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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

House of the Future Under Construction

House of the Future Construction - March 1957

House of the Future Under Construction
Detail of Construction - March 1957
by Todd James Pierce

While the park was under construction, Walt repeatedly struggled with how to design Tomorrowland.  Early ideas for Tomorrowland gravitated toward attractions that embraced the type of science fiction popular in 1950s B-grade movies.  These concepts were mainly produced by the first art director for Tomorrowland, Gabe Scognamillo.  Scognamillo was specifically chosen to oversee plans for Tomorrowland because he'd recently finished a near-future robot film for Republic Pictures called Tobor the Great.  What's Tobor's story?  Here's the quick version: Tobor (which for you non-dyslexics out there is robot spelled backward) was designed to pilot unmanned exploratory voyages into outer-space.  Under Scognamillo's direction, plans for Tomorrowland explored the design ethos of the 1950s B-movie spectacular--including one proposed Tomorrowland dark ride in which guests would travel over the surface of Mars.  Don't believe me?  You can find a piece of 1954 very early concept art for that ride here, which for years was displayed in the living room of an early WED employee.  (Thanks to Scott Wolf for hosting that photo.)

But as 1954 progressed into 1955, Walt's vision for Tomorrowland evolved from a cinematic exploration of near-future science fiction to a showcase for inventive technologies and realistic scientific discoveries.  There were still some attractions built in Tomorrowland tied to those early kitschy ideals (such as Space Station X-1), but as Tomorrowland developed through the 1950s, Walt saw Tomorrowland as a showcase to present the real-world wonders of science and technology, such as the House of the Future.
Detail of Construction - March 1957

Up on the blog today are a series of color photos that show the construction of Monsanto's House of the Future.   The House of the Future was the second (of three) major attractions underwritten by the chemical giant, with their best known--and most costly--attraction being Adventure Thru Inner Space.  Though I'm sure other color photos exist of the House's construction, these are the only color images I've ever seen taken by a guest.

One of the aspects I find most surprising about these photos is the openness of construction.  From the hub, there's no construction fence or visual barrier enclosing the work area.  Also the attraction marker is corporate signage, not the type of storybook illustration that the park tended to use during those years (from 1956-1959) for  pretty much every other major attraction as it was built.  These photos here were taken in March 1957.  At this point, Monsanto workers had erected the under-floors for two of the four wings--with each, according to Monsanto's literature, capable of supporting 16 tons.  Though it's difficult to make out clearly, it appears that pre-molded flooring (or perhaps roofing) sections are set off to the side, waiting to be lifted into place.  When finished the House would enjoy a unique location in the park, right beside the castle: the medieval home abutting up against the space-age home.  The House would also serve as a design icon for Tomorrowland, signaling that kitschiness of those early Tomorroaland attractions would soon pass away.

So that leaves just one question left for today's post: whatever happened to the first art director of Tomorrowland, Gabe Scognamillo?  Well, according to Joe Fowler (who oversaw much of Disneyland's early construction), Walt and Scognamillo repeatedly fought over the design direction of Tomorrowland, with Walt claiming that Scognamillo was inflexible and egotistical, driven by a desire to commemorate his own concepts rather than do what was best for the park.  Also, according to Fowler, Scognamillo was fired before the park even opened, giving Scognamillo a rare honor: to the best of my knowledge Gabe Scognamillo is the only designer personally fired by Walt Disney who later received his own window on Main Street.

House of the Future Construction - March 1957

Thursday, July 26, 2012


by Paul F. Anderson

Fantastic slide of the Moonliner from 1958. I wonder what the sign at the
base of the TWA Rocket has to say?

We truly try to give you Disney History here at DHI that you won't find anywhere else--such as this photo
from the spring of 1962 featuring the sign below the Moonliner. Of interest is the chipping and peeling paint
at the lower portion of the sign. Yes, even Walt had to contend with maintenance issues, and obviously it is
being taken care of, for behind the sign (as seen through the fence) is what appears to be one of the
maintenance vehicles used in the Park.
Top photo features a close up of the maintenance vehicle for Disneyland. Bottom photo shows the
more common truck that was used for maintenance at the Happiest Place on Earth during the 1950s and 1960s.
Another wonderful stylized view of the Rocket to the Moon from the 1960 Disneyland Guidebook.
From the 1956 Disneyland Guidebook. With the caption: "Symbols of
Tomorrowland: Disneyland's Spaceman and Spacegirl wave to
'earthlings,' while TWA's tall rocket pylon stands ready to
'blast off' into outer space.
The Rocket To the Moon's last appearance in a Disneyland Guidebook (from 1965). There was no 1966 guidebook
and by 1967, the Moonliner had launched its way out of Disneyland.
Wonderful vacation slide from the early 1960s (probably 1962).
Also at the right a view of the lily pad like covering that was featured
in WED Concept Art for Tomorrowland as early as 1954.
And speaking of the early Tomorrowland WED Concept Art that features the lily pads as covering ... is this DHI
exclusive, very rare (never-before-seen) Herbert Ryman art for Tomorrowland with the Moonliner set back into
the land. In this 1954 rendering the lily pad leaf forms "spill water into raised pools." Also of note at the right
is what appears to be a large lily pad which may be a support for a roof or dome for the entire land. This
"domed Tomorrowland" concept was floated around early on, but was cost prohibitive. As in the WED Concept
Art posted in the previous DHI Moonliner post, the lily pads here are also reminiscent of
Frank Lloyd Wright's design for the Johnson Wax building's "Great Workroom" in Racine, Wisconsin.
The Great Workroom featuring Wright's innovative design, from the Johnson Wax Building, Racine, Wisconsin.
(Image Courtesy SC Johnson Company)
Fabulous Rocket to the Moon shot, including the Court of Honor
(and someone's grandmother). From opening year, 1955.
What is the best way to close DHI's celebration of the Moonliner? Obviously with rare,
never-before-seen Herbert Ryman WED Concept Art. Circa 1954.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Original Windows of Main Street

The Original Windows of Main Street
by Todd James Pierce

So here’s the big question for today’s blog post—which windows were at the park on opening day in 1955?  And what might this tell us about how Walt understood the purpose of the name windows?

