Featured Attractions

Saturday, June 30, 2018

DISNEYLAND Fireworks: Fantasy in the Sky!

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls- we invite you to turn your attention to the sky high above Sleeping Beauty Castle. Where, if you believe and wish hard enough, you too will see the magic of Tinkerbell as she lights this evening’s performance of Fantasy in the Sky!

Beginning in 1958, the skies above DISNEYLAND would brighten each summer night at 9:30PM with what Walt Disney referred to as a ‘kiss goodnight’- the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks. Mr. Disney came up with the idea of having a nightly fireworks show as a way to give his guests a ‘kiss goodnight,’ a special gift from him to thank them for spending their day at his Magic Kingdom. An attempt to recreate the title sequence from the DISNEYLAND television show, the fireworks featured a retired circus aerialist who flew above the castle as Tinkerbell.

The Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show would last for over forty years, finally getting replaced in 2000 by Believe... There’s Magic in the Stars.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Unrealized Dreams Week: Disney’s Newport Unadventure

The Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare program. It was started in Florida as a way for the company to quickly finance hotels after it realized that demand far outstripped its supply of rooms. In 2010, the Disney Vacation Club finally opened its first West Coast operation at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel.

Offering wondrous views of Disney California Adventure, the exclusive rooms were an instant hit with Disney guests, quickly selling out.

The hotel wing wasn’t originally supposed to be Disney Vacation Club’s first west coast location. In the mid 1990’s, Disney had announced that its first west coast DVC Hotel would be Disney’s Newport Coast Hotel, located on a scenic cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Newport Beach.

It would have been a marvelous property located just a few miles south of DISNEYLAND. Despite its planned proximity to DISNEYLAND, the company considered it to be a freestanding Resort, the third such resort built after Disney’s Vero Beach and Disney’s Hilton Head resorts. The two freestanding resorts proved to be difficult to sell. The company had to offer discounts and heavily promote the fact that ownership points purchased at the two locations could be used for stays at DISNEYLAND and Walt Disney World resorts. Despite Newport Beach’s nicer location and premium views, Disney grew skittish about opening up freestanding resorts. The Newport Beach property was sold to Marriott Hotels, who opened up Marriott’s Newport Coast Hotel.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Unrealized Dreams Week: Theme Park Thursdays

Over the years, Walt Disney and his imagineers have had many dreams. Most of those dreams never made the leap from drawing board to reality. Nowadays, DISNEYLAND typically tries to keep a lid on its future plans, though occasionally word of a future project slips out. By the time the park puts up a sign announcing a project inside the theme park, it is usually because the project has already been approved and broken ground. That wasn’t always the case.

Guests who purchased souvenir maps in the late 1950’s saw plans for “Liberty Street”, an entirely new land that would be built between Main Street and Tomorrowland. Of course, the project was never built for various reasons, but one could forgive Disney for inserting an unapproved future project on a souvenir map, right? Certainly they wouldn’t promote such a thing inside the park, right? Well they totally did.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Unrealized Dreams Week: Walt Wednesdays

The big project that excited Walt Disney the most in the mid-1960’s was his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow- EPCOT. EPCOT was not a theme park or a normal subdivision- it was supposed to be a real, living city. “Disneyland East”, as he called it, would be a copy of his original DISNEYLAND, used as a “weenie” to attract East Coast residents to Florida so that he could show them EPCOT.

Sadly, Mr. Disney’s EPCOT would never get built. His brother Roy was never a fan of the project and it was the first thing Roy canceled after Walt’s death. “Walt Disney World” would be built to Roy’s specifications, not Walt’s.

