Friday, January 4, 2019

The Disney Vision - 1978 (New West Magazine)

Today, we have more Disney-related articles from New West Magazine. This issue is from 40 years ago, last month.

We will start with this article about Disneyland, and an interview with Disney Imagineer, John Hench.

So that's where the phrase "Bad Show!" comes from. It actually originated with Disney. Now it is used to describe their own efforts (or lack of) when they don't meet our expectations. Expectations that they themselves set the standards for, back in the day.

Okay, this article might be getting a little too heavy with all of the psychology.

John Hench points out at the end of his interview, that the trees on Main Street had grown too big and were becoming out of scale. He says that they will have to do something about that. They replaced those original trees along Main Street with smaller ones, three years later (in 1981).

This article about animated films mentions Disney's difficulty in replacing their original "Nine Old Men." To compete with the growing animation market at the time, Disney was just re-releasing Pinocchio that year, since they did not have a new film ready to release.

In Paris, The Rescuers outgrossed Star Wars? And it was Germany's largest grossing film of all time? Interesting!

The studio had such high hopes for The Black Cauldron. Unfortunately, it would go on to earn less than half of what it cost to produce. It's also the first animated feature film of Disney's, that never received a theatrical re-releasing.

Last up is this article about the upcoming opening of EPCOT Center. I like the quote, "Although it will certainly not neglect our entertainment, it will place even greater emphasis on our education." That certainly isn't a true statement about the park today. Quite some time ago, Disney began the process of removing the educational aspects of the park and replacing them with I.P. based attractions. And today, Disney continues to reduce EPCOT more and more, to just another "Magic Kingdom" park. Sad.

The article goes on to explain Walt's original vision for EPCOT as a real Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

Twenty five million dollars for a ten year lease/sponsorship of a pavilion at EPCOT? I wonder what that fee is today?

Now let's take a look at some of the magazine's advertisements.

Olivia Newton-John's new album, "Totally Hot" had just been released. This was only a few months after the huge success of her summer movie, Grease.

The Carpenters were appearing at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, and Pia Zadora was appearing at Scandals in Hollywood. (This was before she bought the historic "Pickfair" and had it torn down.)

Annie was a smash hit at the Schubert Theater in Century City. Apparently, Regis Philbin liked it! I ended up seeing Annie with my family two years later when it returned to L.A. for a run at the Pasadena Playhouse. It was actually my first "Broadway" play.

This ad for the NBC Studio Tour asked, "What will you see?" I went on the tour just once and the most exciting thing I saw, was the set of The Gong Show and the giant framework/structure that the celebrities sat in on Hollywood Squares. Not too exciting.

As we saw in one of the articles above, an animated version of The Lord of the Rings was released in 1978.

Osko's was a very popular Los Angeles nightclub and was the filming location for the discotheque in the movie, Thank God It's Friday. It's entrance portico had a wonderful mid-century modern design that was reminiscent of the Theme Building at LAX or even the starfish-shaped entrance to Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica. Unfortunately, the club was torn down in the nineties and replaced with just another "big box" store.

You have to love these fashions. Or not!

DuPar's is an L.A. institution and their Farmer's Market location is still open for business today. Sadly, their Studio City restaurant closed on January 1st of last year (because the owner of the building would not renew their lease), after being open for more than 70 years in the same location!

The record album "opener" pictured below the DuPar's article, was supposed to save you from getting a "cardboard cut" on your fingers. I don't remember ever seeing one of those, even though I shopped at both Music Plus and Tower Records.

Dig those plaid seats on the Dodge Challenger! And remember when cars had those locking gas tank doors to keep thieves from siphoning the gas out of your car? This was the era when the country was experiencing both an "energy crisis," and a "gasoline shortage."

The Sony Betamax video recorder was huge! I wonder what the cost was back then? I didn't know anyone who had one of these, until around 1981......except of course, for the family in Disneyland's Carousel of Progress, "We can even record our favorite TV shows for viewing at a more convenient hour!"

I would also like to know what a mobile phone cost back in 1978. While watching "$ale of the Century" last night on the Buzzr Channel, I saw a mobile phone offered as a prize and the announcer (Jay Stewart) said the value of it was $3,000! That show was from 1985.

