Sunday, August 31, 2014
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Friday, August 29, 2014
The second hotel to join the DISNEYLAND Resort family was the DISNEYLAND Pacific Hotel. Ideally located right next to the DISNEYLAND Hotel, it originally opened as the Emerald Hotel, then changed ownership and became the Pan Pacific Hotel in the late 1980's. When it became a Disney hotel it became the DISNEYLAND Pacific Hotel.
In 2001, the hotel was extensively remodeled inside and out to become Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel to match the theme of the new Disney California Adventure Park.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
The first Broadway Musical from Disney was Beauty and the Beast. Based on DISNEYLAND's musical version of the animated classic that played at Videopolis in Fantasyland, it would be the first hugely successful musical based on a DISNEYLAND production.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Jim Henson created Kermit the Frog in 1955. Using one of his mother's old coats, Mr. Henson built a puppet that he originally thought should be a lizard. Originally seen as being just one character out of many, Kermit quickly became the most important Muppet.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Walt Disney opened his first studio in Kansas City, Missouri. He hoped to produce short animated cartoons as well as various advertisements for local cinemas. Unfortunately, there was very little demand for his services so the "Laugh-o-Grams" Studio went bankrupt.
Instead of accepting defeat, Walt then packed up everything he owned in a suitcase and went out to California to follow his heart. He would be successful beyond his wildest dreams.
Monday, August 25, 2014
The Disney Theme Parks are packed with details that you may not notice. The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney California Adventure is filled with them. As mentioned previously, the Hotel was specially located so that if it had an outside address, it would be 1313 Harbor Boulevard. (An appropriate address for a haunted hotel.)
The details continue inside the hotel's lobby. If the "concierge" at the bell desk guides you to the left side doors, look up at the door number- 22.
A random number? No- it's a reference to the classic Twilight Zone episode Twenty Two, which starred Arlene Martell as a maniacal nurse who creepily insisted that there was "room for one more" in the hospital morgue.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
"No doubt you saw the whole pretty picture in detail. The young prince bowing to the assembly. Suddenly, he stops. He looks up. For lo... there she stands. The girl of his dreams. Who she is or whence she came, he knows not, nor does he care, for his heart tells him that here, here is the maid predestined to be his bride."
-The Duke from Walt Disney's Cinderella
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Friday, August 22, 2014
The outbreak of World War II dried up much of the Disney Studios revenue streams. It also brought new worries for the United States, who feared that a South American country could choose to align itself with Nazi Germany. So the government asked Mr. Disney for a favor- take a heavily publicized tour of South America and make a film from it. The result was Saludos Amigos, the first of Disney's lower cost "package films".
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Disney's Lucasfilm was involved in a lot of things before it was purchased by Disney. It once developed a piece of software that could be used in animation. Failing to find a market for the software, the company was sold to a friend of George Lucas who was forced to try using the software for films of its own. You might have heard of that troubled company- Pixar Animation.
Another field Lucasfilm entered was sound systems. George Lucas was frustrated with how he could create a film that looked and sounded perfect, yet then would be displayed at theaters that may have obsolete, defective equipment. So he decided to try fixing that problem by introducing the THX Sound System, named after an old film of his- THX-1138.
Rather than just sell speakers, THX revolutionized the industry by setting up, calibrating and certifying the auditoriums using its equipment, providing a standardized, high quality sound. THX soon found itself in theme parks, studio sound rooms and even homes.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
What is a Hanna Barbera television show doing on a Disney focused website? Well it just so happens that the very first color broadcast from Disney's current subsidiary ABC was Hanna Barbera's The Jetsons.
ABC was late in getting color on the air. In fact, Walt Disney moved his show off of ABC because the network was not yet broadcasting in color. While it was true that ABC was the poorest of the "Big Three" with the lower tier affiliates, the truth was that hardly anyone owned a color television at the time. The vast majority of the people watching these shows would not be viewing them in color, so ABC sat things out until much later than its competitors.
