/ Cory Doctorow / 4 am Tue, May 20 2014
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  • Disneyland's original prospectus revealed!

    Disneyland's original prospectus revealed!

    Thanks to an anonymous benefactor, Boing Boing is pleased to present the first-ever look at the original Disneyland prospectus.

    Thanks to an anonymous benefactor, Boing Boing is pleased to present the first-ever look at the original Disneyland prospectus. These extremely high-resolution scans were made from one of the three sets of pitch-documents Roy and Walt Disney used to raise the money to build Disneyland. There are no archive copies of this document. Neither the Walt Disney Company nor the Walt Disney Family Museum have it. But we certainly hope both organizations will download these documents for inclusion in their collections.

    Roy Disney -- the Disney brother who controlled the company's finances - -- didn't like the idea of Disneyland at first. Walt Disney poached the best talent from the studios to help him flesh out his idea for a new kind of amusement park, eventually winning over Roy, who helped him raise the $17 million it took to build Disneyland.

    The first animator Walt took into the project was the legendary Herb Ryman. Over the course of a weekend in 1953, Walt and Herb drew the storied first map of Disneyland, as pictured here. An additional eight typed pages of description and sales copy were added to these pages and the resulting "brochure" was used as an unsuccessful pitch session that Walt and Herb conducted for three different New York bankers.

    This document changed hands at auction last year. The new owner has not indicated his interest in exhibiting or sharing the contents of this document. The new owner is Glenn Beck, a noted jerkface, so this is not surprising.

    As for the document itself, there's a lot of interesting detail in it. I was quite struck by the extent to which the document focuses on Disneyland as a unique place to shop. This being the post-war boom-years, shopping was coming into its own as an American recreational passtime. And indeed, Disneyland has, at various times in its history, focused strongly on unique gifts. In the 1950s and 1960s, doing your Christmas shopping at Disneyland was quite the thing in LA (in those days, there was a separate, low charge for admission, and ride tickets were extra, so it was very cheap to pass through the gates in order to shop). In the 1970s and 1980s, the parks sported loads of wonderful, bespoke materials (I loved the Randotti souvenirs, especially the Haunted Mansion material). At various times since, the corporate emphasis on merchandise has varied wildly, though thoughtful, high-quality, distinctive merchandise now appears to be back in the mix.

    But Walt's vision for what the company at one point called "merchantainment" (!) was more ambitious than anything yet realized inside the berm. Page one boasts of a "mail order catalogue" that will offer everything for sale at Disneyland (a kind of super-duper version of today's Disneyland Delivears). This catalogue was to feature actual livestock, including "a real pony or a miniature donkey thirty inches high."

    Once we get to "True-Life Adventureland," we learn of even cooler (and less probable) living merchandise: "magnificently plumed birds and fantastic fish from all over the world...which may be purchased and shipped anywhere in the U.S. if you so desire."

    The contrafactual Disneyland of 1953 wrestled with the future just as much as today's Disney parks do. The prospectus promises "slidewalks," a scientifically accurate space-simulator, robotic open kitchens and (of course) merchandise. But what merch! This being the golden age of science kits, Walt and Herb promised to send kids home from Disneyland with "scientific toys, chemical sets and model kits." We were also promised space-helmets. (I want a space helmet!)

    Futurism and science fiction have been tough nuts for Disneyland to crack. When the park opened in 1955, there wasn't much budget to kit out Tomorrowland, so a bunch of corporate sponsors were quickly brought in to host some pretty dubious exhibits: the Kaiser Aluminum Hall of Fame (a giant tin telescope, a tin pig, and exhibits about the role of aluminum in American industry); a Dairy of the Future that featured models of cows with IVs in their hocks gazing at videos of pastures; the Dutch Boy Color Gallery (exploring the future through paint mixing). The crowning glory was a big-top tent housing the special-effects kraken from the film of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; it was staffed by a little person who hid inside it all day, making the tentacles wave.

    There have been several attempts to remake Tomorrowland, of varying success. At one point, it became a focal point for insouciant Orange County goths, who congregated there every day after school, making good use of their annual passes. These days, Tomorrowland is thoroughly grounded in fiction from recently acquired franchises -- not futurism and the "factual world of tomorrow." There's a rather good Marvel Comics exhibit in the otherwise lacklustre Innoventions building, and lots of Star Wars-themed stuff to go with the revamped Star Tours ride (which is also rather good). No one seems to mind that a franchise set "a long, long time ago" is a dominant feature in Tomorrowland. Pixar is represented through a Buzz Lightyear ride/shooting gallery (where my wife regularly and thoroughly trounces me).

    Finally, the prospectus makes a big deal out of the idea of a miniature walk-through land, "Lilliputian Land," where "mechanical people nine inches high sing and dance and talk to you." This is clearly inspired by Walt's experiences touring Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, and is the lineal ancestor of the Small World boats (created for Unicef's pavilion at the 1964 NYC World's Fair) and the Storybookland Boats. More to the point, it shows off how much Disneyland was really an elaborate plan by Walt to let extend the miniature train-set he'd build in his garden as therapy after his mental breakdown. The classic photo of Walt Disney hanging out of a train locomotive, grinning with pure, unfaked joy contain, for me, the real story of Disneyland: a man who struggled with depression and his relationship to the company he founded, restless with corporate culture and anxious to lose himself in play in a world of fantasy.

