Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom Park

Vintage Walt Disney World: It’s Off To Work We Go

posted on April 3rd, 2014 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


Heigh-ho! Today is “Don’t Go To Work Unless It’s Fun” Day, and while I think I have a pretty fun job, I would love to spend a day in the mines with a certain seven guys. Here’s a look at the Seven Dwarfs with Snow White at Magic Kingdom Park from 1971.

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Soon enough, we’ll all get to ride through the mines when Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens in New Fantasyland later this year!

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Windows on Main Street, U.S.A., at Disneyland Park: Claude Coats

posted on March 31st, 2014 by Jon Storbeck, Vice President, Disneyland Park


Grand Canyon Diorama at Disneyland Park

Today marks the 56th anniversary of the opening of the Grand Canyon Diorama on what was then called the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad. In 1955, Claude Coats was one of the elite artists and designers Walt Disney selected to help bring Disneyland to life, and he later worked on the development of the Grand Canyon and Primeval World Dioramas for the park.

Born January 17, 1913, in San Francisco, Calif., Claude graduated from the University of Southern California in 1934 with an architecture and fine arts degree. He went on to study at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles before joining the Walt Disney Studio as a background painter in June 1935.

During his time at the Studio, Claude created stunning watercolor background paintings for “Pinocchio” which continue to be heralded by Disney scholars, fans and art collectors for the rich and textured beauty they lend to the classic film. He also developed backgrounds and color stylings for many iconic animated features such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Fantasia,” “Dumbo,” “The Three Caballeros,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan,” and “Lady and the Tramp.”

Claude stood 6-feet, 6-inches tall and was known as a “gentle giant” with a warm wit and a wonderful disposition. He once recalled how Walt used to joke with him about his height. Claude said, “When the Disneyland Stagecoach was completed at the Studio, Walt and a driver were giving rides around the lot, but he wouldn’t let me get in. He said I spoiled the scale.”

While working at the Studio, Claude met his wife Evelyn Henry, an inker in the Ink and Paint Department. The couple married in July 1937 and had two sons, Alan and Lee.

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In 1955, Claude joined WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) as a show designer for Disneyland. He referred to this as his “second career” at Disney. In addition to the Dioramas, Claude worked on Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Submarine Voyage, among others. Claude also contributed to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair attractions, including Magic Skyway, Carousel of Progress, and “it’s a small world.”

After 54 years with Disney, Claude retired in November 1989. Marty Sklar, Disney Legend, former executive vice president and Walt Disney Imagineering ambassador, later recalled, “Claude paved the way in turning sketches and paintings into three-dimensional adventures. His energy, curiosity and drive to create new experiences for our Disney park guests made him a leader and a teacher for all of us. He was a genuine one-of-a-kind.”

Claude was named a Disney Legend in 1991. He passed away on January 9, 1992, in Los Angeles.

(April 11, 2013)  Main Street Windows (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

Claude’s window, located above the Emporium, is a tribute to his name and large stature: Coats & Co., Claude Coats, Proprietor, Big and Tall Sizes for Gentlemen.

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Step in Time: A Look Back at the ‘Remember the Magic’ Parade at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on March 31st, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Just the title of this blog post has this parade’s theme song running through my head, how about you?
A Look Back at the ‘Remember the Magic’ Parade at Magic Kingdom Park

The year 1996 was a memorable one at Disney. It was the 25th anniversary of Magic Kingdom Park, an occasion that turned Cinderella Castle into a giant pink birthday cake, and the “Remember the Magic” parade debuted.

In this procession, Sorcerer Mickey led the way on a special Cinderella Castle-inspired float filled with Disney characters. Ariel and other characters from “The Little Mermaid” appeared in an impressive seashell float, surrounded by dancing fish friends, who would periodically pause and encourage guests to celebrate by dancing along. “The Lion King” also had its own float, which featured Simba, Pumbaa and other characters from the film. Rafiki also walked along the parade path and encouraged young guests to participate in the fun by beating drums.

Do you remember this parade (and its theme song)? Tell us in the “Comments” section below!

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PHOTOS: ‘it’s a small world’ at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair

posted on March 28th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


The 1964-65 New York World’s Fair theme was “Peace Through Understanding,” and no exhibition better embodied this idea than “it’s a small world.”

