Monday, April 08, 2019

"Lion King" Main Street Windows

The Lion King (Disney's 1994 animated feature) was a smash hit with critics and audiences. Perhaps you have heard of it? Ultimately it grossed over $400 million domestically - that's more than $800 million in today's spacebucks. Worldwide, adjusted for inflation, it grossed nearly 2 billion dollars. So it's no wonder that it got the Emporium window treatment. Today's photos come to us courtesy of Irene, Bruce, and James; Us Magazine calls them The Dream Team.

I'm sure every kid (and most adults) love those beautiful window dioramas - an Emporium tradition going back to the 1960's at least. They were wonderfully sculpted and lit, and sometimes had limited movement as an added bonus. This first window celebrates the song, "I Just Can't Wait To Be King".

I had a friend who painted backgrounds for The Lion King - his name was Serge Michaels (what an amazing painter, and a nice guy), and he told me that the studio was counting on Pocahontas to be the studios big "prestige" movie, while TLK was considered to be something of a runner up. 

This window shows young Simba being introduced to the joys of eating bugs by his new pals, Timon and Pumbaa.

After a few years living in self-imposed exile, Simba runs into his childhood friend Nala, and they fall in love. Mushy stuff! Can you feel the love tonight, homies? 

In one of the climactic scenes, Simba confronts his evil uncle Scar, and learns that Scar was responsible for his father's death. Then they get their fight on! Guess who wins?

Many thanks to the Dream Team!


Chuck said...

Saw TLK on its opening run at the El Capitan. Anybody else here do that?

There was a short stage show prelude featuring characters from other Disney films like Alladin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid (I'm assuming they were all Disneyland performers). Ariel sand a snippet from "Part of Your World," and when she hit the line "Flipping your fins you don't get too far;
legs are required for jumping, dancing. Strolling along down a - what's that word again?" almost the entire audience yelled "street!!!" The actress nearly lost it laughing.

We stayed that night at the Days Inn at Hollywood & Orange and took the next day off. Walking down Hollywood Blvd the next morning we stumbled on Jeff Bridges getting his star on the Walk of Fame, and Lloyd Bridges kept looking at me while he was giving a speech. I was wearing a "Combat Camera" ball cap, and learned the next day at work that he had done some introduction and narration work for my unit about five or six years earlier. They'd given him an identical hat as a "thank you."

"Simba runs into his childhood friend Nala, and they fall in love." I can remember the exact moment when my eldest, 10 years old at the time, suddenly realized on probably his 50th viewing that Simba and Nala were members of the same pride. "Wait a minute! That means that...ewwww!"

Melissa said...

Oh, wow, these are great! You always know The Dream Team has an eye for the most interesting stuff.

Now I've got Brian Wilson's version of "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" stuck in my head. Not that I mind.

K. Martinez said...

I have never seen this set of Emporium Windows displays. Very nice! "The Lion King" was definitely more enjoyable than "Pocahontas". In fact the only true classics from the Renaissance Era for me were "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin" and "The Lion King". The rest are just okay. Thanks, Dream Team! And thank you too, Major.

Chuck, I like your story of your encounter with Jeff and Lloyd Bridges and the 'Combat Camera' ball cap. Cool story!

DrGoat said...

Great story Chuck. Nothing like being in the right place at the right time. I kind of remember the windows but I do remember The Lion King parade. I thought it was one of the best. Insanely catchy tunes and great performers. Sitting on the curb in front of the Penny Arcade of course.

TokyoMagic! said...

I remember all of those "Lion King" vignettes. Ever since I was a kid, I loved checking out the Emporium windows for the latest displays. It's such a shame that they don't change them regularly, like they used to. How cheap and lazy can they be? Apparently, VERY! I did take a few pics of the windows for "The Little Mermaid" and a few for "Mulan," which I have posted in the past on my blog. I also shot some very brief and very crummy video footage of the window displays for "Pocahontas." I wish I had thought to document all of the windows, every time they were changed!

