Thursday, October 22, 2015

Theme Park Stagecoaches: Part 1 - Disneyland

Once upon a time in Disneyland's Frontierland, guests could ride aboard a Stagecoach along the shores of the Rivers of America and thru the Living Desert. The Stagecoach attraction opened in 1955 and continued operation through 1959.

Below, Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, seem to be enjoying their trip aboard the "Arizona" coach.

Here, Walt Disney poses very proudly with the "California" coach. (Incidentally, there was a third state-named coach designated as the "Colorado.")

These next photos were taken at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, where the Stagecoaches were constructed. This first one is from LIFE Magazine.

This one is from December of 1954 and is used courtesy of the Orange County Archives. According to the Archives, the gentlemen seen here are Orange County officials that were invited to the studios to hear Walt discuss his plans for Disneyland.

(Note the name "Arizona" on the side of the coach, as well as the corresponding painting of a butte or mesa on the door.)

And this next photo is used with permission from blogger "Matterhorn", author of "Stuff From The Park". Thank you!

(Note here, the "California" name, and the painting of the Santa Barbara Mission on the door.)

During a childhood visit to Disneyland in 1976, I took this pic of a stagecoach that was parked just to the left of the Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland attraction. This is pretty much the same location where the Stagecoaches used to load and unload when they were in operation.

Here's an obscurred view of a coach sitting in the same spot. (Again, thanks to "Matterhorn" from Stuff From The Park.) This shot was taken from the Mark Twain as it was about to arrive at the dock (out of view and to our right).

I didn't know it at the time I took my photo, but those buildings were remnants from the loading area of the former Pack Mule attraction. And the stagecoach was an authentic ride vehicle from an old attraction that I didn't even know existed. I wouldn't learn about the Stagecoach attraction until around 1980, when Disneyland was celebrating it's 25th anniversary. That year, one of the Stagecoaches was brought out of retirement and used in the Family Reunion Parade. It can be seen in the parade video below, at the 0:50 second mark:

Fifteen years later, one of the Stagecoaches was brought out again during the park's 40th anniversary and was on display at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles as part of a special exhibit titled "Disney's Wild West."

In 2003, Big Thunder was shut down following the derailment of one of it's cars, causing the death of one rider and injuries to ten others. A construction wall immediately went up around the attraction while the incident was investigated and remained in place while maintenance procedures (that had previously been neglected) were performed. During this time, one of the Stagecoach vehicles was parked in front of the wall.

Two years later, during the park's 50th anniversary, the Stagecoach appeared again, this time behind Big Thunder near the entrance to Big Thunder Ranch. A Disneyland "50th" logo was positioned above the coach as part of the fifty "Hidden 50's/Mickeys" that were placed throughout the park. The Stagecoach did not remain on display for the duration of the 50th anniversary however, and it's hidden 50/Mickey was moved to another location in the park.

(One final side note with these coaches: Notice how in the photo below and also in the two previous photos, the vehicle is labeled as the "California" coach, but instead of the Santa Barbara Mission, the painting on the door is the butte or mesa artwork from the "Arizona" coach. It appears that the person who did the restoration on this coach, did not do their homework!)

This next photo appears in Randy Bright's 1987 book, "Disneyland - The Inside Story". It is explained in the book that "occasional mishaps along the stagecoach route" caused the eventual closing of the attraction in 1959. I had heard that reason before as to why the Stagecoaches went away, but I had never seen a photo of that particular style of coach before. I did wonder why it looked different from the other coaches I'd seen. Had one of the coaches been altered at some point?

Flash forward to today, 2015. I went to the park on July 17th for the 60th anniversary and discovered that some special "photo-ops" had been set up just for that day. One of them was this stagecoach vehicle that was parked along the Big Thunder Trail. There it was! The odd looking stagecoach from Randy Bright's book!

A sign was posted next to it, labeling it as the "Mud Wagon" Stagecoach. According to the sign, the Mud Wagons were added in 1956 to the existing Disneyland Stage Line (which already included the California, the Arizona and the Colorado). There were three Mud Wagons added altogether and they were simply labeled as coaches "4", "5" and "6".

