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MouseStation 288 - The History of Disneyland on Television with Rob Klein

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Show run time 0:43:41


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In today's show, we have Part 1 of Steven Ng's conversation with Rob Klein of the Disney Archives about the history of Disneyland as portrayed on television over the years.

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Feature: The History of Disneyland on Television with Rob Klein

Steven Ng sat down with Rob Klein of the Disney Archives as last summer's NFFC National Convention drew to a close to discuss Rob's presentation, entitled "The Adventure of Disneyland Through the Television Media," at the convention on Disneyland's television history.

Rob's main task at the Disney Archives is to collect props and costumes from around the company, and he also creates exhibits for display in various locations. In the Frank Wells Lobby right now is a display entitled "Hats off to Disney," which looks at 50 years of hats worn by Disney talent, including Fess Parker's coonskin cap from Davy Crockett, Mary Poppins' hat with cherry blossoms, dive helmets from "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and Sharpay's (Ashley Tisdale) hats from High School Musical 2 (only one is on display, though they have them all at the Archives). They actually have a plethora of stuff from HSM2.

Rob's talk was on coverage of Disneyland from Walt's conception through around 1989. There were specials after that, but Rob decided to stop there. Folks at the Archives are encouraged to be historians as well; he's a film historian, and he's passionate about Hollywood history. Since nobody ever did a chronological history of the Disneyland TV series, he decided to do that, and created his presentation for employees of the Studio, and then he was asked to do the presentation for the NFFC.

The Disneyland television series started as a way to raise funds for construction of the park; the deal included ABC putting funds into Disneyland's construction in exchange for Walt doing the series. The show started with The Disneyland Story, which was the pilot for the series (airdate: 10/27/54) with Walt explaining the park and how the series would tie in. During the show's run, Walt did A Progress Report – which shared the show with Nature's Half Acre (airdate: 2/9/55) – the first half of the show was an update on the park's construction, including a helicopter flight showing the route to the park and the current status of construction. A Further Report on Disneyland (airdate: 7/13/55) – four days before the park's opening – primed audiences for the live broadcast of Dateline: Disneyland. The grand opening brodcast was groundbreaking because live multi-site broadcasts were unheard of at the time. There's a featurette on the Disney Treasures: Secrets, Stories and Magic DVD, which was done to document how much of a technical feat the broadcast was for 1955.

After the park opened the TV shows continued, including A Trip Through Adventureland (airdate: 2/29/56) , which aired with The Water Birds, and which focuses on the Jungle Cruise attraction. Shows on park progress were often paired with True Life Adventures for the broadcast. Disneyland '59 was considered to be the actual official second opening of Disneyland because so many attractions opened on the same day. Officially called Kodak Presents Disneyland 1959, the show focused on the Matterhorn, the monorail and the submarines. Then-Vice President Nixon cut the ribbon on monorail. Art Linkletter, Guy Williams from Zorro, and Robert Loggia from Nine Lives of Elfego Baca were also there. Disneyland '59 was lost for a long time, but was finally found and released on the "Your Host, Walt Disney" treasures set. Disneyland After Dark started a change in coverage, people kept talking about how the park was so different at night because of the lighting and entertainment, which prompted a show that focused on nighttime entertainment and other features. Disneyland After Dark featured the Osmond Brothers (their debut), Annette Funicello (at Carnation Plaza Gardens), Louis Armstrong (aboard the Mark Twain), and Bobby Rydell; it also showed a fire dance at the Tahitian Terrace (with looped dialogue), including a boy blushing while watching a hula dance. Chuck Oberleitner of the NFFC helped out with some details during the interview. Another show about the Golden Horseshoe's 10,000th performance featured Wally Boag and the rest of the show's cast, plus extra performers including Ed Wynn doing some of his Vaudeville act and Annette Funicello in a saloon girl's outfit.

Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair (airdate: 5/17/64), also recently released on Secrets, Stories & Magic, featured Walt at WED working on the four World's Fair attractions: "it's a small world", Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Carousel of Progress and the Primeval World diorama from Ford Magic Skyway. In 1965's Tenth Anniversary Show, Walt takes Julie Reihm (the first Disneyland ambassador) on tour of WED and introduced some of the staff while showing her what's coming. These were the first episodes to show some of the key Imagineers at work, including Marc Davis, John Hench, Rolly Crump, Claude Coates, Harriet Burns, Blaine Gibson, probably all Walt's favorites. Chuck was watching with this portion of Rob's presentation with Bob Gurr, who noted that Walt refers to John Hench as "Johnny Hench" throughout the show as a dig because they had been arguing all of that week. Rob believes that there should be audio commentary with all of the old guys while they still have all of the anecdotes to tell to help everyone understand about Walt.