Main Street Window Display - October 1955
Now a little background: last week, I posted up a story that Harper Goff told a year before his death (in 1992) about the Windows on Main Street.  Goff, as you probably know, was one of the original art directors for Main Street and the Big Kahuna overseeing the creation of the Jungle Cruise.  To recap, here’s Goff’s story in his own words: "Some ground floor shops still had interior construction underway after the park was opened to the public…We would put up a serious looking sign that might say 'Harper Goff will be opening his shoe store here soon'...but there was nothing inside the store…That was the beginning of the tradition of name signs on the windows."  Then Jason (aka Progressland) posted a question that made me reconsider what I thought I knew about the tribute windows and when they arrived on Main Street.

I knew that the Main Street Bank windows were old and dated back to an early portion of the park’s history, perhaps even opening day.  But beyond that, I had very little idea as to when the other windows appeared.  There was one quote by Marty Sklar that I’ve always wondered about: “The tradition [of the tribute windows] was established by Walt Disney for Disneyland Park.  He personally selected the names that would be revealed on the Main Street Windows on Opening Day, July 17, 1955.”  Until this week, I’d assumed he was referring only to the Bank windows.  But I was wrong.

Over the past week, I’ve looked at every photo I own of the park in 1955, as well as every reel of 1955 film.  I’ve also looked at every published photo I could find, including many on Daveland’s and Matterhorn1959’s excellent sites.  What I learned surprised me. 

Today’s post is a work-in-progress.  I do not yet have all the answers.  Ultimately, this will take a while to piece together.  I suspect, too, that the Walt Disney Company doesn’t have the answers either, as early park records are patchy at best.  I’ve been to many online sites that list the windows and offer brief bios for each person honored on Main Street, but I’ve not yet seen a site that has assembled a list of windows authorized by Walt personally or that offer a theory as to Walt’s intentions with these windows.  If you know of such a site—particularly one that dates the windows—please send the web address my way, as that will save me a lot of time.

So buckle up.  Here we go. 

To begin, there were two windows present in the park in 1955 that were later removed or perhaps altered.

The first of those missing windows is not surprising, the window honoring Nat Winecoff.  Winecoff did a lot of early work with the planning of Disneyland—specifically with locating Disneyland on property that could be annexed into Anaheim.  Buzz Price oversaw much of the location study, but Winecoff pulled together a deal with Anaheim city manager, Keith Murdoch and chamber member, Earne Moeler to place the Disney park in Anaheim.  But after Winecoff left Disney, he formed a consulting firm to design Disneyland-style parks elsewhere in the United States, with Bible Storyland being the most notorious of his (unbuilt) creations.  After 1957—when he likely separated from Disney—he would return to the studio lot (to the model shop, in particular) in an attempt to hire away Disney talent.  Bruce Bushman, for example, finally signed up with him.  Winecoff also had the reputation of hiring attractive women to help close some early Disneyland sponsorship deals, a practice that probably didn’t sit so well with the brothers Disney.  The exact quote I heard in regards to these meetings was that “Nat knew where all the [girls] were.”  So that his window disappeared—no surprise.  The Stuff from the Park blog has an excellent close up of the window here and then here.

That leads us to Missing Window #2.  Also to an actual mystery--a big one, in my opinion.  Bob Mattey’s window—which listed him originally as “Bob Mattey / Taxidermist” appears to be gone.  (Just click here to take a look at it—trust me, you’ll need that image in a moment.)  Maybe I’m out of the loop on park gossip circa 1955, but I’m totally baffled as to why Mattey’s no longer honored in the park.  Mattey arranged all of the animatronic movements for the animals in the Jungle Cruise (though he did not actually sculpt the animals himself.  Chris Mueller did that.)  So the fictitious title of "Taxidermist" fit his job description fairly well: he made fake animals appear real.  Beyond the Jungle Cruise, Mattey created special effects for at least 15 Disney films, up until Walt passed away, including 20,000 Leagues, The Absent-Minded Professor, Babes in Toyland, The Gnome-Mobile, Mary Poppins, and The Love Bug.  Again, the Stuff from the Park blog has an excellent photo of the window bank in which Mattey’s window used to be displayed.

Now for the weird stuff.  The Bob-Mattey-Taxidermist window has been replaced with a window (with the exact same layout) for Seb Morey / Taxidermist.  Click over to Daveland’s site for a nice close-up.  Now for a confession: aside from this window, I’ve never heard of Seb Morey.  And when I click around the net, most all of the sites I can find simply parrot each other.  (site 1: “Seb Morey was Disneyland's original taxidermist. Skilled in his art, Morey worked to create lifelike figures for the Jungle Cruise.”  site 2: “Seb Morey was Disneyland's original taxidermist and did a large portion of the work on the Jungle Cruise.”  site 3: “Original taxidermist for Disneyland; did much of the work on the Jungle Cruise.")
Here's where things get even more strange: It's possible that Seb Morey worked with animal figures at the park.  The park actually employed a taxidermist, but from 1963 through the mid-1980s the actual "taxidermist" was a man by the name of Bob Johnson.  Johnson's official title was "Staff Shop Artificial Taxidermist," which generally meant that he repaired fur and feathers on artificial animals installed at the park.  He more or less ran that division for 25 years.  Before Johnson, Disneyland employed at least one traditional taxidermist to care for the early animal figures that the park covered with real animal hides--mostly in Frontierland.   But that apparently wasn't Seb Morey either.  In a 1977 interview, Bob Johnson explained what happened to the park's previous taxidermist: "The real taxidermist left because his experience was with the real stuff," wishing not to work on animal figures now covered with more durable synthetic hides.  

