Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 02 - plan to build Epcot, Laugh-O-Gram Films, Zorro, Western Family magazine & More!

Twenty-year-old Walt Disney begins work at his own cartoon company called Laugh-O-Gram Films in Kansas City, Missouri. He will produce one-reel animated versions of 6 fairy tales, each lasting just one minute. Walt had felt that Kansas City theaters - which featured cartoons made by studios on the east coast - might be willing to buy some from a local company. He created a few and brought them to the Newman Theater. In order to clinch the deal, Walt calls them ... "Newman's Laugh-O-Grams." He will incorporate Laugh-O-gram Films in May of 1922 with $15,000 from backers. (These cartoons will be regarded as Walt's first professional effort in the field of animation.)

Distributor Charles Mintz signs a new three-year agreement with Universal Pictures to provide Oswald cartoons (which are being created by the Disney Studios).

The cover of this day's issue of Western Family magazine features Mickey and Minnie Mouse smooching through a giant valentine. The illustration is the work of Hank  Porter (originally a staff artist at the Disney Publicity Art Department).

Walt Disney signs a licensing deal with Mitchell Gertz for rights to produce a Zorro TV series. In 1950, Zorro creator Johnston McCulley assigned the film and television rights to Gertz, a Hollywood agent. Gertz had been trying for several years to find the financing to produce the series.

Roy Disney outlines his late brother's plan to build a theme park and the world's first futuristic metropolis, or EPCOT, when Disney Productions announces it will build the world's first glass-domed city in central Florida.

The movie presentation, narrated by Walt Disney, who past December 15, 1966, is termed by officials as "Walt's last film." Project Florida A Whole New Disney World premieres at the Park East Theater in Winter Park, Florida at 2:00 PM, where it is screened for business and government figures. The 25-minute film shows a 50-acre, air conditioned "city of tomorrow" centered in a 1,000-acre industrial park between Orlando and Kissimmee.

"Our corporation is dedicated to making Walt Disney's dream a reality, but it cannot be done without the help of you people here in Florida."
-Roy O. Disney

The first phase of Disney World's Dixie Landings Resort (Alligator Bayou section) opens at 1251 Dixie Drive, Lake Buena Vista. Alligator Bayou consists of 1,024 guest rooms over 16 buildings styled as rustic, weathered lodges with 64 rooms per lodge. Located in the Downtown Disney resort area, Dixie Landings is themed after the Louisiana Countryside. It includes the Boatwright's Dining Hall (a full service, 208-seat table service restaurant themed to a wooden shipbuilding yard) and Fulton's General Store. (Today the resort is known as Disney's Port Orleans Resort.)

Disney announces that the Disneyland and Disney World Pirates of the Caribbean attractions will be undergoing a 3-4 month makeover to work in character and plot elements from the movie series that took its inspiration from the original attraction.

A Baby White-Cheeked Gibbon is born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The fourth  gibbon born at DAK (as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan); the yet-to-be  named male won't be presented to the public until later in the month.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mickey’s PhilharMagic made its grand debut at Magic Kingdom

Today in Disney history, one of Fantasyland’s most innovative attractions to date made its grand debut at Magic Kingdom Park on Sept. 30, 2003. 

Mickey’s PhilharMagic at Magic Kingdom Park

Mickey’s PhilharMagic features a cast of 14 Disney characters performing together in a digital 3-D film that shows just what happens when Donald Duck gets ahold of Mickey Mouse’s conductor’s baton. Songs featured in the show include “Be Our Guest,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” and “You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20 - River Country Water Park Opens at Walt Disney World

This Day in Disney History - Jun 20, 1976

River Country Water Park Opens at Walt Disney World

River Country, a relaxing oasis under Walt Disney World’s hot Florida sun, began dousing guests with filtered Florida lake water in 1976. Inspired by Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, this old-fashioned swimming hole included a host of natural swimming areas covered with mountainous manmade boulders. A number of water slide attractions made the park an inner tuber’s paradise with Slippery Slide Falls, Upstream Plunge, White Water Rapids and Whoop ‘n’ Holler Hollow — two winding half pipes that emptied into Bay Cove, a 330,000 gallon half-acre, sand-bottom lake. Here, guests could relax on sandy beaches or hang out on a tire swing at Bay Lake, with the Magic Kingdom’s beckoning skyline in view. Each summer, the All-American Water Party drenched guests from April to September with water balloon games, cannonball contests, live music and splash time with Disney characters. River Country hung up its towel on September 1, 2001, when Walt Disney World’s water adventures began to head upstream — reaching new heights with the opening of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

Today, you can take a plunge on Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park or conquer Crush ‘n’ Gusher at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, but hitting a water park at Walt Disney World Resort was not an option until River Country opened back in 1976.

River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

When River Country opened, it was described as a “unique new water-oriented land.” River Country promised to be “everything kids ever wanted to do at the old swimming hole down by the river in the good old days, plus all the comforts for Mom and Dad so they can participate too.”

River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

One of the areas within River Country was Whoop-N’-Holler Hollow, with two separate twisting journeys (260 feet and 160 feet respectively) plunging into The Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole.

Whoop-N’-Holler Hollow in River Country at Walt Disney World Resort

For over 25 years, River Country provided a refreshing escape from the warm Florida summers for guests of all ages.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jun 15 - The Lion King is Released

Jun 15, 1994
The Lion King is Released
The Lion King, one of the highest-grossing films of all time, was released on this day in June in New York and Los Angeles (it would open in wide release on June 24). Today, almost everyone in the world knows the story of the young lion cub Simba, who tries to find his place in the circle of life and follow the long honorable shadow cast by his father, King Mufasa, after he is killed by Scar (voiced with oozy relish by Jeremy Irons). But during pre-production, when the project was called King of the Jungle, the production teams wasn’t so sure they had a hit on their hands. “In the early stages, there was great skepticism that a modern audience would embrace a movie that didn’t include any human characters, much less one built around singing animals,” Michael Eisner, then chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, remembered in his book Work in Progress. “But through countless drafts over five years, The Lion King evolved into one of those magical films in which everything comes together… It was also a daunting standard to match.” Eisner also noted that it was “probably the most profitable film ever made, including Titanic (lions and meerkats don’t demand a percentage of the gross).”

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 08 - If You Had Wings opens at the Magic Kingdom

On this day in Disney history, If You Had Wings, one of Walt Disney World Resort’s first attractions to celebrate flight, debuted to guests in 1972.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

At If You Had Wings, guests boarded Omnimover vehicles that took them on a flight around the world, making stops in Bermuda, Puerto Rico and other vacation destinations. One stop took guests through New Orleans for a jazz band performance.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

Another stop was a city in Mexico where guests caught a lively cultural dance performance. The attraction ended by offering a bird’s-eye view of the United States, and then a descent back to the Walt Disney World Resort flight terminal.

This Week in Disney History: If You Had Wings Opened at Magic Kingdom Park

The attraction was very popular with guests in the 1970s, and in just six years, more than 40 million guests had taken a flight.

While the attraction was refurbished in 1987 to become If You Could Fly (the space is now Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin), the attraction’s original theme song is sure to live on in the minds of Disney fans. 

Now sing it with me: “If you had wings…”

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28 - Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park


May 28, 1966
it’s a small world Opens at Disneyland

On this day in 1966, people from all over the world joined together under the golden sun at Disneyland for the opening of it’s a small world. The group included young performing groups from America and abroad, and more than 50 consul generals, consuls and vice consuls representing nations worldwide. Amongst the opening day festivities was a phone call between Walt, who was at Disneyland for the dedication, and Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson, who, in keeping with the international theme, was in Sweden, to be heard on the loud speakers via an international phone call. Connie recently told D23′s Scott Wolf, “I opened [the event] from Sweden. I was over in Skansen, which is a cultural amusement park in Stockholm, and I was with the Minister of Communication, Olaf Palma, and when I said the dedication words in that office in Sweden it went on the loud speaker. I could hear Walt saying, ‘There’s some difficulty, we can’t get it through,’ and I thought, ‘Oh dear, here I am in Stockholm with the press and this Minister of Communications and the line is going down, so I just read my script as I was asked to do.’” Another aspect of the festivities was the brainchild of Jack Lindquist who recently said, “We needed something to open the attraction. Walt was going to be there and Louis Lundborg, the chairman of Bank of America, and I came up with the idea of going to Disney reps all over the world and saying, ‘Send me a bottle of water,’ and they did a great job. Pretty soon my office had about 15 different bottles. Water came from Thames, Seine, Amazon, Danube, Nile, Volga, Rhine, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, among others. To me, it was just a symbolic way to open the ride. Here was water from all over the world, and we got kids representing those countries to pour some water into the moat. It was symbolic and it worked fine… and it was cheap. It also gave me an opportunity to get to know the Disney reps around the world.” In his dedication speech, Walt said, “I’d like to welcome all of you to the dedication of it’s a small world, and I’d like to thank all of these wonderful children who have performed here to make these dedication such a success. Thank you, children! Beautiful children! When we completed it’s a small world for presentation at the New York World’s Fair, we felt that we had accomplished what we’d set out to do. We wanted to foster a better understanding among nations of the world by showing the dress, the customs, the language, the music and a little of the culture of our neighbors around the world, and we wanted to show it to be a very happy one. I think it’s safe to say that having fun has universal appeal.”

posted at the Disney Parks blog on May 27th, 2011 by Jim Ames, Manager, Food and Wine Events, Disneyland Resort

Saturday, May 28, marks the anniversary of one of the most endearing attractions to ever open at a Disney park when “it’s a small world” celebrates 45 happy years at Disneyland park.

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

When he originally imagined this attraction for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney tasked a talented team of Imagineers, including artist and Disney Legend Mary Blair, to bring his vision of brotherhood and friendship to life. Mary’s concept was that of a “pop-up book” that looked like the children within the story had designed their worlds themselves.

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

Mary Blair also designed the iconic facade when the attraction was moved to its new home at Disneyland park. With whimsical representations of the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and the Taj Mahal, the exterior is no less impressive than the ride itself.

Of course it is the playful music, by legendary songwriting team Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman that keeps us humming long after we have exited the attraction. Walt asked the duo to write a simple piece that could be repeated and sung in different languages. The Sherman Brothers succeeded creating quite possibly the catchiest Disney attraction theme song of all time.

In 1966, Walt Disney presided over the opening ceremonies of the attraction in its new home at Disneyland park. Children representing countries from around the world came together to pour water from all seven continents into the “Rivers of the World.”

Since that moment, more than 233 million Disneyland park guests have joined “the happiest cruise that ever sailed” – enough to circumnavigate the Earth more than 190 times. “it’s a small world” has opened in the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disneyland park, Disneyland Resort Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, proving that “though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

May 22, 1987
“Disney’s Golden Anniversary of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” Airs

On this day in 1987, with a smile and a song “Disney’s Golden Anniversary of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was celebrated in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. Using Disneyland as a backdrop, host Dick van Dyke is joined by the Seven Dwarfs and Jane Curtin, who portrays the wicked Queen, while Sherman Hemsley (TV’s George Jefferson) appears in the Magic Mirror. Highlights include very rarely seen scenes that were deleted from the movie, done in pencil animation. Although now available as bonus features on DVD, this was the first time the public was given the chance to view those scenes. In a dance number with the Dwarfs, Dick van Dyke sings “You’re Never Too Old To Be Young.” With all that was packed into this hour special, the “happy” program didn’t have a single “sleepy” moment.


From the late 1950s to 1968 Los Angeles Airways provided regularly scheduled helicopter passenger service between Disneyland and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and other cities in the area. The helicopters first operated from Anaheim/Disneyland Heliport, located behind Tomorrowland. Service later moved, in 1960, to a new heliport north of the Disneyland Hotel. Arriving guests were then transported to the Disneyland Hotel via tram.

English: Los Angeles Airways Sikorsky S-61L helicopter,
lifting off from the Disneyland Heliport, 1963.
This is the same aircraft that crashed—killing all on board
in August, 1968. Note the Matterhorn Mountain in the background.

The service ended after two fatal crashes in 1968: The crash in Paramount, California, TODAY killed 23 (the worst helicopter accident in aviation history at that time). The second crash in Compton, California on August 14, 1968, killed 21