Friday, February 5, 2016

Theme Park Stagecoaches: Part 2 - Universal Studios

We will continue now with the next entry in my "Theme Park Stagecoaches" series. To see Part 1 in the series, click here: Disneyland's Stagecoach Attraction.

Today we are visiting Universal Studios. Universal used to have it's own stagecoach "attraction".....but it didn't go anywhere!

Universal's coach sat in front of a canvas backdrop with painted scenery on it. The canvas was stretched around rollers and it would move past the "riders", giving the appearance that they were going somewhere as the stagecoach bounced up and down. My dad took this next photo of my brother and my aunt riding inside the stagecoach (they're hiding!) in 1967.

The stagecoach was located in what was then called, Prop Plaza. This was an area where the trams would stop halfway through the Studio Tour (the Studio Tour lasted several hours back then). Prop Plaza also included props that were used in both Universal movies and TV shows.

Note the control box and the sign on the wall just to the right of the stagecoach, in the picture below. The sign is washed out, but it reads, "CAUTION - Maximum Capacity 6 Persons - Use Quarters Only - Have Cameras Ready."

Here's a pic of the stagecoach with the canvas backdrop missing behind it. The jail cell on the right was a very popular photo-op at Universal for many years.

This picture is from a Universal Studios pictorial souvenir book. The top of the stagecoach definitely looks over capacity!

In this aerial shot from 1968, Prop Plaza (and the stagecoach) can be seen in the bottom left corner of the photo.

If we zoom in, we can see other props including some cannons and an airplane. Also visible out on the studio backlot is the steamboat used in the 1936 film Showboat (near the upper left corner of the pic), and the stone bridge used in the film, Sweet Charity (upper right corner). Just in front of that stone bridge, is the spot where the Parting of the Red Sea attraction would be added to the tram tour in 1973.

Here's another aerial shot (from 1967). The dining patio that was above Prop Plaza can be seen in the bottom of the photo. This stop in the tour was actually intended for guests to grab a bite to eat. They could then venture downstairs to the props and also to a tram loading area, where they could board another tram for the second half of the studio tour.

Another close-up:

Prop Plaza also included an antique auto photo-op that was very similar to the stagecoach. This photo is used with permission from Major Pepperidge of Gorillas Don't Blog (thank you, Major!). In addition to bouncing up and down, it looks like the wheels on this vehicle actually spun around. I don't think the wheels on the stagecoach did that (but I'm not one-hundred percent sure).

Prop Plaza stopped being a pit stop along the tram route many years ago, when the tram tour was reduced to just one hour. In 2003, I took my nephew to Universal Studios and was surprised to see the old stagecoach parked in the "upper lot", behind the arena of the former Western Stunt Show (across from Mel's Diner). There were steps behind it, still allowing for guest to climb inside and have their picture taken. The mural behind it was painted on a stationary wall, but it was reminiscent of the old moving backdrop.

I went to Universal Studios again in 2012, and found the coach parked across from where the entrance to Western Stunt Show used to be. By then, the stunt show arena had been completely removed. Why? I don't know. It hadn't been replaced with anything. Also, the coach was no longer open for guests to pose inside of it. Unfortunately, on my most recent visit to Universal, the coach was nowhere to be found. I hope they didn't toss it in the trash like they did the old Glacier tunnel, and the Burning House, and the charred remains of Bob Gurr's King Kong animatronic.

Universal has another prop stagecoach that kind of resembles Disneyland's old Mud Wagons (seen in Part 1 of this series). This coach is mounted above the seating area of the Saddle Ranch Chop House restaurant, located outside the entrance to Universal Studios.

This restaurant has a long history of name changes. It originally opened in 1981 as Whomphopper's, then it became Tony Roma's, followed by Country Star Restaurant, and now it's the Saddle Ranch Chop House.

I will leave you today with this final vintage image of the old Prop Plaza Stagecoach, courtesy of "Matterhorn" (thank you!) from Stuff From The Park.

