I hope you enjoy these excerpts from interviews I did with people who were at Disneyland on its opening day on July 17, 1955.
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1:26 Harriet Burns, of the Imagineering model shop, talks about having to be at various positions in Disneyland on its opening day; Crowds and counterfeit tickets and heat; Melting asphalt; The day before Disneyland opened there was a gap in Tomorrowland; The Disney staff’s thoughts about Disneyland
4:41 Cubby O’Brien was a very young boy debuting as a Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer at the opening day of Disneyland
6:19 Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni Van Meter won a prize to attend Disneyland on its opening day; Serving ice cream for Walt Disney
8:25 Bobby Burgess danced with the other Mouseketeers on Disneyland’s opening day and it was hot; Disneyland parade; A special memory of riding the Skyway a few years later
10:31 Sculptor Blaine Gibson attended Disneyland’s opening with his wife; The heat; Blaine’s assistant Jack Ferges did not have a good experience
12:10 Marketing guru and president of Disneyland, Jack Lindquist was at the park on opening day as a guest of Kelvinator; Crowds and heat; Tickets had different times on them but the guests didn’t leave; Jack’s five year old son had an experience on the Canal Boats attraction; Eddie Meck was the publicity person for Disneyland; Jack knew Eddie Meck since he was a kid; Eddie Meck helped turn upset members of the press into fans of Disneyland
16:43 Miriam Nelson choreographed the performances for Disneyland’s opening day; Choosing a white knight and black knight for the opening of the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty castle; Dancers got lost; New Orleans dance problems; Little boy tap dancer was not at his spot; The characters at the opening of Fantasyland; Frontierland was supposed to have cement for dancers who danced to “Bang! Went Old Betsy”; Walt Disney
Blaine Gibson began his Disney career as an inbetweener on a Pluto cartoon short film “Bone Trouble,” and then on “Fantasia” and “Pinocchio” and as an assistant animator on“Bambi.” Blaine eventually began sculpting for Disney, creating the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean, ghosts in the Haunted Mansion, Abraham Lincoln for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, all the president before Barrack Obama for Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, Mark Twain and others for the American Adventure in Epcot, and much more. Blaine also sculpted the Partners statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.
1:52 The Haunted Mansion; Developing three dimension characters from Marc Davis’ drawings
3:18 The inverted concavity busts whose eyes seem to follow you; Sculptor George Snowden and Yale Gracey, special effects wizard; Working on Disneyland and animating; the first Mickey Mouse head
6:35 Yale Gracey and the technique to create multiple sea gulls from Blaine’s animation for the If You Had Wings attraction in the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World
8:30 Sculpting the head for Leota Toombs (the Imagineer who appears in the crystal ball in the Haunted Mansion) and a problem with the materials used to capture her life mask
10:13 Basing his sculptures on people – a worker at Disney Studios had a great head
Enjoy this slide show of photos of the Disney Legends Awards!
Listen to the interview directly under the photos.
Jeff Hoffman’s began his Disney career selling merchandise at Disneyland shop and ultimately becoming vice president of Disney Worldwide Outreach. He was largely responsible for the Disney Legends Awards for more than two decades.
AUDIO INDEX 1:15 The start of the Disney Legends Awards; the first Disney Legend ceremony, Fred MacMurray
6:52 The original committee to choose the Disney Legends; Choosing the term “Disney Legend”
11:43 Continuing the Disney Legends Awards after the Fred MacMurray ceremony; choosing the next Disney Legends; Walt’s “nine old men” honored; Ward Kimball’s “six-fingered” handprints
18:06 Annette Funicello’s handprints in the rain; the Sherman Brothers’ handprints mishap
21:09 The Disney Legends Award statuette; Award sculptor and designer Andrea Favilli; a large scale Award sculpture and the Legends Plaza; the 75th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company; Roy E. Disney’s award
Did you know that “it’s a small world” had it’s grand opening at Disneyland on this day in 1966? The ceremonies were complete with doves and countless helium filled balloons being released in the air. (This was before it was determined that releasing balloons may have negative environmental impacts.) Also, children of the world brought water from their native countries to pour into the ride’s moat. To keep with the international theme, Walt Disney spoke via telephone/loud speaker to 1966 Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson, who was in Skansen, Switzerland. Although today, Connie probably would appear via internet on a big screen, in the ’60s, the reception was far from what we can receive today. Connie told me, “I could hear Walt saying, ‘There’s some difficulty, we can’t get it through,’ and I thought, oh dear, here I am in Stockholm with the press and this Minister of Communications’ and the line just is going down, so I read my script as I was asked to do.” Despite any technical difficulties, the grand opening ceremonies were a success and “it’s a small world” continues to be a favorite Disneyland attraction 49 years later.
Jack Gladish worked as an engineer, responsible for submarines, dinosaurs, railroad locomotives and much more. Attractions include the “Carousel of Progress,” “Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room” and much more. During his career he headed the plastics and fiberglass shops at the MAPO department of Walt Disney Imagineering.
:56 How he got his start with Disney in the late ‘50s; Precision camera machinist, including work on the multi-plane camera; Mary Poppins’ robin for “Spoonful of Sugar”
3:06 Audio Animatronics; Abraham Lincoln’s head, including tongue, smile and expressions; Programming the movements;
9:50 The atmosphere at WED; Walt Disney; Walt making money
14:00 Roger Broggie; Troubleshooting at Disneyland; skins for Jungle Cruise animals; problem with zebra stripes
18:02 Railroad locomotives and submarines for the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World; how we became stationed permanently in Florida
21:12 World’s Fair; Primeval World; Carousel of Progress
Goofy was celebrated throughout Disney in 1992, including The World According to Goofy parade at Disneyland. Above are a few of the photos I took of the parade. The lavish parade represented Goofy in various settings including the Italian “Renais-sauce,” “Egyptian Daze” and running for president of the United States. I’d vote for him!
Enjoy this slide show of photos of Wally Boag! Listen to the interview directly under the photos.
Wally Boag starred in Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue stage show from 1955 to 1982. During that time, some of his other contributions include appearing in some of Walt Disney’s movies, entertaining the troops in Iceland, performing in a Walt Disney stage show at Radio City Music Hall, writing Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room attraction and providing the voice of that show’s emcee macaw, Jose.
2:35 His start in showbiz
9:26 Donald Novis; Golden Horseshoe Revue audition for Walt Disney
11:59 Fulton Burley; writing Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room; under contract with MGM; bring Fulton to the Horseshoe
14:03 History of “spitting out teeth” as Pecos Bill
16:33 More about the Tiki Room and writing for WED (now known as Walt Disney Imagineering); the Tiki Room in Tokyo Disneyland; the barker bird in Disneyland; his involvement in the Haunted Mansion
19:43 Stunt double for Fred MacMurray in the Absent-Minded Professor
Here’s a rarity from my collection. That’s Wally Boag, star of Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue with Hollywood legend Pat O’Brien. At this newsstand in Disneyland, guests could purchase “The Disneyland News” newspapers, and get their name personalized in the headline! By the way, I’ll be posting an interview I did with Wally very soon!