So why would NBC and CBS push color onto their viewers and affiliates? It was pretty simple, really. NBC was owned by RCA, while CBS was owned by Westinghouse. Their parent companies made and sold color televisions. ABC was the only network that had no ties to a television manufacturer and therefore had no real incentive to broadcast in color until viewers began to demand it.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Bear Country opened at DISNEYLAND in 1972, carved out from an orphaned area of Frontierland. (It was left behind when New Orleans Square opened.) Featuring the Country Bear Jamboree, an attraction originally planned for the ill-fated "Mineral King" project which would have been located in Sequoia National Park.
Bear Country received a new name in 1988- Critter Country, a name change that occurred because of the new Splash Mountain being constructed at the entrance to the land. Sadly, the Country Bears would get evicted by Winnie the Pooh in 2003.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Past readers of this website (and any Disney fans or historians) may remember that the DISNEYLAND Hotel was originally owned by Jack Wrather, a Hollywood friend of Walt Disney. Mr. Wrather also owned the A.C. Gilbert Company, which manufactured the famous Erector set in the United States. Which of course must be the reason why the hotel's entrance looked like a life size Erector set, right?
Actually, it isn't. Mr. Wrather didn't own the A.C. Gilbert Company until 1961 and this structure was built in 1955. The hotel was designed with a mid-Century "atomic age" aesthetic by the Pereira and Luckman architectural firm, who also designed the swooping, googie inspired Theme Building at the Los Angeles International Airport. That Mr. Wrather would own the Erector set six years later appears to be a coincidence.
This structure would coincidentally get remodeled in 1961 when the DISNEYLAND Monorail was extended to include a stop at the hotel. (The futuristic look would fit right in with DISNEYLAND's "highway in the sky".) Another major remodel would take place in the 1970's, when a gigantic DISNEYLAND themed store opened in the space alongside new restaurants. The building would stand until 1999 when it was demolished to make way for Downtown Disney.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
"Now the, the qualifications- item one: a cheery disposition. I am *never* cross. Item two: rosy cheeks- obviously. Item three: play games, all sorts. Well, I'm sure the children'll find my games *extremely* diverting."
Friday, August 15, 2014
Not only was Pepsi-Cola served in the western half of DISNEYLAND, it also was a major sponsor. While Coca-Cola merely sponsored restaurants that served its beverages, Pepsi actually sponsored an attraction- the fabulous Golden Horseshoe Revue.
Admission to Slue-Foot Sue's Golden Horseshoe was completely free. Guests didn't even have to order a Pepsi to enjoy Slue Foot Sue's exciting Golden Horseshoe Revue. Pepsi sponsored the show until the 1980's when Disney awarded Coca-Cola exclusive rights to sell beverages in the park. Coca-Cola chose not to sponsor the show and Kodak took over until Wonder Bread became the final sponsor. The regular show ended in the mid-90's with various other performances taking place in the grand theater.
Rumor has it that a tribute to the original show will return to the historic building next year for DISNEYLAND's 60th Anniversary.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Clarence Nash was just a local DJ in Los Angeles who did funny voices on the radio. One of his listeners, however, believed he could be more. Clarence Nash's lucky break came when Walt Disney hired him to bring his distinctive voice to his cartoons. But what character would Mr. Nash voice?
Someone at the studio suggested that Mr. Nash provide the voice of a "girl duck". Walt went over it in his head. Girl duck.... girl duck... It didn't seem quite right until it dawned on Mr. Disney- what about a boy duck? The world would soon be introduced to this "boy duck" voiced by Mr. Nash- Donald Duck was born! Despite his bad attitude and "fowl" temper, Donald became a star and Mr. Nash became known forever more as Clarence "Ducky" Nash.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
In 1961, Marvel Comics introduced a new title- The Fantastic Four! The team gets their special powers after they suffer a space travel mishap. Their powers were complementary and enabled them to defeat their strange, otherworldly nemeses.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The children of the 1950's were crazy about the old west. Much like scientific crime shows are all the rage on TVs today, westerns were the major force on 1950's TV. So it was only natural that when Walt Disney started his Disneyland TV series that there might be an occasional western thrown into the mix. That western was Davy Crockett.
