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Friday, September 23, 2011

Painting the Matterhorn - 1959


I've been working on a couple short videos about the history of the park.  But I realize I haven't posted up anything for over a week.  This image is from May, 1959--just four or five weeks before the attraction opened to the public.  The Matterhorn is not quite finished.  The water system is not complete; trees are not yet in their planter boxes.  The track is already in place, but I suspect the team of Karl Bacon and Ed Morgan (of Arrow Development) are still working on the experimental brake system they designed for the ride.  But on a more interesting note, in the first few months of 1959, while still under construction, the Matterhorn received two paint jobs.  In the first scheme, the upper third of the mountain was coated with white paint, capping the mountain uniformly with a layer of snow.  Walt was unhappy with the mountain's appearance: it looked artificial, the uniform snowline belted across the structure.  Also, he didn't care for the exact shade of white once it was in place.  So he directed workmen to remove--or in places to darken--the upper cone of the mountain so that large sections could be repainted.  The result is far more realistic: a mountain capped with snow but patched with frost in its mid-regions.  The paint pattern in 1959 appears (in my opinion) superior to the present pattern, but as you might've already guessed I'm a preservationist at heart.  There's one more thing to take away from this story: the order to repaint the mountain at significant expense is yet another example of how Walt art directed Disneyland toward a standard of showmanship far above those of other amusement parks in the 1950s.  This is one reason why Disneyland survived and some other early theme parks--such as POP and Freedomland--faded away.

As always, you can click on the photo to see a larger view with better detail.  The photo is from my own collection.


1 comment:

  1. That is an interesting tidbit about the original paint job and Walt wanting it redone. Great photo too!

    It seems to me that the "rock" of the mountain was originally a darker shade of gray than it is today - maybe the thought was that a lighter shade makes the mountain seem farther away and therefore larger.

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