Friday, August 31, 2012

Walt's Humble Abode

With the recent announcement that one of the Disneyland Tours will feature a "peak" into Walt's Apartment above the firehouse, a mini hailstorm of chat has emerged, with two camps emerging from the debris. One camp feels that Walt's Apartment should be kept special, only to be seen by those who can be trusted to fully appreciate what they are experiencing. To them, it is hallowed ground that should not be desecrated for a few extra dollars by the masses who want to trample through it out of curiosity's sake. The other camp feels Walt's Apartment is a piece of history, and should be able to be experienced like any other historical site, run like a museum so that people who admire Walt can learn more about the actual man.

I can see merits to both sides, but I definitely lean more towards the latter group. The majority of original furnishings and personal family possessions were removed by the Disney Family long ago. What remains is faithful in style to the original furnishings and still gives a very good idea of what life was like up in that tiny little space. With an official Disneyland Tour Guide always in tow, the chances of any major damage are fairly slight. When it comes to the gripe about Disney always out to make an extra buck at any cost, I will say that some of those extra bucks may seem less classy than others, but overall, it does take a lot of money to keep a quality organization running. If you've ever compared a Disney Theme Park to another one, you'll know what I am talking about; Disney leaves the competition in the dust.

To get to Walt's Apartment, you need to enter Town Square...

And then pass through this gate:

This stairway on the back of the Fire Department will take you up to the entrance:

Many who enter Walt's Apartment will be disappointed. It is tiny. I am talking tiny. Did I happen to mention tiny? We're talking one large living room, a bathroom, and an outdoor patio. Personally, I found it refreshing and very revealing about Walt, the man.

On the left is Walt's daybed:

and to the right is Lillian's daybed:

What I get out of this is that Walt didn't want a lot of effort to go into building an apartment for himself to observe the construction of the park. With a minimum of space, he maximized every square foot by doubling the use of the couches/beds. This place was not about luxury; it was about function.

Between the two couches/daybeds is the famous lamp that so many have gazed upon from down below:

In the same room is a mini kitchen/bar. In this tiny area, Walt could keep a few basics (like his favorite brands of chili and a toaster for grilled cheese) and have enough space to prepare libations for his guests.

Can you imagine the guest list of dignitaries and celebrities that visited this space? As Shirley Temple Black remembers:

I opened Sleeping Beauty's Castle with my children and that was the last time I saw Walt Disney. He gave us a little luncheon up in his special room there [his apartment above the Fire Department in Town Square] and we looked at a parade out the window. He was a very special guy and I enjoyed him very much, just sorry I never worked for him.

I always wondered why "Tom & Jerry" was written on the ceramic set in the corner of the kitchenette area. According to the Tour Guide, it didn't have anything to do with the cartoon characters, but rather "Tom" was a nickname for Brits and "Jerry" for Germans. A slightly different explanation from

invented in the early 1850s by "Professor" Jerry Thomas—the BolĂ­var of American drinking—at the Planters' House hotel, St. Louis, the Tom and Jerry was a holiday favorite for a century. The '60s, with their thirst for novelty and mania for convenience, killed it off, but you can still find the mugs—little white ceramic things with "Tom & Jerry" printed in gold—in back-country thrift shops.

...or inside Walt's Apartment!

The recipe:

• 12 eggs
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 bottle brandy
• Pinch of ground allspice
• Pinch of ground cinnamon
• Pinch of ground cloves
• 1 bottle dark rum
• milk
• nutmeg

Separate the eggs. Beat the whites until they form a stiff froth, and the yolks -- to which you have added the sugar -- "until they are as thin as water," as the professor advises, gradually adding 4 ounces brandy (spiceaholics will also add a pinch each of ground allspice, cinnamon, and cloves). Fold the whites into the yolks. When ready to serve, give it another stir and then put 1 tablespoon of this batter in a small mug or tumbler. Now add 1 ounce brandy (although some die-hard Dixiecrats prefer bourbon) and 1 ounce Jamaican rum, stirring constantly to avoid curdling. Fill to the top with hot milk and stir until you get foam. Sprinkle a little grated nutmeg on top. This one may require practice and a certain amount of fiddling, but it's well worth the effort. Note: Some people find the milk too rich and filling, so they use half hot milk, half boiling water.

