Halloween at the Walt Disney World Resort

1958 Photo: Walt Disney and the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland Park

posted on October 30th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


Earlier this year I shared some rare pictures of Walt Disney at the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland park. There was such a great response that I set out to find and share even more photography of Walt at one of his favorite original Disneyland park attractions, the world-famous Jungle Cruise.

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This rarely seen photo, digitally scanned from the original color negative, required some restoration, but once it was done, I couldn’t wait to share it.

What do you think of Walt as a Jungle Cruise skipper?

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Filed: Disney History, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort

Building the Dream: The Making of Disneyland Park

posted on October 27th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


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Today I’m introducing a new photo series on the construction of Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom, Disneyland park. The photos we’ll be sharing over the next several months capture the dawn of a new kind of family entertainment as dedicated, talented artists create a happy place, as Walt described it, “where parents and children can have fun, together.”

A year before the park was to open, Walt made a deal with the ABC television network that included production of a new weekly anthology series where Walt himself could give updates on his special project. On October 27, 1954, he unveiled his plans to a national television audience during the debut episode of this new television show, appropriately titled, “Disneyland.”

“Mickey and I started out, the first time, many, many years ago,” Walt said. “We’ve had a lot of our dreams come true. Now we want you to share with us our latest and greatest dream.”

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“That’s it, right here. ‘Disneyland’ … we hope that it will be unlike anything else on this Earth … a place of hopes and dreams, facts and fancy, all in one.”

“Next year, our television show will be coming from this ‘Disneyland,’ but this year, we want you to see and share with us the experience of building this dream into a reality.”

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In that spirit, here’s a rare photo of the site Walt selected. As you can see, orange groves were still very much a part of Anaheim in 1954. The original site was made up of parcels owned by 17 different people.

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In just a few short months, excavation of the site was complete and the first Disney park was beginning to take shape.

Check back for “construction updates” soon.

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Gwen Stefani Celebrates Family Birthdays at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on October 13th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


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Last week, Gwen Stefani visited Disney California Adventure park, and Sulley caught up with Gwen and her family in Hollywood Land to scare up some special birthday cheer for not one, but two birthday girls.

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In addition to her own birthday celebration, Gwen’s niece, Stella, shown here with Gwen’s sons Zuma and Kingston, was also celebrating her special day. The birthday girls’ first stop? Cars Land!

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‘Dancing With The Stars’ Contender Alfonso Ribeiro Celebrates Halloween Time at Disneyland Park

posted on October 7th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


Actor Alfonso Ribeiro took a break from dance rehearsals to bring his family to Disneyland park to experience a little Halloween Time magic last week.

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Minnie Mouse stopped by to wish him luck in his pursuit of the mirrorball trophy as a season 19 contender on “Dancing with the Stars.” It is even rumored that Minnie and Alfonso were seen doing a few steps from “The Carlton!”

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Remembering Lauren Bacall at Disney Parks

posted on August 15th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


This week we learned of the passing of legendary actress Lauren Bacall. The award-winning star of stage and screen who rose to fame in the film noir dramas of the 1940s was reportedly one of the femme fatales from Hollywood’s golden age who inspired the creative team behind “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in their design of Jessica Rabbit.

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Ms. Bacall visited Disneyland park in the summer of 1963 with her husband, actor Jason Robards, pictured here at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

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Twenty-six years later, Ms. Bacall was on-hand for the opening festivities of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (known then as Disney-MGM Studios), where she placed her handprints in cement in the courtyard outside The Great Movie Ride – an attraction inspired by the kind of movie magic she, herself, created.

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Filed: Celebrity Visits, Disney History, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort

Celebrating 45 Years of Ghoulish Delight at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park

posted on August 8th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


“When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls … Whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still, that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight. Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion.”

As a six-year-old boy, hearing those words spoken by Disney Legend Paul Frees as the “ghost host” became an indelible Disney memory for me – and don’t get me started on the stretching room, Madame Leota or the ghost that was sitting next to me on the way home! For me, there was no turning back then – or now – from one of the most uniquely entertaining Disney Parks attractions ever created.

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The 999 happy haunts of the Haunted Mansion have been throwing a swinging wake for 45 delightfully frightful years, and they’ve received the sympathetic vibrations of millions of Disneyland park guests who have come out to socialize.

The disquieting tale of the Haunted Mansion actually began more than 50 years ago when Walt Disney approved the creation of a riverfront mansion even while he hadn’t yet decided exactly what would go inside. Walt insisted, however, that the house appear well kept on the outside and not look dilapidated.

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This rare concept drawing from Ken Anderson, courtesy of our friends at the Walt Disney Imagineering Art Library, was made in 1957.

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The library also provided this color artwork created by Sam McKim in 1958.

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In 1962, construction began on the beautiful southern plantation-inspired home, and in the years that followed, as Imagineers developed (sometimes competing) themes and stories of a Haunted Mansion attraction, a sign was placed in front of its closed gates to tease what was (possibly) to come.

