Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Number 17 of 50

So, what exactly did the general public know of Walt Disney in say, 1935? This cigarette card premium, distributed by Mitchell's Cigarettes provided a brief but interesting biography, with a special emphasis on the cartoon-maker's estimated annual income. Here is the full text of the card:

Walt Disney, the famous inventor of "Mickey Mouse" and "Silly Symphonies" and one of the most original geniuses of the screen, is a slender, athletic yound man of 34. In 1935, when he paid his first visit to Europe since he drove an ambulance with the American Expeditionary Force in the Great War, the League of Nations International Film Committee awarded him a special medal for his original and distinctive work. In 1920, he was working as a hack artist at £5 a week; today his income, thanks to"Mickey Mouse" and the Symphonies, is reputed to be £80,000 a year. It is estimated that these famous films have already earned the hugh sum of £28,000,000.

The financial translation: $7 a week; $113, 600 a year and the huge sum of $39,760,000.

Cigarette cards were a favorite collectible throughout the early decades of the 20th century. According to the NYPL Online Collections:

Cigarette or tobacco cards began in the mid-19th century as premiums, enclosed in product packaging. They were usually issued in numbered series of twenty-five, fifty, or larger runs to be collected, spurring subsequent purchases of the same brand. Typically, these small cards feature illustrations on one side with related information and advertising text on the other. The height of cigarette card popularity occurred in the early decades of the 20th century, when tobacco companies around the world issued card sets in an encyclopedic range of subjects. After a slump during the First World War, popularity resumed, with new emphasis on film stars, sports, and military topics. Plants, animals, and monuments of the world remained perennially favorite themes. The appeal of contemporary cigarette cards fell by the 1950s, ceasing their production and distribution.

Walt and Mickey Mouse were together featured in an earlier cigarette card distributed by Wills's Cigarettes in 1931.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mickey Plays Paderewski

The popular culture that found its way into the earliest of Mickey Mouse cartoons has often become lost and obscure to contemporary audiences. Such is certainly the case with the 1929 short The Opry House. When Mickey proceeds to entertain the crowd with a piano solo, he is sporting an extreme hair style that he proceeds to brush back in an exaggerated sweep of the hand. This was in fact, not a generic gag. In their book, The Hand Behind the Mouse, authors Leslie Iwerks and John Kenworthy confirm that Ub Iwerks was using Mickey to caricature the then quite famous pianist, composer and Polish politician Ignacy Paderewski.

Paderewski was world renown throughout much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He toured America extensively during the 1920s, and the reference was undoubtedly not lost on those viewing The Opry House during its 1929 release.

Though Minnie Mouse did not appear per se in The Opry House, she is represented on a poster for the Yankee Doodle Girls. This was a popular vaudeville act throughout the first few decades of the century. A young Charlie Chaplin enjoyed a brief romance with one Hetty Kelly, a member of a Yankee Doodle Girls song and dance troupe back during the summer of 1908.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Final Issue of the Adventurers Almanac

Editor's Note: 2719 Hyperion is very excited and pleased to welcome Jim Korkis to our family of contributors. Jim is one of the best known and foremost scholars of Disney history in the world today. He has a spent a great deal of time over the past year chronicling the history of Walt Disney World's Adventurers Club. Today he shares with 2719 Hyperion readers the fruits of some of those efforts.

Special to 2719 Hyperion by Jim Korkis

Amazingly, the Adventurers Club still survives. While it officially closed the last week of September 2008, it unofficially remained open until the end of January to honor the previous bookings of various convention groups. However, by February 2009, the location was to be gutted and eventually leveled.

That has not happened and the Club in fact still hosts various groups. During the last week of September 2009, a year after the official closing, a group called ConGaloosh (www.congaloosh.org) will be having a three day convention to celebrate the legacy of the Adventurers Club.

There are still many untold tales of the Adventurers Club and 2719 Hyperion has shared some excerpts from the Adventurers Almanac, a four page newsletter published irregularly during the first few years the club was open. The format was inspired by an actual turn of the century newsletter entitled Adventurer’s Club Newsletter. It was distributed at the club itself, but was also available through the mail. Its purpose was not just to enlarge and perpetuate the stories behind the club but to attract new visitors.

