Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Christmas in Disneyland, January 1966

Christmas is a fun time at Disneyland (minus the crowds that have been appearing in recent years). The lights, the decorations, the parades, the music - the whole deal. And back in the pre-1970's energy crisis days, the Matterhorn was topped with a giant star that was visible for miles. I have several photos of the star during the day, but was happy to find this one with the star blazing brightly. I think that (in past discussions) we have established that the star turned slowly too.


And just because, here's the castle!

26 comments:

Chiana_Chat said...

So that's what it looked like! More amazing than I'd imagined! Phew that must have used some juice.

A double confection here getting a rare night shot of the lighting in the early years. Which by the way also looks super.

Why do the lights in the trees look butterfly shaped? Very pretty though. And the carousel beckons warmly through the tunnel...

TokyoMagic! said...

Whoa....Major-ly cool!

Couldn't they have a solar powered star today?

Anonymous said...

The Matterhorn star decidedly did not rotate… ever. Cool pix.

Progressland said...

Van France says "for a long while, it turned." But it had a lot of mechanical problems and was constantly breaking down.

Amazing picture!

Major Pepperidge said...

I think that those lights look butterfly shaped because our photographer had a cheap camera!

A solar-powered star? A star powered by a star? Why, it's an abomination!

Anon and Progressland... see why I am confused?? I think we can safely say that the star was not turning when the top photo was taken, since it was clearly a long exposure and there is no signs of movement.

Connie Moreno said...

Amongst my family members, I am famous for constantly missing things that are not in my direct line of vision or in other words, if I have to look up, forget about it! I do not remember ever seeing this star on the Matterhorn. Talk about a mind blower! Love these photos!

JG said...

I remember the star on the matterhorn, but do not remember it rotating. That doesn't prove that it did so when i was not there.

The star can't be solar powered, because the sun doesn't shine at night, silly persons.

These are wonderful shots, Major, thanks so much.

JG

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

I laugh when the reasons for no Matterhorn star (or burning cabin) is due to energy usage/crisis. It probably requires more energy for Heat and A/C in the "family bathrooms" than the star ever used!!! The star was cool, looks totally different (and better ) at night.

Awesome Castle shot too, love the colors. Great post Major - Thanks!

Katella Gate said...

I think the star never rotated, just as I think the light in my refrigerator goes out when I shut the door, but I can prove neither.

Still I hope to be loved and accepted by the rotating star community and not viewed as "the enemy within".

I suspect that the Imagineers may have tried to rotate the star in the early days, but discovered that the Schwartzchild effect played havoc with the space time continuum and disturbed the established timeline.

Chiana_Chat said...

Connie - so you've lost more glasses on your head than the rest of your family, but we love you anyway.

VDT - Don't say that, they'll turn off the climate control to the bathrooms to cut costs!

CoxPilot said...

I don't remember the Star ever turning, and I was there the first year. It didn't need to because it had multiple facets.

I had heard that it was not the electricity costs that killed it, but the thousands it cost each year to have the crane put it up and take it down.

Progressland said...

Here's the full text from Van France's Window on Main Street, picking up when Walt died:

"Although the Park was open and operating the next day, many of us were openly and without embarrassment, crying. Some of us ended the day huddled together at the bar in the Disneyland Hotel, an informal wake. We all drank too much and expressed our grief in many different ways. People who no longer worked for Disneyland dropped by the hotel bar, and even some who had never worked there came in to join us in our loss. Then there was the star, the one that was always located on top of the Matterhorn every Christmas, and for a long while, it turned.

"THE MATTERHORN CHRISTMAS STAR

"Three years before this night, we had engineered and built a huge star which was placed by helicopter on top of the Matterhorn for the Christmas season. Now this was no ordinary star. It weighed 22 tons, and special equipment was needed to lift it to the peak of the Matterhorn. There was a highly complicated mechanism which was used for two years to make it turn, a great show. Ted Crowell was Director of Maintenance at that time, and making that star turn was a major, expensive problem for him. It was constantly breaking down.

"As the evening and the bar were both closing, Jack Sayers began to argue with Ted about the star which was supposed to turn. Ted tried to explain the problems, but Jack wouldn’t listen. As I made my way out of the bar, I heard Jack say, 'That star would be turning if Walt were alive!'

"Jack was wrong, of course. Walt had given approval for the star not to be turning. That may have been the first time I heard the phrase, 'if Walt were alive,' but it certainly wouldn’t be the last."

Major Pepperidge said...

Who's going to argue with Progressland (and Van France)? Who, I ask? Not me!

I have a memory - I think - of seeing video of the star turning, perhaps on one of those "Extinct Attractions" DVDs, which I unfortunately got rid of recently.

My brain is on the verge of exploding now.

SundayNight said...

Wow, so neat to see the star lighted. And the blue lights on the fir trees really add a special 50's ambiance.

Chiana_Chat said...

22 Tons!?

On top of all that concrete, steel and wood. Talk about a strong structure, the Matterhorn.

Anonymous said...

Van France is misremembering… the star never rotated, nor was it designed to ever do so.

Nancy said...

beauties!! :D

so many thanks...

Progressland said...

Anonymous, do you have a source for your information? Personal experience? That's a pretty specific memory for Van to have misremembered!

Major Pepperidge said...

I don't know WHAT to think now! Anonymous is pretty convincing. Is it possible that Van France was mistaken?

Later today I'm going to ask a friend if he remembers the star at all, he worked at the park in those days. My guess is that he'll say that it didn't turn.

CoxPilot said...

I did an web search for any images of the star. I found a rather interesting thing . . . all of them show the star facing the same way. It's lined up to show the face of the star towards main street, and in parallel with the skyway buckets. I did not see any pics that would indicate that the star was at another angle. Although, I admit that it might only turn at night when the lights and power was on, but that does not seem consistent with what Disney would do. I think the lights were on all the time.

Progressland said...

CoxPilot: I don't find what you've discovered to necessarily contradict Van France's account. If it didn't turn very often because of the mechanical troubles, it's possible the photos you found all come from the years when it wasn't turning.

outsidetheberm said...

Okay, that star may not have turned but it sure performed a helluva 'Sabre Dance' every half hour! Remember??

Major Pepperidge said...

I think that the star remained still, but the Matterhorn turned beneath it.

Progressland said...

I also found this, but don't consider it too authoritative (just another piece of evidence to weigh):

Disneyland Line (12/12/1973): There will be no light-rotating star on top of the Park's Matterhorn Mountain this Christmas season.

Progressland said...

Oakland Tribune, December 20, 1961, Mort Cathro article: "High atop the Matterhorn, the piece de resistance for most kids at Disneyland (you're nobody unless you've ridden the bobsleds at least five times), you'll find a 24-foot lighted, revolving star. It was placed there with considerable effort since it weighs 3,500 pounds and the mountain is 150 feet high."

Oxnard Press-Courier, December 23, 1963, Don W. Martin article: "A 60-foot Christmas tree with 3,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments graces the town square in front of City Hall and a 24-foot star rotates above Matterhorn Mountain, 175 feet above the amusement park."

Major Pepperidge said...

Progressland, it is amazing that you've found THREE sources mentioning the rotation of the Christmas star. It sure seems like the evidence points to the fact that it was supposed to turn. Thanks for your efforts!

I do think it's interesting that Van France said that the star weighed 22 tons, while the Oakland Tribune article says 3,500 pounds. That's quite a difference....