Saturday, September 1, 2018

Battlestar Galactica & The Wonderful World of Disney's 25th Anniversary!

Forty years ago this month, the science fiction television show, Battlestar Galactica debuted. The following summer, "Battle for Galactica" opened at Universal Studios in California.

Battle for Galactica was an "experience" that was part of the Universal Studios Tram Tour, from 1979 through 1992. The "Glamour Trams" would suddenly come upon a vehicle on the side of the road with two "Cylons" at the controls and they would warn the trams to "Halt!" In the middle of the road was a large spaceship and as the doors to the ship opened, the Cylons would order the trams to drive aboard.

(Incidentally, the Battle for Galactica show replaced the "Rockslide" special effect that had been a part of the tram tour since 1974.)

I took this pic of the Cylon vehicle back in 1979. Their spaceship can be seen in the background.

My dad took these next two shots inside the spaceship/show building.

That's the "Imperious Leader" sitting up there above the Cylon. The Cylons and the Imperious Leader were all animatronic figures.

An actor dressed as a Colonial Warrior would suddenly appear to rescue the "captured" guests, by engaging in a battle with the Cylons. Lasers beams would shoot out of the Cylon's and the Colonial Warrior's guns. At least one of the Cylons would fall apart by splitting right down the middle, as if he had been cut in half by a laser.

Universal even had a walk-around "Cylon" character.

Unfortunately, the medieval tower (from the 1965 movie, The War Lord) in the background of this next pic, was torn down in 2001.

And now, let's take a look at the TV Guide listing, for the Fall 1978 debut of the original Battlestar Galactica series.

The premiere was three hours long!

Also on TV that night; the World of Disney, which was showing Dumbo, as part of Disney's 25th anniversary on television.

There was an article about Disney's anniversary in that issue.

There was also an article about the making of Battlestar Galactica. I guess 20th Century Fox was concerned that the TV show, was going to borrow too much from their recent mega-blockbuster film, Star Wars.

Let's see what else was on TV that week. It was the "First Time On TV!" for Airport '77. Universal Studios' Screen Test Theater show was actually themed to Airport '77 in the late seventies and early eighties.

Charlie's Angels was starting it's third season. Farrah Fawcett was returning to the show for her first of six "forced" guest appearances, following the breaking of her contract after season one.

Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were having their season premieres that week.

Disco fever was at an all-time high! Billboard was hosting it's own "Disco Party" on KCOP's Channel 13.

Jon and Ponch were delivering a baby at a discotheque on CHiPs.

And Rerun was entering a disco contest on What's Happening! HEY! HEY! HEY!

Here are some of the faces that were appearing at the Emmy Awards that year.

And the nominees are.....uh, were:

Just in case anyone is interested, here's footage of the "Battle for Galactica" attraction as seen during the Universal Studios Tram Tour back in 1984:

And here is the 25th Anniversary of the Wonderful World of Disney television special that was mentioned in the Disney article above. (It had actually aired the previous week.) Just a warning here....this might very well be THE WORST television special, out of all Disney TV specials....EVER!


K. Martinez said...

I loved the old "Rockslide" and "Doomed Glacier Expedition" segments of the Glamour Tram Tour. They were old-school Universal. The "Battle For Galactica" was pretty cool too. The 1970's was my favorite decade for Universal Studios, Hollywood. But then again, the 1970's was my favorite decade for Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm too.

So Lorne Greene went from the western oriented "Bonanza" to the sci-fi "Battlestar Galactica" and played Ava Gardner's father in between. And he was only seven years older than Ava. That's Hollywood!

That article by Richard Schickel is interesting in how he describes the Disney company back then when you compare it to today. BTW, Richard Schickel died last year. Did you ever read his well known book "The Disney Version"? I found it interesting when I read it way back then.

Oscar Mayer? Yuck!!! Probably the most disgusting food product next to Kraft cheese. And both were sponsors of Disney; Oscar Mayer (River Belle Terrace) and Kraft (The Land).

I do love the pic of Walt with Ludwig Von Drake and the NBC Peacock. Very iconic.