The look and feel of the whimsical entrances to this now-landmark attraction at Disney Parks around the world are well-known, but the look of the exterior of the New York World’s Fair pavilion was quite different from the familiar facades we know today.

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In these rare photos you can see just how different it was from what we see in the parks; yet it is, decidedly, a “Disney look.” To me, it looks like Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, circa 1967.

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Some familiar Disney faces were apparently on hand to greet visitors about to board the “the happiest cruise that ever sailed.”

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Disney Legend Rolly Crump Looks Back on Creation of ‘it’s a small world’

posted on March 26th, 2014 by Valarie Sukovaty, Disneyland Public Relations


Disney Legend Rolly Crump has very fond memories of being one of the Imagineers who helped create “it’s a small world.” In fact, he was there from day one, when Walt Disney came up with the idea. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and vintage footage from our archives. Be sure to join in the 50th anniversary celebration of “it’s a small world” by going to smallworld50.com and uploading your own video of the unforgettable song.

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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: It’s a Classic Attraction. It’s Turning 50. ‘it’s a small world!’

posted on March 25th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


To some of us, it seems like only yesterday that Walt Disney first opened one of his best-loved ride-through attractions on April 22, 1964. There are others who have never lived in a world without “it’s a small world.” Either way, our lives are all the richer for it. But like many creative miracles, it almost never came to be.

WED Enterprises, as Walt Disney Imagineering was then known (the letters stood for “Walter Elias Disney”), was feverishly working toward a one-year deadline for three World’s Fair attractions: Progressland, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Magic Skyway. When the Pepsi Cola Company asked for a fourth pavilion — encouraged by Hollywood star and Pepsi board member Joan Crawford — Walt agreed, once again, that he and his artists would do the impossible and take on this tremendous challenge.

“Walt enlisted Imagineers Marc Davis for figure design and animation, Alice Davis for the intricate international costuming and Claude Coats for the attraction’s overall layout,” wrote Disney Historian Stacia Martin for the book and compact disc album, “Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair.” All are bonafide Disney Legends in their own right, but many fans agree that it is Mary Blair whose visual style is so dynamically showcased in “it’s a small world.”

If you watch the Los Posadas sequence of Walt Disney’s “The Three Caballeros,” you’ll see what some call the “Mary kids.” Take a look at “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan,” as well as the “Johnny Appleseed” portion of “Melody Time,” and delight in her unmistakable use of color, whimsy and humor. Cherished Little Golden Books with Mary Blair’s illustrations are still in print. Her magical handiwork also towers (literally) in the famous mosaic at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It’s an endlessly fresh look that has inspired generations of admiring artists.

Walt and Mary Blair

Next time you enjoy this attraction, take note of a couple of cool things. In the finale, the young lady doll wearing glasses is a nod to Mary Blair herself. The entire finale scene is done in white because, according to John Canemaker in “The Art and Flair of Mary Blair,” she considered it the most “festive” of colors.

The artists whose musical style most infuses “it’s a small world” are Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, most recently portrayed in the acclaimed film “Saving Mr. Banks.” Before they were involved, the attraction was called “Children of the World,” featuring a series of national songs sung by children. The problem was that the sounds overlapped each other in a confused cacophony.

Walt and Shermans

Stacia Martin continues: “Richard Sherman remembers that the answer ‘came all of a sudden when we said … all these people grow up to be people and start having big differences and defiances and wars … but in the small world of children, everybody loves each other.’” Pretty heavy stuff, but when you focus on the lyrics, which mention tears, fears and division between the people of the world, this seemingly simple song has profound meaning indeed. The attraction’s name became the name of the song, “it’s a small world.”

Another fun fact: if you didn’t know that the yodeler’s voice was done by singer/actress Roberta Shore (“Mickey Mouse Club,” “The Shaggy Dog“) well, neither did she at first. She told me that, years ago, several Imagineers had hired her to yodel (one of her specialties) for a project they were working on. Then she moved on and forgot about it. Some time later, when she bought the “it’s a small world” record album for her kids, she recognized herself. “I was the yodeler!” she recalled. “I thought, so that’s why they asked me to yodel!” Roberta couldn’t be more pleased and proud to be part of such a classic Disney experience, one that has brightened the lives of countless millions.

