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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Strange But True: Walt's Sweltering Night

When The Disney Studios in Burbank was being designed, Walt Disney participated in every planning session. This studio was to be his pride and joy so he involved himself in every facet of its design.

Mr. Disney even played a role in the design of the state of the art cooling and heating system, which would ensure that the temperature was always at a comfortable level. Walt feared, however, that an open window could ruin the temperature levels. Despite the protests of the architects, the windows were designed without any way to open them.

This worked perfectly- until one hot Los Angeles night. Mr. Disney was working late and decided to sleep in his office instead of drowsily driving home. As he started to fall asleep, the cooling system shut off and his office quickly became a sauna. Struggling with the heat, Mr. Disney had to break one of the windows to get some cool, fresh air in his office. He ordered the windows retro-fitted with opening levers the very next day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Strange But True: Sleeping Beauty "Cat-sle"

When DISNEYLAND was under construction, money was tight. Walt Disney didn't want to skimp on anything that his guests would actually see, so the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom was constructed as planned except for the inside, which remained unfinished. The inside of Sleeping Beauty Castle became a place where the various construction crews stored piles of junk. 

The inside of the castle neglected, a family of mangy, feral cats took residence in the regal looking building. When the film Sleeping Beauty was ready to be released, Mr. Disney decided that Princess Aurora should finally take residence in her royal palace. He and his staff took a tour of the building to see what shape it was in and what would be required to bring the Sleeping Beauty Walk-Through attraction to life.

Walt was dismayed when he saw the condition of the castle's inner chambers. As he hastily lifted an old construction tarp to see what was underneath, he was confronted by the angry cats and a cloud of fleas overtook him and his staff. Mr. Disney retreated, but decreed that this "Cat-sle" needed to become just as magical on the inside as it was on the outside.  And it did. The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through remains a magical experience enjoyed by millions of DISNEYLAND guests every year.

April Fools Week: Strange But True Disney Facts

Welcome to the second annual April Fools Week at RetlawYensid.Com! This week we'll look at Strange But True stories from the World of Disney!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Disney Quote Weekends

"Got out my old camp T-Shirt! Still fits, kinda and I'm raring to go!"

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: An Unworkable Idea

With most of the roadblocks conquered, Walt Disney began the pre-planning stages for DISNEYLAND. He sent a contingent of studio employees to an amusement park convention, where park owners could look at the latest rides, midway games and other assorted amusement park related products. Walt Disney asked his staff members to schmooze with the park owners, tell them about DISNEYLAND and see what they thought.

Walt's team were surprised at the response. The veteran park owners were absolutely certain that DISNEYLAND would fail. Among the many faults:

* Too much space devoted to non-money generating features like landscaping.

* Without alcoholic beverages, DISNEYLAND would not make any money.

* No midway games meant no profits.

* Having one entrance would be a crowd nightmare.

* Expensive theming would never be noticed by the customers and would just get damaged.

Walt's employees returned to Burbank depressed. They communicated what they learned to Mr. Disney, expecting him to be upset. Instead he was ecstatic. Why was he happy? Because he knew that if the existing amusement park owners thought his ideas were terrible then he must be on the right track. Time would prove him right.

Next week is "April Fools Week" here at RetlawYensid.com featuring strange but true stories from the world of Disney. The Story of DISNEYLAND will return April 10th.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

One Hour in Wonderland

America received a special gift for Christmas in 1950 from NBC and Walt Disney. One Hour in Wonderland was the first time a Hollywood studio produced a Special for an American television network. Featuring Edgar Bergen and Katherine Beaumont as Alice, the show was sponsored by Coca-Cola, the company's first association with the Walt Disney Company.

The special was a gigantic success, capturing 90% of the viewing audience. Mr. Disney would remember this success four years later when he premiered DISNEYLAND: The TV Show.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Friend of DISNEYLAND: Jack Wrather

When Walt Disney was looking for someone to take over construction and ownership of the DISNEYLAND Hotel, he was rejected by all of the major hotel chains and most of his friends. Except for one- Jack Wrather. 

Jack Wrather was a Hollywood producer who made numerous investments in various businesses. His various enterprises included the Muzak Company:

The Lassie and Lone Ranger television shows:

The Erector set:

Sgt. Preston of the Yukon:

And of course, the Happiest Hotel on Earth:

Mr. Wrather took a risk on his friend's success. When just about everyone else thought that DISNEYLAND would fail, he trusted that it would succeed. Years later, the big hotel chains that laughed at Walt Disney were desperate to build hotels around his Magic Kingdom, but the choice location still belonged to Jack Wrather because he believed in DISNEYLAND long before anyone else did.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Around the World with "it's a small world"

Walt Disney wanted to show the world what his organization was doing at DISNEYLAND and what it was capable of accomplishing. Fifty million guests had experienced the magic firsthand in Anaheim, but Mr. Disney saw that he could reach a larger audience by creating new attractions for the 1964 World's Fair. He quickly put together attractions for Ford, the State of Illinois and General Electric. It was a last minute attraction request for Pepsi-Cola that created a beloved attraction that is still enjoyed by millions the world over- it's a small world.

