Thursday, October 30, 2014
Others saw bizarre acreage out in the middle of nowhere; Walt Disney saw his Magic Kingdom....
“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
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
When DISNEYLAND was under construction, the entire world wondered what was going on in Mr. Disney's orange groves. What was he building out there? Was it a fair? Would there be roller coasters? Was it like a miniature golf course? Everyone wanted to know the secrets of that amazing place being built in the City of Anaheim.
It wasn't just kids who fantasized about the future Magic Kingdom. Anaheim businesspersons were also imagining the fun and the cash that would stream into town. Today, we take DISNEYLAND for granted, but back in 1954 it was a huge, amazing and fun mystery. The world couldn't wait to visit its Magic Kingdom.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The eighth feature length Disney animated film was the bizarre Victory Through Air Power. More of a propaganda film than a traditional animated feature, the film began life after Walt Disney read the book of the same name. The film describes how aircraft could be used to end World War II quickly. Walt so believed in the message that he decided to produce the film to try and influence others of the soundness of his thinking. The film was not profitable, but then not much of the studio's World War II product was.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Spend time with or read about anyone who worked with Walt Disney and you'll soon discover they all have a common story to tell. The details are different, but the basic outline is the same- Mr. Disney approached them with a task they didn't think they could do in a million years. Walt seemed so genuine and excited about the task, however, so they decided to give it a go. And guess what? They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
Whether it was Harriet Burns getting asked to come up with a model for the Matterhorn (she had never done any such thing before) or Roy Williams getting the plum role of "Head Meeseketeer" on The Mickey Mouse Club (he had no acting experience) or even when Walt asked the Sherman Brothers to do the music and help with the story for Mary Poppins, Walt chose people who he knew from within his organization who he thought could accomplish more and gave them the chance to do so. "Real" architects could have been contracted with to produce a Matterhorn model, but then they all thought the project was impossible. Harriet Burns, a resourceful and sharp Dynamo, had no such prejudices. A professional actor could have helped Jimmie Dodd with the Mouseketeers, but Walt knew Roy Williams liked kids and kids liked him, so the show seemed more genuine. And the Sherman Brothers? Walt knew they had Oscar winning work in them. They just needed the opportunity.
By building up his organization from within and entrusting work to people he had faith in, Mr. Disney was able to do some amazing things in an amazing amount of time. Some organizations immediately look outside for "talent", ignoring the talent that might be underneath their noses. By looking inside his company, Walt built loyalty, talent and capability from inside the organization in a cheaper and faster way. His employees saw that he valued them and wanted to become even more productive to impress him. This is the primary reason that he was able to accomplish the impossible time and time again.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Television and movie star Marcia Strassman has passed away at the age of 66.
Ms. Strassman has starred in many projects throughout the years, but she is best known for two of her biggest- Welcome Back Kotter and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Playing the "straight man" to Gabe Kaplan in Kotter,she often spent many scenes listening to his stories about his crazy students or obscure members of his family. It is this role that earned her legendary TV status.
She became a member of the Disney family after starring in the now classic Honey, I Shrunk the Kids opposite Rick Moranis.
Ms. Strassman will forever be remembered every time her various classic films and shows are seen by her eager fans.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
As the Florida operations settled in, the consequences of Roy Disney's decision to open up the Magic Kingdom park with less attractions began to become problematic. The park had to add attractions anywhere it could. Swan boats were quickly added to the ponds in front of the castle. DISNEYLAND's Main Street vehicles were "borrowed" to create more capacity. A low tech version of Space Mountain was rushed into construction, as was a cut down version of Pirates of the Caribbean. As the complaints about a lack of things to do began to lessen, a new question began to pop up- "Where's Epcot?"
Of course, Roy Disney didn't make a flashy announcement when he killed Walt's plans for EPCOT. People still remembered watching Walt Disney talk about it on TV (though not, apparently, what it was) so they bombarded guest relations with questions about it. Walt Disney Imagineering had been working on ideas for new theme parks but was told to put everything on hold. They now needed to come up with something- anything- that could be called "Epcot".
