Saturday, February 28, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
With his dreams having outgrown the small parcel across the street from The Disney Studios and Disneylandia proving to be unfeasible, Walt Disney began seriously talking about building a theme park. His brother, who had to find the money for Walt's various dreams was very skeptical about this park. Amusement parks of the time were dingy, seedy and had bad reputations. Of course, Walt's park wouldn't be any of those things, but Roy was unwilling to risk the company on this venture. Undeterred, Walt setup his own company and began making plans for DISNEYLAND.
This caused problems with outside shareholders of Walt Disney Productions. As Walt began seeking his own financing, they were alarmed and urged Roy Disney to rein his brother in. After all, Walt Disney Productions owned all rights to the Disney name, didn't it? The answer surprised even Roy.
The first name used for the company was "The Disney Brothers Studio". Marketers at RKO, which distributed Disney's films, eventually convinced the brothers that the movies would be easier to sell to theaters if there was one personality associated with them. As the creative genius behind the films, it was Walt's name that went on the films.
As Roy discovered, however, no legal documents had been drawn up granting Walt Disney Productions the rights to Walt's name. There was nothing the company could do to stop Walt from using his name to build a theme park; as a matter of fact, he could order the company to stop using his name. This could cause problems for the company in the future if Walt and Roy had a falling out and Walt chose to exercise his rights. Roy had to fix this problem and settle the trademark issue once and for all.
Roy grudgingly agreed to help finance DISNEYLAND if Walt came to an agreement with the company about the continued use of his name. Overjoyed that his brother was finally onboard, Walt signed the trademark agreement and DISNEYLAND, Inc was formed as the legal entity that would own and operate DISNEYLAND Park.
To manage his name and business interests, Walt Disney setup his own company with a name that is near and dear to this website- Retlaw Enterprises. Retlaw would own the DISNEYLAND Railroad, the DISNEYLAND Fire Station and the DISNEYLAND Monorail.
With the trademark issue resolved and Roy onboard with the idea of his brother's Magic Kingdom, the road to DISNEYLAND was clear. Or at least, clearer than before.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
In October of 1923, Roy Disney teamed up with his brother to finally incorporate his fledgling cartoon studio and setup an actual office. (Up until this point, Walt Disney had been working out of his uncle's garage) The first offices were at 4651 Kingswell Avenue in Los Angeles.
Here are the boys posing with their wives and sister in front of their "studio":
This small office is where the brothers would begin building their empire, producing the Alice Comedies and Oswald cartoons out of this cramped building. The success of Mickey Mouse eventually afforded them the opportunity to move into larger quarters:
The company has come a long way since then and currently has properties around the world where it runs its various businesses and entertains millions. Today, the company's humble beginnings can still be seen in Los Angeles; the building that held their first office still stands, though it is a copy store today. A small tribute to the building's magical tenants hangs in the copy shop.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Today's story may be hard to believe; at least it's hard to believe today. Tucked into a corner of Tomorrowland where the Little Green Men Store Command is now located was the famed DISNEYLAND Art Corner. Guests were promised exhibits showing how Walt Disney's animators made Disney movies come to life.
Today, similar attractions feature regular Castmembers who have been trained to draw and pricy limited edition animated cels recreated from the originals. That's not the experience Walt Disney provided, however. Guests would frequently encounter a real Disney animator who also moonlighted as the Big Mooseketeer- Roy Williams. Imagine the excitement of running into a real animator who was a hero of millions of kids? Not only did he show the kids how to draw, he also drew them a Disney masterpiece of their very own.
Of course, this being DISNEYLAND, there was a gift shop offering special postcards, lithographs, souvenirs and original animation cels. Yes, anyone could walk out of DISNEYLAND with his or her very own original animated cel in a souvenir sleeve for just $1.50. That's not a typo- the shop charged just $1.50 for cels that had been used in the production of Walt Disney's greatest classics.
At the time, cels were considered a waste product. In lean times, the studio even had employees "clean" them off for later re-use. It never occurred to anyone that these pieces of art would be wanted by anyone else. That the company could sell them for any price at all was considered a surprise.
Eventually, of course, these pieces of movie history became prized possessions. Some cels have received upwards of $25,000 at auction, a huge sum considering many of them were sold for just $1.50. Unfortunately, many of the cels were seen as just a cheap souvenir from a vacation in DISNEYLAND and ended up thrown away by exasperated mothers trying clean up junior's room or stored in less than ideal conditions resulting in damage. However, many did survive and are highly sought after. Not too bad for a throwaway souvenir, eh?
