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Entries in Tomorrowland (39)

Saturday
Jul032010

America Sings

[ UPDATED 7-6 with new images and info ]

A look back at the Marc Davis / Al Bertino patriotic animatronic wonder and how some of it's pieces live on today.

Think of Carousel of Progress meets Country Bear Jamboree meets American Adventure.  It was hosted by an eagle named Sam, voiced by the great Burl Ives, and co-hosted by Ollie Owl.  Shows ran from 1974-1988 in Tomorrowland's Carousel Theater, Disneyland.  It replaced The Carousel of Progress which was moved to The Magic Kingdom in 1975.  The empty round building with it's rotating outer ring of seating and stationary set of inner stages was a perfect fit for such an idea.  Though I've always thought the Tomorrowland setting was not entirely fitting, America Sings was a really swell! 

 

 

After closing in 1988, a number of America Sings' audio animatronics were repurposed in the 1989 E-Ticket log flume adventure, Splash Mountain- Sam and Ollie, were not included in the move.  Splash Mountain's Song of the South premise with Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and friends was an inviting setting for these friendly Marc Davis critters.  Costumes, props, and character poses were changed to fit the new storyline.

Below you'll find side-by-side comparisons of these critters in both setting.  Also included are some Marc Davis concept drawings for America Sings.  Photos of sculpted maquettes- on display at Disneyland's Opera House (still there today)- are also presented.  Additional photos are from Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  

In October of 1992 the second and third Splash Mountains opened one day apart.  Tokyo Disneyland opened theirs on October 1 while Magic Kingdom opened their Splash Mountain on October 2.  To my knowledge, these rides did not receive any America Sings original animatronic figures, though they were both populated with many reproductions.

 

Foxes and Hens

In Act I - Early South -  foxes, hens and frogs sung Lay Down My Burden in gospel choir fashion.  The foxes and hens now can be seen aboard Disneyland's Splash Mountain's riverboat scene singing Zippity Do Da (without Uncle Remus... thanks to Michael Eisner, that rascal).

Also aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat are two musical pigs, a hound guitar-playing dog, and a goose playing the part of river captain up top, and 3 female geese- all from America Sings.  The can-can geese came from Act III of America Sings, featured further below.

Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain was given a mere 12 characters aboard their riverboat compared the 17 aboard Disneyland's.  No foxes and no hound dog.  In fact, no foxes other than Brer Fox exist in Magic Kingdom's version of the ride.  I imagine the happy foxes could easily be confused with the mischievous Brer Fox set out to kill and eat the attractions main character, Brer Rabbit.

 

The Swamp Boys

The Swamp Boys were made up of the gator trio, a harmonica-playing raccoon (above lower left), and singing frogs.  In Splash Mountain they were divided up, minus the gator trio which stayed together (above lower right).  Notice in the first video posted above the harmonica-playing raccoon is not part of the trio.  Must have been in maintenance that week (or year).  You'll see further down in the post where the raccoon ended up in Splash.

I love comparing the two Marc Davis concepts (above upper left and upper center).  It appears the raccoon was originally supposed to be a harmonica-playing possum.  Are raccoons cuter than possums?  Maybe he wanted variety, considering the fact that a mother possum with her babies was to sing right after the Swamp Boys. The second rendering includes the raccoon and the frogs as part of the Swamp Boys.  This time the gators get clothing.

 
The Swamp Boys frogs (above upper right) appear twice in the Early South act.  They sing Polly Wolly Doodle with the other Swamp Boys and they appear again at the end of the act along with the foxes and hens to sing Lay Down My Burden.  You can see where they are today (above lower left).  The closeup photo of the frog (above lower right) is a replica found in Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.  Notice the white eyes, lack of spots, and the different style hat.

 

The Boothill Boys

Before ever looking down on human passers-by with their evil grins as the humans approach Splash Mountain's largest drop, the vulture duo appeared in Act II of America Sings (above lower left and center).  For some reason the Boothill Boys didn't keep their top hats or clothing in California (above upper right) but their counterparts in Florida (above lower right) do wear clothes and have hats.  Why?  Not sure because tuxedos and top hats don't exactly fit the story.

 

Mule, Jitterbug-era College Students

In America Sings a mule ridden by Sam and Ollie in Act I - Early South.  Another mule carries the hound dog in Act II - Old West.  One of the mules (below right) can be seen in Splash Mountain "pulling" a wooden cart with America Sings' Jitterbug-era College Students, two female cats, a male wolf, and a male fox.  This time they wear country attire.

 

Saddlesore Swanson, the Turkey

Saddlesore Swanson sings The Old Chisholm Trail in Act II - Old West (above center).  For his Splash Mountain debut (above right) Saddlesore loses the spurs, gets a new hat and trades in his country guitar for one made out of a turtle shell and tree branch.  He keeps a red handkerchief around his neck, but one with a printed pattern this time. 