As for Battlestar Galactica the TV show, cant' say I really watched it. I was more into Star Trek and Irwin Allen.

Now Wonder Woman was another story. Loved that TV show with the very beautiful Lynda Carter. Hulk was good too!

Enjoyed the Studio Tour video of "Battlestar Galactica" segment. And the YouTube channel that video comes from is pretty cool too. Lots of vintage Universal Studios Hollywood stuff. Thanks for another fun article, TM! Loved it!

K. Martinez said...

Just finished watching "NBC Salutes the 25th Anniversary of the Wonderful World of Disney". It wasn't that bad. It had some cool footage of Walt cleaning up his desk via "magic effects" that I hadn't seen before and it was nice to see Fess Parker and Buddy Ebson from the "Davy Crockett" series and Phil Harris and Scatman Cruthers from "The Aristcats" in it discussing their part in Disney films and television. It was a little more creative that what they usually did in that era.

It's not Emmy winning material that's for sure, but it's not the worst I've seen them do either. Of course maybe because you said it was THE WORST, my expectations were lowered, which they were. Just my two cents.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I also loved the old-school Universal Studios Tour with it's Rockslide, Runaway Train, Glacier Tunnel and the Parting of the Red Sea. All of those things have been removed and the latter two, were ripped out very recently. The Collapsing Bridge is still standing, but the trams no longer drive over it ever since the new (and lame) King Kong experience was built right next to it. And even Jaws has been altered. The pier that the tram drives across no longer tilts, when Jaws pulls a section of it away. They ruin everything, don't they?

I only watched the three-hour pilot movie for Battlestar Galactica and then never watched it again. I couldn't get into it! I did like the "Battle For Galactica" experience that was added to the tram tour and Universal, though. And I never watched Wonder Woman when it was first-run, but I did watch it in repeats after it went of the air and I did enjoy it. I watched the Incredible Hulk too. Remember when they added him to the "Make-Up" Show at Universal Studios?

Maybe I need to go back and watch that 25th Anniversary Special again! I forgot about those parts that you mentioned with the older guest stars talking about the past. I was just remembering a very hard-to-watch skit with the younger guest stars playing the part of Disney animators, and another segment with Melissa Gilbert singing and traipsing around a court room, while dressed as Alice In Wonderland.

K. Martinez said...

It never mattered to me if I didn't watch a show even though an exhibit was at Universal. I enjoyed the Battlestar Galactica section. I always enjoyed Universal's shows and Glamour Tram special effects sections. Yeah, I was disappointed when they removed the Parting of the Red Sea too. That was a classic to me. They do ruin everything.

The 25th special isn't great by any means, but there are some moments I like. Yeah, that number with Melissa Gilbert you're referring to wasn't so great as well as some other musical numbers. It was cool to see Bill Bixby though. I always liked him. And to see the older Disney stars was cool too. Let's face it! From the mid to late 1970's nothing beats "Sandy Duncan at Disneyland".

Major Pepperidge said...

I have fond memories of the “Battle For Galactica” segment of the tram tour! I probably only saw it once, but vividly remember it, in all its glorious cheesiness. Especially the Cylons that split in two! Thanks for the link to that video - it is kind of surprising how lame some of those “animiatronics” are - some of them literally just wiggle. I’ve always wondered if Universal was unwilling to spend the money to make a truly great ride (back then), or if they figured their stuff generally was only on display for a few years?

Strange that the “World of Disney” article is by Richard Schickel, whose “The Disney Version” (1968) was famously very critical of Walt Disney and his productions. The magazine article is fairly uncritical, listing some well-worn facts and statistics. (I wrote this comment before I saw that Ken also mentioned Mr. Schickel).

Seeing that photo from the Emmys with Lindsay Wagner reminded me of what a crush I had on her. So adorable! Why did she seem to vanish after that show?!

