The Disneyland Forever Story
December 5, 2000
by Jason Schultz, contributing writer
A Disneyland Forever CD - cover art © Disney
When it was introduced on May 22, 1998, the Disneyland Forever "make
your own CD" kiosk system was perhaps one of the must futuristic
and popular parts of the new Tomorrowland. For the first time Guests were
able to purchase music and narration from their favorite Disney attraction
sounds actually used in the Park, unlike the selections normally
found on the "Official Albums" of Disneyland and Walt Disney
But this holy grail of sorts for Disneyland audiophiles like ourselves
almost never came to be. It is a story of luck, persistence and a little
bit of ignorance. The timing was about as perfect as it could be
everything just seemed to fall into place quite nicely.
Tony Baxter speaks at the dedication of the Main Street 20th Century Music
One of the sparks came when senior Imagineer Tony Baxter was visiting
a consumer electronics trade show and came upon a system known as Personics.
This system would have allowed a customer to pick the songs they want
and have them recorded onto audiotapes. Baxter's mind was sparked to how
this could be related to Disney he began to ponder the feasibility
of releasing old Studio music that had never seen the light of day. These
recordings would never have made money as general releases but could have
been workable as "one- off" pieces that could be made on demand.
As anyone who's ever been in the music business knows, it's incredibly
difficult to license music, and so Tony's idea died for the time
On another unrelated front, in 1996 Scott L Jordan was
working at Hollywood Records and pitched the idea of releasing a series
of CDs featuring 50s and 60s Disneyland music done in lounge style (without
knowledge of Eddie's earlier idea). Dutch Cramblitt, head of Hollywood
Records sales at the time, was all for the idea. As a joke, Scott L gave
it the working title of "Disneyland Forever" a name that
eventually stuck, much to his chagrin. He kept pushing it and pushing
it and eventually someone suggested that it might be better suited for
Walt Disney Records. At the time, the two record labels were completely
separate entities, and miscommunication eventually doomed the project.
(The two eventually merged in 1998.)
Also at this time, a friend of Scott L's by the name of Bob Baranick
became an Art Director for Disneyland. He asked Scott L if he would like
to come over and be a design coordinator for him. Scott L gratefully agreed.
At his new office in the Disneyland Design Studios backstage, Scott L
had hung up some of the gold records he had accrued from his work at Hollywood
Records. One day Scott L was in his office when Tony Baxter was walking
by; Tony noticed the gold records and poked his head in the door, striking
up a conversation regarding them. The conversation soon shifted to Tony's
idea of selling previously unreleased music from the Disney Studios
Tony asked Scott L if he would be interested in the project and wheels
soon started rolling. But the concept with the Studio music would never
get off the ground Walt Disney Records had first right of refusal
and they weren't interested in having anyone do the project.
Theme park music, on the other hand, was a different matter. While film
music was the domain of Walt Disney Records, Walt Disney Imagineering
and the Parks owned attraction music. Back in the 1950s theme park recordings
were covered under the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
a lucky fluke that allowed the project to even get off the ground.
The 1950s contract stipulated that the sounds were recorded as if they
were to be released, even though it wasn't; this ease of clearance for
the sounds became important later on as the most important issue in getting
any track onto the Disneyland Forever system is ease of clearance for
To get the technical aspect of the project moving, the creators looked
to Digital On- Demand (DOD), then NewLeaf Entertainment. The company had
been formed in the early 1990s as a joint venture between IBM and Blockbuster,
but the technology was still too young and not quite up to the task. The
company was scoffed at when it went to record companies and asked for
millions of dollars to get a system up and running. When Viacom bought
Blockbuster, it began to sell off non- revenue producing patents, including
those of DOD. Bruce Gordon had done some research into the company and
it was from this basis that Scott L began really looking into them in-
The phone number Bruce gave Scott L turned out to be that of a Blockbuster
video rental store in Ohio. Soon, however, Scott L soon found himself
in touch with a man by the name of Tom Szabo who was with DOD and could
give a demonstration of the technology. Now, at this point Scott L had
only been with Imagineering for a week and had no idea that he needed
a charge number for the project. Quite by chance Disneyland Forever was
actually gaining momentum under the radar. When Scott L informed
Tony of the progress he had made, Tony replied, "YouČll never get
this madea lot of people have tried."
It was at this point that Scott L asked Michael Volchok to become involved
with the project. Michael, also at the Design Studio, had been with Disneyland
for years, knew the ins and outs of the Disneyland political system and
was a great business guy. While Scott L knew what the project was supposed
to be and how to get it done from the music and creative side, the Disneyland
maze was much more than he could navigate. Michael and Scott L were determined
to make Disneyland Forever happen.
Two of the next steps in the chain were contacting Disney Legal and Walt
Disney Music Publishing. A misstep at any one of the points in the project
could have spelled disaster, but things just kept falling into place.
DOD was anxious to get a system up and running especially one as
high profile as one in a Disney theme park would be. DOD had to invest
a huge amount of capital into setting up a prototype, but they then had
a product they could show to companies interested in having this technology
installed in their stores.
In the meantime, Scott L, Digital On- Demand and the Disneyland Design
Studio began designing the interface for the system. A system was mocked-
up around March of 1998 to show to merchandise executives... who promptly
expressed their dislike for the project. They felt it would cannibalize
sales of other music. To get the project moving again, Tony had to convince
then- Disneyland President Paul Pressler to go for it which he
really did. Paul then had to convince then- merchandising head Ann Dale
that it would be a good idea, which was a very difficult task indeed because
of her strong opposition to the idea. Thankfully, the project didn't die.