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The idea for the sign was reportedly sparked by a comment Walt made upon returning from a trip to London when he remarked that he had been searching castles and old English countryside estates for ghosts looking for a new place to haunt. The sign would remain in place until the Haunted Mansion opened its gates more than six years later, in August of 1969.

During those years, with their combined talents, Imagineers, including Marc Davis, Claude Coats, X Atencio, Rolly Crump, Bill Justice, and Yale Gracey, Disney Legends all, developed the attraction we know today.

Near the time of its completion, some publicity photos were taken to help illustrate the attraction’s unique blend of macabre humor and to celebrate the artistry of those responsible for bringing it to … life.

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Here, special effects designer Yale Gracey tries to keep the lid on one of his latest creations.

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In this photo, Bill Justice tries to celebrate some of his technological accomplishments with a grim grinning ghost.

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Finally, cameras captured a sighting of the elusive Hatbox Ghost with Yale Gracey.

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“There’s a little matter I forgot to mention. Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!”

Whether your first “doom buggy” ride was today, or 45 years ago, the Haunted Mansion is what it has always been: a true original that’s pure Disney magic.

Hurry baaaaaack…

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Remembering James Garner at the Disneyland Resort

posted on July 21st, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


Over the weekend we learned of the passing of Oscar-nominated actor James Garner. In an award-winning career that spanned six decades, his work with Disney included The Castaway Cowboy and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Today we’re looking back at a special memory Mr. Garner made at the Disneyland Resort.

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting James Garner a few times during his run on the ABC comedy “8 Simple Rules.” He was friendly, funny and obviously very much a grandfather figure to his younger co-stars.

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In September 2004 he appeared with the cast of the show at an event at Disney California Adventure park called ABC Primetime Preview Weekend.

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During this event, I gave Mr. Garner a copy of a photo we have in our archives of him with his wife, Lois, celebrating their daughter Gigi’s birthday at Disneyland in 1965. We believe the photo was taken at the Tahitian Terrace.

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When I handed him this photo backstage before a media appearance, Mr. Garner said, “Oh my, it’s my Gigi! Oh, I can’t wait to show this to Lois!” He had never seen the photo before, and he thanked me warmly before excitedly gathering the cast around him to see the picture.

What he surely couldn’t have known that afternoon was that while he was recalling a fond Disney memory from long ago, he had just made a brand new one for me.

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A Look Back at July 20, 1969: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Watched Live at Disneyland Park

posted on July 18th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


On the afternoon of July 20, 1969, just steps away from an attraction called “Flight to the Moon,” thousands of Disneyland park guests gathered at the Tomorrowland Stage to watch a seminal event in human history unfold on live television.

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Just last week, while researching another project, I came across this rare color image in our archives that shows the Apollo 11 Moon Landing being watched live at Disneyland park.

In the years that followed this momentous event, we were fortunate to welcome two members of the remarkable Apollo 11 crew to Disneyland park.

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In February 1989, Buzz Aldrin joined us for the Challenger Spirit Salute, an event to honor the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.

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In July 2005, Neil Armstrong was on hand for the “re-launch” of Space Mountain. This photo was taken just above the exact spot where all those years earlier, Disneyland guests gathered in almost unimaginable anticipation to watch as he became the first man to step foot on the moon.

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John Rhys-Davies Returns to Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland Park

posted on June 26th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


You never know who you might encounter along the perilous pathways through the remote jungles of India’s lost delta while searching for the mysterious Temple of the Forbidden Eye. John Rhys-Davies, who of course portrayed Indy’s faithful friend, Sallah, in two Indiana Jones films, visited the Disneyland Resort recently, and together with his family and friends, we made our way to Indiana Jones Adventure.

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“Not to worry,” John said. “Sallah has the map!”

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During our expedition, John told me that despite his appearance inside the queue of our attraction for nearly 20 years, this would actually be the very first time he would ride it and that he was thrilled to be able to bring along his eight-year-old daughter, Maia (pictured here with a family friend) for her very first Disneyland visit. “The best way to see Disneyland, actually, is with children and through a child’s eyes,” John said. “It’s a joy to come here with my daughter, who’s come all the way from New Zealand.”

After riding the attraction – not once, but twice – John said, “It’s really wonderful, isn’t it? It’s a great rollicking adventure. It’s just the right side of scary.” Maia added, “It was absolutely petrifying! I quite liked the boulder where it drops down. Oh, and the snake!”

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As I mentioned, John appears as Sallah in the queue of Indiana Jones Adventure, so we set out on our own photo archive adventure. Our team of “top … men” was able to recover this rare artifact – a picture taken while filming the newsreel footage shown deep within the temple as guests prepare to board their transports.

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Jessica Alba Celebrates Her Daughter’s Birthday at the Disneyland Resort

posted on June 18th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


Jessica Alba and her family visited the Disneyland Resort recently to celebrate a special occasion: daughter Honor’s sixth birthday!

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Here, Jessica, her husband Cash Warren and younger daughter Haven join the birthday girl for a special photo with Walt and Mickey at Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure park.

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