Featured Attractions

Friday, August 31, 2018

Food Fridays: End of an Era

One of the first rules that Walt Disney himself had set at DISNEYLAND was that alcoholic beverages would not be allowed in his Magic Kingdom. At the time, seedy amusement parks and creaky carnivals served booze, which often led to fights. Mr. Disney wanted to avoid these problems and differentiate his Park from those tacky places, so he banned alcohol from the park. Guests who wanted to indulge in a drink had to take the monorail to the DISNEYLAND Hotel.

The rule was relaxed somewhat in the late 1960’s. The park’s major sponsors wanted a place where they could take their clients that would provide a more private experience and alcoholic beverages. Walt Disney resisted this, but his brother Roy insisted it was necessary to keep the all important sponsorship money flowing into the company. Thus Club 33 was born, a private club located above New Orleans Square.

When the Florida Magic Kingdom Park was opened, the no alcohol policy continued. That park would not have a private  club, so Florida’s DISNEYLAND clone would actually be drier than its older inspiration. In 1982, the no alcohol in the parks rule would be completely scrapped. Epcot Center’s World Showcase would Feature a plethora of alcoholic drinks. The park’s educational focus would keep most of the rowdier type of guests away, so it was seen as okay to bring out the booze.

Therefore the new rule was that Disney’s DISNEYLAND clones would not serve alcohol, but other types of parks could. This rule was revised after EuroDisney opened, since it was believed that Europeans would not visit a dry park. The opening of the Be Our Guest Restaurant inside Florida’s Magic Kingdom Park introduced alcohol to the park, leaving the original DISNEYLAND as the only Disney park without alcoholic beverages.

That 64 year tradition will go away next year after the opening of the Star Wars area inside DISNEYLAND. The Cantina located there will offer alcoholic beverages inside the park. Interestingly, the park tried to hide the news in a vague press release and only lukewarmly confirmed it when pressed by reporters. This gambit backfired on them, as most stories about the new Cantina are solely focusing on the alcohol aspect of the story. The world is much different than it was in 1955. People know what to expect at a Disney theme park now, so they probably won’t be too put off when they see adult beverages inside DISNEYLAND.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Toontown Tuesdays: Mickey Mouse By The Years 1929

After the amazing success of Steamboat Willie, the Disney Brothers were eager to prove that Mickey Mouse wasn’t just a fad. Production of Mickey Mouse shorts continued at a quick pace in 1929, including the short Karnival Kid, which was the first to feature Mickey Mouse actually talking.

Mickey’s first words, voiced by Walt Disney himself, were “Hot dogs!” This Mouse proved that he wasn’t a fad.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Mickey Mondays: Mickey Mouse By The Years 1928

On November 18, 1928 at Universal’s Colony Theater in New York City, Mickey Mouse made his grand debut in Steamboat Willie. The cartoon was an instant sensation as the very first sound cartoon ever produced.

While it was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon released, it was actually the third Mickey Mouse cartoon produced. After the release of the first sound feature The Jazz Singer, Walt Disney put the other two shorts on hold so that Mickey Mouse would be introduced to the world with a soundtrack. 

Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse as a way to recover from the loss of his previous character Oswald. Mickey Mouse would succeed beyond even Walt Disney’s wildest dreams.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Food Fridays: California Oranges

Before DISNEYLAND opened in 1955, one of the things that tourists did when they visited Southern California was to drive out to orange groves and take pictures of themselves picking oranges. (The other big attractions were Hollywood and the beaches, of course.) After DISNEYLAND opened, people were less enamored with looking at orange groves, so the largest orange grower Sunkist decided that if the tourists were no longer coming out to them, they would come out to the tourists.

The Sunkist Citrus House opened on Main Street, replacing a bakery that had originally taken the spot. Sunkist sold simple baked goods and freshly squeezed orange juice and lemonade. While the Citrus house was profitable, its main goal was to advertise oranges to the tourists who, it was hoped, would go home and look for Sunkist in their local grocery stores. The refreshing drinks were so popular, a second location was opened in Adventureland and was given an unusual name- “Sunkist, I Presume?”

Both locations remained open until the 1980’s. Sunkist decided to change its marketing efforts and DISNEYLAND was looking to operate most of its food locations. “Sunkist, I Presume?” became the Bengal Barbecue, while the Main Street Citrus House would become an ice cream parlor, a bakery (again) and an ice cream parlor (again).

