After visiting the remarkable Bayernhof Museum in Pitsburgh, PA and seeing its extensive collection of automatic instruments, player pianos, organs, a player violin, etc., I got to thinking about the various automatic instruments around Disneyland, both operational and not. I wish I had the time to make this a photo essay, but I don't, so if anyone has any pictures of these devices, feel free to post them.
Starting at the front of the park we have an automatic in Main Street Station. As you enter the station you turn right and see a wooden box with a window on top. Pop in a dime and you're treated to what I believe is a 44 note piano accompanied by a snare drum, bass drum, cymbal, triangle, tambourine and castanets. The piano is relatively well in tune, but the percussion needs some work. The snare drum and bass drum heads both need to be replaced and after that need maintenance every once in a while. Overall this instrument is in good shape and I never miss an opportunity to drop the dime, as it were.
Moving on down main street is my favorite instrument: The Welte Orchestrion in the Penny Arcade. This instrument has in it a pipe organ and numerous percussion instruments including the requisite snare/bass/cymbal arrangement. Put in a quarter and you can select from many songs including disney songs, marches and popular music from the early 20th century. This instrument, purchased by Walt Disney himself was operating on opening day at Disneyland. Unfortunately it is in bad shape. The organ is horrendously out of tune to the point of being painful and the drum heads have degraded so much that they sound like plastic washtubs. As magnificent as this instrument is, I wish it were taken care of better.
In Frontierland in the Golden Horseshoe is a player piano that seems to play at random intervals. There's not much to say about it beyond the fact that it's a pleasant surprise when it goes off.
Finally in Fantasyland we have the two mystery band organs. The first is aboard the King Arthur Carrousel, the second is behind Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Both are automatic pipe organs with percussion. Neither of these instruments is currently operational, however. Their absence is covered up by the fact that a loop of Disney songs arranged for organ is played over the loudspeakers near the Carrousel and both Dumbo-themed attractions. Imagine how wonderful it would be if both these organs were resurrected.
This concludes my survey of the automatic instruments of Disneyland. If there are any instruments around Disneyland I've missed, let me know. Now it's time for the call to action. I would like to see the currently operating automatic instruments tuned and maintained. They represent a unique period in the history of music and public entertainment in the United States. To let them continue to deteriorate is, I think, an inexcusable shame. Also a shame is to let two magnificent band organs sit idle in Fantasyland. Having them operational would, I think, add a lot to the atmosphere of Fantasyland, especially aboard the Carrousel and Dumbo.
How can we help Disneyland to maintain and restore these treasures?