Man, that 25th Anniversary show is rough. I mean, sure, you get Gavin MacLeod, and that skit is hilarious, but the rest of it! I admit that it was nice to see Phil Harris and Scatman Crothers reminiscing about their time on “The Aristocats”. That YouTube video supports my theory that Disney had some of the most awful TV specials ever made. It’s just bizarre that a company with so much talent produced such terrible shows.

Thanks for the fun post!

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, Sandy Duncan rules! And so does the TV special, "Sandy at Disneyland"! I love that one as much as Disneyland Showtime with E.J. Peaker and the Osmonds. And it didn't matter to me either, that I didn't watch Battlestar Galactica. I still enjoyed the Battle for Galactica experience on the Studio tram tour.

Major, I remember those "wiggling" motions of the Cylons, and the slight shifting of their weight, back and forth. Usually, those kind of tram "experiences" did last longer than a few years. Universal was probably unwilling to spend the kind of money that Disney did on their attractions. The "Battle For Galactica" actually remained a part of the tram tour for 13 years (1979-1992). That kind of surprised me. I did not go to Universal in the late eighties or early nineties so I didn't realize it was there that long. I just now looked up the actual series I am very surprised to see that it was only on for one season! That means that the "Battle for Galactica" show opened at Universal AFTER the show had already been canceled. Of course, they were probably working on it for a while before the show was canceled. Supposedly, the show did get really good ratings at first, so the idea to bring something related to it to the tram tour, was probably in the works early on during the show's initial success.

I never did read "The Disney Version" but I was recently given a copy of it, so I need to do that!

I LOVED Lindsay Wagner, and I still do. For me, she rates right up there with Sandy Duncan and Lesley Anne Warren (probably even higher). I remember there was some sort of book reading contest when I was in junior high school. Whoever read the most books within a certain time period, was going to get to go to lunch with Lindsay Wagner (and maybe Steve Garvey too, but who cares!) Well, I wanted to win so badly, but I knew I wasn't going to be the one who read the most books.....and of course, I wasn't. I finally got to meet her though, about 4 years ago. She was at the grand re-opening of a health food store in Ontario and was every bit as nice as she appeared to be in those Ford commercials. She signed my Bionic Woman DVD set and a 1970's "fan magazine" with her on the cover. And she didn't really vanish after The Bionic Woman. She has made a gazillion "made-for-TV" movies over the last four decades, including three "Bionic Woman/Six Million Dollar Man" reunion movies. Have you ever seen "The Taking of Flight 847: The Uli Derickson Story"? I highly recommend that one!

Stefano said...

Thanks for an entertaining post. Again there is surprise at just how many memories can be revived looking at vintage TV Guides; have you held on to this all these years, or bought it by EBay, etc? Back then, big hotels near LAX had racks of brochures for every possible attraction in the southland, and some for northern California , too; I grabbed handfuls as a kid, and regret that they are all vanished now. One flyer was for the Busch Gardens expansion of around '76; I'm envious you got to experience Turvey Mansion.

Sandy Duncan is the ideal Disney mom in "1,000,000 Duck", daffy but loving.

I haven't been on the Universal Studios tour since May 1978, so these photos are a nice look back. Too bad they have removed the scenes you mention; I also liked the Burning Mansion, torpedo-firing submarine (FWOOF!), and "Sweet Charity" bridge next to the Red Sea. Chortles for those big bouncing meatballs in the rock slide, a peerless piece of false adverting. I recall that you noted the slide was filmed for some Universal production, in sincerity; it probably didn't match the hilarious, jaw-dropping avalanche Buster Keaton outran in the 1925 "Seven Chances". Richard Roundtree on his motorcycle outran the tour's flash flood torrent, near the end of "Earthquake".

The Glacier Tunnel was one of the better effects; this gimmick was also used on the Mystery Island Ride at P.O.P. I encountered the revolving tunnel in one other place, a dark ride called Phantasia at the Old Town Mall in Torrance. The exterior for this was extravagantly whimsical and enticing for children; the interior, except for the tunnel, was the biggest amusement ripoff ever perpetrated -- P.T. Barnum would have blushed to foist that on the paying public.