To this end, the issues would sometimes feature coupons for an invitation to a General Membership Meeting that included a complimentary buffet and drink specials. The newsletter was also to support the Adventurers Club Membership. An Associate Level membership came with a drink coupon and official Club membership badge; the Presidential Level came with a canteen or mug and the official Club membership badge.

Jeff has shared numerous samples from the newsletter in the past via the 2719 Hyperion Department category Adventurers Almanac.

While some of the articles were credited to the characters from the Adventurers Club canon, such as Pamelia Perkins and Hathaway Browne, they were actually written by a mixture of staff members including Show Director Chris Oyen and Stage Manager Reed Jones along with performers Paula Pell, Kristian Truelsen. and Phil Card.

Unfortunately, the newsletter’s purpose of driving new attendance was not successful and since the magazine was costing time, labor and money, it disappeared quietly and quickly even though another issue was in the early stages of preparation.

Jeff Pepper is one of less than a half dozen people that I know of who have a complete collection of the Adventurers Almanac. However, even he does not have the samples from that final never published issue. So, in the interests of Disney history, here are some of the “filler” blurbs that had been written to appear in that issue.

I also discovered that the public domain photos that appeared in the Almanac were drawn from the coffee table book: America’s Yesterdays: Images of our Lost Past Discovered in the Photographic Archives of the Library of Congress by Oliver Ormerod Jensen (Scribner 1978) and depicted photos of family life, Americans at work, people relaxing and much, much more. So, in addition to the blurbs, I have indicated what photo would be included with the blurb. I believe these blurbs were probably written by Show Director Chris Oyen.

ANGLING WITH OTIS. (Picture of woman between two fish, page 310, “America’s Yesterdays”) Adventurer Dame Veronica Schnorr sends us this picture from a recent deep sea fishing expedition. She claims that she corralled these two denizens of the deep with the greatest of ease. “They were traveling as a couple, so I merely stuck my pole in one’s mouth and, while the other wasn’t looking, I beat him senseless with my hat.” Dame Schnorr claims that it won’t end here. “I’m going after really big ones next, and these will do nicely as bait.”

QUIMBY SAFE FOR NOW (Picture of man in rowboat, surrounded by women, page 207) Dear Fellow Members, Don’t despair, old Quimby still survives! I have been taken captive by a tribe of crazed affection-starved females, while I was on fishing expedition in the Everglades. I have a plan and hope to be escaping soon. Keep the home-fires burning! Yours Truly, Quimby Farmith III. Although this does explain his sudden, mysterious disappearance, we can only hope that it puts an end to all those nasty rumors about Quimby and the apparent embezzlement from the Farmith family’s trust fund. Chin up, Quimby! We’ll keep a candle in the window.

PUT ON A HAPPY FACE. (Picture of four people, with titles, page 64) To be a true Adventurer sometimes requires guile and deception. The Chariman of the Disguise Committee, Count Alex Wirth-Mordanue, sends us a composite of some of his most resourceful regalia. Adventurers the world over have always admired Wirth-Mordanue’s vast array of identities. Writes the crafty Count, “It’s not the disguise; it’s how you put it on.”

IT”S A LITTLE DRAFTY. (Picture of man in front of a collapsed building, page 86) member of the Club’s Experimental Engineering Committee, Brad “Boom-Boom” Birkholz remains undaunted. Shown here, in front of a failed experiment for his upcoming treatise, “Remodeling Through Creative Pyrotechnics”, the plucky Brad was overheard saying merely, “What can I say? Oops?” A model of resolve we can all take to heart.

CAMP GRUMP (Picture of surveyors, page 53) The Society of Unsmiling Men send us this photo of their recent wilderness outing. “To keep from smiling,” says Society president, Clive Pilesmoore, “all you need is an extremely uncomfortable place to sit, an unsmiling pet, and some long, sharp sticks to keep away the occasional prankster.” The group holds the current worlds record by not smiling for three years, two months and five days. We are unsure whether this constitutes an adventure or, simply a very bad attitude.

