Friday, June 14, 2019

Matterhorn Stuff, November 1958

I have a neat one to share with you today! As our photographer was gliding above Fantasyland (heading toward Tomorrowland) he snapped this picture looking toward the distant Sleeping Beauty Castle. But the interesting thing is that flat-topped pile of dirt in the lower right - early construction for the Mighty Matterhorn.

Who knew that dirt could be so fascinating! Just look at it. That is some grade-A soil right there, I tell ya what. Is it loam? Or clay? Or even silt?? If you are a fan of dirt like I am, the possibilities are thrilling. 

The low, striped structure against the castle is (I believe) restrooms. I know you will anyway, but please correct me if I'm wrong! I think that's where the Snow White Wishing Well and grotto were put in 1961.

We can also see the back of a sign, lower left-ish, that showed guests what all the hubbub was about.

I don't have a good photo of that famous sign, but "ElectroSpark" on Flickr does (image used with his permission) - along with hundreds of other beautiful vintage slide scans. Check it out, you can thank me later (all major credit cards accepted).

Imagine seeing this sign while walking past the pile of dirt seen in my photos - you'd have to be made of stone to not get excited at what would be coming to Disneyland in mere months. "Bobsleds - - in California? What the hey?". I think it's humorous to see that they list "Glacier Grotto" within the Matterhorn as a separate attaction, especially since the inside of the mountain was  basically a big empty nothin' for years. "Ice crystal caverns" were added to the ride (along with the abominable snowman) in 1978.

Thanks again to ElectroSpark!


Nanook said...


I don't think dirt has ever looked lovelier. (Even top soil would be jealous-!) What a wonderful image of great things to come.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Now that is an image of Disneyland that I loved. Freshly moved dirt! It's was a sign that something wonderful was coming. Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Wow, fantastic pics! And they just don't do "layering" of attractions like this anymore. In fact, I don't think they know how to do layering like that, today.

I love the artwork for the Matterhorn, which shows an extra long stone bridge with multiple arches, side by side waterfalls, and a tunnel for the Monorail to go through! Even though none of those things were actually built, the finished product was still pretty darn incredible.

Gnometrek said...

Does anyone know what became of the rest of holiday Hill? Was the dirt, loam, clay or silt repurposed? Extra fun scans today Major. Thank you.

Melissa said...

They made a mountain out of that molehill! Fabulous and very unique shot today.

"The low, striped structure against the castle is (I believe) restrooms...I think that's where the Snow White Wishing Well and grotto were put in 1961."

More Fancy Pooping Grottos!

"Lou and Sue" said...

TM! You're right about the "layering" of attractions! Walt was a genius in doing so. Not only did it save space, but now everyone's pictures are fun to look at - with all the moving parts, you never see the exact same scene twice.

Great pictures, thanks Major!


Andrew said...

I'm guessing this is common sense, but today marks sixty years of these three groundbreaking attractions being open! Just think... 60 short years ago Walt Disney fumbled with the monorail opening ribbon, making him have to simply rip it apart. Hurrah! Soon it was off for a joyride with Nixon, but the Secret Service agents were left behind. The vice-president had been kidnapped!

Thanks to Major and ElectroSpark!

Tom said...

Whoda thunk that even a drab, dreary photo of a plowed up dirt hill could be so amazing? Only here can that happen. Awesome shots of the beginnings of a 60 year old treasure! Thanks (to you and ElectroSpark) for sharing!

zach said...

Three Spectacular New Scans! Six Spectacular New Attractions! And I see a modern looking building hiding in the trees on the left. I wonder what that is? What a fun place early DL was, discovering new and remarkable attractions at every turn.

A Monorail tunnel would have been epic!

I remember as a kid visiting DL before and after the Matterhorn and wondering 'Where did that come from?!. And that! And that! All six were 'E Tickets' in my young mind.

And quit guessing and just call it Material.

Thanks Major and whoever took these photos.


JC Shannon said...

I can just hear the guy's wife, "Way to go honey, you got a picture of a pile of dirt." It's hard to believe that Disneyland was once mountainless. I can feel the excitement of reading the sign and imagining what these new wonders would be like. Hey Major, isn't every credit card you have a major credit card? Great stuff today Major, thanks.

Major Pepperidge said...

Just wanted to say thanks for all the comments - I'll be away until late afternoon, but I will respond to every comment when I get home!

JG said...

I'm pretty sure Disneyland has great soil, based on this and other excavation photos I have seen. Looks like a sandy loam that would be excellent for agriculture. I wonder if anyone thought of growing citrus around there?

We used to be amazed at the strawberry farm across what was then West Avenue. He was farming that right up into the '90's. I hope the farmer's heirs sold the land for a billion dollars so Disney could build that parking garage.

Major, thanks for pointing out the restroom building. I didn't know that end of the castle was added to. Dad always laughed at those restroom signs "Princes" and "Princesses".

Re: the layering. In my high school age visits, I started to notice construction related things and I was always fascinated at the coordination required to fit the bobsled tracks and the submarine track around the monorail piers, not knowing that it was all built at once and designed as a unit. Now it makes perfect sense. Even what I have seen of the new Wookie World, it's very much a set of discrete parts and all the action items are deep inside the huge buildings. Doesn't look like much extension or interpenetration of the various elements that was the signature Disney style.

I've seen other renderings for these additions, but this sign image is new to me. I think the Glacier Grotto description was added to graphically balance the ad copy. I always loved the skeletal interior of the Matterhorn, it seemed like the ultimate backstage glimpse, but hardly rose to the level of an attraction on it's own.

The description of the Motorboat Cruise is somewhat florid, I guess the reference to two new cruises is a nod to the Phantom boat ride that used to be in the lagoon?

There is also quite an island in the Submarine lagoon, probably deleted to save money.

Thanks Major and Electrospark for such a fun Friday.


Nanook said...

@ JG-
The island in the Submarine Lagoon is merely a ‘practice island’ for Fantasmic. (Perish the thought).

Matthew said...

What wonderful photos and comments. I think what catches my eye is the curbed street on Matterhorn Way. I never knew it still had a curb on both sides of the street. The large rendering shows no curbs so I wonder if that is when they disappeared from that area (Thank you ElctroSpark for the photo of the sign).

Also, I do remember there being a "Glacier Grotto" in the original Matterhorn. It wasn't much to look at... but it stopped you from seeing the dirt floor on the bottom of the mountain as your rode the Skyway (was it dirt? That's how my 9 year-old brain remembers it). I remember riding up the hill for the first time and looking down... so I have to agree with you @JG it was the ultimate backstage glimpse.

@JG I must agree with your other observation. I never knew that box was added on to the Castle. That is where the restrooms are today, but is that what it was then? Major, Snow White's Grotto & Wishing Well were around the corner closer to the castle so the box wasn't removed for that purpose.

@TokyoMagic! Love your observations about the sign. Four other items catch my eye in the rendering; first, the stream that feeds the upper waterfalls on the submarine lagoon. Second, the small lakes or pools around the Tomorrowland Autopia. Third, that box (bathroom?) is still attached to the castle. Finally, the steam train leaving Fantasyland station in the back of the rendering is such a lovely detail.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

JG said...

@Nanook, I thought the island might have been more elaborate staging for the mermaids... but your idea is terrifying. I'm envisioning Darth Vader riding on top of a submarine coming out of the waterfall chasing ewoks.

I have often thought that the sub lagoon offered a good opportunity missed for lakeside dining of the sort offered by River Belle Terrace. Maybe from a third floor over the monorail station.

@Amazon Belle, I think the striped shed against the castle in the photograph might be an inexpensive restroom building that was later replaced with better-themed "masonry".
Re: curbs. Didn't the Omnibus go around the Matterhorn for a while? I've seen the bus in other renderings like it was heading counterclockwise around to the bobsled queue. Maybe when the bus was re-routed, the curbs came out since the whole street was then a pedestrian walk?


JG said...

@Melissa, that excavated pile of dirt would be a enormous litter box for the Disney feral cats, quite an FPG indeed.

@Gnometrek, I don't know what became of the leftover soil from this construction, but clean and uncontaminated soil from excavations is often a valuable commodity. Some construction jobs I have been on, the contractor has made a profit selling excess spoils from grading, utility and foundation excavation etc. to other projects close by who need it to fill in low spots, etc. in their site. It probably went to a good home somewhere.


Anonymous said...

I always admired the engineering involved in putting the entire unit particular the 2 sides of the Fantasyland Autopia. I loved to take the outer lane looking out over the sub lagoon so I would choose the right side load/unload track.

