Friday, September 19, 2008

EPCOT 1939: The Original Illuminations

Walt Disney World's pyrotechnic displays have been long recognized as state-of-the-art spectaculars. Epcot's Illuminations, in its series of incarnations, has in particular been lauded for its truly amazing combination of fire, water, music and pyrotechnic elements, with many observers especially praising its stunning originality in both concept and design.

However . . .

"This Lagoon of Nations display centers in a giant fountain which rises from an oval lake two blocks wide by four blocks long. Water, geysering in beautiful patterns from 1,400 nozzles, is painted in constantly changing rainbow hues by batteries of powerful electric lights from below. At climaxes in a performance, towering gas flames roar through the columns of scintillating water, from more than a hundred jets. Showers of fireworks burst overhead. Stirring music thunders an accompaniment to the display from the heart of the fountain."

From the article "Fountains of Flame" by Kenneth M. Swezey;
Popular Science, August, 1939

Welcome back to EPCOT 1939.

I have been for some time wanting to continue this series of articles from the very early days of 2719 Hyperion. Those posts demonstrated the very distinct theme and design parallels between EPCOT Center and the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair. The Fair's Lagoon of Nation's Fountain Spectacle and its clear connection to EPCOT's Illuminations afforded me such an opportunity.

As we noted in previous EPCOT 1939 articles, the overall design of EPCOT Center was distinctly analogous to that of 1939 exposition. Similar to World Showcase, the Fair's Government Zone, which was comprised of pavilions representing both states and nations, was located in similar fashion behind the technology and commercial zones and featured a body of water at its center. It was there that the Fair's designers decided to create " . . . a scene to thrill thousands," as noted in the Popular Science article. The article was accompanied by a detailed illustration of the behind-the-scenes mechanisms that produced the show.

Click on illustration to enlarge

The article explained that "The whole complex mechanism is 'played,' as if it were some mighty organ, by three operators at electric consoles located in a near-by tower. Regular programs, based on such themes as “The Spirit of George Washington,” “Creation,” “Isle of Dreams,” “Fire Dance,” are presented to tens of thousands of spectators each evening." Some of those themes do not sound very far removed from that of the current Illuminations presentation, Reflections of Earth.

In his book, 1939: The Lost World of the Fair, author David Gelernter observed:

The critics raved. Fountain displays like the ones at the Lagoon of Nations and San Francisco's 1939 fair "deserve to be called examples of a new art," wrote Talbot Hamlin. "The best of them are as emotionally compelling as they are visually exciting." The show at the Lagoon gave the New York fair "its most unique and perhaps its most artistically memorable element." "Dramatic and indescribable beauty" wrote Gardner Harding.

And so the Fair closed out its daily operations every night, over a half a century prior to guests at EPCOT Center being entertained in similar fashion around the World Showcase lagoon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Windows to the Past: Snow White in a Rose Parade

Walt Disney and Disney characters have had a long association with the Tournament of Roses Parade that takes place every New Years Day in Pasadena, California. Walt was the Grand Marshall of the parade in 1966, and Mickey Mouse held that same honor some four decades later in 2005. But one of the earliest Disney-Rose Parade connections is displayed in this photo from the 1938 parade. Coming almost immediately on the heels of the film's December 1937 premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre was this parade float that featured Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Windows to the Past: Have a Brighter Day!

Los Angeles mayor Norris Poulson, actor Jean Hersholt and Donald Duck team up to promote National Health Week during February of 1954. Donald proclaims "Eat a BETTER breakfast. . . have a BRIGHTER day!" Poulson served as the city's mayor from 1953 to 1961. Hersholt would pass away just two years after this photo was taken. His most famous movie role was that of Shirley Temple's grandfather in the 1937 version of Heidi, although he is likley best known as the namesake of the Motion Picture Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 1968 - Walt Disney Day

Forty years ago today marked "Walt Disney Day" in the state of Missouri. The state's governor, Warren E. Hearnes, issued the proclamation a few weeks earlier as part of the planned festivities that would be held in Marceline on September 11, 1968 to celebrate the United States Postal Service's release of the commemorative Walt Disney postage stamp.

For an excellent reporting of that day's events, check out the article "Walt Disney's Stamp of Approval" by Wade Sampson at MousePlanet.

The Story of the Adventurers Almanac

Our good friend Jim Korkis has been recently deep in research relating to the histories of the Adventurers Club, both real and created. Since the beginning of the year, we have been featuring excerpts from the club's newsletter, the Adventurers Almanac. Relating to these reprints, Jim has generously shared with us the information he has uncovered revealing the creation of this fun, faux-publication.

