Thursday, February 16, 2017

Speaking of Disneyland...

One of the many advantages of growing up in Southern California was having Disneyland right in our own backyard. As a kid I used to love when we had out of town guests because they all wanted to go to Disneyland.

And if you had a hot date you really wanted to impress, taking her to the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday night usually allowed you to take an extra base.

We Angelinos would schlep out to Disneyland to catch musical acts. I saw the great Louis Armstrong perform on the Mark Twain riverboat. That was kind of sad, but still.

An LA high school tradition was going to Grad Night at Disneyland. Once a year in June the park would stay open all night for graduating seniors. The big destination those nights was Tom Sawyer’s Island where you sneak off into dark corners and add to the teen pregnancy problem.

Crowds in the summer were large. And it was HOT ("Death Valley Land"). Again, we locals figured out some tricks. For instance, don’t go in the middle of the day. We would arrive at about 4:00 PM, go on the rides we had to see during the day like the Jungle Boat, have dinner, and by then the sun would go down and things cooled off. After the Electrical Parade at 9:00 lots of folks went home. It was way easier to get on primo rides. We’d leave at midnight and drive home (then sleep for 48 hours).

Of course, as time went by the crowds got larger and larger to where even that trick was rendered useless. But we natives continued to search for shortcuts and the “WAZE” version of negotiating the park.

Side note: One of my favorite Disneyland attractions in the ‘60s wasn’t a ride at all. It was the Monsanto House of the Future. You just walked through this ultra modern house made entirely of plastic. A plastic house might sound ridiculous but when they finally closed the exhibit in 1967 and tried to demolish it, the wrecking ball just bounced right off of it. The one-day demolition took two weeks. Okay, side note over.

Today there are Disney theme parks all over the world. It was bizarre being in Tokyo seeing Space Mountain.

And there are Fast Passes, Fitbit-type wristbands, all kinds of different ways of experiencing the park. And that’s just what the guests see. Behind the scenes is a whole 'nother world of tunnels, surveillance control rooms, and employee areas.

Back in the early days, you could just go, enter the park, and make your way haphazardly around to the different Lands. Today you need a game plan.

With spring break coming soon I thought this would be the perfect time to devote my podcast to Disneyland/Disney World/whatever they call it in France. I’ve got a great guest, Greg Ehrbar, who worked for Disney for years and offers fantastic tips for getting the most out of your Mickey Mouse outing. We also talk about those tunnels and surveillance centers and what it’s like to work there.

Also, I tell the story of how I heard my dear sweet grandmother drop the F-bomb for the first time. So many precious memories from the Happiest Place on Earth.

I invite you to click on podcast at the top of the blog and join us for a lively discussion of Uncle Walt’s playground.

19 comments :

Jerod Butt said...

I got dumped at Disney World...

Thomas Mossman said...

Lots of great stuff from Disneyland's past:

www.yesterland.com

Corvus Imbrifer said...

Deep in a box deep in the attic I have a my last E ticket.

Dave Wilson said...

I was there that year. The only thing I remember about it was my being frisked for the first time in mt life.

YEKIMI said...

Closest I ever got to see Disney World was when it was in the process of being built in 1970. Lots of uprooted trees and wide dirt roads and lots of evicted wildlife packing their bags and getting the hell out of Dodge. Funny how a company that has a rodent as its mascot probably killed millions of them as it built the place.

Melissa C. Banczak said...

I don't see the link to the podcast.

Ken Levine said...

Melissa,

Look right underneath the masthead of the blog. It says Hollywood & Levine and there is a golden arrow. Click on the arrow. You should be able to hear it. Thanks.

Gary said...

We spent every extra dollar we had in the early 1990's to take our two kids to Disney World, and give them an experience they'd never forget. The result was our daughter spent the entire trip whining about being hot and waiting in line, begging us to take her back to our motel where she could swim. We realized we could have taken her to the local Holiday Inn (ten minutes from our house) to let her play in the pool all day, and she would have been much happier. Not to mention we would have saved a few thousand dollars. Today, her only memory of Disney World is riding on the shuttle buses to the various theme parks!

thirteen said...

Thanks for telling us the sad fate of the Monsanto house, Ken. It started life as an exhibit at the 1964 World's Fair in New York -- probably the least exciting one there -- and so I'm a little sentimental about it.

I've always lived in the East and I've been to Disneyland twice. I was driving aimlessly around the southwest on vacation in 1977 and decided to stop by and take a look. I think I lasted an hour and a half. I found Disneyland boring. Wound up giving the rest of my ticket book to a grateful guy with three young kids in tow. I got back home and said I thought Disneyland was boring. Everybody told me I was crazy. They'd all grown up on The Wonderful World of Color (in b&w, of course) and they Believed. I found myself in L.A. for work three years later and tried Disneyland again. Forced myself to stay all day. Hated it, but at least this time I could expense some of it.

Maybe the place comes off better if you're there with a family or a date, but I'll never know. BTW I've never even been tempted to try Walt Disney World. Enough is enough.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Interesting to see the lovely "Annette" on that movie poster - first name only in that day and age (and crowd).

Thanks for the survelliance warning/reminder - reminder since an old friend of my Dad's told us at dinner (ca. 1993) that he worked survelliance at Disneyland - said they gave special attention to the pot smokers:

"Interesting that you harass the peaceful ones" was my rejoinder.