So who was Seb Morey?
Though there may be other sites that have helpful information, the only one I could find on the Morey issue was Daveland’s site.  (Dave, you do excellent work!)  Here’s what Dave has: “’From his daughter-in-law: ‘His full name is Sebastian Moreno and he worked at Disneyland for about 38 years as a decorator. He was a department supervisor for many of those years and was known to his colleagues as Morey. He started working there in 1955.’”  From that, I was actually able to find an obit on Sebastian Reyes “Morey” Moreno.  Not surprisingly, the skill of “taxidermy” is not mentioned in this lengthy obit, not anywhere.  Here are the sections that pertain to Disneyland: “Sebastian spent most of his life in Fullerton, California. He spent summers as a youth with his family picking crops to earn extra money. After high school he worked on the Santa Fe railroad with his father Ramon Moreno.  His ability to speak fluent Spanish and English was utilized by the U.S. Army when he served as an interpreter for a Battalion from Columbia during the Korean War. After his discharge from the army his experience working on the railroad helped him land a job at Disneyland working on the railroad being built around the park.  He soon became a member of the renowned decorating department at Disneyland where he rose through the ranks to become a decorating supervisor until his retirement after 38 years. He loved the Park and all of his colleagues.”  

At my request Jason Schultz, of the excellent blog Disneyland Nomenclature, has searched through his holdings for references to "Seb Morey", only to find the only reference to Seb Morey is in regard to the window.  Sebastian "Morey" Moreno, however, is listed as a Disneyland employee starting in 1956, receiving his five-year pin in 1961, and is included in the Disneyland telephone directory until June 1993.  The only substantive description in the weekly company newsletter, The Disneyland Line, for Sebastian "Morey" Moreno was printed in 1976: "Sebastian 'Morey' Moreno has been with the Park since 1956, and during his first years in the [Decorating] Department he became acquainted with some of the early Disneyland designers, especially Emile Kuri."  And this, in my opinion, makes a good deal of sense, as Emile Kuri--perhaps serving as a type of mentor--would've been able to train Morey in interior set dressing so that Morey could later become a decorating supervisor.  The work of set dressing (overseen by Emile Kuri), needless to say, is very different than the work of motorized animal development (overseen by Bob Mattey).

All of this begs the question: why (and when) was the window changed from Bob Mattey / Taxidermist to Seb Morey / Taxidermist, with the giant “M” remaining the same, right down to the oversized serif and the curlicue feet.  It’s on the same building: the current Morey window is actually one window spot to the right of the original Mattey location, but that’s not surprising as other windows in the block (with their names unchanged) have shifted location as well.  So why did Bob Mattey morph into Seb Morey—with only a few letters separating the two names?  A person who spent 38-years with the company to eventually become a supervisor in the Decorating (i.e. the propping) department certainly deserves respect.  That, in itself, is a substantial accomplishment.  But it would be interesting to know why Mattey became Morey.  And I must say, that the Mattey/Morey replacement (being nearly identical) does seem a little curious to me.  I can think of no other window in which the original honoree was replaced with a later honoree (with the fictitious title and design work remaining the same).  The Bob Mattey window is an original 1955 tribute that exists at the park up through 1969, perhaps longer, though 1969 was the last image I could find of the Mattey window.  I suspect there’s a really good story here, only I don’t know it.  I'm hoping that a few blog readers might help sort all this out.

So, now for the larger question: what other windows were in the park on opening day, and what did these windows signify?  (I’m going to focus my attention only on those windows assigned to individuals who worked on the park, leaving aside “vanity” windows, such as those outside the original Upjohn’s Pharmacy that listed individuals associated with the Upjohn company but otherwise had no connection to Disney). 

Today, new Windows on Main Street are seen as a lifetime achievement award.  But initially, for Walt, they apparently served roughly the same purpose as a screen credit—acknowledgement given to a high-level employee for work recently completed, even if that individual spent only a couple months working on Disneyland.  For example, Renie Conley, the costume designer, created the show costumes for the Golden Horseshoe Review and, likely, for a few other locations in the park, such as some period costumes for Main Street (i.e. the constable) and perhaps even the spaceman’s suit in Tomorrowland.  For this, she is honored with a window on Main Street. Over time, the significance of these windows increased so that an artist today, generally, would only be awarded a window after decades of service. 

Disneyland 1955
On July 17th, 1955, opening day, the bank windows were clearly in the park—I’ve located photos and 16mm footage of them—painted much as they are today.  Even here, on the bank building, it is clear that Walt was grouping individuals based on their roles in park development.  (Here’s a link to a fantastic opening day image on the Daveland site.)  These are by far the least ornate windows on Main Street.  In many ways, their inclusion seems almost perfunctory.  The honorees are, largely, art directors brought in from non-Disney studios to develop Walt’s plans for Disneyland—with many of them coming from 20th Century Fox.  In 1953 and 1954, Fox was struggling financially, so it was easy for Disney (with a little guidance from Dick Irvine) to cherry pick from the group that regularly worked for Fox. The list includes: Richard (Dick) Irvine, Marvin Davis, Wilson (Bill) Martin, Gabriel Scognamillo, George Patrick, and Wade B. Rubottom.  But even here, the list of Disneyland art directors is nowhere near complete.  These might have been the most visible—or perhaps the most senior—of the art directors plucked from other studios.  Among the missing are Fred Harpman, Stan Jolley, and Sam McKim—with the most curious of the absent directors being Stan Jolley.  That is, until you realize that Walt and Jolley were having a fight of sorts in the days leading up to the opening of Disneyland.  In Jolley’s own words: “So I told Dick Irvine and Walt and Marvin Davis and Carroll Clark that I was going to take a two week vacation and go to New York because I had bought some tickets and I was entitled to a vacation. I was told that if I went back east and went on a two week vacation in New York at that time, don’t expect to have my job when I come back.”  But when Jolley returned, he still had his job at Disney—he would develop much of Storybook Land the following year—but would have no window on Main Street.  I suspect—but do not know—that the two incidents were related.

