July 17, 2013

What do you give a 58-year-old Magic Kingdom?

What do you give a 59-year-old Magic Kingdom on her birthday? Especially when she has everything, like she did when I first pinned on a Mickey Mouse nametag:

A restored Tomorrowland? Nice, but totally expected. How about these ideas, taken directly from Your Souvenir Guide for 1983:

Complete banking services between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day Disneyland is open

A place to sign in the Disneyland Guest Book

A room full of fun for a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter

Small plants, unusual man-made flowers

Orville Reddenbacher Gourmet Popping Corn

A tree-top home built by an ingenious shipwrecked family

Choice antiques, reproductions, and rare gifts for the most discriminating collector

A foot-stompin’, knee-slappin’, country-western revue featuring a cast of 18 un-bear-able bear-itones

Frontier fun for a nickel, dime, or quarter

Indian arts and crafts, including a large selection of turquoise jewelry

Fort Wilderness

Keel Boats

A complete selection of Pendleton woolens, yardage, and accessories

Dancing girls, Slue Foot Sue, and Pecos Bill

Tricky currents and rapids

Dolls and toys to delight all ages

An aerial view of the Magic Kingdom...

Oh, heck... Just give her all of them.

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

February 9, 2013

A one-way trip


Disneyland made the Skyway a one-way trip. Sure, sometimes an Attractions Host's flirtation with a cute girl was followed by a surreptitious phone call alerting the other station to send that gondola back to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland with her still in it. But back on the ground, we, as they say, only go around once.

So it seems to me like Walt may have had a bigger idea than transportation when he decided that Disneyland needed a one-way cable car route. Perhaps he saw the Skyway as a kind of metaphor for life. I don't care if that idea is goofy. Or dopey. Or just plain dumb(o). Off to Neverland with it, at least if our gondola will hold us with that mess of references.

You see, I've been thinking a lot about people who are no longer here as I knew them, lives I've loved that have ridden their buckets to places that I don't yet have the wisdom to identify.

Among them are former Disneylanders that you might recognize if you were once a part of the Show. If you haven't visited Disney Friends Who Have Passed Our Way and your one of the several people who read this blog, you'll likely smile when you do, although it may be through some tears. It's a facebook group filled with beautiful memories.

Thinking about those lives makes me think about the short span of metaphorical cable that we're all gliding along at this present moment. Was Walt thinking along that line? I don't know. Is that kind of question too philosophical for a blog about working at an "amusement park"? I don't think so. Compare these quotes:

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.

The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.

As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but every one who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind!

Thus we can strive gradually to become more compassionate, that is we can develop both genuine sympathy for others' suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Our ultimate goal is the creation of happiness for others. We're not reformers . . . remakers of the complex human element. We give everyone the same VIP treatment regardless of race, creed, color, politics, or color of sport shirt. If God made them, you'll meet them . . . and accept them as they are.
Showmanship . . . Disneyland Style

Every individual, every organization, needs a reason for being. At Disneyland, our goal is intangible, but vital: WE CREATE HAPPINESS FOR OTHERS . . . And by creating happiness for others, we have the opportunity to find a true reason for being in our own lives.
Disneyland and . . .
The Skyway station from which we swung out over Disneyland is already behind us.

The one that's ahead isn't yet here. The trip in between is for creating happiness for others.

August 26, 2012

Lightyears beyond Buzz


Neil Armstrong, along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins of Apollo 11, was an attraction as at home in 1969's Tomorrowland as at Tranquility Base on the moon's surface.

The Tomorrowland Stage stood about where Space Mountain does today. Disneyland guests stood there on that famous day when Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the Lunar Module and spoke his famous words. What it must have been like to see it broadcast live while surrounded by the Magic Kingdom's "world on the move"!
A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements . . . a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals: the atomic age . . . the challenge of space . . . and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.
Neil spoke and was honored at Space Mountain's 2005 "relaunch," receiving a plaque thanking him for the inspiration that his "giant leap" brought to the world. Can you imagine him stowing it a locker after that ceremony and then wanting to ride "Rockin' Space Mountain"? Or go off to "save the galaxy from the Evil Emperor Zurg on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters"? Or get "accidentally jettisoned into a battle with the Empire" on Star Tours?

Disneyland had the right idea when it honored the first man to set foot on the moon. Honoring his memory should spark a renewed effort to rebuild Tomorrowland in the same spirit that it once radiated and that Neil Armstrong represented.

August 12, 2012

What a day in the Park

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Thank goodness for old home movies of our Disneyland. If you were one of those who still feel something when you think back around thirty years to the Park as it was then, these could just as easily be images of your family. A brief record of a simple but wonderful day long ago.

Here is the world of imagination, hopes, and dreams before marketing largely replaced magic or morphed it into the CGI-based surrealism that seems to surround everything new. Movie tie-ins remained subtle at most (how many people have seen "Third Man on the Mountain," the picture that inspired Walt's Matterhorn?) A family's admission didn't cost a mortgage payment.

Plus, just look what you got for your money! Especially after you reached the Hub, climbed down off the old Fire Wagon, and stepped into Tomorrowland. Mary Blair's murals cheerfully salute children of the world. PeopleMover vehicles and silent Monorails glide by overhead. Rocket Jets swirl higher, and Skyway buckets swing above all. A world on the move that we thought would never stop.