Monday, February 23, 2015
The 18th and 19th people inducted as Disney Legends were Richard and Robert Sherman, best known as "The Sherman Brothers"
The Sherman Brothers began their career after their father, himself a famous song writer, challenged them to write a song. They did and proved to be quite good at it, writing various pop tunes, including You're Sixteen and Tall Paul, which became a huge hit for Annette Funicello. This brought them to the attention of Walt Disney, who did something unheard of today; he hired them as staff musicians working exclusively for Walt Disney Productions.
During their time at the studio, they wrote all the songs in Mary Poppins, winning an Academy Award in the process. Mr. Disney also set them to work writing music for DISNEYLAND, resulting in the beloved song it's a small world (after all) and the song Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, which reflected Walt Disney's positive attitude towards the future.
On a personal level, The Sherman Brothers wrote Walt Disney's favorite song- Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag) which they eagerly played for him every Friday evening at the end of each work week.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
Running a movie studio that often survived "picture to picture" was a stressful endeavor. Walt Disney had the added stress of working with his brother, a situation that often led to bitter arguments about the company's future. A doctor advised Walt to find ways to relieve that stress, so Mr. Disney built a barn in his backyard where he could work on various projects.
One project was to build a miniature train that would eventually encircle his backyard. It was a labor of love that he found very relaxing. Even after the train was finished he still doted on it, keeping it in good condition and showing it off to friends and family.
Another project he spent time on was building miniatures. He built an entire scene from the film So Dear to My Heart, re-creating Granny Kincaid's cabin from the film. He was so proud of it that he showed it off at every opportunity, like when he displayed it to Beulah Bondi, the actress who portrayed Granny Kincaid in the film.
Mr. Disney's experience building the miniatures inspired him to embark on a new project he called Disneylandia. Disneylandia would be a series of miniature scenes based on Disney films that would be built into custom train cars that would travel the country. Disneylandia would roll into town and station itself on a side track. Guests could then buy tickets to see the miniatures and experience the themed environments created by Walt and his team in the world's most amazing train.
Walt commissioned a feasibility study to determine how successful such an enterprise would be. Even the most optimistic projections showed that the project would not be very profitable. The high costs of a touring attraction, coupled with the low capacity of the trains doomed the attraction before it really got started. The silver lining, however, was that the spark that began with Disneylandia led to Walt Disney's biggest dream- DISNEYLAND.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
One of the earliest Tomorrowland attractions at DISNEYLAND was the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea walk through exhibit.
When the construction of Tomorrowland fell behind, Walt Disney needed some filler attractions. He quickly came up with the idea to take the props from his latest hit- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The exhibit allowed DISNEYLAND guests to do something that was a rarity at the time- see authentic sets and props from a famous movie.
The exhibit is long gone, but today's guests can still see one of the props from the movie in the park- the organ from the film, slightly modified, exists in the ballroom scene at the Haunted Mansion.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
It quickly became the most hated attraction by the DISNEYLAND maintenance department- the infamous Tomorrowland Flying Saucers. Located in the spot now occupied by the Magic Eye Theater, the Flying Saucers were an exciting attraction- when they were operating. More often than not, guests encountered a shutdown attraction when they tried to ride it. A full crew was required just to get the air jets started every morning. If the attraction worked correctly, guests could "float" on a cushion of air and bump into the other "saucers". It never quite worked however, and the park pulled the plug in 1965.
Across the way at the new Disney California Adventure park, the Imagineers attempted to bring back the sensation of the Flying Saucers in Cars Land, the new expansion that opened in 2012. At Luigi's Casa Della Tires, guests could operate their own tire and float on a cushion of air.
Unfortunately, the tires were unwieldy and difficult to navigate. Disney tried various changes to get the tires to work and had to post extensive signage in the queue to educate guests on the best way to run the tires. The changes and signs proved to be unhelpful and the attraction became the lowest rated ride in the park. Now that Cars Land is fully open and operational, the park has decided to retire Flying Saucers 2.0. The attraction hosted its final riders this past weekend and is now closed forever. A new attraction featuring Luigi is expected to debut in the same spot next year.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
In 1972, Walt Disney Productions was afraid that kids were forgetting the Disney characters and the classic cartoons. With the Walt Disney World Resort opening the year before, it would be disastrous if the world had lost its affinity for all things Disney. So they set out to get the characters back in the public's eye.
To do this, they turned to Disney Legend Ward Kimball to produce a show that could present the Disney cartoons in a fresh, hip format. Ward Kimball came up with a Laugh-In style show called The Mouse Factory.
Featuring revolving guest stars such as Harry Morgan, Jo Ann Worley, Annette Funicello and Charles Nelson Reilly, the show was set at the Walt Disney Studios- a mouse factory- the show began with the various guest stars and Disney characters punching in for work. Morals and lessons were taught using Disney classic shorts. The guests would introduce the lessons and shorts with comedic routines filling in the rest of the time.
