Friday, March 22, 2024

Aerial View, February 1966

While searching for a particular photo scan from the Mysterious Benefactor, I found another that I'd planned on saving for a "special occasion", and then forgot about. Hey, today's special enough! It's a wonderful aerial photo, dated "February, 1966". I love all aerial views of Disneyland, and this one is a pip. I'll share the entire photo, and then zoom in so that we can all appreciate some details.

There it is; we're above Frontierland and the Rivers of America, with Fantasyland at the top of the image. Wonderful! But let's take a closer look.

In the upper left, lots of earth-moving is taking place; I know that "it's a small world" debuted in March of '66, and this construction probably had something to do with that - I'm assuming that that attraction is nearly ready to open (though it's out of frame) and all that dirt is just further development of some kind. It's nice to get a look at the Rainbow Desert from the air. Is that an old tunnel for the Disneyland RR just to the left of the desert rocks? Or is it just a passage for maintenance vehicles? Also, I never thought of Storybook Land as being that close to Nature's Wonderland, but it was really just a stone's throw away.

Next we see Sleeping Beauty Castle and the dark ride buildings, along with the castle courtyard. In the lower right, the red slurry of Frontierland, along with Rainbow Ridge and Casa de Fritos. At the top right, the House of the Future!

Here's part of the Rivers of America, with treacherous rocks that will rip the bottom out of passing boats - unless they are piloted by experienced river men. Notice the canoe, the Friendly Indian Village in the upper center, and the Burning Settler's Cabin in the lower right (we can even see the Dead Settler's red shirt). 

And finally, this portion shows Cascade Peak - look at those pools for the cascades! I can't help wanting to wade and relax in them. A raft is crossing to Tom Sawyer Island at the bottom of the image, where we can see part of Fort Wilderness to the left, and Castle Rock to the right of that.

 This is one of my favorite photos from the Mysterious Benefactor, and I am grateful that he shared it with all of us!


Nanook said...

"Is that an old tunnel for the Disneyland RR just to the left of the desert rocks?"

Yes it is. We can see the realigned RR tracks angling-off to the left proceeding thru a new tunnel, as the tracks head-off towards [the new] It's a Small World. You may remember seeing the many still images and films depicting the DLRR running parallel, and in close proximity to the Nature's Wonderland Mine Train while it circled around the Rainbow Desert, with its Devil's Paint Pots and Geyser Country... and Ol' Unfaithful-!

Thanks, Major.

JB said...

The Fantasyland close-up gives us a good look at the Rainbow Caverns show building (light gray roof). Funny, when you're on the ride, it doesn't look, or feel, like you're going into a modern rectangular warehouse-type building when you enter the caverns.

In the last close-up, we can also see the rope bridge and a piece of the pontoon bridge.

I wonder how this photo came to be? It's not taken from the L.A. Airways helicopter, is it? Somebody in a private plane? Or did you mean this was provided from the Mysterious Benefactor? In which case, it must be taken from an official Disney employee.

In any case, thanks for this aerial photo, Major. I also enjoy seeing Disneyland from the air... I think all of us do.

TokyoMagic! said...

That former train tunnel was still standing, up until when they started bulldozing everything back there for Wookie World. They could have turned it into a cave from another planet, where guests could "meet 'n' greet" Ewoks, Chewbacca, Jar Jar Binks, or Darth Vader. All of those characters lived in a caves, right?

This is such a great aerial photo, with a lot of cool details to analyze. Thanks, Major and M.B.!


Interesting that the abandoned DLRR route shows the Fantasyland topiary garden … still intact . I always thought they had been re-located to ITS A SMALL WORLD …. But apparently not. I wonder what became of these topiaries?

Backstage of rainbow caverns you can see the tail end of one of the mine train’s yellow ore cars protruding from under the corrugated steel train shed.

I hadn’t thought about this in turn on decades but I remember several times when riding Nautures Wonderland that padded seats of the open air ore cars were often very hot after being exposed all day in the hot california sun… a similar memory is the hot upper seats of the open top keelboats .

Thank you for sharing these in-house gems with us Mysterious Benefactor and Major!

Pegleg Pete said...

This really is a great photo – thanks Major and Mysterious Benefactor. I'm assuming this was taken on a day when the park was closed (or perhaps, given the shadows, very early in the morning) as there are almost no people visible, the rides don't seem to be operating (with the exception of the errant raft and a lone canoe, the waterfalls on Cascade Peak aren't running and, most obviously, there seems to be a vehicle parked in the plaza in front of the castle.

Budblade said...

This is a very cool picture. It has me looking through it and the close ups several times.

thanks Major and Mysterious Benefactor! I’m better I will refer back to this picture a bunch.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Everyone of course is correct about the tunnel being on the original SF&DRR right-of-way. You can *just* make out the slight left turn the railroad made back then--contrary to recent assertions that the railroad didn't make a left turn until the construction of Star Wars Land.

K. Martinez said...

Awesome aerial! I can trace the Pack Mule trail in this pic. If only they hung onto Nature's Wonderland a bit longer. Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

Even a park map doesn't convey as well as this how close everything is. Disneyland is a marvel of compact design.

JG said...

This is wonderful. Hours (or at least minutes) of entertainment here.

Thanks Major & MB!


Nanook said...

@ Pegleg Pete-

"I'm assuming this was taken on a day when the park was closed (or perhaps, given the shadows, very early in the morning) as there are almost no people visible..."

I forgot to mention we can easily see the stripy 'nighttime curtains' surrounding the King Arthur Carousel in their closed positions.

And thanks to the M B.

Chuck said...

