Monday, July 27, 2015

Snapshot '73: The Grand Prix and Tomorrowland

Returning to our Snapshot '73 series, we showcase this now impossible view of the Grand Prix Raceway as seen from Skyway that linked Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.  Against a rather scenic backdrop of the Contemporary Resort, cast members survey their fleet of vehicles.  The Tomorrowland terminus of the Skyway sits in what then seemed a remote corner of the park.  The purpose of the large striped circus tent remains a mystery; it sits in the approximate location of the future Carousel of Progress. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Snapshot: Disneyland! - 60

60. Sixty years.  Six decades.  July 17, 1955 was the watershed event; the birth of the theme park as we have all come to know it.  Happy Birthday, Disneyland.  To all who come to this happy place . . .

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pixar's Route 66: The Jack Rabbit Trading Post

You could say that the sign was the true inspiration. The trading post? Not so much.

The Jack Rabbit Trading Post is located just west of Joseph City, Arizona on what was the former US Route 66.  As a roadside venue, it is rather unremarkable, filled with a combination of convenience store staples and the usual southwestern USA souvenirs.
Its notoriety is plainly derived from its large and now rather iconic sign that features a jackrabbit silhouette and welcomes travelers with the proclamation "HERE IT IS." Pixar artists recreated that sign and applied it to the Radiator Springs Curios store, operated by Lizzie, the 1923 Ford Model T.  In the film, the jackrabbit silhouette is replaced with that of a Model T.  The Pixar crew even replicated the small black silhouette cut-outs that adorn the top of the sign.
Lizzie's store itself was not so much inspired by the Jack Rabbit Trading Post building, as it was by a couple of other slightly more eccentric Route 66 establishments: the Hackberry General Store in Hackberry, Arizona; and the Sand Hills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Oklahoma. The similarities are especially notable when compared to theme park incarnation at Disney's California Adventure.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Disney/Reality: Main Street Cinemas and Kansas Avenue Theatres

Disney:  The Main Street Cinema in Disneyland is an idealized venue, steeped in turn-of-century nostalgia as is the rest of Main Street U.S.A.  Most Disney historians agree that the inspiration for Main Street was rooted in Walt's boyhood home town of Marceline, Missouri, although it is certainly a very generalized correlation.  But it is one we will still use here for the purposes of our very first Disney/Reality feature.  With its bright lights and elegant marquee, the Main Street Cinema is truly fantasy, not what an early 20th century theater was, but what it "should have been."
Reality:  If Kansas Avenue in Marceline is the historical counterpart to Main Street U.S.A., then the Utpon Theatre may be the closest thing we have to a reality-based Main Street Cinema. Located on Kansas Avenue in Marceline's "downtown," the Upton certainly is typical of small town America movie venues.  Similar in scale to the Main Street Cinema, it is however a generation removed from its Disney counterpart.  The Upton Theatre dates to 1930 and survived as a movie showcase up until just a few years ago.  It hosted the world premiere of The Great Locomotive Chase in 1956 which Walt personally attended.  An earlier Marceline theater, the Cater Opera House, was likely more similar to the Main Street Cinema, and it may have been the place where Walt experienced his very first motion picture.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Pixar's Route 66: Cadillac Ranch

Only in America could an avant garde art experiment in the middle of the desert evolve into a background design for an animated film and its later theme park incarnation.
Cadillac Ranch was created in 1974 by artists Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, "alternative" architects collective known as the Ant Farm.  Their patron was millionaire Stanley Marsh whose land was used for the project, both initially and when it was later moved to its current location, adjacent to Interstate 40 just west of Amarillo, Texas.  In an interesting twist, visitors are encouraged to spray paint graffiti onto the upended, half buried vintage mid-20th century vehicles.
The Cadillac connection was a natural tie-in for Cars, and Pixar artists converted the design into a majestic desert landscape, the Cadillac Range, that serves as a backdrop for the town of Radiator Springs.  Disney Imagineers in turn brought it to theme park realization when they created Cars Land for Disney's California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Walt Disney's Los Angeles: Los Feliz 2015

We traveled to the Los Feliz neighborhood in Los Angeles as part of our recent Californy er Bust! road trip.  I wanted to visit some of the locations showcased in our previous articles Walt Disney's Los Angeles 1923-1931, originally produced and posted here in 2010.  We recently reprinted the series as a single article to coincide with our new explorations of that area. Our first stop, of course, was 2719 Hyperion Avenue, the location of Disney's first major studio complex and our namesake.  The historical marker there is getting a bit weather-worn and shows some signs of vandalism, but it continues to stand as the only reminder of the location's historical significance.