INTERNAL COMBUSTION (Picture of car with broken axle, page 93). Our encouragement should go out to Transportation Committee member Alfonso Laslo. We all know how convinced he was that he could develop a motor completely powered exclusively by refried beans. Shown here is the aftermath of the first, and possibly last, attempt at harnessing that elusive power source. As you can see in the background, “Axle Al” is walking away from the scene. He was heard muttering, “I tried. Somebody else can clean it up.” A kind word or two, the next time Alfonso is in the Club, wouldn’t hurt.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pana-Vue Slide: The Orange Bird

The Orange Bird is quintessential 1970s-era Walt Disney World. Famous beyond the Vacation Kingdom as an advertising icon of the Florida Citrus Growers, the "little Orange Bird" was a fixture of Adventure during the Magic Kingdom's first decade, residing at the Sunshine Tree Terrace. Pana-Vue Slide WDW-204A was part of the Adventureland set and featured the caption Orange Bird at Sunshine Tree.

Explore the 2719 Hyperion Archives:

Souvenirs: The Story and Songs of the Orange Bird
Desktop Retro: The Orange Bird

Explore Passport to Dreams Old and New:

Oh, Little Orange Bird . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Legacy of the Little Ranger

In interviews, director Jack Hannah referred to him as the “Little Ranger.” Introduced primarily as a supporting player, he comically traded pratfalls with the more cantankerous Donald Duck and the ever goofy Humphrey Bear. A relatively small fish in the then shrinking small pond of 1950s animated short features, Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore would prove to be a survivor, and ultimately crossover into other Disney entertainment venues throughout the 1960s and even beyond.

Hannah remembered the origin of the character. "For the sake of something new, we tried the Duck with a bear in Rugged Bear and it seemed like an immediate success for them to play against each other," the director recalled in an interview with Disney historian Jim Korkis. "Later, when we started thinking of another picture for the bear, it seemed natural to be in a National Forest and that's how the Little Ranger came into being."

While not specifically named until his later television appearances, “The Ranger” made his debut in the 1954 cartoon Grin and Bear It. The pear-shaped and overly fastidious character became a counterpoint to the antics of Donald and Humphrey who had already established a relationship of conflict the previous year in Rugged Bear. Grin and Bear It established the setting of Brownstone National Park and clearly tapped into the postwar popularity of the great outdoors as represented by the country’s national parks. In the short, the Ranger tries desperately to contain the chaos perpetrated by the duck and the bear, but very pointedly falls victim to the short’s final gag.

Still without a moniker, the Ranger would find himself relocated to points south later in 1954 in the terrific Cinemascope short Grand Canyonscope. Again, he is caught between tourist Donald and various elements within the famous national landmark. This time it’s the duck’s encounter with a mountain lion that literally brings destruction down upon the Ranger’s otherwise neat and orderly existence.

The Ranger returned to Brownstone in 1955 for the Donald Duck short Beezy Bear, and did not venture beyond its borders in his remaining two appearances in Hooked Bear and In the Bag, both Humphrey Bear cartoons. His penultimate and likely most famous moment came in In the Bag where he cunningly cons the park bears into litter cleanup via a hilarious, and at the same time, catchy dance number. So popular was this song, it inspired a Mickey Mouse Club recording entitled the "Humphrey Hop."

Unfortunately, the Ranger would fall victim to the decline of cartoon shorts that marked the final years of the 1950s. As John Grant noted in his Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters, “Had he come on the scene in 1944 or 1934 rather than 1954 there is little doubt he would have become a major Disney character.”

The novelty of the Ranger and Humphrey was likely not lost on fellow cartoon moguls Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they would reinvent the pair for television, albeit with distinctly different personalities, in the incarnations of Yogi Bear and Ranger Smith.