Yet another explanation exists from Stephen Block in his "History of Egg Nog":

In the 1820's Pierce Egan, a period author, wrote a book called "Life of London: or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom". To publicize his work Mr. Egan made up a variation of eggnog he called "Tom and Jerry". It added 1/2 oz of brandy to the basic recipe (fortifying it considerably and adding further to its popularity).

Enough about T&J; let's get back to Walt! Moving on, this little hallway takes you to the bathroom and then exits out to the outdoor patio.

As a huge fan of vintage tile, the bathroom was actually the highlight for me. This little room literally screams 1950's! I love it!

The patio is like a breath of fresh air; a beautiful space to relax and view the crowds down below.

Getting into Walt's Apartment had always been high on my list of things to experience at Disneyland; to actually experience it was amazing. I actually felt my stomach lurch (in a good way!) when I walked inside the door.

I could have spent hours in here, but that was not the case. Leaving out this door was definitely sad!

The two remaining items on my list of Disneyland Holy Grails would be to see the Matterhorn Basketball Court and to be able to do an overnight in the Dream Suite. A guy can dream, can't he?

See more photos of Walt's Apartment on my Walt's Apartment web page.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Violence at Disneyland!

This photo is somewhat surprising if not viewed in its historical context. Hard to believe that there was once a Gun Shop in Frontierland. Even though I doubt that they sold real weapons, I'm not even sure that you could buy fake guns or pistols at Disneyland anymore.

Today, this shop has been incorporated into The Golden Horseshoe, as seen in this photo I took on my most recent trip to Disneyland.

The interesting little sculpture above the door disappeared at some point.

Either removed, destroyed, or plastered over.

Guns weren't the only weapon used in Frontierland; Zorro brandished his sword on top of the Mark Twain for guests to marvel at below:

It seems like the area by the Gun Shop was not a safe place for guests; here's Black Bart in the middle of a gunfight:

Wally Boag is on top of the Horseshoe, having just been "shot":

Even the peaceful Rivers of America had violence right under your nose, as you can see by the The Burning Cabin:

I just love zooming into the faux dead guy on the bench with an arrow through his chest. Again - hard to believe this was here for YEARS at Disneyland!

Obviously, cast members had fun with this guy too, as he is rarely seen in the same position:

The last time I saw any kind of politically incorrect violence at Disneyland was over in Adventureland back in June 2008 when this evil villainous was getting pummeled by an ungentlemanly Indiana Jones.

I think the poor Hippos on the Jungle Cruise are the last examples of violence at Disneyland...other than the fits of anger by guests who have to wait too long in line for something.

See more vintage and current Disneyland Frontierland photos on my Frontierland web page.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Indian Elephant Wading Pool, 1962

“And look at all the elephants on the river today! This comes as a complete surprise to me ‘cause I had no idea these guys were going to be here. If you want to take pictures, go right ahead. All the elephants have their trunks on.”

That horribly bad pun is one of the elements that makes the Indian Elephant Wading Pool a favorite part of the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland. In 1962, the elephant wading pool scene was one of the "pluses" Walt had added to this Adventureland favorite. Here are the publicity blurbs that accompanied the three Marc Davis concept art shots seen below:

Nearly two dozen life-size Indian elephants like these playful fellows will splash and squirt and spray at Disneyland this Summer in the new Adventureland Jungle River Cruise. Big ones and "little squirts," they'll cavort for explorers taking the boat trip down jungle waterways, where a new African Veldt complete with lions, tigers, zebras, giraffe, laughing hyenas and other animals is also taking shape for June opening. The two-year, $7 Million Disneyland expansion will also include the "world's largest" Tree House for Summer '62.