So many guests wrote to the actors in the Adventurer’s Club (wrote to them in their personas) that it seemed best to create a more formal newsletter to answer these questions and share news. (The Almanac was based on an actual turn of the century newsletter called Adventurer’s Club Newsletter.) The editor and chief writer was Chris Oyen (who was the Show Writer and Director brought in January 1990 and continued in that role for the club and Comedy Warehouse for roughly the next five years).

Also contributing to the writing was Reed Jones, who was the stage manager and then became Show Director when Chris left.) Sometimes Chris allowed the performers to write something on a volunteer basis. Fan letters still kept coming so Chris set up a personal secretary for the club, Bernice Smythe-Fenton, who was a pseudonym for a cast member from Guest Communications who also worked closely with Chris who sometimes had to answer letters in character.

Yes, those “Membership meetings” did take place for guests to come and bring artifacts and share stories. That stopped for several reasons including the fact that Disney Legal was “troubled” about accepting artifacts from guests as well as the fact that the club manager felt the club was losing too much money on the free appetizers and drinks.

The almanac was put together in the days before computers so all those pictures and text were hand done and pasted onto a master mock-up. It stopped because it was labor intensive, it was getting to be too expensive because they had to increase the print run and because Chris left to work on the Diamond Horseshoe and Galaxy Search. In addition, it didn’t seem to generate new attendance but basically seemed to bring in the regulars (like for the Membership Meeting and free drink and appetizer).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Souvenirs: The Star Wars Travel Postcards

These postcards from 2001 are among my favorite attraction-themed souvenirs. I misplaced them a few years ago, and was excited when they resurfaced during our recent housecleaning and remodeling projects. Star Wars has always been rooted in retro and so marrying the Star Tours attraction with the style of vintage travel posters made for some very dynamic and fun designs.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Adventurer's Alamanac: Lillie-Levitt Safari Returns

From Volume No. 55, Issue No. 9 of the Adventurer's Almanac, we learn of the adventures of the famous Lillie-Levitt Safari and Travel Company:

The Lillie-Levitt Safari and Travel Company returned from a Club affiliated tour of the Sepik River region of Papua, New Guinea. Tour leader Art "Paddlefoot" Levitt graciously donated a lime garnish holder used in native beetlenut chewing rituals to the Club's Permanent Collection. Immediately after mounting this new artifact on the western wall of the Zebra Mezzanine, "Paddlefoot" regaled those members present with one of his legendary lectures, complete with photographic documentation. The four surviving safari members of the original expedition force of twenty eight remarked that the experience was "unbelievable" Those interested in participating in future Lillie-Levitt Travel Company exploits, or for pricing information, may contact them c/o the Club. Scott "Thumbs" Lillie, who has become quite an amusing fixture at the Main Salon Bar, hinted that next spring they might be repeating the piranha teasing excursion to the lower Amazon which has made him somewhat of a Club celebrity.

On the same page of the newsletter there was also this interesting Bulletin Board announcement:

Congratulations to Alvin Chowderflute After months of living with, eating with, and copying the mating habits of the lemming, Alvin wired us that he had finally ascertained why these creatures mysteriously throw themselves off of cliffs and into the sea. Unfortunately, the stress of this undertaking apparently took its toll. When last sighted, Alvin was seen running at a fast pace at the head of an enormous lemming herd, screaming "I am your King! Follow me!" in the vicinity of Niagara Falls.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Freeze Frame! - Kinney's Saloon

It appears that Disney cartoon director Jack Kinney was moonlighting as a saloon owner as evidenced by this scene from the 1952 Goofy short Two Gun Goofy. Kinney spent close to three decades at the Disney Studio and was the primary director of the Goofy cartoons. He was good friends with story-man and big "Mooseketeer" Roy Williams as the two had both attended the same Los Angeles high school. His brother Dick Kinney also worked at the studio in the story department and the two collaborated on numerous cartoons.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Quick Note

Apologies for the shortage of content this week at both 2719 Hyperion and Boom-Pop! We got caught up in some extensive home remodeling that was long overdue but is now happily completed. We will return to our regular schedule of posting next week. Thanks as always for your continued interest and encouragement!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Snapshot! - Mickey and Minnie Go Green

Walt Disney World has long been famous for its topiaries and this vignette from the Magic Kingdom shows off these two wonderful examples. The backdrop of Cinderella Castle sets the scene for Mickey's and Minnie's horticultural counterparts.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Windows to the Past: An All Color Walt Disney Show

The Capitol Theater in downtown Salem, Oregon hosts an "All Color Walt Disney Show" during the summer of 1952. It was literally the best of all possible Disney entertainments. The live action feature The Story of Robin Hood, accompanied by the True-Life Adventure Water Birds and the cartoon short The Little House. Posters for The Story of Robin Hood and Water Birds can be seen in display cases on each side of the theater entrance.