Monday, February 28, 2011

Universal Studios

Let's take another trip to the original Universal Studios, and take a gander at some scenes from the old backlot tour.

This first image gives a great sense of the art of illusion in movies; with just a bit of extra set dressing (some garbage, for instance!), this would be a very convincing street in Old New York, full of speakeasies, punch-drunk boxers, mobsters with tommyguns, and kids playing stickball. The level of architectural detail reminds me (in a way) of Disneyland's Main Street, which was designed and built by people with years of movie making experience.

You won't find a real stagecoach ride at Universal Studios; instead they had this stationary coach placed in front of a rotating painted canvas. This trick was probably used back in the days of the silent pictures, but it seems that even movies from the 30's were using rear-projection. Still, it's a fun photo op, and an old-fashioned counterpart to this version.

I'm guessing we're supposed to be in Central America, or maybe South America (those arches and red tiles) - - some tropical location, at any rate. I can already feel the humid air, hear the cries of howler monkeys, and the buzz of mosquitos. In fact, I might actually have malaria, that's how good this scene looks. Let's find the local cantina and have a glass of mezcal!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Town Square, May 1960

Today's photos have it all. Action! Suspense! Romance! Betrayal! Well, OK, they have none of those things. But I wanted them to, I really did.

Here's the Opera House, where you could go watch the entire Wagner "Ring Cycle" from beginning to end (about 15 hours, folks) - performed by an animatronic Abraham Lincoln. And before you ask, YES, he wore one of those hats with the horns. Frankly, I pity all of you who never had the chance to experience it. (Water fountain alert)

The Imagineers used something called "forced perspective" to make Main Street look bigger than it really was. It's tricky, but you can sort of tell in this photo that the castle is only about 12 feet high, which makes it seem further away.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Indian Village

When Disneyland was in its very earliest planning stages, Walt Disney had the idea of a steamboat river ride; and along the river, guests would be able to see all kinds of interesting tableaus. Among these would be a friendly Indian Village. One of his Imagineers suggested that a more interesting idea would be a "koo-koo-bananas Indian Village". He was let go that very day. True story! I can't help wondering about that koo-koo-bananas Indian Village, and how cool it would have been.

Yep. There it is again!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Random Friday

Here are a few leftuggies, orphan photos that need a home and a little love.

Let's start things off with a bonk by feasting our tired, withered eyes upon this picture of Tomorrowland '67. " *Gasp*... eyes.... unwithering... soul filling with hope... will to live... REVIVED!" (Please read that sentence in your best Shatner voice). Golly Mabel, the combination of the Rocket Jets and the Peoplemover is outasight. As you can see, the Peoplemover lacks the safety bars that prevented riders from falling out (?!?). In the background, a few folks are walking up the ramp of the Carousel of Progress building.

This photo is curiously devoid of sunshine, rendering Frontierland in silvery-gray tones, like an old hand-tinted daguerreotype. The picture was taken from the Swiss Family Treehouse. The Kodak Instamatic (or whatever) focused on the branches and strange red leaves of the Martian tree that the Swiss Family chose as their summer home.

I think that the Teacup ride would be better if the cups were filled with pipin' hot tea. It would be like a spinning hot tub. The key to becoming a millionaire is thinking of something that the public didn't know it wanted, and I think I've just done that. You're welcome, Walt Disney Company.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Madurodam, August 1964

I know your secret. You really visit this blog on the odd chance that I may post photos of Madurodam, in The Netherlands. You actually hate it when I post photos of Disneyland day after day, you weep when you see photos from the New York World's Fair, you vomit when I share images from Knott's Berry Farm.

Well, today's your lucky day!

This first image is especially charming, with a little boy entranced by the scene before him. He's like Godzilla - remember that movie where Godzilla goes to that wedding? You know, when he falls in love with Mothra (who was a girl, after all) who was one of the maids of honor? They wind up slow dancing to "Three Times A Lady", which destroys Tokyo, as usual. I'm getting weepy just thinking about it.

Peering over the rooftops of a royal palace, we can see a grand procession of some sort going on...

Perhaps it's coronation day, or the king's (or queen's) birthday. Or it's just an excuse to be seen in that sweet golden coach. Let's see what this baby can do!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Main Street, January 1974

Today's photos are the first in a batch of images from 1974 that you will be seeing on GDB. So fans of Disneyland in the 70's might like them especially! They are dated January 1974, but of course they could actually be from December 1973.