The Gelson's Market grocery store continues to encompass the area where the studio once stood. Just a few blocks away from 2719 Hyperion are the former homes of Disney Brothers at the intersection of St. George and Lyric Avenue. Walt and wife Lillian's house was near the corner at 2495 Lyric Avenue; Roy and Edna's house was adjacent at 2491 Lyric Avenue. Both couples moved into the houses in 1927.
Top: The home of Roy and Edna Disney at 2491 Lyric.  Bottom:  The home of Walt and Lillian Disney at 2495 Lyric.
We visited a few nearby landmarks that were featured in our original post, including the Shakespeare Bridge and John Marshall High School.
Our final stop in Los Feliz was the very significant area surrounding the intersection of Kingswell and North Vermont Avenues.  4406 Kingswell Avenue was the home of Robert Disney, uncle to Walt and Roy.  This was Walt's first residence upon arriving in California in 1923.  For a brief time, Walt worked on his various animation projects in the property's garage.
For a little over a year, Walt and Roy shared a rented room at 4409 Kingswell Avenue in the home of Charles and Nettie Schneider.
One block off of North Vermont is the small apartment building at 4637 Melbourne Avenue where Walt and Lillian briefly lived following their marriage in 1925.
Native to this area during the 1930s and 1940s was the moniker "Hollymont," most likely a combination of Hollywood and Vermont.  Located on North Vermont near Kingswell was the Holly Mont Market grocery store and the still surviving Hollymont Apartments.  Disney Imagineers paid homage to Hollymont terminology in the recent refurbishment of Disney's California Adventure with a sign advertising the Hollymont Property Associates.
The most important Disney-related location in this area is 4649-4651 Kingswell Avenue, where the original Disney Brothers Studio emerged in 1923.  The brothers and their small staff originally shared office space with a realtor at 4651; they moved next door to 4649 in early 1924.  The Extra Copy store has occupied that spot now for quite some time with a street address of 4647 Kingswell.
The store is a very small space but it does manage to pay homage to its history with a small Disney shrine on its interior left side wall.
I was especially delighted to photograph the Extra Copy storefront in order to create historical composites similar to the one created for our original post.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pixar's Route 66: Glenrio, New Mexico

In Cars, when Lightning McQueen awakens in the impound lot, he briefly sees the abandoned relics of the Glenrio Motel, situated on the outskirts of Radiator Springs. The establishment's name and design were derived from the very small and now largely deserted town of Glenrio, New Mexico.

The town sits on the border of Texas and New Mexico along an old alignment of Route 66 that runs parallel to Interstate 40.  The town began as a railroad stop but quickly evolved into a highway-hugging community of businesses during the 1930s due to Route 66.  It was a popular stop for motorists through subsequent decades until being bypassed by the interstate in 1975.  It remains an intriguing destination for today's Route 66 tourists who stop to view its numerous abandoned and deteriorating structures.  In 2007, the town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pixar artists drew inspiration from the former Little Juarez Cafe, with its red and white colors and streamline moderne style.  They expanded the design of the small cafe to encompass an entire motor court including a rear building with individual rooms (garages). At the end of the movie, the Glenrio Motel has been converted into the Racing Museum with Mater serving as the resident tour guide.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This is Disneyland - 26 Colorful Scenes

And this is Disneyland today!  26 colorful scenes.  Near postcard-perfect vignettes photographed at the Disneyland Resort on June 17 and June 18, 2015.