Disneyland in Pictures: Then and Now
Although many of us picture Disneyland, Walt Disney's original dream park in Anaheim, Calif., as a frozen crystallization of childhood, it's actually an evolving playground. Although the basics of Disneyland are essentially what they were during its 1955 opening and the buildings years that came after, with the passing of time have come some dramatic shifts. "Disneyland is something that will never be finished," promised Mr. Disney. And he was right.
Although Disney may sometimes shuck outdated attractions (older Southern Californians remember Indian Village, where Native Americans dance and fired arrows for theme park goers until 1971), just as often, it recycles them (the creatures from "America Sings," which departed the 'Land in 1988, now populate Splash Mountain).
When Six Flags shutters a ride, people shrug, but departed Disney attraction Adventure Thru Inner Space (1967-1985) still has fans who maintain a Web-based vigil for their lost favorite, and fans of Doom Buggies and Tell No Tales monitor every minor change at the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Take a little tour of some of the ways Walt's kingdom has been passed down through the years:
1960: Orange County Archives, Flickr | Now: Disney
When Disneyland opened in 1955 (Ronald Reagan was one of the emcees of the live national TV broadcast that promoted it), the main entrance ingloriously fronted a parking lot. In an effort to become a multi-day destination for vacationers, the resort built Disney's California Adventure (2001) where the asphalt was and shuffled the cars to a new parking structure farther away, creating the more pleasant, but less nostalgic, brick plaza that exists between the two parks now.
When comparing Adventureland's entrance off the Hub in 1956 and today, on the surface, not a lot seems to have changed. Adventureland was actually built to capitalize on Disney's True-Life Adventure Series, which were largely documentary (and often somewhat staged) nature films that were an important part of the company's strategy in the 1950s. Back then, the Safari Shooting Gallery used real pellet guns instead of the lasers that are standard today. The Swiss Family Robinson Tree, now Tarzan's treehouse home, didn't go up until 1962.
An aerial shots of Disneyland's Town Square, at the foot of Main Street, also compares well to today's vista, which aside from some air conditioning machinery and a restyled Mickey Mouse head on the railway berm, is largely intact. Note the juvenile trees in the 1956 view; the park was opened on former orange groves just a year before. In those days, the view down Main Street and to the Castle was mostly unobstructed, which would have been cooler – but the park itself, exposed to the sun, was hotter.
We don't think of Sleeping Beauty Castle, the smallest of the Disney castles, as having changed much, but here it is in 1959 with a footbridge that's no longer there, opening up the view of the moat, which was expanded. This was the same year the Matterhorn, seen in the background, was opened to the public. It was built around a support tower for the Skyway gondola ride, which was closed in 1994. Its passage through the Matterhorn mountain was sealed up. Even many die-hard Disney fans often don't realize that there's no 's on the name Sleeping Beauty Castle.
The late, lamented Skyway station in Fantasyland is seen (without visible gondolas) in the background of this 1957 image (left), behind the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride. The original, surprisingly skeletal Dumbo attraction was dismantled in 1990 and replaced with a updated one that not only had more elephants, but also the shallow pool beneath, which is the standard for Dumbo rides at Disney parks around the world. One of the original Dumbo cars is now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. The Orlando park, Walt Disney World, will receive two new twin Dumbo rides in 2013, when its Fantasyland expansion is complete.
Tomorrowland expanded in 1956, after the bulk of the park. Seen here in 1962, the year John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, it remains a literal depiction of the exciting work NASA was doing in the real-world realm of space travel. Past the "Avenue of Flags," the Clock of the World would tell the time anywhere, the Circarama cinema showed 360-degree short films, and the Moonliner Rocket, at 76 feet, was taller than even Sleeping Beauty Castle. It was removed the same year this was taken. Change was typical for Tomorrowland, which has been revised more than any other land. In 1967, the area got a massive overhaul.
These days, Disney keeps ahead of the futuristic theme of "tomorrow" by designing things that are unlikely to date. The creation of the Disneyland Paris park in 1992 yielded new Tomorrowland designs loosely based on the 19th-century visions of French science fiction writer Jules Verne, and some elements now appear in Tomorrowland as emblems of the future that will hopefully prove more timeless (and save money in renovations). The Astro Orbiton revolving ride takes center stage in today's Tomorrowland, with the spires of Space Mountain in the background.
Shown in the 1960s, the Flying Saucers were individual buggies that coasted, like air hockey pucks, on a puff of air. The bumper car-style attraction was slow to load and lasted just five years before being removed in 1966. Behind them you can see the Moonliner and the Skyway, also lost. The concept looks similar to Aquatopia, a water-based ride that is in Tokyo DisneySea park now. The Magic Eye Theater, currently home to the revival of the Michael Jackson 3-D spectacular Captain EO, is on that land now.
Executive Editor Jason Cochran is online at JasonCochran.com and Facebook, and on Twitter as @bastable.
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