Friday, January 27, 2012

From Beverly Hills to The Jungle Cruise Ancient Shrine

From the Disneyland Line Newsletter of July 14, 1977 comes this interview with Harper Goff, with a great story of how a tree was acquired for The Jungle Cruise attraction.

We learned and made decisions as we went along. Walt wanted to use the squid from the movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" in some sort of boat ride but it was in bad condition and the wires that pulled the tentacles would have been hard to hide. But we had both seen "The African Queen" and we began to think of hippos and other animals which could be operated without wires and still have animated elements. We brought in Bob Matte, who later created the shark for "Jaws," to engineer the original animals. The first ones that we tried were alligators and hippos which worked on simple animation—no kicking or swimming.

I also worked with Bill and Jack Evans on buying expeditions for the landscaping. We would call cities to see if they were tearing out trees for improvements and go and buy them—we got many that way.

The Evans and Reeves Nursery was in West L.A. and as we made trips back and forth we would pass a house in Beverly Hills which had a wonderful tree in the front yard that we would have loved to have had. In fact, each time we passe it we talked about getting it and it got to be kind of a joke. Finally I though what have we got to lose, and had Jack Evans stop while I went in to ask the people if they could consider selling it. I told the owner we would replace it with a flower bed or anything they wanted and surprisingly enough the owner told me yes--it was blocking the sunlight and view coming through his front windows and we could just come and take it away. The trouble was, it took me a week to convince Jack that the owner had actually told me that I could have was the tree that went around the original Burmese Temple, and we got it for nothing.

We found quite a few resources right on the property. When we began cleaning the site for Disneyland, we saved all the orange and walnut trees and I got the idea of turning the walnut trees upside down to make the original jungle roots, which we for wildlife, Walt had asked me to line up a source of wild birds—crown herons, waterfowl—but when we filled the river with water all kinds of wild birds found it by themselves. We cancelled all our orders for the exotic ones...

We finished laying out the Jungle Cruise river with all its twists and turns and made a mock-up of the Cruise Boat and mounted it on a jeep so that we could fit around the course of the river and under the waterfall. I was anxious about it and looked forward to making the first run with "no one looking" in case there were problems. But before I could start, Walt came roaring up, he had heard I was going to make a test run and wanted to come along. Luckily it went very well.

See more vintage & current Jungle Cruise photos on my Jungle Cruise web page.


Connie Moreno said...

Awesome stories!!

Major Pepperidge said...

I love that little shrine - too bad it's long gone!

Douglas McEwan said...

GREAT stories!

Not to correct a genius like the magnificnent Harper Goff (I am genuinely in awe of his talent), but it was Bob Mattey, not Bob Matte. In the 1960s, my oldest friend lived next door to Bob Mattey. I was in his home a few times. I once got to hold his Oscar.