Friday, November 13, 2009

Knott's Beary Tales Map (and more)!

Happy friday the 13th!

Once again, Imagineer Chris Merritt has offered to share some photos and artwork from his personal collection; for those of you who might not already know, Chris has been working on an upcoming book about the history of Knott's Berry Farm for years. It will be called "Knott's Preserved", and will tentatively come out in March of 2010. It will be full-color, and will feature a lot of information and quotes from the artists that created Knott's over the years. I know I'm gonna buy a copy! (I should mention that today's post was partly inspired by Matterhorn1959's post from yesterday, check it out!).

"Knott's Beary Tales" is an attraction that I sadly never was able to experience for myself. A move to the east coast for several years messed everything up, and when we moved back to SoCal, Knott's just seemed to be off my radar! I don't think I heard of "Beary Tales" until it was gone. Anyway, it made a huge impression on plenty of people, including future Imagineers.

Check out this amazing "fun map" Chris created in 1994, in the spirit of the "Nature's Wonderland" map that you saw in a previous post. I put this one up large enough so that you can appreciate the details!

Here's a great picture of the two-story exterior. Look an arcade! I like the early-evening lighting of this photo. You went upstairs to board KBT (that's Knott's Beary Tales for short).

Another view, this time from a higher vantage point. I asked Chris what his thoughts were about KBT, and this is what he said: " I first went on the ride at age 5 I think. It made such an impact on me, that I went back to kindergarden the next day and did a drawing of "Crafty Coyote" in the "Weird Woods" portion of the ride. Rolly Crump's designs and colors certainly stuck in my brain - he's such an amazing designer. And I think that Bear-y Tales is probably the closest someone could get to being inside his brain. It certainly is the most totally "Crump" attraction of all the ones he worked on - it was pure Rolly from beginning to end. At it's peak, the attraction had over 100 craftsmen creating over 100 animated characters, and amazingly colorful props and set pieces."

"Rolly's son, Chris Crump, designed the Rube Goldberg-esque "Chug-A-Chug" machine in the Factory scene from scratch. When the attraction caught fire before the Grand Opening of the Roaring 20's, he had to rebuilt all the intricate parts in a matter of weeks. Rolly told me that it was one of the most satisfying jobs of his career - one where he was allowed almost unfettered artistic freedom. In my book, the result was nothing short of stunning. I was very sad to see it go in 1986..."

A partial look at the mural at the entrance to the attraction...

... here's the other half! For some reason it makes me think of Mr. Toad a little bit.

How about some rare interior ride views? Here's the the "Preserving Dept". Notice that one of the ingredients is glue. I've heard that the smell of boysenberries created an olfactory memory that has lasted more than 20 years; almost everybody mentions it!

Doctor Fox was a snake oil salesman, and his potent elixer cured just about every ailment known to man (or bears!). The good doctor has some interesting footwear! Notice some frogs (escapees from the "Frog Forest"?), as well as some other "strange creatures"...

... and here is one of Rolly Crump's sketches (ink and markers, sez Chris) of some of those same creatures. I can't help but think of Ward Kimball's crazy designs for various aliens in the "Mars and Beyond" TV show; both artists seemed to be slightly eccentric REAL geniuses who lived life to the fullest, and yet I don't know if they ever met. Rolly is still with us, I should add!

Now we're in the "Weird Woods", and there are some more of those strange creatures. Notice how the caves in the rocks form a scary face! I'm sure that the actual ride experience was impossible to capture with mere photos. The best dark rides managed to stimulate all five senses, and maybe one or two others as well!

Chris also said, "The 'Wanted' poster was done by Suzie McLean (who also did the load/unload mural) in Rolly's style. It was peppered throughout the ride in many locations."

There are some KBT-related videos and songs on YouTube; there's a full ride-thru here (too bad the McKenzie brothers in the vehicle talked so much!), and another one here. I watched them both and feel like I just dropped acid!

MANY THANKS to Chris Merritt for sharing his amazing artwork and the photos from his collection. I am probably the worst person to write about Knott's Beary Tales, since I never saw it, but as a Knott's fan (and Rolly Crump fan) I can truly say that those of you who did ride it are lucky!


Chiana_Chat said...

Oh my gosh. Chris Merritt does it again. lol

My gosh I was so fascinated with that ride. Can still smell that and I crave me some boysenberries and boysenberry punch they're not offering online, dog gone it. When they closed it I felt they'd sold the store to someone who didn't care about it - I mean, they call it branding today and supposedly it's valued, why on earth would they give it up?

I don't think I still have much of anything from Knotts but I used to have some souvenirs incl. some of the stuff they used to sell at a Ghost Town shop. Should I check? Are you looking for any stuff at this point Chris?

Anonymous said...

