Saturday, June 19, 2021

Walt Disney's Airplane

Last year I shared some photos that I'd found, pictures of some of Walt Disney's animators and Imagineers at the 1964 New York World's Fair. See some of those photos HERE and HERE. Mixed in with those photos were a number of pictures of Walt Disney's private airplane, a Grumman G-159 Gulfstream 1. 

There it is on the tarmac at the "PAC (Pacific Airmotive Corporation) Terminal" (part of the Lockheed Terminal) at the Burbank airport.

And some of the Disney artists and (presumably) a few wives pose by the starboard wing. The man in the gray coat is Disney Legend Ken Anderson. I've never been able to figure out who the man in the white shirt is, though he shows up in a number of photos from this batch.

There's Blaine Gibson, with his camera hanging around his neck. I wish we could see his photos!

Looking around online, I found this nice photo of Walt and Lillian with their grandchildren, with Walt's plane parked in nearly the same spot as in my photos - but it is clearly a different plane! ALERT THE MEDIA.

And here's another nice photo (or frame grab from film?), I wish I knew the occasion. Walt looks about as happy as can be. Does anybody recognize the gentleman to our right (Walt's left)?

Here's a publicity photo with a large group of mostly younger employees. I believe that the woman looking to our right is 1966 Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson. Snow White is there too, along with a mysterious man with an accordion, required on all flights.

One website mentioned that the plane, nicknamed "The Mouse", ...became the highest utilization Gulfstream in worldwide corporate service, due to continuous flights carrying Disney Executives weekly to New York and Florida in 1964-1965, for World’s Fair and Walt Disney World.

Notice the man next to Connie...

I thought he looked familiar, and sure enough, he was a glamorous model for one of the cast member costumes (the mail room, in this case) that Huck Caton shared with us years ago! "Just try to look natural". "How's this??".  I wonder if he moved up the corporate ladder into a position of some importance?

He reminds me of the tall elf from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"!

Next are two photos taken as the Imagineers prepared to leave New York, back to sunny SoCal. I would guess that this is La Guardia airfield, since that is fairly close to the old Fairgrounds. 

There's Ken Anderson again, accompanied by Les Clark, one of the Nine Old Men who'd worked for Walt since 1927, starting on the "Alice" comedies (pre-Mickey Mouse, and even pre-Oswald the Lucky Rabbit).

This photo was part of the batch, and I just included it in case one of you found it interesting!

Walt Disney's airplane was worthy of its own postcards:

I hope you have enjoyed this post about Walt's airplane!



Could the guy in the white shirt be Paul Hartley? He’s even got the narrow bow tie Hartley was known for. Were ALL those people getting on the plane!??

TokyoMagic! said...

Gee, how many airplanes did Walt Disney own?

That one guy on the bottom step of the airplane, appears to be getting a little chummy with Snow White. They have their arms around each other. And Snow White has a bit of the "Elvira" hairdo going's just not quite as high as Elvira's.

Mike, some of those people rode down below in the cargo hold. Of course, they had to lay on their backs the entire way.

Thanks for sharing these wonderful and rare pics with us, Major!

Chuck said...

Wowza! And me on the way out the door!

Initial comment - I think the guy coming down the Gulfstream's steps in photo 5 (the one with walt and the crowd of people milling about) is Mark Davis.

Will be back later!

Andrew said...

Is Snow White glaring at (a smiling) Ms. Ambassador??

I saw this plane on the now closed Hollywood Studios Backlot Tour at WDW in 2014, but here's its current location. I found an update that says it has been covered and fenced off since these photos were taken. Thanks - very cool post!

Anonymous said...

Wwll, I just had to figure out what the "mystery plane" is. After quite a bit of searching, I found it! It's a Ratheon Model 90 King Air, one of the most successful business aircraft ever made. I used the nose and "vent window" to help in the search. Was Walt plane shopping with the fam? Maybe!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm way down the rabbit hole now. I found out that Disney owned three planes. The "Micky Mouse" (so called because of the "MM" in its call letters) was indeed a Raytheon Beechcraft King Air (1965–1967), which was chosen for its fast and quiet features and used the N234MM tail number.
So Walt wasn't shopping, he was just taking the fam on a ride in his most comfortable new plane!
It makes sense, because the paint patterns are the same on both planes.
As an aside, my uncle worked for Raytheon for years...

