated his wife, who wasn't thrilled by his train tracks overtaking her flower beds, but its importance to the world is immeasurable. Many people trace Walt Disney's desire to build DISNEYLAND directly back to his backyard train. If there wasn't a "Carolwood Pacific Railroad" there very likely would not have been a DISNEYLAND.
For years, the train was displayed at the Main Street Station in DISNEYLAND. Walt Disney's daughter lent it to the California Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento, where it was displayed for a limited time. It now has a permanent home at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
It was a no-brainer; a wonderful small town of the type that DISNEYLAND's Main Street was modeled after would have a nice bandstand. As the park's opening day drew near, the bandstand was quickly assembled and placed in a soon to be recognizable location.... Town Square. Unfortunately for the bandstand, Walt Disney did not like where it was originally placed. It was obvious that the bandstand would block the view of Sleeping Beauty Castle for those who stood on the train station's platform. The bandstand was quickly moved to a spot that was to the left of the castle:
It wouldn't stay long at this location. As attendance grew, the park needed a larger venue for its Date Nite at DISNEYLAND promotion. The bandstand was again displaced, this time by Carnation Gardens. The bandstand was then moved to an unlikely location- Adventureland. This time it was placed right in front of that wall we highlighted recently, about where the Tarzan Treehouse is now. This would be the last location it would get inside the park; when the Treehouse was built for the Swiss Family Robinson and the dead end was removed, the bandstand was taken out of the park completely and donated to the City of Anaheim for use in one of its neighborhood parks. That wouldn't be its final home, however. It eventually ended up at Roger's Gardens, an Orange County garden shop where it remains to this day.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
The auditions for the voice of Mickey Mouse did not go well. None of the auditioners satisfied Walt Disney, who kept making suggestions about how he felt a cartoon mouse should sound. Frustrated, one of his braver animators suggested that maybe Walt should just provide the voice. Amazingly, he did just that-for almost twenty years!
When Mr. Disney's other projects began to get bigger and occupy more of his time, he turned the voice duties over to a musician at the studio named Jimmy McDonald. Walt did do Mickey's voice one last time after his original tenure ended; that's him as Mickey Mouse on the Mickey Mouse Club.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
"A dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep. In dreams you will lose your heartaches. Whatever you wish for, you keep. Have faith in your dreams, and someday, your rainbow will come smiling through. No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true."
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Friday, April 11, 2014
When Walt Disney arrived in California to follow his dreams, he had only $40 and his worldly possessions which fit into a cardboard suitcase. Armed with just a suitcase and a dream, Walt needed a little help, so he moved in with his uncle Robert, who let him setup shop in a rickety garage at 4406 Kingswell Avenue in Los Angeles. From this simple garage, Walt Disney started a business that would grow into a multi-billion dollar empire. Want to see this garage today? It still exists. In 1984 it was moved to the Garden Grove Historical Park, where it remains to this day- a mere 15 minute drive from Walt's greatest dream come true- DISNEYLAND Park.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Today, DISNEYLAND celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the happiest cruise that ever sailed- "it's a small world". Dreamed up by Walt Disney, designed by Mary Blair and dressed by Harriet Burns, "it's a small world" opened at the New York World's Fair in April of 1964. Enchanting millions, it flew back to the state of its birth- California-and became a part of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom of DISNEYLAND.
Since then, it has entertained hundreds of millions of children and their families- teaching a lesson of tolerance in a magical kaleidoscope of color and imagination- just like Walt Disney dreamed it.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Guests at DISNEYLAND today know that they can get to New Orleans Square and the Frontierland waterfront by walking through Adventureland. In fact, guests can pretty much roam around the entire west side of the park without having to re-enter the park's Central Plaza. This wasn't always the case, however.
In the 1950's and early 1960's, guests encountered a wall at the end of Adventureland. If they wanted to get to Frontierland, they had to walk back out to Central Plaza, make a left, then enter Frontierland through the main stockade. This caused numerous traffic problems and was rectified once New Orleans Square was built. The wall came down and traffic flowed freely out into the wild frontier.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
The original Walt Disney Studios were located at 2719 Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles. The studio remained at the location until the company outgrew the space and moved to Burbank in 1940. Sadly, the building no longer remains. Visitors to the site today would find a Gelson's Supermarket. A tribute to the building can be seen at Disney California Adventure, visible from the courtyard in front of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Monday, April 7, 2014
Sunday, April 6, 2014
"Psst! Avast there! It be too late to alter course, mateys . . . and there be plundering pirates lurking in every cove, waitin' to board. Sit closer together, and keep your ruddy hands inboard. That be the best way to repel boarders. And mark well me words, mateys . . . Dead men tell no tales!"