Wow Chris! This book is finally happening! A far cry from your early CAL ARTS "booklet". A few weeks ago I ran across the photos from the day we set up all the "Tales" figures and props --seems like that was a hundres years ago. Mark me down for at least two books!!Hope to catch up with you when you return to the States!

-Mike Cozart

TokyoMagic! said...

I miss Berry Tales....and yes, I even miss The Kingdom of the Dinosaurs ride that replaced it....hey, at least it was a darkride! I was working at Knott's when they closed Beary Tales. The General Manager went on and on about how great the new dinosaur ride was going to be....saying that it would be so much better than Disneyland's dinosaurs. Every summer it was the same thing...the Gen. Manager standing on the stage of the Goodtime Theater trying to convince us how whatever it was they were opening that summer would be so much better than whatever Disneyland had. As if!

Michelle said...

Knotts was never Disneyland but was so special in it's own way! My family only went to Disneyland once a year but we lived at Knotts and had annual passes for years!

I loved the Bear-y tales and miss the FROGS! They were so cute!

I so miss the family atmosphere that Knotts once was. It has changed so much and not in good ways. :(

Matterhorn1959 said...

Wow Chris, thanks for sharing and thanks Major for the nice post. The same as Mike, I flashed back to your Cal Arts booklet. Thanks for sharing your information, especially the original art.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Thanks Major and Chris!!!

Perfect description of the ride "Inside Rolly Crumps Brain"! This attraction is about as close to Disneyland as Knott's ever got.

When I watch the videos now it does resemble an acid trip, but to my preteen eyes, this was pure magic, a world I wanted to stay in each time I rode this attraction. For the record, one summer I rode it over 50 times...

Can't wait for Chris' new book, where's the book signing-blogger party event being held?

Katella Gate said...

You know I will be on pins and needles until this book comes out.

"The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts." - W. Wonka

Nancy said...

an very cool collaberation...

i have never been there, but im sure i would have loved this ;)

thanks to Chris and David for an exceptional post, and to everyone here who remembers it and shared their thoughts with us! :)

ps...also looking forward to Chris's book

Chris Merritt said...

Thanks everyone for the nice comments! From starting with Bruce Gordon on this in the late 90s, to my current publisher, it's been a long ride. I'm really looking forward to finally, finally getting this book in print.

Chiana - Thanks again for always saying nice things about my work. I'm kind of at critical mass for souvenirs, but thank you for offering.

Mike - Thanks! Good to hear from you. You've been a big supporter of this book for many years as well. I appreciate it.

Patrick - I think I only made 5 or 6 copies of that booklet. Pretty rough stuff! It did have a lot of info though, and a nice intro from Dave Mumford.

Tim - I will be doing the requisite signing at Knott's, along with some extra surprises likely. There will be other signings in So Cal when I come back to promote it. I'll let you know.

Thanks again everyone - I hope you all like the book.

Rich T. said...

I was in my cynical teens when Bear-y Tales opened, and I approached the ride prepared to hate what I was certain would be a corny attempt to imitate Disney. Just a few seconds into the ride, it won me over with its creative design and nonstop imagination.

The ride system was unique: Anyone remember how you'd crest a small hill(more like a hump)between each scene area? I'm assuming each area had its own independent chain/cable for pulling the vehicles along, and you were continually being transferred from one to the next.

The ride used darkness in a unique way: magical and mysterious with activity and motion everywhere. I loved every single area. The special effects and animatronics alternated between impressive and charmingly funky (I remember one of the Weird Woods creatures was made of plastic hair curlers).

I rode it many times and loved each trip through. The tune would stay in my head for hours, though I'd never remember a single lyric!

Kingdom of the Dinosaurs was a huge letdown. It was kind of depressing traveling the same track layout through a duller, more empty presentation.

Bob Barber said...


Beautiful pictures as usual. So glad to hear the book is close to completion. I can't wait to see it!


Tom Anderson said...

I, too, am also looking forward to yet another book about my favorite amusement park. I was at Knott's last week and it seems they've already got a couple of books about the farm on their shelves. I picked them both up. Great reads! One had other chapters about Disneyland and Japanese Village too. The other book was about Knott's early years and was very informative. That particular book had photos I'd never seen before (and I'm a collector). I'd recommend both. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Anonymous said...

My family and I always had passes to Knott's and spent a ton of time there. I know we went on KBT, but that ride ended when I was only six. I loved Kingdom of the Dinosaurs though and was recently looking at websites about it and started seeing references to KBT. I'd completely forgotten about KBT but then I had a vague recall of a spinning multiple-tiered pie holder loaded with boysenberry pies. I mentioned this to my mom yesterday and she doesn't remember KBT either, but I'm sure the pictures here will remind her! Thanks for putting this post up. :)

Red Savarin said...

What do you think about Voyage To The Iron Reef? I think it was good, but nowhere near the level of the past rides. I think Knott's Bear-y Tales had the best set design and overall experience of the three rides in that building.