A number of friendly, charity-minded social clubs have sprung up in Disney fandom. They dress in disnefied versions of biker wear, gather together in Disneyland, help people out, and keep each other company. I encountered the Neverlanders several times last year when I had a residency at Disney Imagineering, and I loved the way they blended counterculture and fandom. A long, smart piece about the clubs in OC Weekly traces their history and growth -- fuelled by Instagram -- and the way they encountered mainstream Disney fandom through message-boards and in the parks.
As the article notes, there's a long history of counterculture at Disney parks, from the Yippie invasion to the goth takeover of Tomorrowland prior to the New Tomorrowland renovation. This sort of thing was my direct inspiration for proposing a fan takeover of Disney in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and the goth redesign of Fantasyland in Makers.
The presence of counterculture/bohemians in Disneyland shows how appropriation runs in two directions, and also points to a new direction in fraternal organizations. The activities of Disneyland's social clubs -- Neverlanders, Pix Pak, Black Death Crew, Main Street Elite -- would be recognizable to my grandparents, who were active in groups like Kiwanis and B'nai Brith, and who unwound with their friends through bowling and card-games and multi-family picnics.
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Dan from the Journal of Ride Theory passed me a copy of the original prospectus for Disneyland -- a rare and wonderful document I've never seen or even heard of before. I'm delighted to bring it to you today. Dan explains:
I like it because I get the sense it's an edited transcript of Walt just making up fun stuff on the fly. I have no evidence for that, but I know he was good at telling stories without a script, and there's something about the phrases used that sounds a bit like Walt talking off the cuff. But what do I know?
I found it ten or so years ago, in the files of Eyerly Rides in Salem. They had a contract to build the Dumbo ride and a windmill Ferris wheel for Disney, but the deal fell through when Lee Eyerly got cancer. Also, Walt insisted the ride must load everybody all at once, while the Eyerlys knew from experience that was an inefficient way to work the queue.
At one point, somebody at Eyerly went to a bookstore and bought a Little Golden Book (or something) of Dumbo so they could have reference pictures in order to design the fiberglass elephants.
Take Walt being intractable, add the Eyerlys insisting they knew their business, then throw in cancer, and the deal fell through -- amicably, as I read the documents. Arrow Development got the contract for Dumbo. It barely worked on opening day and queues have been long for that ride ever since. The Ferris wheel idea wasn't built until Disneyland Paris.
I've got a LOT of transcripts of phone calls on that deal, and a few drawings/diagrams. Scanning all those documents is a one-of-these-days project.
Read it all the way through for an example of horrible, casual racism.
Disneyland fans have created many of their own theme days, some of which I've been lucky enough to happen upon or attend -- Bats Day (goths); Gay Days, and more. But I didn't know about Dapper Day, where 10,000+ people descend on Disneyland and Walt Disney World in natty outfits and style their way through the fun park. Just looking at the official gallery makes me want to mark this in my calendar for next year.
"People are looking for an excuse to dress up," said Justin Jorgensen, who started Dapper Day in 2011 and has organized five of the events, all at Disneyland. The latest Dapper Day — the same Sunday as the Oscars, Hollywood’s own dress-up day — drew an estimated crowd of 10,000 to the Anaheim park and about 1,000 more at Florida's Disney World.
"Everything, including the workplace, pushes this idea of being casual," said Jorgensen, 38, of Burbank. "When do I get to wear my great stuff?"
Most of those in attendance that day were in their 20s and 30s. They had come of age in a time of shoulder-padded power suits, windbreakers in neon colors and frizzy hair — not exactly a time that will be remembered for its classic elegance.
"I think people like history, people love nostalgia," said Heather A. Vaughan, a historian studying 20th century fashions. "People love imagining a time they didn’t live in."