-Talking Skeleton from DISNEYLAND's Pirates of the Caribbean
Saturday, April 5, 2014
"A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know that he has been alive."
Friday, April 4, 2014
To finish out April Fools Week, we highlight one of the most persistent stories out there- that there's a basketball court inside the Matterhorn. This legend is completely..... TRUE.
That's the basketball court up there! It does exist and there are many stories about why it was built. One story claims that Anaheim had a law that said only gymnasiums could be built as tall as the Matterhorn needed to be. Walt Disney placed the basketball hoop inside the mountain so that city planners would have no choice but to allow the mountain to be built. An interesting story, but it falls apart quickly. Why would a gymnasium ever need to be that tall? Could DISNEYLAND possibly believe that the city of Anaheim would classify a mountain as a gymnasium just because it had a basketball hoop in it?
So why was the hoop placed in the Matterhorn? Nobody seems to remember the exact reason, but it was most likely put there to be used by the mountain climbers who scaled the peak daily during the summer months. They needed something to do in between their "climbs".
Thursday, April 3, 2014
It was the special George Lucas doesn't want you to see! When Lucas was working on the first Star Wars film, he had to scratch & fight to get funding to finish up the special effects. Twentieth Century Fox was not eager to give him more cash, but they did let him scare up the funds any way he saw fit. (Which led to him eventually getting enough money to buy them out, but that's a different story altogether.) in any case, CBS came to the rescue. They would give Lucas much needed funds in exchange for the rights to make a special based on this "Space Film" if things worked out.
When Star Wars became a sensation, CBS remembered its little option and quickly decided to cash in. George Lucas wasn't interested in the project, but he had to follow through with the deal, so he gave his grudging approval. CBS didn't seem to grasp the reason why Star Wars was a hit, so they hired a staff more suited to producing a variety show than a science fiction themed special.
The result was a disaster that George Lucas would like to forget. Celebrities who had no business being in the Star Wars universe were hired. There were bizarre, creepy sketches, including one that featured a leering wookee watching a stripping Diahann Carroll. Using the vast wealth created by owning merchandising rights to his films, George Lucas buried the special after its one airing. Many Star Wars fans dream of an official release, but Lucas has kept it hidden from public view. With his empire now owned by The Walt Disney Company, there's a new hope that the special will see the light of day.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
As you might remember from a previous post, Pepsi and Coke were both sold side by side at DISNEYLAND & Florida's Magic Kingdom for many years. There is an interesting story told in Florida about why Pepsi is no longer sold there...
According to this story, the first weekend of operation in Florida exceeded everyone's expectations. The park was so crowded that the restaurants were quickly running out of everything including Coke and Pepsi. When frantic park managers called up both Coke and Pepsi to get more supplies, the Coke representative personally opened the warehouse, which was closed for the weekend, and made sure that Disney's supplies were replenished. The Pepsi representative told Disney that they were out of luck and had to wait until Monday for new stock. Angered, Disney ordered Pepsi removed and Coke picked up the rest of the park as a reward for its assistance on a busy opening weekend.
An interesting story, but it just isn't true. Attendance at Florida's Magic Kingdom was a bust on opening weekend. If Disney managers made calls to Pepsi or Coke, it was to reduce orders due to lesser than expected attendance. In fact, attendance for the first two months of Florida's existence was so bad, Roy Disney thought he'd made a huge mistake in building the park. Imagineers, loyal to Walt Disney, joked that since Roy threw out Walt Disney's plans for the Florida project that the park was cursed. Luckily for the company, attendance finally picked up two months later. It is interesting to note that had the same thing happened at DISNEYLAND in 1955, the company would have most certainly gone bankrupt. DISNEYLAND's success, however, gave its younger sibling the breathing room it needed to establish itself.
Another reason why this story isn't true? Disney didn't switch to Coke only until 1985. Florida's Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. That would be a long wait to "punish" a slacking vendor. The only reason Pepsi left the parks was because they were overbid for the contract when Disney decided to have an exclusive drink vendor. Interestingly, Pepsi recently won the drink contract at Shanghai Disneyland, so who knows? Maybe Pepsi will make a comeback in the Magic Kingdom.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Everyone remembers Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, but ten years earlier, the CBS Television Network made a one hour version of Mary Poppins with Hollywood legend Mary Wickes. P.L. Travers reportedly favored Mary's portrayal of the Practically Perfect Nanny and Mary Wickes even lobbied Walt Disney for the part.
Ms. Wickes is no stranger to the Disney family. In addition to being the live action model for Cruella Deville, she starred in Walt Disney's Annette, Zorro, Snowball Express, ABC's Father Dowling Mysteries, Touchstone Pictures' Sister Act & Sister Act 2 and Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame.