Disneyland Resort Archives

April 2, 2018

Jack Lindquist graduated from marketing guru to one of Disneyland's greatest cheerleaders


Disney Legend Jack Lindquist made significant contributions to solidify the success of Disneyland. [The Walt Disney Company]

During the first few years of Disneyland's existence, although hopes and expectations were very high, "the success of the park wasn't a slam dunk," according to Marty Sklar, the Disney Legend and former head of Walt Disney Imagineering who began his storied career as an intern a few weeks before the park opened in 1955.

Think about that for a minute: Disneyland, which regularly draws millions of guests each year, will be celebrating its 63rd anniversary in July and is widely regarded as the center of the Disney universe, wasn't a sure thing. In fact, during those early years, the park was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, in part to cut costs.

According to Jack Lindquist, who was hired to head up the park's marketing department in 1955: "It wasn't until 1958 that everyone started to feel this [Disneyland] is going to stay ... that this is going to work. And it's something special," he said during an interview with me in 2015.

It was Jack and Marty, along with Ed Ettinger, Milt Albright, Eddie Meck, Eleanor Heldt, Carl Frith, Phil Bauer, Dorothy Manes, Charlie Nichols and Lee Cake, who were chiefly responsible for promoting the park, making sure that their strategies would lure guests to The Happiest Place on Earth in Anaheim, Calif.

And it was Jack Lindquist who was responsible for dreaming up some of the most successful park promotions ... thus assuring that Disneyland would, indeed, be the slam dunk everyone had hoped it would be.

The Disneyland publicity department in 1956. That's Jack Lindquist, top row, second from the left, and Marty Sklar, seated, center. [The Walt Disney Company]

Jack was on the outside looking in when Disneyland was being built in 1954. He worked for a marketing firm in Los Angeles and among his accounts was the Kelvinator appliance line. Kelvinator was one of dozens of Disneyland's corporate sponsors, so Jack was allowed to tour the park weeks before it opened. He was very impressed when he left the hectic construction site.

Jack was among the thousands of invited guests on hand for Disneyland's opening day, July 17, 1955. Like everyone else in the park for the momentous occasion, he saw first-hand the chaos and confusion that punctuated the day.

But that didn't deter him a few weeks later when a Disneyland representative called his office and asked him if he could recommend someone for the top marketing position at Disneyland.

"The job sounded pretty good, so I recommended myself!" he said.

Jack hit the ground running and was in the thick of many successful promotional campaigns, most of which helped solidify Disneyland's long-term success. Jack had a hand, along with Marty Sklar and Milt Albright, in the creation of the hugely successful Magic Kingdom Club, Disney Dollars and Grad Nites.

But there were many other ideas which sprang out of Jack's fertile imagination ... ideas that were ahead of their time and radically altered marketing strategies throughout the entertainment industry.

The Spring 1957 edition of Disneyland Holiday magazine, which was developed by Jack Lindquist and Marty Sklar. The name was changed to Vacationland Magazine when the publishers of Holiday Magazine became upset.

The first was Vacationland Magazine.

"When Marty and I created Vacationland Magazine, we wanted to use the same theory [as the Magic Kingdom Club] of reaching people with something different," Jack said. The magazine was published from the mid- to late 1950s.

"Most of the hotels and motels throughout California used to have racks in their lobbies. On these racks, all of the attractions throughout the state were featured in pamphlets. Again, we didn't want to do the same old thing. So Marty and I developed the magazine concept; Marty was the editor and I did the marketing."

Originally, the magazine was called Disneyland Holiday. "But the people at Holiday Magazine were not happy with us using that name," Jack said.

Still, "the magazine was a tremendous tool for Disney, very unique. It had all the info on the park, but it also had all the things happening in the area, not just Disneyland ... Knott's Berry Farm, Catalina Island and so on. At its height, in California, Nevada and Arizona, I think we distributed 300,000 magazines four times a year."

As far as getting the product to the public, "we hired two guys [Bill Schwenn and Frank Forsyth] who delivered all the magazines," Jack said. "They were on the road most of the time and they built a tremendous rapport throughout the area. Everyone got to know them and like them.

"It was one of those ideas that worked beyond our wildest dreams."

Another successful idea was the concept of selling tickets in advance for special events. In 1957, it was decided that Disneyland would open its gates to celebrate New Year's Eve, Disney-style. Jack thought it would be a great idea to make the night a special ticketed event, but 5,000 tickets needed to be sold just to break even. So, tickets were sold in advance at a variety of businesses in Hollywood, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The night was a big success and the idea of advance-sale tickets caught on. "In those days, nobody sold advance tickets," Jack said. "If you wanted a ticket, you went to the venue the day of the event."

When Disneyland turned 10, it was Jack who dreamed up with the term Tencennial and it was his idea to come up with a variety of tie-ins and promotional events all linked to the year-long celebration.

Disney Legend Rolly Crump, left, shows off his latest project to Disneyland Ambassador Julie Riehm and Walt Disney. [The Walt Disney Company]

Coinciding with the Tencennial was Jack's Disneyland Ambassador Program. "A young lady would be selected from among all the employees and she would represent Disneyland in the park and around the country," Jack said.

"They would host VIPs and heads of state in the park when Walt wasn't able to meet with them."

I asked Jack to describe the process of introducing an idea or a promotion and then getting it approved by Walt. His answer was a bit surprising.

"In those early days, we presented ideas to Ed Ettinger, who would take them to the Disneyland park operating committee, then on to the studio. In those days, Milt, Marty and I didn't have much direct contact with Walt."

When Jack came up with the ambassador program concept, "I wrote a memo, sent it to Ed Ettinger, who sent it to the studio. Two weeks later, Ed called me into his office. On the original memo was written: 'Let's do it.' It was signed by Walt himself."

Julie Riehm [now Julie Casaletto] was Disneyland's first Ambassador; she was named a Disney Legend in 2015 on the occasion of Disneyland's 60th anniversary.

In 1966, it's a small world opened in Disneyland after a successful run at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. It was Jack's idea to enhance the opening ceremonies by having a children's choir pour water collected from around the world into the boat ride's flume. Jugs of water -- 77 in total, from places like the Amazon, the Seine and the Danube rivers -- made for a truly memorable experience.

A ticket for the inaugural Disneyland Grad Nites event in 1961.

Jack would go on to become the first president of Disneyland before retiring in 1993 on Mickey Mouse's 65th birthday. He was named a Disney Legend in 1994. His window on City Hall refers to him as "The honorary mayor of Disneyland." A few years ago, he published his memoir, In Service to the Mouse.

He also played a key role in setting up the marketing strategy for Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland. In addition, he had a hand in signing up several countries to join the World Showcase lineup at Epcot. During that period of time, Jack was reunited with his old buddy from their Disneyland PR days ... Marty Sklar.

The creation of Grad Nites gave Disney the opportunity to work closely with the Anaheim-area community to come up with a popular program that was, in reality, born of tragedy.

"Grad Nites were started when Bill Schwenn and I went to a meeting in the San Gabriel Valley," Jack said. "We got a call from a group or parents who wanted to talk about having a graduation thing in the park. I think it was a group of four parents. The year before, there had been a tragic accident.

"The San Gabriel parents wanted to find a safe place for their kids on graduation night. We asked them how many kids they were talking about and it was a class of 190. If the entire class went with a date, that was about 400 people, which wasn't feasible."

But Jack was intrigued by the thought of opening the park to high school grads.

"Eventually, we went back and started talking to people, like the chief of police in Anaheim, the sheriff of Orange County, the Los Angeles police chief. They all said we were out of our minds, taking high school seniors and their dates and putting them in Disneyland. They said 'they'll probably burn the place down.'"

Jack and his team started visiting different high schools in the San Fernando Valley to gauge interest. First and foremost, Jack told the schools' reps that there would be a strict set of rules.

Students stream into Disneyland for the Grad Nite event in 1966.

"If you wanted to go to Grad Nite," Jack said, "the boys must wear coats and ties, no school IDs or anything that identified their school would be allowed. Girls would wear party dresses."

Moreover, participants would arrive at the park by 11 p.m. and stay through 5 in the morning. They would arrive by bus and leave by bus. Each school was required to supply one adult chaperone for every 20 students. Disney would supply coffee and refreshments.

"The parents said, 'OK, let's give it a try.' We ended up with 9,000 kids that first night [in 1961] from probably 30 high schools. They paid 6 dollars a ticket. It was a huge financial success for Disneyland and a great experience for millions of graduating seniors over the years."

Grad Nites are still going strong at Disneyland, although things have changed drastically since that inaugural event some 57 years ago. For one thing, they are now held at Disney's California Adventure and they run from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. For another, they will be held on select nights 18 times this May and June.

And the prices and options have risen dramatically. If you want to attend the party, a ticket costs $79. If you want to spend time in California Adventure beforehand, it'll cost $99. And if you want to experience the party, California Adventure and Disneyland, it'll cost $139.

Still, Jack Lindquist's concept of promoting the park in an enjoyable way has endured, cementing his position as one of Disneyland's all-time greatest cheerleaders.

Related Link:
Jack Lindquist: A rich legacy and a fun-filled career with the Walt Disney Company

January 8, 2018

Soarin' Around the World ... and behind the scenes


The entrance to Soarin' Around the World at Disney's California Adventure.

Prior to a recent trip to California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort, my wife Janet signed us up to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Soarin' Around the World attraction. The one-hour tour is offered to members of the Disney Vacation Club.

Soarin' Around the World is located in the Grizzly Peak section of the park, just a short walk from the Grand Californian Resort. We arrived for the tour early, grabbed a quick bite to eat at the Starbucks-sponsored Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe, then met up with the other members of the tour just outside the entrance to Soarin'.

Our tour guide led us to the entrance of the attraction, then we veered right to a "cast members only" door and were escorted to an open lot to the side of the main building. Here, our guide talked about how he was proud of the fact that he was a member of the attraction's opening day team [California Adventure's Soarin' Over California opened on Feb. 1, 2001].

He explained the reasoning behind keeping the Soarin' building just one story tall. "The designers felt that having a multi-story tall building in California Adventure would be too distracting. They had to work around the fact that the attraction's screens are 85 feet tall, so they buried the building 25 feet into the ground.

"Then, three years after we opened," he added, "they built the Tower of Terror" ... the ultimate tall, distracting building.

Guests take their seats as they board their "flight" on Soarin' Around the World.

We then re-entered the building and walked down a flight of stairs to the main boarding area of the attraction. As we exited the staircase, I noticed several animal cages in a corner off to my left. Ever curious, I asked a cast member standing nearby what the cages were for. "When guests with service animals ride the attraction," she said, "we put the animals in these cages until the guests return."

Prior to the pre-show, our guide talked about Soarin's host, Patrick Warburton. Warburton has a history with Disney, having played Kronk in The Emperor's New Grove and Steve Barkin in Kim Possible. It turns out that Warburton wasn't the first choice for the Soarin' assignment: Action film star Steven Segal was.

After the pre-show, our guide asked if anyone wanted to skip the ride for whatever reason. That was my cue to join him off to the side, where another cast member sat in front of a battery of computer monitors.

My wife and I were among the first guests to ride Soarin' in Epcot when it opened in 2005. Initially, I embraced Soarin' and even encouraged friends to ride it. I have been less than enthusiastic about it over the last few years.

For as long as I can remember, heights have been an issue with me. I get queasy sitting in the upper decks in baseball or football stadiums. The one and only time I made it to the observation deck of the World Trade Center, I had all I could do to keep from high-tailing it down the stairs. If we stay in a hotel room that's above the third floor, I tend to avoid the balcony.

After about five trips on Soarin', I started to experience waves of panic every time I approached The Land pavilion where Soarin' is housed.

When I did muster enough nerve to ride Soarin', I found myself gripping way-too-tight onto the handle bars. I even started to wear sunglasses to keep people from noticing that I had my eyes closed for most of the ride. When I did open my eyes, I'd spend more time glancing up than at the screen.

It just wasn't fun anymore. To me, it was downright terrifying sitting 40, 50 or 60 feet in the air near the rafters, your feet dangling, with just a seat belt restraining you. Worse, I worried that if the ride somehow malfunctioned and we get stuck up there for longer than 4 and a half minutes, I'd probably lose it.

It's silly, I know. The ride is totally safe. Hundreds of thousands of people have gone on it and raved about it. But I do know that there are countless people like me who have issues with heights. These days, I'm quite comfortable sitting on the sidelines, feet planted firmly on the ground.

Imagineering's Mark Sumner stands with his Erector set model of the Soarin' ride system he developed.

Sitting off to the side of the Soarin' screen gave me a totally new perspective on the attraction. For one thing, the IMAX screen is massive. It's concave and made out of metal and mesh ... metal, so that it won't be damaged by anything falling onto it, and mesh so that sound is able to pass through it.

For another, the three rows of seats go way, WAY, WAY! up into the air. "The top row is between 60 and 65 feet up," our guide said. It looks higher than that from ground level. And it's amazing how every rider dangles his or her feet during the show.

At the end of the show, our guide gathered the group and took us truly behind the scenes ... and behind the screen. From here, we could hear the beautiful score, view the projections on the screen and see the rows of seats as they were raised at the start of the show and dropped down at the conclusion.

Again, our guide was a wealth of information. There are 56 speakers positioned throughout the theater. In addition, there are scent canisters placed above the seats, which release a variety of smells to enhance the attraction. "The canisters dissolve very slowly," our guide said. "They have to be refilled about once a month."

The final leg of the tour took us into a corridor, where photos of the attraction, as well as scenes from the film, were on the walls. There also was a model of the erector set that Imagineer Mark Sumner used to come up with the cantilever ride system.

Another interesting aspect of the tour came when our guide talked about the thinking behind the updated version of the attraction. Indeed, there was a rhyme and reason behind the filming of each new scene.

For instance, the inclusion of the Great Wall of China sequence is a reference to Disney's Mulan. The Great Pyramids are an homage to Indiana Jones; the Taj Mahal [Alladdin]; Fiji [Moana]; Argentina [Paradise Falls in Up]; the Eiffel Tower [Disneyland Paris and Ratatouille]. He went to explain that there's even a Hidden Mickey located during the beach scene while soarin' over Fiji.

During filming a sequence in Africa, the guide added, the helicopter used for shooting the footage was called into service when an elephant became separated from its group. "The helicopter was used in the search-and-rescue mission," the guide said. "They found the elephant and it was nursed back to health. We were happy to help ... it was worth the delay in production."

According to Ryan March, editor of DVC's Disney Files Magazine, "There's a Soarin' tour for DVC members at Epcot. It takes place most Wednesdays at 8 a.m."

Here's a link to details on our website:

December 18, 2017

Omnimover and PeopleMover: A look at two Disney-designed ride conveyances


Bob Gurr sits behind the wheel of a car as he tests the ride system that would be used on the Ford Magic Skyway attraction during the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Note the individual drive wheels embedded in the track. [The Walt Disney Company]

From the time when Disneyland was in the planning stages right up until today, the creative team at the Walt Disney Company has been at the forefront of developing innovative, wildly imaginative park attractions.

They've also been leaders in designing new and imaginative ways for guests to enjoy those attractions.

Ride systems are as crucial to the success of an attraction as are the story lines of the shows themselves.

The 1964-1964 New York World's Fair introduced many innovative ride conveyances, among them the water jet system that propelled the boats used on the "it's a small world" attraction, as well as the rotating theaters guests sat in during the Carousel of Progress. The system used by "it's a small world" was so successful, that the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, in development in California at the time, was switched from a walk-through to the now legendary boat ride.

And then there were two ride systems that were in the planning stages during the Fair that transformed attraction conveyances and are still being used to this day.

The Omnimover and the PeopleMover.

The Ford Magic Skyway was one of the most popular shows at the Fair, in large part because Disney's creative staff was able to devise a system that propelled actual Ford vehicles throughout the attraction. Of course, the realistic-looking dinosaurs featured during the attraction also added to the ride's appeal.

The brains behind the Magic Skyway ride system was Imagineering legend Bob Gurr, who came to Disney as a "car guy," but who branched out and quickly became the designer of just about anything that rode on wheels in Disneyland.

Walt Disney, left, takes a ride on the Ford Magic Skyway attraction at the New York World's Fair. With him are Henry Ford II and Robert Moses.

One of Gurr's breakthrough concepts came during the design of the Matterhorn Mountain attraction, which debuted in 1959. "We used track-mounted wheels to control the speeds of the bobsleds," he said. Working in conjunction with Arrow Development, they dubbed the track-mounted wheels "booster brakes," meaning the bobsleds could be sped up or slowed down during their trek through the fabled mountain, allowing more than one bobsled to be on the Matterhorn track at the same time, an industry first.

When Walt Disney signed a contract with the Ford Motor Company to create the Ford Magic Skyway attraction in the early 1960s, he nonchalantly told Ford chairman Henry Ford II that they would use the booster brake system on the planned attraction. Walt returned to California and sought out Gurr, telling him: "OK, Bobby, you're gonna work on the Ford ride. I told them you're gonna use the booster brakes, so get started."

"The booster brakes were a logical system," Gurr said. "It was individual vehicles propelled on a track." It also was the forerunner of the PeopleMover system. The Ford system had a series of propulsion wheels embedded in the track throughout the attraction. Each was driven by, as Gurr said, "ordinary squirrel cage type motors."

The cars above, stripped down to their body shell, had flat panels attached to their chassis. The motorized wheels on the track would spin, propelling each car when the wheels came in contact with the flat panel, called a platen. The cars used for the attraction were stripped-down Lincolns, Mercurys, Falcons, Comets and a new sports car that was soon to capture car lovers' imaginations: The Mustang.

"I worked continuously from July 1961 to April 1964 to get this monster to work," Gurr said. "It eventually took almost twice as long to develop as it took to build all of Disneyland!"

Gurr would take his experience with the Ford Magic Skyway system and translate it into the creation of the PeopleMover attraction, which debuted in 1967 as part of the Tomorrowland redesign at Disneyland. Disney mechanical engineer Bill Watkins "developed a track-mounted, drive-wheel propulsion system based on my successful Magic Skyway drive system, itself stolen from Arrow Development's booster-brake track wheel invention" for Matterhorn Mountain, Gurr said.

The Monsanto Adventure Thru Inner Space in Disneyland was the first attraction to employ the Omnimover ride system. [Disneyland]

The PeopleMover, first introduced as the WEDway PeopleMover, is still in use today in Walt Disney World, giving guests a relaxing tour of Tomorrowland.

There are key differences between the PeopleMover and the Omnimover systems.

"The Omnimover is a connected endless chain of vehicles," Gurr said. "The Haunted Mansion is an Omnimover."

On the Omnimover system, the ride vehicles have the ability to twist and turn and go up and down inclines; on a PeopleMover system, the vehicles travel straight ahead, with the ability to negotiate turns.

Gurr worked with Disney Legend John Hench on the Omnimover design and is even credited with coming up with the name for the ride conveyance. The design came about when Gurr picked up a candied apple on a stick from Hench's desk and began twirling it. From that very basic concept came the final design, featuring a welded two-pipe rail track, drive fin, squeezer drive nuts, gears and linkages.

The first Omnimover system was used on the Monsanto Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction, which debuted in 1967. "We had very little developmental problems with it," Gurr remembers. "We did, however, improve the drive unit over the years on future attractions."

There are several Disney park attractions that are similar in concept to the Omnimover ... but are not, technically, Omnimovers.

The fabled "doom buggies" in the Haunted Mansion are propelled by the Omnimover system.

Many people believe Spaceship Earth in Epcot employs an Omnimover system. They're wrong.

"Spaceship Earth is not an Omnimover, but a one-of-a-kind vehicle conveyor totally unlike and sharing no parts with an Omnimover," Gurr said.

"I disagreed so strongly with the Spaceship Earth design that I was moved to other projects — thankfully. It has had a number of redesign attempts over the years to try to reduce the high maintenance required."

Some of the newer adaptations of the Omnimover system include Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, the Seas with Nemo and Friends and Journey into Imagination. World of Motion and Horizons used Omnimover systems, as did the If You Had Wings/Delta Dreamflight attraction, which now features the Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

Related Videos

Disney Legends Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar discuss Disney's contributions to the NY Worlds Fair:

Jack Spence discusses the origin of the People Mover

October 9, 2017

The short, bumpy ride of the Rocket Rods attraction at Disneyland


For three decades, the WEDway PeopleMover was a cornerstone attraction in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. [The Walt Disney Company]

The late 1990s were a dark time at Disneyland.

It was not unusual to see signs of aging and decay throughout the park: Peeling paint, cracks in the pavement, crumbling woodwork, rusted iron railings. Marty Sklar, the head of Walt Disney Imagineering at the time, noticed ... and so, too, he correctly surmised, did park guests.

"Wherever you looked," the late Disney Legend said a few years ago, "the park set a new low in Disney quality."

After Jack Lindquist, Disneyland's first president, retired in 1994, his successor, Paul Pressler, seemed to take more of a bottom-line approach and didn't appear to be much of an attention-to-detail kind of guy.

So when it was decided to re-imagine the outdated Tomorrowland section of the park, the idea was to come up with some new attractions ... but to do it as cost-effectively as possible [In other words: Cheaply]. To be fair, the company was pouring buckets of money into a number of major projects at the time, most notably the construction of new parks at Disneyland [California Adventure], Disneyland Paris [The Walt Disney Studios] and the Disney Cruise Line's first two ocean liners.

An overview of Tomorrowland after the initial expansion during the mid-1960s. [The Walt Disney Company]

Still, Disney decided to remake Tomorrowland. From 1967 through 1995, the WEDway PeopleMover was an integral part of the Tomorrowland landscape, as recognizable as the TWA Rocket, which was there on opening day in 1955, and Space Mountain.

"Walt had long wanted some kind of overhead slow transportation system [at Disneyland] which could be built for use in cities as sort of a fast-walking overview" of what was below, said Bob Gurr, the Imagineer who was tasked with designing the PeopleMover as part of the first Tomorrowland redesign in the mid-1960s.

Once completed and fully operational, Walt hoped the PeopleMover technology at Disneyland would serve as a working model and would subsequently find a place in cities, airports and shopping malls as an efficient way to get people from Point A to Point B. Also in the back of Walt's mind was a prototype city of the future, where he envisioned clean-running PeopleMovers and monorails to be the main modes of transportation for inhabitants, not noisy, exhaust-spewing cars, trucks or buses.

A PeopleMover poster proclaims: "Ride Tomorrow's Transportation ,,, Today!"

The flat PeopleMover track bed was elevated about 12 feet above the ground, held up by sturdy columns, with covered ride vehicles that looked like ski gondolas traversing slowly, but steadily during a tranquil journey through Tomorrowland.

"The WEDway performed wonderfully for more than 30 years, giving guests the slow and peaceful overhead view of Tomorrowland," Gurr added, "sort of a moving park bench for lazy people-watching."

Then came the second Tomorrowland redesign in the 1990s, the demise of the PeopleMover and the introduction of an attraction called Rocket Rods.

If there was any doubt the Disneyland that traditionalists knew and loved was changing - and not for the better - you needn't have looked any further than the submarine attraction, which was closed in 1998 ... despite the protestations of two of its biggest proponents.

According to former Disney Imagineering Legend Tony Baxter: "Over Marty Sklar's objection and mine, they decided to close it rather than really doing something fresh and bring it up to date because it had gotten passe. But it was a different time at the Disney Company."

That "different time" meant removing the PeopleMover gondolas, laying down a new track and putting in futuristic, if odd-looking five-passenger vehicles into service. The Rocket Rods were intended to be the rapid transit system of the future.

The Rocket Rods were the featured attraction on the Tomorrowland makeover in the late 1990s at Disneyland. [Disneyland]

The Rocket Rods were supposed to be the cornerstone of the Tomorrowland expansion. Although lines were extremely long after the attraction opened in May of 1998, the Rocket Rods never lived up to the hype.

For one thing, there was the disjointed queue, which started outside of the old CircleVision 360 attraction and then took guests inside a series of rooms, where a variety of displays showed the history of Disney transportation. Then guests had to climb some stairs to reach the Rocket Rods boarding area.

The open-air ride vehicles were decidedly low-capacity. They seated five guests, with two riders in the back row, then three single-rider seats. Throughout the entire ride, you could hear an annoying, whirring sound that gave you the impression that the vehicle was straining to pick up speed.

The problem was, it never really went very fast. There were occasional short bursts of speed, like at the straightaway during the start, but for the most part, the Rocket Rods never went much faster than the Tomorrowland Transit Authority vehicles in Walt Disney World. The new Rocket Rods track was placed over the flat PeopleMover track bed and no banked curves were incorporated in the design, which meant that every time your Rocket Rod would approach a curve, it needed to decelerate. The constant acceleration/deceleration of the vehicle proved to be problematic and ultimately contributed to the ride's demise.

In addition, although the track took guests inside several buildings in Tomorrowland [Star Tours, Star Traders, Starcade and Space Mountain], for the most part, the Rocket Rods riders were exposed to the elements. Like the original PeopleMover, the Rocket Rods' track weaved under monorail beams and over the now submarine-less Submarine Voyage lagoon.

The view from the front seat of one of the Rocket Rods vehicles.

A few weeks after Rocket Rods opened, they were shut down for maintenance. When they reopened an astonishing three months later, little had changed in terms of the ride's reliability. There were countless system failures and even more frustrated guests waiting in queues that went nowhere.