Bu said...

I speculate, but I think I may be right...the Ambassador is Marcia Miner- who also did a TV special ‘ala Julie Rheim in 1967. That was a show that since Walt had passed, they put in Marcia to narrate. It introduced both Pirates and Tomorrowland. The plane trip was for the re-release of Snow White. There are seven guys on the steps and Marcia has said in interviews that all the dwarves went on that trip. They certainly look like the cloned Disney perfection- “let’s get some handsome guys and cover them in giant costumes over their heads!” Those freaking character costumes are HEAVY, so it makes sense to have strapping lads inside of them. The suits on the left are probably publicity guys...I don’t know what Eddie Meck looked like, but maybe he is one. Probably guys from the studio too. I speculate. Mrs. Disney as always- fabulous in those white sunglasses. I‘ll say again, I’m not sure I ever saw her (in person anyway) without a pair of dark glasses on- but then it’s California, and her husband just happens to be a Hollywood makes sense. Interiors of the plane I have heard were Mrs. Disney choices. There were a lot of those orange choices used in offices at Disneyland and at the Studio from what I remember. A very 60’s-tastic color! Bu

JG said...

Flights of Fantasy, for certain, Major.

Really great stuff here, and “...all the dwarves...” for a bonus!


"Lou and Sue" said...

WOW! Major you said you found these?! What a treasure!

Bu, you figured out the 7 guys on the stairs...but any idea why an accordion player??

Thanks, Major! I’ll be back later...

DrGoat said...

Remarkably wonderful photos, Major. Great way to start the weekend.
I actually like the Piper/Mobil pic. The architecture and the colors really do it for me. Love that lone juniper bush or whatever it is.
Pics four and five are pretty special.
Thanks Major.

DrGoat said...

Sue, that accordionist must be Myron Floren, hitching a ride and providing in-flight entertainment. And that's a long flight.

"Lou and Sue" said...

VERY LONG flight!

Nanook said...

There's definitely a strange vibe from that "version" of Snow White. With her 60's [wannabe] bouffant hairdo - which seems very out of place for 'ol Snow, and her facial features that almost remind me of Connie Francis, I feel a bit weirded-out-! Thankfully, there's an accordion player to 'normalize' it all.

I think I'm gonna get me a nice pair of horn-rimmed glasses, and just start showing-up in all sorts of pictures - including stop motion animated cartoons. (Great job, Major, identifying our 'tall drink of water', as he takes his "modeling skills" along to N.Y.)

@ DrGoat-
I'm voting for Dick Contino on that accordion.

"Please fasten your seatbelts as we prepare for take-off".

Thanks, Major.

DrGoat said...

Both worthy accordionists Nanook, but noting the long flight time, I'll bet there were some Miltowns passed around. And cocktails.

Bu said...

Bashful is an accordion player and that's what was played in the dancing scene in the film- so I suppose it makes sense to bring along Mr. Accordion to play whilst the guys frolic about with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Guy #2 from the left I think is Charlie Ridgeway...did some re-con...he was also in advertising working with Eddie.

Chuck said...

Sorry - Marc Davis. Was in a hurry.

When these photos were taken, Raytheon hadn't bought Beech yet, so technically, that's a Beechcraft Model 90 King Air. Stu pulled up some of the registration history of that airplane, but it's a bit more complicated than that. It entered WDP service as N234MM, but the registration was changed to N2340M around the time WDP sold it in 1967.

If the registration number N234MM sounds familiar, it's because that number was transferred to the company's Gulfstream (originally N732G as you see in these photos) in 1967. While it was retired to WDW in 1992 and on display at Disney/MGM/Hollywood Studios for many years, it still retains that registration, which was renewed as recently as last July and currently set to expire at the end of August 2023.

Note the concrete blocks placed around the aircraft in the Google view that Andrew linked. I'm going to guess that the aircraft is tied down to those blocks so it doesn't blow over in a strong wind. I hope this airframe makes it indoors some day. Like the Cross of Coronado and Dr. Henry Jones, Jr., it belongs in a museum.

Major Pepperidge said...

Mike Cozart, I don’t believe that it is Paul Hartley, based on the few photos that I’ve seen (none of them good clear photos), but I could be wrong. That really does seem like too many people for that small plane.

