Friday, January 31, 2014

Special Guest Photos - Universal Studios, 1971

Today, Chuck Hansen comes to the rescue again by sharing his personal photos from a July 1971 visit to Universal Studios! Chuck has also provided some great info to accompany each picture, making my job easy.

First up is this awesome picture of Chuck and his mom (she's wearing a dress that she made) standing near three gigantic books featuring titles of recent movies (though "Slaughterhouse Five" wouldn't come out until 1972).

"The next slide takes a look at the back side of New York Street, which is located to the left of the previous photo.  It looks completely different from the back side of water.  In this picture, you can really see how the sets are little more than facades.  The King Kong attraction will be built in 1986 on this side of the large facade in the center right of the photo.  While the buildings are significantly different since a 2008 fire blazed through this area, you can still see the current street layout if you know what you're looking for."

This next one is a little bit blurry, but I wanted to include it anyway. Chuck says it is "…. a shot of the Colonial Mansion.  Built for the 1927 silent version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," in 1971 it sat at the entrance to Colonial Street, which was then located behind the New York Street area along the northern edge of the property.  It was moved (along with many of its neighbors) in 1981 to a cul de sac at the back end of a new Colonial Street, located farther south and east on the backlot where Laramie Street had previously been located.  It was removed and destroyed in 2005 as part of an expansion of Wisteria Lane for the television program "Desperate Housewives".

"The location of (this next photo) is a bit of a mystery to me.  I'm guessing that based on the background, the rest room signs, and this map ( that it was probably taken near the tram boarding area near the entrance, but I really don't know.  Regardless of its precise location, it's nice to see Woody Woodpecker represented in a theme park.  And there's my mom's groovy dress again.  It was one of several she made the previous year before meeting my dad in Hawaii for his mid-tour R&R while he was in Vietnam."

"The next photo should bring back memories.  It's of me at Prop Plaza, holding a giant foam boulder.  I don't remember this part of this particular trip (I was only two and a half, so the flash flood and the "Ironside" set stood out more to me), but I do remember later visits to this area."

This next slide "... looks down into the backlot from the tram as it descends from the Upper Lot. ….One of the nice things about the old tour was the scenic drive down the hill, giving you a great overview of the back and front lots.  In these first two shots you can see a lot of Hollywood history that has been lost to various fires and redevelopment over the years.  The tram experience was less about thrills and more about seeing the sets, and there were a lot more of them in 1971". 

"…It's a typically smoggy summer day in LA.  The Warner Brothers' Studio and its iconic water tower, the later home of the Animaniacs, are visible in the distance acros the LA River Flood Control Channel.  In the middle right, you can see the original Spartacus Square set from the 1960 Stanley Kubrick/Kirk Douglas film of the same name, with Little Europe to the left.  The clay-tiled, orange-colored structures mark Mediterranean Square, built after the 1967 fire, and will serve as part of Tortuga in "POTC: Dead Man's Chest" in another 35 years. The castle in front of that is the Tower of London, built for the 1939 Boris Karloff/Basil Rathbone vehicle of the same name that marked Vincent Price's first role in a horror film.  The long, curved Western set bordering the right side of Mediterranean Square and the Tower is Denver Street".

"Following the contour of Denver Street across the picture, we can see the tops of the sets for Six Points, Texas, so-called because the design was supposed to allow simultaneous production on six silent Westerns.  Beyond Six Points is Park Lake, still containing the sternwheeler at this point in history.  The bridge built for the 1968 musical "Sweet Charity" is visible across the entrance to the Black Lagoon, but the Red Sea tram crossing won't be added on this side of it for another two years.  To the left of the sternwheeler you can see a portion of the apartments built for the short-lived NBC 1964-65 programing bloc "90 Bristol Court," which consisted of three separate sitcoms set in the same housing complex".