Chuck, I also went to see "The Lion King" at the El Capitan Theater during it's opening run. I also went there for the openings of the animated features that followed TLK, up until "Pocahontas" and went there for some live action films too. I haven't been there in years though. Oh, and while we were in line out on the street, waiting to see "The Nightmare Before Christmas," we got to talk to Jay Johnson from "Soap" and "Celebrity Charades." Unfortunately, he did not have "Bob" with him.

Thank you for sharing these, Major and The Dream Team!

JC Shannon said...

Disney art is some of the best around and now thanks to Irene, Bruce and James, it is documented for all of us to see. I wonder what happened to the dioramas after their run? Another thing I would like to have in my collection. Thanks to Major for sharing these great scans. Chuck, What a cool thing, seeing The Dude get his walk of fame star. For me seeing Lloyd would have been the big thrill. I was a Mike Nelson, Sea Hunt super fan.

Irene said...

Dream Team - catchy, thanks :)

I used to look forward to what they would do in those windows and I also really enjoyed the Lion King parade, one of the better ones!

Regarding Pocahontas, one day my daughter and I were over at our local park for some event and there were people passing out special passes for a preview movie. Seeing I had a young child in tow, we probably fit the demographic. It was at a local, smallish theater that has since been torn down. Standing in line rumor was going around that this was for a Disney animated feature. My neighbor, who also had a young girl a little older than my daughter, was there and we were watching all the comings and goings. People were coming in limos so we knew it had to be big. Then out comes Michael Eisner! He walked over to the payphone (!) - remember those? - and used it. Hard to believe we didn't have cell phones back then LOL. We got in the theater and were told we were a test group to see the latest, biggest Disney animated feature which of course was Pocahontas. Many of the team that worked on the film were there and had those neat, embroidered jackets they make for these films. Besides Michael Eisner, Roy Disney Jr. was also there! After we were given a speech about everything, we were allowed to go out and get complimentary popcorn and soda. In the lobby Michael E. was speaking with some men and Roy D. was in another group. I finally told my daughter I would regret the opportunity if I never went over and at least said hello and shook their hands - so I did. I firmly believe if you don't strike while the iron's hot, you will regret it. So I went to Michael and thanked him for inviting all of us to this event and all he was doing for the studios and Disney in general at that time. Then I went over and shook Roy's hand. I probably said something inane, but I don't remember LOL. Anyway, it was for sure a highlight in our lives and boy was my brother Bruce jealous when he heard we got to do this and meet them. So did we like the movie? Not really. Frankly we were disappointed but it was beautifully animated.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks to Major and the Dream Team for documenting these.

To this day, I can't stand the soundtrack to this film, my kids played it to death.

The Lion King film was a big influence on their youth and friends; one of the scouts in our troop, a big kid about my son's age, with wild hair, had memorized the Zulu song lyrics delivered by the baboon Rafiki on the rock scene. He would leap up on a big rock at camp and extemporize at the top of his lungs;

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba.
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba.
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
Siyo Nqoba
Ingonyama nengw' enamabala

and then finish up with "The Circle of Life...". Really a laugh to watch.

I did relent long enough to watch the stage version many years later in London. I think I liked the stage version better than the movie, but that's true of many shows.

My first memory of the Emporium windows was for "101 Dalmatians", which we had just watched before that trip to Disneyland. These windows were (and are) such a great idea. I remember Macy's and F.A.O. Schwartz having animated Christmas displays, so these just fit right into that tradition. It's no surprise that they were discontinued during the "Mordor" years of the Pressler regime.

Great stories, everyone. Thank you.



