Tuesday, July 31, 2018

In Tomorrowland, March 1978

We're back in Tomorrowland, this time circa 1978. By this time, the Mark VII Autopia vehicles had  been in use for a decade; but they sure were cool! And they were in use far longer than any other version, lasting all the way to 2000. The Mark VIIs definitely have that sleek "Corvette" look that I associate with the 70's (even though they are from 1968). This young lady will soon discover that driving a real car is generally not as fun as the Autopia was!

And how about another look at one of the Mary Blair murals? In a recent animation auction, a number of paintings by Ms. Blair sold for around $20,000, while one went for $60,000. And yet this wonderful work by one of Disney's most influential and beloved artists remains hidden - and damaged. I would love it if they removed the competent (but rather dull) murals that currently cover these tiles, and then restored the gaping holes so that we could all enjoy these works of art again. The Hatbox Ghost returned, why not the Mary Blair Murals?


Nanook said...


Yeah - wait 'til that young lady discovers our highways and byways lack the 'safety beamway' preventing inadvertent movement into other lanes of traffic-! That'll wipe that grin off of her face.

Put my vote in for restoring those lovely Mary Blair murals-!

Thanks, Major.


Technically the Mark VII’s are still running- while the current AUTOPIA features body shells from 2000, the 1967/68 chassis and motors were overhauled and continue to operate.

There was a plan at one point to keep about two dozen of the 1967/68 car bodies as “classic cars” but after evaluation of the surviving fiberglass bodies , they canceled that plan. Incidentally the MARK XII body moulds were trashed with other vintage vehicle and prop molds when Michael Eisner had the couragated steel warehouse once located behind Fantasyland and Toontown -cleared out and torn down to make way for the road alteration when the Disneyland parking garage was constructed. Decades worth of Disneyland props, decorations, costumes , parade floats and other items were destroyed and trashed at this time.

The ATOPIA mark VII was a perfect design for sure.

Stefano said...

Mike Cozart, that is awful, the trashing of Disneyland history. Worse than MGM's obliterating auction in 1970, where at least people had the chance of buying props and costumes. All was not lost, though; starting Thursday through August 28th, there will be a pop-up Disneyland auction in Sherman Oaks, as longtime collector Richard Kraft sells some of his goodies. Ride vehicles, attraction posters, Mr. Toad red devils and the Submarine Sea Serpent are waiting for the highest bidder.

Major, I liked the Mary Blair mural as a kid but wondered what it was doing in Tomorrowland, as it looked like advertising for It's a Small World. Now I see Blair's wisdom and foresight: solar power, wind power, above all kid power, the most optimistic vision for the future ever.

JC Shannon said...

Bumper to bumper traffic on the Hollywood Freeway at rush hour will definately wipe that smile off her face! But for now she is happy in her youth, and enjoying a day at Disneyland, and has not a care in the world. Good times. I agree with Stefano, couldn't have said it better! Thanks to Major for today's very cool scans.

DrGoat said...

Mary Blair's mural was one of our must stop and take pictures place way back when. My Uncle and Aunt were artists, so we learned to appreciate her work early on. Hey Stefano, I actually went to that auction! I was 20 and lived in LA for 2 years and my sister who had lived in LA for 4 years, took me and my friend to it. I bought a revolutionary war type coat, a few hats and a bright yellow coat that looked like something from the Wizard of Oz. All are long gone darn it.

Clyde Hughes said...

Thanks for the great photos. That girl sure is having a good time! Yes, that 'safety beamway' would be helpful on the real road. Makes me wonder about the safety of the photographer...wow! Maybe he was either hanging on to the front bumper, was flattened (a la Wiley Coyote) a split second later, or some sort of 'ahead of its time' broomhandle selfie stick...hmmm...
Maybe those footchasing detectives from a few days ago were involved...

I always love the Blair murals. It reminds me of an old blackboard from a classroom (dating from over 100 yrs ago) was found intact with all original writing and drawings. The new blackboard was installed in place over the old, preserving it, amazingly. https://newsok.com/gallery/articleid/5426607

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, the surprising thing is that the idea of driving an undersized car was so appealing that they have had several Autopias over the years. Of course the current iteration is a combination of the Tomorrowland and Fantasyland Autopias.

Mike Cozart, I knew that the chassis were the same, but I am not fond of the cartoony body types in use. I wonder what the issue was with the surviving fiberglass bodies, considering that they had lasted over 30 years at that point? While the story of the destruction of the prop house (and everything in it) is tragic, it somehow does not surprise me. When I hear Kylo Ren speaking of “killing the past”, I think of the suits at Disney! ;-)

Stefano, I will definitely go to see the exhibit of the Richard Kraft collection, but have you seen the prices they are asking? Even for something like a common brochure that you can probably get on eBay for $15 or $20, they start at $200. That being said, if I had the bucks, I would sure love to buy some of that stuff. I know what you mean about the Mary Blair murals in Tomorrowland - others have said the same thing - but Walt must have given them the “OK”. Plus, as corny as it sounds, you can always argue that “children are the future”. And, look at what they have now - which would you rather have? Mary Blair wins any day.

