Thursday, July 05, 2018

La Coquette, 1962

Today I am happy to be able to share two beautiful photos of the wonderful hot air balloon called "La Coquette"! The scans were graciously contributed by a GDB reader who is known on at least one message board as "Handsome Stranger". HS wrote, "I've been a fan of your blog for a few years now. This afternoon I was reviewing some old family slides and came across two rare Disneyland images that I thought you might like". 

"The slides both show the "La Coquette" hot air balloon in 1962, one with the balloon on the ground, and the other shortly after the balloon ascended". So cool! 

La Coquette was built in the 1940’s for the Navy, but it became widely seen in the 1956 movie “Around the World in Eighty Days”, starring David Niven. By then the balloon was decorated with various mythological figures to evoke a 19th century “Jules Verne” aesthetic.

As Handsome Stranger said, the balloon was in Disneyland’s plaza in 1962 - on Easter. Quite the spectacle! 

Guests must have been amazed by the sight of that huge silvery sphere slowly lifting into the air! You can see that the pilots are releasing what appears to be water ballast. Notice the three climbers perched atop the Matterhorn for the best view in town.

Many thanks to Handsome Stranger for sharing these great photos!


Nanook said...


"So cool-!", indeed. What an unexpected pleasure that must have been for guests at the Park on that day-! (And what a great time to maneuver from attraction to attraction with few lines-!)

Thanks 'Handsome' and The Major.

K. Martinez said...

These are indeed very special photos. This moment was also captured on film and presented on the Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color episode titled "Holiday Time At Disneyland" on December 23, 1962. It's great to see it beautifully photographed here.

The hot air balloon "La Coquette" segment starts at the 8:06 mark.

Thanks for sharing your amazing pics with us, Handsome Stranger.

K. Martinez said...

Oops! The hot air balloon "La Coquette" segment actually starts at the 9:32 mark. It was the Easter Parade that started at 8:06. Sorry!

Chuck said...

Great photos, MP & HS, and thanks for the link, KM! I'll only take a moment to point out the (non-American) sailor in the first photo.


Irene said...

I have very clear memories of being there for this. I went to church all dressed in my Easter finest and then when I got home Bruce and I went over to Disneyland to see this, me still in my pretty dress and hat. I would have been 13 and Bruce 19. So there must have been some advanced word out that they were going to do this. I remember being awestruck because this was THE hot air balloon from the movie. To me that was a big deal. I was also happy to see a special holiday type parade. We usually never went to the Park during Holidays. I didn't even see the Christmas Parade until I was 39 and that was only because my husband's work place, IBM, held their annual Christmas Party there that year.

JC Shannon said...

These scans are quite unique and a great addition to the already sweet GDB collection. I love anything that flies, and those two lucky aviators got a one time view of Disneyland few ever get. That sailor in the photo is wearing the winter blue dress uniform of the British Navy. And check out the rainbow hat to the right of the little girl. I am so jealous! Thanks to Handsom Stranger and Major P. for the great pics.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, ha ha, you are one of those die-hard souls (like me!) that would see this as an opportunity to enjoy some very short lines. I admit that it would have been hard to not watch that balloon lift off, though.

K. Martinez, well, so much for it being “water ballast” as I stated. It’s good old sand - I’m sure the people down below enjoyed getting a face full of grit as they looked skyward! If they’d asked me, I would have told them to swap out the sand with Pixie-Stix sugar. Delicious! Thanks for the link to the footage.

Chuck, any idea as to what country that sailor is from? Perhaps many countries had similar uniforms and caps, I know there isn’t much to go on.

Irene, what a great memory! If only you were visible in that first photo. Nobody in your family took pictures? Not even Bruce?? I admit that I have only seen bits and pieces of “Around the World in 80 Days”… I wonder if it is worth watching, or if it is a big-budget snooze? It seemed like I saw a lot of Christmas parades - for some reason I went to the park in November a LOT.

Jonathan, well, you answered the question that I posed to Chuck (you are off the hook, Chuck!). Imagine being aboard that balloon. I would have several cameras ready to go so that I could fire off as many photos as possible without stopping to reload film! You aren’t kidding about that hat - at one “Dapper Day”, I saw a fellow with a whole suit that looked like that - it was pretty awesome.

K. Martinez said...

Irene, I love your story of being there and being awestruck by the hot air balloon that Easter Sunday. It' must've been awesome. Thanks for sharing that.

Melissa said...

Who is the tall dark stranger there,
Handsome Stranger is his name.
Ridin’ the trail to who knows where,
Luck Is his companion,
Scannin’ is his game!

Mmm, David Niven. I wonder if the scent of his aftershave lingered in the basket… *sigh*

What a cool memory, Irene!

I think the Sailor is French. They wore the same style hat as the British Navy, but with the red pompon that you see there. Plus, the body and collar of his jacket are slightly different shades of blue, which goes with the French uniform style. (I knew that costume research for HMS Pinafore would come in handy again someday.)

JC Shannon said...

Wow Mellissa good eye, I thought the red pompom was in the background. Great poem by the way!

Anonymous said...

Oh this is brilliant. Best photos I have seen of this event.

Irene, how wonderful that you got to see it.

I wish there were photos from the balloonists cameras.

This event replicates the hot air balloon in the famous early rendering of Disneyland (by Walt's own hand).

I wonder if that was part of the motivation for holding the event?

Thank you to the Major and the Handsome Stranger.


Nanook said...

@ Melissa-
A Maverick reference, no less-! (I wonder if Paul Francis Webster first thought of these lyrics...) 1962 was the last broadcast year for Maverick, so what a nice little tribute to it and James Garner.

