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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Best of RetlawYensid.Com- Walt Disney's California Living

Did Walt Disney plan to build a California themed park next door to DISNEYLAND 40 years before the opening of Disney California Adventure? He Did!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Best of RetlawYensid.com: The Matterhorn in Florida

Space Mountain in Florida is really just an indoor version of DISNEYLAND's Matterhorn?!? It's true!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: Disneyland and Walt Disney World

I'm frequently asked which Disney resort I prefer- DISNEYLAND or Walt Disney World. For those who know me best, the answer is obvious.

I can still remember my very first visit to DISNEYLAND as a child. I instantly fell in love with the park, despite knowing little about it or the great man who willed it into being. Sleeping Beauty Castle was the most beautiful building I had ever seen. It was almost as if I could sense the love that Walt Disney put into building the place. When I started reading more about Walt Disney, I gained an even bigger love of his park.

DISNEYLAND was Walt Disney's pride and joy. He thought about it constantly, dreaming up new ways to improve things and trying to make things better for his guests. 

He loved showing off his dream come true. DISNEYLAND was truly the result of one man's passion to collect the things he loved in one location so that the world could enjoy them too.

And that's the big difference between DISNEYLAND and Walt Disney World. A common thought within Walt Disney Imagineering was that the charming DISNEYLAND was a magical park built by a father for his daughters while Walt Disney World was built by a committee for the crowds. 

To me, DISNEYLAND feels like it is one man's personal collection of things he loves. He's invited us into his home to show us his magical collection and share with us the wonderful things that he has dreamed up. 

Walt Disney World in Florida feels like it was designed by a group of people who have merely included things they thought people would like. They may not like those things themselves, but they were fairly certain the public would like them.

For those reasons, my heart will always belong to DISNEYLAND. Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom is full of magic inside and out. While Florida's resort is nice, it is missing that extra something that only a true dreamer can bring to his passion project. That spark is everywhere in DISNEYLAND and nowhere in Florida. 

DISNEYLAND is Magic. DISNEYLAND is a Dream Come True. DISNEYLAND is Walt.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Walt Wednesdays: A Gift For Annette

When Annette Funicello became a pop sensation, Walt Disney wanted to give her a special gift to honor her achievements. He settled on a special charm bracelet with custom built charms. Even the Sherman Brothers got in on the fun, commissioning this one after she hit with Pineapple Princess.

Annette always felt blessed to have been discovered by Walt Disney and to be a part of his organization.

"In 1966, the world was saddened hearing of his death. But it's such a comfort to know his soul lives on, together with his dreams. And his memory will live forever in my heart."

-Annette Funicello

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Toontown Tuesdays: Disney's Gremlins

During World War II, there were legends about gremlins who would mess up electronics and sabotage airplanes. This delightful personification of sabotage was turned into a children's book written by Road Dahl. Mr. Dahl then approached Walt Disney about turning it into a cartoon.

The company collaborated on comic books and merchandise prior to the release of the film.

Unfortunately, the copyright on the characters was undetermined. While Road Dahl claimed that they were entirely his creation, the British government felt it had a stake in them since they were tied to the British Air Force. Walt Disney chose to end production and cut the studio's losses. Disney and Dahl's Gremlins would be mostly forgotten for decades.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Music Mondays: DISNEYLAND Records #1- "A Child's Garden of Verses"

In 1956, Walt Disney decided to build on DISNEYLAND's success by releasing a series of records based on the various musical acts found in the park. Up until then, Disney recordings were released on outside labels. When the company approached the outside labels, they were not interested, so Walt Disney decided to start up a new recording label. It was called DISNEYLAND Records, both to provide extra promotion for the theme park and as a back handed slap at the outside labels who would now see all future releases come out with the name of the theme parks who records they had rejected.

The first release had nothing to do with the theme park, but with the company's other big property at the time- The Mickey Mouse Club.

