Featured Attractions

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Disney Places: Walt Disney’s First Studio

When Walt Disney first arrived in California, he only had $40, the clothes on his back and the contents of a cardboard suitcase. He found his way to his uncle Robert’s house in Burbank, CA and rented a room and his uncle’s garage so that he could produce his short cartoons. This garage became Walt’s very first studio- a true historical landmark.

In 1984, however, the garage was due to be demolished. After finding out about the garage’s destruction, a group of Disney fans tried to get Walt Disney Productions to buy and restore this valuable piece of company history. The company was unwilling to do so, however, so the fans banded together to buy the building themselves. They now just needed a place to move it. With the company unwilling to take the building or provide any space to display or store it, the fans had to look elsewhere for a solution- and they found it just a few miles away from DISNEYLAND- in Garden Grove.

When DISNEYLAND opened in neighboring Anaheim, the city of Garden Grove quickly began expanding to take advantage of the burgeoning tourism business that DISNEYLAND was attracting just up the road. This expansion had the unintended consequence of pushing out historic houses to make way for motor lodges and tourist attractions. Garden Grove decided to dedicate a park as a place where some of these buildings could be relocated. They eagerly agreed to host Walt Disney’s first studio and it was moved there in 1984. 

So today, Walt’s small, first studio stands just three miles away from his greatest dream come true.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Disney People: Roy Williams

Roy Williams was personally hired by Walt Disney in 1930, right after he graduated from high school. Roy worked as a gag man and animator during the day while taking animation classes at night. During World War II, Roy was assigned to design insignias for the hundreds of American squadrons who wrote into the studio requesting one. Roy would have been a relatively unknown Disney animator until he was given a huge opportunity from Walt Disney himself.

In the 1950’s, Walt Disney was on a mission to grow his company into businesses other than just motion pictures. Roy would be involved with both of the company’s biggest enterprises- the Mickey Mouse Club and DISNEYLAND. Roy was seen by Walt as being someone who kids would find funny, so he cast him as the “Big Mooseketeer” in a spur of the moment decision. 

Roy would also put his newfound fame and excellent drawing skills to good use as an artist in residence at DISNEYLAND’s Art Corner. At the time, the Mickey Mouse Club was the biggest kids show in the world. Imagine how excited DISNEYLAND guests would get to regularly see such a huge star in person and get a hand drawn picture from him as a one of a kind souvenir? It was truly a dream come true.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Disney Company: Lyric Street Records

Did you know that The Walt Disney Company used to have its own country music label? Lyric Street Records was setup
in 1997 as a division of Disney’s Hollywood Records that would concentrate on Country music acts. It was named after the Los Angeles street that Walt and Roy Disney both lived on in the early days of the studio. The label’s biggest act was Rascal Flatts, who covered the song Life is a Highway for the Disney animated film Cars and became a country music powerhouse.

With the decline of physical media and the music industry as a whole, the decision was made to close Lyric Street Records as a distinct entity and fold its operations back into Hollywood Records in 2010.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Disney TV: Golden Legends

In 2009, The Golden Girls officially became Disney Legends, a feat that confused many people at the time. What did America’s grandmas have to do with Disney? The show was actually produced by Disney’s Touchstone Television division. In the early 1980’s, the company had pulled all of its television programming from free television and placed it on its new premium service- The Disney Channel. This caused numerous problems for the company, as it had always benefited from its television programming doubling as advertising for its other ventures, like DISNEYLAND, or Walt Disney World. In the mid-80’s, the company did a complete reversal, choosing to re-enter the network television business. Network television had changed a lot in the few short years that the company had been away from it, and Disney needed a huge hit that would generate revenue and buzz to show the networks that it could produce programming that people would want to see.

With the company’s Touchstone division having established itself in theaters, it could now produce more adult fare at arm’s length from its main family product. One of the shows that it decided to tryout appeared to be a hard sell- a bawdy comedy featuring a cast of older actresses who, while extremely talented, were not the sort of persons getting cast as the main stars of a show. Some directors at the company had their doubts, but they pressed forward anyway. The show only needed to be a base hit to get the company back in the game- instead, it was a massive grand slam.

