Featured Attractions

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Walt Wednesdays: The Sisters Of Providence

Although Walt Disney himself was said to not be too religious, both of his daughters attended Catholic schools and he donated a lot of money to the Catholic Church. When the Sisters Of Providence sought to build a hospital in Burbank, Walt Disney donated money and land to build St. Joseph’s Hospital and sat on the hospital’s board of directors. Through this relationship, he befriended the order of nuns and provided them with donations and artwork.

After DISNEYLAND opened, the park’s resources were also made available to the Sisters Of Providence. Walt Disney provided free tickets for the nuns and the sick children and orphans that they cared for that gave them free reign of the park.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Toontown Tuesdays: The Rocketeer Takes Flight!

In the summer of 1991, Disney unleashed its attempt at starting up a new superhero franchise onto the world- The Rocketeer. Despite its visually beautiful sets, convincing special effects and winning storyline, the film flopped at the box office. Most of the fault for the film’s failure rests on the shoulders of studio management. When The Rocketeer was greenlit, Dick Tracy had not yet hit theaters. Dick Tracy was another attempt at creating a movie franchise and every division of the company contributed to the effort to make Dick Tracy THE movie event of the summer of 1990. In the end, the film was profitable, but not as profitable as Batman. Studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg, who would later crown himself the king of animation at Dreamworks, would famously slam the film. He felt that although the movie was profitable, it wasn’t profitable enough to justify the effort the company put behind the film.

Unfortunately for The Rocketeer, its promotional budget was being finalized around the time that Mr. Katzenberg was complaining about the company’s Dick Tracy promotional efforts. Promotion of The Rocketeer was severely scaled back. The company determined the minimal promotion required of it to satisfy existing agreements related to the film and basically threw the picture out into theaters, daring people to watch it. The film failed at the box office, though it eventually gained enough fans through home video releases to inspire the company to finally give the film a deluxe blu-ray release and actual merchandise. Rumors of a reboot and/or sequel sprang up in the last few years. Would The Rocketeer get another chance to soar?

And then the announcement arrived- Disney Junior, a channel aimed at the pre-school set, was producing a cartoon based on The Rocketeer. While details are sketchy, it appears that the show will feature the daughter of the Cliff Secord, the Rocketeer. While the show seems nice enough, the nagging question on many minds is who this show is aimed at. Chances are, the pre-schoolers who will be watching the show have never heard of The Rocketeer. Possibly the company figures that the original fans of the film might enjoy showing this show to their kids, but as The Rocketeer gets closer to the thirtieth anniversary of its initial release, many of the film’s original fans are probably parents of teenagers- not preschoolers.

It’s probably too early to tell how successful this show will be, but it does point to a problem with today’s Disney. It sounds like it is impossible to get anything original greenlit at the company these days. Was Disney Junior’s Rocketeer originally an unrelated project that only got noticed after the creator slapped the Rocketeer name on it? With Pixar choosing to lay off on making sequels for now, hopefully the rest of the company will take notice.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Music Mondays: Date Nite at DISNEYLAND

Walt Disney knew that DISNEYLAND would have to offer its guests something new and exciting to keep them coming back year after year. This would include innovative attractions, amazing parades and live entertainment. DISNEYLAND’s proximity to Hollywood and its founder’s commitment to quality meant that it would feature higher quality entertainment than one might expect. So when DISNEYLAND decided to host “Date Nites” in the park it hired Hollywood musicians and commissioned a special song that would kick off every performance at DISNEYLAND’s Carnation Gardens- Date Nite at DISNEYLAND. The song would also be used in radio commercials promoting the great time that awaited DISNEYLAND guests.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Russi Taylor, 1944 - 2019

Russi Taylor, whose voice has been heard on countless hours of animated programming has passed away at age 75.

Ms. Taylor was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1944. As a child, one of her biggest dreams came true when her parents took her to DISNEYLAND. During their visit the family ran into Walt Disney himself one night and he asked Russi what she wanted to do when she grew up. She told Mr. Disney that she wanted to work for him.

Russi’s dream would come true after she arrived in Southern California to become an actress. She would attend a voice actor’s workshop in the late 1970’s that would lead her to her destiny- as a much sought after voice actress. She would become the official voice of Strawberry Shortcake and eventually get the job of her dreams, working for the Walt Disney Company as the voice of Minnie Mouse. In a sweet story out of a fairy tale, she actually fell in love with and married Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse.

Russi was a sweet woman who loved meeting with her fans and always gave them the biggest hugs and smiles. She provided voices for such beloved characters as Webbigail Vanderquack, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Martin Prince and Uter. She will be missed by her friends, family and billions of grateful fans around the world.

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Month

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Without DISNEYLAND....

.... there would be no Disney.

The Original DISNEYLAND in Anaheim often gets overlooked, but the Walt Disney Company would not be the large multimedia empire it is today were it not for Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. When Walt Disney first presented the idea of a theme park to his company, there were many who doubted its viability. So many insiders felt that he was risking everything and they worried about their futures. In fact, if the company had thought to officially license the use of Walt Disney’s name prior to the 1950’s, DISNEYLAND might have never been built. Roy Disney agreed to go forward with the project as long as Walt formalized the use of his name in the company. 

