Friday, July 24, 2015

Special Guest Post!

Hey Folks - for those of you reading this after November 2016, I thought I would mention that, due to a flurry of spam comments associated with the original version of this post, I decided to delete it and repost it in an effort to stop the spam. Since I didn't want to lose the comments, I will just copy/paste them at the end of the post. Spammers suck! On with the post:

Today I am happy to feature more photos from GDB friend Huck Caton (who shared those amazing Disneyland wardrobe photos from a few years ago - those things wound up all over the internet). Huck has been digging through boxes, and he has uncovered a bunch of his own personal photos, both of the park as well as some "backstage" photos from when he worked there. Awesome! 

We'll start things out with a bang with this rare photo of the Motor Boat Cruise when it was briefly given a "Gummi Bears" overlay in 1991. Part of the "Disney Afternoon" slate of cartoons, the Gummi Bears always seemed like an odd thing for Disney to acquire (in my opinion); I admit that I never watched a single episode. I was more of a "Duck Tales" guy!

While I had been aware of this overlay, with plywood "flats" of the Gummis and their homes, I did not realize that it was only there for 8 months (from March 1991 to November 1991). No wonder pictures of it are hard to find! 

I was also surprised that this was before the dreaded Paul Pressler era, when budgets were slashed to the bone,  rides were closed, plush dolls were sold in every location - all in the name of increased profits (it worked, too). Perhaps he isn't as entirely to blame for the precipitous drop in quality as I had always assumed? 

Next is this image of the Autopia entrance sign; poor Tomorrowland has gone through some rough patches, and this sign, while not terrible, has a strange 1950's vibe that just didn't fit with the rest of the land. I wonder if the popular "Blast to the Past" promotion (1988 and 1989) had anything to do with this retro style?

I've never seen this sign before, which is cool; Huck thinks it looks awful, but I have to admit that I like it! Look at how those arrows are part of the cloverleaf design. And the colors remind me of the costumes that some cast members wore. Presumably this is dated earlier than the previous photo; notice the small bit of the Autopia marquee that is visible, with its very 1970's colors.

Here's the costume I was talking about - a parking lot attendant, circa 1973.

Many thanks to Huck for sharing his photos! There's lots more to come, so stay tuned.

Here are the comments!

Nanook said...

Me likes the Autopia sign, too. The design sort of co-opted the arrows from the Disneyland Hotel attraction poster, and turned them on their ears - (or is that sides-?)

Sorry, the Gummi Bears is just downright creepy. It would've been more at home in a Santa's Village location than at The Happiest Place On Earth. So its short life was a blessing.

Thanks, Major & Huck-!

Chuck said...
The painted flats and relatively primitive artwork of Gummi Glen reminds me of an outdoor version of an early-era dark ride, only scarier - much, much scarier.

Thanks for sharing, Huck! These help fill in my understanding of what Disneyland looked like during the Dark Ages (i.e., the 17-year Nochuckinpark era). Looking forward to seeing the rest of the collection!

Melissa said...
Thanks for sharing your photos, Huck! These are some really great shots!

It's amazing how that beautiful older trash can in the first picture highlights how hastily-put-together the Gummi Glen fa├žade looks.

Nanook, of all the things to do to the Motor Boat Cruise, turning into "Gummi Glenn" should have been way down on the list. I just hate it when Disney does things that are so obviously cheap; small wonder that the Motor Boats closed forever after this.

Chuck, you are right, they are very much like dark ride flats - at least the glowing black light paint (in dark rides) adds a dreamlike element that was completely missing from Gummi Glenn.

Melissa, for some reason that trash can looks (to me) like it should be right outside the Haunted Mansion.

TokyoMagic! said...
I remember that Gummi Glen overlay, as well as the "Rescue Rangers" overlay on the Fantasyland Autopia which included more plywood flats.

Major, that Autopia sign is from 1998. The new sign is the only thing that attraction got as a part of the "Brown Tomorrowland" redo. I think it's all they could afford with the Paul Pressler/Michael Eisner budget. Then shortly after that (I'm not sure which year because after the destruction of Tomorrowland in 1998, I took a break from going to the park for a while), they bulldozed the sign and the queue and built the monstrosity that stands there today.

