Disneyland Dream

Parkeology is all about trying to find some little known fact or detail to talk about.  We try for truly obscure stuff, well beyond the standard Hidden Mickeys.  With all the die-hard fan sites out there, it’s hard to find anything that has never been written about in some shape or form, but we do our best.

For instance, did you know that the entire first level of the Magic Kingdom is an underground tunnel network called the Utilidors?  Amazing!

Every now and then, I’ll stumble onto something that seems completely obscure, and realize that it’s actually kind of well known.  That happened to me earlier this week with an article in the New York Times online site.

I don’t know how many of you are aware of this small publication, but I guess it’s a newspaper of some sort  in the northeast.  They have a pretty good Sudoku puzzle that you can play online, so I like that.  I’m not usually there looking for hard-hitting Disney park news.

But they had an article about the passing of a filmmaker best known for a little movie called “Disneyland Dream.”  Truth be told, I had never heard of this movie before this week, but it’s actually rather famous.  It was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2008.  The Registry contains only movies of historical significance, so on the list you’ll see things like “E.T.”, “All About Eve,” or “An American in Paris.”

And of course “Garfield 2”

What makes Disneyland Dream so special is that it is an amateur movie.  A home movie shot in 1956 by the winning family of a contest from Scotch Tape.  Basically, they won a trip to Universal Studios or something.  It is one of only two amateur movies in the Registry.  If you are good at deduction, you will figure out that the other is either the Zapruder film or the Star Wars Kid.

Our money is here.

The entire video of Disneyland Dream is available on Youtube.  Note that they really do go to Universal, as well as several other southern California sites before actually arriving in Disneyland.  Disneyland is roughly the last third of the movie (running time: 30min.)

It’s a real slice of Americana and imminently watchable.  In an age where everyone’s home movies are online, it’s astonishing in its innocence and in its ingenuity (no full-on double rainbow here). Plus, it’s a great way to get a look at Disneyland, unfiltered by the Disney publicity machine.

It’s also noticeable for the fact that a very young Steve Martin appears as a Cast Member, walking through a portion of the frame (see Wikipedia for exact specifics).

Or just look for the only white-haired 12-year-old.

For me, the real eye-opener was not the Steve Martin cameo, but something else about Disneyland that I never knew.  Granted, I am not a West Coaster, and I have only been to Disneyland four times in my entire life.  But I’m pretty decent at Disney history, and I have studied the park quite a bit.

So how come I never knew Monstro the Whale had a blow hole?

Shown spouting at approx. 0:33 on Part IV of the youtube video.

Big Thunder’s Secret Show Scene

If you’re like me, you woke up today wondering if there was any real connection between a singing legend, an octopus, and the greatest Disney coaster of all time.  Don’t feel ashamed.  Everyone ponders this at some point or another, although usually it is accompanied by a high fever and unusual doses of medication.
To answer your question, we have to go back.  Way back.  I will not give you the exact date, but it was sometime after Kramer discovered fire and before Steve Jobs invented the iPhone in his garage.  Give or take a day.
First, a little blatant self-promotion is in order.  I have to admit that today’s post is inspired because I recently wrote about Big Thunder Mountain on another blog that I’ve launched with my brother, who is also my writing partner.
Oh, smashing!  Groovy!  Yay, capitalism!
lindsaybrothers.com is a place for us to promote our stories and talk about stories in general, which is my other big interest, beside Disney parks).  We currently have a series going on the 100 Most Extraordinary Adventures in any medium, and Big Thunder checked in at #84.  We’d love it if you’d give us a look, and maybe stick around if you enjoy it.  Anyway, back to the singing octopus thing.
This is me, on my first day as a Walt Disney World Cast Member.  I was a proud new attraction host at the world famous Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  I was fresh out of college, ready to make my mark on the Disney company, and I think I lasted about 2 weeks before I got a job in Ohio that paid more than $6 an hour and actually required the use of my new degree.
I washed out.  I couldn’t cut it.  My ego was writing checks my body couldn’t cash – which was too bad, because I really could have used the cash back then.  But the experience did leave me with one of my most treasured possessions:
Do I hear a choir of angels?  Maybe.
I will pause for a moment as you wipe the drool off of your keyboard.  Got it all cleaned up?  Good, here we go.
There are many secrets in this handbook, and I dare not reveal all of them, because to do so would activate the microscopic explosive implanted in my cornea.  But one of them, I think, is safe because it turns out Wikipedia already has this info, though they spell it wrong.
On one page of the handbook is listed all of the official show scenes within the ride.  There are 20 of them, and I was actually required to take a test on them at the completion of my training.  You will not be surprised by most of them, other than that a few of them are a little trivial.
Here it is, in all its glory, but with one scene missing:

  1. Miners
  2. Bat Cave
  3. Grotto/Phosphorous Pools
  4. Waterfall
  5. Natural Arch Canyon
  6. Robber’s Cave
  7. Flash Flood
  8. __________
  9. Winch House
  10. Big Horn Sheep
  11. Spiral Butte
  12. Abandoned Mine
  13. Big Thunder Mining Company
  14. Avalanche
  15. Show Doors
  16. River Trestle
  17. Snow Shed
  18. Dinosaur Bones
  19. Geysers
  20. Sulfur Pools
The first thing that should leap to your mind is:  “Show Doors is a show scene?”  (another tongue twister to go with “Snow Shed Show Scene”).  Yes, you can see them as you exit the cave-in.  Your train dips down beneath the buried track and out into broad daylight.  Doors are mounted on either side of the exit to this tunnel.
Today they are always open, but as it was explained to me, they were originally intended to open and close automatically, blocking light from entering the cave-in scene and increasing the effectiveness of the illusion.  I have no idea if they ever worked under real operating conditions, or if it was simply something that they had to abandon before the ride even opened.

Now to the mysterious Scene #8…

This angle actually shows both scenes 7 and 9.  What is between them??

If you’re having trouble picturing any sort of scene in between the exit of Tumbleweed (“Flash Flood”) and going up the second lift hill (“Winch House”), do not feel bad.  You actually pass through a very, extremely, impossibly brief tunnel, and that tunnel is a mine.  And that mine has a name.

Does not belong in Frontierland.

If you’ve seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, you might think that the character of Davy Jones is named for some sort of great sea legend, but he’s actually named after the tiny, worthless mine on Big Thunder, because my manual is dated several years before those movies came out.

Tony Baxter was a Daydream Believer

In fact, it is 1960s singing legend Davy Jones for whom the mine is named.  At least I think so, because Show Scene #8 is called “Dave V. Jones Mine.”  And who said Monkees don’t belong in Frontierland?

Okay, I have no idea why it’s called that.  The other mines are “Abandoned Mine” and “Robber’s Cave.”  But for some reason Disney felt it was important to name this little 4-foot tunnel after some fictional person.
I know you are now excited to ride, to see if you can catch some glimpse of why it is called that.  I actually have a theory myself, but I’m more curious to see if anybody can come up with an explanation, especially when you’re whizzing through it at 30mph.  Good luck!

Disneyland: A Division of Vandelay Industries

Seinfeld fans may remember Vandelay Industries, the fictional business invented by George Costanza as a means of falsifying his employment.  As I recall, Vandelay started as a latex business, but evolved into an import/export company.  It had what is known as a “diversified business model.”

Imports:  Chips (potato; some corn).  Exports: Diapers

Disneyland is a bit of an exporter itself.  Being the original theme park, having been dreamed up by Walt himself (with absolutely no help from a single other individual), it set the gold standard for the company’s theme parks around the globe.  Today there are very few attractions at Disneyland that have not been cloned at other parks.  It seems every Magic Kingdom has a train, a castle, a Peter Pan ride, a jewel-encrusted equine-footwear saloon.

