Friday, May 6, 2016

America Sings Opening & Cast Member Tragedy - 1974



This advertisement (below) for the opening of America Sings is one of the oldest Disneyland newspaper clippings I have. I cut it out of the L.A. Times when I was very young and have saved it all of these years.


America Sings opened on June 30th, 1974. On July 8th, just nine days after the opening, a cast member was crushed to death by the rotating walls inside the attraction. I heard about the incident from kids at school, but I hadn't actually read anything in the paper or seen anything on the news relating to it. I decided to write to Disney News Magazine to ask if the story was true. I received this response back from them. The letter is dated, July 25, 1974, and postmarked the following day.



If you are interested in reading more about this tragic incident, you can click below for a 2010 post from the blog, "Vintage Disneyland Tickets": Vintage Disneyland Tickets - Remembering Deborah

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Disneyland


Originally, Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a pretty frightening cinematic character. In the 1990's however, Disney managed to make him all cute and cuddly. Well, sort of.




Disney released their animated version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame on June 21st, 1996. On that same day, the "Festival of Fools" show debuted at Disneyland.


The show played in a special arena that was built behind the already existing Big Thunder Ranch. I know what you are thinking....Frontierland and The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Yes, it was an odd mix of two different centuries and two different countries. Perhaps this was the start of Disney not caring about continuity of theme? Personally, I think it would have been better if they had stuck it in the Fantasyland Theater, but "The Spirit of Pocahontas" show was still playing over there and would continue it's run for another year.


Here are some "Festival of Fools Facts" (from the blog, Vintage Disneyland Tickets):



Back in 1996, I shot some VERY short video footage of the arena under construction:



I took these next four photos during the one and only time that I ever saw the Festival of Fools show. This first one shows part of the the "Topsy Turvy Day" processional that passed through the arena during the show.


Here, we see Clopin standing on a box in the center of the arena. In the background of the photo, you can see a bridge that was part of a show set that wrapped around the arena. The audience seating was also "in the round."


Quasimodo did his own stunts.



Also in 1996, the Villains Shop in Fantasyland was converted into "The Sanctuary of Quasimodo" and a Hunchback vignette was placed in the store window. The window had previously showcased various Disney villains over the years, such as Ursula, the Wicked Witch, and the Evil Queen from Snow White. (I have pics of some of the Villains Shop window displays and will include those in a future post.)


At this same time, the windows of the Main Street Emporium received all new displays featuring scenes from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I still miss the days when the newest Disney animated feature would be retold through miniatures in the Emporium windows. I wonder which movie was the last one to have multiple window displays? Does anyone remember?


Back in 2005, some of the figures that had been displayed in the windows over the years, were brought back as a part of the park's 50th anniversary celebration. This included Esmeralda and her pet goat, Djali. These figures remained in the Emporium's windows for 10 long years, but were finally replaced in 2015 with all new displays.


In 1997, a Hunchback of Notre Dame parade or "Cavalcade" was created. At the end of the parade, there was an announcement urging guests to "Come join us later today at the Festival Arena, where we celebrate the triumphs of Quasimodo and the Hunchback of Notre Dame."

If anyone is interested in seeing the parade, I shot video of it from two different spots along the parade route. This first clip was filmed from The Plaza:




And this footage was shot from the It's A Small World area:



As for present day nods to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Princess Fantasy Faire (which opened in 2013 on the former site of the Carnation/Plaza Gardens), features "Clopin's Music Box." There is a hand crank at the bottom of the box and as it is turned, the song "Topsy Turvy" plays.


The scene also changes slightly within the music box as the crank is turned. The sun and moon pass over in the sky, Quasimodo appears and disappears from one of the cathedral's towers and I believe some of the people in the crowd also come and go.


If you look carefully within the crowd, you can spot other Disney characters, like Mr. Smee and Belle.


Well, that is everything I have relating to The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Disneyland. Just as a final note here.....the remnants of the Festival Arena have recently been removed, along with a HUGE section of Frontierland. All of this is being done in order to make way for a Star Wars themed land. Personally, I wish Disney was sticking this new land in California Adventure, or even building a third park to showcase their "acquired" properties like Star Wars and Marvel. I am very sad to see this being plopped down on top of Walt's Frontierland, and even sadder to see how many of the decades-old trees are being chopped down for it. :-(

***POST UPDATE (May 4, 2016)***

Commenter, "Snow White Archive" (from the blog by the same name!), left a comment below that reminded me of some additional "Hunchback"-related photos that I had. These were all taken at Tokyo Disneyland. I've mentioned before that adult guests can wear costumes during the first and last week of the park's Halloween festivities. Here are some of the Hunchback costumes that I saw during a visit in October of 2010.



Notice how the "Esmeralda" below, is holding a "Quasimodo" Duffy!


Friday, March 4, 2016

Pressed Pennies - Disneyland, Universal Studios, Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm & More!


On July 4th of last year, I did a Bicentennial Post and included a picture of a souvenir pressed penny. That inspired me to look for the other pressed pennies that I have acquired over the years. Well, I found all of them (there aren't that many....only eight!), and now they have somehow led to a larger post on the subject, than I had originally intended:

Pressed Pennies are a relatively inexpensive souvenir and the machines that create them can be found at many tourist attractions and landmarks around the world. According to an Los Angeles Times article that I'm including at the end of this post, pressed coins go back more than 100 years to Vienna, Austria. They were first introduced here in the U.S., at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.