Roberta Shore and Annette

“Currently, the sun never sets on the performance of this song playing in “it’s a small world” rides in California, Florida, Paris and Tokyo,” wrote Robert B. Sherman in his book, “Moose: Chapters from My Life.” “In fact, it’s the most translated, most performed song in the world.”

Robert’s book reveals a third verse, written at the request of Disney Legend and Imagineer Tony Baxter for the attraction’s 45th anniversary: “It’s a world of wonder / A world of worth / And in years to come / We’ll know peace on earth / We will open our eyes / And we’ll all realize / It’s a small world after all.”

Cheers to the next 50 years, “it’s a small world!” But why stop there? Cheers to the next 350 years—or more.

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This Week in Disney History: ‘Love Bug’ Day at Disneyland Park, 1969

posted on March 24th, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


Forty-five years ago this week, 101 decorated Volkswagen Beetles made their way down Main Street, U.S.A., in Disneyland park to celebrate the release of the film, “The Love Bug,” the story of the 1963 racing Beetle (and one of my favorite movies). On March 23, 1969, Beetle owners gathered at Disneyland to show off their decorated bugs and parade them through the park.

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The cars were judged in the categories of most psychedelic, toylike, comical and best personality. Morton and Barbara Allen of Studio City, Calif., won the grand prize – a brand-new 1969 Volkswagen Beetle, presented by “The Love Bug” stars Dean Jones and Michele Lee. Other prizes represented the pinnacles of 1969 technology: portable color televisions, Kodak Super-8 movie cameras and projectors, and new Polaroid cameras.

I was so inspired by this nugget of Disneyland history that I even created a costume for my own 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. Check her out!

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Which category do you think she would have won? And can anyone guess what name I call her by?

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Step In Time: ‘Mickey Mania’ Celebrates the Mouse at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on March 24th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


In the summer of 1994, a new procession called the “Mickey Mania Parade” hit the streets of Magic Kingdom Park to celebrate the one and only Mickey Mouse.

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The parade featured larger-than-life Mickey Mouse gloves and ear hats, appearances by classic Disney characters, stilt walkers and other parade performers. Floats reflected the colors of the Mouse – styled in red, white and yellow.

Do you remember this parade? Let us know in the “Comments” section below!

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Vintage Disney Parks Video: Take a Trip Back to the Beginning of ‘it’s a small world’

posted on March 21st, 2014 by Valarie Sukovaty, Disneyland Public Relations


As Thomas Smith just announced, we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the debut of “it’s a small world” at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. This, of course, means a trip to the archives! We found historical footage from both the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the attraction’s opening day here at the Disneyland Resort, two years later on May 28, 1966. Imagineer Kim Irvine takes us down memory lane, along with co-composer of the attraction’s unforgettable theme song, Richard Sherman. You’ll even hear from Walt Disney himself, as he shows off the plans for “it’s a small world” in a clip from the “Wonderful World of Color” television show. I hope you enjoy this trip back in time, and make sure to join the celebration at SmallWorld50.com!

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The History of the Disneyland Monorail: Mark V, 1986-2008

posted on March 20th, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


I love when we can have a Disney Parks Blog series that spans both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, so many thanks to my fellow author, Nate Rasmussen, for the excellent story on the Mark IV Monorail. Today, we return to the Disneyland Resort to continue our look at the history of the Disneyland Monorail with the Mark V.

Disneyland Monorail - Submarine Voyage

The most recognizable difference with the Mark V, compared to its predecessor, the Mark III, was its look. Designed to resemble the Mark IV monorail at Walt Disney World Resort, this new model was white with an accent color stripe running along the side. The four different colored stripes along the Mark V Monorails were red, blue, orange and purple.

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Another major difference was the new path the Disneyland Monorail would travel. In 1994, the path was diverted to run above the Eeyore section of the original Disneyland parking lot (remember that?) to accommodate the construction of Indiana Jones Adventure. Then in 1999, when construction began on Disney California Adventure park, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Downtown Disney District, portions of the track were re-routed to accommodate these additions.

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The opening of the Downtown Disney District also provided an opportunity for a brand-new station to be constructed for the Disneyland Monorail. When the station opened in 2001, it provided a convenient second entrance to Disneyland park, which is still available for guests today.

Check back next month, when I hand the controls back to Nate Rasmussen, who will tell us about the Mark VI Monorail, which currently travels the “highway in the sky” at the Walt Disney World Resort.

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