I was rewarded with a wry smile at that indefensible policy.

Off to the podcast!

James said...

I grew up in Anaheim so I was torn. On the one hand I realized early on that it was better than Knott's Berry Farm (also very nearby) and Magic Mountain (hellish drive through LA), Sea World (great shows, no rides), etc. But definitely not that great a treat. Oh--people are coming from Kansas and we're going to Disneyland? Again? Why?

The pisser was Grad night. They locked us in all night. If it's 2am and I'm tired of the place, why do I have to be stuck here when I can be home in 10 minutes? That was definitely not a treat.

Rick said...

Actually, Disneyland's Monsanto House of the Future opened in 1957. So it didn't open first at the 1960 New York Word's Fair. I saw it there in Anaheim 1958

Jonathan Meritz said...

Friday Q: I have a premise for a multi-cam Pilot (Series) that, due to the structure of the types of stories I envision telling, I feel would reach it's full potential on a streaming service such as Netflix, although I don't necessarily think it would fail on a broadcast network. However, also due to the structure of the stories, I think they could be even more impactful if released/aired as just one half-hour a week. And, as far as I know, there isn't currently a streaming network that doesn't release all the episodes of a season at once. So, what would you do in this case? Do you pitch to a streaming network and hope viewers aren't completely underwhelmed by viewing them multiple episodes at a time, or do you go with a broadcast network?

Bob Perry said...

There was no *1960* World's Fair in New York. It ran 1964 to 1965 in Flushing Meadows.

Cheryl Marks said...

Friday Question
Apologies if I'm not using the appropriate jargon -- I'm not a writer nor have anything to do with television other than I watch way to much of it.

I've noticed on some of the hour-long shows that many of them employ a story of the week along with another, secondary story arc that plays out over several weeks.

Does the writer of the script write both stories? Does the show runner assign the key plot points that he/she wants the writer to incorporate for the secondary story? Or, is there another writer who develops the secondary plot and then gives it to the credited writer to weave in?

Hope this makes sense. I find it fascinating .....

Donald Benson said...

I recall reading that Armstrong's segment of "Disneyland After Dark" (a TV episode later released as a theatrical featurette) was shot after hours. Don't know if Armstrong ever performed during regular park hours, but the "Young Men From New Orleans" -- who included some of his bandmates from the 20s-30s -- did.

Being California born and semi-rural bred, the thing that impressed me about Disneyland was its carless-ness. In the real world, every dining establishment overlooked a parking lot. Disneyland offered views of fantasy streetscapes, simulated lakes and jungles, even from the popcorn carts.

Haven't been to Disneyland since the 80s; have been to WDW a few times this century (and will go back if I win the lottery). Disneyland is like your favorite restaurant or band after it's been discovered: Crowds get big, prices go up, and the experience is forever changed. WDW is likewise insanely expensive, but if you're staying "on property" you can escape the parks and continue to luxuriate in fantasy environments and even eat without staring at a parking lot. Like Vegas, but less creepy and no dangerous illusions of leaving richer.

Sean MacDonald said...

My family went to Disney World in Florida when I was a kid. Here's what I remember:

The trip to Disney World was long and boring. One of the things that my mom did to try to keep us kids behaving was to give us "treats" if we were good, like Swedish Fish candies. Now, these Swedish Fish must've been up on the dashboard or something because they were incredibly hot. Plus, I don't think I would've liked Swedish Fish in the first place. It was a disgusting and terrible "treat" that made me miserable. I felt unfairly punished with a "treat" that was so absolutely horrible.

Then, we were in the park and I don't remember anything at all about that part (you know, the entire reason we came) except that I was really excited to see Chip 'n' Dale as they were my favorite Disney characters at the time (and this was long before "Rescue Rangers" for you young 'uns who might be reading this)... I don't remember if we actually *saw* Chip 'n' Dale or if I had just been hoping to see them and was then disappointed. It was one of the two, and I don't remember which.

Then, we were at the hotel in Disney World. I remember there was a beach and my sister (who was also a little kid) took some sand (calling it "magic sand") and put it in the water... and then BAM! Magic happened! There were boats in the water with lights all over them and they suddenly turned on the lights and went past us, like a parade on the water. Then once it was over, I tried putting "magic sand" in the water but nothing happened. I still wonder to this day if she knew what was about to happen or if it was just coincidence.

And that's ALL I remember from our Disney World vacation. We don't even have photographs or anything. We kids probably would've had just as much fun staying at home.

Jon H said...

I made my so far only trip to Disneyland in 2005, during the park's 50th anniversary. I was staying in a condo just around the corner from the park, next to a local Denny's, so it was pretty convenient to where I was. I completely ignored the California Adventure theme park nearby, since I figured if I wanted thrill rides I could do that much closer to home at Six Flags over Texas. I had a fun time riding Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (which had a plaque near the line mentioning that it was an original ride from 1955, the Teacup ride, the Matterhorn, & Space Mountain. I spent 3 days at Walt Disney World back in 1990 but haven't been there since, though I have been to Universal Studios theme parks in both FL & CA.

Liggie said...

I've always been more of an Epcot person. I love chatting with the young adults in the country pavilions, especially ones where they speak languages I studied and still remember, and the restaurants are terrific. You can also walk around with beer there, unlike other Disney parks.