Mr. Disney brought the attraction in under budget and on time, using the artistry of Mary Blair to create a magical, colorful world.

The original facade didn't reflect the magic found inside. Since the attraction had to be built quickly, Walt Disney  chose to concentrate on the magical sights inside the building.

When it came time to design the building for DISNEYLAND, however, Walt Disney didn't skimp on anything. The exterior was a stylized version of various world landmarks, reflecting the magic found within.

The cheerful exterior lives on today in Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom as a bright, inviting and magical destination beloved by children everywhere.

The second it's a small world attraction was built in Florida's Magic Kingdom Park in 1971. This version of the attraction was overseen by Roy Disney and was decidedly lower profile. Instead of the elaborate facade, this version was given a plain look that blended in with the circus atmosphere of the park's Fantasyland.

In Tokyo Disneyland, the company returned to the more elaborate facade of the original it's a small world. In Tokyo, the building is an almost exact replica of the Anaheim original.

In Paris, the facade was changed, but it still recalled the Anaheim original more than the plain Florida copy.

The newest it's a small world in Hong Kong returns to the original design from DISNEYLAND. When Walt Disney Imagineering sat down to plan out Hong Kong, they sought to build the best versions of the various attractions from around the world. When the separate groups came together they realized that the best of the best were all from the original DISNEYLAND.

Over fifty years later, the magical spires of it's a small world still attract millions of children of all ages, just like its creator wanted.

"It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears
There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Disney's Condorman

In the late 1970's, Superman had taken the world by storm. Hollywood studios rushed superhero films into production and Disney, desperate to connect with the youth of the day, chose an unlikely actor to play an unlikely super hero. Michael Crawford, best known for starring in Broadway musicals would become Disney's Condorman in 1981.

Condorman featured Michael Crawford as cartoonist Woodrow Willkins, who is known for his imaginative comic book series Condorman. He is asked by the CIA to assist in helping a beautiful KGB agent played by Barbara Carrera to defect, which he does by plotting out an ingenious plan full of mystery and intrigue.

Sadly for Disney, the movie was widely panned by critics and wasn't the big, successful superhero film they needed at the time. The studio would try again nine years later with the impressive Dick Tracy, which was successful, but not as successful as had been hoped. Disney wouldn't achieve the superhero success it was looking for until thirty years after Condorman when it bought Marvel Comics.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: Investing in the Magic

Walt Disney was getting closer to seeing his dream become reality. He had a plan, he had a location, but now he needed money. His company was finally onboard, but he would need to find more cash. Roy Disney took over the financial side of things, committing Walt Disney Productions funds to the project.

The project would need still more money, so Roy sought out investors willing to put cash into his brother's dream. Luckily, the company's rich history and creativity provided them with something to offer potential investors. Western Publishing Company, whose Little Golden Books are something found in virtually every child's bedroom, saw the potential of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom, realizing that it would be a place every kid would want to visit. Those kids could dream of DISNEYLAND while paging through a Little Golden Book. The company invested in the park in exchange for publishing rights to DISNEYLAND and the Disney characters.

Another company approached by Roy was ABC. ABC was looking to become a bigger player in television and desperately wanted top quality programming from a Hollywood studio. They were uninterested in DISNEYLAND the park, but were extremely excited about Disneyland the TV Show. When they were told the only way to get the show was to invest in the park, they quickly signed up as a DISNEYLAND investor.

With the bulk of the financing on board, the Disneys turned to the bank who had always come through for them in the past- Bank of America. The bank not only provided construction loans, but it also became one of the first Disney sponsors, opening up a full service branch on Main Street's Town Square. For many years, it was the only bank branch in the country that was open on Sundays.

What had started as one man's dream was now becoming reality. DISNEYLAND the dream would soon become DISNEYLAND the place.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The British Golden Girls: Brighton Belles

Touchstone Television's The Golden Girls not only took the United States by storm, it also became a huge hit overseas. One of the biggest markets for the show was in England, where the show counted even the Queen as a fan. It seemed like a no-brainer to make a version of the show catered specifically for the United Kingdom.

Enter the Brighton Belles. Touchstone Television licensed the adaptation to a U.K. television network that adapted the show's existing scripts for British audiences.

Unfortunately for these belles, they had to compete with the real thing. Rather than come up with new situations for their seasoned cast, they merely re-wrote existing scripts. The result was a show that looked like a Senior Center talent show version of a Golden Girls rerun. Even the show's publicity photos looked cheap:

Unlike the American original, this show was canceled after less than one season. The American show still airs in reruns in the U.K. while the Brighton Belles are just a memory in their own country.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Matterhorn Screamer!

Walt Disney was a visionary. Instead of concentrating on today or even tomorrow, he was always looking to the future as a place where the problems of today would be solved and amazing new discoveries would be made to accomplish things we couldn't even imagine today. It was that way of thinking that made Tomorrowland and his original plans for EPCOT what they were- optimistic and not dystopian. Mr. Disney embraced technology and imagined a world where a great big beautiful tomorrow was just a dream away.