Beyond this, I’d like to make one other observation here.  These art directors brought in from other studios are all likely card-carrying union members (IATSE).  As such, they would have been entitled to screen credit for their work.  Walt may have understood that the name windows would’ve been tantamount to screen credit for senior artists, and as such believed that there was an implied (or actual) obligation to list their names, the same as he would for his own artists on other (far more ornate) windows.  In this group, there are at least two people Walt did not like: Gabe Scognamillo (whom, according to Joe Fowler, he fired after Scognamillo flexed his ego one too many times) and Wade Rubuttom (who was simply bull-headed and difficult).  Art directors, generally, worked on a project-to-project or film-to-film basis, with most of them understanding that the Disneyland project was limited-time employment.  Though Scognamillo was actually fired, Rubuttom was simply let go (along with many other outside artists) when the Disneyland project was finished.  A few of these outside artists (such as Bill Martin) were kept on for decades. 

Also in this grouping, on opening day, were three engineers:  J.S. Hamel,
William T. Wheeler, and John Wise.

The Market House also contained tribute windows on opening day.  Here, too, you can see that Walt gave some thought to the arrangement and placement of these windows.  On the Main-Street side, there was a grouping of Disney art directors: Ken Anderson, Bruce Bushman and Don DaGradi.  It’s fitting that Bushman and DaGradi were paired because, years earlier, they produced many of the original concept drawings for Mickey Mouse Park, that 16-acre amusement park Walt wanted to build across the street from the studio. 

Market House - 1955
On the other side of the building were Bob Mattey (see above) and George Whitney Jr, as well as the lead construction supervisors, the lead mill workers, the lead carpenters, a painting supervisor, and a brick-and-stone man.  All of these windows I have spotted in photos and film shot during 1955.  There were other individuals honored here (among them Bill Cottrell and L.H. Roth).  In all likelihood, they were included here in 1955—only as of today, I’ve not been able to positively identify their windows in photos from that year.

So another question I tried to answer: did Walt personally add any tribute windows after the park opened?  There are plenty of window’s added after Walt’s passing, but were any subsequent windows added during Walt’s lifetime?  I only have a partial answer.  Yes, but I’ve been able to just spot one.  The window belongs to Emile Kuri, who essentially dressed sets at Disneyland.  For example, Kuri bought many of the antiques that were incorporated into various shops (on Main Street) and attractions (such as Pirates of the Caribbean).   In this first photo, from 1955, you can observe the lower window has no tribute illustration.  In this second photo, form 1959, you can see the finished name window.  Again, thanks to Daveland.

On the Carnation building, I’ve been able to find 1955 images for Renie Conley (who designed the costumes, such as for the Golden Horseshoe Review) and Royal Clark (a longtime Disney family lawyer who worked directly for WED), but I haven’t been able to find a clear photo of the window for Fred Joeger (from the Disney model shop), though it's possible his window was present at the park in 1955.

Three of the most important artists associated with Disneyland—Herb Ryman, John Hench, and Peter Ellenshaw—are honored with a window at the end of Main Street, above the rooms then-occupied by the Insurance Company of North America, but I’ve not yet found a 1955 photo of that window.  Likewise I’ve not been able to find a 1955 photo of Harper Goff’s window in Adventureland.  Lastly—because of their odd placement—I haven’t yet been able to find clear 1955 photos of some windows on the East Side of Main Street, near the cinema, among them Wathel Rogers and two lawyers: Gunther Lessing and Fred Leopold.

As I reflect on those last two names, I also see that the windows on Main Street primarily honor Walt’s creative design team and the construction team.  During the 1950s, the Disney studio had a clear management division between Walt’s creative team and Roy’s financial and business team.  These two lawyers (Lessing and Leopold) would’ve been attached to Roy’s business team.  But none of Roy’s financial men were honored at the park, even though they played a significant role in the creation of Disneyland.

There is one more group missing: the actual management team at Disneyland, most all of whom by July 1955 had worked for Disneyland Inc for well over a year.  That is, longer than any of the construction workers.

The first employee and General Manager of Disneyland was a Texan named C.V. Wood, who oversaw the development of Disneyland, as a business.  In other words, he sold the leases and sponsorships for the park, which brought in much needed capital to complete construction.  (In one interview, he claims to have sold every lease and sponsorship, though that perhaps was an exaggeration—but probably not by much.)  He oversaw the publicity for the park, food service, and souvenirs.  Human resources and training (for which he hired his friend, Van France) were also under his control.  C.V. Wood—as well as everyone on his development team—was excluded from this list of opening day honorees, though clearly C.V. Wood and members of his Disneyland Inc management team (specifically Charlie Thompson and Fred Schumacher) did far more to develop Disneyland than the managers of the mill and the lead carpenters.  And they certainly did more than the costume designer.  One of the biggest power struggles in Disneyland’s history—what Dick Irvine would later call “a knock-down, drag-out fight”—occurred between Walt Disney and C.V. Wood.  What the exclusion of Wood’s team does likely indicate is how much trouble there was between Walt and Wood even as the park opened.

To circle back to the Harper Goff quote that started this post, what did his story mean—that the ground-floor fictitious business displays eventually gave rise to the tribute windows?  Those 1955 ground-floor window displays clearly existed, almost exactly as he described in 1992.  But was Goff thinking of people with later windows like Emile Kuri or even Claude Coats?  Or was Goff thinking of something else?  Of that, I’m not entirely sure, though clearly a connection exists, as those early windows were made by the artists to playfully honor themselves and the permanent windows were a gift to solidify or perhaps even re-instate the tribute.

Again, this is a work in progress.  Expect changes and updates.  If you have photos—or links to photos—that will help place more windows in 1955, please send them my way.  Also if you can pinpoint windows (aside from Emile Kuri’s) that first appeared between 1956 and 1966 (the year of Walt’s passing), I’d appreciate that, too.

--with thanks to Jason Schultz and gratitude to the Daveland, Stuff from the Park, and Finding Mickey websites.

*   *  *  *  *

If you are new to our site, you can always find a lively and ongoing discussion of Walt Disney's creative legacy on the DHI Facebook Group.   It's free to join.  The core group DHI authors--Paul, Jeremy and myself--often post additional photos and never-before-published pieces of artwork there.  It's worth checking out.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Old Tomorrowland Month
Presents A Tribute
by Paul F. Anderson

DATELINE DHI: July 22, 1955, Disneyland's TWA Rocket to the Moon opens.