A girl and her little brother pose near the town square cannon... the park must have opened shortly before this photo was snapped. See how low the sun still is in the east! Christmas wreaths can be seen in the background, as well as the the Preview Center, where you could get a glimpse of artwork and models for coming attractions at the park.

The conditions were tricky for photography I guess; less exposure would leave the shadows inky black. As it is, the west side of Main Street (and the castle beyond) are practially blown out by the brilliant early morning sunshine. But it's still a neat photo, you can almost feel the chill in the air (which would probably be gone soon in spite of it being December).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monorail! New York World's Fair

Did you that "Monorail" is Latin for "river horse"? Oh wait, that's "hippopotomatomus". I don't know about you, but I am always confusing the two. You have to be some kind of Alfred Einstein or something.

Anyway, there was a spiffy li'l Monorail at the New York World's Fair. You've seen it on this blog before, mebbe. In this first photo we see one of the river horses sitting at the station, which was a very cool translucent, futuristic structure where a superhero should live. Not Batman though, he's into caves. I don't judge.

The AMF Monorail was powered by four "D" batteries, which had to be replaced twice a day.

Here's a neat photo taken at the "golden hour" (named after Sir Albert Golden); it gives you a groovy view of two Monorails (see the one in the distance, silly?), as well as a general idea of what the station looked like when bathed in orange light. The monorail is passing a circus tent, as all good monorails do.

I'll bet this post uses the word "Monrail" more than any other. Monorail!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Panorama Postcards, Part 3

It took me long enough, but I am finally posting the last group of wonderful Panorama postcards from the 1950's. See part one HERE, and part two HERE.

Card # J-18 features this neat view of the castle; perhaps it is a trick of the lens, but the moat looks a lot bigger here than it did later. To the right... a whole lotta nothin'. No Matterhorn or Plastic Home of the Future. Snow Hill is there and the Skyway can just be seen.

Card # J-19; Casey Jr. and the Storybook Land canal boats. The shore looks so barren, but the miniature scenes (such as Toad Hall) have been put in place, so at least there is something to look at.

Card # J-20 has this fantastic image of Monstro, it's one of my favorites. Years ago one of these cards sold for almost $200 on ebay... but I'll bet you can find one for a lot less today.

J-21 features the Mark Twain, and a Frontierland that looks surprisingly vast. Vesey Walker and the Disneyland Band crash the party over on the Twain's bow.

And lastly, card # J-22, with Main Street Station, the E.P. Ripley, and lots and lots of attraction posters! I'm wondering if the photographer stood on top of a large truck to get this elevated view?

I hope you've enjoyed these vintage postcard views!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Village

Well, it's happened: I have officially run out of things to say about the Friendly Indian Village.

Instead, I would like all of you to know about the wonders of Amway cleaning products. Juuuuust kidding! I'm a kidder.

Those tipis look kind of dingy - nothing that Amway's new tipi cleaner (in a handy pump-spray bottle) can't handle.

Gold City, Part Deux

Two posts today? Why? Because there was some weird screwup with Blogger, that's why. So I'm leaving this one here - it's not that great anyway.

OK, I admit that our return to Gold City (see the first post here) is a bit of a disappointment; Our photographers took more photos of the chair lift up than they did of the park itself.

Still, you get a feel for the modest little western town. It looks a bit strange, there's no horizon visible. Buildings just end at the top of the hill and then... nothing. To our right is the Haunted Shack; raise your hands if you would want to visit that attraction. I wonder if it was similar to Knott's Berry Farm's shack? To the left of that is the undertaker's. Beyond that... well, I can't really make out what the other store fronts are supposed to be.

This photo is from the same lot, but it must have been taken later (or earlier?) in the day; notice the change in the shadows.

This log cabin was the only other thing that was photographed. Why? I'm sure everyone looking at this picture is wondering why THEY didn't think of using corn as a decorative element. It's not too late, be the first person on your block.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Judge Roy Bean's, Knott's Berry Farm

Among the structures seen in Knott's Berry Farm's ghost town is the Jersey Lilly, a reproduction of the saloon that belonged to Judge Roy Bean. Bean is one of the old west's most famous characters, a rascal who had a reputation as a "hanging judge" - even though he is only known to have hanged 2 people. If you read about him, he seems like a Mark Twain character come to life.

