Friday, September 25, 2009

Knott's Scary Farm

Knott's "Scary" Farm held their first "Halloween Haunt" of the season last night and if I'm doing my math correctly, this marks the 37th year of this event. Below are some Haunt buttons that were given to Knott's employees to wear back in the '80's. The first one is undated, but it is from 1985.

These next buttons are also undated, but at least they began to put the event number on them. This one is from the 14th Annual Haunt that was held in 1986.
This one is from 1987. The graphics look like they were just borrowed from the previous year's design.

This last button is from 1988.

The last Haunt that I worked was in 1988. I quit Knott's just before the Haunt nights began in 1989. My first Halloween Haunt was actually in 1982, but they didn't start producing Haunt buttons for the employees until 3 years later, so I only have the four.
Next, we have two photos of the Headless Horseman that would wander the Stagecoach route during the Haunts. This first photo was taken from almost the same spot as this photo seen over at Gorillas Don't Blog.

I never really knew for sure how they did this, because it was always pretty dark when you'd see this character, but if you look closely at the two photos, I think the nose of the person can be seen in the "V" of the shirt and there is an eyeball on either side of that, which would mean the person is just wearing a "bloody stump" prosthetic on top of their head and probably "fake shoulders" to lengthen the appearance of the torso. Clever. I used to think that the person's head was down inside the shirt looking out through the clothing somehow.

Last up for today, we have a photo of Elvira walking down some stairs on the stage of the Goodtime Theater, formerly the John Wayne Theater, and now the Charles M Schulz Theater (and somewhere in there it was known as the Toyota Goodtime Theater) located in what was then known as the Roaring 20's area of the park, formerly the Gypsy Camp, and now the Boardwalk area. WHEW!

This photo was taken at the beginning of the show right after that disc with Elvira's face painted on it lit up and revealed her sihouette standing behind it....just like something out of a '70s variety show! I can only remember two of the songs that she sang in this particular show, "My Boyfriend's Drac," and "Chapel Of Love" ("We're going to the chapel and we're going to get buried"). Her show changed year after year and was always excellent. I wish she still performed at the Haunts....if she did, I would probably go just for that!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Farewell to Knott's Corkscrew!

Twenty years ago today, Knott's Berry Farm threw an employee farewell party for the Corkscrew. Commemorative buttons were handed out and employees were given a chance to ride the attraction one last time.

Built by Arrow Dynamics, the Corkscrew opened at Knott's in 1975 and was the first modern inverting roller coaster in the U.S. There actually used to be a recorded welcome announcement in the queue stating this historical fact.

Here are three vintage Corkscrew postcards. The first one shows what it looked like when it first opened....the track and the supports were all painted white. Notice also that there is no Sky Jump parachute tower in the background. That came one year later when the Airfield area was added to the Roaring Twenties section of the park. I can't remember exactly when the Corkscrew's track was painted blue, but I believe it was shortly after the Airfield opened.

After the Corkscrew closed in 1989, it was packed up and shipped to Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho where it opened in 1990 and still operates to this day. The Silverwood website even explains the history and origin of this historical attraction. Below, is a photo of the Corkscrew at Silverwood.

The closing of the Corkscrew came as a surprise to me. Why wouldn't Knott's have wanted to keep this little part of U.S. theme park history? They replaced it with "Boomerang" which isn't any longer in length (935 ft. of track compared to the Corkscrew's 1,250 ft.) Of course Boomerang goes backwards, but Knott's already had a coaster that did this....Montezooma's Revenge. It didn't make sense!