Dapper Day at Disneyland, the nattiest place on Earth [LA Times/Rick Rojas]
(Photo: Christina House)
LA architecture historian Chris Nichols says: "I am hosting an evening with Disney legend Bob Gurr next Wednesday at the Hollywood Heritage Museum. Bob designed the Monorail, Autopia, Flying Saucers, and all the ride vehicles at Disneyland starting in 1954 and is a really inspiring designer and super-cool guy. It's a small room and we're almost full, so please click on the ticket link below if you can come. I look forward to seeing you there."
Bob Gurr is a Disney pioneer who began working on Disneyland the year before it opened. He imagineered the original Monorail, Autopia and many iconic ride vehicles for all of the Disney parks. On March 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, he will discuss his memorable theme park and movie creations, including Disney's animatronic Abraham Lincoln, Universal's King Kong, concepts for the Jurassic Park dinosaurs and robots for the 1998 production of Godzilla. In addition, he will autograph his book, Design: Just For Fun. Disney fans won't want to miss this rare opportunity to hear Mr. Gurr share memories from his legendary career. This evening is sure to be a sell-out, so book your tickets early to avoid disappointment!
Trader Sam's, the (fab) Trader Vic's knockoff tiki bar at the Disneyland Hotel, has rolled out its own line of souvenir tiki mugs, which are reminiscent of the old Trader Vic's mugs, but with rather good designs that are all their own.
New Tiki mugs are Trader Sam’s Barrel Mug, with Shipwreck on the Rocks made with bourbon, freshly muddled lemon and mint with organic agave nectar. “Have too many of these and you’ll be setting a course for Davy Jones’ locker!”
Also new is the “bowl” for the Uh Oa! This popular drink is made with light and dark rums, orange, passion fruit, guava, and grapefruit juices, falernum, cinnamon and freshly squeezed lime juice. This one is “recommended for two or more guests,” so be responsible and share with your friendly natives.
Walt and Lilian Disney's daughter Diane talks to the Huffington Post about her parents' "secret apartment" over the firehouse on Disneyland's Main Street, USA. The apartment, decorated by a film production designer called Emile Kuri, was a private haven for the Disneys during the construction of Disneyland, and remained so after its completion. The apartment is still there (though it's off-limits to the public) and is a kind of time-capsule of the Disneys private lives.
There's another space, over the Pirates of the Caribbean, that was built to be a more lavish family apartment, but Walt died before it was completed. It was the "Disney Gallery" (a shop selling prints and other souvenirs) for many years, though it was lately converted to a luxury hotel suite, the "Disneyland Dream Suite." Initially, stays in the suite were awarded as surprise prizes to visitors, but now I believe it can be rented at a very high tariff.
Did a lot of people get to go up there, or it was a very private place?
Very private. It was for them. It was their residence there and they would invite people up, if there were special people in the park, mother and dad would go out and they would invite them up. Early, it was during "Davy Crockett," I remember there was some event there that day and Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen were both out there for it, and dad was looking out that window and saw them and he said, "Hey, come on up!"
He told them how to get around, back behind, and get up to the apartment and there was a fire pole in it, it's not there now, but there was a door into the closet area that had a fire pole, like the firemen would have, and he showed it to them and said, "Why don't you guys slide down that?" And they did! People would say, did your father ever do that? I'm sure he didn't.
This restored 1957 home movie of a Disneyland visit, from the Disney History Institute, is an absolute treat. I love the rare footage of the Frontierland pack-mules and the Jungle Cruise as it was before the jungle really grew in; I'm likewise captivated by the sight of the (by modern standards) harshly metallic and dangerous-looking conveyances for small children. From The Disney Blog:
The Disney History Institute scores big again with a vintage color film from 1957 Disneyland. DHI uses the same transfer process that Ken Burns does to get his amazing footage and the result is something with the truest and brightest colors I’ve ever seen from Disneyland’s early days.
If you ever find yourself writing a historical novel about someone who goes joyriding in the Disneyland Monorail, I have a hell of a reference for you: the 1966 Disneyland Monorail Operator Guide.
Disneyland Monorail Operator Guide (1966) (Thanks, Jeff!)