Tuesday, August 05, 2014

59th Anniversary 20k Exhibit at Disneyland

59 years ago today, Walt Disney showed great economy by having the sets from his movie "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" moved from Burbank to Anaheim and installed in Tomorrowland as a walk-through exhibit.

The giant squid fight sequence was a thrilling action-packed highlight of the film.

From the book "Walt's People: Volume 14: Talking Disney with the Artists Who Knew Him" comes this story:

Walt Disney wanted the squid transported to Disneyland. It was one of the quickest jobs special effects whiz Bob Mattey ever handled. On Monday he got the order, and by Friday the squid was installed at the park, with a whole new set of innards.

The park budget would not allow for several men to spend the day operating the squid, so Mattey had to devise a motor to do the job. He did. Key to the squid's operation was a Hudson eight-cylinder engine block. The flywheel was attached to an electric motor. Each cylinder operated about twelve piano wires that were attached to the squid tentacles. The wires are placed so that no "cycle" or repeat action was noticeable. Early cable soon wore out, so stainless-steel cable were finally attached to each piston, and the stainless shell led to the pulleys high over the exhibit. From the pulleys, the piano wire stretched to the individual tentacles.

The squid had a parrot beak, and the beak from the film (which operated on a vacuum pump), was retained. However, the beak was originally designed for one sequence of the film—not for continuous action in the park. Every few minutes the beak snapped open and shut, but after two years it suddenly disintegrated—the constant tapping and snapping was too much for the material, which shattered. It was replaced with a new and better beak.

A July 1960 shot of the entrance to the Disneyland exhibit:

A shot of Captain Nemo's pipe organ from the film:

And an October 1956 Genuine FauxD© image of the organ at Disneyland (before it was moved to the Haunted Mansion!). Be sure to give it a few seconds to load so you can see the effect:

Daveland reader Larry B. sent this image of himself at the exhibit, cavorting with the squid:

I sneaked behind the 20,000 Leagues Walk-Thru Exhibit back in 1963 to see the giant squid up close. I actually touched it. What I didn't know was that my friend, Tom Scherman, who was with me on this Disneyland outing, had followed me with his camera and snapped this picture of me reaching out to the squid at the "perfect moment." I've treasured this photo for many years.

You can see the beak discussed previously on the left side of this detailed shot. The exhibit remained open until August 28, 1966. Today, this space is occupied by Star Tours.

There are still remnants of 20k at the Park.

An homage to the diving apparatus seen in these two photos with Kirk Douglas and Master Diver Fred Zendar...

can be seen outside of Trader Sam's bar at the Disneyland Hotel:

Tomorrow: Pt. 2 of the Tomorrowland Anniversary Celebration!

See more Daveland Disneyland Tomorrowland photos at my main website.

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K. Martinez said...

In my opinion, the best live-action film Walt Disney ever produced.

JG said...

Memories of that exhibit are among my oldest from Disneyland. The squid was vividly rendered and quite frightening to a little boy.

I clearly remember the airlock with the bright blue water bubbling in the well, it was very cool indeed.

Only saw it once, that I recall. I ran to look for it on the next trip and it was gone. My first nostalgia for a lost attraction.


K. Martinez said...

@JG - I supposedly saw the 20K exhibit according to my older sister, but I honestly don't remember it. Strange thing is I do remember the House of the Future and much of the original Tomorrowland. Go figure.

CoxPilot said...

Somewhere in the stuff I've collected is a wooden "rivet" from the exhibit. I remember how the Space Man would stand quietly in a dark corner of the diving room, and then jump out at unexpecting victims (usually young girls).