The Disney Encyclopedia SAMLANDICA - Volume One - Mansion, Figaro, Disneyland 1959
by, 05-18-2011 at 06:57 PM
This week I've whipped up something slightly different for you. Instead of serving up a comprehensive slice of the Disney universe, I have collected a few random, but interesting, morsels for you.
Enjoy this first volume from the Encyclopedia SAMLANDICA. Let us know if you like it and we'll bring you more volumes in the future.
THE LAST LAUGH
The next time you exit The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, pause a moment just after the turnstiles and listen for one of my favorite little gags. It seems that the Haunted Mansion is the one who gets the last laugh.
The design of The Haunted Mansion is a reflection of two very prominent Imagineers. Claude Coats and Marc Davis worked together brilliantly under Walt’s direction to create one of the great theme park attractions of all time – The Pirates of the Caribbean. Now certainly there were dozens and dozens of other talented people connected with these projects. But it is the distinctly different visions from these two men that make The Haunted Mansion what it is. Davis is the creative genius that used his animation talents to invent the art of the memorable three-dimensional site gag. Coats was the master of atmosphere. He painted backgrounds for animated films and created the environment where Marc Davis’s pirates plundered and pillaged.
When it came time to build The Haunted Mansion, Davis and Coats did not have somebody playing Walt’s role as a strong central force. Instead, they created a marvelous mash up of two different visions. The first half of the ride is all Coats. It is as if you stepped into a horror movie. The second half is all Davis. The little vignettes provide maximum humor with minimal action. Volumes have been written about the Mansion, and we may come back to this topic in the future. But for right now, let's examine a single speaker at the exit of the ride.
Now I do not know who is responsible for this little gem, but next time you exit the attraction, listen for one of my favorite gags. Just beyond the turnstile at the top of the speedramp is a small speaker that was silent for many, many years. After Disneyland completed the refurbishments that came along with the Nightmare Before Christmas overlays, somebody found this speaker and reconnected it to the sound source. What they found was this very ominous deep laughter. The joke is that not only will a ghost follow you home, but the house is going to get the last laugh. Love it.
Want to truly amaze your friends with your psychic ability? The next time you are waiting for the Disneyland Railroad while at the New Orleans Square station, you will have your chance.
As you are standing on the platform, look toward the tunnel to your left. Beyond the former Frontierland train station (which is based upon the film So Dear To My Heart - but that is another story) is a signal.
Now most of the time the signal is in the up position forming a "U".
Once the train leaves the Main Street platform, it trips a switch that runs to the signal. The arm starts to move down to about a 45º angle.
The trick is that at the moment the signal drops, you can proclaim with great confidence "The train is about to arrive!" Miraculously, the announcer man will bellow the familiar refrain that the train is about to arrive.
Your friends will be very impressed with your new found psychic powers . . . unless they also read SAMLAND of course.
THE CASE OF FIGARO
The next time you find yourself inside of the Village Haus in Disneyland's Fantasyland, look up before you exit (through the main central door). Naturally, the exit sign would be centered over the arched doors right? Well, in this case, when the exit sign was being installed, a beam was in the way, so the sign had to be mounted off center. The Imagineers fixed this by placing an image of Figaro the cat pulling the sign over to the intended spot.
Disneyland's Village Haus EXIT sign is off center (Figaro to the rescue)
Of course, the Imagineers had a second chance to get it right. When the restaurant was built at Disneyland Paris, the sign was placed in the correct location . . . so Figaro is giving the thumbs up.
Borrowing from the animation field again, the Imagineers enriched the guest experience with another visual trick. The animators called this tool the “inbetween.” In the animation process, a scene is staged by a series of key drawings that highlight major points of motion. These drawings come to life because of a large number of ‘inbetweens’ that complete the scene between those key drawings.
According to Randy Bright, in Disneyland: Inside Story, Walt did not believe that everything had to increase capacity, create publicity or make money. He knew he had to create “remarkable pieces of out of the way charm that doesn’t shout or call attention to itself.” Instead, “The visitor sort of stumbles upon it, experiencing all the surprise and delight that childhood discoveries bring.” People instinctively want to decorate their spaces. Without such embellishments, a place will seem lifeless and dull. The inbetween ensures that will not happen within the theme parks. Some examples of inbetweens include Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland and the Frontierland petrified tree.
