The Samland Grabbag of Disneyland Stories

Written by Sam Gennawey. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Features, Samland

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Published on September 05, 2012 at 10:02 pm with 12 Comments

One of the great things about Disneyland is pulling back the various layers of history concentrated in such a small site. Disney historian Jeff Kurtti noted that if you are able to frequently visit the park it “is revelatory in the drastic change you will see – and the almost complete lack of change you will see.” If you really think about it, there is actually very little that was there in 1955. Let’s share some random bits, some quick stories.

WALT’S MOMENT

On July 13, a few days before the Park’s opening, three-hundred special guests were invited to attend the Tempus Fugit Celebration for Walt and Lillian’s thirtieth anniversary. Walt promised “cruising down the Mississippi on the Mark Twain’s maiden voyage, followed by dinner at Slue-foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe!” Lilly and Walt stated, “Hope you can make it…we especially want you and, by the way, no gifts, please…we have everything, including a grandson!”

On the day of the party, Joe Fowler was on the project site and went to the Mark Twain for a final inspection. On board was a woman sweeping the deck who handed him a broom and said, “This ship is just filthily…let’s get busy and sweep it up.” After getting over the shock, Fowler realized that woman was Lillian Disney.

The entertainment was a performance of the Golden Horseshoe Revue. According to the press release, it’s “an Old-West stage show with comedy and singing in a thirty-minute production starring comedian Wally Boag, songstress Betty Taylor, tenor Fulton Burley, and the Golden Horseshoe Girls. ”

“There were quite a few important people in the audience…Hedda Hopper and Irene Dunn were there,” Comedian Wally Boag remembered. “It was mostly a dress rehearsal, but it was our first show as far as I’m concerned.” Over the next twenty-seven years, Boag would repeat the role of Pecos Bill in nearly 40,000 performances.

Walt walked with Jack Sayers toward the front gate at 6:00 p.m. to meet his guests. When they got there Walt exclaimed, “Where is everybody?”

Sayers had no idea. He told Van France later, “He’s blaming me because the guests are probably hung up in traffic.” Inevitably, the guests began to arrive to this remote site in busses and cars. Walt’s daughter Diane has claimed that this party may have been one of the happiest days in her father’s life. As the evening came to a close, she recalled asking her father if she could drive him home.

He said, “Well, sure, honey.” As he climbed into the backseat of the car she said, “He had a map of Disneyland, and he rolled it up, and tooted in my ear as with a toy trumpet.” As she drove, the car grew silent. Diane looked at the back seat and her father was sound asleep with “his arms folded around the map like a boy with a toy trumpet.” She added, “I knew he didn’t have too much to drink, because the next morning he didn’t have a hangover. He bounded out of the house at 7:30 and headed for Disneyland again.”

 I WILL HAVE THE TERIYAKI STEAK, PLEASE

Visiting Disneyland was meant to appeal to all of the senses. The Tahitian Terrace in Adventureland completely embodied this concept. The dining and entertainment facility, operated by Stouffer’s, opened in June 1962 and was considered by many to offer the best food in the Park.

The Tahitian Terrace brought a little bit of “South Seas atmosphere” to Adventureland. Guests could experience such exotic foods as “sizzling teriyaki steak, savory shrimp tempura, fried almonds in rich egg batter, and raisin ice cream topped with flaming caramel sauce.” A popular drink was the nonalcoholic “Planters Punch Tahitian.” Entertainment was provided by the Royal Tahitians and several other acts: a fire-knife dance, a daring barefoot firewalk, and the ever popular hula dancers.

Bill Evans remembered, “We had this great big African coral tree as the dominant feature in the dining patio area. It was a really big and authentic tree, with brilliant orange-red flowers, but it wasn’t nearly big enough for Walt’s taste.”

Walt told Evans, “No, no…that won’t do…I’m going to build a tree in there so we can fill it up with lights and sound and music and everything. I’ve got to have a bigger tree than that!”