The big risk paid off handsomely. As it turned out, television was changing the economics of Hollywood and much larger studios were floundering to adapt. DISNEYLAND provided solid financial footing for the entire company, giving it the stability it needed to prosper and grow. 

Without DISNEYLAND, Walt Disney Productions probably would have not survived the death of Walt Disney, becoming a division of another company at best or just a movie catalog at worst. Without DISNEYLAND, there would be no Walt Disney World, no still operating movie studio, no Pixar. While Disney didn’t create Marvel, it gave the company a stable source of financing that has enabled Marvel’s Cinematic Universe to reach ever higher heights. All because of the Magic Kingdom in Anaheim.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Once Upon A Time...

“Once upon a time there was a Magic Kingdom made of hopes and childhood fantasies. A timeless place where every land was filled with wonder. A place where everyone who entered its gates would be given the gift of the young at heart, the power to wish upon a star and unlock its magic.”

-Julie Andrews

“We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together.”

-Walt Disney

"Just imagine- if you were standing right here over 60 years ago, you'd be standing in the middle of an orange grove. One visionary man stood right where you are now, but instead of orange trees, he envisioned a Magic Kingdom. This man's name was Walt Disney. And his dream would be called DISNEYLAND."

“Yesterday, a man walked up to me and said, ‘Isn’t it a shame that Walt Disney couldn’t be here to see this?’ and I said, 'He did see this, that’s why it’s here.'"

-Art Linkletter

“The greatest thing about DISNEYLAND is that its magic stays with you forever.”

-Ralph Castaneda

“Today, Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom has grown to become the happiest place on earth to millions the world over. A place where anything is possible. Where every dreamer may wish upon a star."

-Julie Andrews

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Week: Forever The Land Of Dreams Come True

“Think beyond your lifetime if you want to
do something truly great.”

-Walt Disney

Monday, July 15, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Week: A Dream That Never Ends

I first saw the site for Disneyland back in 1953, In those days it was all flat land - no rivers, no mountains, no castles or rocket ships -  just orange groves, and a few acres of walnut trees.

- Walt Disney

Saturday, July 13, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Month: Walt & Lilly Celebrate

On this day in 1955, DISNEYLAND was just days away from opening. It was also Walt and Lilly Disney’s 30th Anniversary. To celebrate both the anniversary and show off DISNEYLAND to their friends, the couple hosted a huge party in the Golden Horseshoe.

Friday, July 12, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Month: Harriet Burns

There is literally nowhere one can go in DISNEYLAND without seeing a project that Walt Disney Imagineering’s first female Imagineer has worked on. Harriet Burns was originally brought in to work on the miniature houses in Storybookland, impressing Walt Disney with her ability to bring his visions to life. 

No matter what challenge Walt presented her with, Harriet was able to accomplish it. One of her biggest responsibilities was to build elaborate models based on the sketches provided to her of proposed projects. Walt Disney often said that he didn’t trust the paper sketches he was provided, but he always trusted Harriet’s models, only approving the plans after he saw them. Harriet worked on attractions that remain popular to this day, including the Matterhorn, it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Harriet Burns’ work is still enjoyed by millions of people every year in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I was fortunate enough to meet her and she told me that she loved hearing how the projects she had worked on were still loved by children and she felt privileged to have been a part of the team.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Month: Jack Wrather & Helen Alvarez

When Walt Disney began building DISNEYLAND, he soon realized that he was going to run out of money before he had a chance to build the DISNEYLAND Hotel. Mr. Disney owned a choice parcel of land across the street from his Magic Kingdom that was perfect for a hotel and he started trying to get some of the major hotel chains to build there. They all declined; if DISNEYLAND failed, the hotel would fail too. Walt’s famous friends declined to build the hotel as well, including Bob Hope and Art Linkletter. Eventually Walt did find someone willing to invest in the DISNEYLAND Hotel- his friend Jack Wrather.

Jack Wrather was a Texan who had arrived in Hollywood to invest some of his family wealth in movies and television shows. He had partnered with another Texan- Helen Alvarez- to invest in production studios and television stations. Their shared business was mostly successful, though other investments in Jack’s portfolio weren’t huge moneymakers. Both Jack and Helen saw the DISNEYLAND Hotel as an opportunity to hit the big time.

By this time, Jack had married the former starlet Bonita Granville and he felt that the DISNEYLAND Hotel would cement his place in Hollywood. Others saw the hotel as a potential disaster, certain to drag Jack and Helen down if DISNEYLAND was a failure. Jack and Helen plunged forward, choosing to build a more modular hotel that wouldn’t be too much of a drag on them financially if things went south but could also be easily expanded if the demand was there.

Of course, DISNEYLAND was a huge success and Wrather’s DISNEYLAND Hotel became the most successful part of the Wrather-Alvarez organization. Jack would eventually buy out Helen and expand the hotel beyond his wildest dreams.

