|Dumbo Attraction - 1957|
Disneyland Year One
Dumbo Doesn't Fly
by Todd James Pierce
So in 1955 what was the first ride system to leave the park? There was, of course, the Tomorrowland Boats (quickly redesigned and renamed the Phantom Boats), but aside from some fancy tail fins and other body work, the original boats remained at Disneyland up through the summer of 1956. Then there was the Casey Jr. track that--hours after debuting on the Dateline Disneyland TV show--was regraded to make the ride safer. The cars were also fitted with "keeper" systems to keep them from tipping off the tracks. But again these changes were minor and the existing engine and cars remained at the park. No, the big headache over in Fantasyland was the Dumbo ride.
|Elephants Parked and Broken - Opening Day - July 17, 1955|
|Original Dumbo Lift System - Lasted a Few Months - 1955|
|Testing Dumbo with Sandbags while Park Is Open - July 1955|
In the days that followed, the Arrow team explored solutions. The ear motors were stripped from each of the elephants, substantially lightening the weight of each vehicle car. Then the team went to work on the hydraulic lift system, a test-and-adjust period that lasted for days.
|Dumbo Attraction with Early Guests - August 1955|
|Second Gen Dumbo Lift System - Installed 1955, Photo 1957|
But to get back to the larger point: Disneyland, as it opened in 1955, had many problems--issues that were partially due to a compressed construction schedule and constraints in funding. Also, because this park was the first of its kind, a park that developed new rides and ride systems, transforming traditional cinema entertainment into a real-world, interactive environment. The more interesting points of interest here are not the problems--but the innovative ways Walt and his team worked to fix them.
That's it for this week. See you next Monday, when, with luck, I'll spin out a Halloween yarn. TJP
PS If you've enjoyed this article, it's part of an ongoing series that explores the park as it existed during its first year of operation. You can find earlier entries with the links below:
Part 1 - Disneyland: Day Three.
Part 2 - Castle Gardens - Adventures in Landscaping.
Part 3 - Windows on Main Street with important updates here.