Starring the relatively unknown Fess Parker and the Hollywood legend Buddy Ebsen, Disney's Davy Crockett was a phenomenon. Every boy wanted a coonskin cap, their own Ol' Betsy and more importantly, more Crockett adventures. Davy Crockett played a big role in Frontierland and even helped open DISNEYLAND on July 17, 1955. As a matter of fact, the first number one selling hat at the Magic Kingdom was not Mickey Mouse ears, but Davy Crockett's coonskin cap.
While the Davy Crockett craze eventually cooled off, he still has a presence at the Magic Kingdom- the canoe ride is named after him. Disneyland Paris even has an entire resort hotel named after him.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Robin Williams always stood out from the crowd. Was he hyper? Manic? Whatever it was, it was always magic. Mr. Williams always seemed to know how to make the world laugh, though there was always an undercurrent of seriousness in everything he did. While he got his start on ABC's goofy Mork and Mindy, it was his dramedy films for Disney's Touchstone Pictures that showed he could tackle the more serious roles that came his way. In Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poets Society he proved that he could do much more than just make us laugh, though he wouldn't earn an Academy Award until 1998's Good Will Hunting, a film released by Disney's Miramax Films division.
In 2009, Robin received the coveted Disney Legends award. Even if the aforementioned films were all he had done for Disney his honor would have been well earned, but Robin also brought to life the liveliest cartoon character who ever graced the silver screen- The beloved Genie from Aladdin.
Hopefully Mr. Williams has found the peace and joy he provided to his many fans. The world will certainly miss one of its funniest clowns.
Prior to the 1950's, films from the Disney Studios were distributed by various outside companies with varying success. The first distributor was Universal Studios, who ended up stealing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Pat Powers Distribution tried to do the same thing with Mickey Mouse and ended up luring Walt's friend Ub Iwerks away. Since Mickey Mouse had become a household name, finding a new distributor after Pat Powers was easy to do- the established studio RKO was more than willing to release Disney movies.
However, RKO had a clause in its contract that allowed it to choose which films it released (or did not release.) As the Disney Studios diversified into live action films, RKO became less interested in distributing Disney's live action product. In 1953 they denied Disney's request to distribute the company's new "True-Life Adventure" films. Angry at RKO and in need of a new way to get these films out in theaters, Roy Disney put together a team of staff members to handle the distribution themselves. Eager to keep more of each film's profits for the studio, Roy told the team that if they were successful they would become a permanent division. They were indeed successful and RKO was shown the door. Disney Productions would now be released by "Buena Vista Distribution", named after the street the Disney Studios was located on.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Saturday, August 9, 2014
On August 9, 1969 the Haunted Mansion's gates were thrown open to an eager public. Thousands of people descended on the park to finally experience the amazing Haunted Mansion. The wild success of the Haunted Mansion was a testament to Walt Disney's vision- rather than open a substandard attraction, he waited until technology caught up with his vision.
Walt didn't live to see the success of his Haunted Mansion, but as he once said:
"Think beyond your lifetime if you want to do something truly great."
Happy anniversary to the Haunted Mansion! Still scaring guests after all these years!
Friday, August 8, 2014
After years of seeing the ominous house at the riverbend, DISNEYLAND guests were thrilled to hear that the gates of the stately mansion were finally swinging open! On August 9th, 1969 the Mansion would reveal its secrets and the world was ready! An unprecedented crowd descended upon the park to experience the newest E-Ticket attraction. Shown below is the area in front of Pirates of the Caribbean. Amazingly, these people are not waiting to get into Pirates- this is the end of the line for the Haunted Mansion on opening day- a reported 8 hour wait!
This was back in the days of ride coupons- unlike the unlimited rides of today. These people had to hand over a valuable E-Ticket to experience the ride so long lines such as these were unheard of. The Haunted Mansion was a true phenomenon! Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom finally had its Haunted Mansion.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Madame Leota has been frightening park guests for decades in DISNEYLAND. While her face is instantly recognizable to millions of park guests, most of them know little about the woman who provided a face for this classic character.
Like many stories involving the mansion, the true story behind Madame Leota is certainly stranger than fiction. When Imagineering conducted tests of the various special effects, they needed to use someone as a model just to show park management what the effect would look like. (It was assumed an actress would eventually be used for the permanent show.) They turned to a fellow Imagineer to sit in for their ghostly presence- the appropriately named Leota Toombs.
