Featured Attractions

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"it's a small world" at 50 Part 2: The New York World's Fair

When the 1964/65 New York World's Fair was announced, many people at DISNEYLAND saw it as a potential rival for domestic and international tourism. The park was on solid footing by this time, but a rival enterprise was seen as something that could reduce its progress. Walt Disney, on the other hand, saw things differently. Many critics had finally accepted DISNEYLAND's success, but were skeptical that it would translate outside California. Ignoring the fact that the majority of the park's guests came from outside California and even from outside the United States, this way of thinking was still active at the time and Walt Disney feared that it could hurt his secret plans to build a city of the future in Florida.

So Walt Disney announced to the corporate world that his organization was ready and eager to take on the challenge of building amazing new attractions for them in New York. Despite the misgivings of his organization, several companies signed on, including Ford and General Electric. Not only could Walt Disney guarantee exposure through his weekly television show, but the attractions could be  relocated to the Magic Kingdom on a permanent basis after the fair closed. It was an amazing opportunity and soon Imagineers found themselves fabricating dinosaurs and writing show scripts.


It was already a race against time to get these and other projects completed on time. That's why when Joan Crawford came calling on behalf of Pepsi, many at Disney figured that Walt would turn her down. Joan's conundrum was this- Pepsi had signed a deal with UNICEF to build an attraction that would fit a theme of world peace and togetherness. It would be great publicity and a daring shot at the number one soft drink company Coca-Cola. Unfortunately, the board of directors had become fractious after Ms. Crawford's husband had passed away, leaving his seat to this seemingly crazy woman. The board fought and argued about what this attraction would be like and eventually threw up its arms. Desperate to save face and stave off the inevitable bad publicity that would come from walking away from UNICEF, Joan approached her long time acquantaince Walt Disney. Could he help her out by pulling a rabbit out of a hat in a short time frame?

This time, Walt's staff was certain he would say no. But he surprised everyone by agreeing to rush the attraction through. He already had an idea that he was sure would work for Pepsi (while providing his beloved Fantasyland with an amazing new E-Ticket.) Joan soon released a flood of funding and Walt Disney Productions would begin planning and construction of an attraction that would overshadow the others immensely- Children of the World.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day!


"it's a small world" at 50 Part 1: Laying the Groundwork

When Pepsi-Cola first decided to partner with UNICEF to build an attraction at the 1964 New York World's Fair, it thought things would go smoothly. The attraction could be decided upon and built in New York just in time for the grand opening. It would not be that easy; this week, we uncover the story behind the happiest cruise that ever sailed and how it would take several Disney legends, the head of UNICEF, Walt Disney, the Anaheim city council and even Joan Crawford to see this beloved attraction become reality.

Pepsi and wire hangers for all!

By 1961, DISNEYLAND had become a bonafide hit; a place that was hosting millions of guests from around the world every year. The park went through some growing pains as it began to expand and improve its offerings. It hit its first limitation rather early. Manchester Road, which currently dead ends at Harbor Blvd, used to loop around and mark the northern most boundary of the park, separating it from the maintenance and warehouse facilities used by the park. Operations had to cross the street to get to the park when they needed to do work inside the park. To picture where the boundary was, if you stand in front of it's a small world today, you would have standing outside the park in 1961, dodging cars on the public street. 


With his brother Roy reluctant to buy more land around the park, Walt saw owning that street as important to future growth. The City of Anaheim was a bit skeptical, however. DUSNEYLAND owned all the surrounding property, so closing the road wouldn't really affect anyone else, but was this the sort of thing that should be done? The city council convened a committee to look into it and the committee members were dumbfounded by the council's reticence. DISNEYLAND had brought the world to Anaheim. In their minds, selling or giving the road to DISNEYLAND was a no-brainer. Instead of evaluating the proposal, they sought to find a precedent that would give them a reason to approve it. They quickly found one and the land was sold to DISNEYLAND.

This all fit fortuitously into Walt Disney's plans. He had planned to make his services available to major corporations to design, build and operate attractions at the upcoming World's Fair in New York and this small land purchase would guarantee him the extra space he would need when he brought those attractions home to DISNEYLAND.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

50 Years of it's a small world


50 years ago, the beloved attraction it's a small world opened at DISNEYLAND Park, bringing smiles, magic and fun to the hundreds of millions of guests who have experienced it. The attraction's simple message of world peace and harmony resonates today in an attraction that is still beloved by those who ride it.


