Saturday, January 31, 2015

Walt Disney World Carousel

Last week I was going through the scans that I had made of my friend Rol Summit's personal Viewmaster photos. Rol and his wife Jo are well-known collectors and restorers of antique carousel animals - not just horses either. Sea monsters, tigers, dragons, giraffes, ostriches, lions… you name it. Maybe I'll show some of his photos of those, at some point.

Among the pictures was a series of reels taken during Rol's visit to Arrow Dynamics in Mountain View, California… sometime around 1970-ish (I would assume). Disneyland die-hards will recognize the name "Arrow Dynamics" as the company that was so key in the design and construction of many classic attractions, including the Matterhorn Bobsleds (and its revolutionary tubular steel track), the various dark rides, and elements of Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo's Flying Elephants, Casey Jr., It's a Small World, and much more.

Rol's reason for visiting Arrow Dynamics was because they were in the midst of working on what would become "Cinderella's Golden Carrousel" at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Which is pretty cool!

The 90-horse ride was built using elements from a 1917 carrousel manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company that had been in Olympic Park (New Jersey). 

In most of these photos, the horses are pretty far along in their restoration. They've been cleaned and patched and wear gleaming coats of white paint. 

Look at this beauty! The level of craftsmanship on these vintage carrousels is just astonishing. Colorful paint and gold leaf are yet to come.

The horses are stampeding! One of the shelves behind these horses is labeled "ANTIQUE CAR"; Arrow built many Antique Car rides for parks all over the country, including one for the New York World's Fair. I wish I could read those other labels. Actually, I wish I could read.

Here's an interesting photo of one of the armored horses, completely stripped down to the bare wood. In the background to our left is what appears to be the back end of a "Grand Prix Raceway" vehicle!

I love this fantastic detail of an American Indian's profile, looking noble and proud.

There were over 30 photos, so I chose what I considered to be some of the best (some were not that great). I was very excited to get a glimpse into the early stages of the construction of what is now a classic ride. (In 2010, the name was changed to Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. Whatever!).

Many thanks to Rol Summit for letting me share some of his personal photos!

(If anybody out there knows Rol, please let me know if he's OK… I haven't been able to reach him for months. Fingers crossed).

Friday, January 30, 2015

Main Street, July 1958

Here are two more images from a series of beautiful slides from 1958! The color and clarity are great.

Here's a nice portrait of the Main Street Cinema. I remember camping out for three days to see The Empire Strikes Back here. But when I got inside, it was a bunch of silent black-and-white movies. Hey, what gives?! Did I mention that I camped out in my parent's back yard? It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Suave Ronald Colman stars in "Lady Windermere's Fan"… I assume Lady Windermere played baseball, and had to deal with a lot of crazy fans. I love a good baseball movie! 

But for reals, "Lady Windermere's Fan" was released in 1925, and Ronald Colman played a character named "Lord Darlington", which is a silly name if I ever heard one. IMDB's plot summary sounds fairly dreary to me, but users give it 7.6 stars (out of 10), which isn't bad. 

Notice the light post sign for the Columbia.

A sidewalk sign advertises a 1914 movie called "The Plumber", starring Charlie Murray, who acted in 283 films (!!), including many silent comedies; his career continued as talkies took over. He passed away in 1941.

Next we get a nice look down East Center Street, with the Gibson Greeting Cards store on the corner. It's so empty! Folks could not be persuaded to stroll down that cul-de -sac.

Zooming in a bit gives us a better look at Swift's "red wagon". Down at the end of the street is the Pen Shop and Coin Shop.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cascade Peak, August 1961

It's only been 3 days since our last sighting of the li'l yellow Mine Train, but I am happy to see it any time. It looks like a Marx wind-up toy chugging past a paper mache mountain, with a plastic waterfall and trees made of dyed-green sponge and wire.

This is the toy train I'm thinking of!

Meanwhile, Chief Wavy is doing what he does best. Waving! He also hums 60's French pop songs, but you usually can't hear that unless you are right up close.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Black and White Snapshots

Color is overrated! It's so confusing. Cobalt blue! Viridian green! HELIOTROPE! It's too much, I tells ya. Why do you think all the kids are twerking? Color, that's why. In order to make a difference, I am sharing some calming, old-fashioned black and white snapshots. But I'm not a hero! I'm just an ordinary Joe who loves his country. 