TokyoMagic!, you can never own too many airplanes. Hear me well! That guy is getting chummy with Snow White, but the guy one step up is getting chummy with HIM. What’s going on? Yeah, Snow White’s hair is very weird.

Chuck, that might be Marc, but he’s too indistinct to be certain.

Andrew, I saw photos of the plane that used to be on display at the Hollywood Studios Backlot, and noticed that it had a different ID number on the tail. I don’t know if those can change over the years, or if that means it’s not the same plane? It otherwise looks the same (not counting the paint).

Stu29573, good work! I hate to admit it, but I don’t think I even tried to figure it out (I wrote this post weeks ago, so I kind of forget). “Come on Kids! Grampa needs a new set of wings!”.

Stu29573, I also went down a rabbit hole as far as Walt Disney’s personal aircraft, but like I said two seconds ago, I’ve forgotten whatever I gleaned from the Internet! I saw the one at the Hollywood Studios Backlot (which may or may not be the same one in my photos?), and the one with Walt and Family, but what was the third?

Bu, yes, I think you’re right about it being Marcia Miner. Who is her “Hollywood legend” husband? Ernest Borgnine? Marlon Brando? You can watch that show you mentioned on YouTube, it’s a classic. And somehow the absence of Walt as the usual host seems very noticeable, at least to me. Marcia does a perfectly good job though. I’ll bet it was weird for Lillian Disney to suddenly be expected to be out in front of the public in many situations, since she was always so “behind the scenes”. And she remarried only a few years after Walt’s death, so I guess she just had to not talk about that! I personally like orange, so I would have been happy with Mrs. Disney’s decorative choices. Interesting theory about those seven men being the people in the Dwarf costumes!

JG, glad you liked these!

Lou and Sue, yes, this was from a lot that was apparently shot by one of the Imagineers, a man named Jack Fergus, who Rolly Crump referred to as the best model maker in the model shop. And everyone knows that the accordion helps to lull people to sleep, like a ticking clock for puppies.

DrGoat, I figured somebody would like that Piper/Mobil pic! It was YOU!

DrGoat, I wish my name was Myron. I was just reading about a man named “LaVerne”. Why would anybody name their son LaVerne?? He went by “Buzz” in life.

Lou and Sue, I guess you’re not an accordion fan. More of a triangle person?

Nanook, she was a “New York” Snow White. I like how the red headband was apparently enough to satisfy the powers that be. “Yep, she looks like Snow White to me!”. You should get horn-rimmed glasses, and hang from clock faces in downtown L.A. Everyone’s doing it

DrGoat, it’s amazing how often Dick Contino comes up on this blog! I probably had never heard of him before that.

Bu, you make a good point, I can remember one of the Dwarfs playing the accordion (or “squeeze box” as I calls it) but couldn’t have told you which one it was.I think you could be right about Charlie Ridgeway!

Chuck, it’s OK, I knew you knew the right way to spell his name! Thanks for confirming that the registration number can change, I did not know. It seems weird to me that the plane is rotting away in a vacant lot, I’d think that there could be a use for it. Maybe a plane that old is not worth maintaining, but some flyboy would probably love to have it. Thanks Chuck! (Sorry for my brief reply, about to run out the door for most of the rest of the day).

Melissa said...

Getting serious Village of the Damned vibes from the Disney grandkids. Are these the real grandkids or a fleet of animatronic replicants whipped up by WED for the occasion?

Taking bets on how many miles they got before the accordion was mysteriously jettisoned.

I kid because I’m jealous. What I wouldn’t give to be whisking away somewhere in a private plane right now! This is a collection of real pictorial day-brighteners.

(Remember what I was saying the other day about how I liked the princesses better before they started wearing regulation wigs? I’m thinking I may want to reconsider that position.)

Anonymous said...

Oops! The first Disney plane was a Beechcraft Queen Air (from 1963 to 1965). Good catch on the timing of Beechcraft/ Raytheon, Chuck!

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-
Each of your comments made me laugh out loud. Thanks-!

But I was thinking, if we were lucky-enough to be able to 'piggy-back' a ride on 'ol N732G, just imagine how the cabin would reek of nicotine-??!! (I guess I'll need to take-up smoking...)