Ten years after his last cartoon short appearance, J. Audubon Woodlore was resurrected and finally given his name when Walt Disney introduced him to audiences on the 1966 episode of the Wonderful World of Disney entitled Ranger’s Guide to Nature. Director Ham Luske combined animation and live action footage to put a slightly different spin on the studio’s traditional nature documentaries. Ranger Woodlore effectively became an environmental counterpart to the show's other frequent animated host, Ludwig Von Drake. He would go on to host two additional nature programs, Nature’s Better Built Homes and Nature’s Charter Tours. He also took center stage in the 1968 episode The Ranger of Brownstone, where director Luske seamlessly blended new animation with the existing Donald Duck and Humphrey Bear shorts. Three new musical sequences specifically showcased Brownstone’s fussy caretaker.

The character of the Ranger is most especially distinguished by the terrific voice work provided by Bill Thompson. More famously known as the original voice of Droopy, Thompson voiced numerous other Disney characters including the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, King Hubert from Sleeping Beauty, and Mister Smee from Peter Pan, and later provided the vocals for Hanna Barbera’s Touche Turtle. Jack Hannah fondly remembered working with Thompson. "One of the sequences I remember having having a lot of fun with was when the Duck had a honey farm [in the cartoon Beezy Bear] next to the Ranger's station. The Duck complained that the bears were stealing his honey, so the Little Ranger had them stand up in a police-line fashion. The Little Ranger always treated his bears like family pets. Sometimes I would fill in and do some of Humphrey's grunts."

When Ranger Woodlore returned in episodes of Mickey’s House of Mouse in 2001, Thompson’s original and distinct interpretation of the character was sorely missed.

Ranger Woodlore also successfully moonlighted in the publishing world. Similar to his television shows, he was featured in nature-themed articles in numerous Disney books and publications. If you ever purchased a Disney grocery store encyclopedia or magazine premium back in the day, there was a strong possibility that Ranger Woodlore would appear somewhere within its pages.

Uniquely different from just about all other animated characters of the same era, Ranger Woodlore stands distinctly apart from the rest of the stable of Disney cartoon personalities. His resume may not be terribly extensive, but he has always been a fun and entertaining player in Disney entertainment.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Buena Vista Obscura: The Golf Resort

In this new series for 2719 Hyperion, FoxxFur discusses uncommonly-discussed aspects of Walt Disney World's history.

"Just west of the "seaside" Polynesian Village lies the "tee-side" Golf Resort Hotel."
- Walt Disney World, The First Decade (1982)
Of all the components of Walt Disney World which are not often discussed today, the Golf Resort remains possibly the second most obscure major installation still widely neglected by researchers and historians (the most obscure, the Lake Buena Vista "Resort Community", is so obscure that even I, dear readers, continue to fail to turn up anything significant about it). This off-the-beaten path hotel which did not open its earliest facilities until midyear of 1972, and is essentially a manifestation of an aspect of Walt Disney World which is now all but forgotten, what pre-Eisner Disney called the "Vacation Kingdom".

This arrangement of Walt Disney World emphasized the Magic Kingdom as only the cornerstone of a large entertainment empire which included boating, hiking, shopping, dining - and golfing. Golfing was and still is a leisure activity of a significant portion of the American public, and Disney was ready to respond to them with no less than three courses - the Palm, Magnolia, and Lake Buena Vista courses, all three designed by Joe Lee. The Golf Resort was perched in the middle of the Palm and Magnolia courses, and was expanded out from it's basic country club design by Disney in the planning phases to offer not just a clubhouse, but a "golf kingdom" in the middle of the resort.

Basic in design, the Golf Resort offered a relatively minor 125 rooms in a large, multi-winged two story structure, built of wood and volcanic rock in the style of a country club. The amenities included the Magnolia Room, later the Trophy Room, serving Breakfast buffet from 6:30 am - 11:30 am ($3.25 adults, $1.75 children), lunch from 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, and dinner from 5:30 pm - 10 pm. A large, open room with a high-timbered cathedral ceiling, minimally decorated, included live entertainment from the start. From The World News, 1976:

"Then, [the Trophy Room] ...will roll out the fondue trays until midnight. Late-night diners (minimum of two persons per fondue) will be able to choose from three fondue selections: the Cheese Fondue (a blend of Gruyere and Swiss, spices and Sauternes wines); the Combination Fondue Dinner (cheese fondue appetizer, salad, beef and vegetable fondue); and the Fondue Dessert (a special chocolate fondue with fresh fruit and sponge cake)."