I love this first one for several reasons… first, I always love seeing the Tomorrowland Spaceman. He doesn't really fit in today's version of the land, but there's a part of me that would still enjoy seeing him (and the Space Girl) back, shaking hands and posing for photos. Second, the kids looking up at the Spaceman (with their fun/weird conical hats) are so entranced. Even the toddler in the stroller is trying to figure out who this strange character is! Don't you wish you could hear what the little girl and the Spaceman were saying to each other? Noticing the tiny jet pack on his back, I can't help imagining him taking off into the sky, Superman-style!

I can't say I approve of roly-coasters; in my day, we sat in chairs, and we liked it! At least this kid had the smarts to take off his glasses so that they didn't go flying and kill a nun or something. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

GDB Classics!

It's time for more repeats/classics… favorites of mine that deserve another look.

This photo (first posted in 2008) sure has some intense color - it resembles the saturated hues that one might have seen in a vintage guidebook. This cool aerial view of Fantasyland circa June, 1960 (taken from the Skyway, or maybe - less likely - the Matterhorn bobsleds) shows fun details including the Disneyland Railroad stopped at Fantasyland Station, the Midget Autopia, the Alice in Wonderland ride, Storybook Land, and more. That rather large area of trees and plants, right in the lower middle of the photo, is also something I'm not sure I've really noticed before.

Now we go to a photo from April of 1962 (originally posted in 2007), taken next to the Alice ride. There's mom, looking nice in her aqua sweater, while her three kids ride aboard a pink and purple caterpillar vehicle right just to her left. I love all of the colors and shapes - the Mary Blair leaves, the mushroom, the striped tent of the nearby eatery… so great.

And here's a photo from 1955… sometime within the first month of so of the park's opening. Notice that the Pirate Ship is still being worked on; the paint job is certainly incomplete at this point. That doesn't stop guests from being drawn to it to see what was going on. Who can blame them? I wonder what that giant yellow and blue drum was doing there? 

I hope you have enjoyed these GDB classics!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Frontierland, September 1976

One of my favorite things from all of Frontierland (past or present) was the sight of the little Mine Train as it passed Cascade Peak along the Rivers of America. And one of my favorite sense-memories is of being on the train, passing that very waterfall, and hearing the roar of the water and the cool spray on my face. It's funny that such a little thing would make such a lasting impression, but… there it is. I love the milky look of the river, somehow it feels more "real" than the blue-green water of today.

And here's a lovely shot of the Mark Twain, with bicentennial bunting in place (it IS 1976, after all). I can almost hear the banjo music.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship, August 1961

The ol' Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship (aka the "Tuna Boat") was one of my favorite features of old Fantasyland. And it was a favorite of guests too, because I think that about 47 gazillion photos were taken of this fantastic eatery.

I love the Chicken of the Sea mermaid figurehead; but part of me wishes that StarKist Tuna had taken over when CotS stopped sponsoring the restaurant in 1969. A Charlie the Tuna figurehead would have amused me (and probably outraged everyone else)!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

MGM Auction, 1970

Today I decided to share more scans of my friend Rol Summit's personal Viewmaster photos from when he visited the MGM Studio in Culver City back in 1970. The pictures were taken just before the historic auctions in which every prop and costume was sold to the highest bidder. See my previous MGM posts HERE, HERE, and HERE. It still kills me to see all of these artifacts from the studio being sold off.

This first photo is from a room that apparently was full of various styles of bed frames, as well as screens, picture frames, random furniture, and more. Check out this enormous, intricately-carved rococo frame (perhaps for a mirror?)… amazing craftsmanship. I wonder if it was a genuine French antique? The reddish color is odd, perhaps it is a primer in preparation for the application of gold leaf. A giant photo of me would look great in that frame!

