Thursday, November 27, 2008

La Coquette: Around the World in 80 Days

Thanks to Jason at Disneyland Nomenclature and a little digging on my own, I was able to uncover some of the background story to a few wacky photos I’ve acquired in the last year. The first photo from today (found on the internet) shows a balloon named “La Coquette” (“the flirt” in French) being filmed for the Oscar winning 1956 film “Around The World In Eighty Days.” Actors David Niven and Cantinflas are in the balloon, which was painted with large figures from Greek Mythology. The balloon was built by Goodyear for the U.S. Navy and originally used during World War II for the training of blimp pilots. The Balloon Club of America acquired the balloon in 1952. Photo #2 (from the LIFE archive available on Google) shows the two stars with producer Mike Todd.

In 1957, La Coquette was brought out again, this time to celebrate the one year anniversary of the movie with a huge celebration in Madison Square Garden:

I can hear you readers now...Dave, what the heck does this have to do with Disneyland? Before you all close your browser window and get back to your Turkey, take a gander at this photo. It’s Easter 1962, and for some reason, “La Coquette” found its way to Disneyland’s Central Plaza for the Easter Parade; it may have even been used again in 1965.

You can also see the House of the Future in this one:

“La Coquette” appeared again at the Army Navy Football game in Philadelphia in 1964:

Apparently, Coquette’s retirement came 13 years later in August of 1977. Tony Fairbanks, the legendary American balloonist, took the balloon to the Flying Circus Aerodrome in Bealeton, Virginia to participate in a combined World War I air show and hot air balloon rally. Apparently, you can see a 1/8th scale model of La Coquette at The Hollywood Casino in Tunica, Missouri, created by Modelwerkes in California. Surprisingly, this Casino in Missouri has quite a collection of movie props, including the DeLorean car from “Back to the Future” and the biplane from Hitchcock’s thriller “North by Northwest.”

And there you have it readers, the story of La Coquette. She sure got around! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone - hope you all have plenty to be thankful for. I know I am thankful for all the readers who contribute their comments, stories, and photos!

See more vintage & current Disneyland photos at my regular website.


The Viewliner Limited said...

Happy Thanksgiving... wishing all the best for you and your family, Richard.

Katella Gate said...

Well, now, wasn't that an unexpected twist in the story? I had no idea that the Balloon from the Todd movie ever showed up at Disneyland. And as the hub centerpiece. Thanks for posting.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Fun and fascinating post Dave, thanks so much! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your Family, I hope you have a wonderful day.

Major Pepperidge said...

Dave, as usual you have done your homework so well, what a great post. Hey, I have a slide somewhere showing La Coquette in front of the castle, I wish I knew where it was. Anyway, I'd found some of the photos that you posted (because I was trying to research it as well!), but you did a far better job than I would have.

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving, thanks for all of your amazing work!

Rob Fendler said...

Images of the balloon over Disneyland in Peter Ellenshaw's early design for the park immediately spring to mind.

TokyoMagic! said...

Great photos and great background info as always, Dave! There is a photo of La Coquette in the air above the Matterhorn in the book, "Disneyland The First Quarter Century". The caption says it took off from the Plaza following the parade on Easter Sunday of 1962. I seem to remember one of those episodes of the Wonderful World of Color showing some brief footage of the basket hitting some trees in the Plaza as it was trying to lift off.

Unknown said...

I watch this movie