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Orange Bird Photo Hunt



Entries in Mystery (9)


A Look at the Progress City Model- Then and Now

The Progress City model was once a spectacular site. Housed on the second level of the Carousel Theater at Disneyland above The Carousel of Progress, it was often visited but not-so-often photographed or filmed.  It was a large model with many moving parts and electric lights.

What you see today while riding the Magic Kingdom’s TTA  is only a piece of the original model. Not only did a relatively small section of the model survive, a very small amount of movement and lighting remain today. There are fewer houses, far fewer cars and the landscaping is almost nonexistent compared to the original. The thing was literally sliced up in various places to fit it’s new space at Walt Disney World.

The blue lines below indicate the area of the model you see today.


A Chance to Restore the Model

A few years back I was asked if I’d like to help restore this old model city.  I wet my pants a little and said, “Sign me up!  I’ll come in early and stay late if I have to, just don’t change your mind”.  Life stinks sometimes, the lousy bums changed their minds.

– “It’s a matter of ownership.  We don’t actually know who ‘owns‘ the model”.

Yeah well I’d been up there a few times before to climb around and my old model train city I made as a kid with my mom’s hot glue gun and little hobby shop fake trees was in better shape.

The model as seen within the last several years. Viewed from catwalk above the TTA track.


– “Well we think it belongs to Decorating and they ain’t interested in doin’ notin’  wid it.”

 – “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Give me their number.  You are saying that even if I volunteer my time to save this piece of history, you aren't gonna let me because no one wants to deal with the thing??  IT’S OLDER THAN ALL OF DISNEY WORLD!”

- “Yeah well, we isn’t interested in the best interest of stuff around here.  Go finish yurr work on that Small World doll.”

Good thing I like working on Small World dolls.  As it turns out, ‘Decorating’ had already been there. No need to clean the model or fix the broken buildings. Definitely no need to fix the double ferris wheel that once moved round and around.

Now that brings me to something that not everyone seems to quite understand.  Imagineering doesn’t maintain everything you see at the parks.  Hardly. There are loads of other departments who are assigned to various pieces of the attractions and parks in general (Engineering Services, Decorating, Artist Prep, Creative Costuming, Buildings, Custodial, even Buena Vista Construction Company, etc.).


The Fantasy of EPCOT-style Living 

I’d always loved the WEDWay PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom (now TTA) in large part due to the view of Progress City.  I liked to dream of the life I could have had in the low-density residential outer rings of a city patterned after EPCOT.

Concept art for Medallion City, 64-65 New York World Fair, meant to showcase (at full-scale) the residential life in Progress City

While riding past the model I’d spot nifty looking mid-century modern ranch-style houses with PeopleMover stations out the back door and with views of the towering cosmopolitan hotel and convention center.  A little amusement area and schools for the kids, pedestrian walkways separate from the motor ways, a Monorail traveling through the center of town... What could be better?

The wife and I could meet up for ethnic food while she shops in the retail district just below my office building. Once inside, weather conditions good and bad would be safely out of reach, yet visible though the domed glass skylights. Walt Disney would be walking around pointing at stuff and I’d say ‘hi’ to him. Herb Ryman would be at the next table sketching on a napkin.  Then he’d give me his sketches and we’d discuss the look of transportation systems of the future.


Why the Tiki Lounge in the City of the Future?

Tiki building as seen in the model's original state

The same tiki building on current model

Doesn’t seam to fit in, or does it? Remember, the peak of America’s fascination with all things ‘tiki’ was the 1950s and 60s.  The phenomenon began with returning WWII soldiers who had served time in the Pacific. Hawaii had not been opened to tourist travel by jet plane for all that long. The war ended in the mid 40s and i presume many of the W.E.D. staff had spent time in Polynesia. And remember that Progress City focussed on all areas of life, including leisure. What better way to relax than in some tike restaurant on the marina?  Maybe someone just liked tiki stuff and added it to the plans??  Either way, this piece is still on the model and boy is it cool to think about.


A Hacked Model

You can compare the model in its two locations and the pieces that still stand today.  You’ll notice the little PeopleMover tracks no longer have moving PeopleMover cars on them.  The tracks were hacked, therefore no longer operational. They appear to have been made of simple slot car technology.  Just like the slot car tracks you had as a kid.