While just a far off dream in the 1960's, home computing became a very real thing in the 1980's and The Walt Disney Company was one of the first entertainment companies to license and produce software for the computers that were becoming commonplace in many American homes. One of the earliest games for this market paired up the lovable Goofy with a classic DISNEYLAND attraction- Matterhorn Mountain!

While the graphics look primitive by today's standards, they were amazing at the time. For the first time, guests could enjoy a game based on a famous Disney attraction in the comfort of their own home.

Imagine what might happen if you could become the accident-prone Goofy, hiking up the forbidding Matterhorn in an attempt to reach the top? It was now possible with the fun and entertaining Matterhorn Screamer! just one of many challenging and fun games that was available from Walt Disney Software. Mr. Disney would have been proud 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Quack! Quack! Quack! Donald Duck on Parade

One of Walt Disney's favorite parade units featured an animatronic Donald Duck who would recklessly drive down Main Street with his nephews clinging onto the car for dear life.

Kids loved the maniacal float, because it appeared that Donald Duck had jumped out of the screen and into real life. Walt Disney loved it too, because he saw how excited his littlest guests got when they saw Donald seemingly driving a real car to the tune of Quack! Quack! Quack!

While guests loved it, park operations and Disney legal did not. The float was seen as being awkward to maneuver and the corporate lawyers feared what might happen if Donald Duck drove right into a group of guests watching the parade. Donald was only brought out when Mr. Disney was in the park and was sadly retired when Walt Disney passed away in 1966.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Disney Vault

When television first exploded on the scene, it was seen as being a death sentence for the movies. If the public could watch entertainment at home, why would they still want to go to a movie theater? The Hollywood studios decided to begin filming their movies in wide screen, so that the film experience could not be replicated on a small television screen. Additionally, they gave the television networks the cold shoulder. None of the movie studios would work with a television studio.

That ended somewhat in 1954. Walt Disney needed money to build DISNEYLAND, so he began his weekly series that would not only promote his Magic Kingdom with new programming, but would also show some of the studios' theatrical projects. It was an instant success, which made the other studios take notice. The television networks, hungry for programming, were eager to begin signing deals for content.

When Walt Disney first approached the networks, he was adamant that he only planned to license programming to them. His past movie catalog was not for sale. Mr. Disney wasn't sure what the future held for entertainment, but he wanted to be ready with his vast catalog of films still available to him for licensing. The other studios, however, were willing to sell their catalogs to the highest bidder. They didn't see any value in films that hadn't been viewed in years. MGM, Warner Brothers and Paramount quickly cashed out, a decision they would later regret. Walt Disney held onto his copyrights, a decision that made billions for the company in the future. Home entertainment became a lucrative business, one that the company was able to take advantage of because of Walt Disney's vision.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Disney Quote Weekends

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Play games, all sort

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Never be cross or cruel
Never give us castor oil or gruel
Love us as a son and daughter
And never smell of barley water

If you won't scold and dominate us
We will never give you cause to hate us
We won't hide your spectacles 
So you can't see
Put toads in your bed 
Or pepper in your tea
Hurry, Nanny!
Many thanks
Jane and Michael Banks.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: Finding a Home for Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom

With Roy Disney on board, Walt Disney now needed to find a home for his Magic Kingdom. Nowadays, cities dream of getting a Disney Theme Park. Back in the early 1950's, however, amusement parks still had a bad reputation. They were often geared only towards children, built in vacant lots and consisted of rusty carnival rides. Lucas Kiddieland was just the type of enterprise that some cities pictured when Walt Disney came calling.

There were many cities who did see this 'DISNEYLAND' as a possible boon to their communities, but Mr. Disney quickly saw that it might be best to pull back and use a more scientific method to find a location. He enlisted the assistance of the Stanford Research Institute and its young consultant Harrison "Buzz" Price to find an ideal place for his park. Buzz Price had no real metrics to use when finding a location for a theme park, so he came up with his own. The metrics Mr. Price created are still used in the theme park industry to this day. At the time, however, they were revolutionary. Some of the possible locations considered and quickly discarded were Canoga Park, where a defunct shooting range was offered as a location:

And the Santa Monica Pier, which was rejected due to its location on the beach:

Buzz Price's research indicated that the future growth area of Southern California would be in or near Orange County. Three locations considered were La Mirada, which was rejected due to its lack of freeway access at the time:

The Whittier Narrows Park in South El Monte, which was rejected for similar reasons:

And a parcel in Santa Ana that was deemed too expensive:

Eventually, the perfect location was found that satisfied all of Walt's requirements- flat land, affordable, close to Southern California's future population center, not on the beach and with a clear line of sight to Mount Wilson so that live broadcasts could originate from the park. The location- 160 acres in the sleepy town of Anaheim, California.

There were only 2000 people living in Anaheim at the time. Little did they know that Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom would bring the world to their humble farmtown.