    We are forever grateful to our anonymous source for this extraordinary document. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

    Disneyland Original Prospectus [archive.org]

    A zip file of high-res TIFF files [4GB!] is also available.


    / /

    Notable Replies

    1. The reference to "merchantainment" combined with both tethered gas balloon, & volcano shown in the illustration strongly reminded me of another work-in-progress, Downtown Disney at WDW. These design elements are extant there, along with a showboat/restaurant and a little carousel. Weird! (Still can't buy exotic livestock, though.)

      Btw, the passing reference to science kits suggests this is a dumb national problem that needs a smart national solution! [Bring back the boom!] Return the radioactive! ...OK, maybe not that. But America needs dangerous chemistry sets!

    2. I think it is fascinating because of what it could have been had Walt Disney's vision continued. It's right there in the opening line: a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. Judging from my visit last weekend, today that line would say "a place for people to spend money and trudge through queues to experience self-contained stories with no room for imagination or learning." It's an object lesson — Walt Disney was clearly as proud of his accomplishments in business as well as his creative endeavors. He was an old school Republican, who thought that American business could make the world better. Sadly, that part of the equation was lost over the decades. And so, Disneyland is still a little model of world in microcosm: from a place where you could imagine and learn to a place where you can spend and ride a "convenience vehicle" and spend a little more to get VIP treatment.
      Walt Disney was a prototypical Maker. Perhaps that is what BB finds so fascinating.

    3. AbeL says:

      There was a similar black and white drawing of early Disneyland at the Getty Center last summer when the had a "Overdrive LA constructs the future". It was the one piece of art they would not let you take pics of. it was hand drawn and about 3x6 feet large. See
      image here

      looks the same to me.

    4. Not in any part of Disneyland that YOU'RE allowed to know about.

      My pet Foxtopus was a real bargain at Club 35 1/4's end-of-season sale, but the way it screams for its mother every night is kind of jarring.

    5. The fascination seems more to be much more with Walt Disney himself, as opposed to the multiple gangs of Buffoons, Pretenders, and Charlatans that have occupied the Management Offices of The Walt Disney Company, pretty much ever since Walt passed away from Lung Cancer, across the street from The Walt Disney Studios at St. Joseph's Hospital, on December 15th, 1966.

      I was exactly one-month-old on that day (in my mother's belly, that is). Even though I never experienced Walt Disney while he was alive, it was soon enough after his death, that I got to enjoy countless re-runs of "Uncle Walt" on many television shows, with the Wonderful World of Walt Disney, where Tinkerbell practically flew right out of the front of the TV and gave you a little pixie dust kiss with her wand right on the tip of your nose, with the very real and beautifully-lit Disneyland Castle at night in the background, as well as all of the exciting world-wide True-Life Adventures, both standing out in my mind, now roughly forty years later. Mickey Mouse Factory was another daily TV favorite.

      The first movie that I ever saw in the movie theaters was The Jungle Book, with the Winnie the Pooh featurettes. I saw Lady and the Tramp, Mary Poppins, Swiss Family Robinson, and Robin Hood. I remember seeing Candleshoe at the Alex Theater in Glendale, California, with my Grandmother, my siblings, and my visiting cousins. Escape to Witch Mountain was another exciting live-action film at that age. I started to outgrow it by the time they came out with The Rescuers and The Fox and the Hound, as The Muppet Movie, and Star Wars had both come out by then.

      When we were little, we would play Swiss Family Robinson on and around the swing-set in the backyard, swing as high as we could while singing, Let's go fly a kite, and of course we played many round and forms of Pirates of the Carribbean, fueled by our annual family trip to Disneyland, on my father's "Company Night", at either JPL or TRW.

      The movie, Tron, was probably the next thing from Disney that caught my attention, as I was always very interested in Pinball Machines, Electronic Games, Video Games, and Computer Graphics, which Tron seemed to capture and make into something very real, yet something really magical and fantastical, in terms of being able to reach out and grab it and hold onto it. It took roughly another 10 - 15 years for Pixar to produce and release Toy Story, which was the culmination of the life and career dreams of both John Lassetter, and Ed Catmull, fueled by Steve Jobs business dreams of world domination.

      I went to college shortly after Tron had come out, bent on learning the magic behind Computers, Video Games, and Computer Graphics, and I even ended up publishing an enthusiasts' magazine for Atari Computers, called ST Journal, which was the poor man's Color Macintosh at the time. I got to take some wonderful classes on Computer Graphics Programming, with my textbooks influenced by the work of Ed Catmull and his colleagues. I had a great time making 256-color fractals at 320-200 pixels, which in comparison to my classmates' work on the IBM PC, were as superior as the look of Toy Story is to the look of Tron.

