Monday, August 31, 2009

Bob Weaver Remembers Nature's Wonderland, Pt. 2

Today marks the publication of Part Two of Bob's fantastic memory of the Nature's Wonderland attraction:

The attraction was located in the northern section of Frontierland and was one of the two "must-see" attractions in Frontierland for our family (the other being Tom Sawyer Island). Walking towards the loading area, you saw the town of Rainbow Ridge, an old-West style frontier town. Above the town on a hill with trees was the actual Rainbow Ridge, which looked very inviting. You couldn’t see any of the attraction itself other than the section of the track where you got on and the trains that came out of one tunnel, stopped to unload and reload, then disappeared into another tunnel. There was really no preview of the wonders to come. Thus, there was no excitement of anticipation either, like you would get from the Matterhorn or the Autopia, after seeing a glimpse of what the attraction was going to be like.

The wait was never very long, though when I was 6 years old even 15 minutes seemed like a long time! The line moved in bunches rather than a steady flow. As each train entered the loading area, the passengers who just finished their journey would get off the train, and a whole group of new passengers would be let in to get on the train. So the line would move a lot, then it would sit still until the next train arrived, then move again. When we got near the front of the line we wondered with excitement, "Will we get on the next train or not?" And we wanted to pick which car to get into, although when the boarding actually happened you forgot about that and just went to the nearest car. In later years as the attraction's popularity apparently dwindled, there was very little or no line at all; in fact, I remember walking over there and getting right on it one evening. However, even if you had to wait a few minutes, there was plenty to see while you were waiting. The façade of false-front "stores" and businesses, including the "Rainbow Ridge Clarion" and many others, was interesting to study while you were standing there, and with the trees on the ridge above it, the whole frontier town setting was vividly created before you even started the attraction.

Hidden in the trees at the top of the hill was what looked like the machinery of a mine, but the attraction never ventured close to that area. The mine machinery was removed when the track was reconfigured for Nature’s Wonderland. Some buildings were also moved and others added to expand Rainbow Ridge. From 1955 to 1973 there was a Pack Mules attraction, and part of the path the mules took passed right in front of these storefronts, but sadly for me I never got to go on those. There were also two other attraction that used this same general area, The Conestoga Wagons of 1955-1959 and The Rainbow Mountain Stage Coaches of 1956-1959. Both were drawn by live horses.

Some of the Rainbow Ridge storefronts looked like complete buildings that you could possibly enter, but park visitors were not allowed to actually go in any of them. It gave you something interesting to look at as you stood waiting for the next train to arrive from a tunnel opening at the right. One of these businesses represented was a dentist's office. Another was a hotel, and often emanating from it would be a pre-recorded sound of a man snoring (presumably a man, though it could have been a lady with a big nose!). Most park guests giggled a little at the snoring sound. There were also sounds for the saloon with piano and occasional gun shots. The church bell rang on occasion and the clanking from the blacksmith could also be heard. All of this kept you entertained as you waited to get on the attraction, so that kept it from ever getting boring. It was not likely that you would hear all of the sound effects on a single visit to the attraction, but very likely that you would hear at least one. The one that I remember most clearly was the snoring, and again I am indebted to James Keeline for reminding me of the others.

I have seen old films of fake gunfights that were sometimes performed in front of the storefront façades for the entertainment of the guests waiting, but sadly I never saw one of those in person either. You couldn't see any of the actual attraction area while you were waiting. This gave the ride a true sense of adventure because you really had no idea what you were about to see. The wait was usually just a few minutes, while the attraction itself had a generous duration (approximately nine minutes); quite the opposite of Disneyland today, with hour-long waits for 3-minute attractions.

See more Disneyland Nature's Wonderland photos at my website.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sailing Through Sundays on The Jungle Cruise: The Missing Monkeys

In case you are a Disneyland fan who’s been living in the jungle, I am sure you’ve heard about the DVD release of “Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, and Magic.” The highlight is a glowing color Cinemascope 1956 film showing the park from just about every angle. This segment also shows the scary monkeys on the Jungle Cruise that used to “hang” out at the Asian Temple; even though I have 3 photos that show them, I’d never noticed them before. Here are the photos:

Here are some detail shots:

And out of the blue, who shows up with a great cheesecake promo photo? Kevin Kidney of course, the JC Blog Saviour:

Apparently these little furry creatures didn’t last too long; even so, apparently they scared the bejesus out of unsuspecting guests.