When I was 20 years old, I went on a Sitmar Cruise to Alaska (aboard the S.S. Fairsky) with my grandparents, for their 50th wedding anniversary. They invited the entire family to go with them, but my brother and I were the only ones that were able to get the time off to go. I have some very special memories from that trip! (Incidentally, after being in the cruise ship business for over 40 years, Sitmar Cruises was sold off in 1988 and the ships were all transferred over to Princess Cruises.)

I hope everyone enjoyed this little "voyage" back to 1978!


Major Pepperidge said...

I have this magazine! I actually bought it from a newsstand when it came out. I appreciated the in-depth interview with John Hench, even if it gets a little heavy - most articles are so fluffy and weightless by comparison. It’s fascinating to get a glimpse into what Hench thought about - he certainly seemed to consider every feature and how it related to the park as he thought it should be.

Love the references to things long-gone, such as the pirate ship and Skull Rock; he talks about the all-white Carrousel horses, which I still believe had to do with making load times shorter. All the horses are the same color, just pick one and shut up! ;-)

The author refers to “the Haunted House”; really? Is it that hard to get the name of that world-famous attraction right?

I also remember how exciting that article about animation was; the prospect of a whole new generation of animators, and “The Black Cauldron” looking so awesome and scary. Even with that movie’s failure, it was an interesting time in the company’s history. Just a few years later John Lasseter and Glen Keane started monkeying around with CGI animation for the company… I’m sure even they had no idea what effect that would have.

Even the article about EPCOT (which I’ve never been to) makes me wish that I could have seen it the way it was supposed to be. Honestly, the more I hear about what’s there today (how about that “Food and Wine Festival”?), the less I care about going there. That famous coffee table book from 1982 shows the EPCOT that I want.

Love the ads too! Thanks for the great post.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, my mom subscribed to New West magazine and I still remember how excited I was to see this issue in our mailbox. I bet you are right about the reason for painting all of the carousel horses white. We all know how kids are!

Maybe the Haunted Mansion wasn't quite world-famous yet? Just think, it wasn't even 10 years old yet when this article was written. However, that's no excuse for getting the name wrong! I remember as a kid, people referring to it as the "Haunted House," and also the Autopia as "the cars," and the Skyway as "the buckets." But even as kids, we knew better, didn't we?

I also remember being excited about "The Black Cauldron" and even, "The Fox and the Hound." Too bad both of those films left so much to be desired!

And I am still kicking myself for not getting to EPCOT in it's early days, before they started ruining it! I have been to that park five times now and each time I go, something else has been removed or destroyed. I hope someone out there is working hard on building a time machine!


Chuck said...

These articles are absolutely fascinating, both taken individually as well as as a whole. Some of the commentary in the third article, particularly the complaint that "the best-known architectural talent in the country was bypassed in favor of the company's in-house 'imagineers,'" seems to indicate the author was completely unaware of the philosophy behind designing Disney parks described in the first article.

John "I liked it better as a parking lot" Hench was an absolute genius when it came to understanding the philosophy of place-making, and it's a crying shame that his influence, while still present in today's crop of Imagineers, is too often overrided by marketing or budget considerations. Sadly, that tendency was already making itself felt in the company even in 1978 - "there used to be 2,000 artists and 50 bookkeepers and now there's 50 artists and 2,000 bookkeepers - and not one of those bookkeepers can draw."

I also noted the prominence of long-gone features in the map as well as the article. I was a bit disappointed that he mentioned the one-legged pirate but not the tuna burgers. :-)

I miss the days when magazines published in-depth, well-written, and usually well-researched articles (although there are errors here, too, like referring to "1939's Pinocchio"). While I'd never read these ones, they are the kind of thing I would have gleefully pored over at the time. Now, the Interwebs are mostly full of cut-and-paste fluff pieces that tell you where to get chicken tenders in the Parks or how to "plus the Magic," whatever the heck that means. Thanks for doing something different, guys.

I remember seeing Pinocchio on this re-release along with The Small One. This was the viewing that got me hooked on the movie as something special.

