Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Different Lands, June 1963

I'm using up the last two scans from a batch circa "June 1963". They don't really go together, except perhaps as a study in contrasts. But they are both nice pictures!

The rocket traffic has gotten so terrible lately. I remember when this was a nice quiet neighborhood with just a few hovercraft, but now look at it! Darn teenagers. 

This is a pretty nice picture of the Douglas Moonliner, with the Astro Jets whizzing around in the foreground - what else is there to say! 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the park, guests would find themselves in the Living Desert. The dang thing's alive! Can't you feel it? It's like there are millions of tiny, beady black eyes staring at me. The eyes of The Old Ones! Also wild pigs.

I've said it before, but the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland really had that feeling of a tabletop model railroad, blown up to 5/8 scale (or something). I'm not sure I've ever read that this was one of Walt's favorite attractions, but how could it not be??

Speaking of tabletop model railroads, check out Sam Towler's incredible model of the MTTNW - now on view at Walt's Barn in Griffith Park (only one day a month, so look online to make sure it is open if you want to go)! It's worth the trip just to see it.


Nanook said...


I always wondered why the 'ol Douglas (or TWA) Rocket couldn't just as easily take-off from the painted desert. Nature's paint pots seem like a natural for a launching pad-!

And what can I say about that model-?? It's simply marvelous-!

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

Really cool composition in both photos today! The Astro Jets spinning into the frame both add a sense of movement and break up the long vertical line of the rocket. Kind of how the Trylon and Perisphere balanced each other out. And the view through that bit of vegetation makes makes me feel like a little kid peeking through my fingers.

TokyoMagic! said...

As for the first pic, one of the Astro Jets is "whizzing" without anyone controlling it. And have we seen that little square radar thingy before, on the rooftop of the Rocket to the Moon building?

Too bad some billionaire somewhere (like the guy that bought the Ponderosa Ranch) doesn't hire Mr. Towler to build a full scale version of the Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland on his or her property.

Chuck said...

Actually, there are subtle links between the photos. Look to the left of the Tomorrowland Central Ticket Booth in the first photo and you can see an attraction poster for Nature's Wonderland. And in the second photo, the Guardian of Forever at right is an obvious nod to the Star Trek episode "The City On the Edge of Forever," which guest-starred Joan Collins. Miss Collins, in turn, starred in The Road to Hong Kong with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, which featured a rocket ship that looked an awful lot like the Moonliner. Now, if we can only figure out how to connect this to Kevin Bacon...

Speaking of the Moonliner, if you zoom in closely on the cockpit, you can see that quite a bit of grime has built up around the top of the windscreen. It also appears that the front windscreen has become detached from the rest of the canopy. Compare with this 1958 photo for reference.

TM!, I think that would be wonderful, but Mr. Towler already works for a billion-dollar company that has the wherewithal to build a full-scale version of the Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland on their property. Unfortunately, that company has decided to build something else on what would be the perfect location. In fact, it was the perfect location...as many of us can vividly recall. :-)

K. Martinez said...

Love the Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland video and actually have seen it in person. I highly recommend a visit to Walt's Barn if one is in the area. Nice pair of pics today. Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic!, as for the little square radar thingy you called attention to, it's the centerpiece of the "Flying Saucers" attraction.

Stu29573 said...

Note to self- Never challenge Chuck to any "Six Degrees" game.
An an interesting fact about the Moonliner is that it was a 1/3 scale model of the "real thing." I think someone needs to build a full scale model! That would show that upstart Saturn V who's boss, by golly! Wait, the moonliner would be 228 feet tall, but the Saturn V would be 363....Ok, how about a 2X scale Moonliner? 456 feet of Moonliner glory! Bwahahahahahahaha!!! (Entering mad scientist mode)...To be continued...

DrGoat said...

Marvelous is the word for that model Nanook. It's truly a wonderment.
They is a great shot of the Moonliner, grime and all. Looks like they had a short in cockpit ejection module. '63 was kind of an awkward years for me. 13 and full of weird thoughts.

Stefano said...

Sam Towler's model must be more detailed than the one the actual ride was developed from. Look at those geysers erupting! The miniature golf course near the Disneyland Hotel listed the Living Desert among its holes,so you could probably putt a ball through Natural Arch Bridge.

Major, I think in The E-Ticket magazine it was stated that Walt's own favorite attraction was Storybook Land. Surely MTTNW was a close second; it remains my all-time favorite.

Anonymous said...

@Chuck, terrific stream-of-consciousness tie-in, simply masterful.

Walt certainly loved his trains, how could the Nature's Wonderland not be in the top five at least. Makes sense that Storybook Land would be his favorite, though, combines trains and boats.

I was always surprised at how the desert was all sort-of "visible" at once, compared to the Jungle Cruise where the bits were revealed a little at a time. I always wanted to just get out of the train and walk around. How cool would that be?