EPCOT would be forgotten by the company, but not the guests. Guests were constantly barraging guest services at Florida’s Magic Kingdom Park with complaints about the absence of EPCOT. Luckily for the company, people never really understood that EPCOT was supposed to be a real city, not a theme park. Company management told Imagineering to drop whatever it was doing and come up with something that could be passed off as “Epcot”. Eventually two separate theme park ideas- Future World and World Showcase were combined to create Epcot Center. Sadly, Walt Disney’s dream of EPCOT would never come to pass.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Unrealized Dreams Week: Toontown Tuesdays

Walt Disney Productions has always employed extremely creative people. Walt Disney used to let his animators and staff use company time to engage in their own creative pursuits. Even if they didn’t produce something that was used in a film, Walt felt that it would keep creativity flowing in his studio. Occasionally, it might lead to an actual project. One such brainstorming session led to possibly bringing Don Quixote to the big screen. The classic book, written by Cervantes, was seen as a perfect followup to Pinocchio.

While extensive character designs were drawn up and a script written, World War II intervened and the project was one of the casualties. It was brought back later in the early 1950’s, though it was envisioned as a smaller budgeted film with reduced animation. Even this project eventually got scrapped due to another project known as DISNEYLAND. Could a Disney version of Don Quixote ever make it to the big screen? The Little Mermaid, which was released in 1989 had originally been proposed in 1939- as a follow-up to Snow White.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Unrealized Dreams Week: Mickey Mondays

Walt Disney always had a soft spot for his greatest creation- Mickey Mouse. Many people who knew Mr. Disney personally have stated that Mickey’s boundless energy and positivity was definitely inherited from Walt himself. When Donald Duck began to steal Mickey’s thunder, Walt sought to find larger scale projects that he could use to reignite the mouse’s career. Various proposals came and went and even continued long after Walt passed away. After the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Walt Disney Company sought out projects that could further expose its classic characters to younger audiences in new projects. One such project was Swabbies.

Swabbies was supposed to feature Mickey, Donald and Goofy joining the Navy. An odd choice, considering that this was supposed to appeal to younger children. Our heroes go to basic training, working under an exasperated Pete. Along the way, they meet their female counterparts- Minnie, Daisy and Clarabelle. The film was supposed to end with a tense stand-off with the Beagle Boys, who would be portraying vaguely Russian characters. 

Production began in the late 1980’s with the film targeting a 1989 release. The film would not use the more advanced animation, so it was seen as being something that could get a fairly quick release. For various reasons it fell by the wayside and never got completed despite being fully recorded and storyboarded. The film’s production got so far along that it could probably still get an eventual release.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

They've been a hit, and they know you adore them!

On June 23, 1963 Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room opened at DISNEYLAND. The revolutionary show was the first example of audio animatronics, a Walt Disney breakthrough that would eventually lead to the realistic Mr. Lincoln and Pirates of the Caribbean animatronics.

The attraction began life as a restaurant concept. The idea was that guests would be brought into the room and begin having their meal. They would then see the show as an enchanting finale. DISNEYLAND had even signed Stouffer’s as the restaurant sponsor. Practically at the last minute, the decision was made to scrap the restaurant part since it was felt that it could not have enough capacity to be profitable. Additionally, Mrs. Disney reportedly questioned whether guests would be willing to eat food while sitting under a flock of birds. The tables were removed and the chairs were arranged in a square around the attraction’s centerpiece. The only remnant of the room’s original restaurant setup that exists today is the cabinet under the centerpiece, which was originally custom designed to hold coffee supplies. Today it is used to store DISNEYLAND Maps that castmembers handout to guests who ask for one.

Another element of the original setup that was removed was the Barker Bird. Perched high above the Adventureland entrance, the animatronic was originally supposed to announce when the next Tiki Room show would begin and tell jokes to guests. Voiced by Wally Boag, who performed at the Golden Horseshoe in nearby Frontierland. The Barker Bird created huge traffic issues at the entrance of Adventureland, so he was eventually removed. The birds still perform daily in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Freaky Fridays: Roger Rabbit is 30!

It seemed like a can’t miss project- a family film produced by a re-invigorated Disney partnered with Steven Spielberg, directed by Robert Zemeckis and featuring state of the art technology. The highly anticipated film based on the genre bending book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? had the greatest of pedigrees and seemed like a surefire hit. That was before George Lucas decided to produce one of the first major films based on a Marvel comic book- Howard the Duck which similarly appeared to be a project destined for success. Of course, the film became a legendary disaster, sullying George Lucas’ reputation and losing tons of money. Through no fault of its own, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? already had one strike against it because it was seen as being a similar film.