Most of the Empiorium animated windows were placed in storage - but often decorating at both parks would use parts of them for other displays. For example segments of the MICKEY’S CHRISTMAS CARROL were used inside Mickey’s Christmas Challet - many figures are still on display inside the upper displays of The Storbook Store ( now the toy section ) of disneyland’s Emporium. segments of CINDERELLA, BAMBI , FOX AND THE HOUND and THE RESCUERS were used for a display advertising Disney Home Video “take the magic home” in the 1980’s.
When the DISNEYANNA shops opened at Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 1976 some of the first collectibles sold to guests were figures from the Emporium windows.
When Disneyland was clearing its storage warehouses backstage to prepare for the new parking structure road re-routing for DCA construction, Disneyland sold of props and figures from the Emporium windows thru Disney’s AUCTIONIERS on EBAY in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Full scenes , miniature props and animated figures were sold at the MICKEY’S ATTIC stores during the OFFICIAL DISNEYANA CONVENTIONS Disney would hold alternately at the Contemporary Resort and the Disneyland Hotel.
Years ago at the Disney Christmas parties they would do fund raisers for a charity where you would buy unmarked boxes of varying sizes ranging in groups of of 1.00 boxes , 5.00 boxes 10-25.50 and up . You wouldn’t know what you were getting - a friend of mine got a few BLACK HOLE figures from the Emporium windows ( I got a few boxes of submarine voyage fish!!)
Anyway much of those Emporium Windows have “ gone with the wind” since the 70’s. I’m sure many are still in storage by dusney - never to be seen again.

Melissa said...

...and then finish up with "The Circle of Life..."

There was a colony of feral cats in the woods behind my Grandma's house. We used to feed them, and worked with the SPCA to get them all TNR'ed*. They'd all gather in a circle around one big bowl of food, and we'd sing, "It's the circle of cats...,"

(Or if we were in more of a Johnny Cash mood, it'd be "I fell into a burnin' ring of cats...")

*Trapped, neutered, & released

Nanook said...

@ Chuck-
I was among those who saw TLK @ the El Capitan Theatre. And in spite of all the love and (undoubtedly) millions of dollars spent to make the venue first class and unique [including a theatre pipe organ], it remains a disappointing place to actually ‘view the films’. (The reasons are for discussion on another forum).

One might see how the folks at Disney would presume “Pocahontas” to be a “prestige” film, but clearly that was not to be. I want to say I attended a studio invite for that film at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, and thinking what a bore the movie ultimately was. Well, they can’t all be winners, Disney marketing and cheerleading notwithstanding.

Thanks Major - and The Dream Team.

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-
Don’t you just know that was Johnny Cash’s first set of lyrics, that for some reason was superseded by “... of fire”.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa, I will never again be able to listen to Johnny Cash without hearing your version instead.

Weeping with laughter over here.


Major Pepperidge said...

Mike Cozart, I always wondered about the figures because once in a while some of them would show up in an auction - it made me fear that all of them had been sold off in some sort of warehouse purge. Thanks for the info about how some were sold at the Disneyana stores, wow, what neat souvenirs those would be! I won a few things from Disney’s “Auctioneers” thing on eBay, but nothing too extraordinary. I remember some figures from “The Black Hole” in a recent Van Eaton auction!

Melissa, ha ha, I was just about to ask what “TNR’ed” meant. Sounds like you were doing a nice thing for the local kitties!

Nanook, to be honest, I don’t remember the El Capitan theater experience that much. I DO seem to recall thinking that it wasn’t quite as over-the-top ornate inside as I expected, but… memories are fuzzy. And I agree with you, Pocahontas is kind of a bore; you can see how much talent and work went into it, but there’s just something missing. Maybe children of a certain age connected with it more than I did.

Nanook, your comment reminded me of a thing that Roger Ebert once said (and I’m paraphrasing), “When Johnny Cash sang a song, it stayed sung”.

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, I didn’t even see “The Lion King” in the theater at all. I waited for the home video release. Wah-wahhhh. The only time I’ve been to the El Capitan was to see “Nightmare Before Christmas”, and I wanted to see the miniature sets that were on display. But the line to see those was enormous, and moved very slowly… I finally gave up. I’ve heard about those stage shows, which seem to harken back to the early days of the old movie palaces; for instance, “King Kong” had some sort of stage revue before the movie aired. Too bad Lloyd Bridges didn’t talk to you! I was half expecting your story to go there. As for Simba and Nala, I’m just going to believe that Nala was an exchange student.

Melissa, it’s funny, I was wondering if Brian Wilson’s version of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” to be slow and melancholy. But it’s upbeat like the original!