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. Singers Frances Archer and Beverly Gile had performed in a popular segment of The Mickey Mouse Club. Mr. Disney felt that establishing the label with a non-Disney release would show that the public could expect more than just Disney from this new creative endeavor.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Freaky Fridays: Lillian's Folly

When Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln first opened at DISNEYLAND, it was an amazing attraction. Here was Abraham Lincoln, seemingly come to life. When the attraction premiered at the 1964 New York World's Fair, guests were dazzled by the animatronic, so much so that some early audience members claimed that Lincoln stepped off the stage and shook hands with the people in the first row.

Essentially, the attraction was just Mr. Lincoln standing up and gesturing while he spoke. Once the novelty of audio animatronic Lincoln wore off, attendance fell and the sponsor, who was footing the full bill for operating the attraction, pulled out. The park pondered what to do with the facility and Mrs. Disney had a solution.

DISNEYLAND was entering its second decade of operation. Skeptics had doubted the park would last six months, much less twenty years. Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom had grown to become an American icon; perhaps it was time to honor the man who had willed it into existence. Mrs. Disney decided to honor him by converting the DISNEYLAND Opera House into a museum and film honoring the park's creator.

Despite the fact that Mr. Lincoln's eroding attendance had spurred the park to replace him, a formal protest was begun by the Orange County Republican Party. The political group somehow convinced the media that Lincoln's ouster was an affront to history and their party, despite the fact that the party as it was under Nixon was nothing like it was under Lincoln. Park guests also joined the clamor against the attraction's replacement despite the fact that few of them bothered to attend it in its final days.

Faced with controversy and anger, the park returned Mr. Lincoln to service just a few years later. The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln made its debut. Despite the uproar over the attraction's replacement, the crowds still didn't materialize. Mrs. Disney was vindicated, but she chose not to attempt having the attraction replaced ever again.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: Hard Close in Tokyo

Were you to visit Tokyo Disneyland, you would experience the same great service that American guests have come to know. However one tradition from the American parks is not followed in Tokyo.

Ask any Disney theme park fan and they'll tell you that any guest who is standing in a line at park close will still get a chance to ride the attraction. That is not the case in Tokyo.

Japan's strict overtime rules require employers to provide taxi service to employees who work past their scheduled time. As a result, Tokyo Disneyland enforces a hard close each night. Regardless of what time you got in the line, when the park closes, it is closed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Walt Wednesdays: Around the Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney personally supervised the construction and planning of every nook and cranny of DISNEYLAND. As a result, there are pictures of him just about everywhere in his Magic Kingdom.

He often prowled the park looking for things to improve and dreaming new dreams. He literally lived inside the park in his own private apartment above the firehouse.

Mr. Disney passed away before he was able to leave much of an imprint on the Disney World resort in Florida. In fact, there is only one picture of him onsite, doubtless made while planning out EPCOT. While his plans were largely discarded, his fully realized vision remains alive at DISNEYLAND in California.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Happy Birthday, Disneyland Paris!

On this day in 1992, The Walt Disney Company opened Disneyland Paris in Marne La Vallee, France. The resort now features two theme parks, seven hotels and a nighttime entertainment district.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Music Mondays: "I've Got No Strings"

I've Got No Strings on Me is Pinocchio's big number in his film. Up until this point in the film, we've heard both Jiminy and Geppetto sing, but not Pinocchio. The Little Wooden Head has been sold to a maniacal showman named Stromboli, who forces him to perform in a traveling puppet show. Stromboli proves to be an abusive tyrant and Pinocchio can only escape his clutches with the help of the Blue Fairy who implores him to return to Geppetto's house immediately.

I've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret, or make me frown
I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me

Hi-ho the merry-o
That's the only way to be
I want the world to know
Nothing ever worries me

I've got no strings
So I have fun
I'm not tied up to anyone
They've got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me

Friday, April 8, 2016

Freaky Fridays: No Pirates in Florida

Pirates of the Caribbean at DISNEYLAND is often considered to be Walt Disney's Masterpiece. It was the last attraction at his Magic Kingdom that he personally supervised. Sadly, he never saw it fully completed, but it stands today as one of his major accomplishments.

Mr. Disney was proud of this attraction that would fully realize the immersive atmosphere he wanted for DISNEYLAND. He showed off the plans to any and all visitors to Walt Disney Imagineering and proclaimed it to be his favorite attraction.

