In the early days, DISNEYLAND would be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during the off-season. Even when the park was open, it would often close at 6PM. As a result, the DISNEYLAND Hotel would find it difficult to fill rooms when DISNEYLAND Park was closed. Hotel operator Jack Wrather decided to bulk up his hotel’s amenities to make it a destination in itself.
So the DISNEYLAND Hotel had its own golf course…
And its own miniature golf course…
Plus a helicopter service offering round trips to locations throughout the Southland…
There would be scenic marinas…
And dancing waters…
Did you drive your car to the Magic Kingdom? Why not fill up conveniently on the premises?
As the resort expanded, the extensive on premises amenities were no longer seen as being necessary. With a new theme park and entertainment district, there was much more to do outside the hotel.
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In the mid-1980’s, Walt Disney Productions was staging a comeback. Stuck in a deep hole caused by the initial failure and high costs of Epcot Center, the company’s new management was looking for some quick and easy wins while it sought to rebuild the company’s storied animation unit under Roy E. Disney. The company’s attentions turned to television, where the company had been largely absent since launching The Disney Channel. CBS was looking for animated content and Hasbro was looking for the next big toy. Thus Disney decided to, for the first time, create characters with an eye towards merchandising. Previously, the company would create characters independently and bring in marketers and merchandisers after the fact. This time, Hasbro would be involved in the design and creation of the characters from the beginning of the project.
The world of the Wuzzles was designed to be on trend and to produce a multitude of merchandise, including books, toys, plush, albums and more. The toys and plush would be exclusively marketed by Hasbro, who saw the Wuzzles as a preschool, plush version of the Transformers. The characters were combinations of different animals- a Moose and a seal, a bunny and a hippo, a bee and a lion.
Possibly sensing that these characters were different from those that came before them, The Wuzzles were never as successful as had originally been hoped. The work that went into them would not be in vain, however, as the same teams that worked on the show would go on to produce the company’s famed Disney Afternoon lineup.
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When Walt Disney began arranging his troupe of Mouseketeers, he wanted “real” kids who were not necessarily Hollywood types. So he sent his talent scouts to school recitals and plays to find the Mouseketeers. A vocal group within the studio, however, insisted that the group would need a few seasoned “ringers” who had professional experience- like Darlene Gillespie.
Darlene Gillespie had been groomed since birth to be famous, trained by her parents to sing and dance. They moved from Canada to Los Angeles to allow their daughter to be “discovered”. When she was selected by Walt Disney’s scouts as their ringer, it was preordained that she would become the star of the show. The company hired studio singers to perform on the early Mouseketeer albums, but Darlene would be the one true Mouseketeer to sing on them. The studio had huge hopes for her future.
But kids are an unpredictable bunch. As it turned out, the studio heads were wrong and Walt Disney was right. The kids would crown their own queen of the Mouseketeers and it would not be the ringer, but one of the “real” kids who would find herself on top- Annette Funicello.
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