By just glancing at the title of this post, you can tell it was another busy five years.
While it can be hard to pick just one favorite attraction or event in a half decade, there is one project that is very dear to Tony Baxter, Senior Vice President, Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering. It’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We asked Tony if we would share his thoughts in this five-year period, and he gave us some insight into the thought that went into creating this attraction.
“When planning the design for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad,” Tony recalls, “we turned to National Geographic Magazine for research. There in the opening paragraph in an article on Utah’s Bryce Canyon was the statement, “When you first glimpse the canyon you will feel that it was the creation of Walt Disney…” That settled it — Bryce Canyon would be the theme for the Disneyland attraction.
The charm of the attraction is the rockwork. If you look at rockwork in other parks you get the feeling that the train was there first, and the rocks “grew” around the train. Big Thunder Mountain is absolutely convincing because it appears that the track was laid out to fit an existing landscape.”
Before you decide what you think is the biggest addition to Disneyland park in 1976 to 1980, take a look back:
1980 – Disneyland park kicked off a year-long Silver Anniversary celebration with a pre-parade show at the Tournament of Roses on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. Several special parades and shows followed for the rest of the year, but it was a special event in March, featuring Michael Jackson and Danny Kaye, that brought national attention to the celebration. On July 17, the 25th anniversary of the park’s opening, doors were open for 25 straight hours. In April, Family Reunion Night Celebration brought out several famous Disney faces, including Jackson, Fred MacMurray, Ernest Borgnine as well as the Carpenters, Ray Bradbury and even…Elliot Gould.
1979 – Disneyland park welcomed its first birth: Teresa Salcedo was born on a busy July 4th near Main Street, U.S.A., and she was later presented with the official “Disneyland Birth Certificate No. 1.” Teresa wasn’t the only new addition, as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad took its maiden trip in September. Celebrating his 75th birthday in grand style, Count Basie welcomed several of his closest celebrity pals to a summer party, including Sammy Davis Jr. and Ed McMahon Other hot names (for the time) who showed up throughout the year included Peaches and Herb, Evelyn “Champagne” King and Buddy Rich.
1978 – Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday was all the rage, as special shows and parades were peppered throughout the year. The official celebration took place on Nov. 18 and 19, with Annette Funicello and other fave Mouseketeers on hand to celebrate. New elements were added to the popular Matterhorn Bobsleds, while the Disneyland Hotel opened the 13-story Bonita Tower, the first hotel in the U.S. with a solar heating system. Grad Nite continued its popular run, growing to eight parties for 821 high school graduating classes.
1977 – Openings and closings highlighted the year, as famed astronauts, including Alan Shepard, gathered for the opening of Space Mountain…and Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland closed after 21 years to make way for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. In addition to Space Mountain, Tomorrowland also debuted the PeopleMover SuperSpeed Tunnel, Starcade, and the Space Place restaurant. Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade returned for the summer after a two-year break, while an all-new Very Merry Christmas Parade bowed for the Christmas seasons.
1976 – Disneyland park welcomed its 150,000,000th visitor – Elsie Mae Houck of Tulare, Calif. It also welcomed a slew of “name” guests during the year, including Olympic gold medal darling Nadia Comaneci and Alabama governor George Wallace. On the entertainment side, a special Thanksgiving show featured singer Pearl Bailey on a Rivers of America floating stage, while Disney fans got a chance to walk down memory lane as the original Mouseketeers gathered at the park for a 20-year reunion of the Mickey Mouse Club. Adding to the magic, Jungle Cruise underwent major changes with seven new scenes and 31 new Audio-Animatronics animals.
Ok, so what do you think the biggest change at Disneyland park is during these years? If you visited the park during this time, what’s your favorite memory?
This is the 7th post in this 11-part series. To find past posts, click on the “Countdown to 55″ tag just below this post.