Prior to the beginning of the film’s production, Disney thought it had already jumped over the production’s biggest hurdle by convincing Warner Brothers to loan the use of its Looney Tunes characters to the film. Despite industry gossip about the film being the next Howard the Duck, Disney pushed ahead with the production. The studio’s biggest worry at the time was that filming for the live action sequences had to push forward before anyone could see if the special effects looked realistic. Would filmgoers be dazzled by this fantasy Hollywood where cartoon characters interacted with humans or would they laugh the film out of theaters? 

As production started to wrap up, the company began promoting the film as a Walt Disney Pictures release in early trailers. The film’s more adult themes and the risk of the movie becoming another disaster like Howard the Duck made the studio skittish. The Disney name was removed from the film and it became a Touchstone Pictures release. The studio still put its promotional might behind the film though its licensing partners were annoyed that the movie would be released under the Touchstone banner. For better or worse, the film would be released June 22, 1988.

It turns out that the surefire hit actually was a surefire hit. Audiences fell in love with Roger, Jessica and Eddie. The special effects dazzled filmgoers who made the picture the number one movie of the year. The company quickly regretted not putting the Disney name on the film and Roger Rabbit spawned a licensing bonanza. The biggest honor given to the film was making its attraction the centerpiece of DISNEYLAND’s Mickey’s Toontown. A series of shorts were produced, though dissension between Disney and Spielberg made Roger Rabbit projects near impossibilities. With the current warming of relations between the two organizations, Roger Rabbit might just defy the odds and make his way back to the big screen.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Theme Park Thursdays: Loading & Unloading

One of the rarest types of pictures from DISNEYLAND in the 1950’s and 60’s is of interiors. Since each photo had a cost involved, both in film use and developing, many tourists chose to only take exterior pictures that were assured to come out correctly. Interior pictures might not develop correctly, so most people wouldn’t take the risk. (After all, in those days they most likely wouldn’t know if the picture came out until after they were back home.) So what did the loading areas for the Fantasyland dark rides look like? Below, we see the boarding area for Snow White’s Scary Adventures.

Apparently, the women who operated the attraction dressed like Snow White. As you can also see, there were less safety gates at the time and it looks like the male ride operators wore shirts and ties. In order to save money, the attractions had less theming that consisted of painted scenes from the film. In 1982, Walt Disney’s original Fantasyland plans were built out, with more elaborate loading areas and European village theming added.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Walt Wednesdays: A Day at the Beach

When DISNEYLAND first opened, its most popular attraction was also its least safe and most unreliable- Tomorrowland’s Autopia. Originally, guests were allowed to drive down the Autopia freeway as they wished. They were told not to bump into one another, but the warnings often went unheeded. On opening day, the fleet of 24 cars had been smashed down to just four, though the lines remained extremely long. Even though massive bumpers were added to the cars, problems still arose and Walt went looking for a more permanent solution to the problem.

One of the park’s contractors thought it had a solution. It had installed a car driving attraction at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and it invited Walt Disney to take a tour. Its attraction featured a track down the middle of the road. Despite the existence of the track, the attraction still featured a high boarding capacity, which is what Mr. Disney was looking for.

The tour was a huge success. DISNEYLAND’s Autopia would get a track and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk would become a part of Disney history. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Toontown Tuesdays: Pixar?

While many people today seem to view Pixar as being separate from Disney, the companies have seemingly always been tied together, regardless of what Pixar’s promotional machine might have one think. The Walt Disney Company itself has tried to keep Pixar separate in the public’s minds despite having completely acquired Pixar ten years ago.

In the beginning, Pixar was a company that just sold animation software. George Lucas had developed some 3-D software for his own films and decided that he could probably sell that technology to others. The software unit was not really doing all that well, so he hired John Lasseter, who had previously worked at Disney, to make animated shorts to use as examples of what the software could do. Lasseter had trained alongside several of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” animators and had soaked up the Disney way of doing things. He chose to leave the company after it refused to consider using newer technologies to make films. His leadership would borrow heavily from his time at Disney and he began producing shorts that would be entertaining and also sell the software.

