Featured Attractions

Friday, January 29, 2016

Freaky Fridays: Disney Channel Goes Sci-Fi

Some of the strangest films ever to come out of Walt Disney Studios were Disney Channel Original Films released at the turn of the century. Disney Channel seemed to think that kids secretly wanted to be mythical creatures. Like this film in which the titular character discovered that he was half merman.

Lucky for him he was such a good swimmer! And what boy didn't want to secretly be a leprechaun? Disney Channel had that covered as well.

The trend would be short lived and soon the cable channel would begin tackling more realistic topics, like being a secret superstar, hiding the fact that one is half-witch or depicting basketball players who like to sing and dance.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: 15 Years of Disney California Adventure Part 4

Construction on Disney California Adventure began in 1998. DISNEYLAND had to find new parking areas to use as the old one began its transformation into a new theme park.

The park began to take shape, with the Paradise Pier area getting finished first. The visible progress confused guests who began thinking the park was already open in early 2000.

Downtown Disney was also under construction. Below we see ESPN Zone and Rainforest Cafe under construction.

As things began to look finished, it might have seemed odd that there was still much dirt onsite. In a theme park, the last part of construction is to put down the pavement and concrete. This allows for changes to be made right up until the end. For example at California Adventure, two soundstages and the Tower of Terror were put on hold and didn't open up with the rest of the park. (One of the soundstages would open in November of 2001 and the Tower of Terror wouldn't open until 2004.)

As construction neared completion, Disney would soon be ready to unleash its newest theme park on the world.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Walt Wednesdays: A Walk in His Park

Walt Disney loved walking through DISNEYLAND incognito to see what his guests thought about his Magic Kingdom. It was difficult for him to do so, however, since he was a familiar face to millions.

However, he was able to accomplish this occasionally. In this candid picture, Mr. Disney is enjoying a day in the park with his daughter Sharon. Obviously, he found time to speak with his two young guests to see what they thought of the fabulous Magic Kingdom of DISNEYLAND.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Toontown Tuesdays: Boo

One of the most adorable Disney characters ever created is also a character whose true name we never find out. Little Boo stole the hearts of everyone who watched Monsters, Inc.

The cute toddler instantly takes a liking to her monster friends who give her the name "Boo" since they have no idea what her real name is. The audience truly becomes invested in Boo's safety when it is threatened by Randall Boggs.

Luckily, little Boo is saved and apparently gets to spend time with her friend Sully who she calls "Kitty".

Monday, January 25, 2016

Music Mondays: "High School Musical"

Ten years ago, Disney Channel was looking to rejuvenate its lineup in order to further take advantage of the gains it had made against Nickelodeon. Since Disney had originally been a pay channel, it had a long way to go until it could compete with Nickelodeon, which had always been a basic cable station. It had caught up with Nickelodeon on the strength of its live action kids programming such as Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Disney Channel had high hopes for its 2006 lineup, though it wouldn't fully realize how many home runs it would hit during 2006.

Its first big hit would be the film that would introduce the musical genre to a generation of children- High School Musical.

The film introduced a young cast who would become household names. The film would become a franchise on its own, spawning a movie series, theme park shows and merchandise licensing. Despite the explosion of digital music, Disney would have no problems moving millions of High School Musical compact discs.

Even better for Disney- just a few months later another show would have its premiere, a show that would cement Disney Channel's dominance over the "tween" market- Hannah Montana.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Freaky Fridays: The Cake-sle

In 1996, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom decided to celebrate its birthday in the tackiest way possible- by decorating Cinderella Castle like a gigantic birthday cake.

Despite the less than stellar reception, the 25th Anniversary started a tradition of garish castle decorations in Florida.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: 15 Years of Disney California Adventure Part 3

As Disney began planning out its second park in Anaheim, it would come up with different ideas for each themed area. For example, the park's Boardwalk area was originally called "Surf City".

The area that would become Condor Flats originally had more of a 1940's look.

The Disney Animation Building was originally more toony than Hollywood-esque.

Even the neighboring Downtown Disney district went through changes, like this version that had interesting water features.