In a way, it hasn't. Sure, you can tear down and build over Disneyland, reshape it into a Pixar paradise, strip it of its permanent Cast, and squeeze it until the last dollar dribbles out. But you just can't deconstruct the happiness that it helped create back when happiness was its primary reason for being. The Happiest Place on Earth is always there for those who knew it.

That's the great thing about these old home movies. Most don't even have sound, but the happiness is almost fully preserved. If the only thing you know is the "resort" of today, then you can see just enough to feel a little bit of how it felt to be part of the magic of Disneyland during earlier days. And if, like me, you haven't been to the Magic Kingdom in a long, long time, then the scenes in these movies might have been shot yesterday. You can still feel all of it.

What a day in the Park.

July 15, 2012

Riding on the Metro


One of my favorite blogs, Vintage Disneyland Tickets, has been quiet lately. I know that one of VDT's favorite things is Magic Mountain's old Metro monorail, so I thought that I would share a story from a couple of years before my days as a Disneyland Cast Member. As a high school junior, I worked a summer as a ride operator out there in Valencia (just two gallons north of Hollywood!)

I'd love to say that the Metro was my regular location, but I started in Children's World (pictured in the postcard above under the monorail beam). I next moved over to a Funicular/Sky Tower rotation, then became part of the opening crew on Roaring Rapids. All of those provided truly great times working with fun crews on some of the mountain's most unique rides. One of my best memories, though, happened while I was still assigned to its "parking lot carnival" area.

Arriving for work one afternoon, not quite looking forward to watching kids spin slowly around in various cars, rockets, or motorbikes, I got some very welcome news. My lead told me that the Metro needed somebody to cover a shift. Its first station was just steps away, opposite the Log Jammer, over by the old Mountain Express. Almost all of us in the park's Operations Division wore the same mint green polyester pants and white polo (with stripes in the same mint and yellow), so there was no need to go and check out a new costume. I hurried right over to the station and hustled up the steps.

It was no Alweg monorail system, but the Metro was lovable in its own primitive way. And it was sure easy to operate. There wasn't much to do except sit in the front of the train and spiel as the cars lumbered slowly along the beam. Colossus was the newest thing to talk about, the "world's largest wooden racing roller coaster off the right side of the Metro."

The system is still in place in Valencia as it was back then, but the ride is sadly long gone, never to return. I hope the same isn't true for Vintage Disneyland Tickets! You can see much more of the Metro's glorious past (and far less glorious present) over there. Thanks for coming on this brief departure to Magic Mountain. See you back at the Magic Kingdom.

July 4, 2012

July 4, 1976

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What July holiday would be complete without a parade celebrating the best of America? (If we're talking about America on Parade, the answer is every July since around 1976, but who's counting?) Here's an old Super 8 look back at that unique salute to our country.

It's a little bit corny by today's standards.

And historians would probably criticize the way that it glosses over some of the harder facts of the American experience.

But 1976 was a time for cheering a relatively young nation's milestone, and America on Parade did that pretty darn well. Try to watch without feeling just a little bit of what made Walt get red, white, and blue at times.

July 1, 2012

First-rate third gate


Here's an idea for a new theme park experience that would be better than almost any other entertainment in the world.

It's a perfect re-creation of a place that existed from around 1967 to around 1985. "It represents the intangibles of the mind, yet exhibits a logical, physical world. Within its thematic realms are medieval castles and rocket ships, horse-drawn streetcars and streamlined monorail trains, jungle elephants and elephants that fly, a snow-capped mountain and a 'space' mountain."

You might say that such a Park exists already. But this one is different in several ways, some subtle, some more dramatic.

The new Park, for example, encourages young people to think about the past and the future using their imaginations, not just their short-term memories of what they've seen at the multiplex or online. They can enjoy adventures and attractions like traveling through "liquid space" on an exciting cruise to the North Pole, taking a thrilling journey into the world of the atom, and exploring Tom Sawyer's island with its many caves and Fort Wilderness.

At their own pace, guests can also explore a fascinating tree-top home, complete with its own bamboo-and-twine water system. The aerial views are spectacular, but even better is the panorama visible from Skyway buckets. Another panorama takes you on a film tour of the United States through the magic of CircleVision 360.

Many characters from favorite childhood films roam freely, and you can run into these old friends just about anywhere. Other friends can be seen in the many live performances such as the Golden Horseshoe Revue, an Old West vaudeville show featuring singing, dancing, and plenty of laughs. A bunch of bears put on a great show of their own. You can dance, as swinging big bands set the tempo after dark.

Hungry? You will discover a menu to please every palate and pocketbook among the large variety of restaurants and refreshment centers ranging from elegant waitress service to popcorn and ice cream wagons. Once you're refreshed, you'll want to shop for unusual man-made flowers, dill pickles, Guatemalan clothing and jewelry, choice antiques, Pendleton woolen fabrics and clothing, and professional magician supplies. The services of a perfumer to blend unique fragrances to your choice are also available.

When you ready, you can stow your purchases in a locker for .75. You won't want them to weigh you down, because there's a lot more to see. Like Mars, which you can visit after taking a grand circle tour of Tomorrowland aboard the PeopleMover--the first system of its kind in the world.

If you've still got time in your vacation, you can stop in at Carefree Corner for information on other Southern California attractions. Hollywood and the beaches are just about an hour away.

But you'll probably want to stay right here.