The Rocket Rods closed in 2000, again presumably for maintenance, but they never reopened. Without much fanfare, the ride vehicles were removed from the track and dismantled. Curiously, the track remained in place.

To this day, that track and its many obtrusive support columns are still there. Regular Disneyland guests have become oblivious to them, but their presence remains one of those park conundrums that Disneyland purists can only shake their heads at.

Bob Gurr, the former Disney Imagineer who designed so many attractions within Disneyland's berm, is just as puzzled as the rest of us.

"I get the same questions at every personal appearance. Why was the PeopleMover removed, we loved it. Why didn't Rocket Rods work? When will the PeopleMover return ... on and on.

"Asking Disneyland or Walt Disney Imagineering only gets 'we know nothing.' So year after year, neither organization can suggest any replacement. When asked when the track system will be removed ... you get the same answer.

During a visit to Disneyland in 2000, we discovered these WEDway PeopleMover vehicles on display in a backstage area. [Janet Schmidt]

"Some folks conclude that the Imagineers working prior to around 1980 created intelligent attractions every time, but the later and current team misses the mark from time to time, it must be a different bunch.

"The earlier folks tended to be fearless but thoughtful, even though many had no design or engineering credentials, while the newer folks are very trained and credentialed, and led by professional project managers. I suppose it's harder these days to come up with ever grander stuff compared to us older pioneers. But stuff should work!"

The dismantling of shuttered attractions does seem to be a problem at Disneyland. Take, for example, the Fantasyland Skyway station. The Skyway was a fixture in Disneyland from 1956 until it closed in 1994. Most of the attraction's structure was removed, save for the gondola station in Fantasyland, which sat roped off and dormant for 22 years.

It wasn't until 2016, when construction began on the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, that the powers that be got around to tearing down the Fantasyland Skyway station.

One interesting note: The Rocket Rods attraction had its own theme song, "World of Creativity (Magic Highways of Tomorrow)", which was composed by none other than Richard and Robert Sherman.


VIDEO: Take a Journey on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover circa 2014

VIDEO: The Peoplemover circa 2009

VIDEO: Rocket Rods circa July 2000!

VIDEO: Disney Historian Jack Spence explores the origins of the Wedway People Mover in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World on this special edition of AllEarsNet TV, Episode #18 !

December 26, 2016

Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway, who passed away Dec. 24: There will never be another like him


Charlie Ridgway conducts an interview on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World prior to the beginning of WDW's 15th anniversary celebration in 1986. [The Walt Disney Company]

"There will never be another like him."

In the hubbub of the holiday season, the passing of Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway on Dec. 24 may have gone unnoticed to most casual Disney fans ... but not to the people who knew him, worked for him, admired him and flat-out loved him.

"I wanted to let you know that our dear Charlie, 93, passed away today," former Walt Disney World publicity director Rick Sylvain messaged me on Christmas Eve.

Our dear Charlie.

That pretty much sums up the feelings of so many people whose lives were touched by the kind-hearted gentleman from Missouri, whose humble beginnings as a radio disc jockey and Midwestern newspaperman belied his legendary status in Disney's star-studded firmament.

Charlie, the master of spinning Disney's world as the company's chief press agent at both Disneyland and WDW, followed in his father's footsteps and earned a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Despite his journalism pedigree, he began his career in radio because his father, who covered the agricultural beat for the Chicago Tribune, told him that "newspapers are bound to be a dying breed and encouraged me to get into radio. He was pretty wise."

Charlie sets up a publicity photo of Donald Duck in the shadows of Cinderella Castle. [The Walt Disney Company]

Charlie landed a job at a 5,000-watt radio station in Erie, Pa., in the late 1940s after serving honorably during World War II. After about three years, though, he got a job offer from the Erie Dispatch, "my first job as a newspaperman. That job lasted about a year before I decided I needed to get into a bigger market. I had fallen in love with Los Angeles during the war, so I decided to go out there in 1952."

Charlie, his wife Gretta and their young family moved west, to a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles called Anaheim. He got a job as a general reporter with the Los Angeles Mirror-News and became aware of a construction site near their house when he and his family passed it on their way to the beach on weekends.

That construction site, rising up from large fields of orange groves, was to become Disneyland. It was Charlie Ridgway who was among the first journalists to do a story on Disneyland in early 1955 prior to opening ... and it was Charlie who was among the hundreds of frazzled journalists on hand to cover opening day on July 17, 1955.

Indeed, Charlie covered Disneyland for several years, for both the Los Angeles Mirror-News, then the Long Beach Press-Telegram, before he accepted a job offer from Disneyland in 1963 in the park's publicity department, doing the bulk of the office's writing.

A legendary career with Disney was launched.

From his tiny office above the police station near City Hall, Charlie dreamed up new and creative ways to get the word out on Disneyland, among them the press event he helped set up for the grand opening of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in 1967.

Charlie signs a copy of his book, "Spinning Disney's World," several years ago.

"We sailed all the press people around in the sailing ship Columbia and then came in and fired the cannons and had a big sword fight on the deck." In addition, buccaneers boarded the ship from smaller craft and pirates fell from the ship into the river during their duels. Once the press folks were in a swashbuckling mood, they disembarked the ship and "stormed" the entrance of the Pirates of the Caribbean to gain access.

"I was in on that," Charlie said proudly during an interview with me in early 2014.

In the years that followed, Charlie was the go-to guy when it came to dreaming up fun and creative ways to publicize the park. Then, in 1969, Charlie was asked to move to central Florida to drum up publicity for Walt Disney's "latest and greatest dream" ... Walt Disney World.

"The first trip I made when I took the job at the end of 1969 was to go to New York. I went to Time, Life and Look magazines and all the major newspapers and I also went to Washington to National Geographic."

Look Magazine wanted to be the first publication to have a cover story on WDW, but the Magic Kingdom was still six months from completion. "It was way too early," Charlie said. "There wasn't that much really finished. But we were able to gerrymander things and produce pictures that looked like it was really done."

Charlie also played a key role in the classic photo that appeared on the cover of Life Magazine a few weeks before WDW opened.

The Life Magazine cover prior to the opening of Walt Disney World in 1972 which Charlie Ridgway helped set up. [Life Magazine]

"I suggested we do a mob-scene photo and we carried forward from that point," Charlie said. "We went to Life with the idea and they liked it. They sent down one of their very best photographers [Yale Joel]. He got up on a stand with an 8 x 10 view camera to shoot the picture. Of course, that was the one we shot in front of the castle. We assembled as many cast members [3,000 of the 5,000 on staff at the time] as we could get there."

Charlie also was the architect of many elaborate press events during his years at WDW, events that saw literally thousands of members of the media invited to experience first-hand the magic and wonder of The Vacation Kingdom of the World.

Perhaps the most significant press event in Charlie's eyes was the grand opening of Epcot in October of 1982. It was the first time in broadcast history that television stations from around the country were able to carry an event live, thanks to a still-untested satellite uplink technology. "It was a rather feeble attempt, by today's standards," Charlie said, but it worked beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

It was Charlie at his finest. "We used to sit around marketing meetings dreaming up crazy ideas," he said.

Charlie's "crazy ideas" left a lasting impression on those folks who were privileged to work with him.

The author with Charlie Ridgway during lunch in 1992. [Chuck Schmidt collection]

"I don't think he realizes how important he is to all of us and how much influence he's had on our careers," Michelle Baumann, who was hired by Charlie more than 25 years ago, told me a few years ago. "To give you an idea of what kind of person Charlie was, I was hired back during the time when photo captions had to be pasted onto the backs of the publicity photos, which was pretty tedious and time-consuming, but Charlie would be right there with us, doing the grunt work, not giving it a second thought.

"Every once in a while, we'll be stumped with something and someone in the office will say, 'What would Charlie do?' He made that much of an impression on us."

Rick Sylvain and a bunch of Charlie's "old guard" were scheduled to take him out to lunch on Dec. 14, but the luncheon had to be scrapped because of Charlie's failing health.

"So many of us owe so much to that man," Rick said. "I know he rescued me from a nasty newspaper strike in Detroit in 1995 and launched me on 20 years that I will never forget.

"There will never be another like him."

August 22, 2016

Disney PinQuest: A Pin Collecting Scavenger Hunt at Disneyland Park



Danielle Marshall
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

Whether you are an experienced enthusiast or curious beginner, Disney pin collecting is an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family both in and out of the park. With the exception of very young Mouseketeers, I observed collectors of all ages enjoying Disneyland’s newest pin collecting adventure, Disney PinQuest.

As an inexperienced pin collector, and owner of fewer than a dozen Disney pins, I was interested to learn more about the pin collecting excitement that had emerged among Disney fans on websites and blogs. After completing some preliminary research I decided to dedicate some time in Disneyland Park to pin collecting.

With an optimistic outlook, I entered Disneyland Park the morning of the new Disney PinQuest release and quickly made my way down Main Street U.S.A. to 20th Century Music Company, one of many shops where pins may be purchased and traded. When I arrived, there were already several guests in line waiting to purchase the Limited Release Disneyland Park Disney PinQuest starter kit.

A "Pin Specialist" was explaining to a collector, wearing what appeared to be an armored vest covered with shiny Disney pins, that the entire set of seven pins could be purchased immediately for about $85, or purchased separately from "NavigatEARS" at six different destinations throughout the park. I chose to "earn" my pins by completing the scavenger hunt and am glad I did.


The starter kit included a lanyard, Decoder Medal, a PinQuest map, and pouch to store the map and Clue Cards when not in use. Feeling completely under-qualified, I disclosed my lack of knowledge to Disney Pin Specialist Theresa, who generously offered her time and expertise to help me get started. After a brief introduction to pin collecting and a tour of the pins available in the shop, she gave me my first Disney PinQuest Clue Card.


She kindly demonstrated how to use it to collect a Clue Pin from a NavigatEAR and encouraged me to continue on quickly to avoid longer lines later in the day. Each of the six Clue Cards available for purchase (the idea being you purchase the Clue Card and “receive” the Clue Pin as a reward) identifies a destination in the park and question that requires participants to seek out an object or image and respond to a multiple-choice question. The questions weren’t difficult to answer, but it is unlikely you would be able to respond correctly without having done the research. Thankfully you don’t have to choose the correct answer to earn your Clue Pin, have your map stamped, and purchase your next Clue Card. In fact, Cast Members were offering help to anyone who needed it.

Each Clue Pin is needed to locate the next destination on the map. After correctly aligning the points, with the Clue Pin beneath the Medal Decoder, I was able to use the coordinates to reveal the next destination on the map. With a new Clue Card in hand, I continued on with my quest. After successfully completing the Disney PinQuest, you have the option of purchasing the Limited Release Official Disney QuestEAR pin, featuring Mickey Mouse. You will likely want to proudly display, as many guests were, your new pins on the included lanyard or another of your choice -- there are many different designs and styles available throughout the park.


Including a stop at the Mint Julep Bar for some Mickey-shaped beignets, and a quick ride on the Matterhorn, the entire PinQuest took just under two hours to complete. I didn’t keep track of the length of time I spent discussing pin collecting and trading with Cast Members and other participants, but I doubt it added more than about 20 minutes to my overall time. I spoke with a couple sharing a Dole Whip, who explained they were in no rush, and were completing the PinQuest between attractions and meals. The time it takes to complete the PinQuest will vary and depends on how busy the park is and the individual QuestEAR’s pace.

Warning: you may become a victim of Disney merchandising and experience some unplanned spending, as the quest takes you into retail shops throughout the park. I ended up with a Disneyland 60th Anniversary beach towel and Cheshire Cat lanyard medal that I simply couldn’t live without.

Aside from the occasional feeling of guilt for enjoying the Disney PinQuest without my 9-year old Disney fan, I had a great time learning about pin collecting from Disney Cast Members and fans. Before participating, I knew very little about Disney pins and had decided not to begin building another Disney collection. For better or worse, I now have another Disney interest to pursue.

As I was leaving the park that day, I noticed another Disney pin enthusiast wearing a personalized Disney pin carrying case and a denim jacket covered with pins. When I asked him if he had completed the new PinQuest he replied, "They don’t call me a 'Pin Shark' around here for nothing," and then confidently flashed his newly acquired pins.

Note: Disney PinQuest is also offered at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

November 22, 2015

Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure

Gary Cruise banner

Tucked far-away in a back corner of Adventureland is one of our “must-do” Disneyland attractions. The Indiana Jones Adventure is always a priority when Carol and I visit Disneyland!

Indiana Jones Sign

The entrance to the Indiana Jones Adventure is between The Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean, but the entrance for The Temple of the Forbidden Eye is a half-mile away. Yes, you read that correctly, the queue for this attraction is a half a mile long, and it’s that spectacular queue that I want to talk about in this blog!

First let’s take a look at the scope of the construction project! Building an attraction of this size and scope in a mature theme park raised some challenges. The park was fully developed, filled with popular attractions, with very little surplus space available. So, how did they do it?