Even the non-Magic Kingdom parks steal attractions from Disneyland.  The Indiana Jones Adventure found its way to Tokyo DisneySea.  Star Tours docked in Hollywood Studios.  Captain EO landed in Epcot, which also went cuckoo for CircleVision.

When it comes to imports, however, Disneyland tends to keep itself fairly pure.  Sure, California Adventure robs amply from Florida to round out its repertoire.  MuppetVision, It’s Tough to Be A Bug, and Tower of Tower were all borrowed from Walt Disney World.  But Disneyland has been around for 55 years now, and I can only think of 6 attractions that were ever borrowed from its grandchildren (and no, we’re not talking about the World’s Fair Fab Four).  I’ll give you about 8 seconds to come up with them on your own.  Time’s up.  Now it’s time to start listing them.

Space Mountain

This is a biggie.  Magic Kingdom had it first by a couple years, and for the longest time had the better version, with an extensive postshow and two different tracks.  Disneyland closed the book on this argument by adding onboard audio, which drastically enhances the ride experience.  They’ve also added seasonal overlays (Rockit Space Mountain and Ghost Galaxy) to give riders a fresh take on an old classic.

At one time, it was also painted puke bronze, a color universally loved by fans.  We cried when Disneyland restored the original white paint job.  Really, we did.  Seriously.  Okay, we didn’t.

Country Bear Jamboree

Another Florida original that went West.  Though the show was originally developed for a proposed ski resort at Mineral King, it ended up in the Magic Kingdom by default and proved hugely popular.  So popular that when Disneyland cloned it, they built two theaters, but the show was such a people-eater that they never really needed that much capacity.  Many years later, it closed to make room for…

Give Disneyland credit for creating the seasonal Vacation Hoedown and Christmas shows, which Walt Disney World was content to steal right back.  And give WDW credit for continuing to run those seasonal shows.  Oh wait.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Roundly viewed by Disneylanders as some what of a failure, the ride is actually a fine little Fantasyland-style dark ride, although a lesser clone to the one that first debuted at the Magic Kingdom.  For awhile, Disneyland boasted a better exterior, with a more natural, woodsy facade, but recently the Magic Kingdom regained the crown with its impressive, immersive, interactive queue.

Of course, neither Florida nor California can hold a candle to Tokyo’s version, which features free-roaming honeypots, and in typical Tokyo fashion also gives you a million dollars at the end of the ride.

Honey, I Shrunk the Audience

Disneyland’s Magic Eye theater evicted the groundbreaking Captain EO as part of a reimagining of Tomorrowland in 1997.  This popular Rick Moranis movie from Epcot moved in to take its place.  The show felt out of place in Tomorrowland and never really took off (much like the rest of that Tomorrowland makeover).  It closed earlier this year and was replaced by… Captain EO.

We fully expect HISTA to return after Rick Moranis’s death creates a huge tidal wave of public interest.


Calling this an attraction would be a joke, if it wasn’t so tragic.  Disneyland’s historical Carousel theater was gutted for a trade-show of awful corporate exhibits, an idea imported from Epcot’s similarly awful Innoventions pavilion.  It’s still there, and still 300 times more boring than listening to America Sings.

This Innoventions improved upon the original by actually forcing you to wait in a line to gain entrance.  That is sarcasm, for those of who don’t read parkeology on a regular basis.

Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters

The popular ride-through shooting gallery from the Magic Kingdom found a home in Tomorrowland after the Rocket Rods moved out.  It does not share the “Space Ranger Spin” title from Florida because the cars do not have teacup-like maneuverability.  Instead, it swiped the name from one of the rides at DisneyQuest.  Along with Space Mountain, this has been one of the more popular imports.

I love how the marketing folks helpfully added which movie inspired this ride.   As if it just doesn’t sound interesting enough.