Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 28: Test Run For Mickey

On this day in 2003, a test run of Walt Disney World's newest attraction Mickey's PhilharMagic took place in Fantasyland. Located adjacent to Peter Pan's Flight in the Magic Kingdom, it was the 4th attraction to utilize the building. (The theater originally hosted Mickey Mouse Revue back in 1971.)

Mickey's PhilharMagic is a 12-minute long show featuring 3D effects, scents and water as well as Disney film characters. The film is shown on possibly the largest purpose-built seamless 3D screen ever made - with a width of 150 feet and a height of 28 feet! It is unique as it is one of only a few theme park attractions in which Walt Disney Imagineering collaborated with Walt Disney Feature Animation (the two departments had also worked together on Fantasmic!).

At the center of the film is Mickey Mouse performing with his PhilharMagic Orchestra who is interrupted by Donald Duck who has "borrowed" Mickey's sorcerer hat in an attempt to conduct his own magical symphony.

Mickey's PhilharMagic would have a few more runs before its official opening on October 3, 2003.

Click HERE for more August 28 Disney history.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26: Back Home

On this day in 1948, Walt Disney and one of his trusted animators Ward Kimball returned to the Studio after a 10-day trip to the Chicago Railroad Fair and Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. Both train enthusiasts (especially Kimball) they had originally taken The Superchief out of Los Angeles (complete with staterooms next door to one another) to Chicago, Illinois. It was the only vacation Walt ever took with anyone outside of his immediate family.

The much heralded Chicago Railroad Fair in Illinois (which had opened in mid-July) was an event celebrating 100 years of railroad history west of Chicago. Set on the shore of Lake Michigan, the fair featured historic locomotives and as honored guests, Walt and Ward enjoyed several days of running some of the nation's most valuable trains.

"Running that old equipment was equivalent to shaking hands with Thomas Jefferson." -Ward Kimball

The Railroad Fair was broken up into various lands such as Vacationland, an Indian Village, a New Orleans section, and a Gold Gulch (a frontier section) with a haunted house. The fair also featured live shows and nightly fireworks.

Walt and Ward's second stop was in Dearborn, Michigan to experience Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. Featuring four centuries of historic buildings (which had been moved from their original locations), they were laid out in an old fashion Main Street design. Among the impressive buildings on display ... the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop (the birthplace of aviation) and Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratory!

Obviously Walt was greatly influenced by what he had experienced on this 10-day trip.

The Chicago Railroad Fair was a one-time event, but Greenfield Village still exists today!

Click HERE for more August 26 Disney history.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24: Hello Friends

On this day in 1942, Disney's 6th animated feature Saludos Amigos had its world premiere in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The first of what would be six package films made by the studio during the 1940s, the animated film is made up of 4 different segments each beginning with live-action clips of Walt and his staff roaming Latin America.
"Lake Titicaca" (which is a real body of water on the border of Peru and Bolivia) features American tourist Donald Duck. In this segment Donald meets some of the local inhabitants - including a llama.
"Pedro," is the story of a baby airplane from Chile who takes his first flight in order to deliver mail.
"Aquarela do Brasil" features a parrot named José Carioca who teaches Donald Duck how to dance the samba.
The final segment "El Gaucho Goofy" shows American cowboy Goofy learning to become a true South American.
Running at only 42 minutes, Saludos Amigos was the first Disney feature to world premiere outside of the U.S. as American audiences didn't get to see the film until February 1943.

Click HERE for more August 24 Disney history.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14: A Wild & Crazy Disney Legend

On this day in 1945, comedian-actor-director-writer-producer-banjo enthusiast and Disney Legend Steve Martin was born in Waco, Texas. His Disney connection began at the age of 10 ...

... read all about it HERE.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 13: WDW Closes!

On this day in 2004, Walt Disney World closed its theme parks at 1 PM due to Hurricane Charley. It was only the third closing in WDW history.

The second major hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season, Charley had actually first kicked up through the Caribbean Sea five days earlier on August 9. But on the morning of August 13 Charley crossed Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane and then crossed over the Dry Tortugas (a small group of islands at the end of the Florida Keys).

Charley then continued north causing devastating damage in such Florida towns as Punta Gorda, Cleveland, Fort Ogden and Port Charlotte. Ultimately the storm passed through the central and eastern parts of Orlando with over 100 mph winds.

Disney strongly suggested to all staying on property that they stay in their guest rooms, stay away from windows, not to double lock the rooms (in the case emergency workers had to enter), leave drapes and blinds closed, place patio furniture in rooms, and not leave until they were notified.
Disney World sustained minimal damage (although there were some downed trees) and business resumed the following day - with 3 of the 4 theme parks reopening.

Charley was still of hurricane intensity around midnight when its center cleared the northeast coast of Florida near Daytona Beach. The storm continued north into South Carolina before finally dissipating on August 15.