Harriet Burns, shown above sitting next to the Plaza Inn model, once told me that she was proud of the impact her creations have had all these years later. She worked on it's a small world and was happy that it was still beloved. She was especially happy when I mentioned that my little cousins (who are actually more like nieces to me) especially loved the ride. This year, yet another generation will trek to the Magic Kingdom and most likely fall in love with it as well. Ms. Burns has passed away, but I'm fairly certain she would be even prouder of the fact that her work for Mr. Disney still lives on- creating magic and wonder to this very day.


Blue Sky Weekends: Oswald Takes Over!

Oswald is Walt Disney's largely forgotten creation. Created before Mickey Mouse, Oswald was taken away from Walt Disney by Universal Studios, which led to the creation of Mickey Mouse. Oswald returned to The Walt Disney Company in 2007 and has made a home in Disney California Adventure and Tokyo Disney Seas, but has yet to establish much of a foothold. How would we introduce him? In our new Blue Sky Weekends feature, we'll look at ways we would change the world of Disney!

We'd choose to have Mickey Mouse take a "vacation" and leave the keys to the DISNEYLAND resort to his brother Oswald. Eager to put his mark on things, Oswald would make some big changes...

Let's change that iconic planter to feature Disney's Rascally Rabbit:

The iconic statues would receive an interesting new look:

Plus, there would be some fun changes around Disney California Adventure:

Of course, after the promotion ended, things would return to normal as Mickey "returned" to DISNEYLAND. By this time, the world would be fully introduced to Walt Disney's first "son".

Disney Quote Weekends


Friday, May 27, 2016

Freaky Fridays: Marvel's Millie


Even comic book aficionados might confuse this cover of Marvel Comics' Millie the Model for an Archie Comic. Did Marvel create a quickie copycat version of Archie?

The cover of this Millie comic book was drawn by Dan DeCarlo, who is best known for his work on the Archie series. In this case, Mr. DeCarlo actually worked for Marvel before he did his legendary stint at Archie. 


Neither of these comics, however, were copycats of the other one. Both Archie and Millie debuted around the same time separately and weren't intended to be knock-offs of the other title. Millie was originally intended to be a comic book for ladies, who were increasingly pushing for their independence after World War II. Archie, on the other hand, was a knock-off of MGM's Andy Hardy films, which starred the self-proclaimed number one star in the world, Mickey Rooney.

Marvel ended the Millie series in the 1970's as interest in it waned. The series remains Marvel's longest running comedy book and actually does tie into Marvel's superhero universe. While the title mainly followed the comedic mishaps of Millie and her friends, she is depicted as attending the wedding of Sue Storm and Reed Richards, putting her in the same world as the Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Avengers. While Marvel is not likely to bring her to the big screen, who knows? People said a film about a brash loudmouth, a walking tree and a talking raccoon would surely fail and we know how that turned out.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: A Diamond in the Park

DISNEYLAND's proximity to Hollywood has always provided something extra for its guests that isn't available at any other Disney park- a supply of top quality talent. Whether they knew it or not, guests have enjoyed some big names at the park, like famed blues singer Monette Moore.


Ms. Moore was a legend in the blues world. Born in Texas and raised in Kansas City, Monette taught herself how to play the piano in her teens and took jobs playing the piano in Kansas City theaters. She soon found herself performing with the greats, including Fats Waller. Frustrated by the lack of venues open to African-American performers, she opened her own in New York City called Monette's Place. The joint was always jumping, attracting a who's who of blues talent. Her fame led to roles in Hollywood, such as her performance with Judy Garland in A Star is Born.


Monette, tired of touring, settled in Southern California where she recorded music and decided to take a job at DISNEYLAND. Proud of being able to attract such high end talent, Walt Disney featured her in the 1962 special DISNEYLAND After Dark singing with Louis Armstrong on the Mark Twain riverboat.


Monette Moore performed in Frontierland's New Orleans park in a stage located at the edge of the river.