TokyoMagic! said...
P.S. Notice the brown/copper railings in the queue on that first Autopia pic.

TokyoMagic! said...
I'm still studying these pics! In that first Autopia photo, also notice the Rocket Rod vehicle on the old PeopleMover track near the upper right corner of the pic (behind the copper pole).

Anonymous said...
The Gummi boat pics have bracketed my last ride on the Motor Boat Cruise. I couldn't remember the years for sure, but now I'm pretty sure my Disney hiatus lasted from 1978 +/- (my last visit on my own without Mom and Dad) and 1991 had to be the first visit with my wife and kids. 

I remember these awful plywood signs all over the Motor Boats and the Autopia, I remember thinking they were weird and not up to the Disney of the past. But the programs were running constantly on the Disney Channel and the kids loved them. 

The Motor Boats were a great ride for little ones, quiet and restful for the parents and the kids can pretend to drive the boat. Good memories.

Thank you, Major and Huck.


TokyoMagic!, man I hate that gigantic Autopia queue structure. It is SO massive and out of place, it overwhelms everything near it. It probably cost a fortune and is completely unnecessary. 

TokyoMagic! II, yes, I see them!

TokyoMagic! III, good eye! I didn’t notice the Rocket Rod up there. 

JG, I’m sure that the kids did love the plywood signs; but there’s no reason why they couldn’t have built something that appealed to adults and kids. Well, there IS a reason… they didn’t want to spend the money. Why did they use Gummi Bears - a property based on a popular candy - and not Duck Tales, based on the classic, highly-regarded Carl Barks “Uncle Scrooge” stories? If they had done a quality job with sculpted, 3-D elements, it might have actually pleased Disney fans.

Anonymous said...
@Major, I think that the Gummi Glen improvements coexisted with the DuckTales Afternoon Avenue, which, according to Yesterland was fairly shortlived. 

I remember visiting a Duck Tales themed Baloo-Bear "meet and greet" on that same first trip and being amazed at how cheap and sleazy the construction was. 

The Baloo building was located near what is now the underpass to Toon Town. There were a lot of superficial decorations and doo-dads with the Duck Tales characters, but no real attractions. It seemed to be mostly shows in the amphitheater behind Storybook Land.

I don't know if Toon Town was in development yet or not, it seems that came several years later, but since our next visit was in '99 we found Baloo gone and Roger Rabbit in residence. I'm kind of fuzzy about that whole period.


Nanook said...
The Gummi Glen opened on March 15, 1991 and then returned to the Motor Boat Cruise on November 10th of the same year - Thankfully.

TokyoMagic! said...
JG, do you remember if the Baloo meet 'n greet was on the other side of the berm and the train tracks? For some reason, I have a memory of a large building (probably temporary) sticking up on the other side of the tracks with "Studio" and a number painted on it to make it look like a soundstage. I know Toontown wasn't built until '93, but I'm wondering if the underpass had already been constructed. I don't have a clear memory of that area. We looked around the little town they built in the Small World mall area, but we didn't go into the Baloo meet 'n greet.

JG, Jeez, I don’t recall ever hearing about a Duck Tales presence in Disneyland; but it would have been during that troubled period that you mentioned. If Baloo was there, it must have been a “Rescue Rangers” tie-in, don’t you think? That was a super-popular show that I never watched. Maybe it was just a “Disney Afternoon” thing. I need to look it up.

Nanook, I am assuming that the public response to Gummi Glen was not positive…

TokyoMagic!, wow, that is a very interesting memory! Another piece of Disneyland history that I have never heard of - doubly amazing since it is so relatively recent. But there was definitely a period in which I did not follow what was going on at the park as much, because all the news seemed to be BAD. I wish I could see photos of the area that you described! It definitely sounds like a sort of proto-Toontown.

