Friday, July 31, 2009

Disneyland - Skyway To Tomorrowland 1985 * Sigh *

It has been only a short while, but why not another post mourning the passing of the Skyway. I came across the above photo the other day and remembered a very recent trip to Tomorrowland in which I stood on the ground to the far right of the photo, out of the camera's view. What was weird to me was that the old stairway up to the Skyway building was still there, though you could not access it. I could plainly see the roof of the stairway behind what used to be the Mod Hatter. Like most of "modern" Tomorrowland, it was a strange skeleton of its former self---like the Peoplemover tracks or the Rocket Jets platform, mutely standing as a sad reminder to those of us who were fortunate enough to experience Tomorrowland when the whole area was alive with color and activity.

To all who come to this happy place and have never had the experience of floating up and over Tomorrowland, through the majestic Matterhorn, above Fantasyland and into the quaint hilltop chalet at the other end of the line---sorry. Sorry you missed it. Perhaps you can imagine it, or glimpse some old Youtube footage, but those are but shallow illusions compared to the real thing. Riding over Disneyland in a Skyway bucket is something that cannot be replicated. It was a true "attraction," as popular with youg families as with young couples. Sure, those with a fear of heights missed out---but they often do, don't they? Vistas worth seeing tend to be in pretty high places, so many folk never cast eyes upon them. Pity, really.

I could attempt to wax eloquently on the Skyway experience...but you loyal readers know how well THAT goes.

Suffice it to say that I long for a day when the Park is alive again in every corner, as it once was.

In the past, even the "quiet" spots in Disneyland added to the immediacy of the overall experience.

A bench in a slow corner of New Orleans Square may not have generated revenue, but it welcomed the sitter to partake of peaceful reflection or of carefree people watching, among other things.

A warm pretzel dangling under a heat lamp in an almost-empty Mile Long Bar at the end of a long day somehow smelled even more alluring (salted please, with mustard---thanks).

A perfect strawbery soda with silky Carnation vanilla ice cream and its ornate glass container glistening with condensation amidst the red and white splendor of the Carnation Company Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street tasted best when enjoyed at one of the tables tucked furthest back off the street, near the old display window that had Mary Poppins and Bert seated with their penguin waiters in a diorama of the chalk pavement drawing that had come to life.

Even the Emporium windows on Main Street would change their content frequently---making each trip to the Park one in which you might get a glance at new scenes from the latest Disney film in release. I'm afraid they haven't changed for quite some time now---since the 50th? I don't know, I've lost track. * sigh *

Well...you know where I'm coming from. If not, you're probably lost---this is definitely not your piece of the Internet!

If you do...

If you do...

...heave another sigh right along with me. Crack open an old Guidebook or dig through some photos or click through some Viewmaster reels of the way things were. Ahhhhhhhh. Feels good, even if it is a touch bittersweet.

To Disneyland!

I raise my glass!

Here's to fond memories, but here's also to savoring the challenge and promise of the future.

---Mike

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Disneyland - "Jungle Is 101" Guest Blogger at "Babes In Disneyland"

Well, Jungle fans, today's post is actually a link to the blog "Babes In Disneyland" and a guest post I made for Lisa over there about the old Skull Rock and Captain Hook's Pirate Ship. Lisa's site is true Disney, with a good bit of "Mom" worked in. If you have small kids and are looking for some tips on how to best enjoy the Disneyland experience, you must head over to Babes in Disneyland (either the website or the blog).

True and deep Adventureland thanks go out to Lisa for her kind invitation to share some of my meandering thoughts on the Park with her many, many readers. Lisa's willingness to invite yours truly to pen a piece for her site indicates both a warm generosity and a shockingly blatant lack of editorial discretion on her part. I can only hope that her blog is able to overcome any ill-effects from me having trampled onto the site. We skippers are not known for our ability to interact with an environment without causing havoc. Heck, we shoot a hippos in their native habitat and drag boatfuls of hapless strangers into teeming jungles on a daily basis!

Sincere thanks go out to Lisa! Many happy returns to your blog and website!

---Mike

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Disneyland - Long Corridors and Things Inn Between

Today we'll glance down some halls and corridors and look around some corners. The shot above---of your own, very cool skipper---was taken as I was heading to the Jungle from Coke Corner on Main Street. Some of you lucky guests caught in an "overflow" post-parade traffic flow have walked right through these doors and down the back side of Main Street as an alternate route when too many guests have packed the Hub and Plaza. I used to walk through these doors almost every day.


Most days, as mentioned before on this blog, Cast Members would partake of a delightful ripaste at the Inn Between. Cassie, pictured below, seemed to always be there, ready to ring up your bill.