Here's a photo of the original Jersey Lilly (named after Lillie Langtry, the famous British actress). That's Roy on the porch, with the hat and the white beard. The Knott's version of his shack is pretty close - it's fun that the angle is nearly identical to the photo above.

Here's another murky photo - possibly from the late 1940's or very early 1950's. It appears that the streets were not paved at this point.

And just for the hell of it, here's an old photo of the Wells Fargo office. It looks like this one one of the structures that was there strictly for appearances. I believe that you would catch a ride on the Wells Fargo stagecoach elsewhere.

Yo yo yo, homies... I will be away for most of this holiday weekend, but will check in periodically when I can! There will be new posts, naturally. See y'all when I get back.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Casey Jr. & Storybook Land, January 1974

I have two classic views of Fantasyland for you today, starting with this lovely shot of Casey Jr. as he makes his way through Storybook Land. The big trees and lush plantings have matured and add so much; compare this photo to a 1956 view to see the contrast. How can anyone not love this little train that is so much like an oversized toy?

Nearby, Monstro yawns his perpetual yawn. This is when he still looked like a badass instead of a big blue plush toy!

If you've ever seen examples of photos that have an artificial "tilt shift" effect added (like one that I tried before), I thought that the Monstro pic would be a good one to try. The effect simulates the very short focal length that you might get when taking a photo of a tabletop model. This one worked OK, but I have another one coming up that worked a lot better!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Heart Jungleland!

Long-time readers of this blog know a little about Jungleland in Thousand Oaks, California. If you're not too busy, see some older posts here and here, for a little history.

This first photo (circa 1959) is interesting to me; it's a great view of the entrance to the park. Thanks to the big sign, we know that we haven't accidentally pulled into the parking lot of the ostrich farm that was right up the street. Jungleland was certainly around before 1959, so I'm not sure why the sign says "Now Open - The Future Home of JUNGLELAND". Does anybody else have a guess? Meanwhile, check out the tail fins on that car!

This cute little girl appears in a couple of photos that will eventually appear on this blog. Here she is riding on the same mechanical baby elephant that was seen in a previous photo.

I'll have more Jungleland for you in the future!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Beautiful Fantasyland, 1958

I love this first photo of the classic Fantasyland; there isn't any one thing about it that gets to me, rather it is the sum of all the parts. The guests in their 50's clothes, Fantasyland itself (of course), the employee (restaurant worker?) to the right, the crazy trash can, the old mouse-ear balloons with the black ears, and the color.

I'm sure we've all read about these animatronic swans with the laser beams in their eyes. They are as graceful as they are deadly!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Queen Mary, Long Beach

The Cunard Line's "Queen Mary" sailed the seas from 1936 through 1967, setting a few speed records for crossing the Atlantic, as well as ferrying troops during WWII (painted battleship gray). By the 1960's, her future was uncertain; but the city of Long Beach, California put in a successful bid to keep the ship and renovate it as a tourist destination.

Here's a neat photo from December 1968, showing the QM in Long Beach more than two years before she would reopen for guests. As you can see, her familiar three-funnel silhouette has been altered; the funnels were removed to facilitate the removal of the forward engine room, the boilers, both generator rooms, and the water softening plant - basically everything below "C" deck. It turned out that the funnels were mostly rusted out, and only held together by many coats of paint, so replicas had to be manufactured.

To keep the ship stable, large quantities of mud were pumped into the now-empty lower portions! Did you know that the Queen Mary was offically deemed a building and not a ship by the U.S. Coast Guard, since her propellers and machinery were removed?

This photo was taken 8 years later. Permanent gangways were built (visible to the left) so that you wouldn't have to be flung aboard via a giant slingshot. We can also see an ocean, but I forget which one. Who can keep track! See that oil tanker? It's actually a whale, able to appear as an oil tanker in order to protect itself in the wild. Nature is magical.

Too bad you nobody is standing next to this propeller, it's hard to tell how big it is; the average person's head would not have reached the bottom of the lower blades. Anyway, the QM had four of those babies. There used to be a large tank on board the ship, like a giant swimming pool, and you could look down in it to see another propeller.