See more Disneyland Jungle Cruise photos at main website.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Philadelphia Freedom

Although I grew up on the outskirts of Philadelphia, I never really spent a whole lot of time IN the city...until I got old enough to drive myself. I remember as a little kid, as soon as we got near Philly, the powerlocks on the car went “thunk.” That was my impression of Philadelphia.

On a recent trip to Philly, I’d have to say that my opinion of the city really turned around. I stayed overnight in the heart of the historic area at the Best Western Independence Park Hotel. Perfect location (even if they didn’t have a parking garage at the hotel), well-priced, and well appointed. I did a very quick walking tour that evening (and the next morning) of the historic area, taking photos like a mad man. It is amazing to think how much of our country’s birth began right in this city.

Unlike my early not-so-favorable childhood memories of Philly, the city was clean, felt safe, and also looked much better than I remember. My last minute choice of restaurants for dinner turned out to be a winner: Bistro Romano. Yum.

See more Philadelphia photos at my website.

Tomorrowland Cast Member Shot, 1980

If you were a Tomorrowland cast member in 1980, chances are you'll enjoy seeing this photo. A generous reader sent me this image, which also includes Disneyland Ambassador Nancy Englert (Murray). What a cool snapshot in time—the PeopleMover, Adventure Thru Inner Space, and a wide-open entrance into the land of the future. Enjoy—and see if you recognize anyone else!

See more Disneyland Tomorrowland photos at my website.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Freaky Fridays @ The Haunted Mansion: Fast Pass Area

Welcome to a new Daveland weekly feature. Every Friday I will be featuring my absolute favorite attraction at Disneyland, The Haunted Mansion. Today's post focuses on the Fast Pass Area. This Griffin can be found in the Fast Pass Area for the Haunted Mansion; slightly similar to the one in the loading area but not quite as menacing.

Very few people can fault Disney for missing details at the park; they rarely miss an opportunity to add interesting design elements to look at, even in what some might consider an unimportant area such as the Fast Pass terminals near the Mansion.

Here’s another statue in the Fast Pass Area of the Mansion.

On the back corner of the brick wall surrounding the mansion is this copy of David, by Michelangelo. Once again, attention to little details makes each trip fun as you can continue to discover new things never seen before.

See more Disneyland Haunted Mansion photos at my website.

More from the Disney Family Museum:

Gallery 7 — Post-War Rebuilding: Mid-’40s to the early 1950’s:

With the end of the war, Walt and Roy found inventive new outlets for animation and ventured into live-action production. They developed new package films for theaters that combined shorts and feature-length animated films, as well as movies that combined live action and animation. In addition, the Studio produced the enormously successful Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp, the studio’s first wide-screen animated feature. Disney also produced his first live-action features, including Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

Concept and animation art from Disney’s films of the period will be prominently featured in this gallery, as well as artifacts from live-action movies, including an underwater camera used in the filming of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and works from Walt’s extensive personal collection of miniatures.

To download a factsheet on the museum here.

And in other exciting news, according to The Daily Reviewer, my blog is rated #4 in a ranking of Top Disneyland Blogs, directly behind The Disney Blog, Jim Hill Media, and Disneyland-Paris. Thanks readers!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tell-No-Tales Thursdays: The Auctioneer

Almost as famous as the Red-Headed Wench is the Auctioneer, who is leading the activities of the Auction Wench. Shot #1 is an early publicity shot used on the Viewmaster Reels.

Here’s another view of him as you are about to go under the bridge.

Here is an overall shot of the Auctioneer, surrounded by a buxom wench and his own personal security guard.

Standing by the Auctioneer is this mean and burly looking security guy. He is definitely one of the more amazing AA’s on the ride when it comes to realism.

See more Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean photos at my website.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday WOW: Casey Junior Track

My new series on Wednesdays will hopefully leave you saying “Wow!” Today's “Wow” image is a January 1955 construction shot of the Casey Jr. track and future Storybook Land area. Sure does look small here, doesn't it?

See more Disneyland Casey Jr. attraction photos at my website.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bob Weaver Remembers Nature's Wonderland, Pt. 1

I had the good fortune of being contacted by Bob Weaver about one of his favorite attractions from Disneyland, Nature's Wonderland. He wrote a truly fantastic column about it and he has graciously allowed me to share it here and on my website. So without any further adieu, here goes Bob's tale:

Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland was one of Walt Disney’s greatest achievements and it is often said that it was his favorite attraction at Disneyland.