Ms. Toombs started out in Walt Disney Animation, eventually transferring to Imagineering to work on various projects at DISNEYLAND. Her performance dazzled park management, who assumed they were looking at the final version of the projection. While the soft spoken Leota Toombs didn't sound like a ghostly visage, she certainly looked like one and she was immortalized as the mysterious Madame Leota. Eleanor Audley, who provided the voices of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, was selected to provide Leota's voice. Ms. Toombs didn't set out to become a legendary Disney star, but she became one nonetheless.
Originally projected onto a stationary crystal ball, the special effects were upgraded and digitized and Leota now flies around her table. It's an amazing effect. Even better, Ms. Toombs' original footage is still used today in the classic attraction. Ms. Toombs passed away in 1991, but she is fondly remembered by the millions of people who still enjoy her work.
In 2001, DISNEYLAND created an attraction overlay for the holiday season themed after The Nightmare Before Christmas. New Leota footage was needed, so DISNEYLAND chose to keep Leota in the family so to speak, hiring one of Ms. Toombs' daughters to fill in.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Once the concept for the Haunted Mansion was approved, the Imagineers began plans to make it reality. It soon became apparent that their plans had outgrown the familiar house that had been tempting DISNEYLAND guests for years. The existing house was perfectly proportioned, so the Imagineers were reluctant to expand the structure in a visible way. How could they get guests to a show building that would have to exist outside the park's berm? The answer was a stretching room!
The mysterious stretching room's purpose was to get guests to the underground show building. Once they've descended to basement level, the walk down the portrait gallery hallway takes them under the train tracks and into the underground show building where the rest of the ghostly tour takes place. The Haunted Mansion building only houses the stretching rooms.
The Florida version of the attraction couldn't be built underground due to the state's high water table, but Roy Disney felt that guests would feel cheated if the stretching room was omitted, so it was included, though the ceiling actually stretches up rather than down. The room itself goes nowhere.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
When DISNEYLAND began spreading out around the Rivers of America, Walt Disney had already laid out the perfect location for a Haunted Mansion- just around the riverbend. It was perfect, except for one thing; Walt had no idea what to put inside it. He felt he couldn't leave that spot empty so the house was built despite having nothing inside it. DISNEYLAND did put up a sign hinting at what might be coming in the future for interested park guests.
Since the house stood empty with no real explanation as to why, park guests made up their own excuses. One urban legend said that the original house was so scary that a guest died of a heart attack and Walt ordered the mansion closed to be made less frightening. The truth- that the attraction just wasn't ready- was less interesting.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Saturday marks the 45th Anniversary of the grand opening of DISNEYLAND's classic Haunted Mansion attraction, so we'll be taking a look at this classic attraction all week!
When Walt Disney first began drawing up plans for a New Orleans Square at DISNEYLAND, it always included a forbidding looking mansion at the riverbend. Strangely enough though, Mr. Disney never quite had a handle on what would be inside that building. One of the first concepts was a "Museum of the Weird", an idea being worked on by Rolly Crump, pictured below. This iteration of the mansion would have been a walk-through concept, sort of like a cross between a wax museum and a Ripley's Museum, except filled with oddities created for the attraction, rather than real life items.
While the idea gained some traction within the company, the fact that it was a walk-through (which would reduce the number of guests who would be able to experience it) coupled with Walt not being fully sold on the idea doomed this version of the attraction. Mr. Crump along with another imagineer named Yale Gracey would keep at it, however. The work on this museum, however, would not go to waste as elements of the project would be incorporated in the Haunted Mansion.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Friday, August 1, 2014
Frank Thomas, together with his lifelong friend Ollie Johnston, literally wrote the book on animation. The last of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men" to become a Disney Legend, Mr. Thomas' contributions to the company and the world of animation were immeasurable. He animated classic scenes, like the Dwarfs mourning Snow White, Pinocchio performing I've Got No Strings and many other classic Disney moments.
His contributions to the art of animation remain an inspiration to this day; he was even honored with a cameo in The Incredibles alongside Ollie Johnston.