Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Columbia, September 1963

Admiral Joe Fowler wisely recommended the addition of a place where the large Frontierland vessels could be dry-docked for maintenance. Of course nowadays we would just shrink the boats using Frugosi rays, but that technique wasn't perfected until the 1990's.

The aptly named "Fowler's Harbor" could have been an unsightly thing, but the Imagineers turned it into a picturesque little assortment of buildings; a place where a sailor might get some food (A lobster dinner!) and grog, or rent a little room while ashore.

I've always like the use of "Wedgewood blue" as a colorful accent on the Columbia!

The river was often a busy place, but as you can see, both Keel Boats and the Columbia were out of commission, leaving only the Mark Twain, the rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, and perhaps the canoes.

What do you think that thing is on the raft? We can see loudspeakers, so this might have been used for some sort of "Dixieland at Disneyland" performance.


Nanook said...


Fowler's Harbor is one of those 'little touches' which separates Disney parks from all the rest. It really is a little gem.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Nice to see the second view without Splash Mountain. More natural looking. Always liked Fowler's Harbor. As well as being functional it added authenticity to the Rivers of America. Thanks, Major.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

It could have been a campaign raft used duing Mike Fink's "king of the river" re-election bid.

Excellent photos today btw. #1 is a great angle that shows how good the so called "facade" buildings came out. Such attention to detail. God bless the walt era imagineers.

Chuck said...

Diito, Alonzo! For years, I thought Fowler's Inn was a restaurant that just always happened to be closed on our off-season visits.

Love that Wedgewood blue! My mother, my sons, my nephews, and I all have had bedrooms in almost that exact same shade. I think it's genetic.

Anonymous said...

In the first photo, is Columbia's head missing?

DrGoat said...

Just have to look hard, it's there. Blondish hair makes
it hard to see. Same here about Fowler's Harbor. Davelandblog
has some good shots of it. I always wanted to get to it when
I was a kid....there's good info on it if you search.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

My guess as to what that thing on top of the raft is, it looks to me like a transparent drum shield (or screen), but I don’t know if they used them in those days or not.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, now I wonder what other parks do when their water craft need maintenance. Maybe they have their own little "Fowler's Harbors", but I doubt it.

K. Martinez, I know what you mean… as much as I like Splash Mountain as a ride, it feels a little out of place.

Alonzo, I didn't know that kings were elected! Those original Imagineers were often former art directors from places like Fox and MGM, no wonder they were so great at "world building".

Chuck, it does look like it should serve good old fashioned river fare, like crawdaddies, catfish, and so on! A little hot sauce, some lemon… mmmmmm!

Anonymous, it really does look like the figurehead has been decapitated, but it's just that the head is kind of higher and further back than you might expect. The golden hair blends in with the background of trees surprisingly well.

Monkey Cage Kurt, interesting thought… I have no idea if they used those in the 1960's. I do think it is likely that the raft was being used in some sort of musical performance on the river though.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Preston Nirattisai, who did the drawings in my book, was also a volunteer sailor on a tall ship (The Lady Washington--based on, ironically, the real Columbia's "tender"), and did some studying of the history of 1780s sailing vessels. He wrote this a while back concerning the Columbia's colors:

"Disney's Columbia is mainly black and brown, with trim of red, blue, and gold. For the most, this is reasonably accurate to history, though the hull brown might be an attempt at recreating natural wood color. The original Columbia might have employed the same color scheme (plus natural wooden hull), but to a lesser extents.

Merchant ships used colors for two reasons. First, painting helps protect the wood from the environment. Second--and just as important--colors help these ships stand out from warships, which were painted in a very muted palette.

Although Disney's Columbia might have the correct colors, the colors are not used in all the correct places, so you would not see yards and spars painted blue in 1787. What's bothersome is the very liberal use of red, blue, and gold trim. These colors were very expensive in 1780s, and would have been used very sparingly to save cost. The bright colors were instead concentrated on the transom--the end of the ship and generally the most decorative part."

Major Pepperidge said...

Steve DeGaetano, thanks for all of that info about the original Columbia colors. I don't know about the 1780's, but weren't barns painted red because it was an inexpensive color? Maybe that was later. As for blue, I'm sure that's a different story. I wonder if they could only use things like lapis lazuli as a blue pigment - if so that would certainly be a very expensive hue. My guess is that the Disney folks sacrificed some historical accuracy for beauty. I can't be too upset about it!

Dean Finder said...

Was Fowler's Harbor full scale? It looks small with the Columbia docked.

walterworld said...

Back in the mid 90's the Harbor Galley food stand located at the Harbor entrance served a very nice Cajun (spicy) shrimp basket that fit the place very well. You could dine in/on that out-of-the-way trail behind the harbor that overlooks the Splash Mountain big drop ride-out turn-around, and comes out near the fruit cart located near the Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes entrance. Most people don't seem to know it's there...

Michaeland said...

That raft definitely has part of the Rolly Crump designed stage for Dixieland At Disneyland. I was born the day after that event, and think of it as a nice welcoming party. (See photos at DisneyHistoryInstitute)