The first two pressed pennies that I acquired were from a 1976 trip to Universal Studios. These were both made by machines that were operated by hand. You would hand an attendant your coins (the penny, plus the price of the pressing) and they would insert the penny into a tall machine with a large crank. They themselves, would turn the crank and out would come your souvenir coin.


The Jaws attraction from the Universal Studios Tour in California had just opened in April of 1976.


I'm including this "Jaws" photo that my dad took during a 1985 visit to Universal Studios. I did not go on that trip, so I have no idea where this photo op was located. I'm also a bit confused as to why it was there. Jaws 3-D had been released in 1983 and Jaws: The Revenge wasn't going to be come out until 1987. Was this just left over from the 1983 film's release?


This Frankenstein penny is from the same 1976 Universal Studios trip as my "Jaws" penny.


The postcard below, was purchased during an earlier visit. The girl on the left looks like she could have been friends with Marcia ("Oh, my nose!") or Jan ("Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!") Brady.


I took this pic of Frankenstein during a 1979 trip to Universal while seated on one of the "Glamour Trams" at the beginning of the studio tour. Frankenstein could often be seen walking among the parked trams trying to scare guests.


My next penny is from Knott's. I must say that I don't think the design on this one is the greatest. They tried to include two iconic images, the old prospector panning for gold and the Calico Railroad.


This vintage postcard shows a similar image of a prospector.


Here's another Knott's Penny. This one commemorates Knott's 1991 Halloween Haunt. Some of the older Halloween Haunt penny machines can actually still be found in the park today.


The vampire design was used on other Haunt merchandise that year, such as this T-shirt. (Photo courtesy of Knott's Illustrated on Facebook....thank you!!!)


I acquired this next penny at Ports O' Call Village in San Pedro back in the 1970's. My grandparents lived in Torrance back then and they would often take my brother and me over to Ports O' Call to walk around and look in the shops.


I'm kind of surprised that they didn't put this iconic image of the fisherman on the penny. The description on the back of this vintage postcard reads, "This bronze statue is dedicated to the Fisherman...for his harpoon, hook and net have long harvested the endless sea to grace the tables of America. His sturdy ships and useful catches have always found shelter and market at The Port of Los Angeles."


Here's a photo from Ports O' Call that my brother took during one of our childhood visits.


My next souvenir penny is from Magic Mountain and depicts Shock Wave, a stand-up rollercoaster that was only in the park from 1986-1988. The piece of land that it sat on has changed quite a bit over the years. Other attractions that came and went in that same spot were the Sarajevo Bobsleds, Psyclone, and Apocalypse (originally Terminator Salvation - The Ride).


This Magic Mountain map from 1988 shows the former location of Shockwave.


I don't have any personal photos of Shockwave, but here is professional video footage of Shockwave.....just in case anyone is interested.



This is my newest pressed penny. It's from an early 1990's visit to Seattle, Washington. The Space Needle & Olympic Mountains are depicted in the design.


I purchased this postcard during the same visit. The Olympic Mountains can be seen off in the distance. The area immediately surrounding the Space Needle was originally the location of the 1962 World's Fair. Today the area is called Seattle Center, but several of the buildings and landmarks from the fair are still standing.


Believe it or not, I don't own one single pressed penny from a Disney park.....not even from the Tokyo Disney parks. In Anaheim, there are more than 40 different machines spread out within the parks, hotels, and Downtown Disney. This pamphlet lists the locations of all the machines including those with special limited "60th Anniversary" designs.



So they are using Henry and Sammy from Country Bear Jamboree to represent Critter Country? Weird! Why don't they just put the show back where it belongs!



Again, I haven't purchased any of these. But there are quite a few of the special "60th Anniversary" designs that I do like because of the vintage images that are used. If you look closely, you will see that the artwork for some of these has been taken directly from their respective Disneyland attraction posters (specifically, the PeopleMover, Submarine Voyage, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Columbia Sailing Ship).




This Fantasyland machine makes "pressed quarters".


Most of the pressed coin machines have a generic look such as the one below.


The machine inside the Adventureland Bazaar appears to be the only one that is themed to the "land" that it's located in. It has coin pressers on three different sides of it, with nine different designs altogether.


The top of the machine features an elephant that lifts it's arms up in the air and then presses down while a loud stomping (or would that be stamping?) sound is heard.


These are the three "60th Anniversary" designs representing Adventureland.


Seasonal designs are even available at times throughout the year. This holiday "pressed nickel" machine was located at the exit to Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.


Here's a close-up of the inner workings of one of the machines. The coin travels down that clear diagonal slot and then falls between two rollers which then rotate and imprint a design onto the coin while "elongating" it at the same time.


By the way, all of the special "60th" pennies are still available in the park today, even though the 60th anniversary was technically last year.

And in case you just can't get enough of pressed pennies.....here is that Los Angeles Times article that I mentioned. This is from June 2015.