The show never caught on with audiences and was canceled in 1974. The show's reruns aired on The Disney Channel in the late 1980's but has not been seen since.
Monday, February 16, 2015
When Walt Disney Imagineering began planning Hong Kong Disneyland, it spent a great deal of time researching the various Disney Theme Parks around the world. They wanted to pick the best elements of each park to build this new Disney Kingdom.
To their amazement, after each team began putting together the best of the best, what they came up with was pretty much Walt Disney's original DISNEYLAND. Despite having built three other resorts and eight other theme parks, Walt Disney's original theme park proved to have the best design of them all- even fifty years later and for a place that was half a world away.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Friday, February 13, 2015
In the early 20th Century, Los Angeles was a bustling place. As Hollywood became the movie capital of the world, tourists flocked to the city with three main goals- to pick an orange, see the ocean and visit a movie studio. During the era of the silent film, visiting a movie studio was very much encouraged. Visitors could watch movies being filmed before their eyes, cheering on the heroes and hissing the villains. Universal Studios used to let them in for free; they just needed to buy a dozen eggs from Carl Laemmle's chicken farm.
The sound era eliminated the audiences, since silence was needed. The tourists still arrived in town but they could only stare longingly from outside the studio gates. Walt Disney received numerous letters from people who wanted to visit his studio, but as he pointed out to his staff, there wasn't anything for them to see. “You know, it’s a shame people come to Hollywood and find there’s nothing to see. Even the people who come to the Studio, what do they see? A bunch of guys bending over drawings. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could come to Hollywood and see something?"
When Mr. Disney moved his studio out to Burbank, he thought he could give the tourists something to see when they came out to California.
Walt Disney's answer at the time was to build a small park across the street from the Walt Disney Studio. The eight acre plot would become Mickey Mouse Park.
Mr. Disney imagined a small lake with a boat ride, a hometown area, a small park with statues of Disney characters all surrounded by a train. Sound familiar?
The idea of the park, however, was not well received by the City of Burbank. Additionally, Walt Disney's ideas got bigger and bigger. His small park quickly out grew the eight acres available in Burbank. He would need much more land to build what would become his Magic Kingdom....
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Al Stovall loved to give his guests a little something extra. Since his various motels surrounded Walt Disney's fantastic Magic Kingdom, he felt they should reflect the amazing sights found within. The easiest land to replicate back in the swinging sixties was Tomorrowland, so Mr. Stovall took advantage of the public's fascination with the future in designing his motels. Stovall's Apollo Inn reflected the spirit of Tomorrowland with its futuristic architecture. A little bit of Fantasyland was there too in the Wonderland of Topiary Trees.
The Apollo Inn was located south of the current Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. The DISNEYLAND Hotel can be seen in the background of this picture:
Disney eventually purchased both this motel and all of the surrounding land. The Apollo Inn and everything around it was demolished in the late 1990's when West Street became DISNEYLAND Drive and The DISNEYLAND Resort sprang up around it. The location looks very different nowadays:
The Apollo Inn may be gone, but it certainly isn't forgotten. The spirit of Stovall's amazing Apollo Inn lives on in the hearts of those who made it their home away from home during their trips to Walt Disney's One and Only Magic Kingdom of DISNEYLAND.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
When The Walt Disney Company began developing its massive Florida property, it realized that it would need a way to provide telephone service to all of its hotel rooms and businesses. Even though it had scrapped Walt Disney's plans for a real city, the "Vacation Kingdom" of Roy Disney's imagination would still be a city of sorts so the company established Vista-United Telecommunications- Disney's very own phone company.
Vista-United's reach extended westward when the company finally purchased the Disneyland Hotel. Vista-United was tapped to provide in room telephones and even pay phones throughout the DISNEYLAND Property.
As outside companies began to offer the advanced services that Disney required at its resorts, Vista-United became unnecessary and it was sold in 2000.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Excelsior! Spider-Man has rejoined the fold at Marvel Studios! Spider-Man, the glaringly absent Avenger, has now been brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
What's that? He wasn't part of it already? Yes! Back in the late 1990's, Marvel Comics was still an independent company and made two deals with Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox to produce theatrical films based on Spider-Man and X-Men, its biggest franchises. These deals gave the studios the rights to make films as long as they kept doing so. This led to two gigantic franchises that, while they provided cash for Marvel, were less lucrative than they could have been. So Marvel set about creating its own Cinematic Universe using the characters it hadn't sold off.