The sign also explains that, "The coach you see here is referred to historically as a "Mud Wagon" as it's frontier ancestors were well suited for traversing rough and murky mountain roads." That's funny, I would have guessed that the name came from the fact that having the lower and wider windows on the sides of the coach, led to passengers being splashed with more mud than they would have in the coaches with the smaller and higher windows.

Seeing this coach in person gave me the answer to something I had been wondering about, ever since I had read "Disneyland - The Inside Story" back in 1987.

So I came home from the park that day, logged onto "Gorillas Don't Blog" and conducted a search through all of Major Pepperidge's posts that included the word "stagecoach" hoping to find pics of this vehicle in use. Low and behold, I came across the following three photos. They are used here with permission....thanks again, Major!

In this shot, the Mud Wagon is pulling into the loading/unloading area. Note the Pack Mules in the background and also the train tunnel for the Rainbow Ridge Mine Train.

This professional pic is from a panoramic postcard that was sold in the park.

And here we get to see the Mud Wagon traversing actual mud!

Last up for today, we have one more from blogger, "Matterhorn", showing the Mud Wagon out along the furthest border of the Living Desert. Note the paint pots in the foreground. And just above and to the right of the driver, we can see the top of a train tunnel on the hillside. This shows just how close the Stagecoaches came to the tracks of the Disneyland Railroad. It has been said that the "occasional mishaps" along the stage route were due to the horses getting spooked by the train whistles. I wonder why they couldn't have just told the train engineers not to blow the whistle when going past this spot?

I'm just glad that when the Stagecoach attraction was discontinued, someone (probably Walt) felt the need to save a couple of the coaches, and that they have continued to be saved and restored. Too bad the Mark III Monorail/Mouseorail didn't have a similar happy ending. :-(

I hope everyone enjoyed this post. There will be two more posts in this series, which will include stagecoaches from two other theme parks. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Movieland Wax Museum - Haunted House & Frankenstein

Since Halloween is just about two weeks away, I thought we would do a SCARY post (sort of) today. Does anyone remember when Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park had a Haunted House? Well, they did!

Movieland's Haunted House sat on a dirt lot that was adjacent to their parking lot...pretty much right next to where the photographer stood to take this postcard shot of the Movieland sign.

Today, The Courtyard by Marriott sits on that property.

Here is what the property looked like back in the Spring of 1979. The Movieland sign and the driveway into the parking lot would be behind us in this shot. Notice how it is mostly adults that are going into the Haunted House.

The entrance was underneath the pitched roof in the center of the facade and the exit was underneath that turret on the far left. As for what was inside the Haunted House, I only recall lots of dark hallways and "monsters" jumping out and making loud noises. I don't remember there being any specific rooms or sets. I also remember that the pathway through the structure slowly sloped upwards, making the exit at a slightly higher elevation compared to the entrance. You can just make out a stairway that was outside the exit.

Oh, and incidentally, this was an "unseasonable" attraction since it was not specifically set up for Halloween.

Here's a close-up of the sign.

Now we will go inside Movieland and take a look at the museum's Frankenstein figure and examine how he has changed over the years.

First up is this postcard of a photo-op inside the museum, where visitors could purchase a souvenir photo of themselves with "Frankie". Note the three sample photos on the table in the foreground.

A friend of mine was kind enough to allow me to post his family's souvenir photo, which was taken in the early seventies. It appears to be the same figure as in the shot above, but the color of Frankenstein's skin has been changed to green.

During a childhood visit, my brother actually posed with this same figure, while I posed with the Wolfman figure. Unfortunately, my brother can't find his Frankenstein photo, but I have my Wolfman photo and I'll include it in a future post about Movieland's "other monsters."

This is what the back of the paper photo frame looked like.

Next we have this postcard of the museum's Frankenstein set. What I can't remember is if this set existed at the same time as the "photo-op" and there were two Frankensteins in the museum, or if at some point they moved the photo-op figure into his own set. I do remember that the "Monster Gallery" photo-ops were gone by the end of the seventies.

Here's another postcard shot. By this time, the set had been changed to an "outdoor" scene.

I took this next photo back in 1979, on the same day that I shot the Haunted House pic.