The show instantly re-invigorated Saturday nights on NBC, a night that it had previously considered a graveyard of backwater programming until SNL aired after the late news. The show quickly made Touchstone and Walt Disney Television an industry powerhouse, directly leading to the company’s purchase of ABC just ten years later. Knowing these facts, the only remaining question about their induction into Disney’s Hall of Fame is what took them so long to get there.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Disney Movies: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

When Walt Disney first came up with the idea for DISNEYLAND, he saw it as a place that could be promoted by his motion pictures and promote them as well. One of the first attractions that was primarily meant as a promotional tie-in was “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”. The picture had actually been released a year before DISNEYLAND opened, though it was still in theaters at the time its props were put on display in Tomorrowland.

Since the film was already a bonafide success, the attraction probably helped DISNEYLAND more than DISNEYLAND helped it. Tomorrowland was in desperate need of attractions and the detailed, elaborate sets of the film were a wonderful addition to the least developed land in the park.

Today, the exhibit is long gone. Located roughly where the Star Trader shop exists today, the attraction closed up shop in 1966 to make way for Tomorrowland 1967. One of the larger props previously on display, however, can still be seen in the park. The ghostly organ from the Haunted Mansion ballroom is the same organ from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea  film and attraction.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Disney Places: California’s South Bay

Oftentimes, you’ll find Disney Places in areas where you’ll least expect to see them- like in Mountain View, California.

Mountain View, California (1555 Plymouth Street, to be precise) was once the home of Arrow Development, designers of such classic DISNEYLAND attractions as Matterhorn Mountain, the Autopia and the Casey Jr. Circus Train. After the company helped Walt Disney build the Matterhorn, a feat that other engineering firms had declared impossible, he invested in the company and relied on them for several projects, such as the Autopia. As a result, Walt would often take a trip up the coast to see what projects Arrow was working on and determine whether they could be adapted for his Magic Kingdom.

Here, Mr. Disney is touring the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, looking at their Autorama attraction to see if it could be adapted for DISNEYLAND’s Autopia attraction.

The ride system would be adapted for DISNEYLAND’s use- where it would be used until 1997, when it was upgraded as part of the “New Tomorrowland.” 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Disney People: Margaret Winkler

Margaret J. Winkler was one of the earliest movie moguls at a time when the business was mostly run by men. She began her career at Warner Bros. as a secretary for Harry Warner, who thought that she could do much more and encouraged her to start up her own company, which she did in 1921.

Winkler quickly made a name for herself, distributing several of Hollywood’s earliest animated shorts, such as Felix the Cat and Out of the Inkwell. It would be her association with a young, budding animation mogul that would cement her name in history, however.

Freshly bankrupted, Walter Disney approached Ms. Winkler with an idea for a novel series of animated shorts- The Alice Comedies, which would feature a real life girl who would interact with cartoon characters in a cartoon world. Winkler saw this young artists’s potential and quickly signed him to a multi-picture deal.

The series was a modest hit, making a tidy profit for both Margaret and Walt. The partnership seemed solid until Ms. Winkler married one of her employees- Charles Mintz- who took over her operations as she settled into motherhood. Mintz was much less collaborative and much more profit driven than his wife. After the Alice Comedies had run out of steam, it was Charles who would negotiate a new deal with Walt Disney for a new series of cartoons. The new character- Oswald the Lucky Rabbit- would become a sensation, quickly overshadowing the Alice Comedies.

What could have been a successful relationship between all those involved became a mess. Charles Mintz wanted Walt Disney to work for him, becoming an employee instead of an independent producer. In the end, Mintz would steal Oswald from Walt Disney, leaving their partnership behind. Walt Disney would end up creating an even bigger star- Mickey Mouse. Winkler Pictures would soon find Oswald taken from them- by Universal Pictures. Walt Disney Productions would become a multi-billion dollar entertainment conglomerate. Winkler Pictures would become Screen Gems, currently still operating as a division of Sony Pictures.