Time went by with little progress. Roy Disney's hand picked successor E. Cardon Walker grew impatient and asked to see any progress that had been made. As luck would have it, two models of unrelated projects sat in the room- one for a theme park called "World Showcase", another for a separate theme park called "Future World". Unsatisfied with the plans they had for him, Mr. Walker stood up and walked over to the models. Thinking for a minute, he pushed the two of them together. He told the staff that this would be Epcot.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Roy Disney opened his vacation kingdom to the world in October 1971. Remembering the disastrous crowds that set upon DISNEYLAND back in 1955, Roy decided to carefully control things in Florida, inviting just 16,000 people to the grand opening. Everything appeared to go well until he saw that only around 8,000 people showed up. Could this be a problem? Keep in mind, these people all had free tickets and half of them chose not to even use them. Roy's team chalked it up to people being afraid that the park would be overcrowded and figured that once the public was able to visit, they'd be turning them away. Day two came and went and attendance was miserable. The park was practically empty:
Walt's creative team was secretly happy at this disaster. They jokingly asserted that it was Walt himself who had cursed this project because it displeased him.
Days turned to weeks with the park seeing low and dwindling crowds. Park managers began reducing park hours and cutting back on services to deal with the fiscal crisis. Luckily for the company, DISNEYLAND was chugging along out west, earning profits that were being sent out to Florida to keep the place afloat. Roy began worrying that he had ruined the company. Many of Walt's crazy schemes had brought the company to the brink, but none had put the company in the dire straits it was in during October and November of 1971. Roy was going to have to figure out a way to fix this latest problem. He made plans to start doing just that after the Thanksgiving weekend.
But then the day after Thanksgiving a miracle occurred. There were traffic backups into the parking lot. Hours had to be extended, more employees brought in. It had taken two months, but finally, the people had showed up. Perhaps it was one of Walt's little pranks?
Roy Disney passed away just weeks later, right before Christmas, a full five years and five days after his brother had died. He was able to see that he hadn't doomed the company after all.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
After Walt Disney's untimely passing, Roy Disney began making his mark on the company. The very first thing he did was kill off Walt Disney's vision for EPCOT. The "City of Tomorrow" was gone. In its place was Roy's vision for a "Vacation Kingdom" filled with revenue producing enterprises like theme parks and hotels. Perhaps his most daring decision was to change the name of the project to "Walt Disney World" to fully "honor" his brother's vision, despite Walt's actual vision being replaced with that of Roy Disney.
To the chagrin of Walt's creative team, Roy began planning out what he thought would be a money making enterprise. This time the company would focus on the things that were revenue producing, like hotels, and skimp a bit on the actual attractions. DISNEYLAND had been built up over the years, right? This so-called "Magic Kingdom" would be the same. If Walt had done things the same way at DISNEYLAND, he would have kept building the DISNEYLAND Hotel instead of getting Jack Wrather to do it. Where would the money have come from? Maybe he would have waited to build Tomorrowland.
Roy was willing to spend some money, however. Take Cinderella Castle. He wanted to build a larger castle to show how the company was now bigger than before, despite the fact that Walt built the castle at DISNEYLAND to be the perfect size in his mind. Walt wanted a cozier castle because it was not imposing for children to look up at and in his mind only tyrants built huge castles.
Meanwhile, they built a Fantasyland that mirrored the one in DISNEYLAND. Which was the one thing that Walt had wanted to change. (DISNEYLAND eventually got an upgraded Fantasyland that matched Walt's dreams in 1982.)
So Roy Disney's vision opened to the world in 1971. This was the vacation kingdom of Roy's dreams- a place where revenue would rule the day.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
After purchasing the land and getting approvals to run his own town, Walt Disney began getting his imagineers excited about city planning. A few of them were uncomfortable with the huge task Walt had put before them and wanted to be on the team designing "Disneyland East". Walt was uninterested. "We've already designed the perfect place," he argued, "We'll just build it again, but with more water."
Not everyone at the corporate level was happy with the plans for EPCOT either. Roy Disney loved the idea of "Disneyland East" because he had seen how the real DISNEYLAND had stabilized the company finances. But he thought EPCOT would be a huge boondoggle. He didn't stand in his brother's way, however, and figured he'd either convince Walt that it was a bad idea or that Walt would come to the realization himself.
While the plans for the Florida project were in the very early stages, sadly, tragedy struck. Mr. Disney passed away at age 65. His initial plans for EPCOT were realized as a scale model that would be displayed at GE's Carousel of Progress at DISNEYLAND. Walt would unfortunately not live to see it go on display as part of his "New Tomorrowland" that opened in 1967.