The man-made lake that would adjoin Downtown Disney was eliminated, as was the nearby hotel.

The project would undergo many changes before it opened in 2001.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Walt Wednesdays: Painting the Barn

Back when Walt Disney was a kid, opportunities to express his artistic side were few and far between. Young Walt once found a barrel of tar and enlisted his sister to help him decorate the side of the barn, believing that it would wash off. 

Of course, it didn't wash off. Walt was punished by his father, but his delight in creating a piece of art, no matter how misguided, stuck with him for decades.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Toontown Tuesdays: Dumbo

Lovable Dumbo has big ears and an even bigger heart. Seen as a freak by the other elephants and some cruel children, he becomes a hero once everyone sees his special talents. His mother never doubted he was special, showing how a mother's love is always unconditional. By the time she lovingly cradles him in her trunk, he's stolen our hearts too.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Music Mondays: "A Suitcase and a Dream"

When Disney California Adventure remodeled its entrance plaza, it decided to make it a tribute to Walt Disney, who arrived in California in 1923 with just forty dollars, a suitcase with all of his belongings and a dream.

In order to further the theme of Walt's arrival in California, the park stages a lively show on its fleet of Red Cars. Featuring Mickey Mouse and a group of Newsies performing songs about California and Walt Disney, the show honors the man who dreamed the surrounding area into existence.

Suitcase and a Dream is the grand finale of the show, telling the story of Walt and Mickey's journey from rags to riches.

Suitcase and a Dream

Plenty of people, they started with nothing
Just a suitcase and a dream
They packed up their cases and went to new places
Just a suitcase and a dream

They made the world into a place like you have never seen
It's like they hit the jackpot on a slot machine
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Gotta suitcase and a dream
A suitcase and a dream

Mr. Disney, he traveled west just a few bucks to his name
Along the way he met Mickey Mouse and the world would never be the same
He had a suitcase and a dream
A suitcase and a dream
Suitcase and a dream

It don't matter if you're rich or broke
It don't matter if you've given up hope
All you need is a little drive
To make your dreams begin to come alive

Everybody's got their ideas 
and me I've got mine too
So I packed up my suitcase and packed up my dreams
And now it's time to follow through

I've got a suitcase and a dream
Suitcase and a dream

Friday, January 15, 2016

Freaky Fridays: The Plastic World of Monsanto

In the 1950's, Monsanto was far from a household name. It didn't really have to be one since it didn't sell anything directly to consumers. Its customers were generally farmers and corporations who sold things to the public. They didn't seem like ideal sponsors for an attraction at DISNEYLAND.

Yet Monsanto was there from the beginning. Even if they weren't selling things directly to consumers at the time, they could try to convince people to demand items made with Monsanto products or systems. One of the hardest things to sell to the public those days was plastic. Plastic was seen as being cheap, ugly, tacky and worse. If Monsanto were to increase its sales, it needed to convince the public that plastic was the way of the future!

Enter the Monsanto House of the Future! Made entirely out of plastic and man made materials, the house sprang up to the right of Sleeping Beauty Castle where Tinker Bell's Pixie Hollow exists today. The goal was to show guests how scrapping natural fibers and materials in favor of plastic would be the wave of the future.

Guests were invited to go inside the house and take a peek at what the future held in store for them. From automated dish washing to polyester everything.

Walt Disney was a huge believer in the future and really enjoyed the idea of presenting such a futuristic vision to his guests. When his daughter was planning to move to a new house, he encouraged her to take a special tour of the house so that she could get ideas for her new decor. She recalled being less than impressed at the idea of a plastic house.

The house stood until 1967, when it was removed as part of the New Tomorrowland project. Monsanto had moved on, choosing to sponsor the attraction Monsanto's Adventure Through Inner Space.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: 15 Years of Disney California Adventure, Part 2

When top Disney executives sat down in 1995 to plan out DISNEYLAND's second gate, they had (allegedly) never heard of Walt Disney's plans for Disney California Living. Since no known conceptual art exists for DCL, the claim is believable. In any case, their best idea from the session was a more "grown up" theme park that would highlight the tastes, sights and sounds of California in one theme park. Since the goal for this park was to get guests to stick around DISNEYLAND awhile longer during their California vacations, it seemed like a great idea.