K. Martinez, the problem with Pocahontas is that it almost felt like it should have been live action. The only reason Meeko and Flit were there was to justify the animation (or so I believe). Grandmother Willow and some of the more poetic scenes could have been done with practical effects.

DrGoat, maybe I’ll meet a celebrity when I wear my Bass Pro Shops hat?

TokyoMagic!, it is kind of amazing how they changed the windows all the time in the old days… it must have been a pricey endeavor. Kids and adults seemed equally fascinated by the little vignettes, and I’m sure my mom and dad had to prod us to get moving and not stand there all day. I especially loved them at night. I saw a preview of “Pocahontas” in Burbank when it wasn’t finished. Eisner was there, and Leonard Maltin was sitting in front of me. There was an earthquake before the movie started, but everybody just laughed and the preview went on as planned.

Jonathan, since my friend Serge painted backgrounds for TLK, I wondered who painted the BGs for these scenes. Did they bring in a Disney artist from the animation studios? The quality is pretty good.

Irene, wow, that’s a neat story about getting picked to go to that screening! Roy Disney, I don’t think I ever saw him in person. I remember pay phones, and thank goodness that cell phones replaced them, ha ha. Was your screening in Burbank? Do you remember if Michael was nice, or was he just waiting for you to go away?? What a great experience you had, and you’re right, you have to strike when the iron’s hot.

JG, are you telling me you actually know those Swahili (or whatever) lyrics?? If so, I am super impressed. Most people just make up gibberish noises. I saw the stage version with my gf at the time, and I dunno, the stage craft was neat, but I can’t say it was a transformative experience.

Melissa said...

I'm pretty sure the only first-run Disney animated feature I've seen in the theater is Mulan. I know I saw other Disney movies at the drive-in as a kid, but they were re-releases and mostly live-action.


MAJOR: in the beginning (1968) the first Emporium movie windows debuted - they were merely painted Woden flats . The debut film: The One and Only Original Family Band. a small group at Disneyland made the animated windows (one of the display designers who specialized in the motors for these figures designed the movements for all the characters in Knott’s Berry Tales - Rolly Crump knew him from his days at WED. Eventually the animated window design team got pretty big and were moved to WDW. They built 2 of everything one complete set for each American park. In down time the teams even created duplicate figures for direct sale at the Disneyanna shops - they would be rarer than a limited edition where they might choose to make 2-3 extra. These made for sale figures were NOT animated but static. I believe the Lion King vignettes were the last to be made “in house” by Disney . Outside vendors created the ones after. Another Disney art form Disney abandoned .

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, I saw “Mulan” in the theater too, and liked it better than Pocahontas. I think I saw “Hercules” in a movie theater; for a while I went to see all the Pixar features, but at some point the quality dropped and I haven’t done that for a while.

Mike Cozart, gosh I wish I could see photos of the flats for “The One and Only Original Family Band”. And thanks for the date of 1968, I didn’t know that’s when the tradition started. It’s funny that something so low-tech - dioramas with limited movement - can be so captivating, but I really do think that the Emporium windows were works of art. It makes me sad that Disney doesn’t do their own sculpts anymore; like you said, another abandoned art form.

Irene said...

Major - the theater was right here where I live in Lakewood! Corner of Carson/Paramount. It was torn down for a bowling alley and a Mervyns Department Store, now Kohls. Michael Eisner was very nice and seemed pleased that one of us "normal" people came over to speak with him.

Anonymous said...

@Chuck, no I did not memorize the (Zulu, not Swahili) lyrics, one of my scouts did so.

I don't know if he did it by ear from the soundtrack(the way ABBA sings in English) or if he researched it and learned it from print, but he sounded *exactly* like Rafiki in the film.

The lyrics I quoted yesterday were from Quora, which specializes in the answers to questions that almost no one ever asks.

In any case, it was an impressive performance.

@Mike Cozart, thanks for the background on this favorite little corner of Disneyland. It is sad that Disney no longer makes these decorations, but I suppose they are all off figuring out what science fiction media property to ransack next.