I've got more Queen Mary photos to share!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sub Lagoon, January 1974

Frontierland has the Rivers of America. But the only other considerable body of water at Disneyland is the Sub Lagoon in Tomorrowland. I loved passing over the lagoon in a Skyway bucket at night, watching the gray subs cruising silently around, trying to imagine what the passengers on that sub were seeing at that very moment.

But it looked great in the daytime too! As you can see here. Little coral islands and prominences, hints of colorful sea stars (remember when we called them "star fish"?), anemones, shells, and other sea life - - it was a rippled preview of the first portion of the attraction.

Here's an unusal angle taken from the Peoplemover at the eastern edge of the park looking west (there's Cinderella's Castle from Storybook Land). You get a sense of the complex network of tracks from both the Peoplemover and the Monorail, and even the Autopia in the distance.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Walt & RCA

Today's interesting post comes to us courtesy of blog reader Andrea, who was nice enough to pass along some wonderful photos and text.

Andrea says: Quick background: My Father-In-Law, Mickey McGuire, was a renowned car advertising photographer for 30 years. In 1997 a man named Jim Williams wrote a coffee table book, "Boulevards Photographic, The Art of Automobile Advertising", about Mickey, his partner and their company.

I wanted to share with you one of the pages in Mickey McGuire's section of the Shooter's Gallery. Attached are 2 photos from that page. The text on that page reads:

SUBJECT: Walt Disney
LOCATION: Disneyland
CAMERA/FILM: 8 X 10 View Camera, Ektachrome Transparency

This obviously isn't a car picture, but it was a result of some extra work I did while on an experimental shoot for Ford. J. Walter Thompson, which was Ford's advertising agency, also had the RCA Victor account. The people on the RCA business had come up with a theme line, "Color so real you think you're there," and asked for my help in finding a way to illustrate it. I ended up taking all of the guts out of a television set and used it to frame scenes which I set up at various locations.

The client loved the results and since it was my idea, I got the actual shooting assignment. And the first ad they wanted shot was to be in Disneyland with Walt Disney himself. I'd grown up with Walt Disney as one of my heroes. So when I was asked to take a picture of him, I was probably the most nervous photographer in the world. I shot him with his many colorful Disney characters. It was quite an experience to set it up and to control the background to emphasize what was going on behind the TV screen. I gelled everything but the picture tube area and used some grease to make the background a little bit softer.

Mr. Disney turned out to be a patient and understanding model. I was a young man in my mid-twenties and little did I know I'd be making history. This was one of the last pictures made of Walt Disney who died shortly after the ad ran. Disney characters (copyright) Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Used by permission from Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Here's the finished picture!

And here's a neat look at the early-morning preparations for the taking of that photo. There are lot of characters waiting around who never wound up in the final picture (particularly Snow White, Alice, and Peter Pan). I'll bet Mickey McGuire and his crew had been there since long before sunrise.

Andrea adds: Sadly, Mickey passed away about a month ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Thank you for letting me share a part of our McGuire family history with you.

No, Thank YOU, Andrea, for sharing these wonderful pictures and personal account from Mickey McGuire. Here's a closeup of Walt sitting in the comfy chair, reading to two little girls (I wonder if they still remember that day?).

Andrea wanted to be sure to credit Jim Williams for the text!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two From Adventureland, 1958

Here are a couple of nice early views from Adventureland!

There's the Bazaar, which was probably full of all kinds of rubber skulls, snakes, shrunken heads, and other vital goods. "Bazaar" is my second favorite word with two a's in a row ("aardvark" is my very favorite). The detail on the few buildings in Adventureland is pretty sweet, considering that Walt ran low on money by the time he got to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

The Jungle Cruise. You know it, you love it. I am fascinated by the ever-changing costumes worn by the skippers and other Jungle Cruise cast members. Today it's yellow turtlenecks, white pants, and skipper hats.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Living Desert, March 1961

I remember watching "The Living Desert" (Walt Disney's True-Life Adventure) in class when I was a kid; they showed us many of the True-Life films, and what could be better than getting to watch movies in school? (For some reason we also watched "Monkeys Go Home", which as far as I can recall had no educational value whatsoever). Looking at photos of Nature's Wonderland and its Living Desert, I can't help recalling the images of rattlesnakes, tarantulas, kangaroo mice, time-lapse flowers, and other wonders from Walt's first full-length nature movie.

Was this photo taken from the Disneyland Railroad? You can see a geyser erupting through the natural arch - surely the Imagineers intended it to be seen from this vantage point.