Disney Stuff - Walt Disney's Disneylandby Chris Barry, staff writer
Welcome back to Disney Stuff.
Back in the spring we were contemplating–and actually began planning–for our first ever trip to Southern California: more specifically our first trip to that mecca for Disney fans, Walt’s original Magic Kingdom – Disneyland. We were supposed to be heading out to Anaheim sometime in mid August. As a matter of fact, I should be in the final countdown to my trip right now. As fate would have it though, our plans did not work out and Disneyland has once again eluded me. Don’t feel too bad for me though. We’ll be in Walt Disney World staying at Disney’s BoardWalk for a four-day weekend in early September. (A special thank you for that should go out to those of you from the Jewish faith for the long weekend off!) As excited as I am to return to my favorite place on this coast…I am yearning to finally complete my pilgrimage to Disneyland. Someday we’ll make it out there.
With that in mind, I pulled out a nice little treat to talk about for today’s installment of Disney Stuff. One day not so long ago, my mother returned from a day of antiquing with her sister in Pennsylvania. She handed me a shopping bag, and in it I found this wonderful old book, Walt Disney’s Disneyland. As you can see, the cover features a photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle surrounded by guests:
The book shows its age and the binding is slightly torn and has been taped together. Upon first examination, I noticed that there was no author listed on the cover, nor on the spine, nor on the back. When I cracked the book open, I was thrilled to see that the author was none other than Martin A. Sklar—more commonly known as Marty Sklar and one of the most famous of all of Disney’s legendary Imagineers.
I knew right away that this was a good find but I was curious as to the book's origin and history. A small amount of research revealed that the book, dated inside "Walt Disney Productions 1964," was a Disneyland souvenir book of a different ilk. There were souvenir guidebooks available at Disneyland going all the way back to 1955 – the park's opening year. This book, however, marked a new addition to the very popular series of guidebooks. It’s said that Walt thought it would be nice if there were more professional Disneyland books available to guests who wanted something a little bit nicer and more informative than the traditional color guidebook. He turned to Marty Sklar to describe the park with its attractions and history in greater detail, and subsequently, add on to the book as Disneyland evolved. Let’s take a look inside Walt Disney’s Disneyland.
Both the inside and back covers are adorned with the classic Main Street, U.S.A station:
Here’s a photo of Snow White, The Prince and most of the Seven Dwarfs and two obviously enamored park guests:
This is a wonderfully tranquil shot of Sleeping Beauty Castle:
A Jungle Cruise skipper fires his pistol to ward off the hippos:
The Disney parks always come alive at night, and here’s Disneyland City Hall bathed in light up against a beautifully blue nighttime sky:
The center of the book is a collage of happy guests. Anybody recognize themselves?
My favorite image in the book is this one of the sub, the monorail and the Matterhorn at night:
The book itself offers a brief but thorough history of Disneyland and of Walt’s pursuit of an amusement park-like place where he could go with his kids and still enjoy himself. Marty Sklar takes us through each land in the park and discusses not only the various attractions but the stories behind their creation as well. He talks about Disneyland’s popularity with world leaders and Hollywood’s elite—all the while acknowledging that the park is for every man, woman and child in-between. He documents Disneyland’s importance to society as far as technological innovations, such as the implementation of the nation’s first monorail system, and the display of emerging industrial technologies in Tomorrowland’s Monsanto’s House of the Future. All in all, Sklar lovingly paints a picture of Disneyland as an American treasure. Remember, at the time the park had only been around for a decade, yet the book accurately portrays Disneyland as already being entrenched in our society; not only nationally, but globally as well.
As I mentioned above, the book is marked 1964 but this particular edition seems to be from 1966. There is discussion of a little attraction called It’s a Small World (spelled out using capital letters as opposed to the current lower case.) as “new to Disneyland in 1966.” New Orleans Square is not given its own section as a “land” just yet, but it is discussed in detail as “an entire new land…grown up on the banks of the Rivers of America.” New Orleans Square was officially opened to the public on July 24, 1966, so that seems to support the dating of this book. There is also mention of the “new Tomorrowland” that was coming to Disneyland in 1967. There’s even a tease for what the book refers to as a “gleaming metallic mountain, “ with “four passenger rocket ships that will simulate the sensation of racing through distant space.” Sound familiar? Space Mountain was still almost 10 years away, but it's interesting to hear it mentioned, albeit discreetly, in a 1966 book.
If this book was indeed from 1966, then it is a bittersweet and perhaps unintended eulogy to its namesake. As we all know, December of 1966 marked the death of Walt Disney. Marty Sklar was his friend and perhaps his biggest fan and that is extremely evident in the manner in which he writes about Walt in this book.
It’s obvious how enamored Sklar was, and I’m sure, still is, of Walt Disney’s genius. This book was a great find and I’m thrilled that it’s part of my Disney collection. It portrays the magic and wonder of Disneyland in its first decade perfectly written by someone who helped make the magic happen, and is not only a true Disney insider…but a true Disney fan as well.
That’s it for Disney Stuff this time around. Click on the link below to let me hear your thoughts about this wonderful book and, as always, I’ll see you next time with more of that great Disney Stuff that we all love so much.