I have still never seen The Black Cauldron. I was visiting a friend during the summer of 1985 who refused to spend money to see a cartoon, and since he was my ride everywhere, guess what we never went to see? By the time I got back to the small, isolated Oklahoma town where my dad was stationed, I'd missed its brief theatrical run.

Mote the article is one year early on the release date for Pinocchio, The Fox and the Hound, and The Black Cauldron,. I understand the two films that were then in production taking longer to finish than planned, but Pinocchio had wrapped 38 years earlier. In know the resources we have today weren't available yet, but a look at Christopher Finch's The Art of Walt Disney (1973 & 1975) or even the polemic The Disney Version (1968) would have at least gotten the date right.

Interesting to note the heavy press that non-Disney animated films were getting at the time. While Disney's own output in that era is not their best work, I've never been terribly excited about Bashki's version of The Lord of the Rings for a variety of reasons (too much rotoscoping, cutting out the last third of the story, etc.). Been 35 years since I've seen Watership Down, but I remember being disappointed. Probably should see it again before starting the new Netflix animated series.

I dig that plaid upholstery on the Challenger. It looks uncannily like my kids' old car seats.

I took a Sitmar cruise myself in '83 on the TSS Fairwind. My mother was a travel agent at the time, and she managed to set up an awesome, 10-day trip for our family of four at what had to have been a very reasonable price. It was an interesting experience cruising the Caribbean aboard a Liberian-flagged, remodeled 1950's trans-Atlantic liner with American passengers, an Italian crew, and a White Russian owner.

Great post!

Nic Kramer said...

Am I the only one that gets tired of Epcot today bashing? It gets irritating after a long while. There's some hope someday the marketing of today gets kick out. Maybe in the very distant future but I can dream it.

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, I'm glad that you enjoyed reading these articles. I know exactly what you mean about the articles that are written today being mostly "fluff." It also frustrates me today, when I read articles in magazines, newspapers or online, that have so many mistakes....not just misinformation, but also mistakes in grammar, missing words, repeated words, typos, etc. I have to ask myself every time, who is editing this stuff? Maybe nobody? Maybe it's just up to the writers to do the best they can and nobody proof reads it?

I also remember seeing "Pinocchio" at that re-release, along with the new animated short, "The Small One." I saw "The Black Cauldron" when it came out, but I don't remember very much about it. I don't remember being very impressed. I did buy it when it was released on VHS back in 1998, but I never even took the shrink wrap off of it! I've heard that it has since been released on DVD.

I also haven't seen "Watership Down" since it was released in theaters. I don't remember being very impressed with it either. Maybe it was just the subject matter that I didn't care for. And I had no idea that it was going to be a new animated Netflix series!

That's interesting that you also went on a Sitmar cruise with your family, before the company was sold. I remember at the time that I sailed with them, they only had three ships. You are right about the "Fairwind" being from the 1950's. The same goes for the "Fairsea." The "Fairsky" was a newer ship, built in 1984, so it was only one year old when we sailed on it. All three ships have since been scrapped. Sitmar built one more ship, the FairMajesty, in 1988, right before they sold to Princess Cruises. Actually, I'm not even sure if it was finished at the time of the sale. That ship appears to still be operating and owned by Princess Cruises.

TokyoMagic! said...

Nic Kramer, I do still like EPCOT, or parts of it anyway. I have wondered if we could ever possibly see a return to it's original vision (as a theme park, not Walt's original vision). Considering my age and the rate at which they have been taking out classic attractions and replacing or adding only I.P. based attractions, I don't think I am ever going to see that happen in my lifetime. I think it's great that you can dream about that! I used to do the same thing, about the condition of Disneyland. It just gets harder and harder to keep "hoping" after many years of witnessing the ruination of the park.

I do appreciate you commenting on my post and I hope that you will continue to do so in the future! Thank you!

Chuck said...

"The Park is gone." - Rolly Crump, 2018. But our memories are not, and I still have hope. I have yet to visit Cars Land, and I've read nothing but good things about it. And maybe Wookiee World will be amazing. Still, even if it is, we've lost so much to get it...

I remember Sitmar proudly announcing the upcoming Fairsky on our cruise. My dad and I joked about the pronunciation; since it was owned by a Russian, we were speculating that it should be pronounced "fair ski" instead of "fair sky."

