Disneyland 1987: Part Two

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer
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Last week, I took a look at Disneyland in 1987, including the opening of Star Tours, the Disney Gallery, and the new Mark V monorails.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan told Russia's Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall' referring to the Berlin Wall in Germany. The first Simpsons cartoon short was shown on The Tracey Ullman Show. The very first Final Fantasy video game was released for Nintendo.

Popular films included Three Men and a Baby, Fatal Attraction, The Untouchables, Lethal Weapon, Wall Street, Dirty Dancing, and RoboCop.

Of course, things were happening at Disneyland, as well. On March 24, Disney CEO Michael Eisner and French Prime Minister (and future President of France) Jacques Chirac signed the agreement to construct the 4,800-acre Euro Disney Resort, but that's another story for another time.

Snow White Golden Anniversary

The classic Disney animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was first released in December 1937, so 1987 was the film's 50th anniversary. Snow White was at Disneyland's opening ceremonies on July 17, 1955 to inaugurate her attraction in Fantasyland and to appear on a float in the big parade.

Joann Killingsworth was a part-time sales clerk at the Neiman-Marcus department store in Newport Beach who played golf and was taking tap dancing lessons. She was 31 when she became the first performer to portray Snow White at Disneyland. She was actually hired by ABC, not Disney.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary, Disneyland held a reunion on June 5, 1987 of performers who had portrayed Snow White at Disneyland. Nearly 100 women showed up. Some of them had married performers who portrayed Prince Charming.

Many had grown up and gotten married and had children. Some received a college degree, while others sold real estate, cosmetics, linens and bedding, or became a secretary, a nurse, an actress, a history teacher, an ordained minister, a tax consultant, and a writer.

While performing as Snow White in 1975, Cindy Silva met her future husband, actor Kevin Costner. They got married in 1978 when she was 23 years old.

Sharon Clarke Jones, who lived in Honolulu, was one of the Snow Whites who was a grandmother when she showed up for the reunion. She was a ticket taker at Disneyland in 1956 when, she said, "Walt Disney walked through the park one night and just picked me to be Snow White."

Suzanne Sinclair Crosby of Denver, Dee Sinclair Lewis of Burbank, and Christine Sinclair Romberlin of Matthews, N.C., are sisters and each portrayed Snow White at Disneyland. The Snow White reunion was their first sibling reunion in four years.

At the Videopolis stage was a roughly half-hour live-action musical show titled Singin' Dancin' Heigh Ho! The show was performed five times daily and was filmed and shown on the Disney Channel. It was a severely shortened version of the famous Disney animated story with many of the memorable songs.

The Snow White's Golden Anniversary Parade wound its way down the parade route twice daily and was filled with the Disney characters like Mickey, Donald, and Goofy celebrating Disney's first princess. At that time, only Princess Aurora and Cinderella with their princes were around to royally dance in front of the float that carried Snow White and her prince.

State Fair

When Michael Eisner came on board the Disney Company in 1984 as CEO, he was looking for ways to increase attendance at Disneyland, in particular during the off-seasons. He wanted to do something quickly and inexpensively so he introduced a special limited-time event at the park, Circus Fantasy.

This promotion ran in 1986 from January 25 to March 9, and was so popular that it appeared again in 1987 and 1988. It also generated some new merchandise that was quickly scooped up by Disney guests.

In 1987, to offset the drop in attendance when children went back to school in September, and before the upsurge due to the holiday celebrations, Eisner introduced the State Fair from September 19 to November 15, 1987.


The State Fair ran all over the Disneyland Resort in 1987 and 1988 to boost attendance.

There were Ferris wheels in the hub and one in front of the train station (in 1988 this one was moved to Big Thunder Ranch) and guests could ride them to get a unique view of Disneyland.

The area in front of "it's a small world" had midway games and also a dive tank where daredevils would high dive into the tank. Additional carnival booths were in Town Square (with pennants hanging overhead so it looked like a used car lot), the Hub, and Big Thunder Ranch.

Games consisted of tossing a ring over something, knocking over bottles, getting a ball in a basket hoop and similar carnival-style amusements that cost anywhere from $0.50 to a $1 a try.

On the stage by the Rivers of America, there was the Lumberjack Timber Carnival with competitions that included tree climbing, log rolling, and ax throwing.

That first year (the event was also there in 1988) Disney gave away state stickers with different Disney characters. In the parking lot, guests got a coupon for a sticker of their state. Guests could go into a store and tell the cast member their state and the number in their party and they would get the appropriate stickers.

