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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #22: A Very Special Celebration Indeed

In 1994, The Walt Disney Company decided to try something new when it came to promoting its then latest film The Lion King. It gave its American theme parks the funding to create a show or parade to promote the film. This encouraged the parks to have something big to promote the film from its premiere. (Typically the parks would wait to see if a particular picture was successful before spending large sums of money on a show or attraction.) Walt Disney World in Florida created a standard show. DISNEYLAND, on the other hand, created an amazing celebration that is widely considered to be the greatest parade ever produced. 

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The Spirit of '43

In 1943, with the war raging on two fronts, the United States needed money to fight the Axis powers. The IRS was trying to get Americans to see paying taxes as a patriotic thing to do. They turned to Walt Disney and Donald Duck to help.

The company produced The Spirit of '43. The premise was that Donald Duck dragged his feet when paying his taxes, thereby weakening national defense.

Donald is shown being tempted to throw his money away on frivolous things, but in the end he comes to his senses and helps defeat the Nazis by paying his tax bill on time.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Marvel's Captain America

In 1940, the United States was on the sidelines of World War II. While it was obvious that it would not be able to stay out of the war, the country had not yet been attacked and there were several people who wanted Roosevelt to stay out of "policing" the world. There were many who saw that Adolf Hitler would not be satisfied by just taking over Europe. He planned to continue his westward march. Into this uncertainty came Captain America, defender of the constitution and of the United States.

Originally named Super America, Cap's name was changed so that he could stand out from the crowd. From his very first cover, it was obvious that his creators felt strongly that the United States should enter World War II against Germany and Hitler.

After the war, Timely Comics (the precursor to Marvel Comics) found Cap's adventures to be a hard sell. He was discontinued in the 1950's, only to be revived in 1964 by the renamed Marvel Comics under the expert pen of the Generalissimo himself, Stan Lee. Cap has stayed in print ever since.

If you happen to find a mint condition Captain America number one hiding out in an attic or basement somewhere, you're in luck. At a recent auction, the title fetched $340,000.

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #23: A Tale as Old as Time

In 1992, the hit film Beauty and the Beast came to DISNEYLAND with a live stage show. The show was a hit itself, inspiring the Broadway musical.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Disney Quote Weekends

"Our daughters' daughters will adore us! And will sing in grateful chorus- well done! Sister Suffragette!"

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #24: A Grand Celebration

In 1985, DISNEYLAND celebrated 30 years by giving prizes away to guests, including cars!

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Disney Quote Weekends

"Let's travel on through history and hear America Sing!"

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #25: A Christmas Nightmare

Every holiday season, a most amazing transformation takes place at DISNEYLAND's Haunted Mansion. A visit from Jack Skellington always makes for an amazing Christmas.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

The DISNEYLAND Viewliner

In this day in 1957, the DISNEYLAND Viewliner opened to guests. It would close in September 1958 to make way for the DISNEYLAND Monorail.

The Story of DISNEYLAND returns in two weeks.

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #26: America Sings

The voice of the pig in America Sings was provided by DISNEYLAND's own Betty Taylor.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #27: Herbie in DISNEYLAND

In 1969, DISNEYLAND held a special event- "Love Bug Day" in which guests were invited to decorate their VW Bugs and bring them to DISNEYLAND to compete for prizes.

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Disney Divisions: Hollywood Records

In 1988, Touchstone Pictures released Beaches, a massive hit starring Bette Midler, who also produced a hit soundtrack. Touchstone Pictures licensed the soundtrack out and saw the profits mostly flow out to the record company. That attracted the attention of Disney's then-CEO who saw the potential profits for the company if the Touchstone soundtracks were brought in house.

Enter Hollywood Records, which would release all of Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures' soundtracks. In order to give the label something to release between films, the company purchased the back catalog for the famed band Queen and began cultivating talent. One of its first bands was The Party a tween band of Mickey Mouse Club members.

The band didn't find much success, though the label could more than make up for its misses through exploiting the Queen catalog and releasing hit soundtracks, like the one for Sister Act.

The label currently releases tween pop, mostly featuring Disney Channel celebrities.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Go the Distance

"I have often dreamed of a far off place
Where a great warm welcome will be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer when they see my face
And a voice keeps saying this is where I'm meant to be

I will find my way, I can go the distance
I'll be there someday - If I can be strong
I know every mile will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong

I am on my way - I can go the distance!
I don't care how far - Somehow I'll be strong
I know every mile will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere to find where I belong."

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #28: Tom Sawyer Island

After getting exasperated at his designers for not fully understanding what he wanted Tom Sawyer Island to look like, Walt Disney grabbed the blueprints and took them home one evening. He returned the next day with a fully sketched diagram of the island. His plans were used to build the Island that remains a cherished part of DISNEYLAND.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #29: Catfish Cove

When Tom Sawyer's Island was first opened to DISNEYLAND guests, folks were invited to fish at "Catfish Cove". What seemed like a great idea in the morning, however, quickly became a problem at the end of the day when it came time to take the fish home.