Monday, October 20, 2014
After seeing his biggest dream become wildly successful, Walt Disney began getting requests from around the world to build new Disneylands. Walt rejected them all; he wasn't interested in repeating his success, in fact, he was mainly interested in improving it. DISNEYLAND was his pride and joy and he eagerly sought ways to make it better. DISNEYLAND's success gave him money he could now use to buy more land around the park.
Unfortunately, others had taken notice of DISNEYLAND's success and surrounding land became unavailable at any cost. Walt had begged the City of Anaheim to reign in on development and carefully plan out what would get built around the park, but the city, eager to capitalize on its world famous resident, pretty much permitted any building or use, no matter how tawdry or inconsistent with a tourist area it was. Residential areas hemmed the park in on one side. Cheesy motels on another. Walt grew dissatisfied with Anaheim's poor planning and began thinking that there had to be a better way to plan out a city.
So he came up with his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow- a real city that would be perfectly planned to showcase industry, reduce pollution, be a green example that would inspire other cities to follow some of its ingenuity. But how could he get people to visit his EPCOT? By using a "weenie" to attract them. This EPCOT would need to have a Disneyland to attract guests. He couldn't risk impacting attendance at the existing park, so he needed a place far from the real DISNEYLAND where he could get a ton of cheap land, enough to build his EPCOT. He settled on central Florida, where hucksters sold swampland and embarrassed family members were eager to get rid of their "land holdings" for cheap. Soon Walt would be announcing the construction of "Disneyland East" and, more importantly, his plans for a real city- EPCOT.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Friday, October 17, 2014
The next original DISNEYLAND attraction from 1955 is shrouded in mystery. It's the Main Street Shooting Gallery.
What's so mysterious about it? Well, it was listed in the guide books and a few people remember patronizing it, but no pictures seem to exist of it. What did people shoot at? What would a shooting gallery themed to Main Street look like? It's all a mystery, but the location would have been roughly where the Penny Arcade marquee is below:
There has to be a picture of the Shooting Gallery somewhere; very few areas of the park were ever unrecorded, so hopefully a picture will surface at some point.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The Main Street Penny Arcade has been a DISNEYLAND fixture since 1955. Featuring vintage kinescopes, games and other diversions that could be played for a penny, the arcade remains today as a place where guests can relieve themselves of some spare change.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
There were multiple Horsedrawn vehicles on Main Street that used to take guests down Main Street, U.S.A. - the Horsedrawn Fire Truck and the Horsedrawn Surrey. These Main Street vehicles were replaced by "Horseless" versions that still make their way down the street to this day. The Horsedrawn Fire Truck is now permanently stationed in the fire station and the Surrey is only brought out for guest photo opportunities.
Monday, October 13, 2014
What attractions would a 1955 DISNEYLAND guest have encountered in the park? We're taking a look at the original DISNEYLAND attractions from 1955!
Stepping onto Main Street, one of the first attractions guests would run into is the Horsedrawn Streetcar. A convenient mode of transportation, the streetcar has taken generations of DISNEYLAND guests from Town Square to Sleeping Beauty Castle continuously since 1955.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Friday, October 10, 2014
In 1993, Tim Burton returned to Disney after getting fired in the early 1980's. Hot off the successes of Batman, Edward Scissorhands & Batman Returns, Mr. Burton was a hot commodity and Disney was eager to get him on board. Tim decided to take advantage of the company's eagerness by bringing two hard to sell projects to life. The first was the stop motion fantasy The Nightmare Before Christmas. After lining up the usual merchandising and marketing plans, Disney officials finally saw the completed film and were stunned. This film was dark, macabre and strange. The first thing they did was remove the Disney name from the film, releasing it as a Touchstone Pictures film instead. The film that was originally supposed to bridge the gap between 1992's Aladdin and 1994's The Lion King was seen as a marketing nightmare.
Unfortunately, the box office proved the naysayers right. Audiences didn't understand what the film was about and stayed away. Merchandise, such as the Sally doll remained on store shelves, unsold and marked down. Tim Burton's other film for the company- Ed Wood- met a similar fate. While critics loved both films, box office results were poor and the company quickly forgot about these costly mistakes.
However, after Nightmare got its video release, things changed. Virtually ignored in theaters, the film was embraced by a loyal cult of viewers. People started to "get" the humor and it quickly became a huge seller. Those Sally dolls that were unsold and unloved became highly sought after. Since Disney wasn't making new Nightmare merchandise, mint condition souvenirs from the 1993 release were getting huge bids on eBay; for example those Sally dolls were commanding $700 apiece. This definitely caught Disney's attention. But how could the company cash in? The folks at DISNEYLAND had an idea- convert the Haunted Mansion into a showcase for Jack Skellington!
