Thursday, June 29, 2023

“B” is for “Buena Vista Street”

When Disney California Adventure opened in 2001, the entrance area was known as the Sunshine Plaza. Gigantic letters spelled out the name of the state for the guests walking towards the turnstiles of Disneyland’s neighbor. Excitement ran high when the 55-acre theme park was added to the Disney portfolio in Anaheim. It didn’t take long for guests to figure out that this place was not created with the thought, care, and creativity that made Disneyland such an enduring favorite. The letters out front should have been C-H-E-A-P.

I drove two hours for this? I could have gone to the nearby mall.

Ooh…neon vomit. So charming!

The one appealing portion to me was the California Zephyr car which was repurposed as retail and (very basic) dining opportunities. Along with the retro styling of the info booth (patterned after the Union Stations of yore), there was a slight (VERY slight) feeling that you’d entered the past.

Once you saw the retail/food  offerings, any illusion you might have experienced was quickly shattered.

The city of Anaheim was not happy about the underperforming Park, which did not meet the tourism revenue projections that Disney had promised. In order to repair potential repercussions (and yes, some nasty ones were on the horizon for Disney), DCA went under a major overhaul less than ten years after its initial opening. This September 2011 photo shows a very happy site: the destruction of the Sunshine Plaza.

The new entrance, modeled after the long-gone Los Angeles Pan Pacific Auditorium gave an indication that Disney was going with a retro theme for their entry area, versus the Tacky Tourist one that had been initially adopted.

The reason this retro theme is so appealing is that it offers guests something they cannot experience: the past. DCA’s initial bomb can be chalked up to this: who would want to pay to see a cheaply done version of California when for the same amount of money, you could visit any one of the cities poorly represented all within driving distance? EPCOT succeeded because a plane trip across the ocean is not attainable for all; thus, being able to sample flavors and shopping from those countries within walking distance is appealing, even if they have been Disney-fied and boiled down to their lowest common denominators. 

I was immediately captivated walking down the newly opened Buena Vista Street (named after the road in Burbank to which Disney moved the Company in 1937) at DCA when it was unveiled in June 15, 2012. Yes, I was there!

The trolley at the entrance added an element of movement that was missing before. It shuttled guests from the entrance to the Hollywood Tower of Terror Hotel (remember that attraction?).

Appropriately themed 1930’s characters like Officer Blue were found here.

The architecture of Buena Vista Street was inspired by the Los Angeles/Hollywood area of the 1920’s/1930’s. You know, the buildings that get torn down to be replaced by mixed use high rises and parking lots.

The main retail store, Elias & Company looked like the Department Stores of yore:

Other retail stores mimicked the shops one would have found back in the day with appropriately themed retro window displays.

A cool vintage car at a gas station…oh wait, it’s actually a place to buy plush.

The center hub has this beautiful fountain; a great place for meeting the friends/family…

and a statue of Walt and Mickey, as they might have looked when they first arrived in California. A nice play on the Partners Statue at Disneyland’s Central Plaza.

The showstopper of the new area was the scaled recreation of the Carthay Circle Theatre (yup, demolished years ago for a parking lot) that once held the premiere of “Snow White” in 1937. For DCA, it was a restaurant and lounge.

The interior was lavish:

…and the food delish!

For the report card, was it an improvement? Definitely! And yet, a large portion of the remodel seemed just as hollow as its predecessor. Once you walked through the doors of these impressively detailed historic façades, the same bland food, beverage, and retail opportunities that you found elsewhere awaited your wallet here. Would it have been that much extra work to create an old fashioned ice cream soda shop with a counter, vs. the standard winding queue where you can get…wow, a Dreyers cone/sundae? Or a department store that perhaps offered a section with vintage clothing in addition to the cheap t-shirts and other crap that’s normally sold onsite?

C’mon, Disney…go the extra step or two and show off the creativity that used to be your hallmark!

See more DSC Buena Vista Street photos at my main website.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Temple Tuesday: Shirley Gets Sick!

While traveling across the country in July 1938, Shirley Temple made headlines for…a tummy ache. Yup. Here’s the publicity blurb:

You don’t speak German? Thanks to the miracle of online translation, here’s what it says:

Shirley Temple, the youngest and highest paid film actress in the world, needs to rest for a while. The doctor put her on bed rest and no excitement. She is in her suite at the Carlton Hotel in Boston, where daily bulletins are issued about her condition.

Daily bulletins for a ten year old who had a stomach ache from eating rotten apple sauce. At the Waldorf Astoria in NYC, no less. I don’t recall seeing that tidbit in the news reports!

The press photographer who snapped the sickbed pic was Charles W. Banks of the Post, who had to wait for Shirley’s mother to arrange Shirley’s curls and add a tiny pink ribbon. After all, a movie star must always look their best!

Thanks to Shirley expert supreme, Rita Dubas, you can see some of the more local coverage:

I wonder if the Waldorf paid off the press to keep the applesauce situation on the downlow? While resting in bed, Shirley had some of her favorite toys with her, including a stuffed dog and a Käthe Kruse doll she called “Marcia Field” because of its purchase at the Chicago Department Store:

…and Susie Blockhead, cradled in the little girl’s arms:

How Susie looked when auctioned off in 2015 by Theriault’s:

…and Little Marcia:

Melissa, aka “The Colonel,” supplied the rest of the info on Shirley’s illness:

Shirley’s mother Gertrude took Shirley’s temperature upon arrival and found it was 103 degrees. She immediately called family physician Dr. Leo Madsen, asking him to fly out. Meanwhile, two child specialists from Massachusetts General Hospital were called in – Drs. Harold L. Higgins and Joseph L. Lewis. They found her to have a temperature of 100.5 and an upset stomach, but no pneumonia or appendicitis. Before being put to bed, it was reported that Shirley said, “Just as soon as I feel better I’m going to see Bunker Hill and Paul Revere’s house and where the Indians dumped the tea and all those places.” She was watched overnight by Massachusetts General nurse Rita Gibbons, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Gibbons of Salem, NH. The next day, July 30, Dr. Higgins said her temperature had dropped to 99.2, but she was ordered to stay in bed. One doctor took a blood sample and the first prick was too shallow and the second too deep, causing a bit of bleeding. Shirley asked the doctors to examine her dolls, and they advised her that she could not do any of the activities she had planned. The 200 children who waited at Bunker Hill Monument would not see Shirley as expected that morning, nor would she be able to take Captain Guglielmo Lazzari up on his offer to visit the Italian Line motorship Vulcania.

On July 31, she was still confined to bed, her temperature hovering around 99.2, but it was reported that she had spent a rather good night. By August 1, Dr. Madsen had arrived by plane from Santa Monica and declared that her illness was not serious and that her temperature was near normal. After consulting with Drs. Higgins and Lewis, Madsen agreed that the specialists were no longer necessary. Shirley was well enough to wave from her window to the waiting fans below. The Governor of Massachusetts, Charles F. Hurley, and the Governor of New Hampshire both called on the young star, but were not permitted to see her. They left their cards and sent a bouquet of gladioli, larkspur and roses.

After four days in bed, Shirley was finally able to see some of the sights of Boston on August 3. Dressed in the light blue smocked dress, a blue hair ribbon and white shoes and socks, she went to the Public Garden for a ride in the famous swan boats. Shirley came down from her hotel at 4:15 pm and was greeted by a squad of 12 Boston police officers.

Once on the swan boat, Shirley sat in front. Also aboard were her parents, Mayor Tobin, Captain John McArdle and Dr. Leo Madsen. The third seat of the boat held Grif, detective Slack and Sgt. William Crowley. Behind them sat six reporters. The boat was propelled by 17-year-old Robert Paget, son of Commander John Paget. Shirley was presented with a yachting cap and given the honorary title of “admiral of the swan boat navy.”

A “house call” where the doctor flies from Los Angeles to Boston. It boggles the mind.

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Garland’s Got Rhythm!

In the 2001 TV movie, “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” the production of the show stopping “I’ve Got Rhythm” number from “Girl Crazy” (1943) is used to demonstrate how hard Garland (Tammy Blanchard, who earned an Emmy for her expert portrayal) had to work and the rough treatment she experienced at the hands of director Busby Berkeley (Michael Rhoades).

“Eyes! Give me eyes!” the director yells at her, over and over again.

Is that what the real life Garland experienced while making the movie?

In this behind the scenes shot, you can see Garland, Tommy Dorsey, and Mickey Rooney filming the number that took nine days to film (four more than were scheduled) and immediately put the production $60k over budget. Oops. I was unable to spot Busby in the photo.

From January 4-14, this scene was shot with take after take after take. Berkeley continued to make the number more elaborate and drove the star to exhaustion. On January 29, her physician ordered her not to dance for the next three weeks and confined her to bed rest. From the book Chuck Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance by Brent Phillips:

[Berkeley] possessed a restless talent, a caustic tongue, and an alchoholic’s short temper. Accusations and inter-office memos were flying. Garland, in particular, was upset by his callousness. “[Judy] was a very sensitive girl,” Walters explained, “and Buzz treated his actors like a piece of scenery or a piece of furniture. He’d shove ’em around, move ’em around. Time meant nothing, lines meant nothing. It was just where his camera was, and where you had to be when he wanted to swoop around and slide in for a close-up. ‘God dammit!’ he’d say, ‘I told you to turn on that line so I could come in!’ And he’d push Judy and place her and made her feel very awkward.

As a result of his treatment of Judy, Berkeley was fired and replaced by Norman Taurog. Chuck Walters took over the staging of the rest of the songs.

At least there was no smoking on the set!

See more Judy Garland photos at my main website.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

“A” is for Aladdin

Today I focus on all things “Aladdin” at Disneyland. Can you guess the era of pic #1? The hairstyles and clothing should be a dead giveaway that we are now in the 90s. Specifically October 1993, about a year after the Disney animated feature was first released. Princess Jasmine and Jafar are hanging out in Town Square. Below is a February 2006 shot from Aladdin’s Oasis in Adventureland, where you could see a “live” show featuring your favorite characters from “Aladdin.”

I have always enjoyed seeing the displays in the Main Street Emporium windows, including this June 2008 one featuring Princess Jasmine and Aladdin:

Soundsational is one of my favorite Disneyland parades. A bouncy soundtrack with all the favorite Disney tunes, colorful floats, and a lively show that included characters from “Aladdin,” as seen in this August 2012 photo.

The Genie was also part of Soundsational, circa October 2011:

A July 2012 image from a meet & greet opportunity back at Aladdin’s Oasis:

“Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” ran at DCA’s Hyperion Theatre from January 16, 2003-January 11, 2016. I never tired of watching this mini-Broadway show that has to be one of the best shows ever mounted inside the Disney Parks.

From May 2004:

November 2010:

The set design did an excellent job of bringing the animated film to life, as you can see from this September 2011 photo:

A happy ending, every show (November 2010):

Curtain call from a September 2011 show:

Last one that I can think of is Storybook Land. You can see the lamp:

…and the village of Agrabah:

Did I miss anything else Aladdin from Disneyland?

See more DCA “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” photos at my main website.