      I graduated from Calilfornia State Polytechnica University in Pomona, (Roy E. Disney had gone to college just a couple decades previously at Pomona College, part of the Claremont Colleges campus) in June 1990 with my BS in Computer Science Degree, and an Emphasis on Computer Graphics. After beating the pavement for what seemed like months, I was hired as part of a three-man Novell Networking team, as part of Corporate Information Services for The Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. I started at The Walt Disney Company on the day after Labor Day in September, 1990, the beginning of The Disney Decade.

      I spent a couple years as a Desktop End-User Computing Analyst, supporting about a dozen of the departments that are needed for the Corporate Umbrella that is The Walt Disney Company. In the process, I ended up working directly with the CIO, a wonderful woman, named Sharon Garrett, who had come to Disney in the late 1980's from UCLA Medical Center, as well as the Executive Offices of The Walt Disney Company, including Roy E Disney, Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

      Through these connections, I was empowered to pitch a brand-new VP of Magazine Publishing, over at Disney Consumer Products, a gentleman named, John Skipper, who ultimately went on to become the President of Disney Publishing Worldwide, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN.com, The ESPN Zone, and these days, is the Head Honcho for all of ESPN in Bristol, Conneticut . I ended up going to work for Disney Consumer Products IT, then Disney Publishing IT, then Disney Publishing Global Creative Operations.

      In the process, I pioneered the digital creative development process at DCP and DPW, transitioning artists and designers from paper and pencil, to the Apple Macintosh, what is now the Adobe Creative Suite, Canon Color Copiers with Fiery Postscript Printer Brains, and Wacom Tablets with built-in LCD displays, Heidelberg Flatbed Scanners, and Epson 44" wide roll printers / color proofers.

      I also spearheaded a project that bridged Disney Feature Animation and Pixar with the rest of The Walt Disney Company and the rest of their Licensees, Marketing Partners, etc. to provide the individual animation still frames as color-calibrated digital computer files, instead of as 35mm slides and 4x5 or 8x10 photographic transparencies, starting with The Lion King and Toy Story. In almost a Forest Gumpish manner, I got to fly up to Pixar to meet with the Producers of Toy Story in January 1995, since Disney Publishing Worldwide was about the only Disney Line-of-Business at the time that was going to put any Product Development support behind this new unproven animation and storytelling medium.

      After that, I built an in-house pre-press service bureau for Disney Publishing Worldwide, encompassing 80 years of Storybook Art, Comic Book Art, Coloring Book Art, etc., as well as all of the final digital files that were being used to print all of the new Disney books, all around the world. Called, The Disney Publishing Worldwide Digital Art Library, this became the foundation behind all of the Disney eBook and Disney Digital Book initiatives, including the Disney Apple iBooks.

      My point to all of this is that I grew up idolizing Walt Disney, as a combination of a great Creative and Conceptual Artist, a Master Storyteller, and a Curious and Never-Satisfied Technologist, and I got pretty darn close to following almost exactly in his footsteps. Even though I moved on with my career and my life, after being unceremoniously downsized out of The Walt Disney Company as a Middle Manager in August 2004, so that Michael Eisner could get one more $7 million bonus, just before being voted out of The Walt Disney Company by the Shareholders in Spring 2005, I never completely let go of my big creative Disney Dreams, and they crop up in my mind and my heart every now and then, as I work on high-end Enterprise Content Management System Projects, for Fortune 500 Companies in Southern California, like Countrywide, Bank of America Home Loans, United Healthcare, and now DIRECTV.

      I consider the story outline that I have come up with for a true Monsters Inc.sequel to be so good that it more than makes up for what went wrong with the well-intended prequel, Monsters University. Since I was a little kid, I have designed countless theme park rides in my head, on book covers, Pee Chee folders, and spiral notebooks that I was supposed to be using to pay attention to the teacher and take notes.

      Instead of a the lifetime employee pass that I would have received for myself and my four children in September 2005, which would have been my 15-year anniversary with The Walt Disney Company, I purchase our Annual Passes on the monthly payment plan like everyone else, and take complete ownership of our family playtime at Disneyland and California Adventure, a theme park that I helped open in Feburary 2001, as a volunteer media docent for a Southern California Latin American Lifestyle magazine.

      The point is that Walt Disney is what people value and hang onto and continue to seek in all things Disney, even the recently very successful Frozen. People know when it is "Real-Disney" vs "New-Disney", just like they knew the difference between "Classic Coke" and "New Coke".

      Even when the "Mindless Masses" are paying through the nose for anything and everything with the Disney Corporate name on it, just to be able to say that they did, real and true, authentic Walt Disney fans, and their children, and their children's children, and even their children's children's children at this point, who have been brought up properly in the ways of "Uncle Walt", which are really and truly, simply the early 20th-Century ways of the Middle Class from the Midwest, know the quality difference and won't settle for anything less than what they know that The Walt Disney Company has been capable of delivering for decades now.

      RIP to Walt and Lillian Disney, Diane Disney Miller, Sharon Mae Disney, Roy O. and Edna Disney, and Roy E. and Patricia Disney.

    Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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