On the second day of D23’s recent Destination D: Attraction Rewind event at Walt Disney World, programming moved past the 1964 World’s Fair and centered on theme park attractions of the past across an exciting series of presentations.
It began with with a surprise screening of “Magic Journeys,” which debuted with opening of EPCOT. The film, which had not been shown by Disney in almost 20 years, was displayed in 2D instead of the 3D version that was part of the show at the Journey into Imagination Pavilion when it opened.
In yet another surprise, Archives Director Becky Cline shared a never before shown magical movie produced just for the D23 event. This film featured artwork of a Marc Davis concept for a Magic Kingdom winter themed attraction winding its way across the screen. The attraction would have been known as The Enchanted Snow Palace.
Designs depicted adorable ‘snowball’ creatures, the abominable snowman and a miniature counterpart, dancing penguins & polar bears and a very familiar looking ice queen – complete with a long braid over one shoulder. Also included in the clip was a delightful score by Jeff Crawford (brother of Michael Crawford) based on a recently discovered Buddy Baker score developed for the attraction. This material was used to inspire the movie “Frozen.”
(Could some or all of the elements of this cool concept find its way into the new Frozen attraction planned for Epcot’s Norway pavilion?)
Next, Becky brought Disney historian Stacia Martin to join her for Disneyland: Fond Memories of the Past, a discussion of long gone attractions. The experiences discussed included The Main Street Opera House, which was the first structure completed for the park. Initially, it did not have a back wall as it also served as the saw mill for park construction.
It was not until 1961 that the massive structure first saw life as an attraction guests could visit, hosting the Mother Goose village, Mary Quite Contrary home, Forbidden Forest and other sets from the Disney movie Babes in Toyland. In 1963, the Opera House became the international headquarters for the Mickey Mouse Club and included occasional local broadcasts of the show.
In 1965, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln became the first Disney attraction to be featured on both coasts – having found footing on Main Street and at the NY World’s Fair.
Tomorrowland has seen several changes over the years. Attractions like Monsanto’s the Hall of Chemistry, House of the Future, Adventure through Inner Space (same queue now used for Star Tours) and If You Had Wings, the Cir-Car Rama (early version of circle vision – a road trip with views looking outside the car windows), Dutch Boy Paints’ color wheel, the American Dairy Association’s Dairy Bar-grab a glass of milk, Kaiser Aluminum’s The Story of Aluminum, The World Beneath Us featuring an oil refinery model, the TWA Rocket and Mission to the Moon (and, eventually, Mars), a flight circle where model airplanes could be flown, America Sings, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea walk through (including an 11 foot Nautilus and Captain Nemo’s pipe Organ – now at home in the Haunted Mansion), and the Skyway to Fantasyland are all now long gone.
Gone from Fantasyland are the tournament tent facades (replaced in 1983 with a medieval village motif), Merlin’s Magic shop (comedian Steve Martin once worked there), the Captain Hook Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship (complete with Skull Rock), Welches Grape Juice stand, and the 3D Mousketeer’s Jamobree Movie (in color, a treat for a show originally broadcast in black and white).
Wrapping up the list of long lost attractions mentioned were the indian village and Nature’s Wonderland (home to pack mule, stage coach, Conestoga wagon and mine train rides) that have since disappeared from Frontierland.
Stacia and Becky both agreed that an excellent way to trace the history of these attractions is by taking a peek at the park’s guide books, especially the “Tencenial” book which includes this quote from Walt Disney describing Disneyland, “Where kings are commoners and commoners are kings.”
Next up was the Widen Your World session, Imagineer Jason Grandt discussed memories of creating Walt Disney World and EPCOT with Legends Tony Baxter and Charlie Ridgway.
The Welcome Center (still standing on Hotel Plaza Boulevard) was the very first “attraction” to be completed in Central Florida. It opened in 1969 and drew around a million visitors during its first year open. The center served as a preview for what was to come (including a few hotels that were never built) and was also a focal point for the press who were flown in on Walt’s private jet.
Tony recalled magical memories of experiences prior to park opening. It was an amazing August in 1971 for the 23 year old cast member – he was able to enjoy the first ride aboard the monorail (which included a view of the very first time the castle was lit up), join in a celebratory dinner inside the castle with Disney executives during which a ‘battle’ for ‘King of the Castle’ took place and Roy Disney fondly toasted his brother Walt (the dinner ended in an impromptu first ride aboard the freshly finished Fantasyland carousel), and a particularly pristine Sunday August afternoon where a secluded sunbathing ‘brought about the realization that it would be the last time that beach on Bay Lake would ever be so quiet and empty.