TWA Rocket To The Moon Original Attraction Poster, 1955.
The Disneyland News March 10, 1956
TWA Rocket to the Moon, E Ticket Attraction.
WED Concept Art, 1954, oddly putting the Rocket to the Moon at the Tomorrowland Entrance and the
Clock of the World set back into Tomorrowland.

WED Concept Art, 1954, by Herbert Ryman. Aerial view of Tomorrowland showing the position of the Rocket
so as to visually draw guests into Tomorrowland. The wienie concept.

Fantastic stylized publicity art for summer of 1955 Los Angeles area newspaper supplements that heralded the
opening of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.

WED Concept Art, 1954, John Hench. This early concept shows the idea of a Space Port and Rocket Ship.

Classic Strombecker Moonliner Model so kids
could take a piece of Disneyland home with them.

Wonderful 1950s ticket that visually demonstrates the ride we would undertake.

WED Concept Art, circa 1954, showcasing the Moonliner set back in an idealized Tomorrowland. The toadstools
are quite evocative of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Johnson Wax Building, featuring a similar futuristic
design in the "Great Workroom." 

Part of the peripheral promotional material that was so important to Walt Disney.
This 1955 Whitman Tomorrowland coloring book was part of an overall
Whitman Fun Box set, with coloring books, cards, and activities--all designed
to encourage an interest and love of the Happiest Place on Earth.
Chip 'n' Dale take flight on the TWA Moonliner, from the interior pages of the Tomorrowland coloring book.

COMPLIMENTARY MATERIAL PAGE: As per several of the requests in the comments to this essay, I have posted the Ticket Book from which the TWA Rocket to the Moon ticket came from. You can see it here and the back here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Here at the Institute we wanted to wish Disneyland a proper Happy Birthday, and to do so would require a birthday cake. We thought this cake from Disneyland's 25th Birthday would be appropriate (especially when Todd and I discovered we were both in attendance at the 25-hour birthday celebration!) But wait, you are now thinking, isn't Disneyland's birthday on July 17th? Well, yes. Or no. The debate still rages on as to what is the proper date to celebrate Disneyland's birthday (Todd wrote an excellent essay on it a year ago: July 17th or July 18th). We at the Institute like the 18th, because that is the date it was primarily celebrated on during Walt's lifetime ... and after all, the Institute is devoted to "Walt Disney's creative legacy" ... so if it was good enough for Walt, it is good enough for DHI. And yes, we are aware that even during Walt's time on this planet there was some flip flopping (we'll let the battle carry forth in our comments section). And so, to add a little fuel to the fire, I offer the following Disneyland News article from the March 10, 1956 issue. In the editorial "A Promise Kept" we are reminded that Walt "officially opened the gates of Disneyland to an eagerly expectant world" on July 18, 1955. So, Happy 57th Birthday Disneyland! Let the name calling begin! And enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Disneyland Year One - pt 3

Disneyland Year One
Windows on Main Street
by Todd James Pierce

As today is July 17th--exactly 57 years after Walt first opened his park for Press Preview Day--I thought I should return to my “Disneyland Year One" series, with two very rare photos I've saved for just this occasion. At home, I have a list of images that I'm forever looking for from Disneyland's first year, most of which in all likelihood I'll never find.  (Anyone out there have a nice set of Space Station X-1 interior shots, by chance?) But earlier this year, I was able to cross off one item from my list: images of the original Main Street windows with the original ground-floor fictitious business displays.
Fictitious Hat Shop - October 1955
There's a really good story here.  Give me a couple minutes to set it all up.

So according to the official Disney Parks blog: "It is a long-standing tradition to honor individuals who have had a significant impact on Disneyland park by dedicating a window to them."  And that is generally true.  But why windows?  Why did the tradition start and then primarily stay on Main Street?  In recent years, the Walt Disney Company has compared the Main Street windows to the credits on a film: moviegoers see a list of the important players (actors, cinematographer, director) before seeing the film itself, similar to how park guests see a list of designers before entering the park.  Generally that analogy works, especially if you think of the park as a cinematic production.  But that may be not the full rationale as to why important designers continue to have their names commemorated on windows, of all things, along Main Street.
Hats - October 1955

According to Harper Goff, an original designer of Main Street (and of course the Jungle Cruise), here's the story of why art directors, architects, set designers, and prop specialists continued to have their names stenciled onto Main Street windows.  When Main Street first opened in 1955..."Some ground floor shops still had interior construction underway after the park was opened to the public."  In jest, Disney designers had taken to displaying paper signs with their own names to disguise the empty windows.  "We would put up a serious looking sign that might say 'Harper Goff will be opening his shoe store here soon'...but there was nothing inside the store."

Maggie the Dressmaker - Fictitious Business - Oct 1955
After Walt's passing park executives continued to honor early designers by stenciling their names onto the second- and third-story windows of Main Street shops.  But for some of these designers, such as those who worked with Harper Goff, they didn't see this tradition as adding their names to Main Street.  Rather, they saw it as returning their names to Main Street.  Simply, the company was honoring those designers in more-or-less the same way that they had chosen to honor themselves back when the park first opened to the public.  "That," Goff later said, "was the beginning of the tradition of name signs on the windows."

Up on the blog today are two of those ground-floor windows, as they existed in October 1955.  The focus is a little soft; the images have lost their color; but these are the only images I've ever seen that illustrate Harper Goff's story of how the Main Street window tradition connects back to the practice of fictitious business displays on opening day.