Imagineer Tony Baxter was in charge of this big job, this very big job. They had to re-route the monorail and modify the Jungle Cruise river to make it all fit. The picture below shows a “bulge” in the monorail line where it was moved to create space for the new building.

Birds Eye View of Indiana Jones Adventure

The Indiana Jones Adventure took a year and a half to build; construction began in August 1993 and the attraction opened March 4, 1995.

Now, lets get back to that half-mile-long queue that runs between the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean to the 50,000 square foot “show building” which is in the site of the former Eeyore parking lot. Tony Baxter led a team of hundreds of Imagineers who designed and built a visually rich and immersive attraction!

Every Disney attraction has a backstory and the Indiana Jones Adventure has one that fans of the movie series will find very exciting. The backstory is laid out in clues which attentive guests can read and see as they pass through the entry queue. Read the letters and telegrams posted along the queue, watch the newsreels and all will be revealed!

It is 1935 and you are in India, at the Lost River Delta. Intrepid adventurer Indiana Jones has pieced together clues and map fragments resulting in his discovery of an ancient Bengalese temple, buried for over 2000 years in the river silt. The Temple of the Forbidden Eye!

Temple of the Forbidden Eye

The temple God, Mara, offers visitors one of three gifts, earthly riches, eternal youth, or visions of the future – but there is a catch! Guests must never gaze into the eyes of Mara!

Indiana Jones is leading the excavation at the site, but funding for the project is tight. To raise money to continue the dig Sallah (played by John Rhys-Davies) has been offering guided tours of the temple. Many of the tourists have been granted riches, youth or visionary powers, but some have not returned. Jones went in search of the missing guests and has not been heard from in over a week . . . now it’s time for your tour!

Serpent Statues

Keep your eyes open as you pass through the entry queue and this story will be evident in the clues you find. But beware of all the booby-traps! Don’t step on the diamond shaped cobble stones, they activate the traps! Look for artifacts from the movies; that big Mercedes-Benz troop transport truck you see as you enter is from the first Indiana Jones movie. You can almost visualize Harrison Ford crawling beneath it as it careens down the road!

The Troop Truck

When you encounter a rope with a sign asking you not to pull the rope, be sure to give it a yank. Just ignore the sign and pull!

It’s an awesome entry that you should take time to enjoy. If you get a FastPass and dash through every time you’re missing a very rich experience. Take your time and look around, soak in all the amazing details the Imagineers added just for you!

Here’s a project for you! Throughout the entries chambers and passages the walls are filled with petroglyphs written in “Marabic”.

True Rewards Await Those Who Choose Wisely

They give you hints about the riches and the perils ahead of you. When the attraction first opened special cards were given to all guests. They were designed to help guests translate the Marabic into English.

Indiana Jones Code Solution

Click on the image below to see a larger version of the decoder, then save the file. Print it and take a copy along on your next trip to Disneyland.

Indiana Jones Decoder Card

At the end of the queue, just before you board the truck for your tour, Sallah gives you some final safety instructions and then you buckle-up for the adventure! The vehicles resemble large jeeps and hold 12 passengers in three rows, four abreast. They are full of hydraulic activators which move the vehicles in all sorts of different ways, every ride is unique as the vehicle bounces, careens, slows then races through the temple.

The Indiana Jones Adventure shares the same ride system used in Animal Kingdom’s Dinosaur attraction, but neither of us likes Dinosaur. We don’t enjoy the many long dark passages and find it very rough, bumpy and uncomfortable. The “Indy” ride, on the other hand, is amazing! Yes, it’s bumpy but it’s so exciting and so engaging that we are captivated by our surroundings.

It’s filled with scenes reminiscent of the movies, ancient relics, evil curses, rickety bridges, giant rolling boulders and of course, “Snakes, why does it always have to be snakes?” Scene after exciting scene from the movies pass as you hurtle by in your jeep!

The Lava Room

So, the next time you visit Disneyland be sure to take a slow stroll through the queue at Indiana Jones Adventure. Take time to look for all those clues, translate those petroglyphs. Savour the experience that Tony Baxter and all those other Imagineers built just for you.

Tony Baxter

Don’t worry, things will speed up as soon as you board your jeep!

Oh, one final thing, that petroglyph I showed you earlier?

True Rewards Await Those Who Choose Wisely
It reads: “True rewards await those who choose wisely”

August 16, 2015

Disneyland Chronicles – An Updated Timeline

Gary Cruise banner

By the time this blog is published on Carol and I will be enjoying our 10th visit to Disneyland and attending the D23 Expo in Anaheim.

Although it seems like yesterday, it was a decade ago when we made our first trek west to visit Disneyland for the park’s Golden Anniversary. We had a ball as we joined in the fun at “The Happiest Homecoming On Earth”, the official name of the 50th Birthday celebration! Just before flying west we received the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine and had a chance to read a very timely article by Jennifer Eastwood titled “The Disneyland Chronicles”.

The wonderful five-page article gives a short history of the park, a timeline of significant and unusual events in the history of the resort. It certainly whet our appetites as we read that article just before our big adventure began!

In addition to the timeline, there were recollections from some famous names you are sure to remember, Hayley Mills, Michael Reagan and Bobby Benson.

The article is included below, click on each page to see a larger copy you can read at your leisure.

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 36

Here are a few of my favourite points from the article:
- The park officially opened on July 17, 1955 and only seven weeks later they welcomed their One Millionth guest – Elsa Marquez.
- In 1961 the first Disneyland Grad Nite Party was held. Teens in formal garb spent ALL NIGHT in the park.
- In 1963 the first Audio-Animatronics appeared, ♫♪ in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room ♪♫
- In 1967 The Pirates Of The Caribbean opened.
- In 1969 hundreds of VW Beetles paraded down main Street on Love Bug Day and later in the year The Haunted Mansion opened.
- In 1979 the first baby was born at Disneyland – Teresa Salsedo was delivered on a bench behind the Plaza Inn – she later received the first birth certificate issued by Disney!

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 37

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 38

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 40

Disney Magazine Summer 2005 pg 41

There’s plenty more good reading there; take some time to read all of Jennifer Eastwood’s article!

Now Disneyland is celebrating 60 years, it’s the Diamond Anniversary. Let’s look at what’s happened in the decade since Carol and I made that first Disneyland trip in 2005! Let's update the timeline!

Walt Disney said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

That has proven to be very true! Let’s look at the big changes in the past ten years!

In 2008 - Toy Story Midway Mania opened - A huge resort expansion began with the 2008 opening of Toy Story Midway Mania! at Disney California Adventure park. This ride-through, interactive adventure, located on Paradise Pier, takes riders into a high-energy 4-D carnival midway hosted by “Toy Story” characters. Riders don 3-D glasses and rapid-fire their cannons as they whirl and twirl through the midway firing balls, darts, paintballs and rings at everything in sight! Toy Story has become one of our “must-do” rides, Carol and I become very competitive as we spin through the targets!

Toy Story Midway Mania

Toy Story Midway Mania

2009 - Mickey’s Fun Wheel - The next big attraction on Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure park, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, was actually a “re-Imagineering” of the old Sun Wheel. The 160-foot-diameter eccentric wheel lost its old marquee of sun rays and added a new Mickey Mouse marquee. The gondolas, some fixed and some sliding, all bear images of Minnie, Donald, Pluto or Goofy. The attraction is surrounded by the Games of the Boardwalk, carnival-style games in a Victorian boardwalk setting.

The Sun Wheel

Mickeys Fun Wheel

2010 – “World of Color” - a night-time spectacular featuring nearly 1,200 colourful dancing fountains and animated projections on a water screen the size of a football field, began nightly performances at Disney California Adventure park.

World of Color

World of Color

2011 - Star Tours – The Adventures Continue / The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure - At Disneyland park, the original Star Tours attraction that opened in 1987 was “re-Imagineered” as Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, featuring more than 50 3-D adventures that send voyagers for the first time to Coruscant, Tatooine and other destinations in the Stars Wars galaxy. Across the esplanade at Disney California Adventure park, The Little Mermaid - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure debuted, taking guests “under the sea” to experience a classic dark ride featuring scenes and songs from The Little Mermaid film.

Star Tours

Ariel's Undersea Adventure

Ariel's Undersea Adventure

2012 - Cars Land / Buena Vista Street - One of the biggest projects in Disneyland history saw the former Timon parking lot transform into Cars Land. This 12 acre themed land at Disney California Adventure park invited guests to enter a breathtaking new world inspired by the hit Disney•Pixar film “Cars” and featured three new attractions – Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. The addition of Buena Vista Street transformed the gateway of Disney California Adventure park into the 1920s and 1930s Los Angeles that greeted a young Walt Disney.

Cars Land

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

Radiator Springs

2013 - Fantasy Faire / “Mickey and the Magical Map” - At Disneyland park, the royal red carpet rolled out at Fantasy Faire, a picturesque village square that welcomed guests to meet Disney’s fairy tale heroes and heroines. “Mickey and the Magical Map” a new, live stage show in the Fantasyland Theatre featuring Mickey Mouse in his timeless role as the sorcerer’s apprentice made it’s debut.

Fantasy Faire

Mickey and the Magical Map

Mickey and the Magical Map

2014 – Billy Hill & the Hillbillies / Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome - I’m a “glass half full” sort of guy, but I must admit that a couple of recent changes at Disneyland have left me disappointed, feeling like my glass is suddenly half empty. After 21 years entertaining Disneyland guests Billy Hill & the Hillbillies were informed in 2014 that their contract would not be renewed. Ouch! My absolute favourite Disneyland performers are now thrilling their many fans in a new location, Knott’s Berry Farm. Then the amazing Zoetrope disappeared from the Animation Academy at Disney California Adventure park. A friend who visited Disneyland earlier this year told us that the area where Carol and I would stand in absolute wonder as we watched the Toy Story Zoetrope spin has been transformed to Arendelle. Anna and Elsa, who continue to take over the entire Disney world, now meet and greet their little friends in the Animation Academy.

Gary with the Billies

The Zoetrope

While the last two changes have taken some of the magic out of Disneyland from my perspective, most of the developments of the past decade have been very positive. It seems that Walt was right; Disneyland just hasn’t stopped changing. In fact, change has been so prolific that some of the most recent changes have already undergone another change! Luigi’s Flying Tires has closed to make way for Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters which is scheduled to open in 2016.

I wonder what’s coming next?

There are rumoured to be some big announcements scheduled during the D23 Expo, so by the time you read this we may have all heard about some new Disney magic coming in the future!

May 10, 2015

Happy 60th Birthday Disneyland

Gary Cruise banner

Although it was 11 years ago, it seems like yesterday when Carol I started to make plans for our "once-in-a-lifetime" trip to Disneyland. We were as excited as little children as we contemplated the trip!

You see, we are both part of the generation that saw Disneyland take shape before our eyes! Back in the mid 1950's we lived several hundred miles apart and we wouldn't meet for almost two decades, but each of us was hooked on Disney even back then! I rushed home from school each day to watch the Mickey Mouse Club.

Mickey Mouse Club Poster

Jimmie Dodd and the Mouseketeers kept me entertained with skits and song & dance routines; there were cartoons and serial adventures like The Hardy Boys and Spin and Marty.


Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers

Television was in its infancy and Walt Disney quickly proved that he understood the power of this new medium. He used it very effectively to sell his latest and most daring venture - Disneyland. Every Sunday evening Carol and I were both glued to the old black and white TV set watching snowy images of Walt Disney himself as he hosted the hour-long Disneyland program.

Disneyland TV Show Logo

That version of the weekly television show ran from 1954 to 1958 and along with serial adventures such as Davy Crockett and classic Disney animated features like Alice in Wonderland, the show often gave us brief glimpses of the exotic adventures awaiting at Disneyland, in Adventureland - Fantasyland - Frontierland - Tomorrowland and Main Street USA. It was the first of its kind, the original theme park.

Alas, Disneyland was so far away! It was over 2,300 miles as the crow flies. Interstate Highways were not yet built and the most expedient course was along Route 66, a drive of more than 3,000 miles from our homes in Canada. The world seemed so much larger and so inaccessible in those days!

An issue of The Disney News published in the summer of 1990, when the park was 35 years old, described the world of 1955, when Disneyland opened. The two-page article makes interesting reading. Inflation in 1955 was under 1% (.3%), unemployment was 4% and the minimum wage was $1.00. Times were good and the economy was booming! Names in the news included a controversial new singer - Elvis Presley, a young actor - James Dean and in December 1955 the civil rights movement got a spark from newsmaker Rosa Parks. Television programs included Roy Rogers, Davy Crockett, I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Gunsmoke and Dragnet. Ann Landers wrote her first newspaper column that year.

The article is shown below, click on the images to see larger, readable versions of the pages.