Now that Disneyland Forever had the go- ahead from merchandising, it
was time to gather material. Scott L trekked up to the Imagineering Sound
Library and found Glenn Barker and Russell Brower excited about the project.
Unfortunately, the library was in the process of revamping the organization
of their collection with time ticking down to the new Tomorrowland
opening, Scott L simply grabbed what he could find. Not everything he
was able to acquire could be sold on the kiosks, however some copyright
and contractual issues prevented the sale of certain tracks and will prevent
their future release (Captain EO, for instance).
"Location, location, location" is obviously a big determinant
in the success of any merchandise. Disneyland Forever was originally intended
for Innoventions... until it was realized the flawed reasoning that would
place merchandise inside an attraction. Who wants to wait in line for
an attraction just to get in to buy merchandise? It was decided to move
it to the Premiere Shop, though this shop's space had been cut considerably
when NASA was promised space for their exhibit about... well... space!
When it debuted, the system definitely wasn't free from flaws. Sounds
weren't leveled properly. Some tracks should never have appeared on the
kiosks because of copyright issues. And at the first ever test of Disneyland
Forever at the Imagineering Preview Party for the new Tomorrowland
the system crashed. But despite its problems, the concept of the
system was successful.
It opened to rave reviews from Park Guests who were finally able to own
soundtracks of their favorite attractions. The albums were dedicated to
Jack Wagner, who for many years was known as the "Voice of Disneyland."
Jack's son, Mike, provides the instructions on how to make selections
and purchase the CDs. The number of sounds has hovered roughly around
150, though there are those that were removed quickly notably most
of the Club 33 and Space Mountain Concourse music loops.
The project turned out to be so successful, in fact, that Walt Disney
World decided they wanted their own system. Scott L went back up to the
Imagineering Sound Library to pull our more audio. "From the beginning,
it was a much more complete project," Scott L admitted. But the Florida
resort was missing 16 years of classic sometimes cheesy
Disney music. It didn't have as much nostalgic value for those who grew
up with Disneyland, the original.
By this time, Scott L had left Disney to work for Digital On- Demand
and was responsible for all audio and visuals of the system- in- the-
making. "The cool thing about the interface is that it is supposed
to be layers of paper that you rip away to reveal the layer below,"
Scott L said. "The buttons are all in the shape of Disney nametags.
We won a Microsoft award for that interface. It was hell to do because
we thought someone else was doing the style guide and then at the last
minute we had to do everything."
Walt Disney World Forever opened in four locations in January 1999 with
a wide variety of sounds. Because the Florida merchandise people had actually
paid money for release rights, selections like the full America on Parade
and Enchanted Tiki Room which also played at Disneyland but weren't
available on Disneyland Forever were on the kiosks and able to
Back in California, there were great things in store for Disneyland's
system. Because of a lack of frequent updates, the Disneyland Forever
system was beginning to stagnate slightly. In a meeting held to generate
ideas to boost sales attended by Tony, Bruce, Scott L and Michael,
among others someone pitched the idea to make detailed attraction
albums. Since there was an upcoming merchandise event celebrating the
Haunted Mansion's 30th Anniversary, it was a no- brainer to tie it in
and make it the first such CD released.
The dedication of the Main Street 20th Century Music Company shop
Meanwhile, Main Street's Great American Pastime sports shop was being
transformed into the 20th Century Music Company which of course
featured additional Disneyland Forever kiosks. Plans for the Haunted Mansion
CD were first unveiled at the shop's opening on June 20, 1999.
When the album first came out a week later, it sold 3,000 units in one
location in one day (at the 20th Century Music Company). "It was
the system as the system should be used," Scott L commented.
The tradition of single- attraction CDs was continued with the release
of the Pirates of the Caribbean album on May 20, 2000 again tied
to a merchandise event. Disneyland had learned its lesson with the 999
Haunted Mansion LE CDs and this time upped the edition size to 2500. The
jewel case booklet is extensively detailed and in the limited edition
ones autographed by Sam McKim. The CD itself contains a completely
new stereo mix of the attraction, as well as several isolated tracks,
recording sessions and never- used dialogue.
Disneyland President Cynthia Harriss at the dedication of the Main Street
20th Century Music Company shop
So what does the future hold for the "Forever" systems? Video
is a very definite possibility. TheyČre also working on something known
as "Circle-Vision" can't wait to see what they have in
store with that! In the meantime, arrangements are now being made to install
the systems in Disney Stores. The plan is to distribute older albums through
the system, theme park ones among them.
There are also more attraction albums to come in the future. One persistent
rumor has been that a World's Fair CD is in the planning stages. While
a final choice hasn't been made for what to work on next, a World's Fair
album is definitely a possibility.
Also, the kiosk locations have just been retrofitted with full- color
printers that will allow the Parks to print special jewel case covers
and artwork on the CDs just for special events and the like. RedDotNet
is also working on giving customers a choice of covers for the CDs, rather
than just having the nostalgic shopping bag pattern (in Tomorrowland)
or the patriotic cover (on Main Street).
Adrienne's Note: I really want to thank Jason for writing not only this
article, but also compiling the annotations for the individual tracks
available through the Disneyland Forever CD system. (and available at
this LINK) Those of you who would like to purchase
these CDs now have a definitive resource for making your selections -
much better than the plain track list we've offered until now.
As Jason said, the Disneyland Forever CD system is always changing. Who
knows what the New Year may hold? If you have not yet finished your collection
of personal CDs, now is a really good time to do it. It has been several
months since an update was made to the system. You don't want to find
that the song you've been waiting for is suddenly removed from the system!
You can find Jason's Annotation list at this LINK,
and order your CDs right on line at MouseShoppe.