I am in love with that model, but seeing it in person might make the nostalgia worse.

As cool as the Rocket was, there was always the nagging inability to clearly get in it. One of the slight improvements of Star Tours over the Rocket was the theatrical moment of boarding the speeder, which felt pretty real, even to grumpy, tired-feet Dad like me. Maybe in a future rendition, the Rocket show building would have a couple of the rocket nose cones sticking out of the roof.

Anyway, my kids, now in their 30's, still seem to love Star Tours and Indiana Jones, the rides of their youth, as much as I love Storybook Land.

Thanks Major.


JC Shannon said...

The first photo is a reminder of how much I miss the Moonliner. I liked the TWA livery best, but at least it got a second life as a Douglas rocket. MTTNW is one of my top three faves. That model is mind blowing,and I love it. The dream lives on! Thanks Major for the scans and video!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, with the vertical take-off and landing capabilities, there is no reason why the Moonliner couldn’t land anyplace where there was a good 20-foot circle!

Melissa, I still peek through my fingers, mostly when I’m driving. It’s all too scary! 275 extra points for mentioning the Trylon and Perisphere!

TokyoMagic!, it’s possible that there is another rocket (almost out of frame) without a pilot. How can that be? And I don’t know what that square radar thingy is. Was it used for inter-park communications, sort of a short wave thing? I wonder how much it would cost to build a copy of the MTTNW? Probably at least $5000. By gum, I’ll DO IT! Can I borrow $5000?

Chuck, for someone who is not a big Star Trek fan, you sure draw a lot of comparisons between ST and other stuff! If you look at the pre-1960 version of that same stone arch, it REALLY looks like the Guardian of Forever portal… a weird mashup of natural and phony shapes. Hmmm, what’s the deal with the grime and the busted canopy? Especially since the Daveland photo that you linked to makes the canopy appears to be so solid and smooth? Why isn’t there similar grime buildup on the legs?

K. Martinez, I finally saw the MTTNW model back in March or April, and it was every bit as cool as I had expected. The nice thing is that I felt like I could just stand there and look at it for as long as I wanted, in spite of the rather long line to see it that day (it was the first nice warm weekend, and every parent in L.A. was there with their small children). Thanks for the info about the square thingy!

Stuart Powley, I would never challenge Chuck about anything! Imagine how impressive a full-scale Moonliner would have looked - even though it would have been totally out of scale for the park. And come on, as much as I love the Moonliner, the mighty Saturn V still can’t be beat (in my heart, at least).

DrGoat, ha ha, I’m glad I didn’t have any weird thoughts at the age of 13!

Stefano, I think the model is definitely more elaborate than any scale model that the Disney folks built. You even have tumbling boulders, and the battling elk are duking it out. Interesting, if I ever knew that Walt considered Storybook Land to be his favorite, I had forgotten it! Nature’s Wonderland is definitely at the top of my most-missed list (along with “Adventure Thru Inner Space” and the Peoplemover).

JG, I suppose that the desert being visible all at once was OK; parts of it were divided by the rock formations (to a degree), and there was still “Bear Country” and “Beaver Valley”, and other areas (Rainbow Caverns, of course) that were still hidden from that view. That attraction really was an amazing accomplishment. You should definitely make the trip to Walt’s Barn if you happen to be in L.A. at the right time - it is worth it, in spite of the nostalgia pangs you might feel. I’m assuming that the “real” Moonliner would have had a hatch or two - sealed with explosive bolts, no doubt - and it just wasn’t put on the final version because it would have made it less sleek.

Jonathan, I agree that the TWA paint job is the best, but the Douglas version has grown on me. As you said, it gave the rocket a second life. If you go to Sam Towler’s website, you will get an idea of just how many years he spent building and re-building that incredible model.

Anonymous said...

The MTTNW model is one fantastic achievement considering it was built from scratch. It was great to meet Sam and his model a couple years ago when it was put on display for the 60th anniversary meeting of the Order of the Red Handkerchief, representing those of us who worked the attraction. KS

Melissa said...

The Mine Train/Desert complex makes me think of a lower-tech version of what the Western River Expansion/Thunder Mesa was going to be.

Nanook said...

@ Stefano-

Here's the quote regarding Storybook Land from The "E" Ticket: "...During the project, Walt rarely came to the construction site at Disneyland. He did, however, make periodic visits to the model shop at the Burbank studio. Disney would walk around looking at the models, but would make few comments... this was generally interpreted as approval of the progress. (Ken would later find out that Storybook Land was one of Walt's favorite rides).

nick said...

Wow -- thanks for the embedded film of the NWRR model now at Walt's Barn. It doesn't seem to include the caverns ... is there a plan for that, perhaps?