Most of these shows were presented on these Walt Disney Treasures DVDs: Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic and Your Host, Walt Disney. The former is available new for $75, while the latter is still available in initial release for about $24.

During a discussion of the World's Fair show, Mark talked about remembering some of the footage of the World's Fair show, including the programming of the Carousel of Progress (though he misremembered who was in the control harness – it was Wathel Rogers, not Blaine Gibson).

We'll have Part 2 of Steven's interview with Rob next Thursday, including Walt in New Orleans Square, animatronics singing with the Pointer Sisters and more. We'd like to thank Rob Klein for chatting with Steven Ng, and Chuck Oberleitner and the NFFC for setting it up.

Listener Feedback

Kim Liddle is excited about the announcement that a private company is planning on building an express train from LA to Vegas, and she thinks that it might make a good story. Mark said that we'll keep an eye on that and we may do a story on that as it gets closer to completion.

Kim Barron called the feedback line to say that it was great for her to see us at MouseFest, and that she had a great time at dinner with Mark. Sh was sad when she heard about MouseFest, but she understands why we did what we did. She thinks that the Executive Committee didn't charge enough, and that the cost of the registration should be a lot more. She figures that, if she can afford a trip to Disney, she can afford a chunk of change to support MouseFest as well. She has only been to MouseFest twice, and can see exponential growth between her trips in 2006 and 2008. She thinks that it's a wonderful time and she understands that it takes so much time to put on. She'd like us to thank Dave Marx for all of the hard work and hopes that he enjoys the break. She doesn't want to see MouseFest go away, and she hopes that the Executive Committee brings it back.

Mark noted that no decisions have been made about future years, but any information will come out through the MouseFest.org Web site. Some additional items have been added to the FAQ already, so keep checking the site for more information.

Mark will be at MouseAdventure Walt Disney World on November 14, but it uncertain whether he'll also be able to go on the MousePlanet cruise featuring MouseAdventure on the High Seas. Beyond that, he may or may not be able to travel down again during the week originally slated for MouseFest to host meets then. Vacation leave and budget figures will determine that later this year. In the meantime, you can at least count on Mike and Mark being there for MouseAdventure and perhaps some meets surrounding that event.

Jeff Peterson from Escondido, California wrote in with three comments on miscellaneous topics:

1) Jeff added some information about our contention that Brer Rabbit's family was in "Song of the South." Jeff said that there is no mention of Brer Rabbit's mother other than what is implied in the words "born and bred in the briar patch," and that the only reason that Brer Rabbit has a mother and young siblings appear in Splash Mountain is because the Imagineers wanted to find a way to use the Audio-Animatronics rabbit family from the song "Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?" in America Sings.

2) Jeff also misinterpreted something that Mark said about how to RSVP for the last-minute meet at the Magic Kingdom. It actually took Mark a few minutes to figure out what Jeff was talking about on this one.

3) Jeff also wanted to clarify some music credits mentioned during our show with Sean Jones on Disney Music:

First, it was John Barry who composed the score for The Black Hole. Sean actually realized this and sent us a note right after the show was published. Jeff also listed a number of other movies that Goldsmith scored, including some for Disney.

Jeff also discussed several issues surrounding the score and title theme for The Twilight Zone. The memorable theme that everyone thinks of when considering the show was actually composed by Marius Constant. Jeff included a lengthy excerpt from Constant's obituary, which can be found here.

March of Dimes

Mark has gotten an early start on raising funds for the March of Dimes! Last year, MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners helped Mark to raise over $5,000 for the worthy charity. We're looking to beat that this year and raise $6,000! Just go to Mark's fundraising page and help to provide a better chance to prevent prematurity and to help those babies that are born prematurely.

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MouseAdventure at Walt Disney World, November 14

Don't forget to sign up for the MouseAdventure Newsletter, which will keep you informed as the MouseAdventure on the High Seas cruise and other details are announced!

Wrapping up

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Thanks to our audio engineer and sound editor Steven Ng.

Thank you for listening!

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The MouseStation crew (@MouseStation) currently consists of Mark Goldhaber (@MPMark) and Mike Demopoulos (@MPMike).