Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Zorro/Guy Williams at Disneyland

It still blows my mind that Guy Williams, the actor who portrayed Zorro in the runaway hit TV series, actually made his own appearances at Disneyland. I can only imagine what it was like as a kid back in the day to be able to see him do his daring sword fights at the park and then to be able to actually meet him. Photo number one has the Frontierland Depot visible to the rear. In photo #2, Guy graciously signs the autographs of his young fans. Check out all those souvenir Zorro hats!

A shot of Walt on the set of Zorro; sure would love to have a transcription of that conversation!

See more Zorro photos at my website.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Plusing the show": Matterhorn Climbers

Picture this: a huge man-made mountain visible from the freeway; the world’s first tubular steel roller coast; add in a few waterfalls; what else could you possibly need to make this thing a hit? How about some real live mountain climbers?!? This early May 1959 photo shows one of the young gents testing out the Matterhorn.

Jim Crarey, one of the first climbers, recalls that time period:

“Dick Erb and I were climbing at Tahquitz Rock late spring of 1959, and both 15 at the time. Chuck Wilks, the Sierra Club member who was hired by Disney to place the “pitons” in the side of the mountain, was climbing that morning too. He asked if we wanted a summer job on the Matterhorn. Well duh...”

“ The next issue to overcome was doing it. Our soon to be boss, Chuck Corson, told us “Boys, if you can climb it, the job is yours.” On a warm June afternoon, Dick and I reconnoitered for a route. We climbed over the fence erected to keep all out and were about 20' off the ground when accosted by the Disneyland police. We found out that no one told them what we were doing and that we were supposed to take the ride’s elevator to the inside platform and begin from there. Nice start to a summer job...”

“The purpose for us was to provide something to see for the folks waiting hours in line for the ride (sometimes the sign read 4 hours from this point). So 9 times a day, 6 days a week, all summer long and on the weekends between summer 1959 and summer 1960, we climbed the Matterhorn. Dick quit before the 1960 summer and was replaced by Jeff Winslow. I worked that summer and then retired too.”

“The only things I can remember of interest that I can put in print are the 4 hours hanging by rope waiting to repel for Nikita Khrushchev and a time I sprained my ankle and was carried to the infirmary by the Chip and Dale characters.”

Jim is in this photo; he’s the climber on top:

See more Disneyland Matterhorn photos at my website.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Disneyland, December 1956, Pt. 4

Disneyland Marching Band leader Vesey Walker starts the post off right with a rowsing rendition of (fill in the blank).

A closeup for you fans of patches and Vesey:

One of the gents from our group is looking over Vesey's shoulder; perhaps a frustrated band leader who never got his chance?

He smiles as the band passes him by (symbolic, perhaps?), with the Chicken Plantation in the background.

Last shot from this batch shows the Indian Village along the banks:

See more Disneyland Frontierland photos at my website.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sailing Through Sundays on The JC: The Back Side of Water, August 7, 1957

Compare these photos taken a year apart...I think the Imagineers were using different water. What do you think?

And a shot from January 2007:

See more Disneyland Jungle Cruise photos at my website.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Screen Gem Saturdays: Noble Failure—Marnie

This was the title of an article from Premiere magazine back in August 1998 which discussed famous flops in movie history that might actually have had more going for them than their contemporary audiences gave them credit for. “Marnie” (1964) is just about the only movie mentioned that the magazine doesn’t really have anything negative to say. Instead, it puts it in the misunderstood classic category. Read for yourself:

Alfred Hitchcock directed “Notorious” in 1946, but that title could easily have been applied to Hitchcock’s 1964 mystery, “Marnie.” The previous year, the filmmaker had launched the career of Tippi Hedren, with “The Birds,” and when he cast her again, in “Marnie” (after failing to convince Grace Kelly to temporarily set aside her crown and come out of retirement to take the lead role), Hitchcock was determined to make Hedren a major star—one who would be beholden to him. But, as in the convoluted plots of many of his films, things went awry. Hitchcock’s unnerving fixation on Hedren, about which much has been written, led to an altercation on the set. All the director ever said about it was, “She did what no one is permitted to do. She referred to my weight.” In his later years, Hitchcock freely discussed his movies, but he seldom went into much detail about “Marnie”—and he never spoke of Hedren. That “Marnie” deals with a man’s fetishism and a woman’s psychosexual repression makes the film’s relationship to reality all the more creepy, not to mention endlessly fascinating.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: By the time “Marnie was released, the French New Wave critics (including future directors Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer) had transformed the master of suspense into an artist, and the American critics weren’t having it. In the New York Herald Tribune, Judith Crist said of “Marnie,” “New it isn’t, in form or content. Mr Hitchcock himself made this kind of movie nigh on to twenty years ago, and made it a lot better.” The New York Times wrote, “A strong suspicion arises that Mr. Hitchcock is taking himself too seriously—perhaps the reuslt of listening to too many esoteric admirers.”

BOX OFFICE: After the huge success of “Psycho” in 1960, and the strong showing of “The Birds” in 1963, “Marnie” was a disappointment, if not an outright flop. On 1964’s box office list, it landed at number 30 out of 73 films, and it returned only $2.25 million to the studio.