Let's give give credit where credit's due.  Though the model is in a very dilapidated state after all these years, it's presented in a way that makes it look pretty good. I'd love to see moving parts and fewer broken pieces, but from a moving WEDWay car, in a dark tunnel, behing glass, the thing doesn't look half bad.  

Some of these photos were taken without show lighting and with the use of flash.  Some are with show lighting, no flash.


I'd Give My Right Eye

I’ve been looking for video or imagery of the upper level of Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress forever now. After the final act of the show, guests would exit though the stage area and ascend to the second floor to see the Progress City model.  I’ve found very little.  I would love to see exactly what that experience was, including the viewing area of the model.  

So PLEASE send anything you have showing these things.


Photos by Fritz, Mitch and Hoot. A special thanks to Hoot who has done a heap of research and investigation involving the model. He was the one who showed me door to get to the model and the catwalk above. Photos were taken on assignment and with permission. Please don't attempt to access the model. 


Related posts:

Tomorrowland '67 [Part 3]
EPCOT City Model [Part 1]
Lake Buena Vista: The Other Prototype City with a Peoplemover



Frito Kid and Deeee-licious Fritos!

Click to hear the Frito Kid speak!


From 1952 until 1967, the Frito Kid was the official mascot of Fritos corn chips.  In the 1950s and 1960s, at Disneyland's Casa de Fritos, guests could pay a nickel for a bag of chips to be dispensed by this elaborate vending machine.  Upon inserting your nickel, the Frito Kid figure would come to life, turning his head, licking his upper lip, slowly moving his eyes side to side.  He would call to the unseen miner, Klondike, to send a bag of chips up the mine.  Klondike would respond with an echoey voice sounding like he was deep in the corn chips mine.  A wax-paper bag of chips would slide down the trough.  A number of different audio tracks would play so each customer heard something different from the last.  (Audio samples above).

Frito Kid:  "Someone else knows what’s good.  Another bag of Fritos, Klondike!"
Klondike:  "Okay, comin’ right up. One bag of crisp, salted Fritos."
Klondike even implies that these salted chips are good for you.  He does it to a tune similar to "Jingle Bells":
Frito Kid:  ♫   "Dig those chips, dig that gold, dig those chips of corn."  ♫   
Klondike:  ♫   "They are dark and salted too, Fritos best for you."  ♫   

Other chips were sold in normal, non-animated-vending-machine ways but I can't imagine many kids ever passed up the chance to see and hear the interaction between this miner and cowboy as they deliver chips down a wooden-like mine chute.

Casa de Fritos

Casa de Fritos originally opened the month after the opening of Disneyland in 1955 next to Aunt Jemima's Pancake House in an area called New Orleans Street.  The Frito Kid setup stood just inside the front door.  It was popular but rarely photographed making it one of the most mysterious product-pitching mechanical corporate sponsor mascots of any Disney park, much like the even more mysterious and rarely photographed Florida Orange Bird of the Magic Kingdom.

Casa de Fritos moved northward in July of 1957, deep into Frontierland to a larger location next to Rainbow Caverns Mine Train.  Found in that location now is Rancho del Zocalo Mexican Restaurant. A few architectural remnants still remain.  In the photos above (upper right and lower right) you can see a little of what still exists.  The archway with broken adobe and exposed brick was once the main Casa de Fritos entrance, now an entrance to a dining area.  The adobe/brick oven is still there today but with tables and chairs in front.

When the restaurant moved, the Frito Kid went with it.  As seen in these photos, the Kid was moved from the right of the mining trough to the left.  The mine and mountain were modified significantly, if not completely replaced.  The stand with potato chips and other products did not survive the move.  And who are those guys above the mountain?  Are they in a knife fight?  And why are they there?  I'm dying to know.  Do they have something to do with the bandits from the Frito Kid mini comic books? (Photos further below)

Where is the bag of chips the Frito Kid is supposed to be holding?  Did it fall on the chute?  Is that why there are two bags on the chute?  Did that older kid take it?  How come he sometimes has four fingers and sometimes five?  Was his yellow, curvy hair modeled after a Frito chip??  Is the Frito Kid related to Richie Rich?... or could they be the same person???  So many questions.

"Fritos Served With All Dishes"

A combination plate for a buck?  Ice cream for 15cents?

"Spaghetti and Chili", is that Mexican?




Check out the Frito Kid hamming it up with his Golden Horseshoe Revue friends and "friendly rival", Pecos Bill in this Pepsi-Cola/Fritos promotional piece.