OK, that's it for today.  But you can find previous posts in the "Disneyland Year One" series here and here.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


These are some of the earliest images ever to be added to the Institute's collection. Back in 1977 (at the tender age of 14) I published a fanzine devoted to the works of Walt Disney (and Carl Barks). I thought it was a big thing, as I had a whopping 20 or so subscribers (Dave Smith being one of them). With this type of circulation as my resume (well, I thought it was important), I had the audacity to write the Disneyland Press Department requesting any photographs and/or press material they might have. Imagine my surprise when a manilla envelope of press releases and photographs arrived. I am sure they didn't realize the can of worms they had opened by sending me the material, as I began requesting material on a regular basis and kept up a semi-regular correspondence bombarding them questions about future projects. It so happens that 1977 was also the year of my first trip to Disneyland (and the Walt Disney Archives), and at Walt's happiest place on earth I was mesmerized by two attractions, Pirates of the Caribbean and America Sings. Immediately upon returning home, I shot off a request to the Disneyland PR people for anything on America Sings. They kindly obliged (they must have known by my teenage vocabulary and grammar that I was not a serious journalist, and yet they continued to supply me with information ... to this day, I wish I knew who they were, as I would love to thank them). These are a few of the photographs they sent me way back when (I added the sepia tone), so 35 years later I have fulfilled my promise to them, to write about America Sings and share the photographs. Enjoy!

Monday, July 9, 2012


Opening Day at America Sings, Tomorrowland, June 29, 1974
Such an uproar of interest in America Sings when I posted the opening day photo last Friday, that I thought I'd try it again. A different photo this time. Since my fellow fellow Todd was scanning the crowd for Burl Ives, I thought I'd give him more crowd to scan. He should be pretty easy to see! (Or at least it looks like him to me.) I am not aware if Burl Ives was indeed in attendance (of the opening shots that I have here at the Institute, I could not see him for real ... and I haven't pulled the Institute file on America Sings, which I know has all the opening day material, press releases, etc.--sorry, lazy historian today, other historical work keeping me busy), but it stands to reason he may have been. Anyway, just wanted to keep the America Sings love-a-thon going. Glad that Institute readers are as much in love with this fantastic attraction as the Institute fellows. Enjoy!

Friday, July 6, 2012


Opening Day Ceremonies for America Sings, June 29, 1974.
Todd and I were totally blown away when we saw James Lopez's fantastic tribute to Disneyland's America Sings attraction (see post and video below). I have been a lifelong America Sings fan, and it remains as one of my strongest memories from my first trip to Disneyland in 1977. So compelled was I by this show, that I made it a point to interview Marc Davis, Alice Davis, and Buddy Baker specifically on their contributions to the show; which will hopefully make it into a DHI essay in the future. So to keep the America Sings love going (and support Lopez's dream) I went digging through the Institute's archives to find something unique from this attraction, a rarely seen view of opening day of this "Magical Joyride To Musicland, U.S.A." So, lets give James as much support as we can as a community, as it would be great to see the film completed. Enjoy! And thank you James!!!

Old Tomorrowland: Animated America Sings

Now here on DHI, we like to post up original content.  But every now and then, we stumble across something so completely cool we feel compelled to give a shout out to it on our site.  Up on the blog today is a piece of Old Tomorrowland.  Now, it's not as quite as old as most of the Old Tomorrowland icons we've been exploring this summer.  Still, it's pretty awesome: a hand-drawn animated recreation of the intro scene in American Sings.  Just click, sit back, and enjoy.  It's a labor of love produced by James Lopez, who has been an animator for 20 years (15 of them at Disney).  He now teaches animation at Cal Arts.  This segment is part storyboard, part finished animation.  So make sure to wait for the finished scenes.  They are extremely sharp.


Old Tomorrowland - Walt Disney and the Circarama Preview

Walt Disney and the Circarama Preview - 1955
by Todd James Pierce

One month before Disneyland opened, none of the rides were complete.  The “Jungle River” was still a dirt canal surrounded by newly-planted trees.  Autopia was an empty freeway.  Even the Mark Twain steamboat was not ready to churn its wheel down the muddy river.  To help members of the press understand the technological inventiveness of Disneyland, on June 27, 1955, Walt invited a group of reporters over to the studio to watch a rough cut of the Circarama film that would soon be featured in Tomorrowand.  Like the name suggested, Circarama was a “circular” film presentation that took an audience on a “car” tour of the west.  The studio preview would enclose an audience inside of 11 curved screens, creating the world’s first sound presentation of a 360-degree film experience.

Members of the press arrived in the afternoon. The “preview screening” likely took place on Sound Stage 1, as Stage 2 was still filled with railroad cars that had yet to be shipped to Disneyland. Reporters would’ve seen the 11 raised screens paired with 11 projectors.  Also they would’ve seen the endless cables and equipment that synced the films, frame-by-frame, into an interlocked presentation.  A PR person directed them to “an island” inside the enormous hoop of slightly curved screens. Once there, the press learned about the Circarama process: 11 cameras, fitted on a ring, capture scenic footage of the western United States, footage that would eventually be edited into a 20-minute film. Though many sequences were not yet finished, the rough cut was arranged to give reporters an idea as to what Disneyland would actually offer—a filmic experience available nowhere else in the world. 

When the overhead lights dimmed, reporters heard the sound of 11 projectors sputtering into motions then saw the Grand Canyon blossom onto the screen.  The rough cut also featured “Monument Valley, Las Vegas, Balboa Bay, and even the heavily traveled streets of Los Angeles.”  The most notable sequence missing from the rough cut was the high-speed chase at the end of the film.

In reviews the following day, members of the press called the 360-degree presentation “the ultimate” film experience (LA Times).  Another reporter (writing for the NY Times) praised the experience as immersive:  “Thus engulfed, the spectator is overwhelmed and involuntarily experiences the sensations of moving with the picture.”

The preview produced the intended results—positive reviews in major newspapers that not only described the Circarama presentation in glowing terms but also elevated the coming Disneyland experience as superior to standard fun spot fare.

But for me, the most interesting aspect of this press preview was not the reviews nor the energy building toward the park’s opening, it was a question one reporter asked.  He wanted to know if Walt was thinking about adapting this 11-screen, circular experience for two-hour dramatic pictures—such as cowboy-and-Indian westerns or comedies.  Walt considered the question then explained that he did “not rule out its potential adaptation to a highly specialized form of dramatic motion picture presentation,” which suggested he had given this matter some thought. 