Right before one of her excellent performances in October of 1962, Ms. Moore collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. She passed away at age 60, doing what she loved- entertaining guests.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Toontown Tuesdays: Waddles


Waddles the pig is featured in the Disney TV show Gravity Falls. Mabel wins him by guessing his weight at a carnival, despite the fact that his original name was actually just his weight.

Mabel quickly makes Waddles a member of the family, dressing him up and putting him in bizarre situations. While he appears to be mostly oblivious to the things that happen around him, he sometimes  seems to fully realize how eccentric his owner appears to be.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Music Mondays: DISNEYLAND Records Release #4: "Ukulele Ike Sings Again"


The fourth release from the DISNEYLAND Records label was Ukulele Ike Sings Again. The recording was made as a way to give Cliff Edwards, who performed in the 1920's as "Ukulele Ike" a needed gig. Mr. Edwards was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, singing Disney's best known song- When You Wish Upon A Star. By the late 1950's, however, he had become an alcoholic, cigarette smoking transient, living in flophouses and trolling the Studios for possible work. In his heyday, he had worked at MGM and Warners, but neither studio was willing to take a chance on him. Disney did take a shot, giving him work on The Mickey Mouse Club, where he both performed as "Ukulele Ike" and provided guidance to Mouseketeers as Jiminy Cricket.

This album was seen as a way to reintroduce his music to new audiences, letting him re-record his past hits. Sadly, this album didn't help him much and he fell further in the 1960's. Walt Disney, and later Roy, quietly paid for Cliff's medical bills and tried to assist him. In 1971, he fell out of contact with the studio, passing away at a charity hospital. His body went unclaimed, eventually getting sent to UCLA for use as a cadaver. Finally,Walt Disney Studios was notified and they sought to claim the body for proper burial. The actor's union, which was technically responsible for such things, ended up claiming his body and arranging proper burial. Roy Disney ended up paying for Cliff's headstone.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rest in Peace, Alan Young

Legendary actor and Disney voice talent Alan Young has passed away at age 96. 


Mr. Young, best known for his role on the classic comedy Mr. Ed, was born in England, eventually finding his way to the United States after stints in Scotland and Canada. 

His first radio show was on Canada's CBC, but he quickly found work on American radio networks. He had his own television show The Alan Young Show which earned him an Emmy and starred in various Hollywood films.

It would be his role on Mr. Ed that would cement his place in television history. The show originally began in syndication, then made the unheard of leap to network television on CBS.

Mr. Young would earn his place in Disney history by becoming the official voice of Uncle Scrooge. His voice was heard in Mickey's Christmas Carol, Disney's DuckTales and various Disney Theme Park productions.

Food Fridays: The Corn Dogs of Disney

In the mid-1980's, an interesting themed food truck appeared on DISNEYLAND's Main Street. Named The Little Red Wagon in honor of the Red Wagon Inn that used to stand where the Plaza Inn is now, the truck served fresh, hand dipped corn dogs that quickly became legendary.


When Disney California Adventure opened, the resort decided to build not just a corn dog truck but a corn dog Castle! The Corn Dog Castle added cheese dogs to the menu in a much larger facility. Even though the corn dogs are theoretically the same, the ones at the Castle are infinitely better. If you happen to find yourself at the Resort with time for just one corn dog, head to the Corn Dog Castle in Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure.


When Walt Disney World in Florida needed more food options at the Disney Springs District, it brought in food trucks to deal with the lack of restaurants in the area.  Due to the popularity of the corn dogs out west, it was decided to bring a version of them out to Florida. While they are a nice option, they didn't really hold up to the ones available in Anaheim.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Theme Park Thursdays: The DISNEYLAND Railroad

When planning began for DISNEYLAND, Walt Disney was open to most any idea his staff could dream up, but one thing was non-negotiable- it should be surrounded by a train. More precisely, it would be surrounded by two trains. Walt enlisted studio machinist Roger Broggie to fabricate two steam trains from scratch. After signing a sponsorship deal with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, the engines would be named after two past railroad presidents- the CK Holliday and the EP Ripley. After much expense and time, the engines went into service on July 17, 1955.