The DISNEYLAND Hotel became just as much a landmark as DISNEYLAND, revolutionizing the hospitality industry by catering to families. Previously, larger hotels and resorts catered mostly to business travelers and adult vacationers. The DISNEYLAND Hotel sought to provide amenities and features that entire families would enjoy. Eventually, the Walt Disney Company would acquire the Wrather Corporation and take over the DISNEYLAND Hotel.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Month: Van Arsdale France

With park construction in full swing, Walt Disney began looking to the future. While DISNEYLAND was designed to be an amazing place, Mr. Disney knew that it would be the park’s staff who would bring the magic alive. How could he ensure that only the best people were hired and that they would all comply with his vision of DISNEYLAND? By establishing DISNEYLAND University, of course!

To accomplish this, Walt Disney brought in an expert who had experience putting together classes to train employees- Van Arsdale France. Mr. France sat down with Walt Disney to get his vision of what an ideal DISNEYLAND employee should be. Mr. Disney wanted his employees to be friendly and courteous. Since DISNEYLAND would be open to everyone, they had to leave their prejudices at the front gate. These were Walt’s personal guests, many of whom would be traveling from around the world. They needed to treat EVERYONE with the same courtesy and respect. Mr. France put together an amazing training program, parts of which are still used at Disney Theme Parks around the world.

Van’s classes were so successful that other companies adopted parts of them for their own training programs. Mr France would go on to hold other positions around the park, but it was his first position as the founder of DISNEYLAND University that created his legacy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Month: The Dominguez Family

In the early 1950’s, the City Of Anaheim was at a crossroads. Less than 2,500 people lived there and the impending “Cold War” was creating a permanent market for military equipment. The big firms that wanted to profit from providing that equipment were expanding in Southern California and Anaheim thought that it could possibly expand itself by catering to this new industry, both by providing space for offices and homes for employees. In 1952, however, Walt Disney arrived in town.

The City Of Anaheim had already approached land owners in the area to let them know that it wanted to leave its agricultural roots behind and become a bustling Southern California suburb by re-zoning their property for housing, which would allow them to make a handsome profit. Most everyone agreed and the process was in full swing until WaltDisney came to town with an idea- did Anaheim want to become just another stop between Los Angeles and San Diego, or did it want to host his Magic Kingdom, a showcase that would attract people from around the world? Despite not fully understanding what Walt Disney was planning to build, they chose to move forward. Now Mr. Disney just needed to convince the landowners to sell. They obviously did, but one seller gave DISNEYLAND much more than just her property.

Laura Dominguez owned a parcel of land that would eventually become New Orleans Square and the Rivers Of America. Her family had owned the land for quite some time and her children were born there. She could see the writing on the wall, however, and figured that it was time to sell the property. She agreed to Walt Disney’s price but had two conditions- the first was that a special tree be preserved on the property. The tree was a perfect fit for Adventureland where it was moved. The second was that Mr. Disney give her college aged son a job. Both conditions were accepted.

Possibly DISNEYLAND management felt that her son would only work at DISNEYLAND for a couple of years before moving on. Ron Dominguez, however, loved working at the park and worked his way up the ladder, eventually becoming the president of DISNEYLAND before retiring. A window was placed on Main Street in his honor, a clever nod to him being literally born and raised on the property.

Monday, July 8, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Month: Harrison “Buzz” Price

While it might have looked like Walt Disney singlehandedly willed DISNEYLAND into existence, only using his intuition to choose a location, that was far from the truth. DISNEYLAND’s location was scientifically chosen by a consultant who would end up becoming a vital part of Disney history.

While Walt Disney had some requirements in mind when he sought an ideal location for his Magic Kingdom, he had no idea where to locate it. Harrison Price was hired to evaluate the various possibilities and settled on Anaheim, which would be the most affordable option that met Walt Disney’s requirements and would eventually become the population center of Southern California. As it turned out, Harrison Price was only slightly off; the population center would be four miles north in Fullerton. 

Walt Disney was so impressed by Harrison Price’s work on finding a site for the Magic Kingdom that he quickly put him to work doing more analysis for the theme park that could be used to calm financiers and sponsors. Such work had never been done before in the tourism/amusement industry, yet Harrison took on the challenge. He created metrics to determine how many people DISNEYLAND might attract, how much those people might spend once they got there, how many hot dogs they would order and how many parking spaces they would need. Harrison’s metrics were amazingly accurate and became the foundation of industry metrics that are still used to this very day.

Originally, Harrison had worked as part of a larger consulting firm, but after his work on DISNEYLAND, his intellect and analysis became highly sought after that he chose to start his own firm (with Walt Disney’s encouragement) and took advantage of the boom in theme park construction and tourist enterprises that occurred after DISNEYLAND’s success. Harrison continued to do work with Walt Disney Productions, providing analysis of DISNEYLAND expansion, an early plan for a second theme park in Anaheim that Walt Disney was planning called “Disney California Living” and both Walt Disney’s Original Florida project concept and Roy Disney’s cut down Florida project that became Walt Disney World. Mr. Price would go on to do more work for Disney and other major themed entertainment players like Universal, MGM, Six Flags, Knott’s Berry Fark and Cedar Fair. His trailblazing work on DISNEYLAND, however, would be his greatest legacy.