Attention turned to bringing Disney’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea into ‘reality’ in the form of an underwater submarine ride. Charlie lamented how he still wished the attraction never closed, but also conceded that it might have been because the submarine ride vehicles were made out of fiberglass and didn’t hold up as well as the steel ones in Disneyland. Charlie also recalled getting the press excited for the Goff inspired vehicles’ journey from Tampa to Orlando.
Tony recalled forming a friendship with Claude Coates during the project and admiring the animator’s leadership style of encouraging participation and two way learning. He also revealed that he saw several shows in the Hall of Presidents, one time in particular all of the projectors were running clips from “Sleeping Beauty” as that was the only film they had available to test the system.
If You Had Wings gave Baxter and Coates another opportunity to work together. Baxter called attention to the ‘speed room’ (for the rides final scene) and then the use of shadow projections for the jazz combo earlier in the ride – both having been ‘firsts’ created by Claude Coates. Charlie reminded how Walt Disney World owed a debt to Eastern (the ride’s sponsor) for bringing in all of the major travel press (many introduced to the Disney Company by Eastern).
Other highlights of the mid-morning talk included the Mickey Mouse Review and how it was the first attraction to use projected backgrounds. The show was shipped to Tokyo around the time EPCOT opened and, according to Tony, they revered the attraction so much that they refused to return the show even after it had closed.
Horizons rounded out the morning’s talk, introduced with a cameo of Tony from show footage. According to Tony, the show summarized what EPCOT represented – a future on land, sea, and in space. He believed that this show should have had its home in the globe as it introduced elements of all the other Future World pavilions. Charlie added that it was the only one of the EPCOT shows exemplifying how people might live in the future, adding how reality differing from the EPCOT vision may have also played a role in the attraction’s demise (space was dangerous).
Tony pointed out how science fiction had also given the future a very bleak outlook, hoping that the upcoming “Tomorrowland” movie will again show the future in a positive light. The D-lightful discussion ended with a film showing all three finale ending options for Horizons to its fans in the audience!
Imagineers Wyatt Winter and Jason Grandt returned with their popular Retro Rewind References – a guide to ‘Easter Eggs’ in the parks.
For an example, in Town Square Theater, as guests pass through the theater’s offices, there is a pause in the mail room. On letters are stamps which feature tributes to extinct attractions. There is a letter with a stamp for each attraction that is no longer in the Magic Kingdom.
More Easter Eggs pointed out include a few at Big Thunder Mountain:
– In the foreman’s office: a giant portrait of Tony Baxter
– Contained within the mountain painting of the land before the mine: Paris Big Thunder, California Big Thunder, and Tokyo Big Thunder and (on the left) and Thunder Mesa (complete with Marc Davis’ details)
– Many references to the Apple Dumpling Gang
– In the safe is a land grant with accurate historical data from era in the document
– On the ‘rules’ sign: Mrs. Liddy Stockway name appears at the bottom (from Disney’s Those Calloways movie)
– On the assay cork board are references to route 66, names of Imagineers who worked on the attraction within various documents
– Also on the cork board: a letter from Jason Chandler
– In the map of the mine- “Rainbow Caverns” can be seen and “Little Spark Shaft” appears to be a ‘hidden’ Figment. A canary in the auto canary machine is said to be a relative of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s Rosita.
In Storybook Circus:
– The Barnstormer entry sign can be seen (from behind) as a reused piece of the Wise Acre Farm sign
– The laundry/pennants contain a reference to the long-john costumed Super Goofy
– Several posters showcasing Goofy’s various stunt exploits can be seen to have ties to Skyleidascope and If You Had Wings
The Easter egg extravaganza ended with trivia questions for the audience.
Next, D23’s Marketing Director Kristan Rodack took the podium with Don Schmidt (from Pixar Animation Studios) in a brief discussion about Comunicore. Don, being a big Comunicore fan, provided insight to the 100s of 1980s computers that ran EPCOT.
These machines were the size of rooms and were already obsolete when installed. The machines have since fallen apart, but the software remained. Using the original software and laser discs, he was able to recreate three of the original computer games: Taxi Driver, Get Set Jet, and Visit the Manufactury. The original World Key software was not able to be rebuilt but the reference videos were found on several laser discs. Attending guests were surprised with Computer Central Reboot, making the three games and the world key videos available, on iPads, to interact with for a short time at the event.
Following lunch, former Imagineer and Disney Legend Tony Baxter delighted members with tales of a land that would never fully materialize, Discovery Bay. It quickly became a highlight of the entire weekend event.
Read much more about the Discovery Bay presentation here.
An Evolution of Make Believe Made Real – Imagineers Dave Minchiello and Pam Rawlins discussed taking the past into the future, giving a comparison of the 1937 Snow White feature film to the 2014 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction.