A portion of the nearly two dozen Indian elephants being added to Disneyland's jungle river cruise is viewed here in the artist's sketches. Big ones and "little squirts," the elephants will frolic and splash in the waters of Adventureland beginning in June. The "world's largest" Tree House, three unique restaurants operated by nationally known Stouffer's company, and a "Safari Shooting Gallery" comprise the 1962 portion of Disneyland's two-year $7 Million expansion.

This portion of the attraction can still be enjoyed today, as seen in these recent shots that I took during my last visit to the park:

In Disney home video news, "Once Upon a Time" is now out on Blu ray/DVD. I'm not good about watching TV and following a weekly series. I much prefer to wait until the home video is out, so that I can watch the episodes all at once! I hate having to wait a week to see what's next. If you are the same way, then you'd better put a day or two aside as this first season collection will keep you busy for awhile. Stylish, well told, and extremely creative, I thoroughly enjoyed each episode.

As an extra bonus today, here's an interview with Lana Parrilla, aka The Evil Queen/Regina Mills:

Master storytellers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (executive producers of Lost and writers of TRON: Legacy) invite audiences to experience an intriguing twist to the classic fairytales of Snow White, Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood and many more in their thrilling new fantasy series Once Upon A Time. Packed with enchanting icons from the world’s most beloved stories, the show stars a host of talented actors including Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle.

Did you research the mythology of the Evil Queen in the Snow White fairytales when you signed up for Once Upon A Time?

I tried to do a ton of research into the character because I was very intrigued by the role. Thankfully, I found a huge book with a lot of notes on her and it was interesting to read so many different interpretations of her character. I shared the book with Robert Carlyle [who plays Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold in the show] and I think he learned a lot, too.

Is it tough to play such an iconic character?

No, I wouldn’t say it’s been tough. Instead, it’s been a lot of fun. I did a lot of homework to ensure I didn't play evil for the sake of playing evil. I wanted to understand why the Evil Queen is the way she is.

What did you discover about the Evil Queen during your research?

I believe there is a deeper pain inside of her. It’s not like she’s thinking, ‘I want to destroy her so that I can be prettier.’ In fact, I don’t think about the vanity aspect of her character at all when I’m playing her. From the moment I took on the role I thought about things like, ‘What did Snow White do to the Queen? Why does she want to kill Snow White so badly?’

Are those two questions answered in Season One of the show?

In the first four episodes of the show, you learn lots – but I don’t want to give away any spoilers to people who haven’t seen the show. It’s fun to be able to watch the show for yourself and uncover the various plot points.

Do you feel any pressure in playing such an iconic character?

Perhaps not in the way that Ginnifer Goodwin feels when she plays Snow White in our show. It’s different for the Evil Queen. Her story has been broken down into so many different cultures and languages – and there are so many different stories about her. The story that I grew up reading was the one in which the Evil Queen asks the Huntsman to bring back Snow White’s heart, but there are many more versions than that.

What other interpretations of her story did you enjoy?

I enjoyed a lot of different stories, but when I was researching the role I discovered a fascinating Spanish version. It described the Evil Queen as a character who would use an eye or a thumb as a bottle stopper. That was something incredibly sinister and new that I hadn’t heard about before.

The Evil Queen’s story has such a varied history. Do you get to play the character the way you want to play her?

Early on, I spoke to [executive producers and show creators] Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis about this. They told me they were trying to do something different with the fairytale characters, which was really interesting to me. It’s nice to have the history of these different renditions of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs but, as I hope we've proved during Season One, we definitely have our own take on it.

Will that continue in the second season?

I certainly hope we will stay open to that idea. We get to learn a lot about the characters in Season One, but I’m sure there’s much more to come. It’s fun to see so many more sides to these famous characters than anyone has ever seen before. I think it’s especially fascinating to see the conflicting vulnerability in all of these iconic villains.

