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Showing posts from October, 2018

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…