I love this beautiful, realistic "miniature" ship, detailed down to the elaborate rigging. Maybe this qualifies as a "bigature"? I'm sure it didn't float, but it looks like it's big enough to take a few passengers out on the water. Presumably this would have been purchased by another studio; as cool as it is, what would anybody else do with it?

Here are more ships and boats of varying styles and from different eras. 

This one is blurry, unfortunately, but I figured it was still worth a look; tons of lamps, tables, chairs, sofas, chandeliers, and other furnishings from decades of moviemaking were up for grabs.

The sheer number of items is astonishing. Here are more ornate mirrors, random paintings, candlesticks, urns, lamps, and so on. Just what you need if you plan on filming an elaborate costumed historical drama.

This one is rather dark, but Rol took another photo of it that turned out better on the next reel that I will share. As you can see, there is a large variety of breastplates, mail, and armor, along with an incongruous "Gee-Bee"-style racing airplane model.

And finally we get another look at some of the incredible costumes that were auctioned off. Half hidden is what must be one of Judy Garland's "Dorothy" dresses. I wonder how many of these gowns wound up in Debbie Reynolds' collection?

OK, I asked the question about Debbie Reynolds, and then decided, for the hell of it, to look at the downloadable catalogs from the Profiles in History auction site. In only minutes, I found a photo of that elegant, ornate red dress just right of center. The catalog says that it was used in the 1938 movie "Marie Antoinette". It wasn't even worn by the star, but by one of the "ladies in waiting"!! It sold in 2011 for $8000.

I'm not 100% sure if that long red gown is the same one that can be seen in the MGM photo (to the left) - but I think it is; it was sold in a lot of four costumes… the lot went for a mere $375.

I hope you have enjoyed these photos from MGM!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pack Mules and Skyway over Holiday Hill

I'm sure that the pioneers of olden days would be surprised that, in the future, children would want to ride mules for fun. Chances are good that many of these suburban kids had never seen a real mule before, much less had the opportunity to ride one. My family always opted for the Mine Train, but I sure wish that I had seen Nature's Wonderland from the gently swaying back of one of the patient, gentle animals.

Lifting kids all day will get you in awesome shape! Notice the little girl with the white cat's-eye shades… she loves her new pal, and he loves her.

I wish this one was a bit sharper, but that's what happens when you take pictures from a moving vehicle. Drunk. In this neat pre-Matterhorn image, our Skyway bucket is heading toward Fantasyland; the highest tower is perched atop Holiday Hill, which is criss-crossed with trails and landscaped with trees and shrubs (and weeds). It's hard to believe that the Matterhorn Bobsleds would open a mere seven months (roughly) after this photo was taken.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Swiss Chalet, Fantasyland - August 1969

(Oops! I messed up my blogger dates, and actually had no post for today; fortunately I could just change the "publish" date on a post that I had ready for next week and post it today. My brain….)

The cheerful little Matterhorn chalet that can be found at the load area for the mountain bobsled ride has not changed very much over the years. As far as I know! How many buildings in Switzerland have bell towers on them, besides churches? Too many, that's how many! Ringing bells = avalanches, so I am against them (even though a lot of angels won't get their wings - tough luck, angels). I can almost hear accordions and yodeling as I look at these photos - because I bumped my head really hard.

You can see the track to our left where the bobsleds would splash down, which is super cool. We need more roller coasters that splash down. Originally Walt Disney wanted the bobsleds to actually slide down icy slopes, which turned out to be impractical (and probably super dangerous), but I wish they had figured out a way to make that work.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Pair From August, 1960

Sometimes I enjoy pictures of the people at Disneyland almost as much as the pictures of the park itself.   Gramps has his fedora tilted at a saucy angle, making him a cool customer. He has a "farmer's tan", just like my grandpa did. Grandma looks adoringly at him… it's fun to imagine what these  two looked like in their younger, wilder (?) days.

Monstro was captured in mid-blink, which makes it look as if he is yawning. Eating boats all day is tedious work. I like the way so many people have gravitated to the rocks, either to rest their weary feet, or to take a closer look at Monstro himself.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Nature's Wonderland" Views, August 1969

This first one is not beautiful, but it IS unusual in that it provides a rare detail from the "Beaver Valley" section of Nature's Wonderland (notice the beaver in the water, swimming away from us). Mr. Beaver needs to switch to a non-sudsing detergent. A fun detail is the bullfrogs on the logs… I wonder if passengers on the Mine Trains could hear the frogs croaking?

