Walt Wednesdays: A Day at the Beach

When DISNEYLAND first opened, its most popular attraction was also its least safe and most unreliable- Tomorrowland’s Autopia. Originally, guests were allowed to drive down the Autopia freeway as they wished. They were told not to bump into one another, but the warnings often went unheeded. On opening day, the fleet of 24 cars had been smashed down to just four, though the lines remained extremely long. Even though massive bumpers were added to the cars, problems still arose and Walt went looking for a more permanent solution to the problem.

One of the park’s contractors thought it had a solution. It had installed a car driving attraction at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and it invited Walt Disney to take a tour. Its attraction featured a track down the middle of the road. Despite the existence of the track, the attraction still featured a high boarding capacity, which is what Mr. Disney was looking for.


The tour was a huge success. DISNEYLAND’s Autopia would get a track and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk would become a part of Disney history. 


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Toontown Tuesdays: Pixar?

While many people today seem to view Pixar as being separate from Disney, the companies have seemingly always been tied together, regardless of what Pixar’s promotional machine might have one think. The Walt Disney Company itself has tried to keep Pixar separate in the public’s minds despite having completely acquired Pixar ten years ago.
In the beginning, Pixar was a company that just sold animation software. George Lucas had developed some 3-D software for his own films and decided that he could probably sell that technology to others. The software unit was not really doing all that well, so he hired John Lasseter, who had previously worked at Disney, to make animated shorts to use as examples of what the software could do. Lasseter had trained alongside several of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” animators and had soaked up the Disney way of doing things. He chose to leave the company after it refused to consider using newer technologies to make films. His leadership would borrow heavily from his time at Disney and he began producing shorts that would be entertaining and also sell the software.
When George Lucas began the process of divorcing his wife, he really needed quick cash. Additionally, Pixar proved to be a money pit at the time. When his friend Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple, Lucas was able to convince Jobs to purchase Pixar and use it as a second act; a chance to do something apart from Apple. After taking over the company, Steve realized that the software sales business model would never go anywhere because the biggest animation studio- Disney- had its own technology. He sat down with John Lasseter and told him that Pixar would no longer just sell the software- it would make its own films.
Lasseter knew that this would be a huge undertaking. He also knew that the best way to assure success out of the gate would be to partner with Disney. A deal was drawn up and Disney made its resources available to Pixar. While Pixar had full control of the project, it would use Disney’s connections to get a suitable script, voice talent and distribution. This effectively removed Disney as a competitor. The first planned feature was announced to be Toy Story and Disney put its entire marketing machine behind the film. Pixar was rarely mentioned in most marketing materials and as far as the public knew, this was a Disney film. As shown below, Pixar was barely or not at all featured on the movie posters.

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Mickey Mondays: A Special Date

For most of his life, Mickey Mouse never really had a specific birthdate. The company recognized that he was born in 1928, but often celebrated the event on different days. It seemed like if a local theater owner wanted to celebrate Mickey’s birthday as a way to attract customers, the company was willing to let him do it on any day he wished. Vintage movie ads often featured different dates that were allegedly Mickey’s actual birthday.

As Mickey’s landmark 50th birthday approached in 1978, the company wanted to settle this mystery once and for all. What was Mickey’s actual birthday? The dilemma became increasingly important, as the company sought to heavily promote the event as a way to make money off licensed products and drive attendance to DISNEYLAND and Florida’s Magic Kingdom. The EPCOT Center theme Park was under construction and way over budget, so the celebration would bring much needed cash.


The company turned to company archivist Dave Smith to settle the disputed date. Should Mickey’s “birthday” be the day that he was created on Walt Disney’s fateful train trip to California? Maybe the day that production commenced on Steamboat Willie? The options were seemingly endless.


Dave Smith tracked down all these possible dates as best as he could. Some of the dates were hard to track down. As a result, Mr. Smith decided to present company executives with the one date that was easy to verify and had the least controversy behind it- November 18, 1928. It was the day that Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse’s debut film was premiered at New York’s Colony Theater. Mickey now had an actual birthdate- the day that he changed the world with his groundbreaking cartoon. From 1978, Mickey’s birthday would forevermore be celebrated on November 18th.




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Richard Sherman Birthday Week: “Feed The Birds”

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s

The little old bird woman comes

In her own special way to the people she calls

Come, buy my bags full of crumbs

Come feed the little birds, show them you care

And you’ll be glad if you do

Their young ones are hungry

Their nests are so bare

All it takes is tuppence from you

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,

Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag

“Feed the birds, ” that’s what she cries

While overhead, her birds fill the skies

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles

Look down as she sells her wares.

Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling

Each time someone shows that he cares

Though her words are simple and few

Listen, listen, she’s calling to you

“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag

Though her words are simple and few

Listen, listen, she’s calling to you

“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag

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Richard Sherman Birthday Week: “Let’s Go Fly A Kite!”


With tuppence for paper and strings

You can have your own set of wings

With your feet on the ground

You’re a bird in a flight

With your fist holding tight

To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!

Let’s go fly a kite

Up to the highest height!

Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring

Up through the atmosphere

Up where the air is clear

Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

When you send it flyin’ up there

All at once you’re lighter than air

You can dance on the breeze

Over ‘ouses and trees

With your first ‘olding tight 

To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!

Let’s go fly a kite

Up to the highest height!

Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring

Up through the atmosphere

Up where the air is clear

Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

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DISNEYLAND Attraction #3: The DISNEYLAND Omnibus

When DISNEYLAND was being planned out, Walt Disney wanted to make everything as seemingly authentic as possible. He wanted guests to feel as though they had stepped into a real, though fanciful world. Main Street U.S.A was supposed to feel like a real street where the cast members that guests encountered actually lived. To add more authenticity to his street, he commissioned a fleet of vehicles to transport guests around the land. The highest capacity vehicle was the DISNEYLAND Omnibus.

Designed by Disney Legend Bob Gurr, the vehicles were supposed to add to the ambience of the main entrance into DISNEYLAND. One omnibus was built and installed in 1956, another one year later due to its popularity. When Florida’s Magic Kingdom park opened in 1971, its poor initial attendance led the company to scrap any plans for a bus fleet of its own. When the crowds finally started arriving, the park needed every attraction it could get, so many of DISNEYLAND’s vehicles were “loaned” to the Florida theme park.


While one of the omnibuses was returned to DISNEYLAND, one stayed behind at Florida’s Magic Kingdom Park. When Epcot Center opened in 1982, that omnibus was moved to that park after guests complained about how difficult it was to get around the World Showcase area. Sometime in the late 1980’s, the omnibus at Epcot was removed from daily operation, eventually getting use as a way to get the Disney characters to the various photo opportunities. The Original Omnibus is still in use at DISNEYLAND.


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