 

The Rabbit

During the I've Been Working on the Railroad number in Act II, a rabbit and a fox riding on a rail cart (above left) travel across the stage from left to right and back again.  Is this Brer Rabbit??  Marc Davis was directing animator on the 1946 part-animated, part-live action film, Song of the South.  The rabbit is not supposed to be Brer Rabbit, nor is the fox supposed to be Brer Fox.  Of course not.  But I imagine they were influenced by the Song of the South characters Davis worked with decades earlier.  Today you can see the America Sings rabbit playing the part of Brer Rabbit in Splash Mountain riding the same rail cart (above right).  This time he's wearing pants.

 

Geese 

I always loved the animation of the geese.  The facial expressions and the movement in their long necks.

Geese created for Magic Kingdom are given roles as fishermen (above left, center).  One has caught a boot.  The boot is no longer a real boot but one made of light-weight 'WonderFlex' to lessen the burden on the pole and goose figure.  One goose has caught the hat of another goose.  For more than a decade the hat was directly connected to the fishing line without a hook.  Finally at one point a hook was added. Hooray for details. One goose perpetually tries to catch the same jumping fish with a broken net.... that is if the jumping fish mechanism is properly functioning.  

A couple years before closing, America Sings donated the animatronic skeleton of a singing goose (above right) for the queue of Star Tours.  A binocular/Johnny5-like head was added with some other parts and some paint.  Compare the feet of the geese to the feel of the droid.  The droid definitely kept his webbed bird feet.  Of course a new voice was given.  He sings I've Been Working on the Same Droid, his own version of I've Been Working on the Railroad.  From what I know, Disney-MGM Studios in Florida was also given a goose for their Star Tours queue in 1989.

 

Storks and Can-can Geese

In Act III - Gay Nineties (above left) 4 female can-can geese take stage as another female goose sits in a bird cage above.  Two male storks with out-stretched wings rode old-fashioned bicycles.  The can-can geese still dance today aboard the Zip-A-Dee Lady riverboat mentioned earlier.  The goose from the cage is now on a large mushroom, under a larger mushroom (above lower right) in Splash Mountain today.  The male storks now dance in Splash (above upper right)

 

 

 

Sunday
May232010

The Future Was Fantastic in '57

A Look at Disneyland's Monsanto House of the Future

"Is everything of plastic?  Almost.  Dishes, cups, countertops, walls, floors, ceiling, tabletops, shelves, and cabinets.  Plastics in all their colorful, functional, and beautiful versatility have transformed a work area, have stepped it years ahead." 

It stood for a decade.  Ten thousand guests reportedly toured the home daily.  Monsanto presented it as what home living would be in the mid 1980s.  Many hoped to see this innovative home pop up in their own neighborhoods.  Sadly, this never became a common reality.  Nonetheless, we look back fondly at what it was:  An optimistic view of the future of everyday living.

Where was did it stand?  In the space between Matterhorn ('59), Sleeping Beauty Castle's entrance, and Tomorrowland's entrance.  (...where Pixie Hollow now stands and before that, Ariel's Grotto.... don't ask me why either were ever even considered for that spot.) 

"A feeling of space, of smooth, restful areas for living and resting. With your favorite stereophonic recordings on built-in high fidelity equipment."

"Even the scent of roses or salty sea air can be directed individually into every room."

 

As if David Hart's blog, The Invisible Agent wasn't cool enough, he has recently posted a bunch of great Monsanto House of the Future photos and artwork.

Critics of the house say the living space is too small.  I find the rendering below to be fascinating because it shows how you might expand your house.  "Futuristic models sprout wings where you need them."  2,560 square feet of house (on 512 square feet of foundation)  in the "Mansion" model with carport ain't too shabby.

The great Yesterland.com has gotten their hands on a great printed piece from Monsanto, "The Future Won't Wait" about The House of the Future.  They have shared it's contents in this must-read post.

I remember as a boy, my father telling me about learning of newfangled 'microwave ovens' in the house and just how incredible that was.  If given the chance, would I choose to live in a Monsanto House of the Future?  Yep.  If a mid-century ranch style house in the outer rings of the city of Epcot is not an option, I would.  I think motorized cupboards, a monitor in my bathroom showing who's at my front door, and the overall fun shape would be a real fly way to dwell. 

Wednesday
Apr072010

Magic Highway U.S.A... It doesn't get much better than this.

You've gotta see this.  1950s and 60s views of future transportation systems were so optimistic and wonderful.  Sadly, few of these predictions have come true.  However,  I am hopeful that soon my family car will be able to separate into two pieces, allowing my wife to head to a high-rise shopping center in one direction while I head to work in another direction.  Of course I'll be following color-coded highway lanes to glass tubes under the ocean on my way to my office-in-the-sky.

I love when I happen upon something on YouTube that I was not entirely aware of previously.  This was part of a 1958 "Disneyland" TV episode narrated by the great Marvin Miller and directed by the legendary animator, Ward Kimball.