The attraction was hugely successful. Since Walt's brother Roy had balked at the expense of building the trains, Walt Disney paid for them himself; in fact, his Retlaw Enterprises owned the trains, the Mark Twain, the DISNEYLAND Monorail and the Fire Station until 1982. His two trains could not keep up with the demand, but the cost and effort of building new trains from scratch would be prohibitive. Mr. Broggie and Walt had learned a lot from the initial fabrication and determined that they could cheaply and easily restore retired engines for use on the DISNEYLAND Railroad. Soon two new engines- the Fred Gurley and the Ernest Marsh would join the fleet. The Walt Disney Company would never build trains from scratch again, preferring to simply fix up older trains. The trains at Florida's Magic Kingdom park, for example, are all older trains that were fixed up for use in the park.


The latest train to make its way into the DISNEYLAND fleet is the Ward Kimball, the only train at the park not named for an AT&SF executive. Named after the animator who inspired Walt Disney to follow his passion for trains, it features Mr. Kimball's most famous character- Jiminy Cricket- emblazoned on its front light.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Walt Wednesdays: Mr. Disney's Backyard

When Walt Disney added a train to his Holmby Hills estate, it wasn't just a dry run for DISNEYLAND or a place to satisfy his passion for trains (Though it was those things too.) As it turned out, Walt was concerned about his daughters since he was often busy at the studio.


So he wanted to build a wonderful backyard that would become the center of the neighborhood; a place where their friends would want to hang out. (That way it would be easier to keep an eye on them.) In addition to the train and barn, there was a soda fountain, private ice cream parlor and a place where the girls could entertain their friends. It would create wonderful memories and serve as a test run for a bigger project that he would eventually share with the world.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Toontown Tuesdays: Where are the Toons?

In 1955 when DISNEYLAND first opened, children instantly found much to like in this Magic Kingdom. DISNEYLAND instantly became a place that topped any kid's wish list as the ultimate vacation spot. Walt Disney knew exactly what children wanted and gave it to them. Or did he?


One of the biggest questions heard from guests about the attractions in Fantasyland was "where are the characters?" Or more accurately, "where are Snow White and Peter Pan?" You see, the attractions bearing the names of these two didn't actually feature either of them inside. Why would Disney build a Snow White attraction without Snow White? Or a Peter Pan ride without Peter Pan? The answer was simple.


When you step aboard either attraction, Walt Disney wanted you to feel like you had become Snow White and/or Peter Pan. You were experiencing their adventures from their point of view. Seeing either character in the ride would ruin this effect. After all, if you saw Peter Pan in the attraction, how could you also be him? This reasoning, however, was never understood by guests. DISNEYLAND didn't want to issue a pamphlet explaining to each guest why they wouldn't see either Peter Pan or Snow White in the attractions, so they were slowly worked into both rides every time there was scheduled maintenance. When Fantasyland was renovated in 1982 to look more like the land that Walt Disney had originally envisioned, Both attractions became fully tooned up with Peter Pan and Snow White.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Music Mondays: DISNEYLAND Records Release #3: DISNEYLAND Band Concert

The third record released by DISNEYLAND Records was finally tied to the park- DISNEYLAND Band Concert.


The original reason for starting up the label was to release items such as these. The reluctance of outside record companies to release items tied to DISNEYLAND led to Disney taking full control of its record releases.

This album was the first to be recorded inside DISNEYLAND Park, featuring the DISNEYLAND Band led by Disney Legend Vesey Walker. Now why would people be interested in buying an album based on a band from a theme park? DISNEYLAND's proximity to Hollywood has always been somewhat of a blessing. Talented musicians who regularly played on the biggest hits of the day would take jobs at DISNEYLAND on their off days. This meant that even if they didn't fully realize it, DISNEYLAND guests were being treated to the best of the best. A perfect slate of performers for a record album. For this reason, the albums would sell better than the outside record companies had believed possible.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Freaky Fridays: Disney Dollars

In the mid to late 1980's, The Walt Disney Company appeared to be unstoppable. New management had reinvigorated the company and sought new ideas to further push the entertainment envelope. Jack Lindquist, who had worked at the company since 1955 was known for introducing novel promotions and ideas into the theme parks. When the company embarked on plans to expand and enhance DISNEYLAND, it knew that it would take years to get the various projects operational. Jack was asked to come up with quick promotions that could drive attendance while construction was underway on the new attractions that would drive attendance in the future. He prepared a slate of special events that would become legendary- Circus Fantasy, Blast to the Past, State Fair at DISNEYLAND. He was hugely successful and therefore someone who could be counted on to come up with inventive ideas.


