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Walt's Barn

Walt Disney built a barn in the backyard of his new Carolwood Drive home in 1950. As a Disney building, it was somewhat less than full size, designed by architect and Hollywood set designer John V. Cowles, Jr. Walt installed basic machine and woodworking tools in the barn and it was here that he could tinker with projects when he felt like it. His standard poodle, Duchess Disney, would keep him company, reminding him to go to bed when it grew near midnight.

The barn was saved in 1999 when the house was destroyed and it is now open once a month in Griffith Park, next to the Los Angeles Live Steamers, at 5202 Zoo Drive. The free exhibit (donations are gladly accepted) opens on the third Sunday of each month from 11am to 3pm. (Walt's Barn will be open April 21, May 19, June 16, July 21...and so on in 2019.)

I was honored to spend St. Patrick's Day, March 17 at the Barn, signing copies of Inventing Disneyland. Doug Marsh of the Carolwood Foundation, which operates the Barn, was ou…
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Southern California March 13-17, 2019

A lot of folks have asked how they could have their copy of Inventing Disneyland signed, and I would be glad to do it, but I'm based in Seattle. I'll be in the Los Angeles area next week and I'll visit these spots to meet folks--feel free to drop by with questions and/or books to sign.

Wednesday, March 13 11am
Orange County Archives
Old Orange County Courthouse  (basement, east end)
211 W. Santa Ana Boulevard, Santa Ana

We'll be in San Diego that afternoon. If you'd like to meet, please suggest a location in the comments or by email at: inventingdisneyland@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 14 1pm
New Starbucks
Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon, Palm Springs

Sunday, March 17 11am-3pm
Walt's Barn - The Carolwood Foundation
5202 Zoo Drive, LA 90027
Between Travel Town and the Victory Blvd. bridge, just east of the LA Live Steamers.

I highly recommend both the Orange County Archives and Walt's Barn--if you haven't visited, this would be a good opportunity. If you m…

Inventing Disneyland, the Book

I was just informed that my book about the creation of Disneyland California, Inventing Disneyland, is now available, just in time for Christmas. It's the (I hope) entertaining story of all the people not named Walt Disney who worked so hard to make this singular place a reality. Walt shows up in the story, too, of course.

This is the result of years of research and interviews with the principals, organized as a chronological journal to let you experience the process as it unfolded.

When I worked for WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) many years ago, I studied the original plans for Disneyland (some of which are available on the internet) in my spare time. I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Disney Legends like Herb Ryman, Sam McKim, and Bill Martin--and they were extremely generous (with everyone) with their time. Others, like C. V. Wood, Jr., I had to track down.

One thing missing from Disneyland books, in general, is a sense of context. What was happening in…

Want to Invest in Disneyland? Read this Prospectus.

What's a Disneyland? you ask. It's late September of 1954, and you would be forgiven for not knowing the slightest thing about it. Disney had been approaching General Motors, General Foods, General Mills, General Electric, but that list doesn't include your company.

Television insiders were surprised six months before when Variety and other papers said that Walt Disney had agreed to join dozens of other celebrities to host a television show, but it wouldn't debut until the week of Halloween. At the time, there was mention of a kiddieland, but you ignored that as just ballyhoo for the new variety show. It's show biz, not your biz.

You run a company like Sunnyview Farms, makers of jams, jellies, and sugary candies. Maybe you're Anne Cole, designer of swimwear, or the Bekins brothers, leaders in the moving and storage trade. You could be in charge of advertising for the Pen Corporation of America, or the Shoe Corporation of America, for that matter. Maybe you are …

The Time Nat Winecoff Invented Disneyland

Walt Disney's creative vision and dogged determination made Disneyland a reality. The park embodies his dreams and ideals, but the hard fact is that he needed a lot of help to coax his ideas into tangible reality. Many assume that Walt turned to his world-class staff of artists to develop his park, but they formed the reserves. In fact, Walt formed a cadre of white men mostly in their forties from outside the studio to invent Disneyland.

September 1952 was a pivotal time at the Disney lot, five months before the release of Peter Pan. Walt had built himself a party house farther from the studio, was distracted by his backyard train and other hobbies, and had begun spending weeks at a time in Europe. He returned from his fourth summer in Europe to find that his brother, Roy, had apparently foiled Walt's plan for a Mickey Mouse Park on studio property in Burbank with a whisper campaign among city politicians and money men.

Walt was as restless as his brother Roy was conservative…

Original Signs

Many of the familiar fancy electric signs missed opening day at Disneyland. There were a few--the Main Street Cinema, the Emporium--but many were hand-lettered. There were elaborately framed wooden signs, individual letters, and hanging signs. Gold leaf lettering on the various wagons and street cars, show windows, and some second-floor window credits, at least the one honoring Walt and Roy's father, Elias.

These photos have been cropped to emphasize the signs, in the process cutting off watermarks from Daveland and Stuff From the Park. Some photos are from unknown sources.

I like to think, personally, that the Main Street Tobacconist shop was originally called the Tobacco Nest, and not that Disneylanders couldn't spell :-).

The fancy woodwork sign with raised gold letters at the Golden Horseshoe Revue arrived years later. It was originally three fluttering banners. The hand-painted sign on the Adventureland Bazaar was intentionally uneven--the "R" is larger than th…

Of course, a Carrousel

In 1937, just as Walt Disney was finishing up Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a merry-go-round opened in Griffith Park along the route Walt drove to work each day. Walt's daughter, Diane, was only three, but that's old enough to enjoy one of the most classic of amusement park rides.

Walt struck up a conversation with ride's owner. Ross R. Davis owned and operated merry-go-rounds in Los Angeles' Lincoln Park, Tilden Park in Berkeley, and now in Griffith Park. Davis' newest ride had been built by Spillman Engineering for San Diego's Mission Beach Amusement Center (now Belmont Park) in 1926. It had 68 hand-made horses, all jumpers, and a band organ that played more than 1,500 songs.

Walt wasn't specific in his 1948 memo describing Mickey Mouse Park, but he had a clear preference for Davis' Griffith Park design over the 1913 Herschell-Spillman ride at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. That one was a so-called "menagerie" carousel, with chario…