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Theme Park Thursdays: DISNEYLAND’s Horseless Carriages

DISNEYLAND’s Horseless Carriages were added to the park in 1956, providing one way trips from Town Square to Sleeping Beauty Castle and back again. As DISNEYLAND became more popular, there was a need for more attractions and transportation options. Walt Disney liked seeing a busy Main Street that looked like it could be real. Vintage cars zipping up and down the street would definitely add to that atmosphere.

Rather than just buy old cars to fix up, Walt Disney assigned his vehicle designer Bob Gurr to design a heavy duty vehicle with decent capacity that would fit the Main Street Theme. Mr. Gurr based his design on a 1903 vehicle, making it slightly bigger to accommodate six people plus the driver. These cars were then built at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank and trucked down to DISNEYLAND where they have been transporting guests ever since.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Walt Wednesdays: The World Comes To DISNEYLAND

After DISNEYLAND opened, practically everyone dreamed of venturing out to Anaheim, California to see it. Foreign dignitaries were no exception. The U.S. State Department encouraged most dignitaries to visit Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom during their visits to the United States and they often asked Walt Disney to personally escort the foreign leaders as a way to improve relations with the countries. Walt relished the opportunity to host them.

Walt and Lillian Disney host the Nepalese King and his wife on a ride through Wonderland.

There was no better DISNEYLAND tour guide than Mr. Disney. He loved showing off his showplace and was more than happy to assist when it came to possibly improving the United States of America’s standing in the world.

Walt hosts the Thai Royal Family.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Mickey Music Mondays

Rock 'n' roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock 'n' roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now

It's not the Mouse (Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now)

It's not the Jerk or the Swim or the Mashed Potato

I'll show ya how (Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now)

Tiptoe to the left

And you wiggle to the right

Wave your hands behind your head, do what Mickey says

Spin and shout with all your might

Rock 'n' roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock 'n' roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now

             Rock ‘n’ roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock 'n' roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock'n'roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Theme Park Thursdays: Happy Anniversary to the 999 Happy Haunts!

On August 9, 1969, DISNEYLAND History was made as Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion opened its doors to the world. Not only would regular guests experience the attraction for the first time, another first happened that day- for the first time since opening day, DISNEYLAND had to close its gates due to being at capacity. Over 70,000 guests swarmed into the park to make a trip through the Haunted Mansion.

At its peak, the wait time on that first day was reportedly eight hours. The line stretched out to Frontierland and back. Why would the attraction garner so much attention on its first day? Aside from being a masterpiece in themed entertainment, which admittedly would have been unknown to the crowds who descended on the park that day, the Haunted Mansion was the beneficiary of the very first viral marketing campaign designed by Walt Disney.

When DISNEYLAND decided to feature a Native American Village which would feature authentic entertainment performed by a cast of Native Americans, Walt Disney felt that the best location for the village would be on the far side of the River of America where Critter Country exists today. The only issue with that location was that the park hadn’t fully built out that side of the park yet. Guests would have to take a long trek out there past trees, a berm, some benches and little else. Since DISNEYLAND’s master plan was to eventually build a Haunted Mansion as part of its New Orleans Square expansion, Mr. Disney decided to just build the mansion ahead of time even though nothing would be inside it yet. Seeing the house would add atmosphere to that side of the river and make guests wonder about what existed inside those walls.

The gambit worked. Guests swamped DISNEYLAND’s City Hall to ask just what was in that house? A future attraction? Walt Disney’s Secret House? Cats? To satisfy the curious and drum up interest in the future attraction, Mr. Disney had a sign put up that became infamous among Disney theme park fans. The sign is shown below:

This sign made guests even more curious about what would occupy the house that seemingly sprang up overnight and also hid the fact that even Walt Disney himself wasn’t sure what would eventually go inside his Haunted Mansion. One early concept was a “Museum of the Weird” walkthrough designed by Imagineer Rolly Crump. The house would host bizarre and potentially haunted articles that guests would experience on foot. This idea was even mentioned by Walt Disney on his weekly show The Wonderful World of Disney.

Park operations wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a walkthrough attraction, since it would have a low capacity. Another question that came up- would this be a truly scary Haunted Mansion or would it be a funny, happier Disney version of a Haunted House? In 1966, Walt Disney settled on the funny, happier version that would be a ridethrough where guests would get to see the ghosts throughout the mansion. Finally, something was getting into that Mansion.