Wall Street felt that the leftover characters were not going to be successful and largely wrote off the endeavor. After the humongous success of Iron Man, however, they couldn't write off Marvel for much longer. Soon Disney came calling and bought Marvel Comics outright for what Wall Street thought was too much money. Sure a lesser title like Iron Man had been successful, but there couldn't be much more to mine, right?
Wall Street was wrong yet again. Marvel Studios has consistently produced films that have grossed BILLIONS with no end in sight. The success of Guardians of the Galaxy which was a relatively unknown commodity prior to this summer made everyone take notice. At this point, Marvel could probably reboot Howard the Duck into a successful property.
Enter Spider-Man. Sony Pictures made another Spider-Man film this summer because it had to and the product suffered at the box office. After an unknown Guardians beat the established Spider-Man head to head, it was only a matter of time before Sony would rethink things. And they have in a big way- Spider-Man will now be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony will still produce its films, but they will be made in concert with Marvel's films. Spider-Man will also be able to appear in Marvel's Avengers films as well. It's long overdue! Welcome home, Spidey!
Monday, February 9, 2015
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Saturday, February 7, 2015
"An angel appeared in the form of a man known to millions as Walt Disney. How was I to know he was in the audience watching me dance in a little school play or that I'd be chosen to wear one of TV's most famous hats?"
Friday, February 6, 2015
Walt Disney found himself in California in 1923, full of ideas and dreams and not much else. If he already had DISNEYLAND on his mind, he knew he wasn't quite ready to unleash it on the world yet, so he began to build his empire. First there was Oswald:
...then his best friend Mickey Mouse:
...then even bigger achievements like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:
As Mr. Disney's prestige grew, so did his family. He enjoyed taking his daughters to the Griffith Park carousel every Sunday and it was while watching them enjoy themselves that he thought about a place where parents and kids could have fun together.
The very same bench that Walt sat on is currently on display at DISNEYLAND:
It has often been said that DISNEYLAND was designed by a father for his daughters; and that is the truth. Mr. Disney always had families on his mind as he designed his magical little park.
While Mr. Disney would need to wait a bit longer to build his Magic Kingdom, he would make a few efforts to try his hand at theming, like this cottage themed playhouse he built for his kids:
Or his backyard train and barn:
He may have had to wait a little while to see his dream come true, but he never forgot his idea for DISNEYLAND. He just needed to wait until the world had almost caught up with him.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
In the early 1980's, The Walt Disney Company had stopped producing programming for broadcast television. Studio management at the time felt that The Disney Channel would have a hard time signing up subscribers as a premium channel if it had to compete against free programming. This caused a few problems for the company's other businesses. Walt Disney had successfully used television to launch and promote DISNEYLAND. In the early 80's, the company had grown to include two Florida theme parks surrounded by thousands of hotel rooms. Not having a weekly television show made it harder to fill those theme parks, much less the hotel rooms. Many in the company attributed EPCOT Center's initial failure to a lack of promotion. So in 1986, the company chose to return to broadcast television with The Disney Sunday Movie.
Hosted by the new company CEO Michael Eisner, the program was intended to showcase not only that week's film, but also the company's latest offerings. As shown in the graphic, the company highlighted its Florida properties heavily in order to resolve the attendance issues at EPCOT Center. The first movie aired in the time slot, however, had little to do with the company's theme parks- Help Wanted, Kids. The film starred Cindy Williams and Bill Hudson as child-less yuppies who hire two orphans to pretend to be their kids. It later became a Disney Channel Original Series.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
When Walt Disney first came up with the idea for Fantasia, he wanted to give the audience an amazing experience. He wanted everything about the movie to be amazing- both the visuals and the sound.
Unfortunately, the quality of the sound in most theaters at the time was lacking. As long as the sound came out of the speakers, theater staff figured everything was okay. The only way to make sure that the sound quality was the best it could be was for Walt Disney to invent his own sound system- Fantasound!
Fantasound was one of the first systems that would surround the audience with rich orchestral sounds. Decades before Dolby and THX, Walt Disney's studio had invented a mobile sound system that could be temporarily deployed at any movie theater showing Fantasia and moved out to a different theater when the film's engagement had ended.
It was an amazing system that was years ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it was very expensive; too expensive for many theaters. Since animation was seen as kids entertainment, many people balked at paying extra to see a "kiddy film". RKO, which distributed Disney films at the time, insisted that the movie get edited and released in general theaters, which meant that most of the people who watched the picture when it was originally released saw an edited version of the film with regular, substandard speakers.
Walt Disney's vision for the film would ultimately prove to be ahead of its time. Eventually audiences demanded better sound systems and embraced the unedited version of the film when it was re-released to theaters. Fantasia would finally find its audience.