I've been on three cruises, and the Sitmar one was my favorite by far. They had a great youth program (I was 14) and I made a good friend (from SoCal - San Bernardino, if I remember right) on that trip. It was also fascinating to see everything that was still there on the Fairsea from its days in the trans-Atlantic trade. The movie theater was huge - it even had a balcony. And unlike the other two ships I was on that had video projectors in their small theaters, they actually projected films, and not just new stuff. I remember catching a matinee showing of The Magnificent Seven, where my friend John (who had never seen it) and I had the whole theater to ourselves. Sad to think it's gone.

I know what you mean about proofreading (although I just realized I had an egregious misspelling in my comment above). I spent a year as a colonel's military secretary, and it was amazing how much written material came up from the six squadrons that had typos or muddy syntax in them.

I followed that assignment with three years of teaching AFROTC cadets communications, and some of them were so poor at writing I had a hard time understanding how they had previously passed university English courses. My worst nemesis was the Microsoft Random Comma Generator; I had students whose understanding of punctuation was so poor that they just blindly accepted every comma that MS Word suggested. I would get, sentences like, this, one, and they had trouble understanding, why I would mark it, with, red, ink.

Watership Down is such a wonderful book that I'm not sure any film adaptation can do it justice. I only read it once in college (I borrowed it from my grandmother), but I still occasionally use lapine words (hrududu, hraka) that I picked up from the book.

K. Martinez said...

That was an interesting read.

There's something about Disneyland and Walt Disney World that is like the town of Stepford. I have always loved the Disney parks, but even with the admiration I have for them, there has always been that undertone of creepiness in the back of my mind. In world so “perfect” and sterile, there's got to be something wrong.

To me, EPCOT Center as it was imagined for 1982 was a theme park filled with corporate propaganda espousing solutions through industry and technology (usually their own). Nothing is showcased to suggest political or social solutions to a better life. What about the vast urban wastelands that infect our cities? How are we going to include the poor into our vision of the future as presented here? Of course, with the hefty admission price, the poor aren't their audience. It all seemed to say that with a large screen TV and automatic appliances the future will be better. Is it?

I was one of those fortunate enough to visit EPCOT Center in its first six months of operation. It was an interesting place for sure, but it wasn't the "infotainment" that turned me on. I've always viewed corporate education with a suspicious eye. What I loved about EPCOT Center was the grandeur of the pavilions and showmanship that went into it. The way they transported guests through the various Future World pavilions, like Universe of Energy's "moving theater" seats that transported guests through large multi-screen presentations and gargantuan A.A. dinosaurs or the way guests were transported through interior farms for growing food supplies. It was pure spectacle. A world full of omnimovers and multi-media displays. And finally, the best of all, there were a vast amount of audio animatronics that were present in the original EPCOT pavilions like never before in a Disney theme park. That's what I loved about EPCOT Center when I visited in those early years, the grandeur of it all in true Disney showmanship at the time.

There's a reason that Epcot as it is now is moving away from infotainment. Disney is no longer able to secure sponsors for their pavilions like they used to. That is why now Disney corporate views their pavilions at Epcot as promotion for Disney, Pixar and Marvel. With less corporate and government sponsorship, Disney has to get a return somehow for investment and maintenance of an attraction and that is through promoting their own product. That is why you’re seeing “The Three Caballeros” in the Mexico pavilion, “Frozen” in the Norway pavilion and “Ratatouille” in the France pavilion. And there’s more to come. It’s the same with Future World in which they’ve already incorporated “Finding Nemo” into the old Living Seas pavilion and now “Guardians of the Galaxy” replacing Universe of Energy. Disney is now the corporate “sponsor” of their pavilions at Epcot so to speak. Corporations feel they get more bang for their buck on the internet when it comes to promoting their product and mission, so Disney is having a harder time attracting them to pay the large sums of money required to become a corporate sponsor.

It’s too bad Walt Disney didn’t live long enough to get his original vision of E.P.C.O.T. (the city) off the ground as I truly believe it could’ve been done and was achievable if more time, planning and research development was invested. The Disney heirs took the less risky and easy way out by doing what they already knew how to do, building another theme park.