I’m interested in this comment for two reasons.  First, the Circarama experience is a logical extension of Cinerama, a widescreen presentation once popular at many specialty theaters.  It’s interesting to contemplate how movies-in-the-round might have changed the cinematic experience in the late 1950s—more specifically, how a panoptic presentation might’ve altered the way stories were arranged on film.  Second, the idea of establishing a small chain of Disney-sponsored circular theaters was an idea that Walt would return to in a few years, permanent Circarama exhibition centers built in both the US and select foreign cities. In coming years Walt would also have specific plans as to what he would screen at these theaters.  But right now, we are reveling in the wonders of Old Tomorrowland—11 raised screens mocked up at the studio that would soon be shipped over to the park.  The story of those other (never-built) circular theaters is a topic I’ll save for another day.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July from the Disney History Institute

Happy Fourth of July from the Disney History Institute. In trying to find something patriotic for the 4th, that would also fit the mission statement of DHI (that is partly to share something that is not seen everywhere else and to partly educate a bit about Walt Disney) this dapper red, white, and blue Mickey Mouse just seemed to stand out! It is a wonderful ticket book from the Institute's material culture collection that comes to us from the late 1960s (copyright 1968, union bug 1970). The item carries with it Walt's wishes towards a steadfast support for America's armed forces (and America). There were a number of special ticket books available only to those serving their country; this one being a short-lived rare example (I'll share a different example on Veteran's Day). The dates of these overtly patriotic ticket books are primarily from the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the counter culture movement was raging, and sentiments towards America's involvement in Vietnam were sadly manifesting themselves against those just doing their duty (as compared to directing their disagreements exclusively towards the policy makers and politicians). It was a difficult time to be a member of the military, but Walt's lifelong convictions of supporting those that have fought for our freedom, all the way back to the founding of the country on the 4th of July, were steadfast during this difficult time in American history; and even when he was gone, those at Disney Productions carried on his wishes. It is one of the better examples of the "What would Walt do?" era.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

OLD TOMOROWLAND MONTH: Disneyland's First "Major New Ride"

by Paul F. Anderson
WED Concept Art, 1956. Features a more decked out version of the off-the-shelf ride, complete with a
communication device atop the ride pointed towards the stars and the heavens (another idea that
was reused later with Tomorrowland 1998 where the Rocket Jets atop the PeopleMover was
converted to a more grandiose communication device).
(Click on any picture for a higher-resolution image)

Today in Disney History, July 3rd (in the year 1967) the venerable Rocket Jets attraction opened in the New Tomorrowland expansion of 1967. It replaced the Old Tomorrowland Astro Jet attraction which opened on April 2, 1956 (although the official Disney Company opening date is listed as March 24, 1956). To herald that auspicious event (after all it was an actual "major" attraction in Old Tomorrowland!) The Disneyland News from April 1956 trumpeted the announcement on their front page.
The Disneyland News April 1956 Front Page heralding the Astro Jet opening!
For the opening ceremony of the Astro Jets the publicity folks at Disneyland came up with the brilliant idea of inviting aviators from three branches of America's armed forces to participate--the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines Corps (Semper Fi!), and the U.S. Air Force. On hand also was the "Disneyland Air Force" (who knew? how do I join?)! It was a great promotion that both honored those serving their country and heralded the opening of this new ride to Walt's magic kingdom. Of note, is that so wonderful was this Walt inspired concept that four decades later Disneyland would revisit the idea when they opened the new Tomorrowland of 1998 by inviting Astronauts of America's Space Program to kick off the re-Imagineered land.

The newest members of the Disneyland Air Force.

Within a few months after the opening of Disneyland, It became immediately apparent that expansion was desperately needed ... and not because of the often over-used Walt quote that “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”  Rather, it was because Disneyland was a smashing success! Smashing!
Astro Jet original Attraction Poster
No where else was this need more apparent than in the neglected world of tomorrow. Shortly after “Black Sunday” Walt and his team began meeting to address attraction and ride issues at Disneyland. For every land, save Tomorrowland, the discussion focused more on improving what was already there. Each attraction went through Walt’s exacting attention to detail so that it could be refined. A perfect example of this minutia comes from a Disneyland Inter-Office Communication dated August 3, 1955 where it is recommended that when the Mark Twain leaves the dock that the guest experience would be improved by “more vocal animation from the crew”; or in the case of the Main Street Cinema “a second Nickelodeon piano to operate during time of rewind ... of first piano.” Walt was plussing what was already there; yet, with Tomorrowland, there wasn’t a lot to “plus,” so most of the suggestions concerned themselves with safety issues, such as extra pad for the steering wheels on the Autopia to “adequately ... prevent mouth and facial injuries” or the installing of “safety strap on non-driver side of car, to be used on small children.” What Tomorrowland really needed were new attractions, and as quick as possible.

Disneyland Postcard, D-102, 1956. "In Tomorrowland is an advanced version of the roto-jet
and the only ride of this type now operating in the United States. It was invented, developed and
manufactured by the Klaus Company of Memmingen, Bavaria."
Courtesy of my good friend Ken Eslick at:
The idea for a futuristic rocket or jet ride in the manner of Dumbo had been kicked around in early planning for Tomorrowland, but with time and money in short supply, it never materialized. So what happened after Disneyland opened? And why did Walt not decide to just use another Dumbo ride system for Tomorrowland? Several reasons.
First, Dumbo, as developed by Arrow Development, had some serious design flaws that were being worked out as late as December of 1955 when an entirely new Dumbo system replaced the opening day version. Second, Disneyland Inc., was losing money on Dumbo, because people were spending too much time in line; simply put the capacity of Dumbo was too low.  Third, in 1955 Arrow Development had on staff just two engineers, and they were spending most of their time during the fall and winter of 1955/1956 on redesigning the Autopia, so there wasn’t enough brainpower to go around to create a higher capacity Dumbo-style ride (in fact, the two were at this time also spending quite a bit of time just on getting the Dumbo ride system in Disneyland working on a regular basis). And finally, and probably most important, there was very little money left for a novel and original design!
Wonderful image giving the feeling of actually riding on this fantastic Astro-Jet attraction.
The only option left to Walt, was the simplest one, and that was to purchase a standard off-the-shelf ride system and then give it the Disney touch. What Walt’s team located was an amusement park ride that was relatively new, known as Roto-Jets (later also known by Strato-Jets and Satellite Jets). The idea was similar to Dumbo,  but the entire base, which was a converted World War II German artillery gun, rotated. On top of the rotating base was a central vertical axis with twelve articulated arms each supporting a jet capable of seating two people, and thus increasing capacity over Dumbo by 50%. So Walt ordered one “Super Roto-Jet” ride from the firm of Kaspar Klaus of Bavaria, and with that Disneyland would receive its first major new attraction the Astro Jets ride.