There will be one more part to this "Theme Park Stagecoaches" series. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Walt Disney's "America The Beautiful" at Disneyland

America The Beautiful was a 360 degree film that was presented at Disneyland, in Tomorrowland's Circle-Vision Theater. Over the years, there were several films with that same name that were shown, but the version that played the longest debuted in 1967, along with a whole new Tomorrowland.

The film played at Disneyland for 17 years until it was eventually replaced by American Journeys and The Wonders of China in 1984. However, in the summer of 1996, America the Beautiful returned to Disneyland for a limited engagement that lasted into 1997.

This was still a time before everyone was on the internet, so I didn't have any advanced notice about the film's return. I can still remember the excitement I felt back in 1996, when I first saw this new banner hanging over the entrance to the theater. The banner reads, "Celebrating 40 Years of Circle-Vision - The 1960's Classic - Walt Disney's America the Beautiful - Special Return Showing"

Let's go back now and take a look at the Circle-Vision theater building (and surrounding area), through a series of "then and now" photographs. This first photo was taken in 1983. It doesn't show the actual theater (which would be just to our left) but it does show what the costumes looked like for the hostesses working the attraction.

This next photo is from 1996 and was taken while standing just a little further west, allowing us to see a portion of the theater marquee. Note the two banners announcing the return of America the Beautiful. One of them is the Statue of Liberty banner that we saw above. We'll get a closer look at that red, white and blue one in just a minute.

Not to depress anyone, but here are a couple "later" shots of the building taken from almost the same spot. The first one is from Wikipedia. I have very few of my own photos of the "Brown Tomorrowland of 1998" because I found it too repulsive to photograph.

And this is the current view:

Next, we have some shots of the theater entrance that were taken while standing underneath the PeopleMover beam. This is from 1983:

If we lighten the photo a little, we can see the design on the wall just inside the doorway a little better.

This is the same angle, from 1996. Note again, the two new banners. Also note the strips of metal that have been added to the marquee to cover up the former sponsor of the theater (Delta Airlines).

I don't need to lighten that photo to see the wall inside, because I took a close-up shot of it back in 1996.

Once again, I don't want to bum anyone out, but this photo was taken from the same angle, so I'm including it here. I shot this one through a hole in one of the construction walls that were put up during the destruction of Tomorrowland in September of 1997. (The hole in the wall just happened to line up perfectly with the shot I had taken back in 1983. You can see just a smidgen of the PeopleMover beam in the upper right hand corner of both photos.)

And the same view today:

Going back to 1983, this close up shows the smaller sign that was tucked into a corner just to the left of the entrance.

And here's the sign's replacement. This was taken in January of 1996, prior to the return of America the Beautiful. The Wonders of China would play in the theater first, from early morning until early afternoon. American Journeys was then shown the rest of the operating day. There was a short period of time in the middle of the day, that the theater would have to close in order to change the marquee and switch the reels of film on the projectors.

This is the same display case in July of 1996. The sign on the right mentions that America the Beautiful was the last Circle-Vision film personally supervised by Walt Disney. There is also a mention of the "next generation of Tomorrowland attractions". What a joke! The Circle-Vision theater didn't even get to remain as a stand-alone attraction in the new Tomorrowland of 1998. It was turned into a queue for an attraction that lasted only two and a half years! Argh!

Now we will head inside the building. The waiting area had large square upholstered seats. Sometimes you would see guests sprawled across them taking a nap. In the photo below, they have been pushed together in groupings of two. The PeopleMover had not permanently closed at the time this interior shot was taken in 1995, but it's operation was "spotty". Here, we can see that there is one car lined up right behind another on the track. Also, if you look at the wall below the PeopleMover track, you can just make out a world map. This photo goes back to when Delta Airlines was still a sponsor of the theater.

I'm including this next pic just for fun. If you look carefully in the photo above, there is an upside down popcorn box under one of the seats (far left and in the back). This isn't THAT exact popcorn box from the photo (I don't usually pick up trash off of the ground), but it is one just like it that I had saved from back then.

This photo shows what the pre-show area looked like during the time that America the Beautiful was having it's special return showing. The state flags were a little reminiscent of the way the room was decorated back in the early days of the Circle-Vision Theater. Too bad they didn't replicate the modern flags that used to hang from the ceiling.

