Wednesday, December 31, 2014
New Year's Eve at DISNEYLAND has always been a special occasion. In older days it was even more special. The park used to close its gates at 6PM on New Year's Eve, reopening at 8:30PM for a special hard ticket event. While daytime guests needed separate tickets for each attraction, guests who bought a ticket to the New Year's Eve party received unlimited access to DISNEYLAND's world famous attractions.
Guest bands, special souvenirs and amazing fireworks were also part of the fun. Due to the controlled nature of the ticket sales, the park had a reasonably sized crowd and an exciting atmosphere.
Special entertainment was scheduled throughout the park. Anyone remember who or what Meco, Roy Ayers Ubiquity and Sunshine Balloon were?
The hard ticket events ended in the mid 1990's, leading to the New Year's Eve celebrations of today in which the park is open to all guests until 2AM. These days the park frequently fills up fast, so if you're planning to be in DISNEYLAND at midnight, better get there early.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The fourteenth person inducted as a Disney Legend was John Hench. Born in Iowa, Mr. Hench attended many art and architecture schools around the country before finding himself at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, which is where Walt Disney discovered him. Eager to settle down with his wife, Mr. Hench took a job in the Disney art department. Mr. Hench's talents weren't in animation, but in guiding the artistic look and feel of an animated picture. The elaborate concept art developed by Mr. Hench was beautiful on its own, but was used mainly as a guide for the artists whose art would actually appear in the finished film. While his artwork would go unseen by the general public for decades, it would serve as a guide for the finished product. Mr. Hench was regarded as a genius by Walt Disney himself.
Mr. Hench's artistic talents were heavily utilized throughout DISNEYLAND. Building interiors and corresponding color schemes at The Park were mostly developed by Mr. Hench. In fact, he was heavily involved in every construction and refurbishment project during the 1960's. Amusingly, Mr. Hench would often get mistaken for Walt Disney while he was working in the park. Mr. Disney never minded this since it gave park guests an added bit of excitement during their visit to his Magic Kingdom.
Mr. Hench spent over 65 years working for The Walt Disney Company, having a hand in designing every Disney theme park built up until his death in 2004 of a heart attack. His designs and artistry are still enjoyed today by the millions of people who visit DISNEYLAND each year, even if the vast majority of them don't even know his name.
Monday, December 29, 2014
The tenth Disney full length animated feature was Make Mine Music, another of the "package films" that were larger stories made up of shorter films. These films were more economical to produce and were a staple of Disney's output during World War Two, when many of the animators were overseas fighting in the war and resources were scarce.
Featuring Peter and the Wolf and The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met, the film was seen as being lesser than the sum of its parts and decidedly depressing. (The last sequence ended with the whale getting killed by a harpoon. Its "happy ending" resulting from the narrator telling us that the whale is currently singing beautifully in heaven.) As a result, while various segments from the film have become classics on their own, the film as a whole is often forgotten.
Unfortunately, an unedited version of the film has never been released in the United States on home video.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
"Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a tiny kingdom; peaceful, prosperous, and rich in romance and tradition. Here in a stately chateau, there lived a widowed gentleman, and his little daughter, Cinderella. Although he was a kind and devoted father, and gave his beloved child every luxury and comfort, still he felt she needed a mother's care. And so he married again, choosing for his second wife, a woman of good family, with two daughters just Cinderella's age, by name, Anastasia and Drizella. It was upon the untimely death of this good man, however, that the stepmother's true nature was revealed: cold, cruel, and bitterly jealous of Cinderella's charm and beauty, she was grimly determined to forward the interests of her own two awkward daughters. Thus, as time went by, the chateau fell into disrepair, for the family fortunes were squandered upon the vain and selfish stepsisters while Cinderella was abused, humiliated, and finally forced to become a servant in her own house. And yet, through it all, Cinderella remained ever gentle and kind, for with each dawn she found new hope that someday her dreams of happiness would come true."
Saturday, December 27, 2014
"I'm just a little black rain cloud- hovering over a honey tree. I'm just a little black rain cloud- pay no attention to little me. Everyone knows that a rain cloud doesn't eat honey oh not an if. I'm just a little black rain cloud wondering where I will drip."
-Winnie the Pooh
Friday, December 26, 2014
“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.”
"Dad's vision called for this, for DISNEYLAND, to be something that could grow more beautiful every year, and it has."
-Diane Disney Miller
July 17, 2005
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Christmas Parades down Main Street have been a DISNEYLAND staple since 1955. Guests have learned to expect bigger and bigger parades each year and the park has never disappointed. In recent years, "snow" and characters from Frozen have joined DISNEYLAND mainstays like Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus on the parade route to help guests celebrate the holiday season.
At the time of the parade shown below, DISNEYLAND's parade route ran through Frontierland before getting to Main Street. In the late 1960's, the parade route was changed to its current path, starting back behind it's a small world and winding its way through Fantasyland. Before the construction of it's a small world, Manchester Road ran behind the park, cutting it off from its service area. DISNEYLAND bought the street from the City of Anaheim and extended the park to accommodate the new attraction. The added acreage also meant that the park's Maintenance staff no longer had to cross the street to get to the park.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The Matterhorn Star made its grand debut in 1961. Directed into place by Santa Claus himself, the star was supposed to light up the night sky and rotate atop the massive peak of the first Disney mountain. The star did light up, but to the chagrin of Walt Disney, it rarely rotated.
Each year, Walt would get the great minds at Imagineering to figure out a way to fix the star, but no solution lasted very long. In the mid-1970's, the star was retired allegedly due to DISNEYLAND's energy conservation efforts, but many longtime DISNEYLANDers felt its departure had more to do with budgets than electricity.
One exciting rumor states that this symbol of DISNEYLAND Christmas past will return in November 2015 to help celebrate the park's 60th Anniversary. If it does return, hopefully it will spin just like it did in Walt Disney's dreams.
Monday, December 22, 2014
One of the first big Christmas events held at DISNEYLAND was The Mickey Mouse Club Circus, a show that featured the real, actual Mickey Mouse Club members. The show ran through the 1955 Christmas season and was one of many special offerings that launched DISNEYLAND's tradition of celebrating the holidays in style.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Saturday, December 20, 2014
"My partner, Jacob Marley, dead seven years today. Oh, he was a good'n. He robbed from the widows and swindled the poor. In his will, he left me enough money to pay for his tombstone, and I have him buried at sea!"
Friday, December 19, 2014
The latest and most directly inspired DISNEYLAND Resort production to make its way east is actually found across the esplanade in Disney California Adventure: Disney's Aladdin.
Inspired by the 1992 musical hit, Disney's Aladdin this musical production is actually even more ambitious than even the productions that came before it. The Hyperion Theater, where the show is performed daily, was designed to host Broadway caliber productions, a feature that the show takes full advantage of with its elaborate set pieces and flying carpet apparatus.
The resulting Broadway show had much less to translate for the legit theater since the scope and size of Disney California Adventure's production was tailor made for "The Great White Way" in New York City. To the delight of Disney California Adventure guests, the park's version of Aladdin continues playing daily as of the date of this posting.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
When The Lion King became a phenomenon in 1994, both U.S. Disney theme parks were ready. Walt Disney World in Florida chose to feature a Lion King theater show, while DISNEYLAND chose to offer a parade. It wasn't just a parade, however; it was a Celebration!
Most people would assume that the theater show would be the inspiration for the Broadway musical, but the true inspiration was DISNEYLAND's spectacular Lion King Celebration.
Widely regarded as the greatest parade ever produced, DISNEYLAND's Lion King Celebration brought the wonders of Africa to the Magic Kingdom twice daily. The parade was so beloved by guests that a souvenir videocassette was sold in DISNEYLAND gift shops. This impressive pageant of sounds, music, puppetry and color proved to be an amazing inspiration for Julie Taymor, who designed Disney's Lion King musical on Broadway. The musical inspired by DISNEYLAND's parade has broken box office records on Broadway and around the world.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
DISNEYLAND has always been blessed by its location near Hollywood. Aspiring actors, dancers and singers have always found a place in DISNEYLAND's entertainment department. Famed musicians, many of them regularly heard on famous top ten songs, regularly work at DISNEYLAND in between gigs. (Ernest MacLean, who recorded hits with Fats Domino and Lloyd Price could be heard in New Orleans Square, for example.) Considering the caliber of talent found throughout DISNEYLAND, is it any wonder that various entertainment offerings ended up inspiring Disney's Broadway offerings?
The first Disney Broadway musical was Beauty and the Beast, a show that was directly inspired by Beauty and the Beast: LIVE! a show offered daily at DISNEYLAND's Videopolis Theater in Fantasyland. Unlike the Beauty and the Beast show at Disney-MGM Studios, the DISNEYLAND version aimed to be more than just a theme park character show. The lavish production retold the "tale as old as time" in true Broadway fashion.
When the company decided to enter the competitive world of Broadway, there was no doubt about which theme park production would be scaled up and used as an inspiration for this important project- it was DISNEYLAND's show that would make it to the big time. The musical succeeded beyond the company's wildest dreams. DISNEYLAND had truly gone to Broadway.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
A true Christmas miracle for Disney fans occurred this past week when a film archive in Norway announced that it had located a copy of a long lost Oswald cartoon in its collection.
Lost Socks was animated by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks back in 1927 and released for Christmas of that year. In the cartoon, Oswald dresses like Santa to brighten the Christmas season for the kids living in an orphanage.
When Walt Disney lost the rights to the character to Universal Studios, all copies of the film were turned over to its owner Carl Laemmle. While The Walt Disney Company has always been careful at archiving its catalog of films, Universal has not and the film was believed lost forever. The recent discovery of the print in Norway means that this historic film can be digitized and preserved for future generations.
Now that The Walt Disney Company has recovered the rights to Oswald, he can be seen daily at Disney California Adventure, just steps away from his father's greatest dream come true- DISNEYLAND.
Monday, December 15, 2014
"Mr. Disney's 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.
In 1966 the world was saddened hearing of Mr. Disney's death- but it's such a comfort to know his soul lives on together with his dreams and his memory will live forever in my heart."
Friday, December 12, 2014
1985 was an amazing year to visit Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. There was extra magic in the air as the park celebrated its 30th Anniversary by giving away prizes- every 30th guest received a free admission ticket, every 300th guest won a Mickey plush toy, every 3,000th guest won a watch and every 30,000th guest won an actual car! While most of the cars won that year are probably inoperable today, the magical memories made that year will last forever.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Guests visiting Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom in Anaheim have always had a multitude of choices when it came to lodging. Of course, everyone wanted to stay at the grandest hotel around- the world famous DISNEYLAND Hotel, but a possible lack of available rooms and budgetary considerations often meant that guests had to look elsewhere for a place to stay. Just past Harbor Blvd, on Freedman (Now Disney) Way was the Grand Hotel.
The Grand Hotel was the only high rise hotel east of DISNEYLAND and it offered added amenities that the smaller motels and inns surrounding the park did not. The hotel's single tower also looked awfully familiar to anyone who had ever been to the official hotel of the Magic Kingdom....
As it turned out, when the original owner went looking for a suitable design for his hotel, he found it just across the DISNEYLAND parking lot- at the DISNEYLAND Hotel. Legend has it that he saw the construction of the DISNEYLAND Hotel's Sierra Tower and thought it would be perfect for his hotel- without all the Disney theming and name, of course. The firm that designed the tower was reluctant to make a copy, however, fearing that they would anger Jack Wrather (operator of the DISNEYLAND Hotel) and Walt Disney. A compromise was quickly found, however- the floor plan would be flipped with the elevator tower placed on the end of the building. Anaheim would get its awfully familiar Grand Hotel. It is unknown whether Disney or Jack Wrather ever realized or cared about the DISNEYLAND Hotel's unofficial "fourth tower".
Today, the Grand Hotel is but a memory. It was imploded in 1998 by The Walt Disney Company as part of the resort expansion that brought us Disney California Adventure. Future plans call for a massive new parking structure to be built in its place to free up more land for future dreams.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
One of the earliest DISNEYLAND attractions to grace Fantasyland was the Mickey Mouse Club Theater. A throwback to the days before movies could be easily enjoyed at home, the theater served not just as a place to sit for awhile in air conditioning, but often as a child's first exposure to some of Disney's oldest cartoons. While they enjoyed the antics of the Disney characters, their parents got a rare chance to see the cartoons that they remembered from their childhoods.
What should have been one of the cushiest jobs in the Magic Kingdom was often seen as being a huge headache by Disney cast members. Next door to the theater was a refreshment stand sponsored by Welch's Grape Juice. Many of the children, wired from drinking a huge cup of sugared grape juice, would then amble on over to catch a cartoon or two, complete with sticky hands. Cloth theater seats and sticky grape juice did not go well together.
The theater would last until 1982, when it was removed as part of the "New Fantasyland" renovations that gave DISNEYLAND the Fantasyland of Walt Disney's dreams. The theater was replaced by the Pinocchio attraction and the Village Haus Restaurant.
Monday, December 8, 2014
For his ninth animated feature film, Walt Disney went south of the border yet again, producing the animation/live action hybrid The Three Caballeros. Adding a new character- Panchito from Mexico, the film further highlighted the sights and sounds of Latin America.
Today, guests at Disney California Adventure can enjoy a lively Christmas show- Fiesta Navidad featuring Donald and friends. The Three Caballeros can also be seen at Epcot's Mexico pavilion in a boat ride.
Friday, December 5, 2014
On this day in 1901, a baby was born in Chicago, Illinois who would change the world. Named after his family's pastor Walter Parr, the baby's famous name would become known by billions around the world- Walt Disney.
His father wouldn't provide him with much encouragement when it came to artistic pursuits, but his Aunt Maggie would sneak him the crayons, pencils and paper that would guide him to his destiny.
Animation, film, theme parks- Walt Disney conquered every field he chose to engage in. But every legend has to start somewhere and today we celebrate his beginnings. Happy Birthday, Walt Disney!
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls- in 1923 Walt Disney arrived in California to follow his dreams. Dreams which led to extraordinary achievements and wondrous adventures! Adventures where natural majesties, bustling communities and groundbreaking discoveries would all find a place in his heart. Today we invite you to explore your dreams as you experience your very own California Adventure!”
-Disney California Adventure Opening Announcement
“Every day in some small way, we are a part of Walt’s dream, whether walking through the park, watching amazing movies or television, or just spending time together. It all started with a young cartoonist landing in Los Angeles, his friend Mickey Mouse in his heart, a trunk full of dreams and ambitions, and most importantly, a lifetime of stories to tell.”
“I do what I do because of Walt Disney- his films and his theme park and his characters and his joy in entertaining.”
“One of the things that I’ve learned from Walt that I use in my everyday work and life is that nothing is impossible. The quote of his that I love the best is, ‘Actually, it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’ I try to remind myself and others of this every day.”
“Walt Disney’s secret was to do things you don’t need, and do them well. And then you realize you needed them all along.”
“Think beyond your lifetime, if you want to do something truly great.”
“I still think about Mr. Disney all the time. It’s funny but sometimes when I feel discouraged or have a problem I can’t work out, I find myself thinking ‘If only Mr. Disney were here, he would know what to do.’ And I’m sure he would.”
"I am so honored. You cannot have any idea what a feeling it is for me to be here at DISNEYLAND today to wish him a Happy Birthday. I know that you all love and enjoy and feel these wonderful experiences when you come to DISNEYLAND and you see his films and everything, but to have been part of the team to have been part of the gang that put together some of these enchanting experiences- there’s no words to describe it."
"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."
Thursday, December 4, 2014
He described it as his "latest and greatest dream"- DISNEYLAND. Other theme parks claim to be the first ever, but most of them were glorified carnivals or fancy roadside attractions. There was NOTHING like DISNEYLAND before Walt Disney decided there should be one.
Practically no one thought DISNEYLAND would be successful. It quickly became the next project to be called "Walt's Folly" by outsiders. Predictions were made that DISNEYLAND would be closed and forgotten in six months.
Nearly sixty years later, DISNEYLAND is still entertaining millions of people who trek there from around the world. Walt Disney's One and Only Magic Kingdom has defied the "experts" and has become a world treasure- just the way Walt wanted it.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
It all led up to this- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs! Walt Disney's ever changing improvements and projects were specially designed to get his staff up to the level they needed to be to do what many saw as impossible- make a feature length animated film.
It would need to be something really special in order to keep audiences interested and it was. A gloriously animated masterpiece that still enthralls families even today. It would be the first time that "they" called a project "Disney's Folly". It wouldn't be the last time that Walt Disney would prove "them" wrong.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Walt Disney was always trying to push his team to achieve feats never thought possible. So it was no surprise when he announced that the studio would be making the first full color cartoon- Flowers and Trees. The cartoon dazzled audiences and set the stage for Walt's next first.
Monday, December 1, 2014
When Walt Disney lost Oswald and created Mickey Mouse, his studio's finances were not that great. As they finished up production on the first cartoon Plane Crazy, the world became excited about the first sound film. Despite his cash crunch, Walt scrapped plans to release Plane Crazy first and began production on the more expensive sound cartoon Steamboat Willie. His risk paid off handsomely. The first sound cartoon ever made was a huge sensation.