People going to amusement parks in the post World War II boom times of the early 1950s were looking for fast, not slow; they wanted to be thrilled, not dropped into a peaceful and pastoral setting. But that’s just what Walt Disney gave them in The Rivers of America.
From the moment Walt Disney began to think about what would eventually become “Disneyland,” he conceived of it as a park — a “themed park.” Different “lands” would bring visitors into exotic or futuristic places with architecture, attractions, and rides. Adventureland took you into the jungle on a cruise through dense forests and encounters with wild animals; Fantasyland put you right into the fairy-tale films for which Disney was already famous; Tommorrowland showed what the future might hold; Frontierland pulled you into the old west, through a small town, toward an Indian Village (populated by real Native Americans back then), and eventually to an enormous ride through the wonders of the old west: Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland. All of Frontierland ran around the peripherary of the Rivers of America, a body of water wide enough for a 5/8 scale recreation of a steamboat—the first one built in America since approximately 1905. The steamboat, named “The Mark Twain,” along with Main Street U.S.A., was the largest physical expression of Walt’s nostalagia for an earlier, more simple lifestyle. It was his boyhood in fantasy.
Walt was a dreamer, and one of the things he wanted to do in his park was transport people to the places he remembered and romanticized from his childhood. Read the rest
Among the attractions that will vanish for at least 18 months during the construction of the new land devoted to Star Wars, there’s a good chance that at least one, located on Tom Sawyer Island, might not return: Dead Man’s Grotto.
After the enormous (and unexpected) success of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the folks at Walt Disney Imagineering began developing an extensive makeover of Tom Sawyer Island into something that would expand the presence of Pirates into a much larger area of the park, and also motivate more people to make use of Tom Sawyer Island.
Two things led to a half-hearted final product. First, fans loved Tom Sawyer Island (even though most folks didn’t visit it) because it had been designed by Walt Disney himself and it was a great (and generally safe) place to let your kids run around while parents sat in the shade. It is an important part of the park’s history.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the budget for the project was repeatedly cut so the end result was still pretty much Tom Sawyer Island with a few pirate things worked lightly into it, including a short-lived Captain Jack Sparrow Meet and Greet at the far end of the island where few people seem to go.
The most notable and interesting part of the addition took place in what had previously been “Injun Joe’s Cave.”
And when the Island was Pirate-ized, the cave became Dead Man’s Grotto.
While the overlay on the exterior parts of the island was fairly modest, there was a lot of technological fun to be found in Dead Man’s Grotto. Read the rest
With the unsettling closure and uncertain future of a vast original area of Disneyland which has remained mostly undisturbed since park opening in 1955, it seems fitting to reflect upon some things which made it memorable. This is the first of a series of pieces, and also the most indirect — it’ll take me six paragraphs to make my real point.
One thing every parent knows is the delight of “the unexpected moment” when your child comes upon a character at a Disney park without warning.
There’s less of that these days, with “Character Meet and Greets” having been turned into controlled experiences and fewer instances of the characters simply walking the parks and freely mingling with the guests. (You tend to see much more of this at the Tokyo Disney Resort.)
On a trip to Disneyland when my daughter was about 4 or 5 years old just under a decade ago, we entered the park early, passed through Main Street, and were taking the walkway up to Sleeping Beauty Castle that curves to the right, past Snow White’s Grotto. The white marble statues of Snow White and the Dwarfs were a gift from the Ambassador of Italy, I explained to my daughter. They reside in a man-made grotto with a waterfall.
On the walkway itself is a full-size replica of the wishing well from the film Snow White. If you lean over and listen, you will hear Snow White singing. My daughter was listening intently, looking into the well, and when she turned around there was Snow White — pretty, indeed, as a picture. Read the rest
The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland in California was an opening day attraction in 1955. Walt Disney’s desire to bring the mystique of faraway lands to what were once orange groves in Anaheim, combined with the inspiration from his series of “True Life Adventure” films, led to its creation. The original boats, festooned with red and white striped awnings on their roofs, were inspired by the film The African Queen.