Dean Finder said...
I've read somewhere that Eisner got fixated on Gummi Bears when he saw that his son was eating them constantly. Not exactly an the basis for a lasting set of characters.

TokyoMagic! said...
I just checked Yesterland and there are a couple pics of the "Disney Afternoon Avenue." Behind the photo of one of the Beagle Boys, you can see a row of miniature buildings. I think I remember buildings along both sides of the walkway. It also states on the Yesterland site that, "The area under the train tracks that was Baloo’s dressing room is now the underpass to Mickey’s Toontown." So I guess I was remembering correctly....sort of. I wonder when exactly that area under the tracks was excavated. I'm assuming that they were planning a definite expansion of the park beyond the berm in that area, but I wonder if it had already been decided that it was going to be Mickey's Toontown at that point?

Dean Finder, that sounds about right. Eisner seemed to put great stock in whatever interested his son, and (according to Tony Baxter) would ask his opinion on attraction concepts to see if they met with his approval. 

TokyoMagic!, huh, this is all new to me. Amazing. I honestly don’t remember any of it except for the Gummi Glen thing.

TokyoMagic! said...
Wasn't Splash Mt. originally going to be called something like "Zip A Dee Doo Dah River Run" until the spawn of Eisner saw the model for it and muttered "Spalsh Mt." and Eisner made them call it that?

Major, some of the buildings for the Disney Afternoon Alley were "interactive" like the buildings in Toontown. The ones that I remember specifically were the could go inside of it and pose for pics behind the bars. Also, guests could ring the bell on the schoolhouse. You are right, it was sort of a mini-prototype Toontown. I actually liked it better than Toontown. At least it went away in less than a year's time. Toontown is still with us 22 years later!

Chuck said...
I was just reading about Eisner & Splash Mountain last night in Sam Gennawey's "The Disneyland Story." The book quotes Tony Baxter in a 1995 "E-Ticket" article, saying Eisner was fixated on getting synergy with the upcoming film "Splash" at the time (1984) and, having just arrived as CEO, didn't yet understand the timeline involved in creating a major attraction. He insisted that the word "Splash" be worked into the title and even suggested an audio-animatronic version of Daryl Hannah waving at people at the end of the ride. While that idea was fortunately abandoned, Baxter credits Eisner with coming up with a much better title for the attraction.

A potential problem with this story is that "Splash" was released on March 9th, 1984 and Eisner didn't become CEO until September, although Baxter may have misremembered specific details (perhaps Eisner was thinking of an impending video release) rather than the overall timbre of the meeting. This was a rather significant meeting, as it was one of the first (perhaps THE first) between WED and Eisner, and both Splash Mountain and Star Tours were greenlighted in the same session. With so much going on in one event it's definitely understandable that some details could become muddled, especially after more than 10 years' passage. It's also possible that he was misquoted by the original interviewer.

Anonymous said...
@Tokyo and @Major.

Now that you mention it, I think the Baloo event might have been in or on the far side of the underpass. I seem to remember walking up hill coming out. It was themed as a dressing room, the visit with Baloo was "between takes", so a sound stage exterior theme makes sense. I don't remember much about the building except that the indoor queue hallway was lined with T-111 plywood (a cheap residential product) and that it all had a crass feel, unlike anything I had ever seen in Disneyland. This makes sense in retrospect since it was all planned to be temporary.

I don't recall any of the other related events except the stage show, which was a welcome relief to tired parent feet, this was a new phenomenon for me. I should go find our pictures, I'm sure they're in an album somewhere. Pretty sure we have pics of the kids with Baloo after an hour in line... My wife is much better about keeping up with that sort of thing. All my pics from youth are in cardboard boxes in the garage.

We enjoyed ToonTown quite a bit on subsequent visits, I think it's nice to have an area with events suitable for the very youngest. Let's face it, a lot of Fantasyland can be pretty scary to toddlers. I wish ToonTown had more trees and was a little less "relentless". It's so heavily themed that it makes me a little dizzy. I skipped it completely on my last visit, too hot, too crowded, etc., but the memories are good.


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