Anyway, that’s just my worthless two cents. I really loved your post. It really got me to thinking and that’s a good thing as Martha would say.

Thank, TM!.

K. Martinez said...

TM!, here's a video from YT titled "A Defense for IPCOT". It kind of touches on what I was talking about.

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck......Ha, ha! Yeah, the park is gone! I also like Rolly's other quote from that same L.A. Times article; "Fall in love with Disneyland, and Disneyland can break your heart!"

I do have to say that I like Carsland. However, we didn't lose very much in exchange for it. As you mentioned, we've lost so much to get Wookie World/Ewok Alley. It's hard for me to get past the destruction that was done to that corner of the park.

Ha, ha...."Fair Ski!" I love that. It reminds me of a poster that I saw in a shop on Hollywood Blvd, back in the nineties. It was a picture of Gorbachev smiling and the caption said, "Don't Vorry, Be Hapski!"

The Fairsea sounds incredible. I would love to have sailed on an old vintage luxury liner. Have you been aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA? Of course, that ship would be even older than the Fairsea.

I don't count typos or errors that people make when leaving comments on the blogs. I have made mistakes in writing my comments, which I have not caught until after I clicked on "Publish." I just don't want to see that kind of thing in a professional article in a newspaper or magazine that I have paid money for. And it's becoming more and more common these days. It just seems lazy.

Gee, don't, they, teach, punctuation, in, school, anymore? Again, I am guilty of some punctuation mistakes, but I will often catch them after the fact.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I do wish Walt's actual vision for EPCOT had been realized. Sorry Disney, but Celebration, Florida doesn't even come close!

Thanks for that link. I hate to admit it, but it does make a little more sense to me now. If Disney is having trouble getting sponsors for the attractions and pavilions, then I guess their only other option is "to be their own sponsor," so to speak. I guess they have to benefit from it somehow, just as the corporations that used to pay to sponsor an attraction or pavilion, expected to get some kind of return for their investment.

Nic Kramer said...

Well, I'm trying not to go to "The Age of Not Believing" like some people. There is too much pessimistic today and it's a shame it happen in this blog.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm so late, I'll just comment on the Bakshi LOTR. Didn't hate it, especially since it was the only way that story would be brought to the screen with the technology of that era. Since surpassed, of course, and there were animated features I liked better. I recall the music as being pretty good. I know I had the album, but I don't think I kept it. The poster looks like it should have been called "Lord of the Sword", but whatever.

Also, can confirm, the first cell phones ran around $3000-$4000, had some clients in that era who bought the first ones so they could drive around LA making deals in their cars in traffic.

Also, around this time, a big part of my work was designing custom cabinet work entertainment centers for our high-octane LA clientele residences. We always had to ask if they had Betamax or the other format VCR since the Betamax all were top-loading and required extra clearance or a pull-out drawer, while the other kind were front-loading and the shelves could be closer together.

Later still, after the front-load kind took over, it became a joke that the Bel-Air neighborhood CCR's required homeowners to have only front-load VCRs since the top-loaders were crass.

Guess you had to be there.

Thank you Tokyo, very enjoyable look back.


TokyoMagic! said...

JG, I never saw the animated LOTR. You are right about that poster. It totally looks like it's "all about the sword."

Can you imagine paying that much for a cell phone? I didn't get one until the nineties and I think the phone was offered free with a one year service contract from L.A. Cellular.....or was it AirTouch? Whichever one I had, it was eventually bought out by Verizon Wireless.

And my family didn't get a VCR until 1984. It was a VHS format, with front loading, but it had a "wired" remote (with a very long wire), which we rarely used. I remember my mom chose that over wireless because it was cheaper, plus she felt that we weren't so lazy that we couldn't just get up, walk over to the machine, and push "play, rewind, fast forward, etc." I remember that the model without the wireless remote, still cost more than $400!

Peppermint Snowdrift said...


Awesome look at the Disney process. Thanks. History is fascinating!

Peppermint Snowdrift

TokyoMagic! said...

Peppermint Snowdrift, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for checking out my blog!