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.