Click HERE for more August 13 Disney history.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11: The Nixons at Disneyland

On this day in 1955, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and his family (wife Pat and daughters Tricia & Julie) visited Disneyland for the very first time. Along with the Nixons were brothers of Richard and Pat and their children. 

Nixon was presented with the "Key to City Hall" by C.V. Wood (a member of Walt's staff) and met actor Fess Parker (Disney's Davy Crockett). The Nixons toured Disneyland extensively, and rode such attractions as the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Jungle Cruise, Rocket to the Moon, Autopia, and toured the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Exhibit.

"A paradise for children - and for grownups, too. I don't know when I've had so much fun." -Richard Nixon 

Click HERE for more August 11 Disney history.

Monday, August 9, 2010

August 09: Overnight With the Grim Grinning Ghosts

On this day in 2009, the Sutton family (Tim and Cyndi along with their two daughters Jessica & Stephanie) from Santa Clarita, California spent the night inside Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attraction.

A 95.5 KLOS radio station promotion for the Haunted Mansion’s 40th anniversary, daughters Jessica, 12, and Stephanie, 10, received the most votes among kids in a talent contest for singing "Happy Birthday" ... with a dog singing in the background!

The family moved into the Haunted Mansion at midnight after Disneyland closed on Sunday (August 9) and left at 6 a.m. the following morning. They stayed in a suite set up in an elevator at the entrance of the attraction. Each Sutton was given a key to return (in the afterlife of course) as a memento of their unique experience.

"My favorite part was somewhere around 4am, the Disney Demons let out a very loud sound effect and the girls all jumped!" -Tim Sutton

Click HERE for more Haunted Mansion & August 09 Disney history.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 05: Your Body Will Shrink - Your Mind Will Expand

On this day in 1967, Disneyland's attraction Adventure Thru Inner Space (sponsored by Monsanto) opened in the park's New Tomorrowland.

A free attraction, guests were transported through a microscope where they were shrunken down and sent off to explore the inside of an atom. Featuring the voice of Paul Frees and the song "Miracles from Molecules" written by the Sherman Brothers, it was the first to use the OmniMover system - called Atomobiles - to transport guests.

The idea of the attraction goes back to 1957, when Walt Disney introduced a concept for an atomic-themed exhibit in Tomorrowland on the Disneyland television show episode, Our Friend The Atom. Plans for the attraction were put on hold for the 1964 New York World's Fair, but after the success of the fair, the atomic-themed attraction was green-lighted for Disneyland's New Tomorrowland.

Today Star Tours sits on the spot once occupied by Adventure Thru Inner Space. 

Click HERE for more August 05 Disney history.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August 04: Bay Lake Tower Debuts

On this day in 2009, Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort officially opened at Walt Disney World. The ninth Disney Vacation Club resort, the sixth on WDW property, and the second to open in 2009 - it was the first DVC resort to be built in the Magic Kingdom area.

Plans for Bay Lake Tower started back in 2006 when Disney filed plans for a project on the site of the Contemporary's North Garden Wing. For the next few years worked progressed but the identity of the structure was kept a secret until its official name was unveiled in September 2008.

A walkway, known as the Sky Way Bridge, leads guests from the 4th floor of the Contemporary to the fifth floor of Bay Lake Tower. Unlike many Disney resorts, one cannot gain access to any part of BLT without a room key. The views from the 16-story C-shaped building are spectacular ... especially when the Magic Kingdom hosts its nightly fireworks show.

"Our resort motto is 'Where Tradition Touches Today,' and the marriage of our iconic resort with this elegant new Disney Vacation Club offering is a perfect example." -Thea Sargent (general manager of Disney's Contemporary Resort)

Click HERE for more August 04 Disney history.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 01: A Mythological Lumberjack

On this day in 1958, Disney released the animated short Paul Bunyan. Directed by Les Clark (one of Walt's "Nine Old Men") it retells the tall tale of Paul Bunyan - an enormous lumberjack and his equally huge blue ox.

As with many characters, Paul Bunyan's true origin is a bit of a mythological tale itself. The character had first been documented in 1910 in the work of a journalist named James MacGillivray. Some say he took the idea from an 1837 French Canadian tale. Either way, six year later in 1916 advertisement writer William Laughhead reworked the tale of the giant lumberjack (and added a giant ox) as part of an advertising campaign for a logging company. His version became the modern Paul Bunyan we all know of today.

Disney's version (featuring the voice of Thurl Ravenscroft as Paul) tells the tale of modern technology pushing aside old traditions ... Paul Bunyan must compete in a wood cutting contest with a new invention called the chainsaw. Running just under 17 minutes, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoon).

Today Paul Bunyan is part of a DVD collection titled "Disney's American Legends."

Click HERE for more August 01 Disney history.