Another hallway one might encounter if one knew their way around is pictured below. It is, indeed, underground within the old Administration Building. Those colorful linoleum tiles? Word is they're darn close to original---if not original---to the building. Some pretty famous Disneyland insider and executive feet have traversed them since the building first went up. Mine don't count, obviously.
Before going up to street level, lets take a look down one of the long halls. At least you can say you've been there---kinda.
Now let us cross the Park, from East Main Street over to Adventure/Frontier. There, we find another corridor---this one much shorter---and peer in on the offices where Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square and Critter Country operations are housed. Just a quick peek now and keep moving!
And finally, through the miracle of video, you too can grab a glimpse of the Inn Between, but I'm afraid you'll miss out on the chicken enchilada special. Come to think of it, you'll thank me.


video

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Disneyland - Jungle Cruise, Skyway And Swiss Family Treehouse circa 1985

Today we beam back to the Jungle Cruise 1985 and The Skyway 1985 and the Swiss Family Treehouse from around the same time thanks to the miracle of YouTube and "oneandatwo" (who originally posted these clips). I have shared them here before separately, but thought I would put them in a package and also update the "abandoned Skyway"---see below).

If you have a moment, click on the links and take a tour of mid-1980s Disneyland. The grainy VHS video sure isn't HD, but you get a little sense of what it was like. Be sure to enjoy the constantly moving world of Tomorrowland as you leave the Tomorrowland Skyway station. The whole area was "on the move," from Monorails, subs, Peoplemovers, Tomorrowland Stages, America Sings, to the Matterhorn bobsleds. It was also very cool to travel right through the Matterhorn. 'Tis a shame we can't float on the Skyway any more.

By the way, at the end of the Skyway video, you'll see the Fantasyland Skyway station and chalet as it looked before it became its current, abandoned self. Also see these pics (thanks to Davelandblog)---hey, wasn't it "Jungle is 101" that first "crossed the chain" up the stairs to the old Skyway chalet? Good to see some more detailed photos of the interior have surfaced! Here's some video, too (thanks to Tod Reynard who posted it on YouTube).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Disneyland - Summer 1980 - Yank My Heart Out - "The Bench"

I was digging through "the box" of old Disney stuff that I keep and came across my 1980 Souvenir Guide. Glancing through its somewhat faded pages at the photographs and lists of attractions, restaurants and shops resurrected for me the Park of my young adulthood. I figured there are more than a few of you who tossed away your Souvenir Guide after touring the Park back in 1980, so I present a few of its pages here to help you recapture those memories.

Even the cover---perhaps slightly hokey by "today's" standards---evokes a sense of real joy and fun. The folks pictured are not professional models. Their smiles are genuine. The Polaroid ad on the back page takes us back to a day when cameras did not store digital images. The Polaroid Pronto Sonar automatically took and then printed out a "beautiful SX-70 picture instantly." You could watch the magic happen as the picture slowly developed its image in front of you. Amazing. I remember the old Lilly Belle photo prop there on the east side of Main Street, next to what is now Disney Clothiers.

Stepping into the 1980 Guidebook to its center foldout display page really yanked at my heart because it contains great photographs of the Park as it once was---clean, new and full of bright colors. The quotes on these pages are from Walt. The photos show how truly colorful Disneyland was---from Cast Member costumes to the shiny white of Space Mountain and the red awnings of the Emporium. I feel that old ache---the ache to somehow go back, to be there then, as it was. We all get that ache in life at one time or another. We all have some place and some time that was special to us, where we return in pensive moments. For me, the Park will always be such a place full of memories, just as Walt and his team had intended. The 1980 Guide also included a map of the Park---before Splash Mountain and Winnie the Pooh turned Bear Country into "Critter Country," before the Skyway was yanked from the sky, before Fantasyland was remodeled, before Tarzan rudely kicked out the Swiss Family, before Buzz Lightyear and Emperor Zurg evicted Circlevision and America the Beautiful, before America Sings was "Innovented," before the People Mover became the Rocket Rods and then...um...bare track, before the Rocket Jets were rudely torn from their high perch and stubbed onto ground level at Tomorrowland's entrance, before anyone ever did anything to mess with the original (perfectly-fine-and-no-need-for-fixin') Pirates of the Caribbean, before the parking lot became DCA, before...well...before a lot of stuff happened and changed.

I know. Most of you four Jungle is 101 readers (hi, Mom) have heard the rant before. Still, each glance at the evidence of how things once were refreshes the sting of the many thoughtless changes that were made to the landscape of Disneyland. Not that everything "new" is bad. You've got your Indiana Jones and even Splash Moutain, for example. But the hurt still lingers and always will for some things that are forever gone or changed.
"THE BENCH"


I will close out today's post with a little nugget of Disneydom that only your true believers can appreciate. As a Cast Member and a guest, I have had many occasions to "connect" with the old Disneyland while walking through the "new" version. Some things are obvious---they never moved the Matterhorn, for example, or the entrance to Frontierland. Other things you might not really think about as you encounter them. One of the latter things is the metal bench you will encounter in the Fantasyland castle courtyard---on the Fantasyland side of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. You can see the bench to the right side of the blow-up of the iconographic photo of Walt below.

When I worked there, I met quite a few old timers, many of whom worked with Walt. One of these fine fellows related a simple story to me.

