Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Swiss Family Treehouse

Today I have two photos from different years, but they both feature the wonderful Swiss Family Treehouse, which was added to Adventureland in November of 1962. Did I mention that it was wonderful? Those nutty Imagineers, they crafted a very believable tree out of steel, fiberglass, and a concoction mixed from lard, tar, and horsehair called "glop" by the workmen. (Please quote me on this, future Disneyland histories!). This first example is from August, 1967. I've mentioned my fondness for the red tint of the leaves, which would definitely not be the obvious choice for most faux trees. And then you had the water features, and the multiple little rooms that felt cozy and safe up in the arboreal hideaway.

This next one is from October, 1963, and the tree looks especially red in this view from the Mark Twain. The Swiss Family built a tidy wooden fence (from salvaged ship planks, no doubt) to keep out man-eating zebras and other horrors.

If you've ever read Johann Wyss' book, the treehouse plays a relatively minor role in the story, as it is quickly overrun by hordes of destructive (and possibly radioactive) monkeys. The Robinsons eventually make a home in a cave.

Early construction on what would eventually become New Orleans Square had begun, as evidenced by the wall to the right. In order to keep inquisitive guests from walking into the hazardous and unsightly zone, a clothesline was draped between two poles. I'll bet it worked, too!


Nanook said...


'Disneydendrum' - one of Mother Nature's better efforts. And as for that "clothesline draped between two poles", it was actually part of the Adventureland/Frontierland Relay Races - 'on your mark, get set, Go-!'

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

"Climb the stairway to high adventure!" Yep! That was the Swiss Family Treehouse alright. High adventure in Adventureland. I miss this original attraction.

There's the outdoor dining area of what was to become my favorite place for breakfast at Disneyland, Aunt Jemima Kitchen/River Belle Terrace. Not anymore. Damned them all to "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" finale!

I don't know what it is, but I always love pics of the Swiss Family Treehouse. They just seem extra special. Thanks, Major.

Stu29573 said...

Great now I've got Swisskapolka going through my head. It's a Small World Got nothing on that one. Crud, now THAT'S going through my head too! Interesting counter melody... hmmmmmm...

Stefano said...

I wonder how long the red leaves lasted, the tree I remember from the 70s onward had gone green. Anyway the faux red against the real green foliage has a pleasing Christmas effect. And kudos to the Imagineers for crafting the whole thing for just $250,000. Take that, pencil-pushing bean counters!

Chuck said...

Thanks, Stu - now I have that medley in my head. At least it's drowning out the voices. Well, most of them, anyway.

JC Shannon said...

Tree houses have made a comeback in the last decade. Again, Walt beat 'em all to the punch. I had a treehouse in our backyard, and my brother and I used it as a base for cowboy games. Later, after spys became all the rage, for playing 007 and Man from U.N.C.L.E. I was always Napoleon. I don't remember ever being overrun by monkeys, only Thrush agents. Those pesky zebras will eat anything. Thanks Major for the scans and the memories. Gotta go, Mr. Waverly is calling. Open channel D.

Melissa said...

I always feel like I'm shrinking down and walking into a dollhouse.

The clothesline may have kept dull-witted hu-mans out, but it was worthless against the swarms of radioactive monkeys.

Nanook said...

@ Ken-
You could have just said 'Hades', ya know. (Well, it was good enough for Hollywood films...)

Also, make that Disneydendron Giganteum.

Anonymous said...

Major, the carnivorous zebras ate the radioactive monkeys. You can still find an occasional striped glow-in-the-dark road apple if you look carefully.

The best part of this whole attraction was the waterwheel / delivery system. Utterly plausible and delightful, yet not in the book, or the movie (as I recall). There was a slight reference to it in the Disney children's book (based on the movie) which Mom and Dad bought for me in the Main Street Bookstore.

This was the old way of "Plussing" an attraction. (I hate that term, have we all become ungrammatical fools here in the future?). Now, of course, we just add Johnny Depp to everything and call it good (enough).

I still walk through the treehouse for nostalgia, cursing Tarzan and Johnny Depp to Mr. Toad's Finale.

@Ken, that is a marvelous coinage and I will use it at every opportunity.

Thank you, Major.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I’d wager that a large percentage of Disneyland visitors believed that the “Disneydendrum” was a real, living tree, and not a man-made structure.

K. Martinez, it still kills me that we lost the Swiss Family because “kids don’t know anything about the 1960 movie” or some such nonsense. As if that somehow made the attraction less fun because they couldn’t relate it to recent IP. That’s the kind of shenanigans that Disney does sometimes that I find almost insulting. In a way it’s amazing that “Expedition Everest” was built without a movie tie-in. It might be the last of its kind.

Stuart Powley, ha ha, somehow that bouncy melody does get stuck in my head more than “It’s a Small World” does.

Stefano, supposedly the red leaves were prone to fading, which is odd since red is often a color that is fairly robust. And yes, even updating the cost of the treehouse for inflation, it was just over 2 million dollars. A bargain by today’s standards.

Chuck, just listen to a Ramones album, it’ll solve all your problems.

Jonathan, there is a giant eucalyptus tree near my sister’s home, and it has had a treehouse in it for nearly 15 years. Anyone can climb up there, if one has the moxie. Lately it has fallen into disrepair, whoever built it must have grown up and moved away. I used to watch my niece and nephew climb up there, and my heart was in my throat because I expected them to fall. “Be careful up there!”.

Melissa, that thin rope is almost cute. There was no need for anything more elaborate - nobody needed a photo for their website or Facebook page. Or blog!

JG, I have always loved the plumbing system that was in the old Treehouse. As a kid I feel like I could have stared at it for hours. My dad had other ideas! I think that Walt used the term “plussing”, it might have been a holdover from animation. I think Johnny Depp’s best days are behind him, unless he manages some kind of “comeback”. Hey, Mel Gibson seems to be forgiven for his shenanigans, much to my amazement.