Now let's go inside the theater and watch America The Beautiful. I've posted two links below. I shot this footage in 1996, during the film's return engagement to Disneyland. This first link includes the building's exterior and also the pre-show ("Hey the count of three, shout out what state or country you are from!").

This second link is for a video of the actual film, in it's entirety.

I do have footage of both American Journeys and The Wonders of China that I will post in the future, if anyone is interested.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Magic Kingdom Club Christmas Catalog - 1984

In the days before The Disney Store or The Disney Catalog, there was The Disney Family Showcase catalog from the Magic Kingdom Club. I received this catalog in the mail in 1984 and never received another one after that, so it may be the only time that Disney did something like this under that name. I had a subscription to Disney News Magazine at the time, so I'm assuming that is how I got on their mailing list.

There are more than 30 pages, but I've scanned each and every one of them and included them below. Some of the photos in the catalog were taken at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Epcot Center.

The intro talks about Walt and his "Family of Corporate Participants" that helped finance the construction of Disneyland.

See's candy at $6.00 a pound! Wow! Today See's candy is over $19.00 a pound and the price goes up every year after the holidays, like clockwork.

The photo below is from Disneyland's "Festival Japan" parade, which makes me wonder what ever happened to Festival Japan, Viva Mexico Days, and Canada Days at Disneyland?

Epcot Center's Germany Pavilion is pictured on the page below. I had no idea that Goebel manufactured Hummel figurines. I thought Hummels were made by a company named Hummel.

The page below includes a picture taken at Epcot's Italy Pavilion. Epcot would have only been 2 years old at the time this catalog came out.

Only $65 for a Disneyland adult Annual Pass! This was before there were different "levels" of annual passes, so every pass was a "premium" pass. Passes had only been available for a year and a half at this point. Wikipedia (and many other sites) state that the first annual passes were offered to the public in 1984. I have my very first annual pass and it is dated June 20, 1983. I guess it is possible that they were only available to Magic Kingdom Club members that first year since these sites are specifically stating "to the public". However the sites I have been on that supposedly have comprehensive info about annual passes and the prices over the years, fail to mention that they were available in 1983....even if it was something that wasn't offered to the "general" public. I remember they first became available shortly after the New Fantasyland opened in May of 1983. The cost of an adult annual pass at that time was $60.

Disney gift certificates were available, but Disney Dollars would not debut until 1987.

This was the only item that I ordered from the catalog. A Disneyland attraction poster for only $12.50! I still have mine rolled up in the original shipping tube....I never did anything with it. I wonder what it would sell for today?

My brother and I both had Mickey Mouse watches when we were kids. As a matter of fact, we still have them. I remember the girl that sat next to me in 4th grade used to gripe at me about the ticking of my Mickey Mouse watch being too loud!

Arribas Brothers opened their first shop at Disneyland in 1967. Today they have two locations in the park, one on Main St. and the other in New Orleans Square. There used to be a Fantasyland location (inside the Castle) and another over at the Disneyland Hotel. That location was demolished five years ago along with the hotel waterfalls. :-(

The Pendleton Shop (pictured below) was located in Disneyland's Frontierland from opening day in 1955 until 1990.

Disc cameras took horrible, "grainy" photos. I'm glad I never bought one!

I believe that's Betty Taylor in the Golden Horseshoe photo (wearing the black dress). She performed in the Golden Horseshoe Revue from 1956 until 1986!

Who knew that slide projectors were so expensive back in the day?

I have Mickey's Christmas Carol on video and it's still in that same gift box shown on the lower right. I've gotten rid of most of my Disney videos, but I've kept that particular one because it was a gift from my dad.

The Disney Channel had just debuted one year earlier. Only $5.95 for a Disney T-shirt? I don't think you can get a T-shirt at Disneyland today for less than $30.

I wonder who would answer if you called the number below? Don't do it! I'm willing to bet that it's no longer a Disney number.

I hope everyone enjoyed this little shopping trip back to 1984! Happy Holidays to you all!