The petrified tree along the Rivers of America is one very special in-between. Originally, the tree was an anniversary gift Walt's gave to his wife. Lillian thought it would look much better in the park instead of her garden in Holmby Hills.
Take a look at the top of the tree. Now take a look at the top of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad hoodoo. Something feel kind of familiar?
Disney would make the same sort of echo at Disney's Animal Kingdom with Expedition Everest.
THE 1959 SPECIAL INSERT
One of my favorite things about Disney history is the amazing artwork that preceded the construction of the attractions.
If you were a visitor to Disneyland in 1959 and were smart enough to purchase Walt Disney's Guide to Disneyland, not only would you be able to relive your visit but you would have gotten a glimpse of some of the dreaming going on at WED Enterprises. Inside the booklet are drawings of The Haunted Mansion, Liberty Square, and Adventures in Science. But the real treat was the Special Insert.
Many Disney historians have referred to the summer of 1959 as the second grand opening of Disneyland. Walt was feeling the heat from Pacific Ocean Park (POP). The seaside amusement park opened in Santa Monica. It was a joint project between the CBS network and the Los Angeles Turf Club, managers of Santa Anita Race track. CBS turned Walt down when he was looking the first time but they saw a good thing going on in Anaheim and they wanted a piece of the action. In 1958, the POP outdrew Disneyland. Maybe it was the park's appearance on the Lawrence Welk show?
As always, Walt would not rest on his laurels and he was always up for a challenge. He drove his team to complete the biggest expansion in the park’s short history. The results forever change Disneyland. In one shot, he built The Matterhorn, The Submarine Voyage, the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail System, Motorboat Cruises, and new Autopia Freeways.
Walt called it, “A brand new Disneyland.”
Walt was proud of the growth of Disneyland in four short years. He said, “Today, there are 48 attractions in the Magic Kingdom – compared to 22 on opening day.”
THE MATTERHORNWell, that raps up the musings from this installment of the Encyclopedia SAMLANDICA. But as we put this book back on the shelf, we have lots more of our in depth articles to share with you in the weeks to come. We sincerely thank you for reading and hope you'll make SAMLAND Thursdays a regular part of your weekly routine.
“Calling Disneyland visitors to a thrilling bobsled ride, ‘snow-capped’ Matterhorn Mountain, rising as high as a 14-story structure, is an exact replica of the most famous Swiss Alp mountain. Bobsledding guests race around, through and down its slopes, gliding to a halt at the bottom in a glacier lake. Inside the Matterhorn, bobsled riders see glacier caverns and alpine grottos.”
The Matterhorn was easily the most visible attraction and the tallest structure in Orange County at the time. The location for the Matterhorn was the site for Holiday Hill aka, Snow Mountain. It was the dirt pile left over from the moat in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Walt originally wanted to have bobsleds slide down ice chutes. Admiral Joe Fowler convinced Walt that this was not a good idea.
One of the main inspirations for the Matterhorn was the need to hide the Skyway tower. What better way to camouflage a huge steel structure then to build a mountain around it?
“Traveling high above Disneyland between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, the already popular Skyway ride has a brand new treat: a view of the caverns and ice grottos as the cable cars pass through the Matterhorn. The Skyway also provides a breathtaking view over the entire area of new attractions.”
THE SUBMARINE VOYAGE
“The mysterious depths of the legendary Seven Seas have been brought to vivid reality for passengers who board Disneyland’s authentic, air-conditioned submarines. In the Submarine Voyage, Walt Disney has created a world of hundreds of deep sea fish, sunken treasures and beautiful flora and fauna of the undersea world.”
Now wouldn’t it be cool to see a Cast Member saluting the crowd from the top of the conning tower again? The Submarine Voyage started out as a United States military operation and ended up as harmless research vessels surfing the East Australia Current looking for a adolescent fish who doesn’t listen to his father. Along with the nearby mountain, Walt did something nobody else could pull off. He built a submarine fleet. What started out as a glass bottom boat turned out to be something that could only be found at Disneyland. I especially like the Spanish style mission that is found underwater with the bells still intact.