"Entertainment begins each evening at 6:30, and is usually provided by a versatile guitar playing and singing duo called Amos and Charles. Their show is a combination of soft rock, blue grass, country and folk music [sounds promising, right? -FoxxFur]. Often inviting their audience to request a favorite tune, they seldom fail to come up with a rendition of the selected song."

Well, if that doesn't sound too inspiring, then at least the Golf Resort had a neat swimming pool - outside of the Polynesian Village's influential and famous "grotto slide" pool, probably the neatest one at Walt Disney World in the 1970's. Its' location can be observed in the aerial photo above, as can its' most distinct feature - three water-spouting columns in the shallow portion of the pool. Long before Disney was creating beautifully themed pools like Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club or Old Man Island at Dixie Landings, this was a distinct and fun feature of the Golf Resort, as well as indicative of its' relaxed atmosphere.

Outside of the Resorts' snack bar, variously called the Sand Trap or the Diamond Mine, and the large-windowed lounge near the Trophy Room, the Player's Gallery ("The perfect 19th hole!", in the words of a 1978 promotional magazine), the chief remaining component of the Golf Resort - outside of its' golf courses, of course - was the Pro Shop, a state-of-the-art (for its' time) installation. Again from Walt Disney World: The First Decade:

"Guests wishing to strengthen their own golf games may take advantage of the Golf Resort's full-service Pro Shop. One of the services offered through the Pro Shop is the Golf Studio at the Magnolia driving range. This unique instructional program is conducted by pros for golfers of any age and at any playing level. As part of the Golf Studio experience, participants have their swings videotaped for replays and critiques in the Pro Shop."

"The Palm driving range, like the one at the Magnolia, features sand traps to improve aim as well as distance. There are also two putting greens at the resort."

"A special golf tournament for youth was introduced at the Golf Resort in 1977, one year after the first TPA National Junior Championship was held there. Hundreds of youth from age 6 to 17 have competed each year in the Pee Wee International Golf Tournament. In cooperation with the TPA, Walt Disney World opened the 'Wee Links' in 1980 next to the Magnolia Course. [...] The Wee Links were designed with youngsters especially in mind, as a means of teaching golf fundamentals. It is the hope of Walt Disney World that the easy-to-build, low-maintenance course will become a model for communities wishing to establish programs for junior players."
Wee Links still operates under the name "Oak Trail Golf Course", and was designed by Ron Garl. Speaking of golf games at the Golf Resort, the claim to fame of the Palm and Magnolia is still the PGA Tour, which plays its' final game on the Magnolia. Before this event, Jack Nicklaus won the Walt Disney World Open in 1971, 1972, and 1973, which was held before the Golf Resort structure even existed (!).

In 1986, the Golf Resort became the Disney Inn, which featured a mild Snow White theme. In 1994, the property was rented by the Department of Defense and became Shades of Green, which was purchased outright in 1996. Disney no longer owns or operates the hotel, which is managed under the military's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program as an Armed Forces Recreation Center. In 2004, the structure was expanded into a 550+ room affair, although a few traces and some of the structure of the original Golf Resort from its' Disney Inn days remain, including a restaurant called The Garden Gallery, intact (in name at least) since 1986.

Disney continued to open golf properties at Walt Disney World. The Bonnet Creek courses are Eagle Pines and Osprey Ridge near Fort Wilderness, designed by Pete Dye and Tom Fazio. Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland, which comprise four 18-hole miniature golf courses, followed in the mid 1990's.

