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ADMINISTRATORS
Thursday
Dec312009

Decades in Review

As we enter a new decade, and in a spirit of reflection, I find myself comparing the things I love about Disneyland and Walt Disney World to the things I love much less.  Although I have a fascination with ‘vintage’ I do love the occasional new attraction that knocks my socks off.  Notice I use the word occasional.  Sadly I find myself less and less impressed as time goes by.

Let’s look at this 55-year progression (or digression).  The above timeline is a visual representation of my opinions.  It’s very simple.  Blue = I like.  Red = Sub-par.

Shocking?  To most of the readers of this blog, this may not be.  To most theme park-goers, probably a bit of a shocker.  The argument arises that Disney’s audiences are ever-changing.  The classic Walt quote inevitably gets thrown at guys like me, “Disneyland will never be completed.  It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”  Well-said, Uncle Walt.  We do not disagree.  Remember, he used the words imagination and grow.  It seems to me that he’s saying, “Let’s improve and push ourselves to new levels.”  Not: “Let’s ruin things that people already love in an attempt to sell more merchandise.”   Ok ok.  Getting a little bitter, I know. 

But isn’t park attendance always increasing?  Aren’t lines at Test Track still an hour long?  Does that not tell you something?  We need to give the guests what they want.” 

People generally like what is placed in front of them-- especially if they don’t know that something far greater was there a few years before.  Before we know it, Future World will represent a whole lot of non-futuristic nothingness.  Magic Kingdom will be covered in ill-placed, random characters where they should never be.  The latest Disney popcorn flicks will continue to encourage management to pull up the bull-dozers to things we’ve cherished since childhood.  Disneyland and DCA will look like a Disney Channel version of Six Flags. 

Look at the timeline.  Is that where we are headed? Let’s pray this ain’t so.

Happy New Year!

 


Tuesday
Dec292009

Layers of Imagineering



A reader of the blog submits this optimistic look at early roots of Imagineering that still exist at Disneyland today.  Literal and symbolic layers have been added to Disneyland over the decades.  It’s nice to be reminded that a lot of these early “layers” still play a part in Disney park experience.   I only hope that future layers can reflect the wonder and marvel of these first layers and not be layers of pure tackiness that we’ve seen in recent years.  Just sayin’.   -Admin

------------------------------

Whenever I think about Disneyland, and how it grew, literally, from an Orange grove in Anaheim, California, I am continually amazed at how its roots were planted, and even after all these years since its groundbreaking, those roots still exist; the roots of imagineering.

 Walt Disney has been quoted as saying that Disneyland will always evolve and change - never to be static. It was designed from the beginning to set sights on the future and pay homage to the past.

But, even as time moves on, and new 'layers' are added onto the existing structure of the park itself, I hold on to the memories of those that first set in stone, the 1st layers of Imagineering. When visiting Disneyland, one feels a sense of the original Imagineers there in the park as though they are always present, watching over the park and guiding its visions for today’s Imagineering and the art of Illusioneering.

"X" Atencio, Marc Davis, Claude Coats, "Rolly" Crump, Harriet Burns, Blaine Gibson, just to mention a few, these men and women were, in a sense, tasked by Walt Disney, to move imagineering from the 2D world into the 3D world. They began what really became a science in creating illusions; one that allows the viewer to be transported to another place and time. Disneyland Park is a living, breathing 3 - dimensional entity in and of itself. From the moment when you walk onto Main Street, one may not realize that each building is designed to have forced perspective. Each floor above the 1st is reduced in height, to create a sense of even taller buildings. And, one may not know that even the color and values of the foliage are placed in such a way as to create more depth and perceived space throughout the park. That … is what lives on. That … is part of their legacy; the 1st Imagineers.

One of my fascinations in the park is with Audio Animatronics. This is truly where the legacy of Disney art moved from 2D to 3D. The Imagineers that created the Abraham Lincoln exhibit for the 1964 New York World's Fair may not have known that they were setting a standard for future park innovations, and even creating technologies that even today, are being expanded upon, not only in the entertainment field but even medical as well.

The choreography of artistry is amazing throughout Disneyland. Even the audio tracks leave a lasting impression. My favorite voice talent, Paul Frees, is heard all over the park, and when you look back at previous attractions such as Adventures Through Inner Space, you can still hear his unique voice echoing in the park from times gone by. And speaking of voices - lets not forget about Jack Wagner. He welcomed us and then thanked us for visiting Disneyland. Those are just a few of the memorable voices throughout the park.

I also have an appreciation of the colors used on the attractions. Deep blues into colorful purples seem to be a major theme throughout the park's history and even in the animated films as well. Mary Blair's unique designs are unforgettable. I see that as one of the most important contributions that the original Imagineers set forth for generations to come.

So maybe Walt himself is still looking over Disneyland from his small apartment above the Fire station, making sure that past innovations live on and to ensure that new innovations more forward in that space. A space that will always change and will always be watched over by the original "cast."

Times will change and technologies will progress but I will never forget those 1st "layers" of Imagineering that shine through to this very day.

-Monte E. Ross

Friday
Dec252009

Merry Christmas

This is fun to watch during the holidays.  Not directly Christmas-related by it fits the season.  "Ben and Me" was released in 1953 and is a great little piece of animation.  The story is by the great story teller Bill Peet and art direction by Ken Anderson (of Walt's 'Nine Old Men') and Claude Coats who later went on to work for W.E.D. Imagineering (Haunted Mansion, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Alice, Subs, Pirades, etc.)  

This has some of that same spirit you get at The American Adventure and Liberty Square.  Enjoy.