Look!  Fritos can be used for bait to lure unsuspecting bandits out of caves.  Who knew?  And what is that cool thing on the left?  Looks like a toy but at second glance you'll see that this statue is rather large.  I'd like one.  And my wife loves old junk like that too... not.


It's not easy to forget the Fritos mascot who followed the Frito Kid, the Frito Bandito.  The character was voiced by the great Mel Blanc.  Close your eyes and you might think you are listening to Speedy Gonzales- also a Blanc character.  Some call the Fritio Bandito racist.  I call him hilarious.  How can you not like his mild threats made in the name his love for corn chips?

♫   "Aye, yii, yii, yiiii, oh, I am the Frito Bandito. Give me Frito Corn chips and I'll be your friend. The Frito Bandito you must not offend."   ♫

My dad still loves to sing the sond, accent and all.  Sadly the Frito Bandito never made it to Disneyland (that I know of).


In 2007, in celebration of Fritos' 75th anniversary, the Frito-Lay company released limited anniversary edition packaging with old brand and image of the Frito Kid, even though the Frito Kid was not introduced until 20 years after the Frito chips made their debut.  Still fun.



If you have memories of the Frito Kid machine at Disneyland, do tell!  If any of you have video or photos not seen here, please send.  I'd give my right eye for behind the scenes photos of this thing.


Image credits:  Ozarklabrdoodles, Tiki Ranch, Daveland, Miehana, Ladypuppy1939, lplocharsk, Frito-Lay, Jtons7880, and myself.




Hoot Gibson posted a comment below that raised my eyebrow.  Does the mountain behind the Frito Kid not look like Splash Mountain???... and the original location is oh so close to that of Splash Mountain....  Hmmmmmm.  What do you think?  (The Splash Mountain model photo is one I recently took at the Opera House and it happens to be the same angle and sort of similar scale).


Related post:

Frito Kid Mysteries Continue




The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 1 ]

[ PART 2 Now available ]

A trip earlier this year to Yellowstone National Park inspired me to post about one of Disneyland's greatest retired pieces, Nature's Wonderland. Beware. You may just love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad a little less after enjoying the following.

Listen to this fantastic narration. But watch out! It may get a little sexist along the way:

"We have ‘stocked’ our preserve with over 200 amazingly realistic animated animals and birds - including almost every specie still roaming the North American continent."



Timeline 1955-PRESENT

1956 Rendering of Rainbow Caverns Mine, Rainbow Ridge Mule Pack, and Rainbow Mountain Stage Coaches

"Here, in a primitive setting that duplicates the remote wilderness country, you may watch beavers, busy as always, on home-building and tree-cutting chores; coyotes and mountain lions; clown-like bears, romping without a care in the world; Olympic Elk engaged in battle for survival, just as it is enacted daily in the natural wilderness."




Rendering by Marc Davis
Photo courtesy of Pete

Rendering by unknown artist


Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland overlaid on today's Big Thunder site.


Detail of 1962 souvenir mapFull-size map here.

Then and Now

Cascade Peak was removed in 1998 due to structural damage. The broken down Mine Train was removed in a recent Rivers of America rehab.

Photo (left) courtesy of Pete

The front of the rock tunnel is easily visible today as you walk on the trail that connects to Fantasyland just west of Big Thunder Mountain. The back opening of the same tunnel is visible along the east side of Rivers of America. If you pay attention you may see a jumping fish on the north side of this pond, thought sadly it's not often operational these days.

The "Assay Office" building (right) can be seen on the far left of the left photo.

The "Panhandle Hotel" and "Big Thunder Epitaph" buildings (right) can be seen behind the center tree in the left photo.

Live, wild cats hanging at the abandoned tracks! (Several, if not dozens, of wild cats live in Disneyland bushes.) They can occasionally be spotted during the day but more often they come out after hours). I took this photo from the Mark Twain in 2004 and thought to myself, 'if I were to be a mangy wild cat, I'd like to live on the site of an extinct Disneyland attraction too". Static mountain lion figures now sit between the old tracks facing Rivers of America.

The Must-see "Frontierland in Color"... though not all of this video is "in color"

Continue with [ PART 2 ]

Photos, scans, and graphics by Fritz. Additional photos submitted by friend and fan of the blog, Pete. Other photos provided by Daveland, Calisphere, and Tim's Disney News Archive. Videos originally posted on YouTube by our friend, Rustin.


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