Friday, August 07, 2015

The Living Desert, August 1969

Today I have two unusual angles of the "Living Desert" portion of the classic "Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland" attraction. 

I tried to determine where this photo was shot from as the train chugged along the track, but couldn't quite nail it down. At first I thought it might be near the watering hole (and antelopes) that we've seen in other photos,  but now I am not so sure. Anyway, this feels surprisingly "real" looking at the plants and rock formations, with the mist from a geyser in the distance.

This next one is the most fun; it's a great "you are there" angle, as if you were sitting in one of the open-air trains (toward the back, it appears) with the rest of the passengers craning their necks to take in all of the strange sights. Those rocks are a-tumbling! I wish we could see a bit more of the train and the guests, but that's life for you.

Zooming in, you can see that the train's engineer is pointing upward... he must be doing the narration himself instead of using the famous recorded spiel by Dallas  McKennon. "Howdy, folks!".


TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I believe the engineer is pointing at that mountain lion on top of the rocks ahead. Just to the left of the engineer we can see one of the javelinas/peccaries that have a bobcat trapped atop a cactus. I recently watched Walt Disney's "The Living Desert" on Turner Classic Movies and that vignette from the ride was taken directly from the movie.

K. Martinez said...

Wow!! These are great! The Living Desert was my favorite section of the Mine Train, even more so than the Rainbow Caverns. I think it was the most mechanically animated of the various set pieces and that's why I liked it too. What I love about these two images are the rockwork mixed in with the dark green trees. Beautiful! And the saguaro cactus characters. How cool! Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic!, I love the True Life Adventures series so much that I bought the whole collection when it came out on DVD. Jungle Cruise, Mine Train and Rivers of America definitely had the True Life Adventure vibe to it and several scenes from the series showed up in the park in those days. And yes, some of films are dated in approach, but I still enjoy the vintage cinematography and animal action.

Chuck said...

Loved the "True Life Adventures" growing up, too, seeing them on TV and in school on a regular basis. In fact, the first film I ever saw in the theater was "Seal Island," part of a double-feature with "The Aristocats." I can remember being excited when I realized that many of the scenes along the NWRR were based on scenes from the films.

My oldest watched my VHS copy of "The Living Desert" so many times that when we encountered a group of javelinas/peccaries on a visit to the Desert Dome at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo when he was four or five, he immediately said "these fellows go by many names - javelinas, peccaries - but their real name is 'trouble.'" I felt like I was standing next to a three-foot Win Hibler.

Tom said...

I am going to cast my vote on the vantage point for that first shot being from the Pack Mule trail, just north of the Natural Arch bridge.

Love these shots - my favorite extinct attraction during my favorite summer. Glorious!

Tom said...

Now I'm going to backpedal on my vote and put that first shot as taken from the Mine Train itself, as it passed over the tunnel leading into the mine. The way the teetering rocks line up with the bubbling pots and the service tunnel entrance in the distance. Gotta be that.

Melissa said...

"Never ask a mountain lion to pull your finger, son."

I wonder if the passenger in the gray hat is a fully licensed and bonded Lionel Barrymore impersonator, or just a freelancer.

Beautiful, cheerful pictures today, Major! Just the shot of California sunshine I needed!

Nanook said...


I gotta admit, today's images have that "professional photographer" look about them. But even if not, it's still lovely to gander at all that beauty.

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

Also, am I seeing several large, white babushkas in that train, or are they white nuns' veils?

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-

I'd prefer to think of those white veils as representing some sort of multiple wedding party, and their journey through the Living Desert as the start "... up the ladder of life together..." I mean - doesn't everyone want a Bobcat hanging around on their wedding night-??

zach said...

And I thought 'Gray Hat' was Lionel Barrymore doing John Wayne.

This was definately one of my favorite areas in the day. Mules, and stages and trains oh my. Could the pointing finger be a guest listening to the spiel?


Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I haven’t seen “The Living Desert” since I was a kid! Probably in school on a 16mm projector. Man I loved those movies. I thought that there might have been two bobcats in “Nature’s Wonderland”, one on rocks and one on a cactus, but it could just be a trick of perspective.

K. Martinez, I don’t think anything could top Rainbow Caverns for me… to this day I am a sucker for things that glow or light up. But I did love all of Nature’s Wonderland. Looking back, I wish I had gone on it a lot more. How many films are in the True Life Adventure series?

Chuck, I think we watched “Seal Island” a lot in school for some reason. There was a scene with baby polar bears sliding down a snow bank, and our teacher would run the film backwards, which (of course) we thought was hilarious. I love that your son had the movie narration committed to memory. On dark nights, I sometimes feel like I am standing next to a three-foot Winston Hibler.

Tom, I was all ready to agree with you, since that first photo seems so different from most “Living Desert” views… and then I read your next comment. Now I’m all dizzy and confused!

Melissa, he looks like he is smiling, but he is actually thinking about how much he hates George Bailey and that old Savings and Loan.

Nanook, I think these are just better-than-average amateur pix, but I know what you mean!

Melissa, hmmm, they could be nuns, or ladies from a foreign land (somewhere I have another photo with a woman wearing a white head scarf similar to that).

Nanook again, I seriously wonder, if NW had survived until present day, would they allow a couple to get married there if they paid enough money?

David Zacher, it is Lionel Barrymore doing John Wayne doing Wallace Beery. I suppose you could be right, it might be a guest’s finger and not the “red shirt”.

K. Martinez said...

Major, there were thirteen in all. Seven were two-reel shorts and six were full-length features.

1949 Seal Island
1950 (In) Beaver Valley
1951 Nature’s Half Acre
1952 The Olympic Elk
1952 Water Birds
1953 The Living Desert
1953 Bear Country
1953 Prowlers of the Everglades
1954 The Vanishing Prairie
1955 The African Lion
1956 Secrets of Life
1957 White Wilderness
1960 Jungle Cat

In addition, there was a hybrid referred to as a "True-Life Fantasy" called "Perri" about the life of a squirrel. These were films that I saw in the movie theater when I was a kid and I loved them. They were usually attached to a Disney live-action film or animated feature. In fact I do remember seeing The Living Desert/Vanishing Prairie as a double-bill with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons attached at the front of the show back in the 1960's. Although dated, still good stuff.

Chuck said...

Major, your last comment has me wondering - how many red shirts did they lose on the NWRR over the years? About one a week?

Alonzo P Hawk said...

My vote is they are nuns, although I would gladly welcome back "babushka fridays".

The young lady right behind them appears to be dressed as a novitiate(nun with a learners permit)or one that took vows after the habit laws loosened and the white heads are just old hard cores and stick to the original garb.

These are lovely photos today of my favorite attraction but the nun talk is dredging up bad memories of stinging ruler welts across my knuckles.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I think you might be right, they are both bobcats. And both can be seen in your second photo. The one on top of the cactus looks as though he is also sitting on top of a rock due to the view being partially blocked. That little vignette with the bobcat and the peccaries was recreated at WDW and can be viewed from both the WDW train and Big Thunder. I have been meaning to post pics of that scene along with the roadrunner and rattlesnake "confrontation" which WDW and Tokyo DL have also taken and recreated from DL's Nature's Wonderland Mine Train.

Nanook said...

@ Alonzo P. Hawk-


My film friends and I always used to joke about the (often) overuse of both nuns and sailors as part of the background action in many a film from the 1950's & 1960's. Who knew they were also a part of the Painted Desert-!

Nanook said...

Make that 'Living'.