"In the extreme lower left you can catch a glimpse of Prop Plaza, which was a midway stopover on the tram tour with a few restaurants and a large collection of props set up on a large concrete platform with a great overview of the backlot (the photo of my mom and I and the giant books was shot here, not at the Upper Lot as I had previously assumed).  Visible in this photo is a stagecoach and rolling backdrop.  Dad could set up his Super 8 movie camera while you climbed up in the stagecoach and then a push of a button (or maybe a drop of a quarter) started the backdop moving, the wheels spinning, and the stagecoach rocking for your own bit of "backlot magic."  Prop Plaza is no longer used as part of the tram tour, but the location is still used occasionally for shoots or as a "base camp" for productions; the "Desperate Housewives" cast and crew used it for this purpose until 2012".

MANY THANKS to Chuck for all of his research (it was more than I would have done on my own photos, that's for sure! I'm lazy) and for sharing these great pictures of Universal Studios. There will be a "part 2" coming up soon.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Pair From 1956

I like this first photo showing a Lincoln-log Frontierland Trading Post, flanked by the "Miniature Horse Corral". There is a tiny sign near that trash can, I wish I knew what it said! "Keep off the Grass", probably. The trees are still so little that the castle can be plainly seen - but they will grow pretty fast.

If you like slightly "off" compositions, than this one is for you. "I want to capture that cute circus train on film - but I also like that umbrella". An artist is constantly making choices. I covet that humble rest rooms/telephone sign (for some reason)! 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jungleland USA, August 1963

Good old Jungleland USA (in the friendly town of Thousand Oaks, CA) is just a memory now, but I am happy to have visited this humble animal park when I was a tadpole.

Sure, you can fill your park with bloodthirsty lions and tigers, or playful, intelligent elephants, and even a giraffe or two. But what do people really want? Goats. Not even cyber-goat - - just plain old goats. Awwww, I have to admit that they are kind of cute (in spite of their freaky eyes). 

Of course those goats aren't friendly for no reason; they are hoping that you have dropped a nickel in one of the nearby goat-chow dispensers. There is nothing more delicious than goat chow! Except maybe stewed goat.

There's one of the dispensers now. One handful for the goats, one for me. Dad needs a smoke after all of that Fun With Ungulates. "Dad, can we keep him? I'll call him "Goaty", and I'll brush him and feed him every day".

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Murk McGurk, March 1958

A message for all of you who are planning on taking photos in 1958… don't bother unless you have plenty of sunlight! If you do, your results will resemble today's murky offerings.

I wanted to include this one because, even in its shadowy form, it's kind of neat, with the Skyway chalet (before the trees around it got so big) and the bucket overhead. As I write this, the chalet is still in Disneyland, but it is slated for removal. It's a bit of a bummer, but you can hardly see it behind all of the overgrown trees - I'm sure most people walk right past it and don't even know it's there. Hopefully there are plans to replace it with something useful and or beautiful. The dude near the light pole has one of those classic popcorn boxes in hand.

And now, a picture even murkier and McGurkier! It was taken from the Skyway as it passed over Holiday Hill (soon to be the site of the Matterhorn). Down below is the new Monsanto Plastic Home of the Future, and some bits of Main Street USA.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Busy Castle, 1957

I admit it; when I see that I have yet another photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle, I roll around on the floor and rant. Maybe I need a vacation? But today's first photo is pretty fun with all of the authentic vintage humans! Oh the humanity. I love the striped ice cream vendor's cart - business seems to be slow for him on this chilly day.

Do you think that the image was supposed to be a portrait of this family? Or is it just a coincidence that they are all facing toward the photographer? Or maybe gramps (to the right) was the star.

This one is from a different lot, but I figured I'd stick with the castle theme. You might recognize grandma and the two boys gazing down upon the swans. 

Let's zoom in, just for the hell of it. Any idea what that blue/green roofline is, to the right of the trio's heads?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Unrejected Rejects

It's time to unload more rejects! Blurry, mostly. I feel like I'm "getting away with something" by posting stuff that would ordinarily wind up in the trash.

I was so happy when I held this slide up to the light for the first time. Oh boy, a sweet (and early) view of the Swiss Family Treehouse! But… as you can see, there are problems. It still looks "just OK", with the late afternoon sunlight, but if only it was crisp and clear.

This view of the abandoned Monkey Temple would have been nice; the scruffy "plush" monkeys can be seen (barely) atop that broken column - they weren't there for long. I'm noticing the white patches on the column that look like bird droppings or efflorescence (minerals leaching out of the stone), but it is cool to think that some world-weary craftsman dabbed that on with a paintbrush because he just knew what to do.