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In 1984, Walt Disney's son-in-law Ron Miller created Touchstone Pictures as a way for the company to release films that weren't necessarily the type of family fare that the company had been famous for. Walt Disney had wished that his audience would accept more mature content from him after watching To Kill A Mockingbird, which would have never been accepted by the public as a Disney film. Now the company had a division that could release such films free from any preconceptions.

However, the line between "Disney" and "Touchstone" was often a bit blurred. For example, Who Framed Roger Rabbit began production as a Walt Disney Pictures film. (Early trailers even labeled it as such.) However, Jessica Rabbit's curves and some of the cartoon violence were deemed too much, so the film was switched to a Touchstone Pictures release. Of course, the film would become an instant classic, beloved by families. DISNEYLAND would even deem the film to be family enough to build an attraction in Mickey's Toontown.

Three years later, another film would cause a similar issue. Dick Tracy would also find itself initially billed as a Disney release, only to get changed to Touchstone Pictures. Despite this, DISNEYLAND would feature the movie prominently in its 1990 entertainment package, building a temporary Dick Tracy "mini-land" in Fantasyland. The company even announced that the park would receive a Dick Tracy attraction. The lukewarm reception of the film was the reason for the attraction not getting built, not the Touchstone name being attached to it.

In 1993, the company would still grapple with the question of what label to apply to a film. Tim Burton had signed a deal to make a stop motion film based on the holidays of Halloween and Christmas. It seemed like a sure thing for the Disney label, but the company balked yet again. The Nightmare before Christmas would get the Touchstone label attached to it. It would be almost ten years before this underrated gem would get its due, leading both DISNEYLAND and Tokyo Disneyland to permit the film's characters to take over their Haunted Mansions, bringing the world of Halloween to guests every year.

Monday, June 22, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #30: A Bank for Main Street

Back in 1955, ATMs, credit cards and mobile banking were relatively unheard of. In fact, even someone trying to cash a check written by someone who banked at a different branch of the same bank might run into problems. The availability of cash would be important if DISNEYLAND were to succeed. 

So when Walt Disney was asked by Bank of America if they could open up a branch in his Magic Kingdom as a condition of loaning him money to build the park, he was ecstatic. Having a full branch in DISNEYLAND would solve many problems for him. The branch, which was the only Bank of America open on Sundays, lasted 38 years, closing in June of 1993. Despite DISNEYLAND's new banking deal with Chase, it no longer features a full service bank.

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The Little Man of DISNEYLAND

A forgotten character from the early days of the Magic Kingdom was the "Little Man of DISNEYLAND." The little man was a tiny leprechaun who supposedly lived in an orange tree at DISNEYLAND Park.

According to the story, the leprechaun always lived on the land that would become DISNEYLAND. One day he wakes up to find Mickey, Donald and Goofy beginning to construct DISNEYLAND Park. After being flown to Burbank to see the plans, he becomes excited about his new neighbors.

The Little Man's tree was actually placed on a tree in Adventureland to satisfy the kids who asked about him. His  home was removed when the Swiss Family Treehouse was built. Its current location is unknown.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Disney Quote Weekends

"Here's to the pencil pushers. May they all get lead poisoning."

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day!

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #31: Was the DISNEYLAND Hotel designed with an Erector Set Theme?

Since the Wrather Corporation owned both the DISNEYLAND Hotel and the Erector Set, it was often claimed that the original hotel design was inspired by Erector pieces. The short answer to the question is No.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #32: The Real Leota

The ghostly visage that millions of guests have seen in DISNEYLAND's Haunted Mansion as Madame Leota is Disney Imagineer Leota Toombs. (Amazingly, that was her real name.) Leota's voice, however, was provided by veteran character actress Eleanor Audley.

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Disney Quote Weekends

"Geppetto has his little wooden head! Nothing else matters!"

Friday, June 19, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #33: An Empty Mansion

DISNEYLAND's famed Haunted Mansion stood empty for six years while Walt Disney and his Imagineers tried to figure out what to put inside it. Back then, it was possible to walk up the steps and try to get a peek inside the forbidding building.

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The Story of DISNEYLAND: An Entertaining Plan

As DISNEYLAND's opening date drew near, Walt Disney began planning out the entertainment at his Magic Kingdom. At the time, most amusement parks treated entertainment as an afterthought. Amateurish and often bawdy, it was not the sort of entertainment that Mr. Disney wanted for his theme park. Since the eyes of the world would be trained on DISNEYLAND, Walt felt that only world class entertainment would be good enough. So he sought out the best and brightest acts.

