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Entries in Carousel of Progress (12)

Sunday
Sep252011

Marc Davis and His Early Days at WED

Marc Davis is my hero. He is the best Imagineer to ever live. His influences in theme park design continue today more than a decade after his death. But his early Imagineering experiences weren't all sunshine and lollipops.

 

An Animation Legend

His contributions to animation are significant– Cinderella, Alice, Tinker Bell, Maleficent, Auroro, Cruella De Vil, and so on. Though he didn't particularly like animating "bland female characters" he mastered the difficult task. Marc once told Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston that "he got a lot of crap characters (to animate). Moving a girl around with a rotoscope [tracings of live action] is a pretty rotten way to make a living."

 

Marc's WED Legacy Begins

After his work on 101 Dalmations, Marc with a few other animators produced preliminary work on an animated film they hoped to eventually make at the studio. The film "Chanticleer" was never made because management deemed a chicken movie to be not-so-interesting. Note: Some of the work did go on to influence the studio's 1973 "Robin Hood". After "Chanticleer" was bagged, having not been assigned to any specific animation effort, Marc Davis would unknowingly begin his WED legacy. 

 

Improving Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland

In 1962 Walt Disney asked Marc to head over to Disneyland and take a "good, hard, critical look" at Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland which opened in 1960. "See what you think about this thing." Walt was less than satisfied with this somewhat boring attraction.

Upon viewing the attraction Marc quickly saw that "there was an awful lot of things wrong" with Mine Train and other attractions. He had plenty of constructive feedback for Walt and many ideas for improvement. "They had no gags in it, no story at all," Marc said about Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland. "One kit fox's head is going up and down, then about a hundred feet away another kit fox's head is going left to right, so I took the two, put them nose to nose, so one is going up and down, the other moves side to side, So immediately you have humor!"

Marc made about 40 drawings of how the park could be improved. At this time of Disneyland history, park management was very unhappy with the men sent to Disneyland from the Walt Disney Studios to help with the park.  Marc's wonderful wife Alice remembers that the Disneyland people "seemed jealous".

Marc quickly found himself (within 2½ hours of telling Walt he had drawings) in a meeting with the entire WED crew. "Everyone who was important was there, and here I am, a stranger from animation. So I stood up and I started explaining piece by piece." When discussing animated figures his knowledge of anatomy gave him the credibility that no one in the room could compete with. He expressed frustration with the way people were seated in the Mine Train cars (all facing center). He described how we look forward when driving a car because forward is where the danger and excitement will exist. This and everything else he spoke of impressed Walt and "he was buying everything I had done and he was quite intrigued with it," Marc said. Interestingly enough, I do not believe Marc's suggestion for the modified seating arrangement was ever fully implemented. 

 

Marc's "Little Pencil"

Quickly Marc Davis was Walt's choice for some of the most interesting and challenging assignments at WED. Other crew members resented this, as you could imagine. One short-sighted WED executive once walked by Marc's desk and said, "And what are you doing with your little pencil now?" Jerk. This would not be the end of Marc's run-ins with prominent Imagineers.

 

Jungle Cruise Improvements + Ride Posters?

It's no secret that Explorer Boat Ride a.k.a. Jungle River Cruise a.k.a. Jungle Cruise was nothing to laugh about in its early years. By that I mean it was more serious and less funny than the versions we know today. Marc was asked to pretty much do with Jungle Cruise what he did on Mine Train. He often mentioned that he got a kick out of the Elephant Pool in particular. He also mentioned, "I really did most of the ride posters as well." Interesting! Any we haven't seen?? Most certainly. 

 

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

Holy moly how did he do it? I know he wasn't alone in any of these but by golly his visible influence out ways that of all others. Could you imagine a grass hut with dozens of robotic birds singing above you... WITHOUT the Marc Davis charm? This (and quite possibly every other Marc Davis attraction) would have had the potential of being creepy on the level of third-rate (yet still fun) local amusement parks. Or even crazy Japanese rip-off parks.

 

1964-65 World's Fair

Walt assigned not only Marc Davis to the World's Fair efforts but his lovely wife Alice Davis as well.  The character work in all four Disney-designed Fair atrractions– "it's a small world", Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress, and Ford's Magic Skyway– were all heavily designed by Marc. Alice's costume designs were also a significant contribution.

Marc, Alice, and Mary Blair (what a trio!) with a small handful of other WED-ites created all of "it's a small world" in what, 11 months? Dang.

 

All This in the First Couple Years

So with no prior "3-D" experience and in a very short period of time, Marc Davis would create and/or strongly influence some of the theme park industry's most successful attraction experiences ever. "This was quite a change to get up from an animation desk and find out all of a sudden there were people with bulldozers and they wanted to know where you want his pile of dirt!"