Walt was rarely satisfied with things in stasis: he was always “plussing” (improving) them. Many changes have been made to The Jungle Cruise since its opening, though the majority of park-goers are unaware of them. The Jungle Cruise has always been popular at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World – there’s always a wait (more so in Tokyo Disneyland, where the wait is usually 45 to 90 minutes). Walt didn’t have to change it, but he added new and more realistic animals over time, and in 1963 (or so, I believe) asked Imagineer Marc Davis to create a series of “gag” scenes that would increase the entertainment value. These scenes, including a rhino chasing a safari party up a tree, can still be seen in the attraction.
An interesting black and white video of the ride from mid-1960s, where a vocal narration of the ride by Thurl Ravenscroft (he was the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger) from an old Disney LP has been added, is available here.
Numerous videos of its current incarnation can be found on YouTube, and this one of the new upgraded version at Tokyo Disneyland is a lot of fun. Read the rest
The Walt Disney company has been trying to extend its reach into China for years. After the years of sputtering trying to get Hong Kong Disneyland on its feet, they built three more lands in the last few years and visitors are starting to come. But that’s nothing compared to the Disneyland they’re building in Shanghai, which is an enormous park with many attractions that are unique to it and have piqued the interest of Disney theme park fans all around the world.
Now, thanks to my friend Alain Littaye over at his swell Disney and More Blogspot I can tell you a lot about Shanghai Disneyland, whose animated map has just gone live on line here. While the site is not yet fully functional, it will whet your appetite!
Divided into seven “lands,” Shanghai Disneyland will open with a full day of attractions (unlike most Disney parks build in the last 25 years). Rumor has it that the Chinese government has closed over 100 factories in the immediate Shanghai area to eliminate the hideous gray throat-burning haze one encounters in Beijing, for example.
Guests will first encounter Mickey Avenue, which takes the place of the usual “Main Street U.S.A.” Filled with shops and character meet-and-greets, this is a new style of entrance for a Disney park.
A nod to the Chinese host country takes place in the new land Gardens of Imagination, which boasts seven “whimsical gardens,” as well as a carousel themed to the film Fantasia, a Dumbo spinning ride, as well as serving as the “hub” (a term Disney folks call that round spot in front of the castle from which paths to the other lands emanate). Read the rest
"Hollywood Home Movies: Disneyland" screens tomorrow night at the Linwood Dunn Theater in LA and it's sold out. It sounds amazing.
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Got a spare 12 bucks? If you’re a fan of the Mouse and you live someplace other than California, Nevada, and Arizona, then you might have fun with this collapsible umbrella that appears to be normal — a solid color — when you open it. When the heavens open and the raindrops fall, they bring out a silhouette of Walt Disney’s best pal on the fabric. Fun, but not in the sun... and it looks like this:
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My friend Yasuo Amano, who lives in the town of Shizuoka about an hour outside Tokyo, runs a Japanese blog called Hey Presto. It is mostly concerned with the unique magic tricks produced a Japanese toy company named Tenyo, about which I’ve just written an enormous set of books that will be released in early November.
The Tenyo Company has been in business since 1931, and sells its magic tricks to regular folks at its “Magic Corners” in department stores across Japan. Even though the tricks they devise are easy to do, they also appeal to magicians because of their creativity.
And then there is Tokyo Disneyland, which is turned into a most mysterious and magical place at Halloween. Amano’s latest blog video combines a recent visit to Tokyo Disneyland’s seasonal Halloween event with a performance of some of Tenyo’s newest tricks.
I know … Halloween is still weeks away, but for purposes of commerce Halloween now commences in early September at Disney parks around the world, and even at your local supermarket and drugstore where the candy and greeting cards now appear before summer has officially ended.
In the latest and most annoying development, yesterday at Rite-Aid I saw Christmas cookies already out in the Halloween aisle. Don’t make me punch you in the face, Santa.
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Yeah, you’ve heard of Disneyland (that’s the one in California) and you were probably dragged to Walt Disney World (that’s the one in Florida) when you were a kid. And, possibly, if you give a rat’s patootie about Disney theme parks, you might have heard they have them in other countries, but you’ve probably never heard of Tokyo DisneySea.
“TDS,” as the Japanese call it, is what is known as a Disney resort’s “second gate.” If you’re a WDW person, then Epcot is the second gate; if you’re a DL person, then Disney California Adventure is the second gate.
