Up for auction: the never-seen original 1957 Haunted Mansion prospectus

Heritage Auctions is selling off a super-rare original 1957 prospectus for the Haunted Mansion, prepared by Ken Anderson as a first approximation of what Disneyland's "spook house" might be. Read the rest

Disneyland: The first two kids to go through the gates on opening day (1955)

On July 18, 1955, Michael Schwartner convinced his family to go to the general public's opening day of Disneyland, instead of golfing in Mexico. He was just seven years old at the time and he remembers it was crowded and hot waiting to get into the brand new park. He and his 5-year old cousin Christine Vess (now Kristina Graef) wanted to get in the shade and see everything that was going on, so they nudged their way to the front.

While playing around at the turnstiles, a Disney rep plucked them out of the crowd and invited to them to "do a thing." The two children spent the next hour getting photos with Walt Disney himself.

The Orange County Register reports that:

Disney took the children by the hands, and they posed for pictures in front of the Mickey Mouse floral display. Then he invited the family aboard the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad for a tour of the new park. The family sat in front, listening to Disney describe his $17 million park in detail.

Both children received lifetime passes to the park. Read the rest

This man has visited Disneyland 2,000 days in a row

Jeff Reitz of Huntington Beach, California has visited Disneyland 2,000 days in a row and he has no plans to stop. Why? It makes him happy. From ABC7:

Reitz, an Air Force veteran, credits the parks with giving him something to look forward to each day, noting that he enjoys hearing the music as he enters, interacting with the friendly park cast members, and watching the park guests having a good time. He also enjoys the shows and attractions, including one of his favorites, the Matterhorn Bobsleds adventure.

(via NextDraft)

Read the rest

The Disneyland Encyclopedia covers pretty much everything

I read pretty much every Disneyland history and fact book I find. Chris Strodder's The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom lives up to its massive title.

A simple alphabetical listing of just about every First through Fifth order-of-interest item in the park. Everything from the amazing history of the Golden Horseshoe Review to fun facts about a tobacco shop that disappeared 27 years ago lies between the covers of this book. These are truly encyclopedia style entries and are chock full of facts with less emphasis on story telling. I think it'd be a great book to have at the park.

I did a cover-to-cover read through of this at home. I'd prefer to have it electronically on my phone via Kindle to look at while in the park. Go e-version if you can.

The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom via Amazon Read the rest

Secret Disneyland menu items

Before planning a trip to Disneyland or Disney World, be sure to check out the Disney Food Blog’s YouTube channel, DFBGuide, for tips and tricks on making the most of your visit food-wise. That includes the above guide to the secret menu items hidden around the Disneyland park, as well as this video highlighting Disney World meals under $20:

And this one featuring the best Disney World restaurants for first-timers:

Read the rest

Disneyland's show-buildings induce charming glitches in Google Earth

Dan Howland writes, "Screengrabs that made me laugh from Google (Happiest Place on) Earth. It does pretty well with conventional architecture, but it freaked out on the Haunted Mansion's cupola and chimblies, and Dumbo just looks like a Jello salad."

Read the rest

Learn Japanese Quick!

There are so many ploys and scams out there that promise to teach you just enough Japanese to enjoy your big once-in-a-lifetime trip that even contemplating which one to choose is impossible.

My trips to Japan generally involve a trip to The Tokyo Disney Resort (surprise! … not) and I’m always scouring websites for the latest little titbit of new information. One of the few accessible ones (since most are in Japanese) is TDR Explorer. All the latest news, free, with good photography.

I like that the webmaster is actually thinking about things which would be of real practical value for a traveler not just to the Disney Resort, but often anywhere in Japan. And thus we come to his list of 17 basic phrases that you might find helpful.

The problem is that if you look at the center column of the list, you won’t have any idea how to pronounce these Japanese words. They are written in what is called “romaji,” or the Romanization of Japanese characters into western characters. This makes them extremely simple to say if they are broken down phonetically.

For example, “Yes” is pronounced “hi,” even though the romaji spelling is “hai.” If you didn’t know better you might say “hi-ee,” or “ha-i” or whatever.

So here is a simple tip: every syllable in Japanese is given the same emphasis. My friend Satoshi’s name is not pronounced “Sa-TOE-shi,” but “Sa-tō-she.” Equal emphasis on all syllables.

Here, then is my own version of a list of Japanese words, all spelled out phonetically so you can pronounce them properly (or at least closely) with some ease. Read the rest

Disneyland has stopped offering 13 minutes of tranquility

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

A peek into Disneyland's Dead Man’s Grotto

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

The delight of the unexpected moment when your child comes upon a character at a Disney park

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

Print out your own map of Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise

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

Shanghai Disneyland: "Ignite the magical dream within your heart"

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

You can't get tickets for an LA theater screening of old Disneyland home movies

"Hollywood Home Movies: Disneyland" screens tomorrow night at the Linwood Dunn Theater in LA and it's sold out. It sounds amazing. Read the rest

Umbrella reveals Mickey Mouse when it rains

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: Read the rest

Halloween Magic at Tokyo Disneyland

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. Read the rest

15 things I love about Tokyo DisneySea

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

I went to Tokyo Disneyland Cosplay Day and it was spectacular

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

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