When George Lucas began the process of divorcing his wife, he really needed quick cash. Additionally, Pixar proved to be a money pit at the time. When his friend Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple, Lucas was able to convince Jobs to purchase Pixar and use it as a second act; a chance to do something apart from Apple. After taking over the company, Steve realized that the software sales business model would never go anywhere because the biggest animation studio- Disney- had its own technology. He sat down with John Lasseter and told him that Pixar would no longer just sell the software- it would make its own films.

Lasseter knew that this would be a huge undertaking. He also knew that the best way to assure success out of the gate would be to partner with Disney. A deal was drawn up and Disney made its resources available to Pixar. While Pixar had full control of the project, it would use Disney’s connections to get a suitable script, voice talent and distribution. This effectively removed Disney as a competitor. The first planned feature was announced to be Toy Story and Disney put its entire marketing machine behind the film. Pixar was rarely mentioned in most marketing materials and as far as the public knew, this was a Disney film. As shown below, Pixar was barely or not at all featured on the movie posters.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Mickey Mondays: A Special Date

For most of his life, Mickey Mouse never really had a specific birthdate. The company recognized that he was born in 1928, but often celebrated the event on different days. It seemed like if a local theater owner wanted to celebrate Mickey’s birthday as a way to attract customers, the company was willing to let him do it on any day he wished. Vintage movie ads often featured different dates that were allegedly Mickey’s actual birthday.

As Mickey’s landmark 50th birthday approached in 1978, the company wanted to settle this mystery once and for all. What was Mickey’s actual birthday? The dilemma became increasingly important, as the company sought to heavily promote the event as a way to make money off licensed products and drive attendance to DISNEYLAND and Florida’s Magic Kingdom. The EPCOT Center theme Park was under construction and way over budget, so the celebration would bring much needed cash.

The company turned to company archivist Dave Smith to settle the disputed date. Should Mickey’s “birthday” be the day that he was created on Walt Disney’s fateful train trip to California? Maybe the day that production commenced on Steamboat Willie? The options were seemingly endless.

Dave Smith tracked down all these possible dates as best as he could. Some of the dates were hard to track down. As a result, Mr. Smith decided to present company executives with the one date that was easy to verify and had the least controversy behind it- November 18, 1928. It was the day that Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse’s debut film was premiered at New York’s Colony Theater. Mickey now had an actual birthdate- the day that he changed the world with his groundbreaking cartoon. From 1978, Mickey’s birthday would forevermore be celebrated on November 18th.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Richard Sherman Birthday Week: “Feed The Birds”

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul's
The little old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she calls
Come, buy my bags full of crumbs
Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you'll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
"Feed the birds, " that's what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies
All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can't see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares
Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she's calling to you
"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she's calling to you
"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Richard Sherman Birthday Week: “Let’s Go Fly A Kite!”

With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You're a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite
Oh, oh, oh!
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite!
When you send it flyin' up there
All at once you're lighter than air
You can dance on the breeze
Over 'ouses and trees
With your first 'olding tight 
To the string of your kite
Oh, oh, oh!
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Happy 90th Birthday, Richard Sherman!

There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow's just a dream away
Man has a dream and that's the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It's a dream come true for you and me
So there's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Just a dream away

DISNEYLAND Attraction #3: The DISNEYLAND Omnibus

When DISNEYLAND was being planned out, Walt Disney wanted to make everything as seemingly authentic as possible. He wanted guests to feel as though they had stepped into a real, though fanciful world. Main Street U.S.A was supposed to feel like a real street where the cast members that guests encountered actually lived. To add more authenticity to his street, he commissioned a fleet of vehicles to transport guests around the land. The highest capacity vehicle was the DISNEYLAND Omnibus.

Designed by Disney Legend Bob Gurr, the vehicles were supposed to add to the ambience of the main entrance into DISNEYLAND. One omnibus was built and installed in 1956, another one year later due to its popularity. When Florida’s Magic Kingdom park opened in 1971, its poor initial attendance led the company to scrap any plans for a bus fleet of its own. When the crowds finally started arriving, the park needed every attraction it could get, so many of DISNEYLAND’s vehicles were “loaned” to the Florida theme park.