Donald Novis, Betty Taylor and Wally Boag were top flight entertainers with experience in Hollywood. Walt originally thought that live television productions could originate from DISNEYLAND and the talented Wally Boag could host them. Those plans were put on hold due to a lack of funds to complete the DISNEYLAND Opera House on Main Street, which was just a facade until 1965. Wally Boag ended up becoming "Pecos Bill," who performed at his girlfriend Slue Foot Sue's Golden Horseshoe saloon. Every day, guests were treated to an amazing show performed by genuine Hollywood pros, an unheard of production that was free with park admission.

This amazing building would become one of Walt Disney's favorite places in DISNEYLAND. Originally, the stars were signed to short term contracts that would only last the summer. After DISNEYLAND was a huge success, the show was extended indefinitely, becoming the longest running live show in history.

Another big name hire was Vesey Walker, a renowned band leader who performed in Hollywood on many films. At DISNEYLAND he was given responsibility to hire the band who would also initially get short term contracts. Filled with talented Hollywood performers, it was also stacked with talent beyond what might be expected at a theme park. It was just the way Walt wanted it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #34: A Movie Visit to the Magic Kingdom

Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette starred in the first picture filmed in DISNEYLAND- 40 Pounds of Trouble. The movie features twenty minutes of fabulous footage from the happiest place on earth.

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Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Monochrome

When Walt Disney sold the idea of a television show to ABC, he was overjoyed that he would get the money he needed for his Magic Kingdom. There was one drawback; as the youngest of the networks, ABC didn't have the resources to begin broadcasting in color. It also didn't plan to. The magical worlds of Disney would appear in black and white.

Walt Disney, however, saw everything in color. Despite the fact that his viewers wouldn't see it on their television screens, he filmed his shows in full color and with film stock.

This infuriated his brother Roy, who saw it as a waste of money. ABC wouldn't pay for the full cost of the color production, so the studio was losing money on every episode. Walt always looked to the future and he realized that doing the shows his way would make them more valuable. Television wouldn't be black and white forever and future audiences would want to see things in color. His foresight paid off nearly immediately, however. With the huge success of Davy Crockett, kids were clamoring for more Davy. Disney gave it to them on the big screen, editing the shows together and putting them on the big screen. It was hugely profitable and impossible without Walt's foresight. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #35: Submarine Voyage

DISNEYLAND's Submarine Voyage opened in 1959 before an audience of millions alongside the famed Matterhorn Mountain. Below, the submarine fleet is being christened by Mildred Nelson, who was one of the Navy's WAVES during World War II.

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"Frontierland. It is here that we experience the story of our country's past. The color, romance and drama of frontier America as it developed from wilderness trails to roads, riverboats, railroads and civilization. A tribute to the faith, courage and ingenuity of our hearty pioneers who blaze the trails and made this progress possible." 

-Walt Disney

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #36: Chicken of the Sea

One of Fantasyland's early landmarks was the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship, which was a restaurant that doubled as an attraction. While castmembers served tuna sandwiches from inside the ship, guests were allowed to climb around on top.

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Disney Legend #24: Claude Coats

Claude Coats was another Disney Legend whose work touched more than one section of Walt Disney's empire. Hired in 1935, Mr. Coats quickly showed promise with his background paintings, so Walt Disney personally chose him to design and paint the backgrounds for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Even inconsequential backgrounds painted by Mr. Coats looked stunning and beautiful.

His impressive work led to him getting assigned to Mr. Disney's greatest dream- DISNEYLAND. Mr. Coats worked on designing various attractions, including the classic Pirates of the Caribbean. Claude Coats, pictured below with Walt Disney and DISNEYLAND Ambassadress Julie Riehm, was often assigned the more difficult projects.

Before his retirement, Mr. Coats worked on Disney World's Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. Mr. Coats passed away in 1992, but his work is still enjoyed by millions around the world. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

60 Days of DISNEYLAND #37: The Village Haus

DISNEYLAND's Village House restaurant has been serving up Italian-style meals since DISNEYLAND's major Fantasyland renovation of 1982. This renovation sought to create the Fantasyland of Walt's dreams and add a dining location in one of the park's busiest areas.

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On this day in 1967, DISNEYLAND opened its private members only club in New Orleans Square. DISNEYLAND sponsors had been clamoring for a place like Club 33 for years. Roy Disney had to convince Walt that this was a good idea and it was a hard sell. When New Orleans Square was being developed, Walt thought it would be a perfect location for a private club.

Walt Disney personally designed the place, which would also do something not permitted inside the park- sell alcoholic beverages. The club initially was only open to sponsors, but the demand for the super secret club was such that corporations and private individuals were permitted to purchase memberships.

The club became a legendary location in the park, though only one other Club 33 was ever opened- at Tokyo Disneyland.

Club 33 was recently expanded to accommodate more members, since its waiting list was over ten years long. The club remains a classy, exclusive oasis in the often crowded park with legendary service. 

It was a grueling experience to do research for this article.