In 2001, DISNEYLAND premiered Haunted Mansion Holiday, a seasonal overlay for the venerable Mansion. The story goes that the Haunted Mansion was the first place Jack stopped at to spread his twisted idea of Christmas. Of course, the 999 happy haunts loved Jack's surprises, which emboldened him to spread his brand of Christmas joy to the world, which had a much different reaction. Guests loved it and the Mansion helped DISNEYLAND post record attendance in a challenging year for tourism.
Soon both Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland were clamoring for their own overlays. Walt Disney Imagineering, swamped with projects, decreed that it could only work on one additional overlay at a time and Walt Disney World was next in line. For unexplained reasons, Walt Disney World dropped plans for its overlay. Tokyo Disneyland was more than willing to take its place in line and began its holiday overlay in 2004.
Perfectly bridging the gap between Halloween and Christmas, this Holiday Nightmare has become a tradition at both DISNEYLAND and Tokyo Disneyland and is sure to delight guests for years to come.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Monterey Jack was the crusty guy who the Rescue Rangers could always rely on to help out. (Unless the caper involved cats.) A native of Australia, Monterey Jack was the oldest member of the team who became the guardian of fellow Rescue Ranger Gadget.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Guests enjoying DISNEYLAND's audio animatronic extravaganza America Sings may have thought they heard a familiar voice belting out the song (Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey. Performed by an animatronic pig, the real life person providing the voice was none other than Disney Legend Betty Taylor.
In fact, Ms. Taylor was still performing as Slue Foot Sue in DISNEYLAND's Golden Horseshoe Revue when America Sings was still operating in Tomorrowland, so it was possible to see her perform the song live on stage then hear her perform it again through an animatronic pig. As Mr. Disney himself once said, anything is possible at DISNEYLAND.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Just like any small town at the turn of the century, DISNEYLAND's Main Street U.S.A featured a pharmacy. This being DISNEYLAND, however, things weren't always what they seemed.
The Upjohn Company, famous manufacturers of medications, chose to open its "pharmacy" partly due to the CEO's friendship with Walt Disney. This pharmacy would mainly display exhibits related to Upjohn's history with free samples of vitamins available. Guests with headaches could reportedly purchase heavily discounted aspirin and other pain relievers all manufactured by Upjohn.
The pharmacy lasted until 1970, when Roy Disney began the process of bringing all retail space within the park under Disney ownership. The space hosted two different shops in the 1970s- first a candle boutique, then the first location of the Disneyana Shop. When Disneyana moved across the street in the 1980s, the location began selling watches. Today, it's the location of The Fortuosity Shoppe, which sells an eclectic range of merchandise including watches.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Admiral Joe Fowler had already retired when Walt Disney gave him a call for some help. DISNEYLAND was under construction and Walt needed someone to supervise the construction of the Mark Twain steamboat. Mr. Disney was so impressed by Admiral Fowler's management skills that he hired him as a full time construction manager. Joe Fowler's ability to get things done and on time earned him the nickname of "Mr. Can Do".
Mr. Fowler retired in 1978 and passed away in 1999. DISNEYLAND honored Mr. Fowler by naming the dock across from the Haunted Mansion after him.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Friday, October 3, 2014
In 1969 Walt Disney Productions released The Love Bug, which was a huge success. To promote the film, DISNEYLAND held a special competition in which guests were invited to decorate their Volkswagen Beetles and compete in a fun parade down Main Street. Love Bug Day at DISNEYLAND was a huge success.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
The kindly park ranger who had to deal with the mischievous Humphrey the Bear actually had a name! Appropriately enough, it was J. Audubon Woodlore. He starred in less than ten cartoons, but he made quite an impact! He is still used today by the Walt Disney Company, often in conjunction with its environmental programs.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
When Walt Disney was planning DISNEYLAND, one of the areas he was most interested in was Tom Sawyer Island, a rugged playground that would replicate the Wild West of his imagination as a child. Unlike other areas of his Magic Kingdom, guests would control their experience on the island.
So Mr. Disney wanted the island to be perfect. Unfortunately, the team of imagineers working on the project were not able to satisfy Walt's vision. Mr. Disney grabbed the plans and took them into his office. When he returned, he had laid out the island of his dreams. An island that still remains just as Walt dreamed it.