Disney News Summer 1990 pg 34

Disney News Summer 1990 pg 35

Now let's jump ahead 49 years to early 2004; the world had shrunk considerably. Carol and I had been to Walt Disney World many times and now we were beginning to plan a trip to the granddaddy of all theme parks. It was so exciting! The trip that was beyond our wildest dreams as children was now going to be a reality.

Then the Disney Magazine arrived in the summer of 2004, describing the celebrations planned for the park's 50th birthday. It was billed as "The Happiest Homecoming on Earth". It sounded too good to miss! Read about it below.

Disney Magazine Summer 2004 pg 19

It was actually painful when we decided to wait a year and go west in 2005 to witness the 50th Anniversary festivities! But we finally made the trip in May; we checked in at The Disneyland Hotel and enjoyed a glorious week walking in Walt's footsteps. We enjoyed it so much that our once-in-a-lifetime trip has become more of an annual tradition. We've been back eight more times in the nine years since that first trip.

60 Years Diamond Anniversary Celebration

And now the park is poised to celebrate its 60th birthday. Gosh, isn't it funny how that can make us feel very old and very young at the same time. We feel old when we think that six decades have gone by since we first dreamed of a trip to Disneyland . . . but we feel like a kids again when we consider that we might soon get back there!

Over the past few months we've been talking quite seriously about heading west for the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, the 60th Anniversary celebrations which kick off on May 22, 2015. Will we go? We're undecided at the moment. But it sure sounds good!

There will be a new "Paint the Night" Parade.

Paint The Night Parade

And a new "Disneyland Forever" Fireworks Show.

Disneyland Forever Fireworks

Disneyland Forever Fireworks

And a brand new "World of Color - Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney" will light up the skies every night at the Disney's California Adventure.

Read more about all the new entertainment here.

Watch a video below which gives a "sneak peek" of the new attractions.

They are making some very interesting changes to Sleeping Beauty Castle as well. It should be breathtaking! Listen carefully during the video below to hear the new word the Imagineers have coined for the occasion. They're going to "diamondize" the castle.

Fellow AllEars blogger Laura Gilbreath attended a special Media Preview at Disneyland on April 14th and had a "sneak peak" at new entertainment, new merchandise and new food items to be offered as part of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration. Use the links below to read Laura's blogs which include many more "insider" pictures and details. Some of the special merchandise she previewed looks spectacular!

Disneyland Diamond Anniversary Preview - Part 1

Disneyland Diamond Anniversary Preview - Part 2

There has been nothing mentioned about how long the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration will last, but the Happiest Homecoming lasted through two summers. If this celebration does the same, Carol and I just might be able to get there to enjoy it!

In the meantime, Happy 60th Birthday Disneyland!

April 9, 2014

Jim’s Attic: The Story of Beacon Joe

The Story of Beacon Joe
By Jim Korkis

Which original Disney character appears in three different attractions at Walt Disney World and was originally created for Disneyland?

I always hated it when teachers asked questions like that and they already knew the answer" and I was a public school teacher for several years after I graduated college so I always tried to help the students with the right answer.

The answer is in the title of this blog installment: Beacon Joe.

However, for many Disney fans that can still be a puzzling answer. When The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction opened in May 1967, it was the last Disney attraction personally overseen by Walt Disney himself.

It was Walt's idea to have the shallow boats drift leisurely through the Blue Bayou before plunging down a hidden waterfall to begin the pirate adventure. The musical chirp of unseen crickets and the faint glow of fireflies against the background of an indigo sky dotted with stars and slowly wafting clouds artistically frames this location to give it a false sense of calm.

The always innovative Walt Disney conceived of a quiet, upscale restaurant that would actually be inside an attraction. It was an idea that had never been done before and it was an instant hit with the many visitors to Disneyland. (My favorite treat at Disneyland is a Monte Cristo sandwich in the restaurant.)

There were discussions of including live entertainment in this quiet, restful environment but after a dress rehearsal during a trial dinner, Walt reportedly said, "In this restaurant, the food is going to be the show, along with the atmosphere".

Right across from the Blue Bayou restaurant and to the left of the guests in the boats is a shack where a bearded man wearing overalls leisurely rocks back and forth plucking out a tune on his banjo. That's Beacon Joe.


Disney Legend Marc Davis designed both the character and the shack. In fact, the initial concept drawings came from his original designs for a Thieves Market that was going to be part of the attraction when it was planned to be a walk-through experience.

The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was initially not going to be installed in Florida so to brighten up the steamboat voyage around the Rivers of America in Frontierland, Davis installed Beacon Joe and his shack just around an upper curve in the river.

Joe was not there at the opening in 1971 but made his appearance sometime in late 1972 just before the opening of Tom Sawyer's Island in 1973 along with other residents added to the river banks like the Native Americans in their village.


Joe is the last outpost of civilization before guests drift into the frontier wilderness.

He sits on the porch of his shack in front of Alligator Swamp smoking his corncob pipe. He keeps track of the river's occasional course changes and marks the river accordingly for the river traffic.

His faithful dog intensely watches a jumping fish (that looks suspiciously like a repainted piranha from the Jungle Cruise) with his head turning from left to right.


Beacon Joe also appears in Tokyo Disneyland. He can be seen fishing, surrounded by barrels and with his faithful dog on the nearby stairs, near the large trestle of the Western River Railroad as the steamboat maneuvers around the Western River.

However, I mentioned that Beacon Joe appears in three different attractions just at Walt Disney World. It is not unusual for the Disney Company to re-use audio-animatronics sculpted figures. For instance, President Thomas Jefferson shows up as a sheriff on a balcony in The Great Movie Ride, along with some Caribbean pirates re-used as gangsters earlier in the attraction.

The character sculpt of Beacon Joe is used in The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as the standing pirate in the last jail cell at the end of the ride trying to coax a dog to give him the key to the door. He also shows up clean shaven and wearing a crown at the ballroom banquet table in The Haunted Mansion.

Just like a supporting character actor in a film, Beacon Joe quietly makes his appearances to help the storytelling but never feels the necessity to be the star of the show. However, now, you know where he is and why he is there so give him a wave or a shout on your next visit.

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives:

Jim Korkis

Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

December 3, 2013

The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream, Part 5

disneyland-story.jpgEDITOR'S NOTE: Over the last few weeks, AllEars.Net has been highlighting exclusive excerpts from Sam Gennawey's new book, The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream. This week, we present the last in our series of excerpts. The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream is the story of how Walt Disney's greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Despite his successors' battles with the whims of history and their own doubts and egos, Walt's vision maintained momentum, thrived, and taught future generations how to do it Walt Disney's way. The Disneyland Story is now available for purchase (click on the image at left to link to Amazon).

California Living
by Sam Gennawey

In September 1960, Walt started to explore other ideas that would enhance the Disneyland experience. The area around the park was growing rapidly and without any consideration for the beautiful aesthetic he was trying to achieve inside of the berm. WDP controlled 133 acres adjacent to the park. A study by Economics Research Associates (ERA) considered opportunities such as a convention facility with an auditorium, more restaurants, and an idea proposed by Disneyland marketing director Ed Ettinger called California Living.

Post-War Southern California had grown rapidly, and a lifestyle had developed that combined an outdoor orientation and informality. To exploit this trend, the Los Angeles County Arboretum had added two residential garden displays in conjunction with Sunset magazine in 1958, and attendance had more than doubled. Inspired by the Arboretum's success, Walt in 1960 was considering a continuing exhibition at Disneyland that represented the best of living in California. The project was described as "a show, an idea mart, and a merchandise mart on themes and products related to the home and leisure pursuits, combined in a comprehensive and integrated exhibition and display." Approximately 8-12 model homes would have been built representing the various regions of the state, including the beaches and the mountains. Guests would experience first-hand the active California lifestyle.

California Living would include more family-style restaurants themed to match the type of food served. The interiors would include dioramas and "other techniques" to enhance the theme. There would be a California Arts and Crafts area with products on display and for sale. Projected attendance was 1 million guests at opening, with an admission charge of $1.50. A 1,000-seat auditorium was also under consideration as part of the project

November 26, 2013

The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream, Part 4

disneyland-story.jpgEDITOR'S NOTE: For the past few weeks, AllEars.Net has been highlighting exclusive excerpts from Sam Gennawey's new book, The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream. The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream is the story of how Walt Disney's greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Despite his successors' battles with the whims of history and their own doubts and egos, Walt's vision maintained momentum, thrived, and taught future generations how to do it Walt Disney's way. The Disneyland Story is now available for purchase (click on the image at left to link to Amazon).

A Favorite Subject of Mine
by Sam Gennawey

Another splendid little touch would appear on April 9, 1960, on the east side of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Walt had a special affection for wishing wells. He said, "Wishing long has been a favorite subject of mine. Wishes have come true for many of the characters in my motions pictures -- and for me, too." The Variety Club of America wanted to sponsor a wishing well in Disneyland and use the money to benefit children's charities around the world. Walt was happy to oblige and came up with the Snow White Wishing Well and the Grotto.

Walt was given a set of exquisite Carrara marble statues of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs carved by Italian artist Leonida Parma. The statues were modeled after a set of soaps that were being sold at the time in Europe. When the statues arrived, John Hench noticed that all of the figures were the same size. This meant Snow White was as small as the dwarfs. Hench came up with a clever solution. He used forced perspective by placing the Snow White figure at the very top, standing next to a deer that was the right scale. The dwarfs were placed lower and closer to the guests. By applying this solution, the illusion is everything is correct.

November 19, 2013

The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream, Part 3

disneyland-story.jpgEDITOR'S NOTE: Over the next few weeks, AllEars.Net will be highlighting exclusive excerpts from Sam Gennawey's new book, The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream. The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream is the story of how Walt Disney's greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Despite his successors' battles with the whims of history and their own doubts and egos, Walt's vision maintained momentum, thrived, and taught future generations how to do it Walt Disney's way. The Disneyland Story is now available for purchase (click on the image at left to link to Amazon).

Wild Turkeys
by Sam Gennawey

The Fred Gurley joined the Disneyland and Santa Fe Railroad fleet on March 28, 1958. Locomotive #3 was named after the 1958 chairman of the board of the Santa Fe Railroad. While the Ripley and Holliday locomotives were scaled-up versions of Walt's backyard railroad, "They started that way because they didn't know better at the time," said animator and train buff Ward Kimball. "I remember that it cost $50,000 each just to make the frames for the engines and now it would be an enormous amount of money. Later it was decided, for this reason, to look into the locomotives that were being sold down in the South, at lumber companies and so forth. The decision was made to buy those that were 3-foot gauge and just throw away everything but the frames, save all that money, and get a locomotive for a fraction of the cost of starting from drawings." The Gurley was the first narrow-gauge industrial engine to be rebuilt for the park.

Jerry Best, a railroad historian and associate of the Studio, found an 1894 Baldwin 4-4-0 Forney that ran in New Orleans on the 24-mile-long LaFourche, Raceland & Lockport sugar plantation railroad. In 1910, the locomotive was moved to the Godchaux Sugar Co. in Reserve, Louisiana, where it ran until it was retired in 1956. Best found the engine at a storage shed owned by C. W. Witbeck. Roger Broggie paid $1,200 for the locomotive, loaded it up in a boxcar, and had it shipped back to Los Angeles for refurbishment.

The locomotive was disassembled and rebuilt at the Studio shops. A boiler was fitted with both a new water tank and an oil tank. A "pony truck" was installed in front-thereby converting the engine into a 2-4-0-and an old-fashioned curved-window cab was added. Much of the work was done by Arnold Lindberg.

Along with the new locomotive were new rolling stock and a new destination. The brand-new five-car train was inspired by the open-sided Narragansett cars used during the summer months for rides in the country and at mountain and seaside resorts. The seats faced toward the inside of the park, giving guests a much better show and making loading and unloading quicker.

Starting on March 31, 1958, guests were invited to take a trip through the Grand Canyon Diorama, the world's largest three-dimensional scenic display. The attraction was based on the 1958 Disney CinemaScope film Grand Canyon. At a cost of $435,000, artists took "more than 80,000 man-hours of design, painting, and construction to complete the first 'reproduction' of Arizona's famed Grand Canyon," according to an early press release. The 306-foot background was painted on a seamless, handwoven canvas prepared especially for the park. The palette included 14 colors, and more than 300 gallons of paint was used.

The Disneyland Gazetteer said the attraction "portrays the famous Grand Canyon of the Colorado River at early morning, as the sun sets and during a thunder and lightning storm. Even the seasons vary from Spring in an adobe village of Pueblo Indians to Winter snows covering the trees and wild animals." The soundtrack was Ferde Grofé's "Grand Canyon Suite."