In 2001, when The Walt Disney Company built Disney California Adventure, it spent one billion bucks for the park, the Grand Californian Hotel, and Downtown Disney. The same year, when The Oriental Land Company (who owns the Tokyo Disney Resort—The Walt Disney Company receives a royalty and percentage) built Tokyo DineySea, it spent three billion dollars just for the park. The Imagineers who conceive all this amazing stuff for Disney, most of which rarely gets built, got the chance to see their best creations realized. I could write a book about Tokyo DisneySea, but here are just 15 really cool things.
1. Drinking a Kirin Frozen Draft while standing beside the Nautilus. Yes, they serve Japanese beer with a frozen “head” right next to Captain Nemo’s killer sub. Nice when it’s 85 degrees and 90% humidity.
2. A quiet street in a small Italian town … except it’s really in a theme park near Tokyo. Read the rest
If I have to pick the single best Disney theme park in the world, it’s always going to be the one Walt built — Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It really is different, and better, than anyplace else and the people who run it and work there take special pride in that. But the best Disney Resort in the world, taking into account all its parks, hotels, special seasonal events, and transportation (don’t you hate waiting for those buses in Orlando?) has to be The Tokyo Disney Resort. It’s has the second best Magic Kingdom style park in the world, with many unique rides. They’re really big on seasonal events, too, and they go all-out for Halloween.
Plenty has been written about Cosplay (i.e., “costume” + “play”) in Tokyo, but people mostly focus on dressing up as manga and anime characters in Harajuku — on the Harajuku Jingu Bridge; coincidentally right next to the cicadas singing in Mejii-Jingu — and in Akihabara.
Less well known is that for precisely 10 days in early September and 7 days in late October, The Tokyo Disney Resort has official Cosplay days where adults are allowed to come to Tokyo Disneyland in full costume. Here, however, the only costumes allowed are Disney characters (no surprise). These are not the tired schleppers dragging their kids around you see in the U.S. In Tokyo Disneyland there is a regal quality to the care with which the cosplayers make the costumes and the pride which with they wear them. Read the rest
Part of the ongoing Disneyland/Muppet crossover video series: I'm away from home and blogging this so that my daughter sees it!
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If you’ve ever been to a Disney theme park, you’ve undoubtedly seen the large posters showcasing some of the popular rides and attractions. Over the past sixty years, what started out as teasers for park guests have evolved into valued works of art. They transition from simple works with minimal design and color of the mid 1950s to finely-detailed full-color masterpieces that perfectly capture the tones and atmospheres of each attraction of the present day.
Poster Art of the Disney Parks compiles Disney theme park attraction posters from around the globe into one volume. The book is oversized for proper viewing of the full-page prints, which are rich in history, color, and detail. Each chapter is broken down into the different lands (Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, etc.) as well as two chapters dedicated to the Disney California Adventure park and the Tokyo DisneySea park.
The tome focuses strongly on the art with minimal text. There are a few paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter and a few captions to accompany the images, but beyond that, it’s an art-lover’s dream. There are so many poster images that even a hard-core fan of the Disney theme parks wouldn’t recognize all of them. Add to that the plethora of sketches, color samples, and poster variants, and you’ve got a 146-page book that is jam-packed with visual treats that will rekindle childhood memories of the Disney theme parks.
– Robert Nava
Poster Art of the Disney Parks
by Daniel Handke and Vanessa Hunt
2012, 144 pages, 11.2 x 14.2 x 0.8 inches
$28 Buy one on Amazon
See sample pages from this book at Wink. Read the rest
My new Guardian column, What is missing from the kids’ internet? discusses three different approaches to teaching kids information literacy: firewall-based abstinence education; trust/relationship-based education, and a third way, which is the proven champion of the offline world.
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The Disneyland Book of Lists is a fantastically fun, incredibly dense collection of Disneyland trivia!
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Unvaccinated people are being officially warned by California epidemiologists to avoid Disneyland in the wake of a measles outbreak. In some counties in California, more than 1 in 5 kindergartners are unvaccinated due to "personal belief exemptions." Read the rest
Thanks to an anonymous benefactor, Boing Boing is pleased to present the first-ever look at the original Disneyland prospectus.