And I took this one in October of 2005, which was the last month of operation for the museum. By then the set had been changed back to an "indoor" scene. If you look at the details on Frankenstein's jacket (the rips, the blood, etc.) and compare them to the two previous photos, you can see that it is the exact same jacket.....over a span of more than 25 years.

So Movieland has been closed now for exactly one decade. Starbuck's still exists out front in what used to be the museum's "Starlite Gifts" souvenir shop. And a couple years ago, something finally moved into the main building. It is a dual exhibit of "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" and "Bodies: The Exhibition".

Both of these exhibits however, are scheduled to leave in January and a "butterfly pavilion" will be moving onto the property, along with a movie theater complex. The following article about the old museum sign and the current and future exhibits appeared in the L.A. Times earlier this year. It doesn't state whether or not the existing building is going to be reused for the new attractions, but I spoke with an employee in the box office and was told that it will be demolished.

I love how the towering sign has managed to survive since the Museum's closure in 2005. I understand how it might be confusing for tourists, but the article mentions how some people end up visiting the new exhibits because of the old sign. I hope the city does decide to keep it. In my opinion, it is a work of art and it should be preserved!

I wish they would also get the lights running again. From what I remember, the diamond shapes not only lit up, but they "twinkled" too....very vintage "Las Vegas"!

If anyone has memories of Movieland's Haunted House or any other memories of the museum that they would like to share, I would love to hear about them. Feel free to leave a comment below!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Walt Disney World Board Game - 1972

Today is the 44th anniversary of the grand opening of Walt Disney World. In honor of the anniversary, I'm posting pics of the Walt Disney World board game from Milton Bradley.

It was December of 1972 and my mom and I were in the toy department of Sears. She told me to pick something out to give to my brother for his birthday, and this is what I chose. My brother and I both loved everything "Disney", so even though it was something that I would have also chosen for myself, my brother liked it just as much!

Hey, the Haunted Mansion is located in the wrong "land" on the game board! It also seems to resemble Disneyland's Haunted Mansion more than Walt Disney World's!

Whenever a playing piece landed on a "haunted" red spot on the board, the player would have to drop a little wooden disk through the roof of the Haunted Mansion. The disk would then roll down a ramp and out the front or back door and roll across the game board. Wherever it stopped, that is where the player was to move their playing piece.

If you landed on one of the four spots marked "Monorail Spin", you would discard a Monorail "ticket" and then you could slide the Monorail car along the track to advance your playing piece to the other end of the board.

Each of the "lands" and attractions that need to be visited during game play, are designated with an orange. Interesting. They should have just done a cross promotion with the Florida Citrus Commission and included the Orange Bird!

I love the graphics used on the game board!

For the "Tea Cup Ride", the instructions state, "A player arriving at the Tea Cup Ride entrance must board this ride. He spins the spinner and moves the Tea Cup Ride the same count. In order for a player to leave the ride, his spin must land him at the Entrance/Exit by exact count".

The turntable was to be rotated a quarter turn for each number spun, however, the instructions never say whether you had to consistently turn the Tea Cups to the right or to the left. I wonder if we ever thought of that as kids?

Could that be Anita Bryant in front of the "orange juice" refreshment stand? Hmmm, I don't see any whip cream on her face, so probably not!

If a player landed on a space that was already occupied by another player, he/she could move that other player to one of three refreshment stands on the board (including the Ice Cream Station) and that player would then have to continue their game play from that spot.

I forgot to mention that in order to ride the Monorail, a player would first have to use the spinner and the arrow would have to land on a Monorail space.

Here are some of the "tickets". Each player had their own color that corresponded with their playing piece's base. I wonder why every ticket has the Monorail on it?

The object of the game is to visit all the park attractions and use up all of your tickets. The first one to do so, wins. For anyone that wants to take the time to read all of the game instructions, here you go!

We even saved the Assembly Instructions insert!

The original price tag is still on the box, showing that it cost a whopping $3.59 back in 1972!

Happy 44th Anniversary to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom!

(To see another children's game from 1972, that was based on a Disneyland and Walt Disney World attraction, click here: Whitman's Mad Tea Party Game.)