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The Incredible Mr. Long

There is a small mailbox next to a dummy door at 110 Main Street. As a teenager, I tried to open that door and—for some reason—I reached into the mailbox. I found a single business card.

Dwight Stanley Long decided to see the world on his 21st birthday, but not like other men might. Dwight turned 21 in 1933, probably the worst year of the worldwide Depression. Like Walt Disney, Dwight had funds when many were poor. He bought a 32-foot ketch, the Idle Hour, and sailed around the world for the next six years as Walt created Snow White and built his Burbank studio.

Long was born in Seattle and studied journalism at the University of Washington. (Long was three years younger than Ken Anderson, who earned a BA in Architecture from UW '34, and the same age as Van France, who was also born in Seattle, but raised in San Diego. Welton Becket graduated UW '27.)

Long (left) in 1937
Color movies were brand new in 1933—Walt created the first color cartoon, Flowers and Trees, with help from Technicolor, only the year before. Long sailed west with a movie camera and plenty of color film. More amazing—he did nothing with his footage until he produced Sailing All Seas in 1977. Instead, he wrote a book: Seven Seas on a Shoestring, in 1938.

After Pearl Harbor, Long enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Lieutenant Commander Long shot 16mm film aboard several aircraft carriers in the Pacific. He happened to film the crash landing of a Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter aboard the Yorktown, footage that has been spliced into countless Hollywood movies since. Long's Kodachrome footage of the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 1944) formed the basis of the 20th Century-Fox film The Fighting Lady, released later that year.

We don't know when Walt Disney met Dwight Long, but Walt knew several people who were out and about with cameras—Elma and Alfred Milotte, who would film Seal Island and other True-Life Adventures for Walt; and Edgar Queeny, a hobbyist who produced serious nature films of Canadian salmon and lost tribes of Africa, for example. Queeny also happened to be the CEO of Monsanto Chemical Works. Dr. McGinnity of Cal Tech's Marine Biology lab produced footage that Walt wanted to use in an underwater True-Life.

Dwight Long in 1953 with an artifact from Tanga-Tika. (Photo: Saltwater People Historical Society)
In 1953-54, Long directed a docudrama about Tahiti called Tanga-Tika. The next year, the 43-year-old settled down and became a charter lessee at Disneyland. He created a company that he called Random Parts and bought the lease on the quaint shops on either side of the Main Street Cinema. This required first and last month's rent in advance as well as paying for WED Enterprises-designed interior improvements. Long's company sourced the merchandise, too: Pipes, tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, lighters and other accessories for the Tobacconist, and various baubles for the Jewelry Store.

Jewelry (112) and Tobacconist (104, 106) flank the Cinema. (Photo: 2003 by Alastair Dallas/Inventing Disneyland)
The original sign above the dummy door at 104 Main Street read 'TOBACCONEST.' Customers understood, especially with the traditional cigar store Indian out in front.

Disneyland took over the Tobacconist in 1960, and Long left the park in 1966. Long continued to operate specialty stores all over Southern California at the Queen Mary and Ports O'Call Village. Mr. Long died at the age of 89 in Santa Monica in 2001.

(Photo: Source unknown)

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