It existed in some form from July 1956 through January 1977. There was a connection to Disney films with this attraction. Parts of it, such as Beaver Valley, Bear Country and the Living Desert, were named after, and tied in with, entries in Disney’s series of documentary films called "True Life Adventures," which were produced from 1948 through 1960. The attraction that replaced the Mine Train (at least part of its real estate), the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, opened in 1979 and offers the visceral thrill of speed but lacks the imagination, charm, setting, scenery, and character of the original Mine Train attraction. Like millions of other visitors to Disneyland in the 1960s and 1970s, I'm lucky to have gotten to ride the Mine Train maybe a dozen times. Hopefully this description, along with the many vintage photos here on this site, can help the reader re-create the experience in their mind.

This attraction began its life as the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train in 1956, but was later expanded and renamed The Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland in 1960. The ticket history of the ride is interesting: it began as a "D" ticket (50¢) when it opened in 1956, and at that time D tickets were the "top of the line" attractions. However, when E tickets were introduced to the ticket books in 1959, the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train was lowered to "C" ticket status (30¢), and the attraction was closed for rehabilitation and expansion. Then in 1960 it was reopened as the Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland, and it was initially given its "D" ticket status back (35¢). That was not the "top of the line" any more, as "E" tickets were in use by that time. It was finally given "E" ticket status in 1961 (50¢ and later 60¢), not too long after it reopened under its new name. Mine Train expert James Keeline speculates that the change may have been a reaction to the ride's greater popularity after the makeover. In 1963 or 1964, it was moved back to the "D" tickets (45¢ and later 60¢) and remained there until 1971, when it was bumped up to "E" again (75¢). Finally from 1975 until the attraction's permanent closing in January 1977, it required a "D" ticket (70¢). So people who bought individual tickets for this attraction paid anywhere from 30¢ to 75¢ to get on it, over the course of its entire "lifetime." And the ticket sequence was D-C-D-E-D-E-D over the attraction's life. I'm certain that the cast member that collected my ticket accepted a "C" for it the last time I rode it in the summer of 1976, but that was an anomaly. As far as I am concerned it was "E-ticket quality at any time. Some Disneyland souvenir guides printed around 1961 call it the "Western Mine Train" but I've never seen that on a ticket. Some websites refer to the attraction as "Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland," but every Disneyland ticket I've seen, and the park's poster, spells it as "Thru" instead of "Through," so I always use "Thru."

Thanks to James at, here is a chart of tickets for this attraction:

Rainbow Caverns Mine Train
1956-1959 : D (50¢) [D ticket introduced in mid 1956]
1959 : C (30¢) [E ticket introduced in mid 1959, attraction closed for rehab]

Mine Train Thru Natures Wonderland
1960 : D (35¢)
1961-1963?: E (50¢, 60¢) [Uncertain if E in 1963]
1964-1970 : D (45¢, 60¢)
1971-1974?: E (75¢) [Uncertain if E in 1974]
1975-1976 : D (70¢) [Tickets stopped printing prices by 1976; attraction closed early January 1977]

[note from Daveland: This attraction actually had THREE (count 'em 3!) posters—yee-ha!!!]

This image is from the files of Major Pepperidge over at Gorillas Don't Blog:

Also according to James, "Thru" is the official word used in the attraction name. “The Western River Ride” was a proposed attraction that Marc Davis did a fair amount of concept art for; sort of a Jungle Cruise of the west. When this concept was dropped, it is possible that "Western Mine Train" was considered as a title before "Nature's Wonderland" was finally selected for the expansion.

More coming—stay tuned! See more Disneyland Nature's Wonderland photos at my website.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More August 1960

Here’s the rest of the batch that also included the shot of Walt & the 10 millionth Disneyland Railroad passenger. First up is Town Square, with my fave mode of transportation, The Omnibus. Behind it, you can see one of the four Electric Cars that Walt commissioned and a Horseless Carriage. The Electric Car can also be seen here in shot #2:

You can ALMOST make out the House of the Future through the trees in Central Plaza:

At the Monorail station, I also have zoomed in for a closer look at the ticket book holder signage:

Last up for this grouping is a semi-blurry underwater shot of the pre-show for the Submarine Voyage:

See more Disneyland photos at my website.