Major Pepperidge said...

TM, I’m glad to hear that Lindsay had a good career after “The Bionic Woman”. Lesley Ann Warren was definitely smoking hot, but Lindsay seemed more like the gorgeous girl one might actually have a chance with (she’s mine, all mine!). And you know I love Sandy Duncan (whenever my mom gets her hair cut, I always pretend that Sandy Duncan walked into the wrong house), but she was more of a cute and funny friend type. I think I did see “The Taking of Flight 847…” - I remember her doing her darndest to keep those hijackers calm, but I can’t recall how she did it. Maybe she shared pieces of Hubba Bubba bubble gum. Very cool that you got to meet Lindsay!

TokyoMagic! said...

Stefano, I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. I have yet another TV Guide post coming up in November. Then I probably won't have another one for a while. I did actually save these TV Guides from childhood. I loved the artwork and photography on many of the covers from the 1970's. I hadn't looked inside these saved issues for many years, so I was surprised by the contents of most of them. And yes, they bring back a flood of memories for me too.

I used to do the same as you! When my family was anyplace where they had those racks of brochures for various tourist attractions, I took one of each. That is why I had vintage Lion Country Safari brochures, but had never been there myself.

I also miss other Universal effects like the Burning House and the Torpedo-Firing Submarine. Do you remember when they painted the Sub pink in the late seventies, as a tie-in to their TV show, "Operation Petticoat" (starring John Astin and Jamie Lee Curtis)? At least the Flash Flood effect is still there.....for now. And I forgot that it was used in "Earthquake"!

I am so surprised to hear you talk about Old Towne Mall's "Phantasia" dark ride. I have never met another person that experienced that ride, or the Haunted Castle dark ride that was also in the mall. Do you remember that one? And yes, the exterior to Phantasia was very enticing with it's giant mushrooms, it's trees with the gnarled roots, and that view of the second story where the ride vehicles would come out briefly and then go backside the ride. The rotating tunnel was the most exciting part of the entire ride. I thought the effect worked even better than Universal's glacier tunnel, since you were just dangling in ski lift type of chair from an overhead track, rather than sitting in a huge tram surrounded by many other people. There is so little information out there on the mall, let alone the rides. I wish I could find more info and more photos. I have fond memories of it, because my grandparents lived in Torrance and they would always take us over to the mall when we would visit them.

Major, does your mom look like Sandy Duncan? Or does she just wear her hair the same? Or does your mom carry around a box of Wheat Thins at all times?

I think you are right about how Lindsay/Uli kept the hijackers so calm. But what they didn't know was, it was "ABC" gum (Already Been Chewed). If they had figured it out, they would've been SO peeved!

Stefano said...

TokyoMagic!, I rode the Old Towne Haunted Castle just once; it was no great shakes, but better, I thought, than Phantasia. The pre-teen rowdies crammed in the Castle car with me kept reaching out to grab things; it seemed the rock walls were made of Styrofoam, hopefully fireproofed. It's been 25 years since I visited the Santa Cruz boardwalk, but the Haunted Castle there was a mighty fine dark ride, full of shocks and gory effects. The same park's Cave Train is one of the most charming dark rides anywhere.

Just flashed back on some of those brochures I nabbed 40+ years ago: there was a dark ride at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf that took you through the city's history --Gold Rush Days, Barbary Coast, a Chinese New Year's celebration, the 1906 earthquake. Looked pretty good in the flyer. There was also a folder for that forlorn failure, Enchanted Village, which replaced Japanese Village and Deer Park, but lasted little more than a year.

Another favorite childhood dark ride was the Spoof Safari at Belmont Park in San Diego. In 1972, that was a full- fledged amusement park. I rode the Spoof several times, and remember many of the gags, some rather raunchy; hopefully photos will turn up someday.

If memory is correct, the Glacier Tunnel turned up in an episode of "$6,000,000 Man"; gotta hand it to Universal, using their resources to the utmost.

TokyoMagic! said...