I saw Around the World... in its roadshow run at the Carthay Circle Theatre in L.A. It seemed exciting at the time (for a five year old), but looking at it in later years, it's hard not to see the many 'set-bound' "locations" as being either on a sound stage or a backlot, somewhere - that, in spite of its being shot in 13 countries, blah, blah, blah. Michael Todd had a lot of financial issue when making this picture. But the film is definitely a film-lovers paradise for cameo appearances.

Melissa said...

I'm more of a Jack Kelly girl, myself. ;)

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the balloon they have over at Downtown Disney. Too bad you have to pay extra to ride that balloon. Wonder if they got the idea for that balloon ride from La Coquette? You know, like how the new gondola system is somewhat inspired by the Skyway.

Chuck said...

Thanks, guys - no time for research this a.m. I was thinking RN/RCN/NAN like Jonathan, but the shade of blue for the inside of the hood didn't look right. Now that I'm not in a hurry and I'm seeing it on a different screen, I now realize that it's lighter than the rest of the uniform after all. Totally missed the pompom. Good eye, Melissa.

Chuck said...

Change "NAN" to "RAN." So much for abbreviations saving time...

Nancy said...

Very cool, indeed!! I had not heard about this before.

Reminds me of the hot air balloon ride at Downtown Disney in Florida (don't even know if they still have it, its been four long years since we were there)

Thanks for sharing these, Handsome Stranger and Major :)

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, imagine standing where Mr. Blue Hat was, and how amazing the balloon launch would have looked!

Melissa, if I am not mistaken, the more red pompons on a French uniform, the higher the rank. Have you read David Niven’s memoir, “The Moon’s a Balloon”? It is pretty entertaining.

Jonathan, it’s always the pompons that get you.

JG, I agree, these are such nice clear photos. Maybe “Handsome Stranger” has more cool stuff to share with us… we’ll see how it goes! Ever since I saw that Peter Ellenshaw painting of Disneyland, I wondered why he put the hot air balloon in it. I’m unaware of any plans to include any attraction that included a balloon. It might have been a case of artistic license.

Nanook, “Maverick” is a show that I am sad to say that I never saw. Not a single episode. I’ve read that some episodes of “The Rockford Files” were “Maverick” scripts, rejiggered for the modern day - and that was a great show. Your description of “Around the World in 80 Days” supports my general impressions of it, based on the pieces that I’ve seen. I’d still watch it if it was available, though, since I tend to love old films, even with certain flaws.

Melissa… I don’t know who Jack Kelly is!

The Magic Ears Dudebro, I remember hearing about the balloon attraction at Downtown Disney in Florida - sounds expensive! I am very curious to learn about the new Sky Ride - it seems doubtful that we’ll get one here in California, though.

Chuck, and here I didn’t even notice the sailor, while you guys are picking up on minute details of his uniform. I need to turn in my blogging license.

Nancy, I think Daveland has a number of photos of this balloon on his blog.

TokyoMagic! said...

Dudebro and Nancy, these pics also reminded me of the balloon attractions at WDW's Downtown Disney and also Disneyland Paris' Disney Village. I have never seen either of them operating during my visits. I can't remember why WDW's wasn't open, but Disneyland Paris' was closed due to winds.

Major, I'm not sure what they charge in Orlando for the ride, but DL Paris charges 11 Euro (for a six minute ride), which is equal to $12.85 in U.S. dollars.

TokyoMagic! said...

P.S. Thank you "Handsome Stranger" and Major, for sharing these with us!

Melissa said...

A brief history of Maverick, just enough so that everyone gets my reference, because why not. Roy Huggins created Maverick at Warner Brothers in 1957, with James Garner cast as poker player Bret Maverick. Within a few weeks, he realized he couldn't stick to the studio’s schedule and still make the show the quality that he wanted. So he came up with the idea of creating a second unit simultaneously filming the next episode, with another lead actor playing Bret's brother Bart Maverick. A Bret episode would air one week, with a Bart episode airing the next. Several times a season, there would be a special episode with both brothers. Jack Kelly was cast as Bart, and the format proved wildly popular. Although Kelly made more episodes, with Garner leaving after a contract dispute at the end of season 3, Huggins has never made a secret of favoring Garner in the press. Consequently, he's better known for the series than Kelly. Also, Kelly retired from acting much earlier than Garner, going into real estate and politics in the 1970's, eventually becoming mayor of Huntington Beach, CA. Although I know individual fans who don't fit this mold, the stereotype is that male fans prefer Garner while the ladies go for Kelly.

I read two of David niven's books, when I was like, seven years old and had no idea who he or any of the other people he mentions were. I keep meaning to find new copies and read them again.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, there’s a balloon attraction in Disneyland Paris? Why did I not get the memo? 11 Euro seems very reasonable, I’m surprised.

Melissa, I feel like I would have watched “Maverick” in reruns if the show had been available, but as far as I remember it was never in syndication. I think there were some TV movies in the 70’s? Never saw those either. But the show is legendary. Very interesting that it was practically two shows running alternate weeks. Jack Kelly sounds like a smart guy going into real estate… seems like most of the actors who wound up living lavish lives invested in California land.

Nancy said...

TokyoMagic, I have seen it a few times in the air, but my daughter was chicken to ride so I never did. Just call me Dopey!

TokyoMagic! said...

Nancy, just do it!!! (That kind of sounds like a Nike commercial, doesn't it?)

Patrick Devlin said...

La COQuette is s a helium balloon ascended and descended by ballast and helium release.