While one of the omnibuses was returned to DISNEYLAND, one stayed behind at Florida’s Magic Kingdom Park. When Epcot Center opened in 1982, that omnibus was moved to that park after guests complained about how difficult it was to get around the World Showcase area. Sometime in the late 1980’s, the omnibus at Epcot was removed from daily operation, eventually getting use as a way to get the Disney characters to the various photo opportunities. The Original Omnibus is still in use at DISNEYLAND.

Monday, June 11, 2018

DISNEYLAND Attraction #2: “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln”

The second attraction one might come across in DISNEYLAND is Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. Located in the Main Street Opera House, the attraction features an animatronic Abraham Lincoln who presents a speech which consists of several historical speeches put together.

Prior to the park’s opening in 1955, the space was originally slated to be a theater where television productions could be filmed. Walt Disney had plans to create a weekly variety show hosted by Wally Boag that would be broadcast live from the DISNEYLAND Opera House. As the deadline for the grand opening approached and money tightened, those plans were scrapped. A temporary saw mill had been built on  the spot, so a fake exterior was built to hide it from inside the park. In 1965, the saw mill would be demolished to make way for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

The attraction had been a sensation at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and was originally popular in DISNEYLAND. The staid attraction, however, soon saw diminished crowds. Lillian Disney, who assumed ownership of the attraction after Walt Disney’s death, decided to turn it into a tribute to Walt. His offices were moved into the exhibit and the film Walt Disney- An American Original began screening in Mr. Lincoln’s Theater.

An uproar ensued, with the Orange County Republican Committee demanding that Mr. Lincoln return. Lillian gave in and Mr. Lincoln returned as the finale to the Walt Disney Story. In 1982, Mrs. Disney sold the attraction to The Walt Disney Company, along with Walt Disney Imagineering, the DISNEYLAND Fire Station, the DISNEYLAND Railroad and the DISNEYLAND Monorail. In order to increase attendance, DISNEYLAND upgraded the animatronics in 1982. The upgrade wasn’t successful at increasing the attraction’s popularity and Mr. Lincoln was on the chopping block again in 1990. The company planned to open Muppetvision 3-D in the location, which created another uproar. Those plans were canceled. (Muppetvision 3-D would eventually open ten years later in Disney California Adventure.)

Mr. Lincoln truly has nine lives. No matter how sparsely attended the show might be, it appears to be the one attraction that will never go away. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Happy Birthday, Donald Duck!

Who's got the sweetest disposition?
One guess -- guess who!
Who never never starts an argument?
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who's never wrong but always right?
Who'd never dream of starting a fight?
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?
No one... but Donald Duck!

California Feels Alright!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Theme Park Thursdays: Attraction #1- The Disneyland Railroad

Often the first attraction encountered by visitors to Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, The Disneyland Railroad was the first attraction mentioned fully planned out by Walt Disney. In fact, his first description of DISNEYLAND was that it “should look like nothing else in the world- and it will be surrounded by a train.”

The first two engines were built from scratch at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank and trucked down to DISNEYLAND. Since the trains were sponsored by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, The engines were named after founders of the Railroad- the C.K. Holliday and the E.P. Ripley. The trains were the personal property of Walt Disney; its workers his employees. His personal company rented the land from DISNEYLAND and the attraction was run as a separate corporate entity.

Eventually the two trains were overwhelmed by the massive crowds visiting DISNEYLAND each day. Walt Disney looked into building new trains, but fabricating new engines was deemed to be financially unfeasible. The company instead sought out older engines that could be refurbished for use at DISNEYLAND. The next two engines were named after then current AT&SF Railroad executives Fred Gurley and Ernest Marsh.

The trains would chug along as a DISNEYLAND tradition, eventually becoming owned by the theme park itself. A fifth engine was added in 2005, named after the Disney animator who inspired Walt Disney’s love of trains- Ward Kimball.