Friday, December 07, 2018

Midget Autopia, 1959

I'm always happy to find photos of the old Midget Autopia - I don't have many, considering that the attraction was there from 1957 until 1966. It was an off-the-shelf kiddie car ride, not designed by Bob Gurr... it came from our pals at Arrow Development.

The cars were for children only, had two steering wheels to prevent unnecessary competition, and I believe that they moved whether someone stomped on the gas pedal or not (like the Motor Boats). As a certified nerd, I am glad to know that the headlights actually worked! The track was surrounded by beautiful landscaping, and had plenty of shrunk-down traffic signs to add veracity.

There's Mom, Vern, and Scout, getting ready to explore the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship. Say, what's in that striped treasure chest? It's not locked, how am I supposed to resist peeking? Maybe it's full of Walt Disney autographs. Yeah, that's probably it. Hopefully the family enjoyed a nice tuna burger or tuna pot pie while they were there.


Nanook said...


Gotta love Mom's glasses. Perfect for the open road.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

The pic of the Midget Autopia vehicle with the Pirate Ship Restaurant in the background is super-mega cool!

The Midget Autopia utilized an electrical bus bar system like those found in the Fantasyland dark rides. Just think of it as Fantasyland's one and only outdoor "dark ride". Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

Is that kid trying to drive with his elbows, or is he just giving the worst turn signal ever?

Maybe the treasure chest is full of tuna burgers!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, those glasses weren’t even retro-cool in ’59 - they were just “cool”!

K. Martinez, I always love photos of the Midget Autopia… it’s another one of those rides that was around for a decent amount of time, and yet, not too many people snapped pictures of it. The bus bar system makes sense, since it was a staple of so many Arrow Development rides.

Melissa, he’s pretending that both his arms are asleep, just like I do. Hmm, I never considered that the treasure chest could be filled with tuna burgers; maybe you could pay extra for an “aged” burger! Nothing like old tuna that’s been sitting in a hot environment for a while.

JC Shannon said...

I am loving the Midget Autopia pic. Most have forgotten it over the years, but it made many a little kid's day.

Possible contents of the chest: Fishing gear for catching tuna. The lost Ark. Dubloons and Pieces of Eight. Barf dust and whisk broom. A young Jonny Depp's headscarf. I wonder if he ever rode Pirates of the Caribbean before he was famous. Thanks Major.

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping the treasure chest is filled with the little plastic sword toothpicks, in all the colors.

Mom's glasses are perfect for driving through "Bat Country" with Hunter Thompson.

Maybe Vern is fighting off a bat in photo 1?

I'm not sure I remember Kiddie Autopia, I seem to remember cars with two steering wheels, but that could have been at a fair carnival.

The track curbs look like they are molded separately from the roadbed, there is a big obvious gap and the materials are different colors. That could be from two different concrete placements, or maybe the track is another material altogether? There are no cracks or control joints in the curbs, it looks seamless except for the big gap at the base. Anyone know, if this was an off-the-shelf ride was the road part of the package?


Alonzo P Hawk said...

He's actually using the highly unsafe "tweezer fingers" method of turning (strictly banned,see the California Driver Handbook).

Quite possibly it's crab claws in anticipation of lunch, only to find tuna is the only option.

Sad that this Autopia closed but the destined name change to "Vehicles of Short Stature Autopia" wouldn't sound as fun and fancy free.

Nanook said...

I must be slipping, as I failed to catch the obvious movie references of ‘Vern’ & ‘Scout’.

@ JG-
Beverly Park, in Los Angeles, not an inconsequential inspiration for Walt while planning Disneyland, also had a similar ‘kiddie’ “Autopia”. And as David Bradley, owner of Beverly Park is also the same ‘Bradley’ as in Bradley & Kaye Amusement Company, it’s quite-possible he manufactured the Midget Autopia (although, merely a guess).

K. Martinez said...


The Midget Autopia ride system was built and supplied by Arrow Development. Disney purchased the ride vehicles from Arrow's "Arrow-Flite Freeway Ride" system. The Disney Imagineers designed and built the track layout as well as the buildings and ride props.

David Bradley was a consultant for Walt during his then new park Disneyland back then. I believe that the Bradley & Kaye Amusement Co.(David Bradley and Don Kaye) were behind the rebuild and restoration of Sunnyside Beach Toronto carousel into the King Arthur Carrousel, but have no recollection of any other attractions they were involved in. Bradley & Kaye were primarily known for their kiddie coasters and carousel animal creations. The Bradley & Kaye Amusement Co. was later purchased by Chance Rides in the 1980's

Chuck said...

Couple of neat photos today, Major. I have nothing more to add to what's already been said.

Ken - man, Chance Rides has bought out almost all of the smaller amusement ride manufacturers, haven't they?

Major Pepperidge said...

Jonathan, if I ever laid eyes on the Midget Autopia, I was too young to remember it. I have no doubt I would have loved a car ride just for kids. “Barf dust and whisk broom”… now I am imagining the combined aromas of… QUICK, GET THE DUST AND WHISK BROOM!

JG, clearly you remember Anaheim’s bat infestation. If you put your hand up in the air randomly and made a fist, you probably wound up with a squeaking, squirming bat in it. And they were vampire bats, of course! In my writeup I do mention that the Midget Autopia is an off-the-shelf ride from Arrow Development. There was nothing unique about it (except for the nice landscaping). I remember seeing one of the autos selling on eBay, and it went for BIG bucks; there was nothing on it to indicate that it was from Disneyland. I have no idea about the manufacture of the actual ride’s roadway, that will require Mike Cozart or somebody with his deep knowledge!

Alonzo, “tweezer fingers” was relatively new in 1959, but Vern was up on all of the fashionable trends. “Vehicles of Short Stature Autopia” reminds me, I once got a fairly angry anonymous email lecturing me about the use of the word “midget”. I’m sorry if upset them, but hey, I didn’t name the attraction.

Nanook, that’s OK, sometimes when I read blogs I just kind of skim the text; I’m there for the pictures. I don’t know if Dave Bradley had anything to do with the Midget Autopia, but it was definitely an Arrow Development ride.

K. Martinez, more great info! The Carnival Ride King. It seems amazing to me that my grandparents did not take me to Beverly Park (David Bradley’s baby), it wouldn’t have been that far from their home. And yet we never did go there. Bummer! One more thing (like POP) that I never experienced.

JG said...

GDB, the Source of Information About Which the Rest of the World has Forgotten, Or Never Cared Much About Anyway.

Come for the photos, stay for the comments.

I seriously love the threads here, just fascinating stuff about Disneyland and amusement parks in general.

Major, one of the hazards of driving convertibles was getting bats caught in your teeth.

Thanks everyone.


JG said...

Major, re your anonymous email; some people just have "short" tempers.


Melissa said...

Ha! JG, that kid is totally Vern! And in a few years, Mom's glasses will be perfect for dancing the Batusi with Adam West.

My sister and I would always duel with the little sword picks until Mom had to tell us to cool it before we poked each other's eyes out.

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, does Chance Rides dominate the carnival ride market these days? I know basically nothing about them.

JG, thanks for the nice comment! The thing you said about getting bats caught in your teeth reminds me of my Aunt Florence, still kicking at 102, who was afraid to go outside at night because a bat might get caught in her hair.


Melissa, poking other kids’ eyes out used to be a right of passage. But today? Forget it!

MRaymond said...

I wasn’t sure if I ever rode this version of the autopia until I went online looking for more pictures. When I saw a picture of the cars going through some sort of barn, I knew I rode it. I also found similar pictures of a Model T ride at Knott’s. I had to dust off some old memory cells.