Why do you think fairytales are so appealing to audiences around the world?

These are the stories that everyone has read, with characters that everyone can relate to. There is a moral in every story, so you get a life lesson just by reading one. They have a timeless appeal. They are magical and enthralling. They are thrilling to read.

Why do you think there’s been a recent resurgence in the genre on television and in movies?

If you look around, there is so much destruction and so many disasters in the world today. I think we all need to dream a little bit. There is hope out there and that’s what these fairytales are about. That’s why they were written for children: to dream, to fantasize, and to hope for something.

Has it been difficult to show the contrast between the Evil Queen and your other character in the show, Regina Mills?

I like to think I’ve worked pretty hard at showing the contrast between the two characters. The Evil Queen is very powerful and she puts everything out there. She’s open in her quest, whereas Regina masks everything. They are very different, so it’s been an easy task to separate them.

Do you enjoy playing the villain?

Yes, because the villains are always the most fun to play. They are the most challenging, but if you dig deeper you find the jewels in them.

Did you always dream about playing an iconic villain like the Evil Queen?

As a child, I never wanted to be a princess. Instead, I always wanted to play a witch. I love the ocean and I loved The Little Mermaid, so Ursula was always my favorite character. I preferred to pretend to be a sea witch rather than anything else.

How easy is it for you to connect to the Evil Queen on a human level?

Robert Carlyle plays Rumplestiltskin on the show and he has compared our portrayal of these evil characters to Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. Remember when he speaks to the mirror and says, “Are you talkin’ to me?” He’s looking in the mirror and he’s by himself in monologue. You’ve got to be a smart actor and you’ve got to make some really bold choices to connect with the audience on such a human level like that. I hope we do something similar with our portrayals in the show.

Is it difficult to stop yourself from going over-the-top or campy with your portrayal of the Evil Queen?

Whenever I’m playing a character, I’m always thinking about what motivates them and what they are feeling – but I know when to pull pack. When it comes to the villainous portrayal of the Evil Queen, it’s all about honesty. You have to focus on something that’s truthful about her and the acting follows through.

Do you think the script offers many campy lines for the Evil Queen?

Our lines can be campy and over-the-top, but it’s our responsibility as actors to make some honest choices and keep the scenes believable. I feel that we’ve all managed to do that successfully in the cast, so it’s not a worry for us. To be honest, we look forward to receiving the scripts and discovering what fun things we have to say each week.

How much have you enjoyed working on the show in Season One?

I’ve had a complete blast. I think any time an actor is handed a script where you get to play two roles is pretty awesome. It’s an incredibly fun show to work on and it’s great to work on a project where everyone in the team gets along so well. You know what? I can’t wait for Season Two.

I can't wait either!

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Disneyland, July 1966

How about a low-key series from the Summer of '66, where the psychedelic Alice in Wonderland attraction seems very appropriate. Who knows what strange "trips" are inside the cave that this particular caterpillar vehicle is about to enter.

The Skyway buckets have gone from round to square...literally. I will always be a fan of the original design.

Our Summer of '66 photographer attempted to get a few underwater shots on his trip through liquid space.

In Tomorrowland, the Flight Circle (visible at left) is about to close for good (sigh).

I'm sure this little Ice Cream Cart did a booming biz during the hot summer months.

Not much happening on the Monorail track in this shot, but the Autopia appears to be plenty busy.

Guests are enjoying the recently opened it's a small world attraction.

This group of guests had no idea what they were signing up for when they got on the canoe; who wants to paddle a canoe in the hot sun?

For all you younguns, that's Cascade Peak soaring above the Rivers of America on the left.

Don't bother looking for it today; it was a victim of budget slashing back in 1998.

See more vintage and current Disneyland photos on my Disneyland photo web pages.