The attraction would boast many firsts, including the highly themed Blue Bayou Restaurant and the elaborate sets and show pieces. This dazzling attraction was a must see for Anaheim tourists.

When Roy Disney began the planning process for Florida's Magic Kingdom park, however, he felt that with the Caribbean so close to Central Florida a Pirates attraction would not be very popular. He asked the Imagineers to not include a Pirates of the Caribbean and they complied. 

However once Florida's Magic Kingdom started pulling in the crowds, guests were disappointed that there was no Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Something had to be done- and fast! The Imagineers, however, were in a bit of a fix. The soggy swamplands of Central Florida were not well suited for construction, so the company had to be careful about where they built. The high water table meant that the company could not just build underground like it could in Anaheim. These limitations severely limited what could be built quickly. Rather than wait, the company rushed a cut down version of the ride into construction.

As a result, Florida's version has no elaborate restaurant nor any of the lazy bayous or wild drops. In fact, everything before the ship fight doesn't exist in Florida and nothing after the infamous jail scene. The ride opened to some acclaim, but it is very likely that Walt Disney wouldn't have liked the results. Even current Disney CEO Bob Iger admits that the DISNEYLAND version is superior to all that came after it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: Disney-MGM Studios

When The Walt Disney Company decided to open up a third theme park in Orlando, it wanted to do so quickly so as to overshadow the impending construction of Universal Studios Orlando.

The company has always bragged about how big its Walt Disney World Resort is, but the secret is that not all of the land is usable. The resort sits on what still is swampland, which makes construction a challenge. Whenever the company chooses to expand, it must carefully evaluate the land to make sure it is stable. Since the company had a short window to get its third park under construction, it had to select a parcel of land that could be cleared quickly. Therefore, it chose a parcel of land behind EPCOT Center that could accommodate a quick construction period. That the parcel was not large and had limited expansion opportunities was ignored. The new studio park would be built quickly.

Despite the name, MGM never had any sort of ownership stake in the park. Up to that point, Disney had few iconic live action films to use in a theme park, so company leadership licensed the MGM names and films to round out the park's offerings. The quick construction schedule, coupled with the limited space behind EPCOT Center, meant that this park would be the smallest in the resort. Unlike EPCOT itself, the more modest size and cost of the park meant that the company wouldn't have to worry about attendance.

Despite this, the company did have attendance issues with the park, though unlike the other parks in the resort, the "issues" were the kind the company wanted- the park was seemingly always overcrowded. In comparison, the Magic Kingdom park took months to find an audience; EPCOT took years, but this park was always busy from the very beginning.

As a result, the park became the least planned out because the company had to add new attractions and shows quickly to deal with the crowds. Despite being successful from the very beginning, the company has had to rethink the layout and design of the park, resulting in a huge new project to add new attractions and fix guest flow around the park. The park also has a new name- Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Walt Wednesdays: Walt Disney and the Queen Mary

Walt Disney rarely took vacations. He was always worrying about something or other at the studio. It's somewhat ironic that he would build and design a theme park in which hundreds of millions of people would spend their vacations. Whenever his family could get him to take a trip, they often found a cruise to be the best way to make him break away from the stress of the studio. His favorite ship was the Queen Mary.

Mrs. Disney loved spending time with Walt on the ship, where he was mostly free from the grind of work. In 1969 when the ship was ready for retirement, Jack Wrather, who coincidentally owned and operated the DISNEYLAND Hotel, brought the ship to Long Beach where he planned to permanently dock it and operate it as a tourist attraction and hotel.

Mrs. Wrather personally oversaw the redecoration of the ship, preserving its historic look and feel. The company ran the ship until the late 1980's when it sold the DISNEYLAND Hotel to the Walt Disney Company. Bonita Wrather didn't want to deal with the various other companies her husband had amassed, so she required Disney to buy everything, including the Queen Mary. Walt Disney's favorite ship was now part of the Disney family.

DISNEYLAND planned a huge expansion of the area surrounding the ship called Port Disney. Guests would take a monorail between the two projects to make one Disney vacation. The project fell through and Disney lost interest in the properties. The ship is now owned by the city of Long Beach and operated by a non-profit historic group.