Theme Park Thursdays: A Walk in the Park?

A day at DISNEYLAND typically involves a lot of walking. If several things had happened as originally planned, it would have involved a lot more walking.
Before there was DISNEYLAND, there was Disneylandia. Disneylandia was to be a traveling exhibit of Disney-related miniatures that would travel from town to town on a train. During Disneylandia’s week in town, guests could purchase tickets to tour the walk-through exhibits. After a financial analysis of the project, it was not deemed feasible because not enough paying customers could walk through the exhibit to break even. Walt Disney shelved the idea, which eventually became DISNEYLAND.

Years later when Walt Disney was planning out DISNEYLAND, he again considered another walk-through attraction based on Alice in Wonderland. Yet again, it was seen as not being feasible as a walk-through attraction because of the film’s popularity and the large crowds that it would attract. The walk-through became a ride-through.

Apparently not one to give up on the walk-through concept completely, Walt Disney’s original plans for Pirates of the Caribbean called for it to be a walk-through Pirate Museum. After his ideas became too big for a museum, Walt Disney changed his plans and Pirates of the Caribbean became a boat ride.

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Walt Wednesdays: Mr. Disney’s Favorite Food

Walt Disney sampled most of the food sold throughout DISNEYLAND, but his all time favorite food in the park was popcorn. He would always give boxes of it to his personal guests who toured the park with him. 

Walt himself used to get two boxes for himself- one for eating and the other to feed the ducks. It was fitting that Walt’s favorite song was Feed the Birds.

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Toontown Tuesdays: The Illusion of Life

Walt Disney was always looking to the future. Even in the early years he was always building up to something bigger and better. How else can you explain his studio producing a rougher cartoon like this in 1928:

and then producing a first of its kind spectacle just nine years later:

Every Mickey Mouse cartoon built up his studio’s skill set until it was capable of producing a masterpiece like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. His animators might not have realized it, but Walt was guiding them down the path that would eventually lead them to making beautiful feature films. Two of Disney’s legendary animators- Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson- would write a book detailing what they felt was important in producing a successful animated film. The book’s title- The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation- actually gave the biggest secret away; that the picture needed to create the illusion of life so that the audience would identify with characters that were really just pencil lines drawn on paper. We love Snow White because she just seems real to us.

While the toy builder Geppetto could have been portrayed as a desperate idiot who actually believed that a wish could bring one of his toys alive, Disney animators gave him a soul. We identify with his desire to have a son and root for him to see his dream come true. We feel his sadness when he believes Pinocchio has died and share his joy when he realizes his little wooden head has become a real boy.

The master animators at Disney would do it again with Dumbo, not only making the audience feel for a hand drawn character, but a hand drawn character that was an elephant. During the Baby Mine sequence we see Dumbo not just as an elephant, but as a baby cruelly ripped from his mother.

Jessie is essentially just a toy who comes to life when people leave the room. The audience, however sees her as being just as real as any person when she relates her story about being abandoned. We feel for her sorrow.

Sometimes the illusion of life can transcend language and culture. The sweet interaction between Mama Coco and Miguel at the conclusion of Disney’s Coco made it possible for the film to be shown in China, despite the fact that depiction of ghosts are prohibited in films there. The Chinese censorship board were brought to tears by the scene and they gave the film an exemption. The film would go on to gross more money than all previous Disney-Pixar films combined. The technology used to produce its films might have changed, but even over 90 years later, Walt Disney’s founding legacy remains in place.

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Mickey Mondays: Mickey’s Number One Fan

Despite his humble beginnings as a character created on a train ride by a little known film producer who was flirting with bankruptcy, Mickey Mouse exploded on the scene in 1928, quickly earning millions of fans, including one of the biggest Hollywood Stars of The silent era- Mary Pickford.

Mary Pickford was the biggest star of Hollywood’s early years, having earned the right to use her own name on her films, something that was not permitted by the studios at the time; she was originally called the “Biograph Girl”, named after her original studio.

With her husband Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford co-founded United Artists along with Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith. Together, Douglas and Mary formed Hollywood’s very first super couple and were known around the world. Mary became one of Mickey and Walt Disney’s biggest fans, telling the press that Mickey Mouse was her favorite actor. When Walt Disney lost his first Mickey Mouse film distributor due to a contract dispute, Mary intervened and got a new contract for Mickey at United Artists.

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Freaky Fridays: Walt Disney Week

Walt and Lillian Disney had a special relationship. She chose to keep the home fires burning while he chased his latest and greatest dream. While she often had misgivings about some of his riskier projects, she would be his biggest supporter through it all. That doesn’t mean that she tolerated all of his eccentricities or the baggage that came from his Hollywood career. She required that he leave his stress at the office and shunned most of the trappings of Hollywood life.

One particular annoyance of hers were the raggedy hats he used to wear. In fact, she once tried to get rid of a particularly raggedy one by throwing it into a ring after they attended a bullfight on vacation. Walt thought fast and snagged it before it was lost forever.

Lillian had nearly forgotten about the hat by the next Valentine’s Day when she was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a very unique vase. Walt had the hat bronzed, its brim formed into a heart. A very special gift indeed.

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