This is so amazingly amazing! One of those pictures you want to step into, although in this case it would probably be fatal without a jet pack.

Agree that the Park is probably closed. Not only are there no guests, but the mine trains and canal boats are all put away backstage and the cascades on Cascade Peak are turned off.

While the Viewliner was gone by this point, you can see from this photo just how close together Disneyland’s four railroad systems were to each other in the back of the Park. Never really made that connection before.

I think the raft is being used to transport landscape greenery to Tom Sawyer Island. There’s also a launch near the fort and what looks like might be another small boat in the moat in front of the castle. Looks like another small watercraft pulled ashore to the right of Castle Rock.

One of the barns of the Circle D Ranch is visible at the extreme left edge of the overall view.

Interesting to see just how close the mule path got to the roof of the Rainbow Caverns show building. Clever landscaping hides many sins.

This was a real treat. Thanks, Major and MB!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, they could have just done away with the tunnel, but they actually built a new mound of dirt for a new tunnel! I like their moxie. And I certainly do remember photos of the DLRR running very close to the Rainbow Desert.

JB, so much of Disneyland is actually industrial sheds, cleverly disguised. It’s kind of amazing! As for how the photo came to be, I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure; it is part of the huge package of publicity images from the Mysterious Benefactor, so perhaps that photographer rented a light airplane? I wish there were more aerials in the series!!

TokyoMagic!, all of those Star Wars characters actually live in muddy holes in the ground, and they eat slimy worms. Even Darth Vader!

Mike Cozart, oh yeah, thanks for pointing out the topiary garden. I assume that they were actually used out in front of IASW? Good eye on the mine car sticking out of that shed, very cool. The “sense memory” of those hot seats is the kind of thing that really does stick in a person’s mind!

Pegleg Pete, yes I forgot to mention that the park appears to be closed. The waterfalls on Cascade Peak are not running, and the Carrousel is “wrapped up”. Was this photo taken on a Monday or Tuesday, back when the park was closed on those days? Or as you say, was it taken in the morning before it opened? There’s a puddle in Fantasyland, as if the pavement had been cleaned recently.

Steve DeGaetano, I sort of love that the Disney company got that bit of trivia about the train never making a left turn WRONG!

K. Martinez, of course I wish I could still enjoy Nature’s Wonderland today, but it does seem like people had stopped appreciating that ride (in general). Once it was gone, we realized what a stunner it was!

Melissa, Disneyland really is a marvel!

JG, it’s almost as fun (or maybe more fun?) that scanning those old souvenir wall maps, I sure did that for hours when I was a kid.

Nanook, I was thinking there looks to be around 24 of those “curtains” around the Carrousel, I’ll bet those were a pain to put up (and take down). But they locked in freshness!

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, without obvious shadows it’s hard to determine if this photo was taken in the morning or not. I know I’ve pointed this out before, but the souvenir maps used to portray the backstage areas as just trees and more trees, and I used to think, “Why do they have all those trees? Build more rides!”. I was not a bright child. Aerial photos like these are so fascinating, we can truly see all sorts of details that mean something to us, while “normal” people wouldn’t notice those details at all. As Melissa said, everything really was closely packed at Disneyland, and yet they did an amazing job of making it all feel natural somehow.

Nanook said...


"I was thinking there looks to be around 24 of those “curtains” around the Carrousel, I’ll bet those were a pain to put up (and take down)".

I'm uncertain if by "... put up (and take down)", you literally mean the curtains are stored 'off-site' when the carousel is operational and "re-hung" during off-hours. Images indicate during operation each 'set' of (16-?) [vertically-striped] curtains are 'gathered' around the (eight-?) vertical posts supporting the outer edges of the circular roof, and are simply 'unfurled' at night to allow for full coverage of the carousel. There's no trekking back-and-forth with all that bulky and heavy fabric.

But, if you'd like that job... Bu has agreed to "pay you" with all the cold, discarded popcorn you can chow-down-!

Anonymous said...

This is truly a gem of a picture. Certainly taken when the Park was closed. One of those Mondays or Tuesdays back then. As for the topiary, I recall the DL&SF Railway narrative as one passed by them saying that they were being prepared precisely for IASW and that the vacant land between it and the Mine Train was for future growth. Yes, the vinyl seating could get hot, especially for those wearing shorts. When loading, we'd recommend they flip the cushions. The rafts were used by maintenance as needed. What IS unusual is to see a canoe out in the River on this day. But maybe a couple guys needed to do a special task. Those 'dangerous rocks' were splashed with small jets of water to give the effect of being in rapids. Such was the creative detail of the Disney folks back then. When working the Canoes we could paddle through that side channel to pass the Mark Twain or Columbia. But only if the guests were up to it. We'd ask the crew first if they wanted to REALLY paddle. It took some judgement on our part to assess if they could do it. Added a little "E Ticket" excitement. Other times, it was just a shortcut that we would gently paddle through if we wanted. KS

LTL said...

I'm just gonna say, along with others, how great this photo is. I perused and perused. About the first thing that hit me is how long the swinging bridge at TSI seems.

I too studied the the big DL maps as a kid, but wow if I had photos like this, then... hachi machi!

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Your close-up of the west side of the castle reveals an area I discovered/discussed a great deal years ago, regarding a “Little Lost Turret”. This angle explains were the Tinkerbell Toy Shoppe got added to an early expanded wall enclosure of Fantasyland…which featured my LLT tale. This was all soon balanced on the east side with Snow White’s Wishing Well fountain.


"Lou and Sue" said...

^ ditto what MS said: WOW!

I think I see shiny boy.

I love these shots, plus all the info shared...thank you.