WHY IT MATTERS: This “great flawed film” (as Fran├žois Truffaut later dubbed it) was the lst picture of Hitchcock’s moviemaking prime, an amazingly fertile period that began with “Rope,” in 1948. It was the last time he would work with his longtime cinematographer, Robert Burks, and his trusted editor, George Tomasini. It was also the last of his filims to feature the music of the legendary Bernard Herrmann, who would have a falling-out with the director on his next film, “Torn Curtain.” Coming after the visceral shocks of “Pyscho” and “The Birds,” “Marnie” must have befuddled audiences, for it deals almost exclusively with emotional violence; its characters—each tending his or her own particular wound—maneuver themselves like neurotic chess pieces in a game of attration and denial, lust and repression. These characters don’t invite easy empathy, as even screenwriter Jay Presson Allen concedes. “The character of Marnie is a liar and a thief, and there’s nothing sympathetic about her,” she says. But Hedren does her seemingly impenetrable characer proud, and Sean Connery, playing a man who is unnaturally attracted to a woman he knows is a thief, imbues his vexing role with impressive grace and virility. While some of the technical trickery is strained, certain individual moments—the scene where Marnie washes the black dye out of her hair is one of many—have a power that recalls Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Vertigo.” In some ways “Marnie” is an even more tortured and ambivalent ode on obsession than that great film; definitively unsettling, it grows more so with each viewing.

Believe it or not, there is a Disney connection with Marnie. For most of the scenes that show Tippi riding Forio, she is on an actual horse that is on top of a running treadmill, with rear-projection for the background. The 30' treadmill was borrowed from MGM. Even though it was extremely dangerous, Hedren did so without wearing any kind of safety harness.

For closeups, the studio interior filming didn’t work very well, so an alternative solution was sought out. From the book “Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie” by Tony Lee Moral:

Certain shots, such as the close-ups of Marnie on Forio jumping, could not be achieved with a real horse inside the studio, so Hitchcock asked [Hilton] Green [the unit manager for “Marnie”] to investigate a mechanical horse owned by Walt Disney, which he had heard was very authentic. Green met Disney and borrowed the mechanical horse, which was later used for extremely close shots of Hedren and also for [actress Diane] Baker when she is riding in the hunt.

See more “Marnie” photos at my website.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Freaky Fridays @ The Haunted Mansion: NBC—Exit, Vegas Style

Although it appears to be virtually the same each year, you can see there has been at least one major change when you compare these photos of the Haunted Holiday overlay from January 2003 and December 2005.

And a few sans–flash:

Sally at the end is cool, but surely they could have given her a little motion or something to keep her from seeming like a doll that was just plunked at the end. It’s kind of weird with all the other special efffects in the Mansion to just see her sitting static, plopped on a present.

See more Disneyland Haunted Mansion photos at my website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Traveling Thursdays: Swimming at Hearst Castle

This summer, I was able to check another one off my list: Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Wow...this place was amazing. I cannot wait to go back! This post focuses on one of the most famous areas at William Randolph Hearst’s estate in San Simeon: The Neptune Pool. The first photo is a vintage aerial shot to help you get your bearings. The rest of these show how the pool looks today; I am ready to dive right in!

Although it’s not the easiest place to get too, it is well worth the trip. And what a scenic trip, too! One helpful tip though: if you plan to visit Hearst Castle, definitely book your tours ahead of time as they fill up fast. See more San Simeon photos at my website.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Disneyland, December 1956, Pt. 3

The rest of this series takes place in Frontierland. Hope you can stand a few days in the untamed parts of early Disneyland. It’s December 1956, and although we have a Keelboat and Fowler’s Harbor, there’s still no Columbia, Haunted Mansion, Fantasmic, OR Critter Country!

A somewhat blurry shot taken from The Twain:

And here’s the mighty Mark Twain in the flesh; it really is a little startling to see so few people, so little landscaping, and even a telephone pole or two!

It’s Christmas time at the Horseshoe:

The closeup shows the Oaks Tavern, which is now the Stage Door Cafe:

Anybody want a souvenir crate from the dock?

A closeup shows the buildings along New Orleans Street, the precursor to New Orleans Square:

See more Disneyland Frontierland photos at my website.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Disneyland, December 1956, Pt. 2

Our 12/56 photographer started snapping pics from his Skyway bucket as he approached Snow Hill, and he just kept on snapping! No boats in the Motor Boat Cruise lake today.

Plenty of room for a Matterhorn or a House of the Future here.

The Fantasyland Autopia and the soon-to-be-gone Disneyland Circus:

Storybook Land theming has recently been added to the Casey Junior attraction:

The teacups are spinning...urp!

And a closeup of the Mickey Mouse Club Theater:

Coming in for a landing, we have a view of the Dumbo attraction:

Last one for today is an early evening view of the teacups...urp, again:

See more Disneyland entrance photos at my website.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Disneyland, December 1956, Pt. 1

I don’t know too much about the background of this batch from December 1956; it appears to be a group of handicapped people in wheelchairs were getting a special day at the park. Other than that, what else is there to know besides the fact that the photographer got some great views of early Disneyland! One additional note here; although these slides came together in a batch, I am not sure that they are all necessarily related or even taken at the same time. There are a few possible inconsistencies (such as the Circus signage and tent still visible in December of 1956), but hey...just deal, as I am going to present them all together anyway.

In the first parking lot shot, you can see some signage on the right advertising (what’s left of?) the Disneyland Circus.

No Flower Market yet here on West Center Street.

This type of signage was also in display in front of the Castle during the early years:

A few shots in front of the Castle:

See more Disneyland entrance photos at my main website.