Earlier plans had called for a larger theme park that would fill up the entire parking lot. DCA would only fill up about 2/3rds, leaving room for some parking in the property's south east corner. (This would save money on building another parking structure. The original project's "Pleasure Island" style entertainment district would lose its surrounding lake, becoming Downtown Disney and the park's front gate, which had strangely been planned to face west towards Disneyland Drive, would now face north towards DISNEYLAND's front gate, making park hopping a breeze.

So what would be represented inside the park? Hollywood was a no brainer. Millions of DISNEYLAND guests hopped on tour buses to see the sights in Hollywood, then spend the day in Universal Studios. Perhaps having Hollywood in Anaheim would keep guests here.

Using an erector set, a Disney Imagineer mocked up an entirely new ride system that could make guests believe they were flying over various sights. This system could be put into place and used as a way to show guests the rest of California and they wouldn't need to leave the resort to do so.

What could have just been a plain looking food court was made exceptional by modeling it after Monterey's Cannery Row and San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. 

So after a round of brainstorming, the group had its concept and some possible ideas for what kind of attractions could be inside the park. Imagineering would have to take it from here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rest in Peace, Brian Bedford

Brian Bedford, who provided the voice of Robin Hood in Disney's Robin Hood has passed away at age 80. 

Mr. Bedford was born in England to a non-acting family. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, studying alongside Albert Finney and Peter O'Toole. Primarily a stage actor, he starred sporadically on British television and films until his big break in 1973- the lead voice role in Disney's Robin Hood. He made Robin Hood a dashing, lovable rogue. The film brought him his biggest audience.

The role sparked his career, getting him roles in various American movies and television shows. He was still actively working in Hollywood, making his home in Santa Barbara, California. His legendary role in Disney's Robin Hood will forever be remembered and enjoyed by children of all ages.

Walt Wednesdays: The Carolwood Pacific Railroad

When Walt Disney purchased a plot for a new house in Benedict Canyon in Bel Air, California, he wasn't necessarily thinking about what the house would look like. He had plans to build a miniature backyard railroad. His wife was open to the idea, as long as it didn't interfere with an area of the yard she had earmarked for flower beds. When she saw her husband's final plans, she saw that it did.

Not one to back down from a challenge, Mr. Disney designed a tunnel that would run underneath his wife's flowers, thus ensuring they would both be pleased by the end result. He even had a mock contract drawn up:

WHEREAS, Walt is or is about to become the sole proprietor and owner of a certain railroad company known as the Walt Disney R.R. Co., which railroad company proposes to construct and operate a railroad in, on, upon and over the right of way hereinafter described and delineated, in the operation of which railroad Walt desires to have and at all times to retain complete, full, undisturbed, unfettered and unrestricted control and supervision, unhampered and unimpeded by the other parties hereto or by any of them, they having heretofore made known and asserted to Walt in various sundry and devious ways their collective intention to reign supreme within, and so far as concerns, the aforesaid residence, and

WHEREAS, the Second and Third Parties, in the future and notwithstanding Walt’s ownership of the fee title to the aforesaid parcel of land, and notwithstanding their many enthusiastic assurances verbally given to Walt in their present enthusiasm over said new residence and their anticipated pleasures and happiness therein, may, and probably will, seek to assert rights, privileges and authorities inconsistent with Walt’s reserved and retained control and supervision over said railroad company and the operation of said railroad company upon the right of way herein referred to, all to the detriment of said railroad and its efficient, profitable and pleasurable operation, and to the injury of Walt’s peace of mind (the presence and soundness of which mind Second and Third Parties hereby admit).

THAT WHEREAS, Walt and Lillian are husband and wife and Diane and Sharon are their children, in which family there presently exists an atmosphere of love, understanding and trust which all parents hereto are intensely desirous of preserving.

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the promises and of other good and valuable considerations the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged by Lillian, Diane and Sharon, the said Lillian, Diane and Sharon hereby jointly and severally quit claim, transfer, assign and set over to Walt all their right, title and interest in and to the right of way.

