Disneyland looked different in the early-to-mid 80s.
Not just because there were only seven themed lands and maybe fifty ice cream and popcorn locations (during the peak seasons). Not just because guests could see unique shops offering unusual wares, a treehouse in which they might have imagined living, or a sustainable and efficient transportation system for moving them and many other people. Not even just because weenies at the end of every street stood as carefully planned compass points to lead guests into and through the Show.
Disneyland looked different back then because it was clean. Shirley Temple could have been talking about the Park when, after unveiling Walt’s special Oscar™ for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (one big and seven little statues), she exclaimed: “Isn’t it bright and shiny?”
Before the last guest was halfway down Main Street after the closing announcement, many of the more than 350 maintenance and custodial personnel were busy cleaning and inspecting. Every pedestrian surface was pressure-washed and dried before the first guest pressed up against the rope line the next day.
The scenes in Frontierland and Adventureland’s shooting galleries were completely repainted every night. Each of the 108 six foot brass pole on the King Arthur Carrousel was hand-polished, a four-hour job.
Walt knew that such maintenance was both expensive and essential. “To keep an operation like Disneyland going,” he said, “you have to pour it in there. It’s what I call ‘keeping the show on the road.’ You have to keep throwing it in; you can’t sit back and let it ride.” And he was prepared for “those sharp-pencil guys” who told him, “Walt, if you cut down on maintenance we’d save a lot of money.”
Now, Tomorrowland is filthy. Paint is peeling all over the place. There are big cracks in the monorail beamway supports. Abandoned keelboats, mine trains, and more than one sustainable and efficient transportation system sit in decay. The list goes on.
Barack Obama has pointed out that the policies that led to the crisis on Wall Street are the same ones that led to the crisis on Main Street. Of course, he didn’t mean that 1890s road in Disneyland, and I am certainly being more than a little tongue-in-cheek in comparing the two.
But since there’s another American institution besides the investment banking industry that’s had serious trouble keeping the show on the road, why not some Mickey Mouse earmarks?