So by the time opening day rolled around, millions of people had walked past that house and its sign. Millions more saw Walt Disney talk about it on his show. Considering all these factors, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that so many guests would be there on opening weekend. 49 years later, Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion still entertains millions of guests every year.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Walt Wednesdays: A Brotherly Business

When Walt Disney signed his first contract to produce his Alice Comedies in 1923, the first person he ran to was his brother Roy. Roy had been convalescing in an army hospital after World War I because he had contracted tuberculosis. After hearing that his kid brother needed him, he checked himself out of the hospital and the two brothers setup the Disney Brothers Studio.

As time went on, and the studio’s fortunes grew ever brighter, a studio publicist advised the two that they should either rename their company after just one of the brothers or give it a more generic name. It was felt that using just one of their names would make it easier to promote the studio’s films. As the creative mind behind the company’s productions, it was decided to rename the company “Walt Disney Productions,” though Roy would still hold an equal number of shares in the company.

Despite the implications behind this decision, Roy was not upset or jealous of his brother’s ascension as the public face of the company. Roy wasn’t really interested in the Hollywood scene; he probably would have teamed up with his brother even if he had planned to open a box factory. Roy enjoyed the business side of things and spent his time keeping Walt under budget and finding money to continue making and building his brother’s dreams.

While the partnership often went through rough patches- Roy was never fully onboard with the idea of DISNEYLAND and Walt had to get his brother out of the country in order to get the Matterhorn built- their fondness and love for one another seemingly conquered all. Whether it was protecting his brother from bullies or financing a Magic Kingdom, Roy was always there when his brother needed him. A successful partnership indeed.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Mickey Mondays: Mickey in DISNEYLAND

Today, Mickey Mouse is synonymous with DISNEYLAND. After all, he lives there now! It wasn’t always the case that Mickey would be found there, however, despite the fact that the park was originally called Mickey Mouse Park. 

As Walt Disney’s dreams grew bigger and the projected costs for his Magic Kingdom grew, his brother Roy had pulled his support for the project. This so-called ‘Magic Kingdom’ would go forward without and funding or support from Walt Disney Productions. This meant that the company’s famous characters and trademarks could not be used inside the park. Not one to accept defeat, Walt Disney started up his own company- Retlaw Industries- and began planning out a Mickey-less Magic Kingdom. 

Crossed wires, however, resulted in a Walt Disney Productions shareholder complaining to Roy about the Magic Kingdom. The shareholder felt that Roy needed to reign in his brother and threaten trademark and copyright infringement lawsuits if the park went forward. After all, didn’t Walt Disney Productions own the Disney name? Roy did some investigating and realized that it didn’t. The company had never had a formal agreement with Walt Disney to be ‘Walt Disney Productions’. If his brother found out, he could build Walt Disneyland and force Walt Disney Productions to remove his name from the company. Roy quickly fixed the problem by formalizing the agreement to use his brother’s name and make Walt Disney Productions the largest shareholder in DISNEYLAND, Inc.

This explains why the early Mickey Mouse costumes looked so odd and bizarre. They were originally designed by the Ice Capades and borrowed from the production for the early days of the park. Designed to be viewed from a distance and allow the skater a clear view of the space around them, they weren’t very appropriate for close-up viewing at a theme park. The delay in getting permission to use the characters forced the park to make do with what it had. Eventually the suits were replaced with a more theme park friendly design.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Disney & Fox Week: Then & Now

In the 1950’s, the rise of television cast a pall on Hollywood. While most studios now produce both theatrical films and television programming, that wasn’t the case in the beginning. When Walt Disney embraced television as a way to help finance DISNEYLAND, he was seen as a traitor. He saw it as a way to diversify.

The decision to build DISNEYLAND not only allowed Mr. Disney to diversify, it arguably allowed his company to survive until today. DISNEYLAND Park has provided the company the stability it has needed throughout the years. The company also branched out into live action pictures which could be produced more cheaply and quickly than animated films.

Walt Disney also tried to keep his best friend Mickey Mouse relevant by creating The Mickey Mouse Club, which became a phenomenon for the baby boomers. The show also produced a superstar- Annette Funicello. At a time when other studios struggled in a post-TV era, Disney was firing on all cylinders. Every kid wanted to visit DISNEYLAND and see the latest Disney movies. 