My view of the Autopia changed dramatically when I ended up assigned (as permanent part time) to the T-land attraction after a summer as a temporary on the JC. I found I missed the cool shade of trees and the overall quiet of the Jungle.

After 3 months of jumping cars, smelling gasoline fumes and being in the heat of the sun, I was told by a Supervisor that I would soon be trained on Subs. I said thanks but I'd like to transfer back to Adventure/Frontierland (as it was called then). Apparently someone on that side wanted to head back my way, so the next weekend I was once again a skipper, never to return. KS

Chuck said...

This is a neat find.

The 1958 Sam McKim map lists that extension to the castle as restrooms at that date. It looks as though the exterior was re-cladded to look like masonry some time between 1961 and 1966, but I couldn't find anything more specific. If they were there on Opening Day, they must have been a last-minute addition; they aren't present in this late construction photo.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I see that you are a connoisseur of dirt. Bravo!

K. Martinez, we’ve all talked about it before, but the fact that the Matterhorn, Monorail, and Subs were all built in a period of months in nothing short of amazing.

TokyoMagic!, you know who does good layering? Supercuts. My hair has never looked better. I showed them a photo of Farah Fawcett circa 1980 and said, “Make my hair look just like this”. AND THEY DID. I wonder if all of those never-built things that you pointed out were on the list at some point, and then were removed due to budgetary reasons?

Gnometrek, I will have to see if one of the Usual Suspects knows the answer to your question, because I have no clue.

Melissa, are pooping grottos replacing babushkas? I’m having mixed feelings about this!

Lou and Sue, Walt was also smart enough to have the best help in realizing his vision. Those guys were geniuses too.

Penna. Andrew, by golly, you’re right. Sixty years! Incredible. The Submarine voyage has seen better days, but hey, I’m glad we still have some version of it. It amazes me that nobody tested those giant scissors before the big ceremonies with Nixon and his family!

Tom, When you think of how quickly they built those rides, I’d imagine that not too many photos exist. In fact, after collecting for so many years, I don’t have anything like this picture.

dzacher, the modern-looking building was bathrooms, I think! They were torn out when the Snow White Grotto and Wishing Well went in. And yes, I love the idea of a tunnel for the Monorail to pass through. Glad you enjoyed these.

Jonathan, I’m not sure the intention of the photographer was to capture the dirt, but I’m grateful that he did. I suppose your right, every credit card (and object) that I have is “major” in some way!

Major Pepperidge (if that is your real name), you smell funny.

JG, there are rumors that Disneyland will be torn down and the land will be repurposed as orange and walnut groves. I heard that the Japanese man who owned that strawberry field resisted Disney’s offers for as long as possible - and may have read that selling it broke his heart, which is sad. Re: Galaxy’s Edge; the fans seem to love it, and I’m glad, but the videos I’ve watched don’t tempt me very much. The thought of flying the Millennium Falcon with five other people, only to wind up crashing, does not sound like a very fun experience to me. I guess that works for re-rides though. It sure doesn’t sound like it would have been possible to achieve the integration of rides unless the “big three” had been done all at once, so that was fortuitous.

Nanook, it might just be artistic license, of course!

Matthew, good eye on the curbs - I can only guess that they were there to separate the vehicles from the pedestrians, but that seems “iffy”. Thanks for the info about “Glacier Grotto”, I had no idea that was ever a thing. Also, thanks for the correction on the location of Snow White’s Grotto. As I said in a previous comment, I’d love to know if this rendering represented some early version of what they wanted to build? Or was it just a case of “Make this painting as cool as possible”?

JG, I always wondered if the soil was used on the berm, but that is just a wild guess. From the looks of things, it might be that the stuff excavated from the sub lagoon might have been piled up at the base of the Matterhorn, though I assume that there is some sort of massive underground slab or some sort of support for that heavy mountain.

KS, I also loved that they put two different tracks in the Matterhorn, doubling its complexity - and doubling the fun. I never thought about the lack of shade for the Tomorrowland Autopia, but I see what you mean. I’m glad you got to transfer back to Adventureland/Frontierland. Maybe my dreams of working Tomorrowland would have been dashed.

Chuck, it would not surprise me at all if the restrooms were not ready on opening day. From the look at the photo you linked to, they weren’t even close!

ElectroSpark said...

Nice job! I may be the only one to say it is nice to see the back of the sign! You nailed it!