Stefano, I rode each one just once, too. I rode the double-decker carousel once and the bumper cars once. I remember the bumper car space became a bookstore (Waldens?) after the bumper cars were taken out. I know they had a Wax Museum at some point, but I never when through it. I also never rode the Busy Bee (Dumbo/spinner) ride either.

I've heard of that San Francisco dark ride at Fisherman's Warf. It did sound pretty cool. There should be dark rides everywhere! I knew about Belmont Park, but I didn't know that they had a dark ride. I have heard of the Cave Train ride, even though I have never been to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

I went to Japanese Village and Deer Park several times with family, but unfortunately, we never got to Enchanted Village before it closed.

I remember that episode of "The Six Million Dollar Man." It was when Steve Austin met Big Foot! And the Bionic Woman had to run across the collapsing bridge at some point. They really did try to stick whatever they could from the tour into their TV shows and movies. Did you ever see "The Nude Bomb"? I still haven't seen it, but I hear that most or all of it was filmed on the Universal backlot and utilized a lot of the effects seen during the tram tour.

Chuck said...

I remember a tour guide telling us that when they shot that episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors kept having trouble keeping his balance while running in the avalanche tunnel. If I remember correctly, they finally had him do the scene with his eyes closed while they shot him from behind.

Nude Bomb was one of the first movies I watched after we got a VHS player in '82. I was home sick for a week and watched it several times. There is a long sequence that actually takes place on the Universal Backlot Tour, with a chase involving a Glamour Tram. I remember thinking it odd that the tour members got off the tram in front of the Psycho House and proceeded up to the house on foot, complete with the guide's spiel ("Please do not stray off the Psycho path").

The dark ride at Fisherman's Wharf is a vivid memory. I had ridden the San Francisco Earthquake Ride at Cedar Point (moved from Freedomland in 1966) when I was probably 4 years old and it had scared the crap out of me. Based on that experience, I reasoned that any dark ride that included the San Francisco Earthquake must be absolutely terrifying beyond comprehension and stubbornly refused to ride it when I was 6 and 7.

On our last trip to San Francisco in '76, just before moving away from the area, my mom took me and my sister back to Fisherman's Wharf one last time. We got to that dark ride and my mom told me that she wouldn't take me back home unless I rode it. I remember crying (I was 7) and asked her to give me my dad's work number so he could come get me, but she wouldn't budge. I finally gave in...and absolutely loved it. Wish I'd ridden it more than once.

Not sure if it's still there today, but it was still being listed in the Northern California AAA Tour Book in 1995.

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, I remember the tour guides telling that story about Lee Majors! I wonder if he had any problem running in a straight line while his eyes were closed? I need to watch "The Nude Bomb," if even just for those scenes shot on the Universal Studios backlot!

I think I have read that that San Francisco dark ride no longer exists, but I could be wrong. I was up there a couple years ago and I dont' remember seeing it or seeing any literature about it. There was something that was getting ready to open up in a month or two, that was going to be like a Haunted Maze or tour.....or maybe it was a bunch of "panic rooms," but it was themed to San Francisco's past. I wonder if that was successful and has remained open?

Wow, your mom made you ride it! I guess she knew that you would love it. I had to sort of do the same thing with my nephew when it came to riding Soarin' He was probably about 9 or 10 and he didn't even have any idea WHAT the ride was about or what it did, he just didn't want to go on it and he was being stubborn. I had to use some psychology on him and it worked and he ended up LOVING the ride! I told him that I was going to go on it and that he could wait in line with me and then when it came time to ride, he could wait to the side while I rode it. Now I was NOT actually going to leave him by himself while I rode it, but I was hoping by the time we got up there, he would change his mind. In the meantime, a couple in line ahead of us, overheard at some point that he was not going to go on it and they told him how great it was and that he was going to be missing out. After that, he ended up wanting to go on it. Sometimes it takes strangers or non-family members to get a kid to listen! Like I said, he loved it!

Anonymous said...

I can't say that I've ever been on the US Tram Tour, since I live on the East Coast, but the Battlestar Galactica section clearly seems more impressive than any of the current stops on that tour, especially since their big thing right now is Fast and Furious. Sure the Kong and Jaws sections looks great.