They called it a first of its kind for Disney attraction story-telling. The pair provided detailed cross references to the attractions queue and ride experience to scenes from the movie. Every detail was ported, from the hand cut look for queue fence and rail down to an accurate silhouetted projection (actual film footage) of the seven dwarfs as they march home from work to the popular “Heigh Ho” theme.
A couple of little-known gags were included in the enhanced interactive queue. When sorting gems in the washing basin, two amusing items can find their way into the stream: Doc’s glasses and a bar of slippery soap that will careen away as if slipping out of grip when “grabbed.”
Kristen Rodack briefly took the stage again to share the story of Disney Fan Chris Wallace, big fan of Horizons. A video of Chris was shown in which he described his “Horizons Resurrected” project, a vitural experience of the beloved attraction. Amazing VR footage of the attraction wowed the audience and can be seen at www.horizonsreserrected.com, proving “If we can dream, we can do it!”
Next Carl Allen from Disney Parks offered the crowd a first look at a new mobile app, Show Your Disney Side, coming ‘very soon’ (no date given). The application transforms a ‘selfie’ into an animated image (breathing/eyes blinking) and then allows the guest (or even pair of guests/images) to choose an overlay of their favorite Disney Character. In the example, two images were shown side by side and transformed into Frozen’s Anna and Kristoff, then framed the images with the added pictures of Elsa and Olaf. Users will be able to share on social media or interact with the image. Details will be coming to D23.com soon.
Tim O’Day then showed a video of Marc Davis in a tribute to Davis’ contribution to Disney in art, animation and Imagineering. Tim reminded D23 guests that the tribute had only been shown twice before – at an event paying honor to the Legend and at the Motion Picture Academy. This wonderful clip had Mark narrating his own achievements. Along with Marc’s narration, clips were shown from Snow White, Bambi, Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, along with shots of Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, the Jungle Cruise – bringing the first gag to a Disney attraction – featuring his work on these legendary accomplishments. The film culminated with Marc describing visiting the parks and thanking all who contributed to the magic (past and present).
That was Entertainment! – Tim O’Day next introduced Ron Logan (former Executive Leader of Creative Entertainment world-wide for Disney 1991-2001) lauding that Ron was responsible for all live entertainment for Disney including all 11 parks, movie premiers, half time shows and Broadway shows like the Lion King, Aida, and Beauty and the Beast.
In this lively lecture, Logan relived past performances of several long lost Disney entertainment productions.
Skyliediscope – A weekend show in which Dreamfinder wants to build a rainbow. This required dropping gum drops in the World Showcase Lagoon. A nasty side-effect of dropping those in the water was the creation of dragons. Ron shared the difficulties in working with the FAA in a show that featured several ultralight aircraft. The show also featured as motorized surf boards (AKA the EPCOT Navy), a fleet of small boats shooting colored water, fire-breathing dragon boats, a dozen small hovercraft and a homemade 85’ blimp recreation of the Dream Mobile – piloted by Ron Schneider as Dreamfinder. A pair of clips was shown featuring the EPCOT Party-Gras lagoon show. After the clips, Ron quipped, “How crazy was that? And we weren’t smoking nothing, not like WDI…” The show was brought to a close after one of the ultra-light aircraft crashed, tragically ending the life of the pilot.
The EPCOT Dare Devil Circus Spectacular (1987-88) featured circus acts on top of the Communicore roofs, spectacular stunts including a high wire act 180’ in the sky (without a net), a family of trapeze artist, a pair of wire riding motorcycles (space cycles) that drove up the Spaceship Earth globe and back, web girls (who climbed up ropes), and a live band. “Very high maintenance elephants” proved to be a challenge because they “ate a lot and produced a lot of waste.” Then, Ron figured out he could sell the “elephant doo” to the horticulture department and manage to cut his budget by 1/3 in doing so. “EPCOT’s flower beds were really blooming that season!”
Ron wrapped up discussing a show that he initially did not want to produce – SpectroMagic. “I never liked the title. To me, it sounded like a skin disease; ‘you might have SpectroMagic!’” confessed Mr. Logan.
Difficulties in creating the new parade including the need to replace the bridge to Liberty Square because of the weight of some of the floats’ need for power/batteries. Ending the presentation was the note that the parade will never return due to expensive maintenance costs, concluding with a final quote directly from the parade, “so long from Jiminy Cricket and SpectroMagic.”
Destination D: Attraction Rewind ended with a Pleasure Island-inspired party, which we’ll detail in an upcoming post, so check back!
More photos from Destination D: Attraction Rewind day 2: