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  1. #1

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    The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    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?
    The Right Honorable Count Boogie Bonz of Random, at your service.

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  2. #2

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    wow bassbone. That was a very unique and original post. Kudos to you bro.


    As for the instruments...I find it amazing that the current Disney brass keeps these little nuances around. Its the small things like this that make the Disney experiance great. Hopefully managment will recognize this and spend the chump change to get these instruments back in proper working order.
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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Unfortunately, it doesn't cost chump change to maintain pipe organs. Tuning is expensive, but you don't have to do it a whole lot, depending on your tolerance for bad tuning. Restoring the band organ aboard the Carrousel and the organ behind Dumbo, however, would probably run into real money unless you could find an enthusiast willing to donate his or her time.
    The Right Honorable Count Boogie Bonz of Random, at your service.

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  4. #4

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Very interesting post... I was sitting in the Golden Horseshoe tonight next to the piano hoping it would start but it never did... anybody know how often it plays?

  5. #5

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Very interesting, I never gave it any thought but you are right, they are really neat treasures that should be maintained and kept up.

    A little off topic but you probably enjoy the info, we have a place here in Mesa, AZ called Organ Stop Pizza that has a huge Pipe Organ. I haven't been in years, but now I'm going to have to go back to see it again. There site is: http://www.organstoppizza.com/welcome.htm

    PS Any Zonies wanna do a meet there? (Respond in the Main Lounge if interested)
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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    I have seen Organ Stop Pizza. Never been there before. There was a similar place in Portland, OR called the Organ Grinder with a full theater organ accompanying silent films. Unfortunately it went out of business and the organ was sold off in pieces. It probably went out of business because the pizza was terrible.
    The Right Honorable Count Boogie Bonz of Random, at your service.

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  7. #7

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by BassBone View Post
    Unfortunately, it doesn't cost chump change to maintain pipe organs. Tuning is expensive, but you don't have to do it a whole lot, depending on your tolerance for bad tuning. Restoring the band organ aboard the Carrousel and the organ behind Dumbo, however, would probably run into real money unless you could find an enthusiast willing to donate his or her time.

    Although it would be expensive to you or me...wouldn't it be relativley cheap as far as Disney is concerned.

  8. #8

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    if my poor little nor cal church can find the money to entirely rebuild it's 100 year old pipe organ, then i think the suits at TDA can find a way to get theirs in working order.
    "And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by" (John Masefield)



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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by BassBone View Post
    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.
    This wonderful instrument sits next to the Trains Lead Office. If a CM drops a dime in the box then the Lead can unplug it, but if a Guest drops a dime in it, the Lead is forced to listen to it. SO... Trains CM's were known to get a BUNCH of dimes, and then line up kids and have them drop'em in! It insured great music, and annoyed the crap out of the Lead!... not that any Jungle Skips were ever Trains CM's too...
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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    This wonderful instrument sits next to the Trains Lead Office. If a CM drops a dime in the box then the Lead can unplug it, but if a Guest drops a dime in it, the Lead is forced to listen to it. SO... Trains CM's were known to get a BUNCH of dimes, and then line up kids and have them drop'em in! It insured great music, and annoyed the crap out of the Lead!... not that any Jungle Skips were ever Trains CM's too...
    All the more reason to keep it maintained.
    The Right Honorable Count Boogie Bonz of Random, at your service.

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  11. #11

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by BassBone View Post
    I have seen Organ Stop Pizza. Never been there before. There was a similar place in Portland, OR called the Organ Grinder with a full theater organ accompanying silent films. Unfortunately it went out of business and the organ was sold off in pieces. It probably went out of business because the pizza was terrible.
    Organ Stop is VERY POPULAR. They occasionally advertise on TV. They only keep dinner hours. And if you ever drive by it, it's busy (especially when the snowbirds are in town during the winter months).

    When Disney went to the 1964 World's Fair and did the Ford's Magic Skyway attraction, there was a peculiar device in the queue. It was a musical instrument made of car parts!

    Regular maintenance makes things easy to maintain. After the years of neglect, it would be more trouble and money to fix something that hasn't seen TLC in a long time. It's like cleaning your bathroom. It seems easy to clean it if you clean it regularly (like once a week). Let it go longer (like, say, a month), and it seems to take more work to clean it. The pipe organ at the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake is a very old organ and has over 13,000 pipes. It's tuned and still works. It accompanies the Mormon Tabernacle Choir every single week when "Music and the Spoken Word" is broadcast on TV and the radio. Surley something that fits in a box like the instrument in the Penny Arcade is less complicated to fix and maintain...

  12. #12

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    does anyone know anything about the piano that is currently UPSTAIRS in the golden horseshoe?
    "And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by" (John Masefield)



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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Quote Originally Posted by BassBone View Post
    .................................................. ...............................
    How can we help Disneyland to maintain and restore these treasures?
    THanks BassBone for the fantastic post.

    There is also one more automatic instrument and Disneyland on main street in the Music Shop, I have never heard it play, it is always out of order and infact I have not checked on it for the last 6 months or so, perhaps it is still there I don't know.

    I do hope that these very special gems are restored and brought back to working condition. I have always dreamed of being able to hear the real sound of the automatic instruments on Dumbo and the Carousel, Maybe now since "all our dreams come true" that maybe all the instruments will be restored if we dream it! !

    But beyond dreaming I am not sure exactly besides a write in campaign or a technicians offer for repairing the instruments at a very low rate. I am not sure what else we can do, unless Tony Baxter has a love for those instruments and has the budget to make it happen, I don't know. Great post though!

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    I love all the orchestrons about Disneyland. Walt was a fan and collected them. They really add to the victorian technology theme of Main Street.

    I often play the one in the train station.

    I'm not a fan of the off-theme touch screen display on the arcade orchestron and would prefere something with more victorian flare. I'd also like the light bulbs maintained, the candy removed, and arcade returned to it's original themed attraction purpose.

    The disc orchestron in the music shop has a tag that says something like authentic antique built in 1910. I would perfere they stay on-theme and say something like "New Improved 1910 Series"

    Otherwise I'm very pleased that some of the authentic flare Walt put into Disneyland has remained!

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    Re: The State of Automatic Instruments at Disneyland

    Great post. This is something that most would overlook as disinteresting or not important, but they do add character and (if playing) atmosphere to the Park. This also speaks to the calls of myself and others to bring Main Street back to theme (but that's for another thread).

    They really need to be restored, and kept in tune. There's nothing worse than a tuneless nickelodeon. And where possible, retro-fitted with an unobtrusive MIDI interface and sequencer. A MIDI controller would allow them to be more easily updated with new orchestrations to help keep them contemporary and fresh.
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