Shame that US Florida never had a tram tour, though you can blame Disney for that. You can tell that Disney opening Hollywood Studios earlier took a toll on the Florida US park. On the plus side, at least most of the tram stops became their own unique rides...that were inevitably torn down for other rides.

Still rather uncanny to see any station other than ABC hosting WWOD. Odd to think that there was once a time before Disney owned the alphabet channel.

TokyoMagic! said...

Magic Ears Dudebro, for most of my childhood, Disney was always on NBC. I think it switched to CBS in 1981 and ABC in 1986. Of course, the show got it's start on ABC, back in the day when Walt was using TV as a way to finance the building of Disneyland.

Universal Orlando did actually have a studio tram tour at one time. When the park first opened, I think it was trying to be, in part, an actual studio with some productions filmed there. According to Wikipedia, the tram tour lasted from the park's opening in 1990, to 1995. It even included a recreation of the Psycho House and the Bates Motel. I didn't visit Universal Orlando until after the tram tour had closed. I did like how they had taken "experiences" that were a part of the Hollywood park's tram tour and turned them into their very own rides in the Orlando park. I wish Jaws, Kongfrontation and Earthquake: The Big One! were still operating today. I haven't seen Universal Hollywood's "Fast and Furious" experience, but I have heard nothing but bad reviews from people that have seen it. I wish they had just left the almost 40 year-old Glacier/Curse of the Mummy tunnel alone instead of ripping it out for something that nobody seems to like.

By the way, I just read that the "Battle for Galactica" at Universal Studios Hollywood, was the first time audio-animatronic figures were used outside of a Disney park. Interesting!

Chuck said...

I read that same claim about "the first themed attraction to feature audio-animatronic figures outside a Disney park" at THe Studio Tour, and I have to disagree. Setting aside the fact that the term audio-animatronic is trademarked and therefore technically can only be used to describe figures in Disney parks, there were other electro-mechanical figures designed to resemble people and animals (to varying levels of success and sophistication) long before Battle of Galactica opened in '79. Some examples I can think of off the top of my head are:

Calico Mine Train (Knott's Berry Farm, 1960)
Calico Log Ride (Knott's Berry Farm, 1969)
Speelunker Cave (Six Flags Over Texas, 1968)
Boneville (Cedar Point, 1970ish)
Injun Joe's Cave (Six Flags Over Mid-America, 1971)
Enchanted World of Old San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf, early 1970s)
Knott's Berry Tales (1975)

Full disclosure: the name of the Fisherman's Wharf dark ride wasn't off the top of my head. :-) But I did manage to find a few tantalizing tidbits that either reinforced or triggered memories of the thing. It was apparently designed and built by Sid & Marty Krofft!

You can see a video overview here (starting at about 4:48). By the time this was shot, the animation wasn't the best (and maybe never was), but you can get a feel for the sets and character design. The ride wasn't continuously in motion, but rather would move from room to room, stopping for you to watch each segment, with a few exceptions. I remember the car moving through a room depicting turn-of-the 20th Century San Francisco, with a vivid memory of a gorilla in a cage representing either a circus or the SF Zoo.

The ride vehicles looked like little cable cars, which in my mind even as a kid felt like little moving theaters (it's the Carousel of Progress without the carousel!). The theme song was pretty catchy and played outside the attraction; it kind of reminds me stylistically of "Seattle," the theme song for Here Come the Brides

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, thanks for that link. The ride looked like fun. You are right about other animated figures with sound, existing prior to "Battle For Galactica." I got that info from Wikipedia and as we know, Wikipedia can be wrong!

Chuck said...

Wait - what? Wikipedia wrong? That can't be. Wikipedia is where I learned that Abraham Lincoln won the Battle of Trafalgar aboard his flagship, the Potemkin, and saved Christmas!

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, that right there, is proof that Wikipedia can be wrong. Abraham Lincoln's flagship was the Pokémon!