Friday, May 18, 2018

Sailing Ships to Rockets, July 1966

Walking through the entry into Frontierland transported guests back to the 18th century (more or less), when America was still expanding into the untamed West. The U.S. was also exploring the globe, and the country's first ship to circumnavigate the globe was the good old Columbia Rediviva. (Nevermind that Europeans did it some 270 years earlier!).

Here's a pretty view of Disneyland's Columbia, with sails at least partially unfurled as it headed into the wilderness. GDB readers pointed out those lanterns at the end of each yard, a very cool detail! A raft waits for the Columbia to pass before heading back to the shores of Frontierland.

Next we zoom from the 1700's to the far-flung future of the 1980's, with this swell photo of the "Rocket to the Moon" attraction. Notice the Flying Saucers off to our right, and the Space Bar to our left. 

Zooming in, we can see the white globes inside the entry to the Rocket to the Moon ride - the globes had educational displays. Way in the distance is the Melodyland Theater, and "Wilbur Clark's Crest Hotel" looms upper left. Wilbur Clark was a big deal in Las Vegas (owning the Desert Inn, among other things). He died just a month after this photo was taken, and the name of the hotel was eventually changed to the "Grand Hotel". 

It's amazing to think that everything in this photo was about to undergo big changes, with construction of the "New Tomorrowland" about to get underway in a matter of months.


Nanook said...


I love both of these images. It seems common place now, but what a concept to have two such disparate "lands" a few hundred yards from one another-! What a place, indeed.

Thanks, Major

Nanook said...


I do believe we can also spy an "olive and toothpick" light fixture.

Melissa said...

Wow, more postcardworthy goodness! Look at those sheets all a-flutter in the breeze. Funny thing; I've had "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" stuck in my head since yesterday. Must've been a premonition of this post.

And you KNOW there's no such thing as too much Rocket to the Moon/Mission to Mars.

Chuck said...

I love how the wind has caught Columbia's flag. This photo emphasizes just how big that thing is.

Those giant globes at the spaceport were fashioned from useless balls of silicon found on Janus VI.

Anonymous said...

Major...interesting story on the history of the name of the hotel. I could only vaguely recall it being something other than the Grand Hotel when it was constructed. KS

JC Shannon said...

Great photo of the Columbia, good angle and you can almost see it move. Tomorrowland never gets old. Everyone liked the Moonliner, but the show building design was very futurisic as well. The two together looked so cool when I was eight. Thank you Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, when I first started seriously “studying” Disneyland, it was fun to look at photos that emphasized the transitions from one land to another, like the famous buildings that are Victorian Main Street on one side, and thatched roof tropical on the other.

Nanook, you’re right - and I’m sure those olive and toothpick lights went into a landfill in a matter of months!

Melissa, I learned that song (“Columbia, Gem of the Ocean”) from an antique music box that belonged to my great grandmother - it was in my grandma’s attic, and we were allowed to play with it, so I still “hear it” in those complex, jingling tones that I loved.

Chuck, that flag really is huge and impressive, waving in the breeze like that! Now I want to look at current photos to see if they still fly a flag from the stern. I hope that no Imagineers were killed by a Horta when they were acquiring those silicon balls.

KS, it sounds like Wilbur Clark was quite a character. There is a brief Wikipedia entry for him, and the Anaheim hotel isn’t even mentioned! There was another “Wilbur Clark’s Crest Hotel” in Lake Havasu City.

Major Pepperidge said...

Jonathan, I think it's cool that the Imagineers had the foresight to build two identical show buildings for the "Rocket to the Moon" attraction, even in those cash-strapped days. That was definitely not a high-capacity ride!

JC Shannon said...

@Nanook, I love those light fixtures. I confess though, I never heard them refered to as olive and toothpick. I love it!

Patrick Devlin said...

Nice shot of the Columbia. Not a 5/8 miniature as I have once heard but full size, as far as we know the dimensions of the original. She's a beaut.

Patrick Devlin said...

Thanks all for the ID of the globules inside the entry to Voyage. I would have made the erroneous guess that they were faux fuel tanks for the rockets... Error avoided.

Nanook said...

@ JC Shannon-

The sole credit for that clever ‘name’ belongs to GDB’s own Melissa - the Mistress of All Things Clever and [oft times] Alliterative.


And remember there were TWO Moonliners guests were taking to the Moon - one theater portrayed the Rocket DIANA and the second Rocket was LUNA . I don’t think this continued into the McDonnel Douglas period.
The first version of Rocket To Moon featured a point where the Moonliner had reached (for the first time) the dark side of the Moon- flares were shot out from the spacecraft to illuminate the moon’s dark surface ..... and visible to the passengers were ruins of some anchient moon civilization. Religious groups complained insisting this could not be!!!! Blasphemy!!!
Walt responded at first “well nobody’s ever seen the dark side of the moon - so who knows!?” That segment was removed during a rehab but I don’t know if it was during the TWA period or when the attraction was (mostly cosmetically) revised for McDonnel Douglas -seen in your slides.