Walt got the idea for the diorama while visiting museums in Los Angeles and New York. He found Bob Sewell, who worked at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History for 10 years, to help out. Claude Coats also got involved. "Walt sent me down to the Grand Canyon to get the right look of it, and what it should be like," he said. "We did storyboards once again, and Walt liked pretty much all of it." Coats added some wild turkeys roosting in a tree and Walt said, "They don't have wild turkeys in the Grand Canyon." Coats disagreed with his boss and told him that he saw some in a museum.
Later, when Walt was showing the storyboards to a guest, he asked, "Do you know they have wild turkeys in the Grand Canyon?" The guest replied, "Gee, no I didn't know that." Feeling confident, Walt turned to Coats and asked again, "Are you sure they've got wild turkeys in the Grand Canyon?" Coats was ready. Prior to the meeting he called the park superintendent responsible for the Grand Canyon. "Yes, and the flocks are on the increase!"

Emile Kuri directed the taxidermy staff. The diorama included mountain lions, deer, desert-mountain sheep, other birds and animals native to Arizona, and wild turkeys. All of the natural materials had to be treated with flame retardants. The project would prompt a new policy at Disneyland. One day Walt was giving a tour at WED when they walked into Bud Washo's shop. Walt opened up the freezer and saw a frozen carcass of a skinned coyote, left there by the taxidermist. The diorama would be the last time that real animal skins would be used in an attraction. Walt did not want to get the reputation that Disneyland killed animals for the rides.

November 15, 2013

The Billies – I’m Sure Going To Miss Them

Gary Cruise banner

I was shocked and very disappointed when I read recently on the Disney Parks Blog that Disneyland was "retiring" Billy Hill & the Hillbillies after a very successful 21 year run. The show - and the players in the show - are all being retired after their last performance on Monday, January 6, 2014.

Carol and I stumbled onto "The Billies" quite by accident during our first visit to Disneyland in 2005. We wandered into the Golden Horseshoe Tavern for a snack and had no idea what was in store for us when the four Billies appeared on stage as we ate. Within seconds we were laughing so hard it was impossible to eat. Our chicken tenders and fries were soggy from all those tears of laughter.


They perform a short, but high-energy show featuring rousing country, rock and bluegrass music combined with corny jokes and hilarious sight gags. It appeals to Disney fans of all ages. WOW - what a treat.

I immediately wondered why there wasn't a similar show at the Diamond Horseshoe Tavern in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

In the years since 2005 we have taken the 2,500 mile flight west to Disneyland another eight times and in our nine Disneyland trips we have never missed The Billies! We try to get there early to get the best seats in the house!


The cast seems to be comprised of a couple of teams of players who rotate through their schedule of shows, but no matter who is performing, their show always leaves us rolling on the floor - convulsing with laughter.




I suspect that I enjoy The Billies a tiny bit more than Carol . . . but she humors me and sits through the show several times during each of our trips to the west coast. We have seen the boys perform as many as four times in a week-long trip. Yes, I do enjoy them that much!



From the moment in the show where the lead Billy, Kirk Wall, puts in the false set of buck teeth he calls his "pros-TEETH-is" I begin to giggle and I don't stop until long after the show is over. Those teeth transform Billy (Kirk) from a classical violin virtuoso into a redneck lunatic.





Billy (Kirk) interacts with the audience in a way which captivates adults and children alike. Everyone in the building is singing, tapping, clapping and laughing.


Over the years we've howled through a Beatles tribute . . .



An Elvis tribute . . .



Billy (Dennis Fetchet) doing his "train thang" and an almost impossibly fast version of Orange Blossom Special . . .

And a Riverdance spoof they call "Puddle Prance" . . .


Who can forget the awesome performance Kirk Wall and Dennis Fetchet always deliver with their version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". Awesome!



In December 2012 we saw their show at Big Thunder Ranch but the last time we saw them, May 17, 2013, the troupe was back in the Golden Horseshoe. It was good that we saw them "back home" that final time!



I understand that the parks need to change things up from time to time - things have to stay current and fresh - but I sure wasn't ready to say goodbye to The Billies. I'm going to miss them a lot! They were one of my major sources of joy at Disneyland and when they are gone they will leave a very large hole in my Disneyland experience.


I cannot make a trip west before the boys "retire", but if you can make it to Disneyland before January 6th do not miss Billy Hill & the Hillbillies. The guys put on a fantastic show and you will be glad you took the time to see it. If you make it in time, please pass on my personal thanks for all those years of quality entertainment and wish them all the best, wherever they land in the future!

Ladies and gentlemen, The Billies have left the building!

November 12, 2013

The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream, Part 2

disneyland-story.jpgEDITOR'S NOTE: Over the next few weeks, AllEars.Net will be highlighting exclusive excerpts from Sam Gennawey's new book, The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream. The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream is the story of how Walt Disney's greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Despite his successors' battles with the whims of history and their own doubts and egos, Walt's vision maintained momentum, thrived, and taught future generations how to do it Walt Disney's way. The Disneyland Story is available for preorder (click on the image at left to link to Amazon) and hits the bookshelves mid-November.

All Jumpers
by Sam Gennawey

At the center of the courtyard and the heart of Fantasyland was the King Arthur Carrousel. As far back as 1939, a merry-go-round was included in the plans for the park. Walt greatly admired the one in Griffith Park and asked the then owner, Ross Davis, if he could find one just like his for Disneyland. Davis told Walt that his was a one-of-a-kind machine built in 1926 from Spillman Engineering and it was the last one in existence with four-abreast "Jumpers." The carousel was brought to Griffith Park in 1937.

Most carousels featured different types of horses, classified by their body positions. A "Listener" is posed with one ear forward and one ear back. A "Star Gazer" holds his head back, eyes upward. The "Top Knot Pony" has a heavy forelock, which seems blown straight up by the wind. Most prized of all were "Jumpers," with all four feet off the ground. Walt Disney wanted only "Jumpers" for his carousel.

Ross Davis found a carousel at Sunnyside Park in Toronto, Canada, that had been built in 1922 by William Dentzel of Philadelphia. The original was a menagerie-style carousel with horses, cats, deer, and giraffes. The ride was so finely balanced that one person could make it spin. Walt wanted to heavily modify the carousel for Disneyland. He wanted it to be four abreast, all horses, and all 'jumpers' like the one at Griffith Park so he hired Davis to repaint and repair the horses. In exchange, Walt gave Davis the unused figures.

Arrow Development did the engineering, including new crankshafts to operate the four rows of horses. Things were moving along until they hit a road bump. They ran out of 'jumpers.' Luckily, Davis found some in storage beneath the Coney Island pier designed by Charles I. D. Loofa and some others from George Whitney's Playland in San Mateo, California.

King Arthur's Carrousel featured 72 horses, all considered "outside" horses. That meant they had a highly detailed right side, considered the "romance side" since it faces out to the public. They were the very best and they were interchangeable. The horses were painted a variety of colors. Guests had a choice of black, tan, brownish red, and gray.

When they first started the carousel, they discovered that the electric brake would stop the ride too quickly and one day they broke the gear teeth out. They could not find any replacement gears, so they asked Bud Hurlbut if he could help. He had a similar Dentzel machine at Knott's Berry Farm that was delivered without the bull gears, so he fabricated a set himself. He found an old machinery handbook and figured out the tooth pattern. As it turned out, these were exactly the same gears that were needed for the Disneyland carousel.

Imagineer Bruce Bushman designed the high-peaked canopy, which hid the outer rim and showed off the horses at a distance. Although the 70-foot canopy appeared to be made of fabric, it was actually made of aluminum. The band organ came from a collection of 50 such machines that Walt purchased through Hurlbut in 1954. The collection of horses grew to 85 so that a "four on, four off" maintenance schedule could be maintained.

November 10, 2013

Disneyland’s Christmas Overlays

Gary Cruise banner

I was pleased when I recently read on the Disney Parks Blog that there will be a special "Christmas Overlay" at The Jungle Cruise.

They explained it as follows: Beginning in early November, Jungle Cruise at both Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom Park will temporarily transform into "Jingle Cruise" for the holiday season! In this new seasonal storyline of the attraction, the Skippers have grown homesick for the holidays, so they've added holiday cheer to the Jungle Cruise queue and boathouse with decorations that have been mailed to them from home (plus a few they've created themselves). The Skippers have also added a slew of new jokes to their tours that are the perfect way to get guests in the holiday spirit. Additionally, Jungle Cruise boats have been renamed with the holidays in mind, and if guests listen carefully, they may hear a holiday-themed radio broadcast playing in the background.

Great news! Carol and I will be visiting the Magic Kingdom for a few weeks in November/December and we will be sure to visit this classic old attraction to see the new holiday spin they put on it.

Do you suppose that overlays like those they do in California might follow at Florida attractions in years to come? I sure hope so! We used to really enjoy the Christmas Overlay at Country Bear Jamboree and we were very disappoinited when it was discontinued in 2005.

Carol and I have visited the Disney Parks in California several times during the holiday season and the overlays at It's A Small World and The Haunted Mansion have absolutely blown us away!

These are not just little cosmetic makeovers; each of the attractions is closed for a few weeks while the special holiday treats are added. The results are simply wonderful!

Let me show you what I mean . . . pictures tell the story much better than I can. First, a word about the pictures - some are not the best of quality since they were taken in a dark ride and we didn't use a flash. I never use a flash in a dark ride and I'm always annoyed when others do. 'Nuff said!

Both Carol and I prefer the Disneyland version of the It's A Small World attraction. You board your boat outside, in front of a three-dimensional façade with stylized cutout turrets, towers and minarets; look closely and you'll see some world landmarks. The 30 foot clock with that big smiling face rocks back and forth and every fifteen minutes colourful wooden dolls parade as the clock announces the time. It is quite captivating every time you approach.


But at Christmas that façade is festooned with thousands of lights and it becomes a holiday wonderland of color. WOW!


The lights put a magical glow on the topiaries you sail past before you enter the interior, but the holiday magic doesn't end there. In each of the rooms there are special holiday displays. Watch very carefully and you will see that some of the dolls are now dressed in holiday costumes. Cutaway snowmen with carrot noses welcome you to the Ho-Ho-Holidays"


There is a mailbox for letters to Santa!


Banners wish you Joyeuses Fetes, Feliz Navidad, Happy Holidays, Mele Kelikimaka, Happy Hanukah, Peace on Earth and many other holiday greetings.





And wait . . . what is that I hear? Are those dolls singing Jingle Bells and Hark the Herald Angels Sing?

Yes they are . . . NICE!


This year It's A Small World was scheduled to close from October 21st through November 7th while the overlay was installed. It will run until early January. If you're there, be sure to visit during the evening, but allow plenty of time. That area of the park is very busy over the holidays!

The Haunted Mansion is one of our absolute favourite attractions and once again, we prefer the California version. We especially enjoy it during October, November and December during the seasonal transformation! The seasonal magic begins as you approach; Jack Skellington is perched on the gate as you enter and hundreds of pumpkins adorn the mansion.




Once you are in the "Stretching Room" you begin to see some differences . . . in fact nothing is the same. Jack Skellington and his Halloweentown cronies have taken over! Oogie Boogie and a huge cast of creepy spooks wait as you board your Doom Buggy.



The entire sound track has been modified and everything you have always enjoyed in the mansion is different. It has always been spooky, but during the holidays it's creepy-spooky!

As you leave the library and your Doom Buggy turns to travel backwards your eyes drift upward to find a giant man-eating wreath singing a chilling song!

The attic where Constance Hatchaway, the bride with the hatchet, and her five husbands normally appear has been piled full of frightful gifts. Some are ticking, some are growling, wait . . . did that one just move?


Jack Skellington and Zero have replaced the gravedigger and his dog to welcome you to the graveyard!

(Confession - I used a flash for this picture - the ride was shut down, the lights were on and we were being walked out)

Those singing busts in the cemetery have a new, even more sinister look!


Are those angels blowing their trumpets? I think not!


There are no hitchhiking ghosts as you exit, instead Oogie Boogie spins a wheel which assigns you a trick or a treat . . . but don't be expecting any treats as you round that last corner.


What a joy! Carol and I are both fans of Nightmare Before Christmas and it is a real pleasure to see two of our favourites combined this way! We ride it again and again!

It's A Small World and The Haunted Mansion in California have been overlaid for the holidays for the last 16 years and 12 years respectively. I sure hope that the recent announcement about The Jungle Cruise means we might be getting more seasonal overlays in Florida sometime in the near future!

November 5, 2013

The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream

disneyland-story.jpgEDITOR'S NOTE: Over the next few weeks, AllEars.Net will be highlighting exclusive excerpts from Sam Gennawey's new book, The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream. The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream is the story of how Walt Disney's greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Despite his successors' battles with the whims of history and their own doubts and egos, Walt's vision maintained momentum, thrived, and taught future generations how to do it Walt Disney's way. The Disneyland Story is available for preorder (click on the image at left to link to Amazon) and will hit the bookshelves mid-November.

Fantasyland: Not Needed But Necessary
by Sam Gennawey

The guest's fancy now fully engaged, he or she might next want to visit Fantasyland, the land that Walt intended to be "the world of imagination, hopes, and dreams." In a bold move, Walt put at the center of his park a tribute to a film that would not be released for another four years. Sleeping Beauty Castle was the gateway to Fantasyland, and it would become the most recognizable and photographed element in all of Disneyland. Walt knew that a "castle is fantasy in any language." To support the fanciful illusion, Bill Evans surrounded the castle with plantings that were fun, unrestrained, and had a bit of whimsy. He used lacy elm trees that sparkled when lit by twinkle lights tied to the branches.

Walt had put artist Herb Ryman on the project in 1953. The design was inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria in southern Germany. Harriet Burns made several small models (6 to 8 inches tall) of the castle and had Herb Ryman and Eyvind Earle paint them. Earle's version was trimmed in black, red and gold. The turrets were different colors, orange, black, pink, red, purple, and yellow. In Ryman's version, the turrets were all blue like slate. It was felt that Ryman's castle would look better against the blue sky.

At some point during the design process, Walt had told Ryman that his interpretation was a little too realistic. Still Ryman continued on his own course. When the team gathered for the final design sign-off meeting with Walt, the model was as realistic as it had been when Walt had expressed his concern. At the very last minute, just before Walt joined the meeting, Ryman removed the top of the model and turned it around. Everybody complained that Walt would be mad, but Ryman knew better. Walt took one look and gave his approval.

During construction, Herb Ryman added the Disney family crest above the entrance and placed the castle in a park-like setting. Ryman added also another special touch: 22-karat gold-leafed spires. Walt had authorized the expense while Roy Disney was away on vacation. On a visit to Disneyland many years later, Author Ray Bradbury saw a spire on the side of the castle that he described as "a duplicate of the convoluted and beauteous spire Viollet-le-Duc raised atop Notre-Dame 100 years ago." Bradbury called John Hench and asked, "John, how long has Viollet-le-Duc's spire been on the side of Sleeping Beauty's Castle?" Hench replied, "Thirty years." Bradbury remarked that he had never noticed it before and asked who put it there? Hench said, "Walt." When asked why, Hench said, "Because he loved it." Bradbury said it was "something not needed but needed, not necessary but necessary."

Just beyond the drawbridge was the Fantasyland courtyard. Bill Martin placed the carousel in the center with the Teacups and Pirate Ship to the back. The rides were placed in two 60- by 100-foot prefabricated show buildings to each side. Since they were working with limited money, Martin had the Masonite facades painted like tournament tents, creating a festive carnival flavor. Below the pastel-colored awnings were signs made of shields, ticket booths inside of striped tents, and flags and banners hung from lance-point flagpoles. The overall tone was heavily influenced by Eyvind Earle's drawings for the film Sleeping Beauty.

The castle seemed to have a power of its own. John Hench suggested, "If you walked up and asked a guest WHY he likes the castle, WHY it is worth photographing? He could never tell you. He'd probably stammer out something like, 'Because it's just beautiful.' And yet, when he gets back home and shows his pictures, the feeling will never be the same that he experiences simply standing there." Hench explained, "The fact is, as we stand here right now, there are literally hundreds of stimuli etching an impression and an experience in our minds through every one of our senses."
He noted that the most obvious was the sense of sight, but the experience runs even deeper. "There is a static nature about the castle structure itself that makes you think it's been standing there for centuries," said Hench. "And yet there is motion. The motion of those flags, and the trees around us made by the wind. The movement of people, vehicles and boats, water, balloons, horses, and the white clouds passing by overhead." He also suggested standing in front of the castle was "the best stereo or quad system in the world" with "an ever-changing background." The rock work, the horses, appeal to the guest's sense of touch, and the flowers are real and one can smell them. Finally, "That popcorn, you can go over and taste it." The result was that "every one of our senses are coming into play," said Hench. "This is total involvement. You can never capture this moment and take it home with you in a camera or tape recorder. You can only take this experience home in your mind."
Ray Bradbury said, "In Disneyland, Walt has proven again that the first function of architecture is to make men over, make them wish to go on living, feed them fresh oxygen, grow them tall, delight their eyes, make them kind." He proclaimed, "Disneyland liberates men to their better selves. Here the wild brute is gently corralled, not used and squashed, not put upon and harassed, not tramped on by real-estate operators, nor exhausted by smog and traffic."

October 21, 2013

Floral Mickey Disneyland Entrance

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

Jim's Attic: Floral Mickey By Jim Korkis

Some of us, myself included, have visited the Disney theme parks so often over the years, that we start to take things for granted.

I remember as a kid going to Disneyland with my family and the very first thing we always had to do after we got through the turnstiles was to rush to get our picture taken in front of the huge Floral Mickey with the train station in the background.

In fact, at one time, it was documented that it was the most frequently taken photograph at Disneyland. Today, there are so many other options, it is sometimes overlooked by regulars even though it remains a favorite of first time visitors.

When Disneyland opened in July 1955, the very first thing that guests saw was the huge, smiling face of Mickey Mouse created in colorful flowers at the entrance of the park.

"It was the most photographed location at Disneyland," claimed Disney Legend Bill Evans who supervised the landscaping of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. "Everybody took a picture standing in front of it."


"It was Walt's idea," said Evans in 1985 when I interviewed him. "Just like the face before every (theatrical) Mickey (Mouse) cartoon and audiences would start cheering and applaud."

Beginning with the short cartoon, "Mickey's Nightmare", in 1932, every Mickey Mouse cartoon began with the face of Mickey Mouse with beams of light in the background. When Mickey cartoons were produced in color three years later that back ground was yellow.

That image brought cheers of recognition from audiences around the world because they knew it signified that they would be seeing Mickey Mouse and entering the world of Disney.

It is clear why Walt would want a similar image at the front of Disneyland, especially since he had designed the park as a film experience with each land representing one of the most popular movie genres of the day.

Evans built a light wooden framework for the outline of the head and individual sections like the eyes, ears and nose and then filled it in with thousands of plants. Depending upon the seasons and what bedding plants and annuals were available or even at the whim of the landscapers, the colors might change drastically.


For a brief time, there was even an attempt at Disneyland to do a side view of Mickey's head rather than the more familiar front view but it was not as popular.


Over the years, the shape of Mickey's head, as well as the individual facial elements, has changed significantly while still remaining identifiable as Mickey Mouse. Special limited edition "occasion-themed" variations have appeared like an orange version for Halloween.

Originally, the face was just called the "Mickey Mouse Planter" but in recent years has been referred to as the "Floral Mickey". Evans mentioned to me that it was a "parterre", a French term for an ornamental garden that forms a distinctive pattern.

With all the emphasis on Fast Pass and Magic Plus and the need to rush madly into the park and not waste a minute, I doubt whether many frequent guests today take a moment to stop and just appreciate the craftsmanship and significance of the Floral Mickey that for over half a century was the emblem of a Disney theme park.

Post card images from


Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives:

Jim Korkis


Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South AND

"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

October 29, 2011

A bit of the Disneyland Resort

Alpha Gollihugh is a regular poster on the AllEars Facebook page. One of the ways she shares the magic is with her photo collages. Here are a few for you to enjoy from the Disneyland Resort.

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The Disneyland Hotel has a new counter service restaurant, called Tangaroa Terrace and bar,Trader Sam's. It is in the newly renovated pool area. It appears the renovation to hotel and pool will be going on for some time. What is done, looks really nice, and the monorail pool slides are fun for everyone.


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As the crowds climb at "summer" Disneyland, they really bring out the streetmosphere entertainers. Music is everywhere! The pics show a pirate quartet called the Boot Strappers they are quite good singers and tell funny
period jokes.


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Rode one of my childhood favs. Casey Jr Circus train and Storybook Canal Boats. They both cover this wonderful land of miniatures. See where Peter Pan took Wendy to Neverland, where Aladdin and Jasmine lived, Toad Hall, and Jepeto's village and many more. All the little plants are real and kept in a bonsied state for all to enjoy


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Ways to cool off at Disney California Adventure's Soarin'


That's all for today folks!

November 9, 2010

Disneyland Circa 1973

You never know what you will find on the internet on any given day. Sometimes you get pleasantly surprised.

I recently stumbled upon Loren Javier's online photos. Hidden among what has to be thousands of Disney photos, are some pictures from times gone by at the Disney Parks.

When I contacted Loren to ask his permission to post the photos he replied:

"I am a big fan of (it was VERY helpful to me when I was doing my research for my recent WDW trip), so I am honored you want to use them.... You have my permission to use the photos and thank you for attributing them to me. "

Thank you Loren for allowing me to share these photos with everyone!

The first group are from Disneyland circa 1973, Loren's very first trip to Disneyland!

Notice the sign for the A Coupon or 10cents in the upper left corner.



Loren and his uncle at the Matterhorn. Notice the GAF Photo Trail sign in the upper left.


Dumbo the Flying Elephant. In this photo you can see a couple of the Sky Way cars in the background.


Notice that the placement of the Mad Tea Party is near Casey Junior Circus Train. It used to be where Dumbo the Flying Elephant is now.


Captain Hook's Pirate Ship. Check out the "Waste Paper" trash can.


I am at the Disneyland Character Phones which used to be at the America The Beautiful Circle Vision Lobby.


Finally, the moving walkway at the monorail station in Tomorrowland.


Hope you enjoyed my photos!

June 29, 2010

Disneyland’s “World of Color” Viewing Tips & Strategies

By Beci Mahnken, CTC-MCC

It's official. The newest addition to a long line of in-park entertainment excellence has made its debut at the Disneyland Resort in California.

World of Color

The World of Color is a 25 minute nighttime show that is a stunning blend of lights, water, animation and music. With nearly 1200 fountains that can shoot streams as high as 200 feet in the air, jaw dropping fire effects and appearances from some of your favorite Disney characters that will entertain as well as touch your heart" this is a show that must be seen in person to truly be experienced.

The show takes place at Disney California Adventure on Paradise Bay. Originally the prime viewing area was to accommodate as many as 9000 people, however that estimate has been updated to between 4000 - 5000 for the best locations that allow for some level of view of the main projection screens.

These areas are divided into several color labels sections (blue, yellow, orange, red & green) that are divided in side-by-side sections rather than front to back. One of the sections also includes the bridge that leads to Ariel's Grotto. The view is acceptable, and you get a view of the projections, however you miss the intensity of the more up close and personal experience some of the other sections provide.

Personally I found some of the best, most centered locations in the Blue & Yellow sections located right in Paradise Park.

Tip: Some parts of the show are down at water level, but the majority of effects can be seen from several levels. Rule of thumb - If you have an unobstructed view of the bottom of Mickey's chin on the Fun Wheel from a center location, you should be able to see most of the major effects.

Getting in the Game of Getting a FastPass

It's important to note the information I provide here is subject to change at any time. This process is new and my experiences were from the opening weekend. Disney will more certainly be tweaking the options and processes to improve the guest experience as they learn what works and what doesn't.

So, at the time of this writing, there are several ways to enjoy the show, but three that will help guarantee one of the better views in the house.

1) The General Admission FastPass


Aside from your Disney California Adventure park admission, there is no additional purchase required for this option. However, you will have to arrive early to get in queue at the Grizzly River Run FastPass machine to get your FastPass ticket. Once they are gone... they are gone.

Tip: If you are a Disneyland Resort guest staying at one of the three Disney Resorts you have the extra benefit of using the Grand Californian entrance to the park that spills you into the area right next to Grizzly River Run. You MUST show your valid room key for entry.


Tip: If you do miss the FastPass distribution for the first and second show, be sure to ask a cast member if a third show will or has been added. If not, try for a picnic meal - see below.

2) The Picnic Meal

World of Color

The least expensive guaranteed FastPass option is the Picnic Meal for $14.99 per person. This provides a choice of pre-packaged snack options and a guaranteed FastPass. Ours was for the Yellow section. You have the option to pre-order online that will provide a pass to the first show or you can risk it and try to purchase on a walk-up basis which will admit you to the second show.

Tip: The hands down easiest way to order is online at . Be sure to print your confirmation and have it with you when you pick up your meal between 2pm-8pm at the Sonoma Terrace.

3) The Dining Package

Disney offers a dining package at two of its restaurants, Ariels Grotto (inside seating adults $36.99/ kids $18.99) and Wine Country Trattoria (adults $39.99/ kids $18.99). They offer a Prix Fixe menu with some hearty entrée choices as well as the coveted FastPass for the preferred viewing section for the show. Ours was in the blue section and allowed us to select our spots before the other FastPass holders were let into the viewing area.

World of Color

Tip: Of the three FastPass methods this was by far the most convenient and provided the best viewing selection. To make reservations call Disneyland Dining at : 714-781-DINE. Reservations are taken up to 60 days in advance.

I have my FastPass now what?

Your FastPass will detail where you go to check in for your show. The first show usually requests that you go right to the viewing area, while the second and third will have areas where you will queue up and a cast member will lead you to your assigned viewing section. Have your Fast Passes handy and ready to show when asked. The cast members are very diligent about checking them and you will be asked to show them a few times as you reach your viewing location.


Tip: When you enter your section, find your spot quickly. Best places are where a rope or fenced divider is to avoid having someone right in front of you. Opinions vary on if closer is better, but I can tell you, the closer you are the more intense the experience. However, the closer you are, the more likely you will get wet. They do have a Splash section right in front of Yellow and other locations - and they aren't kidding. If you want to get wet, you will.

What if I don't have a FastPass at all?

You can still see the show without being in one of the assigned color sections. Anywhere you can see the water will offer some view of the show and you will certainly hear the music. However from the side or behind you will likely not see the screens that project the characters and other animation.

I will say that after you have seen the show from the front viewing area, it's a wonderful experience to view the next show from the side or behind the main viewing area. It gives you a whole new appreciation for the artistry of the fountains and color patterns that don't get as much attention when the projections are visible.

Another interesting view is from a theme park view room on a higher floor at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. The music is piped into your room through a dedicated TV channel and the overhead view of the show is a unique perspective that you do not get from the ground.

Regardless of where you view the show, you will see Disney entertainment at its best with all of its heart string-pulling, energizing excitement we have come to expect from these talented Imaginers.


Beci Mahnken, CTC-MCC is the Founder, President and CEO of MEI-Travel & Mouse Fan Travel - An Authorized Disney Vacation Planner - Beci has over 12 years vacation planning experience, specializing in vacation packages and cruises, with a team of over 60 affiliates nationwide. Visit: - Follow Beci on Twitter @beci_MouseFan

April 8, 2010

Disney gives tribute to "The Boys" Richard and Robert Sherman

by Guest Blogger: Jeremy Marx

On March 11, 2010, two of the most recognized musicians from the 20th century were recognized by the Walt Disney Company when they were given a window on Main Street USA in Disneyland.

While many might not recognize the name of Richard and Robert Sherman, their music is known by all. From the Annette Funicello's 1959 #7 hit "Tall Paul", to their two Oscar wins for their music in Mary Poppins, and the countless songs written for Disney attractions, television shows and movies, just about anyone will recognize a few of their songs.

I arrived later then I wanted that morning, and thus, I was at the back of the group closest to Town Square. Since the area closed off for the presentation was focused around the Music Store, the only way for guest traffic to get through to the rest of the park was on the west side of the street on the sidewalk, or up until 10 minutes prior to it starting, a roped off 6 foot wide path next to that on the street. The remainder of the road and the east side sidewalk was for guests and cast members to stand for the ceremony. As we waited, we could see a piano to one side a small band on the other, with quite a few rows of chairs setup for Richard Sherman and his family and guests. Looking around the corner to the right, we could see Richard sitting in the back seat of Walt's electric car awaiting the start of the celebration.

The kickoff!

Bert, in full chimney sweep attire, kicked it off with some modified wording to a few songs from "Mary Poppins" to bring out Richard Sherman and then introduced Disneyland Resorts President George Kalogridis.

George shared how the Sherman Brothers meet Walt Disney in 1960, where Walt asked the brothers to write a song for his upcoming movie, "The Parent Trap". He mentioned that Richard and Robert wrote more musical scores then any other songwriters in the history of film. George then introduced us to two people that worked with the Sherman Brothers on "Carousel of Progress", Mother and Father.

The crowd loved seeing these two characters! And to be honest, they stole the show! Mother and Father shared their history and story of their interactions with the Sherman Brothers, but there was no mention of their move to Walt Disney World. They sang several songs from attractions such as "it's a small world", "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room", "Journey into Imagination", theme from "Wonderful World of Color", "Voyage in Inner Space", and even from their own "Carousel of Progress", while acting out parts from them which had Mother dancing like she was in it's a small world, and then floating around like a loose molecule. Their singing was light hearted and full of excitement. Everyone in attendance has having a good time enjoying the memories as they changed from song to song.

And yes Father, the robins are out again, and Mother still believes things can't get any better then they are today!

When George Kalogridis stepped back up to the podium, he spoke about the Academy Awards that Richard and Robert won in 1964's Mary Poppins for Best Score and Best Song. And this gave him the practically perfect opportunity to introduce Thomas Schumacher.

Thomas Schumacher summed up how so many of use feel about the Sherman Brothers music and how that over the years it has been woven into our collective DNA. Thomas said that as he was coming home from the premiere of Mary Poppins with "Feed the Birds", which left an impression on him. He never thought he would get the chance to work with these men, but as luck would turn out, when he and a few others pitched the idea if bringing Mary Poppins to Broadway, Richard loved the idea. Ideas and projects like this will always bring the Sherman Brothers music to the forefront.

At the conclusion of his speech, Thomas introduced Marty Sklar as a Disney Legend who acts as if he hasn't retired! He also mentioned that Marty has been a part of the opening of every Disney Park in the world, and that he has his own window on City Hall.

Marty Sklar wished he didn't have to follow "Mr. Entertainment", Thomas Schumacher, as he considers him to be even larger then himself. Marty spoke about his history working with the Sherman Brothers and what they have done for Disney and for what they have done for the parks and everyone around. He had a great way of summing it all up when it comes to Richard and Robert. "All the birds sing words and the flowers crone, (that) there's a great big beautiful tomorrow because one little spark of imagination has been making memories and creating miracles from molecules in a world of laughter a world of tears wheres there's just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone". Marty Sklar also believed that we could hear it just as he does, and I think he's right!

Marty also spoke about a couple of other songs. His favorite, "Magic Journeys" from "Journey into Imagination", and one that he believes Robert and Richard Sherman would like to forget, "The Astuter Computer Revue" in Epcot. He spoke about Richard and Robert being the words and songs for Walt's dreams, and that as long as there are Disney Parks some where on earth, the Sherman Brothers music will always be heard.

Tom Staggs was welcomed to the podium by Marty, in which Tom wondered what Marty was talking about since he, Tom, had to follow two Disney Legends. "I figured they needed two legends and a suit... guess which one I am!", said Tom. He spoke about the tradition that Walt started in 1955, in which people who were influential in Disney would be honored with a window on Main Street USA. Since Tom was the suit, he felt he needed help with presenting the window, so he brought out Mickey Mouse who brought up Richard Sherman.

This is where I was mistaken, believing the empty window, with no glass mind you, above the music store was where it would be located. I was surprised and very happy to see that not only did they get their window, but their window was in the door to the music store. The inscription reads, "Two Brothers Tunemakers, Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman Proprietors. We'll write your tunes for a song".

Tom then made a special announcement that we were going to get a surprise broadcast from London England and hear a message from Robert B. Sherman.

Mother and Father came out and thanked "Progress" for giving us something called a radio. As they turned the dial on a early 1900's radio to find the broadcast they wanted, each time they stopped another Sherman Brothers song was playing. When they finally found Robert's station we got to hear him say, "It is such a feeling to be honored this way with a window on Main Street Disneyland. It's an enduring legacy and an acknowledgement that my bother Richard and I have contributed, and it is a testament to the notion that when we ,(scrambled), inspiration and a lot of perspiration your dreams can become like this. Fifty years ago, my brother and I were welcomed into the greater Disney family with Walt himself. Today would not be complete with out thanking Walt for giving two young songwriters their first big break. Thanks Walt. Lastly, I want to thank and acknowledge my brother, Richard. I can think of no greater collaborator. Thank you Richard..."

Richard was finally brought up to share a few words with everyone. Richard was at a loss for just a moment, and then preceded by talking about his friend Milt Larsen. Milt was the kind of friend that wanted Richard to have a good day, so he took him to Disneyland. This was about three months after it opened in 1955. He said that when he walked through the gates, the pressures and problems of the world just slipped away. It was the most wonderful day he had ever spent up to that time. (I will agree with Richard here. This is exactly why I love coming to the parks!) There was a scene in Mary Poppins where Mr. Banks was saying, "A man has dreams of walking with giants. To carve his niche in the edifice of time". Richard believes that he and Robert have now done that, and we all completely agree.

Richard then said that he wanted to play Walt's favorite song, "Feed the Birds". What a wonderful way for him to finish.

To close it all out, Mary Poppins and Bert came out and sang "Let's Go Fly a Kite". When the song was completed George Kalogridis came back up and thanked everyone for coming and wished the park could be opened like that every day.

Having the incredible experience to be in Disneyland on this day is so hard to describe. I had only heard about it the night before as I was leaving the D23 1st Anniversary Event from a friend of mine. The music they wrote, whether you know their names are not, has been around us for over forty years. "it's a small world" has been heard, or is at least known by people from every corner of the world. Mary Poppins is a house hold name, and the songs have been sung by adults and children alike since 1964.

Marty was right when he said the Sherman Brothers let us know, "All the birds sing words and the flowers crone, (that) there's a great big beautiful tomorrow because one little spark of imagination has been making memories and creating miracles from molecules in a world of laughter a world of tears wheres there's just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone". Thank you Richard and Robert Sherman for the memories, the songs, and the joy that you have given all of us for so many years.



June 14, 2008

Toy Story Mania - Comparing Disneyland and Disney World!

All Ears® Guest blogger JeanineY is back! You may recall she chronicled the NFFC trip to Tokyo Disneyland a few months ago.

This time she compares the brand new Toy Story Mania attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland!

Ride "Spoilers" Ahead. This comparison offers detailed descriptions and photos of the two attractions!

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Recently I spent a few days over at WDW, a not-inconsiderable-portion of which I spent playing their newly-opened Toy Story Midway Mania ride at the Hollywood Studios.

The day after I returned, I attended the annual passholder preview of Disneyland's Toy Story Midway Mania where we were able to ride with minimal waits for designated 6-hour time slots. With luck, I won't spend next week getting treated for repetitive motion injury.

Toy Story Mania Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

Toy Story in Disney's Hollywood Studios is outwardly themed around the Pixar Studio buildings in order to better fit with the generalized show-business theme.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

Toy Story at Disney's California Adventure is designed to fit in more with the boardwalk games that pepper the Paradise Pier area. The ride building is much more attractive and detailed than the other cardboardy-structures around there.

Mr. Potato Head Toy Story Mania Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

The multi-million dollar Mr. Potato Head is up and singing in WDW, but was boarded off and not visible in the Disneyland cue.

Toy Story Mania Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

Probably the most noticable difference between the two versions is the queue. In WDW the queue is indoors and the concept that the rider has shrunk to toy size is much more developed. Additionally there's air conditioning, which is a huge plus.

Toy Story Mania Disney's Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

In WDW they have a standby line, and a separate fastpass/single rider line, although the single rider line does not always run, and is not always a time saver. Disneyland will have a single rider line, but will apparently not have fastpass, similar to the Finding Nemo Submarine ride.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

The Disneyland Toy Story queue is all outdoors, with most of it similar to the outdoor Muppetvision queue, decorated with attraction posters. One can only assume the difference may be due to the more inclement weather Orlando has over Anaheim.

Additionally, the WDW queue is multi-leveled, whereas the DL queue is all on ground level (limited by California Screamin', which runs overhead.)

Frankly, the Disneyland queue looks markedly short, for the number of people you might expect to be waiting for it this summer. One CM stated that he thought the line held a little over an hour's worth of people, and that they were expecting the line to cross the walkway and extend over the bridge all the way to Golden Dreams, on the other side of the lagoon! Given that I saw the wait times at WDW reach around 190 minutes occasionally throughout the weekend, it seems likely.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

As far as the actual rides go, they're fairly similar. The areas between the shooting screens seemed longer at Disneyland, but the cannons and targets were all identical clones.

On the way out at Disneyland, you pass by this odd little room that, I suppose, is designed to clue you in to the whole "entering the Midway Games toy set" storyline, if you missed it earlier. I am sure some blogger out there knows the significance of the little dog figurines and the bust and the iced tea, but it would not be me.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

A curious thing is that at WDW, where the ride has been open to the public for some time, they still have no specific shop or merchandise for the ride, with the exception of one Mr. Potato Head t-shirt going for $40.

At Disneyland, where the ride was only in previews, a whole shop was open, with a multitude of purchasables. One cute item was the cannon-replica keychain that had a pull-string triggering a sound similar to the ride sound effect, and projecting a light image of a hoop from the ring-toss screen.

Toy Story Mania Disney's California Adventure Disneyland

As other blogs have gleefully noted the low wait times they've experienced at the press opening of the WDW Toy Story, I include the wait time we had at our AP preview out here.

It does seem likely that, without fastpass, the waits will be considerably longer than this in the near future as it is a great ride in either park.

Have fun, and remember--keep that fox out of the henhouse!

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