One day in the early 1960s, he was working in Custodial and was doing his morning walk-through of Fantasyland. He entered from the West entrance---along the path that led from Carnation Plaza Gardens into Fantasyland (near the Tinker Bell Toy Shop). It was before the park opened and still early. He rounded the corner and there was Walt. Sitting on the bench. The bench in the photograph below.
"Uh, good morning, Mr. Disney," stammered the then-young custodial host. Walt stood up, said good morning and thanked the young man for his work, gently reminding him "It's Walt." Walt then turned and walked back through the castle entrance toward Main Street. It was the last time the cast member ever saw Mr. Disney and the first time he'd ever had a chance to speak with him. He never forgot it.

Anyhow, next time you're in Fantasyland and you happen to see a metal bench there in the courtyard behind the castle, take a moment and take a seat. Walt was there once. In many ways, throughout the Park, he is still there now.

We are all pretty fortunate that Walt dared to make his vision of Disneyland a reality. Let us hope that those charged with keeping Walt's legacy will remember his desire to have things at Disneyland "get more beautiful each year." "Growing and adding new things" probably did not mean tearing out the soul of an attraction (America Sings comes to mind) or painting the Small World facade in nauseating pastels (let us all take a moment of thanksgiving that the simple, white paint scheme has since returned). Walt and modern corporate Disney management probably would not get along. It is a simple truth that listening to "bean counters" would have prevented little things like Snow White, Pinocchio, and Disneyland itself, from ever, ever becoming realities. At its best, Disneyland is art, living art.

---Mike

Monday, July 13, 2009

Disneyland - Big Bands - Carnation Plaza Gardens - Empty Nest

The trip across the wooden bridge to the colorful red and white canopied stage and dance floor of Carnation Plaza Gardens once brought a surprising reward to devotees of the Big Band Orchestra in the summers of Disneyland's yesteryear.

One would surmise from modern Disneyland's dearth of entertainment at Plaza Gardens that most of the Big Band afficionados have shuffled off to the grand, glitter-ball ballroom in the sky, leaving behind only those who favor performances by random, unknown, amateur bands, choirs, or dance ensembles (mostly from junior high and high schools across our great land).

The Plaza Gardens stage has gone from Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Les Brown, Harry James and Buddy Rich to the Broomfield High School Eagles Marching Band, Color Guard, Jazz Band, Percussion and Wind Ensemble (of Broomfiled, Colorado).
Now don't get me wrong.

It is not that the Eagles bands are anything less than entertaining or are in any way undeserving of a chance to perform at Disneyland (and we here at Jungle is 101 absolutely applaud their efforts, especially in this age of budget cuts and video games when true musicians are disappearing faster than Western Lowland Gorillas).

It is a simple truth that such groups (and others like them) are not of the same caliber as the legendary performers who used to light up the Plaza Gardens stage. I am not saying that these young musicians won't reach those heights some day---they are not there just yet.

Disney's Magic Music Days and the Disney Performing Arts Program are certainly noble in their support of young musicians---and have been for many years. Indeed, it is always a thrill to see one of these groups march down Main Street during a parade or pre-parade. It is also nice that they can perform from time to time at Plaza Gardens. True.

But.

At night, when Disneyland used to come alive in most every corner of the Park, the Plaza stage now, generally, sits empty and dark. And on summer evenings in particular, this empty stage is literally a void that was once filled with life, music and light.

Chuck Cecil authored the article to the left for the Summer 1983 edition of Disney News, the Official Magazine for Magic Kingdom Club families (Vol. 18, No. 3), Margery Lee (Editor). Chuck hosted (and apparently continues to host) a syndicated radio program entitled The Swingin' Years, which is devoted to Big Band Swing music and is produced in Mr. Cecil's own home studio nowadays. A Jungle is 101 thank you to Chuck Cecil and all he has done to promote and bring (even more) magic to the original Magic Kingdom over the years.

In the article, Chuck announced 1983's big band season lineup: Count Basie and his orchestra; Harry James and his big band; Lionel Hampton and his big band---he could play the drum let's just say---watch the whole video clip gang); Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians directed by Art Mooney; and the Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'brien. Not too shabby.

The bandshell at Plaza Gardens in 2009 does not exactly foot the same bill. Indeed, the current version of Plaza Gardens is hardly even a ghost of its former, gloriously, ebullient self. It has been largely "Astro-Orbiterized" and sits, waiting, like the old Skyway chalet in Fantasyland (and the attraction formerly known as the Rocket Jets), for a chance to maybe, somehow, return to its former pre-Eisner glory and true self (*sigh*).

Until then, my friends, I leave you with the attached article from 26 years ago and the faint hope that someday a "big band" or two might return to Carnation Plaza Gardens on a summer's night to create a little, old-fashioned magic for a few lucky guests.

Until then, this is Mike signing off and reminding you that, during my illustrious tenure, four out of five Jungle Cruise survivors had not ridden my boat. How many skippers can make that claim?

---Mike