Friday, January 11, 2013

Ode to Skull Rock

To get your weekend started off with a bang, I am doing a photo blowout of the Skull Rock Cove area, located directly behind the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship Restaurant. For you Disneyland newbies, this is where it was located:

Whether any of this rock work is leftover from those days is not known to me:

Back to the past...

Skull Rock is one of those rare instances where artificial rock looks real. I think the craftsmen that created this area did a marvelous job, as it looks completely natural. Well, about as natural as a gigantic skull with water flowing out of its mouth and glowing green eyes at night looks.

These four photos were taken in May 1961, about a year after this scenic spot debuted.

The other thing I like about Skull Rock are the hidden pathways, making it feel as if you are stumbling upon a secret oasis that few are aware of. My favorite parts of Disneyland are typically like this; those rarely discovered alleys, paths, or caves that are usually devoid of guests. They are spots where you can relax and go "awwwwwwwww" while sitting on a bench, taking in the breathtaking scenery.

Besides the rockwork, the landscaping makes this area seem so lush, too. The gray rock is softened perfectly by the plants that surround it. The waterfalls are the icing on the cake.

A June 1961 side shot, showing the plank from the back of the ship that would have taken guests to the outdoor seating area.

A nice September 1962 front view. That skull is so well done; you could almost believe that nature created it.

Whereas the tribute done years later at the Disneyland pool definitely looks manmade:

In this September 1962 photo, you can see Casey Jr. chugging along in the background.

The Chicken of the Sea Mermaid appears to be waving her wand over the skull in this image from April 1963:

May 1963:

May 1964:

This overview shot was taken from a Skyway bucket in September 1964:

January 1965:

A great close-up from June 1965:

A few more Skyway bucket shots, from September 1965:

August 1966:

In this March 1967 image, you get both Skull Rock and Monstro. I'd say Monstro's mouth is bigger!

By January 1968, the landscaping has pretty much taken over the rock work. So tropical looking!

March 1968:

Moving into the 1970's; August 1970:

February 1971:

One more Skyway shot, this time from October 1972:

And the very last shot I have of Skull Rock Cove, before it was removed during the Fantasyland remodel. This one is from June 1982:

I believe the loss of Skull Rock Cove was even greater than the loss of the Pirate Ship. Maybe one day the Imagineers can find enough real estate to bring this peaceful little area back to the park.

See more vintage Disneyland Skull Rock photos on my Chicken of the Sea photo web page.


Jeff Kober said...

I especially loved the walkways in and out. Added to the pirate ship, which also allowed you to romp around, it was an attraction in and of itself.

The one at Disneyland Paris is also impressive. But I don't get why the other parks don't have a skull rock. It was a photogenic location.

K. Martinez said...

This was my favorite place to sit and dine in the 60s-70s. It was pure fantasy and so timeless.

I have never seen photos of Skull Rock cove under construction or the rockwork being created. That would be so cool to see.

I also like how you put the photo blowout in chronological order so you can see the vegetation grow throughout the years. Nice job!

thepicklebarrel said...

ode to Skull Rock?

that was an ORGASM to Skull Rock!

Anonymous said...

Spectacular series, Dave. One of my most favorite and most missed locations. This gem of a spot had it all, and what replaced it is so hot and dry and loud by comparison.

I believe your photo 3 shows the dividing line between the original rock of Monstro on the right (predating Skull Rock) and the yellowish rock that replaced the Skull formation. It appears to me that the entire Skull formation rockwork was removed completely.

The boulder in the front right is part of Monstro, but that area has changed somewhat over the years also.

When the Canal boat queue was moved east, the rockwork was changed and planter beds expanded to move people away from the waterway. Originally, it was possible to stand very close to the water right by the whale mouth. You can't do that today.

I have a photo of the canal boats my Dad took in 1965 and I have tried to replicate the angle, it can't be done without standing in the flowers.

I have admired that last photo quite a bit. I wonder where those people are today. That little boy is about the age of my kids, I think.

Thank you for this wonderful sequence.


Anonymous said...

I just noticed, in photos 9 & 19, there are some treasure chests with high-arched lids, exactly like the ones in the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction poster.

Major Pepperidge posted an engraving some time back, an illustration of Captain Kidd by Howard Pyle, showing such a chest, which appears to have been copied almost verbatim into the Pirate poster by the Disney artist.

The COS chests appear to be exact replicas of those drawings. It looks like the theming research for Pirates may have lapped over into this area, or vice-versa.


Douglas McEwan said...

LOVED this post.

stu29573 said...

I really liked this place. In my neck of the woods we had the original 6 Flags Over Texas. Unlike the horrible company that they became, the original was very well done. Anyway, it had the pirate themed Scull Island, with a scull you could go into and slide out of. Very impressive stuff to a little kid, lol.

stu29573 said...

I, of course, meant "skull." One too many scotch and colas, I fear, lol


I wish I had spentmore time in this area when it was still with us. Did you know there was a WAVE MAKING machine under the entry bridge planks leading to the Galleon?? I've seen many vintage pictures of choppy water surronding the boat--this must have been the reason. I wonder how long the wave making machine was used? Nice post!!

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, lots of love for Skull Rock! Seeing it at night is one of my fondest Disneyland memories.

Daveland said...

Thanks all for the great comments; glad you enjoyed the post so much. However, I think Pickle Barrel's takes the cake!