As a side note....I have not been to Silverwood Theme Park to ride the Corkscrew in it's new home, but several years ago, I visited Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida and they had a roller coaster called The Python which was identical to the Corkscrew. The Python had opened in 1976 and was the park's first roller coaster and Florida's first inverting roller coaster. Unfortunately, The Python was removed from Busch Gardens in 2006. :-(
The Python 1976-2006

Friday, September 11, 2009

Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp - 1968


Forty one years ago today, the Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp was released. This was just three months short of the second anniversary of Walt Disney's death. The stamp first went on sale in Marceline Missouri, which was Walt's boyhood hometown. There were several different commemorative "covers" or envelopes that were available for the stamp's release. Here are two examples (both of these have Marceline, Missouri postmarks.)

The second envelope was given to Disney employees in this special folder with Mickey Mouse embossed on the front.

I'm assuming from the letter inside, that these were given to employees that worked at the Disney Studios.

Eleven years later, the stamp was part of a "Historic Stamps of America" series with a special cover/envelope. This also has a Marceline, MO postmark, but it's on a "then-current" postage stamp. The commemorative stamp itself is located underneath a raised plastic covering.

The following information card came inside the 1979 envelope.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tokyo DisneySea - 8th Anniversary

Today, Tokyo DisneySea is celebrating it's 8th anniversary. The park opened back in 2001 at an estimated cost (according to Wikipedia) of over 4 billion dollars. That's $4,000,000,000!!!! Just for comparison, Disney's California Adventure opened only 7 months earlier at an estimated cost of 600 million dollars. I will save my comments about THAT park for another post (and they won't be pretty....but hey, neither is that park!) For now, let's celebrate what just might be Disney's most incredible theme park ever...Tokyo DisneySea!

I mentioned in a previous post how both of the Disney parks in Tokyo celebrate their anniversaries every year. A new logo is designed each year and then featured on merchandise throughout the parks. (Here in the U.S., we only seem to get that every five years when the anniversary ends in "0" or "5." )

The logos posted here today are from the park's first seven anniversaries.

These same graphics were used on buttons, key chains, hats, mugs, plates, pins, postcards, stationary, stickers, etc.

The 5th anniversary was extra big with even more merchandise available. A special theme song titled, "Sea of Dreams" was even written for the occasion and available for purchase on CD.

The 7th anniversary is the last one that I have any merchandise for. I have not yet seen what the logo looks like for the 8th anniversary.

To see photos from Tokyo DisneySea including descriptions of each of the different lands/ports, click here: Tokyo DisneySea.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Big Thunder Mt. Railroad - 30th Anniversary

Today, Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is celebrating it's 30th Anniversary. The following photos were all taken in September of 1979, just a few days after it opened. I shot these myself with a Kodak Instamatic Camera and Kodak 110 slide film.

All of these shots were taken while waiting in line to ride the attraction for the very first time.

I was twelve years old when construction began on Big Thunder and I remember being very anxious for it to open. After all, it took over two years to build and when you're a kid, that's an eternity! I actually wrote to Guest Relations during that time and they sent me some pretty cool information on the attraction, which got me even more excited. I was even able to go backstage a couple times while it was being built, because a friend's father worked on it's construction.

Unfortunately when Big Thunder finally did open, I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with the finished product. One of my complaints was that Disney had made the whole thing seem so much better in both the description and the concept art....but my biggest complaint was (and still is to this day) that the trains have to stop THREE separate times during the ride to go up yet ANOTHER chain lift! I would much rather go on the Matterhorn....or Space Mountain, which gets all three of it's chain lifts out of the way at the beginning of the ride so you have a fun, uninterrupted free-falling trip to the finish!
Actually, I am even more disappointed today when I think back to the days of Nature's Wonderland Mine Train (which Big Thunder replaced.) I really wish that incredible attraction had never been removed! There was even further disappointment when I learned years later about how Big Thunder was originally going to be part of Big Thunder Mesa at Walt Disney World, which would have also included Marc Davis' legendary, but never built Western River Expedition attraction. Maybe someday that attraction will get built in one of the parks.
But enough of that! I hope everyone enjoys these photos. I still remember taking them thirty years ago and what it felt like to be standing in that line waiting for my very first ride.