So Evans removed the real tree and he replaced it with a exotic looking 35-foot tall tree with 4,075 artificial leaves and colorful faux flowers that always bloomed. When the tree was completed, Walt was still not satisfied. He wanted to optimize the guest site-lines and asked, “Why can’t we just cut through the trunk and add a piece to raise it up to the height we really need?” That is exactly what the team from WED did.

AM I CRAZY?  

In May 1975, at the Anaheim Convention Center, Dr. Michael Brody of Washington D.C. presented his paper, The Wonderful World of Disney – Its Psychological Appeal to delegates at the 128th annual convention of the American Psychiatric Association. According to press reports, Dr. Brody stated that Disneyland was “literally booby-trapped with oral, anal, castration, and obsessive themes.” He stated that many of the Disneyland rides were examples of the “mastery of castration” where “a vague fear is followed by immediate relief.” In his analysis, he concluded that children were frequently frightened by Disney stories. Dr. Brody also had issues with the level of “control” and “passivity” within the Park where guests “become a receptacle of experience.”

Los Angeles Times columnist Jack Smith’s reaction to the paper was “I’ve always known that Disneyland was Sodom of oral, anal, castration and obsession themes; but at least you’re out in the fresh air.”

When asked for a reaction, a Disneyland spokesperson said, “We’ve heard about it, of course. But we haven’t seen or read anything.” He also mentioned that 7,000 association members and their families visited Disneyland for a special private party and “successfully suppressing, at least to all outward appearance, any undue anxieties of whatever variety, castrative, aggressive or obsessive.”


If you enjoy reading SAMLAND, you’ll love his book. Walt and the Promise of Progress City is a detailed look into how Walt Disney envisioned the future of communities. Along the way, we explore many facets of a fascinating man.

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About Sam Gennawey

Sam Gennawey is an urban planner who has collaborated with communities throughout California over the course of more than 100 projects to create a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. Sam is a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Planning History Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving municipal, county, and private sector planning documents from throughout Los Angeles County. Sam is the author of Walt and the Promise of Progress City which you can find on Amazon.

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12 Comments

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  1. A nice collection of stories. Thank you. One thought: The press release you quote for The Golden Horseshoe would have been from a date later than the Tempus Fugit party as Donald Novis was the original male singer in the show. Fulton Burley did not take over that role until the ’60′s, I believe.

  2. Fun article Sam!

    QUOTE:
    Disneyland was “literally booby-trapped with oral, anal, castration, and obsessive themes.”

    Explains a lot. ;-)

    • I guess I’m dumb cause I don’t get it! Unless they are talking about riding on those hard seats on the Matterhorn?! lol :)

  3. Boy, you outdid yourself. It read more like a book chapter than an online article. The most captivating read I’ve experienced since the Cars Land opening. THANKS

  4. Great article, thanks!

  5. Walt Disney might not have been what legends have him to be. He had issues with the unions. The one thing I see in Walt Disney is that he bet it all. Everything he had on Disneyland. If you bet everything you own on something, I think that you have a right to what you want.

    The final product is great, and Disney will live on in his legacy of building the theme park no one has matched.

    I hope this complicated Man is at peace. I will enjoy his park for another 30 years I hope. and I will honor him.

  6. Off Comment: I just recently went to the Walt Disney Family Museum and it was amazing, it had stuff which I knew or sort of knew, but in a bit more detail; plus additional access to items in the gallery to read and gloss over. But back to your column, that last story was funny. :D

    Timekeeper

  7. Loved this post. I really love the treasured memory Diane has of Walt and the map. Truly special. I am so greatful for all the castrations I’ve had and wonderful memories the Great Walt has given me over the years and will continue to do. I wonder just how many times around the world those memories of joy from everyone who has visited Disneyland from day one til the present would go. Round and round and round………..Thank you Walt fir every one.

    • sorry, should say for every one.

  8. I’ve read your book, “Walt and the Promise of Progress City.” It was a very good read. One of the better parts of the book has to do with the quality without a name, and, of course, the discussion of Main Street.

  9. Great story Sam.

  10. Sam, you always come up with the most unusual stories to tell and i appreciate them. Nobody is too big to sweep the floor when your trying to get the show open. PD