With domestic peace ensured, Walt Disney built his railroad and imagined something bigger that he could show the world; a place like none other, surrounded by a train.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Toontown Tuesdays: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

Walt Disney's first breakout cartoon character was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. As the earlier Alice Comedies began to flame out, Universal Pictures requested a new cartoon character and Walt provided one in the form of Oswald.

Oswald was a feisty cartoon character, perhaps more feisty than other Disney characters. He was never too scared to back down from a fight and often instigated them, unlike his younger brother Mickey Mouse.

Oswald was a big success, but he caused one problem for the Disney Brothers- according to the contract signed with Universal Pictures, they were the ones who held the copyright. When Universal saw how popular Oswald had become, they wanted to keep more of the money for themselves. Mr. Disney was told that Universal Studios would take Oswald away from him and that there was nothing he could do. Walt accepted the legal situation, but quietly planned to get his revenge on Universal Pictures.

Universal handed production of Oswald to Walter Lantz, who would later find limited success with his Woody Woodpecker series. Walt Disney moved on to create the greatest cartoon character ever known- Mickey Mouse. 

The story seemed to end there, with Mickey Mouse becoming a sensation, while Oswald languished and eventually became a mere footnote in animation history. However, a clever deal made by Disney CEO Bob Iger brought back Oswald, putting him back inside the company of his creator. Oswald was a huge character in Japan, so his arrival at Tokyo Disneyland was a huge affair. He was less known in the United States, so Disney has been carefully reintroducing him to fans.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Music Mondays: "Someday My Prince Will Come"

It doesn't seem like it now, but the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was not always guaranteed. Many in Hollywood predicted that the film would be a catastrophic failure that would bankrupt Walt Disney Productions. Mr. Disney and Snow White had the last laugh, however, as the film brought in unprecedented reviews and profits.

Unbelievably, the beloved songs from the film won nothing at the Oscars that year, but history proved that the songs from Snow White would become classics, far outliving the actual nominees.

One of the most memorable songs was Someday My Prince Will Come. It was a hopeful song that expressed Snow White's wishes that things would get better for her.

Some day my prince will come
Some day we'll meet again
And away to his castle we'll go
To be happy forever I know 

Some day when spring is here
We'll find our love anew
And the birds will sing
And wedding bells will ring
Some day when my dreams come true

Performed by Adriana Caselotti, the song became a legendary classic, still beloved by adults and children alike. One of the best covers of the song was performed by En Vogue on the 1991 album Simply Mad about the Mouse.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Freaky Fridays: From "Freaky Friday" to "Splash"

Diane Disney Miller used to tell a story about how her father once confided in her about how he often felt hamstrung by audiences who expected a Walt Disney movie to be like. After watching To Kill A Mockingbird, he sincerely wished that he could have produced a film like that, but his audience wouldn't allow it. When her husband Ron began taking charge at Walt Disney Productions, he felt that the company could possibly produce more mature films.

He knew, however, that he would need to take small steps towards that goal. Freaky Friday may not seem to be much more than a typical Disney family comedy, but it actually features several scenes that might have raised eyebrows. The film features a young lady who lies to her parents and Rebels against them. After she switches places with her mother, she chooses to pursue her crush, a young man, while in her mother's body. Barbara Harris is inspired as the young girl in an older woman's body who becomes the world's first cougar.

The company took a further step forward with Michael J. Fox's first film, Midnight Madness. While the film was no Animal House, it featured college students who would have all been thrown out of Disney's fictional Medfield College of the 1960's. The company even removed its name from the film, releasing it without a studio name attached to it.

By 1984, the company was in dire straits due to EPCOT's cost overruns and poor initial reception. Mr. Miller decided to finally go all in on producing more mature films. He created the new film label Touchstone Picture and put its first film into production.

The first film was Splash, which starred Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks. The film was a blockbuster, becoming the company's biggest film in years. Unfortunately, Ron Miller couldn't hold on long enough and the success of the film was credited to his successor.