Like many of his ideas, the inspiration for Disney Dollars seemingly came out of nowhere. He was reading about the British pound and wondered why Disney couldn't have its own money. The millions of guests who streamed through the gates each year numbered higher than the population of many small countries and the parks were like their own countries; after all, one needed a "Passport" to enter the magical world; why not introduce its own currency? The company did just that in 1987. The colorful Disney Dollars arrived at DISNEYLAND and were an immediate success. They soon made it back east to Walt Disney World and then the Disney Stores. 


Want to know where your Disney Dollar came from? If it has a serial number beginning with an A, it came from DISNEYLAND. If the serial number begins with a D, it came from Walt Disney World. Serial numbers beginning with a T came from The Disney Store. While Disney will exchange any Disney Dollar on a one for one rate with real money, it is often not wise to use older ones these days they are often more valuable to collectors than their face value. Now that they are being completely retired, their value to collectors will probably increase.

Mr. Lindquist passed away earlier this year, but it is probably a coincidence that the dollars are being retired now. The advent of gift cards has made the Disney Dollar obsolete.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Just Announced: Disney Dollars Retired!

Disney Dollars, which debuted in 1987 at DISNEYLAND Park, will be officially retired this week. Created by former DISNEYLAND President Jack Lindquist, all existing Disney Dollars will still be accepted for payment, but no new dollars will be produced. 

Come back tomorrow for some very good reasons why you might not want to spend those remaining Disney Dollars at the parks, plus a historical look back at these unique souvenirs.


Theme Park Thursdays: The Florida Shopping Village

When Walt Disney World was under construction, Roy Disney felt he was in a bind. He needed to promote his "Vacation Kingdom" which would look nothing like what his brother had described without cutting into DISNEYLAND's business. He decided to open a visitor's center near the construction site that could then be repurposed into something else. (Hopefully nobody would notice that the plans did not resemble the project that Walt Disney spoke about on television.)

After the facility had served its purpose and the Magic Kingdom theme park had finally become profitable, the company decided to turn its visitor's center into a "Shopping Village".


Originally, the company didn't intend for the entire property to be considered "Walt Disney World". The rest of the property outside the main theme park/hotel area would be referred to as Lake Buena Vista. To bring in needed cash, the company leased land across the street from its shopping village to outside hotel operators. None of the properties would be Disney branded or themed.


This area would be like the area across the street from DISNEYLAND in Anaheim, except it would be Disney controlled. Unfortunately, the property was too far from the main action and it wasn't very successful. Disney decided to finally put its name on the modest shopping village.


The quiet, outlet mall vibe of the village still didn't attract much attention, even with the Disney name. In the late 1980's, the village got a new name- Disney Marketplace and a new neighbor- Pleasure Island. The property is now part of the Disney Springs complex and is currently getting a facelift.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Twilight Zone Day: Tower of Terror!

When Disney was looking for a theme to its haunted drop tower, it obviously always planned on it being Twilight Zone, right?


Not exactly. Before the Hollywood Tower Hotel took its place at Disney California Adventure's Hollywood Land (and uncoincidentally at 1313 Harbor Blvd.) it was originally supposed to be a haunted geyser- Geyser Mountain. Guests would have ventured behind DISNEYLAND's Big Thunder Mountain to tour an allegedly haunted geyser. The geyser's owner insists that it is completely safe and that it couldn't possibly erupt, sending guests soaring above the Magic Kingdom. Of course, it would do exactly this.

When the Westcot project was shelved, however, Disney's second park was slated to have a California theme. A haunted Hollywood hotel was the perfect theme for a drop ride. While the attraction didn't make it to phase one of the project, its prime spot at 1313 Harbor Blvd. was preserved and it now makes daily trips to the Twilight Zone.