The next two are from the same lot - again, they're not terrible, but the photographer didn't have a steady hand. The Friendly Indian Village sits near the banks of the river; a pet moose or elk (or whatever it is) stops for a drink in the area where worker's motor boats could tie up.

And finally, here's a not-too-interesting view of Fort Wilderness. (It's still more interesting than what is there now).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

San Francisco, 1943

Today I have two neat photos from San Francisco, taken in 1943 - right in the middle of the second world war.

After the great earthquake of 1906 destroyed so much of San Francisco, people thronged to the bars, cafes and nightclubs that could be found on Pacific Street (earning it the nickname "Terrific Street"). By World War Two, the place was already on the decline; in an effort to revitalize the area, two large signs reading "International Settlement" were erected. I love the sign advertising "Tire Ration Service".  

Here's a postcard that must predate the photo. In 1957, the film Pal Joey starring Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak was shot on that street. Not long afterwards, the clubs and bars started to close, replaced with offices and warehouses.

Doing a street-view search on Google Maps shows this contemporary view. The building on the left still looks very much like it did in the first picture.

And how can you visit San Fran without seeing a cable car? This one is on Powell Street. Notice the brick-lined street - and the awesome old automobiles.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fantasyland, October 1962

Here are two nice images of Fantasyland circa 1962; the cloudy white sky acted as a giant light diffuser, eliminating harsh shadows (and, curiously, suffusing the air with a lemony scent).

I really like this photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle; this is one of those instances in which the people in the picture are a big part of the appeal for me. Just look at 'em! They're more fun than Sea Monkeys™.  The castle is undergoing some sort of refurbishment (take a look at this other one in 1958).

Zooming in a bit, you can see a few workmen; this is from the brief time that the castle was clad in aluminum siding. What were they thinking? I'm sure Walt would have preferred that guests never see scaffolding on the castle, but extensive repairs and repainting probably took many days, if not weeks. Notice that the lady to right has folded her brand-new souvenir guidebook in half. Bad, bad lady.

This one is nice too, with the Teacups, Skyway, Matterhorn, and a bit of the old fa├žade of "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride". I know that the ground is actually concrete slurry that has been colored; but my brain keeps wanting to interpret the turquoise greenish-blue as a shallow pool of water. Stupid brain!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nature's Wonderland

I'm sure that most GDB readers never had the pleasure of riding the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. Heck, it's been gone since 1977; I rode it, but my memories are foggy.

Here are the mysterious, colorful "paint pots" of the desert. They're pretty, but don't get so much as a drop of that colored stuff on you. You'll go mad! Drinking it is OK though.

Speaking of drinking, these antelopes have gathered near the local watering hole to talk about the recent episode of "The Beverly Hillbillies". They loved that show! If you look carefully toward the upper right, you can see a few coyotes on the rocks...

… well, here they are. It was worth it, wasn't it?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Miscellaneous Knott's Selection

I have some random scans of vintage Knott's Berry Farm slides… nothing amazing, but still fun to look at.

The whole family has gathered around this lady as she hopes to strike it rich while panning for gold. After doing it 200 times in a row, she had enough for a ring. Love those glasses! 

Seals are kind of cute, but boy oh boy, are they freeloaders. Fortunately, all they want is little dead fish and not cold hard cash. Notice the rooster acting as a sentry guard, ready to pounce at the first sign of trouble.

Antiques, eh? What kind of antiques? Looks like lamps, glassware, ceramics, and (I'm guessing) cast iron knick-knacks. But you never know, there might have been occasional eclectic objects that would have appealed to me… tin toys from the 1930's or something like that. If only I could walk into the picture to see!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Special Guest Photos!

Hey howdy hey, today I am happy to present some photos that are from GDB reader/commenter Chuck, who generously scanned them and allowed me to post them for your viewing enjoyment! This is the first of (hopefully) a number of posts featuring his pictures.

I'll start with this one, from later part of 1976; Chuck and his little sister are wearing their brand-new mouse ears and cool t-shirts. They are at a campground near Disneyland… Chuck wasn't sure what it was called, but I know there used to be a KOA near the park. Little sis looks like a live wire!