“Looking through individual portholes in the submarines, Disneyland’s oceanic explorers see the fabled Lost Continent of Atlantis, the Graveyard of Lost Ships, and glide beneath the North Polar Ice Cap. And there are lesser known phenomena: beautiful mermaids and 60-feet long sea serpents!”
DISNEYLAND-ALWEG MONORAIL SYSTEM
“Previewing the future of city mass transportation, the first complete Monorail system, operating daily, in the United States carries guests over and around the entire new attraction area. Climbing steep grades and racing around sharp curves the futuristic Monorail trains run over a “concrete highway in the sky.” Transportation authorities are already considering the electrically operated monorails as the solution to the problems of metropolitan area congestion. Even the access to the Monorail Train Station is futuristic; a Speedramp carries passengers from ground level to the loading platform.
Walt was the master of layering his attractions against a beautiful landscape. Just look at Frontierland. When Disneyland first opened, guests could ride through the outback on a mule, a Conestoga wagon or a Stage Coach. Over time that network would evolve and a mine train through Nature’s Wonderland replaced the horse drawn vehicles. However, the mule pack remained until 1973.
The same thing was taking place along the banks of the Rivers of America. You could ply the river on a steam power stern wheeler, a reproduction of the first American three-masted sailing ship to circumnavigate the world, Mike Fink’s keel boats or a human powered canoe.
The landscape is what mattered and each transportation device gave guests a different perspective and enhanced the overall environment.
Walt would take this concept to another level in Tomorrowland with the addition of the Monorail. Riding high in the sky along the beamway were bright colored Monorail trains zooming by almost silently. Just below is an expanded Autopia miniature car freeway and small motorboats tooling around a waterway. Sadly the motorboat canals have been filled in for the most part and the Autopia freeway has completely been remodeled and now includes an off road section.
“Two complete Motorboat cruises have been designed on a new lake in the Fantasyland area. Guests pilot their own boats through whitewater rapids and rock-filled currents on this winding, swiftly-moving stream.”
NEW AUTOPIA FREEWAYS
“Disneyland’s most popular transportation, the Autopia Freeways, have been doubled in number to include four separate super highways. Youngsters of all ages drive their own individually gasoline powered sports cars over these multi-level speedways. Many of the cars are brand new, modern designs.”
We invite you to join Sam and MiceChat at the Huntington Gardens in July
“LOS ANGELES: INVENTED SPACES OR AUTHENTIC PLACES?”
Saturday, July 9, 2011 at the Huntington Library and Gardens
Presented by the Los Angeles Region Planning History Group in cooperation with the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West Huntington Library and Gardens, Friends’ Hall Saturday, July 9, 2011 Coffee & Pastries: 9:30 a.m. Colloquium and Lunch: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
The Los Angeles region has evolved as much from out-sized dreams and inventions as from traditional rules for establishing human settlements. Carey McWilliams called Los Angeles an “improbable” place not destined to succeed, but determined to do so. As Southern California developed, the visionaries who built this region knew it was less about location and more about destination. The enormous popularity of “invented” or themed destinations – Venice of America, Olvera Street, Disneyland, Third Street Promenade, CityWalk, The Grove and many others – has provided planners, designers and developers with inspiration and lessons on both success and failure. What is the difference between those places that have a “unifying vision” and those that celebrate a “messy vitality”? Where do “invented” places end and “authentic” places begin? In a land where set designers build houses, architects design movie sets, and many of our most cherished “public” spaces are privately owned and operated, anything is possible. A distinguished panel, moderated by author and planner Sam Gennawey, will address these questions.
- David Sloane, Professor, USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development
- Hassan Haghani, Community Development Director, City of Glendale
- Vaughan Davies, Principal and Director of Urban Design, AECOM
- Tim O’Day, O’Day and Associates
- Neal Payton, Principal, Torti Gallas and Partners
Cost is $40; for students with valid student ID, $20
Fee includes coffee and pastries, lunch, parking, and day pass to the Huntington
Seating is limited; please RSVP to:
Alice Lepis, Secretary
[email protected] (preferred) or at 818.769.4179 no later than
Tuesday, July 5, 2011