And finally, a Golf Resort-themed Vacation Package sold by Disney in 1975, for only $154.00 per adult for two adults and $52.00 per child:

Your Golfing Adventure Includes per Person:
- 4 night's accommodation at the Golf Resort Hotel
- 5 days' use of the transportation system (monorails, ferryboats, and motor coaches)
- 36 holes of golf on either Palm or Magnolia course - electric golf cart included
- Walt Disney World Golf Hat (!)
- 1 Magic Kingdom Ticket Book (1 general admission, 8 attractions)
- 1 Walt Disney World Cruise to Treasure Island [Discovery Island - FoxxFur]

Each person receives a coupon good for ONE of the following:
- Golf Resort Hotel Dining.... family dining and atmosphere entertainment
- Pioneer Hall dinner show.... Fort Wilderness' home-style fixins and western entertainment
- Polynesian Luau.... island cuisine, cocktails, and exciting show
- Papeete Bay Verandah dining... elegant South Seas dishes with relaxing entertainment
- Mini speedboat... ride for one hour on Walt Disney World lakes
- Golf... 18 hole play (electric golf cart included)

Each person receives a coupon good for ONE of the following:
- Watercraft... one hour's use of sailboat, Bob-A-Round or Pedal Boat
- Horseback Trail Ride... guided tour along backwoods paths (ages 9 and up, please)
- Moonlight Cruise... romantic cocktail cruise
- 1 Magic Kingdom Ticket Book (1 general admission, 8 attractions)
- Lunch amid scenic surroundings, your choice of: Pioneer Hall, Top of the World, Papeete Bay Verandah, Trophy Room, Liberty Tree Tavern


"1975 Family Vacation Plans", promotional brochure, Walt Disney World Co., 1975
"Disney World Recreation Information", DIS website, http://www.wdwinfo.com/recreation/golf_main.htm, retrieved Feb. 26 2009

"Golf Resort/Disney Inn/Shades of Green", Walt Dated World website, http://waltdatedworld.bravepages.com/id120.htm, retrieved Feb. 26, 2009
"Shades of Green", Wikipedia website, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shades_of_Green, retrieved Feb. 25, 2009
"Walt Disney World", promotional magazine, Walt Disney World Co., 1978

"Walt Disney World, 20 Magical Years", hardcover book, Walt Disney Productions, 1991

"Walt Disney World: the First Decade", hardcover book, Walt Disney Production, 1982
"The World News", Vol. 6 No. 4, ed. Barbara Stuart, April 1976

next time: Captain Cook's Hideaway

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Legacy of 23

What do I like most about the new Disney twenty-three?

That it is, in fact, twenty-three.

It is not D71, nor D55, nor even the most obvious D28. It is D23. It properly acknowledges that the long held mantra, "it all started with a mouse," is not necessarily canon when applied to the life of Walt Disney and the history of the Walt Disney Company.

In 1923, Walt and Roy opened the Disney Brothers Studio in the back of a real estate office on Kingswell Avenue in Los Angeles, just west of Hollywood. It is refreshing and extremely satisfying that the creators of D23 chose this particular moment in time to be the icon of their initiative. They could have easily chosen any one of the many Disney-associated buzzwords such as magic, fantasy, dreams, wonder, or something incorporating the ever popular mouse. But by selecting a somewhat more obscure, but still incredibly significant reference, they demonstrated an appreciation of a heritage that extends far beyond theme parks, teenage pop stars and cross-platform branding. Whether all the various aspects of D23 will live up to this historical legacy is yet to be seen. On a recent conference call with the press, Steven Clark, Dave Smith and Marty Sklar, each claimed that D23 is not just another marketing ploy. Based on those statements, and a very attractive, professionally produced, and content-rich magazine, the signs are very, very encouraging.

Disney fan communities, at least in my very subjective opinion, tend to be be far too compartmentalized. There is an often especially distinct disconnect between theme park enthusiasts and studio and animation students and scholars. Here's hoping that Disney twenty-three will continue to build that much needed bridge of connectivity, and do it with the entertaining flare and educational undercurrent that we have long enjoyed from the Walt Disney Company.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Man in Space: March 9, 1955

The episode Man in Space that aired on March 9, 1955 on the Disneyland television program is significant on so many levels. It began a Disney “futurism franchise” that would extend from television into movie theaters, print media, and ultimately form the very basis of Tomorrowland at Disneyland and later Walt Disney World as well.

