by Paul F. Anderson
DHI got about a jigga-billion hits when I put up the essay Walt And The Admiral Build A Mountain. Beyond the hits, I also received a large number of emails concerning the images and the Matterhorn. Not wanting to be profound and write a great deal for today’s essay (that and I have numerous deadlines, Pinocchio yesterday was long, and photos are cooler than my words anyway), I offer the Disney History Institute Matterhorn Mania. A series of rare and never-before-seen images from the building of Walt’s mountain. Walt gets credit for many things, and deservedly so, but I think without historical context (sadly lost in today’s world) we forget how ground breaking, how creative, and how brilliant he was. With historical context (something I spend an entire lecture on in my first class of “Walt Disney and American Culture,” because I feel it is essential to understanding Walt Disney and his creative legacy) we have an insight into Walt and this one idea for Disneyland. Walt’s idea to build the Matterhorn was pure genius. Sadly, genius is such an oft bandied about term, that it loses its impact–but not if we put ourselves back into the 1950s.

The fifties was an interesting time, politically, socially, economically, and culturally. The red scare was in full force. TV was consuming America’s spare time. The post-war baby boom flooded the nation with kids. We were becoming a suburban society (read: bland), and with the creation of the national highway system, we were mobile. And nary a fake mountain with a “ride” for the pure sake of escapism and spending time with your family existed! Think about how Admiral Fowler felt when Walt came to him and said, “Joe, I want to build a mountain at Disneyland.” Okay, bad example, Admiral Fowler probably thought, “That’s my boss! I better get started.” So take anybody else in America and present this idea: “The man is crazy,” would have been the response. Let me add to that, however…the baby boomers that grew up with the Disneyland television show and The Mickey Mouse Club, and were not limited by conventional “grown-up” thinking, would have said “We can hardly wait.” Walt never lost site of what it was to be a child, with amazement, wonderment, and fantasy. If he had, the Matterhorn would have never been built. Every time I ride the Matterhorn with my two boys, I thank Walt Disney and the Imagineers for the experience with my family; for the joy of seeing my six year old and eleven year old squeal with delight; and for the experience of bobsledding down a mountain, all because Walt thought it would be fun. And you know, he was right!

So on, with the first installment of Matterhorn Mania. I have more images to put up next week (including a group of original WED research shots when the Alpine Mountain was just in its infancy). I appreciate your emails and comments, with any thoughts, criticisms, or ideas.

FILMING DAY! Okay, I didn’t do my research (bad historian), I do
not know who these people are! (Todd will.) I do know they are filming the
Matterhorn experience, most likely for WED reference. I would be appreciative
of anyone who can provide me any information on their identity.

FILMING DAY! A little bit later. Appears the camera will be wet!

FILMING DAY! One second later.

Filming Day, almost the same as before, but one ride one second later.

The first construction shot I posted received quite a few comments,
so here is another image, with the Matterhorn nearing completion.
Note the “Coming Soon” sign for guests at Disneyland.

Disneyland Summer 1959 Guidebook Insert.

Sam McKim was one of my favorite individuals from Disney. I did two
extensive interviews with him, and he was always generous with his
time. And his wife, the very sweet Dorothy, made the best cookies on
the planet (and would always bake me a batch every time I would see them).
One day at their home, after a lengthy interview with Sam, he asked me if
I wanted to see any of his artwork? After I picked myself up off the floor,
we spent two to three hours of him pulling stuff out and explaining to me
about the piece. It is Sam’s generosity that you will experience here at DHI,
as he let me photograph each piece! The above concept was done on March 19, 1986
and was for the proposed Switzerland Pavilion at World Showcase, Epcot Center.

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