Now we're jumping all the way to July 17, 1995… Disneyland's 40th birthday. I'm not sure I've ever seen a photo with those balloon arches before. Look at how busy Main Street is! It's funny, if there is a special occasion at the park that will probably draw large crowds, some folks really want to be there - they love the energy and the spectacle of it all. I tend to want to avoid days like that, but acknowledge that I'm weird.

And lastly (for today), how about this beautiful night shot of The Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland?  This one is from 1998, and it looks great - so different from the Anaheim version. I love all of the lights everywhere, in a myriad of shapes and hues. Has this land changed much in the intervening years?

MANY THANKS to Chuck for sharing photos from his personal collection!
Stay tuned for more in upcoming posts.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Final Four WDW pix, early 1970's

We've seen 31 photos from this lot of early-70's Walt Disney World pix… today I am sharing the last four. 

I like this first shot of Fantasyland… it looks so familiar; like Disneyland, only a whole lot bigger and fancier. I think that tall tower is part of the building that houses "It's a Small World". The Skyway was still going strong (as it would until 1999). The Carousel is to our right, and the Mickey Mouse Revue is to our left (the red/pink awning).

The Haunted Mansion looks so solid and grand - although curiously isolated in this angle at least. Some sort of landscaping is being done in the foreground. Either that or bodies are being disturbed.

From somewhere near Cinderella's Castle, we look past a manicured lawn and wide moat (it's like a golf course with a water hazard) toward the buildings at the "hub" end of Main Street. What a pretty picture.

And what better way to end things than with this nice view of one of the Nautiluses (Nautili?) looking like a prehistoric, ocean-dwelling reptile. I still can't believe that this attraction is gone.

That's the last of these, but don't worry, I have more WDW pictures for you!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Frontierland, August 1963

This first photo of the Columbia is a beauty; the sun is sinking fast, but its warm light  still touches the taller masts and sails, and gleams off of the mine train cars. All else is tinted with blues and violets. 

Earlier in the day, the Mark Twain looked great, as usual. There's just something about that boat on that big river!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

More MGM Studio Backlot, 1970

Today's "Anything Goes Saturday" installment is yet another look at the MGM studio backlot in its final days. See part one here, and part two here! For those of you who have forgotten, these unique images are from some Viewmaster photos taken by an acquaintance of mine, who visited the studio with his wife in 1970.

The whole darn place was going to be auctioned off - absolutely everything! And that included Roman chariots. I never realized until now how much I need a chariot. Nearby, other buggies and coaches await the auctioneer's gavel.

Wait! Wait! I changed my mind, I'd rather have a gypsy wagon. I could tell fortunes and pick pockets  and sing colorful songs and dance lusty dances with sultry damsels. I already own a tambourine.

The remaining 5 images all involve the sale of MGM's massive, historic collection of movie costumes.  I can't help thinking that Debbie Reynolds must have acquired more than a few treasures in her collection from this very room (she sold much of her stuff for millions of dollars recently).

Another look at the same area. Too bad the color balance is so wonky. The craftsmanship behind these costumes amazes me, and the quality of the rare brocades, silks, velvets, and every other imaginable fabric probably couldn't be duplicated today.

I wonder if the auction catalog mentioned what movie each item was from? "Dress worn by Norma Shearer in The Women, 1939". Or whatever. Or perhaps it was just something more prosaic like, "White dress with sequins". I'd like to think that bidders knew the history of the items they were bidding on. 

Ah, now that's more like it! I NEED a 15-foot long, gold embroidered, ermine-lined cape. For job interviews, funerals, or snuggling up with a loved one while watching TV. Notice the selection of crowns and scepters (something for everyone!), and even a piece of original artwork by a costume designer - perhaps Adrian or Edith Head.

Do you think people bought items just to own a piece of Hollywood magic, or to actually wear? Granted, a lot of it was completely impractical, but there were some elegant ladies' dresses and fine men's suits as well. "I'm wearing William Powell's tuxedo, and my wife is wearing Greta Garbo's gown"!

I have even more vintage photos from the last days of MGM studios, so stay tuned.