Even after the death of its founder, the solid foundation laid by Mr. Disney allowed it to thrive. Though it didn’t quite end up the way he’d planned, “Disneyland East” opened up in 1972 as Walt Disney World, financed by the profits earned at DISNEYLAND. This further diversification would keep the company afloat during the lean years ahead.

While the studio would be stymied by its reluctance to evolve in the 1970’s, Walt Disney’s efforts at diversification allowed the company to weather the leaner years. By the time the go-go 1980’s arrived, Disney was ready to grow. It would diversify into more mature pictures through Touchstone Pictures, buy the ABC television network and begin expanding its resorts.

By the time that DISNEYLAND celebrated its 60th Anniversary, the company would own Lucasfilm and Marvel, two powerhouses in the current movie industry. The sleeping giant of the 1970’s was now a massive behemoth, capable of making an offer for Twentieth Century Fox.

Back in the 1950’s, however, Twentieth Century Fox originally chose not to diversify. It chose to compete with television by making bigger and more expensive films. Large spectacles were a difficult prospect in Hollywood’s Golden Days. They were especially problematic in an era where a movie theater’s biggest competitor was free television. Things went mostly well for the studio until it crossed paths with Cleopatra.

Cleopatra almost singlehandedly destroyed Twentieth Century Fox. The film would star Elizabeth Taylor who was a constant problem from the very beginning. After she took ill just a few weeks into the shoot, she was ordered to bed rest. Fox was forced to flush away $2,000,000 with no usable footage to show for it. By the time Ms. Taylor was feeling better, the studio had to rebuild sets and reschedule studio time at huge expense. Ms. Taylor’s contract stipulated that Chasen’s famous chili be flown out to the set no matter where she was in the world. The temperamental actress’ sizzling affair with Richard Burton scandalized potential audiences and sent the budget into the stratosphere. Adjusted for inflation, the film cost a staggering $370 Million. While it made a bit more than that at the box office, its high production and promotional costs made Fox suffer an almost insurmountable loss.

A power struggle between Darryl Zanuck and his son Richard boiled over after Cleopatra’s staggering loss. The younger Zanuck insisted that the project’s failure was a sign that his father was past his prime. In order to recover, the studio sold off most of its storied backlot, creating Century City. Money problems also forced the studio to finally diversify into television. Robert Zanuck chose to move the studio into the modern era by producing ‘today’ pictures for the youth of the day. These types of films could be produced much more cheaply than the spectacles favored by his father and offer nudity and profanity, which television couldn’t touch.

While some of the films were successful and spawned lucrative spinoffs- like M*A*S*H- there were too many flops like Myra Breckinridge which embarrassed the studio. By 1972, the Zanuck era had ended with both Zanuck’s ousted from the studio. The new studio management had greater success with the colossal Star Wars becoming a smash hit. Unfortunately for the studio, it had given merchandise rights to George Lucas who planned to use the licensing fees to finish up the special effects. Fox had assumed the merchandise rights would be valueless. Of course, they weren’t and George Lucas used the lucrative side money to purchase the Star Wars copyrights.

It was during the 1980’s (and under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch) that the company went all-in on television, setting up its own upstart television network. At first, not much of its programming gained any traction, but rather than give in the network stayed the course, getting its first big hit- Married With Children. As the 1990’s began, it got its most lucrative hit ever- The Simpsons, who brought the younger audience that the network craved and became a merchandising juggernaut.

A political conservative, Fox owner Rupert Murdoch used the Fox name to launch a conservative news channel. While the channel itself became successful, it severely tarnished the company’s brand and its reputation in Hollywood. While most of the company’s biggest successes were in television, it remained competitive in motion pictures, restarting the age of superheroes with its successful X-Men films, licensed from Marvel Comics.

While the studio has mostly flourished, the Murdochs seemed less and less interested in it. They realized that in order to compete in the future, Twentieth Century Fox would need to either buy another studio or sell itself to another studio. Thus it agreed to be purchased by The Walt Disney Company.

Could Walt Disney have possibly imagined that the company he founded in 1923 with his brother would eventually be able to buy Twentieth Century Fox? After all, in 1923 he had just $40, a suitcase and a Dream. William Fox was a multi-millionaire, controlling a vast network of theaters and one of Hollywood’s biggest studios. If anything, one might have assumed that it would be William Fox’s company doing the buying. Fate and luck would eventually prove otherwise. A suitcase and a Dream might not be enough to get you where you’re going, but they can be a great start.