Over in Bear Country, we see those soggy old bears again. I've always wondered how they managed protect the mechanisms inside the bears from the constant exposure to water. I'll bet there were times when they didn't move… but a static bear worked almost as well. In the foreground we see the concentric ripples left behind by a leaping trout.

Other bears relax on shore, presumably full of fish and ready for a nap. I guess the light-brown guys are supposed to be cubs? 

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Pair of Instamatics

Oh man, do I love this first vintage Instamatic! It's a gorgeous shot of Cascade Peak on a clear, sunny day; A Mine Train passes by (hooray!)… I miss that ride so much. And we even get a canoe full of explorers passing in the opposite direction. 

Just for fun I tried to do a "tilt-shift" version to see if it would look like a photo of a miniature model. It didn't work that great IMO… I think tilt-shifts generally work better when the original photo is taken from an elevated perspective.

This next one is nice too, featuring an Omnibus parked at the curb in front of Main Street Station. Everything is bathed in a sort of rosy hue, making the scene feel warm and nostalgic.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Views of Tom Sawyer Island, 1956

This morning I was scrolling through my recent scans, and found two photos of Tom Sawer Island, both taken in 1956, from almost the same exact angle, but taken by two different photographers. I thought it might be fun to play "compare and contrast", but other than the angle of the sun, they're so darn similar there isn't much that's different.

This first one is the nicer of the two, with a blue sky, and the pea-soup green water that is reminiscent of a big ol' muddy river. Tom Sawyer Island didn't open until June of 1956, and although photos can be deceiving, this one sure has a summer feel to it.

This next one has a harsher look, with the sun more to the west. The trees look the same as in photo #1, almost down to the very leaf. I counted! As before, a raft awaits guests who are ready to head back to the mainland. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Catalina, California - 1958

Let's go to Santa Catalina Island (or just "Catalina" to her friends)! It is one of the Channel Island of California, and is located about 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles - a mere half hour by ferry. The island itself is about 22 miles long and 8 miles across, and Mount Orizaba is its highest point at 2,097 feet. 

I love this first shot of the steamship "SS Catalina", also known as "The Great White Steamer". From 1924 until 1975, it carried passengers to and from the island; the Steamship Historical Society of America says that the Catalina has carried more passengers than ANY other vehicle anywhere - an estimated 25 million people. (I have to wonder if the Disneyland Railroad has carried more, but maybe amusement park rides don't count). It also served as a troop transport during WWII. In its later years it fell victim to neglect, and was finally scrapped in 2009.

Here's another shot showing the SS Catalina moored in the harbor of Avalon, the island's only incorporated city (with a population under 4000). A trip to the island is almost like a little trip to Europe, only everyone speaks Yankee! It didn't really become a tourist destination until chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. developed it starting in the 1920's. Wrigley also owned the Chicago Cubs, who used the island for spring training until 1951.

The most recognizable building is the Casino, built in 1928. Wikipedia sez: "With a height equal to a 12-story building, it was built to serve as a theatre on the main floor and a ballroom and promenade on the upper level. Movie studio tycoons such a Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer, and Samuel Goldwyn frequently came by yacht to the Casino to preview their newest cinema productions. It also serves as the island's civil defense shelter, large enough to accommodate Catalina's entire year-round population. Within its walls is stored enough food and water for all Avalon's residents for two weeks". 

I mostly remember the famous glass-bottom boat tours, as well as night excursions in which the lovable flying fishes could be induced to soar when a brilliant searchlight was aimed at the water. This photo amazed me, since similar diving bell attractions could be found at the Long Beach Pike and Pacific Ocean Park. I never knew that one could be found on Catalina! Assuming that this one worked the same as the others, guests would be lowered under water, and then the diving bell would be allowed to pop up like a cork.

I have more vintage Catalina photos to share… I hope you have enjoyed your visit!