Featured Attractions

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: The World's Fair

As DISNEYLAND entered the 1960's, Walt Disney began to step things up when it came to the park. He was always looking around the world to find new ideas to take back to his Magic Kingdom. His brother Roy was becoming an increasing obstacle when it came to financing his dreams, so Walt decided to go around him somewhat and find funding elsewhere. He saw a perfect opportunity at the New York World's Fair. He had proven that he could build popular, durable attractions at DISNEYLAND. Certainly big pocketed sponsors would let him design attractions for them. Plus, he could move the attractions out west to DISNEYLAND once the fair was finished.

Soon both the Ford Motor Company and GE had signed with Disney. In Ford's Magic Skyway, guests would ride in new Ford vehicles as they went on a journey through technological advances through the ages. Guests would see animatronic dinosaurs, cave men and other wonders that gave birth to our modern era. At the conclusion of the fair, Ford balked at moving the attraction to DISNEYLAND, but the animatronics would be reused in The DISNEYLAND Railroad's Primeval World, an attraction that thrills guests even today.

GE decided that it wanted a show that would feature GE technology throughout the twentieth century. Such a show would be difficult to manage, since the audience would have to wait until the stage could be re-dressed to accommodate the different eras. Walt came up with an intriguing idea- why not have the audience move around the various stages? Enter the innovative "circle theater" and GE's Carousel of Progress. Featuring a song written by the Sherman Brothers entitled There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, the show earned rave reviews and was moved to DISNEYLAND, then Walt Disney World in Florida, where it remains today in a modified format.

As if these projects weren't enough, Walt Disney took on yet another- Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a show that would stun audiences with a lifelike re-creation of Walt Disney's favorite president- Abraham Lincoln. Sponsored by the State of Illinois, the attraction would dazzle even the jaded journalists who were covering the fair. One writer was so astonished by the show that he insisted that the Lincoln animatronic stepped off the stage and shook the hands of everyone in the front row. (He didn't.)  This attraction also made its way out to DISNEYLAND, where it still operates every day.

Lifelike animatronics and moving theaters were big enough projects on their own. When Pepsi and UNICEF approached Mr. Disney at the last minute begging for an attraction, many in Imagineering figured that he would turn them away. He didn't turn them away. In fact, he envisioned a dazzling attraction with an all new ride system that would allow guests to ride in boats. The concept was to show dolls from all nations singing their national anthems as guests rode by on a sophisticated boat system. After the boats had been finished and perfected and the colorful Mary Blair designed dolls had been dressed, Walt was ready to ride the mockup built in Glendale, CA. It was a disaster. The ride was a cacophony of sounds and songs that didn't go well together. They needed a new song and fast. Mr. Disney turned to his favorite songwriters- the Sherman Brothers, who wrote the perfect song that could be sung in different languages and still sound great. That song would also give the ride its name- it's a small world. The "rushed" attraction ended up becoming the hit of the fair and it still enchants guests at its permanent home- DISNEYLAND.

As the 1960's wore on, Mr. Disney was seemingly in a rush to see more of his dreams come true at his Magic Kingdom. He would oversee just one more major project- and what an amazing project it would be.