Unique view of the central rotating axis on top of the rotating base, spring 1962.

Walt’s WED designers got to work in attempting to make it something over and above your atypical amusement park ride. As seen in the Imagineering artwork at top, all sorts of adornments were proposed in order to give it a more futuristic appearance that would be in themed harmony with its surrounding land. Most likely due to funds still being in short supply, the Astro Jets that opened on April 2 lacked much of this futuristic bric-a-brac. Leave it to super Imagineer John Hench to propose a bit of Disney dazzle for the Astro Jets to help add to its futuristic glory. One month after opening, in a May 1, 1956 Inter-Office communication, Hench suggested names for each of the 12 jets. They were: Canopus, Vega, Sirius, Castor, Regulus, Pica, Capella, Arcturus, Rigel, Spica, Procyon, Altair, and Antares. To those observant Institute readers, like your author, you will notice that Hench actually suggested 13 names. Such a minor fact as this, typically lost on less-than-diligent Disney Historians, caused quite the uproar in our morning DHI editorial board meetings (Todd and I do actually talk about what we intend to write about). Yes, only at the Institute could something like an extra name for an Astro Jet create such a fracas of historical inquisitiveness! Many theories were bandied about, with the most popular being that an extra vehicle would need to be on hand for any potential serious maintenance issues; say a jet had an accident, and the entire balance of the ride system is predicated on having 12 jets, you have a spare! Of course, we are DHI historians, and we couldn’t simply let this go ... oh no! We wanted to know what was the odd jet out! So, with apparently nothing better to do with my time, this intrepid Institute investigator (CSI) pored through DHI’s photo collection to see how many of the names could be identified on the ride vehicles. This is no easy task, as with our DHI slide collection, photograph collection, and video holdings, that was a surprisingly enormous amount of material to sort through! Happy to report that twelve of the thirteen names were positively identified as having been emblazoned on the side of an Astro Jets vehicle that was in use. The one that could not be found, was (drum roll!), Pica! So we here at the Institute are offering a reward, for anybody with a real photo of the Pica Astro Jet! If you have one in your collection, share it here at the Institute, and we will find some uniquely vintage Tomorrowland item to award to you along with an Honorary Historian at the Disney History Institute certificate!
Only image known to exist of Astro Jet Regulus (the rarest of all the names ... at least as far as the
photographic count ... and of course, it is blue!). Taken from DHI 16mm footage.
Of note is other patterns that developed based on the number of photographs that surfaced of each of the named Astro Jets (yes, I actually kept count of what were the more commonly photographed Astro Jets). Leading the list in popularity (just based on preponderance of photographs) are Arcturus, Capella, Antares, and Canopus. On the rare side (coming in with just one photographed appearance) are: Regulus, Procyon**, and Rigel. It is also interesting to note, that for the most part, the popularity tended to go with the Red Astro Jets over the Blue Astro Jets (to which Todd and I in our afternoon DHI editorial board meeting decided that, “Hey, if we were kids, we’d go for the red one too!” We tackle the tough Disney history questions!).

Another rare name, the Procyon; this being the only known photograph of this Astro Jet.
From Spring 1962, during the First National Newspaper Boys convention and competition (more on this
fun event in a future DHI essay). No telling if the Procyon is blue, but our educated guess ... yes!
So there you have it, the kind of dedicated detail that you will not get (nor probably want) anywhere else, here at the Disney History Institute!
**In the comments link the always helpful Major Pepperidge points out a stunningly clear B&W image of Procyon (so now two images for that).

(If you have had enough Astro Jet minutia, two additional facts: 1)While we could not find an Astro Jet in action named Pica, we did find at least one instance in which an Astro Jet had NO name. 2)This is more a note on sloppy research and how the Internet has a tendency to make people lazy ... and a plea, to “please double check your facts” if you are going to write about Disney history. The name given on the Hench Inter-Office Communication for the #3 Astro Jet is “Sirius” ... however, no where on the Internet does that appear correctly, instead, apparently the first to enter this information way back in the dawn of the internet age a decade ago, missed an “i” and entered the name as “Sirus” ... so consequently, if you do a search for these, you’ll find many respected sites that list the poor little ol’ Astro Jet Sirius, as Sirus ...and sorry, we here at DHI just can’t take that serious!

PLEASE NOTE IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON USING OUR IMAGES: We've noticed several other Disney history sites that have chosen to borrow some of our wonderfully rare DHI photographs. While we love to share the history and legacy of Walt Disney, we are not so appreciative when said "borrowing" chooses to not also "borrow" our "" watermark (strange how our Institute watermark gets cut off) or even list us as a source. We always acknowledge and list our sources, including a link, and we appreciate the same courtesy! Thank you.

If you have thoughts, ideas, or questions post them up below. And for an ongoing historical discussion of Walt Disney and his creative legacy, head over to the DHI Facebook group. And make sure to check back for more essays and rare images on Old Tomorrowland.  Thanks, Paul

COMPLIMENTARY MATERIAL: We had a request on Facebook to show where the Astro Jets was in Tomorrowland. I found a nice panoramic from a Disneyland U.S.A. 1957 pitch book.  You can see it on our Comp Material page at: Astro Jets in Tomorrowland