Jonathan, when my nephew was around six years old we took him to his first trip to Disneyland. At the end of the day we asked him what his favorite ride was, and he replied, “The little cars”. It must have fulfilled that fantasy of driving just like a grown up!

DrGoat, wow, you went to the MGM auction? Oh man. Such a shame that the costumes you bought are gone!! If that bright yellow coat was from “Wizard of Oz”, it would be worth a bundle nowadays.

stu29573 said...

Of course the Autopia car motors all have governors on them to keep them at around 7 mph (fun fact, the old "police" cars didn't!). Anyway, if you could take those off, I think they would cruise at about 20-25 mph. Fitted with some funtioning lights and signals, they would go faster than the need to for the real LA freeways!

JG said...

I often think that the shine has come off Autopia since tomorrow has long since become today on the freeways outside, but there is still an appeal to the youngsters who haven't yet become sick of their daily SoCal drive. Interesting to hear that the old parts are still in use. I thought the recent update would have changed that somehow.

Surprising to hear that those warehouse contents were trashed. Did these guys not know they could have financed a whole new land (or better, padded their stock accounts) with the proceeds of an auction of that stuff? Maybe the money raised at auction is less than I imagine, after all, it has to be sorted, tagged and the auctioneer paid. Still a tragedy of major proportions.

It's funny, when I was a kid, the Blair murals seemed out of place to me, but with the perspective of age, I see they make perfect sense. Tomorrow does belong to the children, indeed, having a Tomorrow at all depends on today's little ones. I was too anxious to go get in line for the bobsleds.

At the recent Mary Blair exhibit in the Disney Family Museum, there was a small segment on these murals, combined with other murals by the artist, including the huge one in the Contemporary Resort at WDW. Amazingly, no records were kept of the final designs. Very few concept sketches, some small maquettes of tiles survive, but no comprehensive shop drawings or overall views exist. All destroyed. The Tomorrowland 67 murals we love were seen from the beginning as transient decorations to be painted over when the next update was needed.

Major, one of my ambitions for keeping busy in my forthcoming retirement is to collect all the photographs of the murals that I can find and try to reproduce them at scale using grids and tracing paper sketchovers, since I have no computer skills. Keep collecting those pics and posting them. I'll share my work one day.

Cheers all, thanks for the comments. I do enjoy coffee around the stove at the Market House with all of you, (thanks Chuck for the simile).


Nancy said...

Cool stuff, everyone!!

Thanks to everyone that has so much to contribute. I admit that I'm not very learned about much of the history, but I love seeing the pictures and always enjoy all the fun commentary! 8-)

DrGoat said...

Major, That coat was an overcoat.. bright, bright yellow with big yellow buttons. It curled up at the bottom. It was 2 sizes too big for me, but a friend (who fit it nicely) wore it to a Led Zeppelin concert, or it could have been a Steppenwolf concert, a year or so after I got it. We got a lot of laughs. True story. It went missing a bit later, don't remember a whole lot from that period in my life. Wild Quaalude parties don't lend themselves to lucid memories. Did keep the revolutionary military jacket for quite a while until the moths found it.

Major Pepperidge said...

Clyde Hughes, ha ha, I didn’t even think about the photographer! Presumably he was looking out the back of his own car? Although I like the idea of him holding on the hood of a moving car, like T.J. Hooker (how’s that for an obscure reference?). Thanks for the link about the old blackboard, what a fun discovery!

stu29573, I can only imagine how fast 20 or 25 mph would feel in those little cars! It would be pretty fun. Seems that folks who own the old fiberglass bodies now have electric motors installed.

JG, I can totally understand why kids would love the Autopia, but one sees plenty of grown adults driving the little cars too. I’ve done it myself, many times! I can’t imagine how Eisner wouldn’t have considered the value of all of the stuff he had destroyed. From what I understand, Disney does not want some technology out there in the wild, but why not sell the other items to collectors, who will care for and preserve them? I think your mural project sounds very cool! It seems hard to believe that there is not already some “master layout” available, but perhaps you are the person who needs to make it. Keep us in the loop!

Nancy, wow, seems like we haven’t heard from you for a while! I thought you had gone away forever.

DrGoat, that coat sounds very “Oz”, but then again, Technicolor movies often had some pretty outlandish designs. I’m surprised the coat was too big, it seems like whenever I see old costumes, they seem to be much too small. I sure wonder where those items disappeared to. Were they thrown out? “Borrowed” and never returned? Oh well, that’s life - it’s still neat that you went to that auction and won some stuff.

Melissa said...

if they're not going to display those murals where they are, they should be removed, restored, and displayed somewhere else. It's a crime against Art to keep them buried. I know a lot of people don't consider anything in a theme park Art with a capital A, but they're wrong, dangnab it.