 

Shortly After:

Marc's greatest achievement of his career followed by his second-greatest achievement– Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland and The Haunted Mansion. After that, his greatest unbuilt acheivement– Western River Expedition. Other fantastic Marc Davis attractions after Walt's death were and are also fantastic– Country Bear Jamboree, America Sings, etc. 

More to come.

 

Thank you Alice Davis, John Canemaker, World Famous D.E., and others for the stories.

 

Related posts:

The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 1 ]
Marc
 Davis and Disneyland's Rivers of America Rehab
America Sings
Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It
Diana Lai: An Original Enchanted Tiki Room VIP Hostess
Jungle Cruise Commercials
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63 [Part 2]
ABANDONED DISNEY: Country Bear- Max

 

Monday
Mar282011

WDW Fan Boys Podcast [Part 3]

Check out WDW Fanboys Podcast Episode #68 "Story Time with Lilly and Mitch"

We're happy to present our latest appearance on the WDW Fan Boys Podcast. Lilly and Mitch talk with the guys about favorite experiences including exploring backstage Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Carousel of Progress. Also discussed... the question of "if you had no limitations, what would you do with the Walt Disney World property?".

Check it out.

 

Related posts:

WDW Fan Boys Podcast [Part 1]
WDW Fan Boys Podcast [Part 2]
A Look at the Progress City Model- Then and Now
The Haunted Mansion Like You've Never Seen It
Why the Decline in Park Maintenance?

 

Saturday
Dec042010

Little Box of Treasures

While working with animatronics and props I would find myself emptying the pockets of my work clothes at the end of the day to find scraps of that day's work.  I decided to keep some of this stuff in a box so years later I could remember the variety of materials I once used.


Humor me as I share what might look like a pile of garbage.  For me, this garbage represents a whole lot of theme park ingenuity and memories of getting my hands dirty early, early in the morning...

Pieces of Brer Frog's pipe stem made of surgical tubing, covered in fabric tape and painted to look like bamboo.  Good ol' Brer Frog had the habit of smacking himself in the face with his previous, unforgiving, rigid pipe.  Speaking of smacks... Doesn't Brer Frog look a lot like the Sugar Smacks frog??

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea plants.  We would find these in the dirt after they filled in the lagoon.  I imagine there are still colorful plastic plants like this out there today.  Thank goodness they tore out that "too-expensive-to-keep-alive" ride.  << I'll explain my theory one day on how this is NOT so accurate.  Sometimes at night after they closed 20K I'd walk the catwalks in the caves only to pee my pants (figuratively) ever time.  So dark and damp and drippy- not to mention all the sea creatures sticking out of the dirty, half-drained water.

A genuine real piece of Walt Disney's backyard Carolwood Pacific train tracks! Given to me by a man who worked on site at Walt's Holmby Hill home in Los Angeles.  I like it because Walt himself played around with this stuff-- unlike a lot of park props.

Butyrate, skin, etc. from Pirate animatronics.

Coins from the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade.  Some coins were thrown out during a rehab we worked on.  Why is the Genie from Aladdin on them??  Don't ask me.  Fortunately the character artwork on the coins is not visible to guests, right?  It's Frontierland after all. 

A piece of George Washington's Hall of Presidents hands.  We'd pull a rough hand skin from the mold, "butter" it up (trim and add detail with a flat metal tip on the end of a torch), paint, and install.  Always enjoyed that.

We would remove hair and beards from Haunted Mansion ballroom ghosts once they lost their bright white shine.  Darker hair is much harder to see from the Doom Buggies.  I'll leave it to you to figure that one out.

Skin-like rubbery old paint would come off in large pieces.  Head skins too needed to be bright in color for the illusion to work.  The green rubber came from the old attic bride, I believe.

Madame Leota and Little Leota share similar projected effects.  Old portions of film would be thrown out when worn.  Above you see film from both Leotas.

In the Carousel of Progress 8mm film runs footage of a boxing match- projected from the basement below.  Remember the grandma exclaiming “Give’m a left you big lug!”

How in the world did a Mad Hatter nose end up in the box?  Don't ask me.  I believe the smelly thing was given to me for some reason.  Still stinks all these years later.

Spectro Magic lights.  Remember when Main Street Electrical Parade retired "forever" the first time and they sold light bulbs for $35??  Well these ain't those.  Am I the only one who never loved Spectro but always loved the Main Street Electrical Parade?

 

Related posts:

Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It
The Haunted Mansion Like You've Never Seen It
Pirates of the Caribbean Like You've Never Seen It
Surviving Pieces of Journey Into Imagination
Audio Animatronics 101
  
What Disney Characters Love