Unlike the majority of Disney-produced entertainment from the same time period, Man in Space has not aged well beyond being an interesting time capsule look at the genesis of America’s fascination with, and the ultimate execution of a program of space exploration. Co-written, produced and directed by Ward Kimball, the program would be the first of numerous episodes under the Tomorrowland brand, helmed by Kimball, that focused on space travel and other science-related topics. A shortened version of the show was released theatrically in 1956, and was even nominated for an Academy Award.

Of the Tomorrowland episodes, Kimball once recalled, "Walt had the vision and curiosity to let me make those pictures, but he had to! He had Tomorrowland in the park. He had Fantasyland, True-Life Adventureland, Frontierland, but he had no old material that he could put together on Tomorrowland for the television. It all had to be created for from nothing, and I got that job."

Even with the infusion at times of trademark Ward Kimball wackiness, Man in Space rarely rises above a series of dry lectures by then notable scientific luminaries Willy Ley, Heinz Haber and Wernher von Braun. One particularly bizarre set of contrasting elements is the Haber dissertation on the physical impact of space travel on human beings. While Haber drones on about the problems of weightlessness, the accompanying animated sequence comically portrays a cigar-smoking, martini-drinking astronaut-in-training, experiencing the very trials that Haber is expounding on so seriously.

It can feel at times a long road to the program’s final dramatic and visually dynamic realization of an orbital space mission. Despite, or even perhaps due to the sequence’s limited animation and high contrast images, it is a shining example of the 1950s futurism that became a distinct part of post-war popular culture.

Like the television-theme park hybird that Disneyland essentially was in 1955, Tomorrowland the place and Tomorrowland the program seemed to experience simultaneous development, clearly drawing from the same sources of inspiration. Up until the 1990s re-imagining of the Anaheim, Tokyo and Florida Tomorrowlands into “futures that never were,” (patterned after EuroDisney’s Discoveryland that debuted in 1992), the prior visions of these Magic Kingdoms’ areas were always for the most part rooted in Man in Space and the subsequent space and science themed episodes of the Disney television show. As late as 1993, Walt Disney World guests were still experiencing an incarnation of those early television shows in the form of Mission to Mars, an evolved version of Disneyland’s original Flight to the Moon attraction.

Perhaps the most interesting footnote about Man in Space is the largely unnoticed impact it had on the development of the U.S. space program. President Eisenhower was so impressed with the program, he requested a print of the film to screen for high-ranking Pentagon officials, which was evidently instrumental in kick starting the country’s space initiatives. Many 20th century historians would no doubt bristle over giving acknowledgment to a Hollywood cartoon maker for in anyway potentially inspiring mankind’s initial conquests of space.

Years after the program originally aired, Kimball received a phone call from Wernher von Braun. "When we landed on the moon, he called me long distance and said, 'Well, Ward, they're following our script!' Actually, all his calculations were right on the button."

This is an expansion of a post previously published on 2719 Hyperion in March 2007.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pana-Vue Slide: The Grand Canyon Concourse

As an appropriate follow-up to yesterday's post about the construction of the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World, our next Pana-Vue slide trip back in time takes us to that hotel's famous Grand Canyon Concourse. Slide WDW-803 features a spectacular view of the interior of the resort as it appeared during the 1970s. Mary Blair's now-famous mosiac features prominently in the tableau. The slide's caption: Monorail Glides Thru Concourse.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Socializing with the Social Lion

When the title character from the Walt Disney 1954 cartoon The Social Lion helplessly floundered through the big city, he passed by hidden references to three studio veterans. Two of these individuals can be found in the opening credits of the short itself.

Fergy's Fresh Fillets refers to animator Norm Ferguson. Fergy joined the Disney Studio in 1929 and quickly became one of its most notable and productive animators. He was recruited by Walt to serve as supervising animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and was a major creative force in nearly all of the studio's animated features up until his untimely death in 1957.

The Bushman Reality Co. refers to layout artist Bruce Bushman. Bushman began his career at the studio doing layouts for cartoon shorts. He later served as an art director on the original Mickey Mouse Club series and was a key designer for many of Disneyland's earliest attractions.

Less obvious is the proprietor of M. Tebb Custom Millinery. Mary Tebb was a well known member of the studio's ink and paint department.