The stickers featured an outline of the state and then a character in front, like Fiddler Pig for Iowa, Donald Duck as a pilgrim for Massachusetts (he was also a lumberjack in Minnesota), Mickey blowing a jazz trumpet in Louisiana (he was also in a straw hat and overalls in Missouri), and Uncle Scrooge throwing money high in air in Nevada among others. Each sticker was about 4-by-2 inches and had a peel-off adhesive back.

One of the big attractions was the "State Fair" food offerings, including pies, BBQ turkey legs, and chili.

The "Pigmania" show at Big Thunder Ranch had pig races around a course. Guest sections were assigned a particular pig and called out their special "SUE-EY" pig call to encourage their entry. A race between the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs also took place on the course. The wolf never won.

Kirk Wall and his musical group (that would officially become Billy Hill and the Hillbillies in 1992) performed as "The Barley Boys" at Big Thunder Ranch.

As Wall later recalled, "Our job was to help entertain the crowd and encourage the pigs to run their fastest. Each Barley Brother [Marley, Farley, Charley, etc] would take one of four sections of the audience and teach them a pig 'call' to encourage that pig during the race."

A special State Fair Parade featured John Deere tractors (celebrating their 150th anniversary) and live animals who were blue ribbon winners from county fairs in California. There was even a baby animal beauty contest.

Disney Dollars

Disney Legend Jack Lindquist was a marketing genius for Disney and responsible for many popular and successful promotions including Grad Nite.

Lindquist said he got the idea for Disney currency on a flight from Florida to California where he was reading the financial page of a newspaper and realized that the Disney theme parks provided services to more people than lived in some small countries.

He decided that the parks should have their own currency but, despite many efforts, couldn't find any supporters. Most people thought it was some sort of play money for a limited promotion. Because Lindquist took it seriously and was persistent, others began to take it seriously and he was given the permission to pursue the idea.

"Disneyland has long been considered its own nation," explained Lindquist, who was executive vice president of Marketing and Entertainment for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 1987 when the first bills were issued. "If you count our guests and cast members, we have a population in the millions. In keeping with that theme, it seemed natural to create our own currency. It's an extension of the fantasy environment we offer our guests."


At launch, $2 million in Disney Dollars, first sold at Disneyland, were put into circulation.

One of the original plans discussed was to make the currency as different as possible from U.S. bills by having a $3 bill featuring the Three Little Pigs, or a $7 bill featuring The Seven Dwarfs, but marketing decided that a $1 bill would be an "impulse buy" that would sell more individual units and be treated more like actual currency.

Disney Dollars were first available in a $1 denomination with Mickey Mouse waving his left hand on the front and Sleeping Beauty Castle on the back, and a $5 denomination with a proudly posing Goofy on the front and a steamboat on the back. They were illustrated by Creative Service Illustrator Matt Mew and were redeemable for goods or services at Disneyland.

The Disney Dollars were first released at Disneyland on May 5, 1987 and could only be used at Disneyland; on September 9, they could be used at Walt Disney World, and were sold at the Florida theme park beginning on October 2, 1987.

Since September 1987, bills for Disneyland are classified as the "A" series and the ones for Walt Disney World are labeled "D" series.

For the inaugural run, more than $2 million worth of Disney Dollars was put into circulation, or approximately 870,000 individual bills. They were an inexpensive souvenir. Lindquist remembered that roughly $60,000 in Disney Dollars were sold just that first day.

Lindquist told me that he estimated that there were millions and maybe even tens of millions of unused Disney Dollars out there in collections or lost somewhere in the back of drawers and storage boxes. So, each bill like a new stamp in a stamp collecting book was something that Disney never had to honor for a product or service and so was pure profit.

One Disney executive recently estimated that the Disney Company had earned more than $200 million in unused revenue from Disney Dollars in the 28 years they were available.

The whole concept of buying the money because it was "fun" to use was parodied in the "Itchy & Scratchy Land" (October 1994) episode of the animated television series The Simpsons where Homer discovers his thousand dollars' worth of Itchy & Scratchy money is virtually worthless.

On Tuesday, May 5, 1987 at 1 a.m., Buena Park hairdresser Dale Castillo came to Disneyland to be the first in line to buy Disney Dollars. Two hours later, Tom d'Arcy was also in line, having flown down that morning from New Town, Pennsylvania, with the intention of returning home the next day.

At 9 a.m., both men, along with other guests there for the opening of the park and cast members saw the official ceremony where a Brink's armored truck, escorted by four Anaheim motorcycle police officers, arrived with sirens blaring at the Main Entrance.

The officers opened the back door of the armored transport vehicle and a costumed Scrooge McDuck emerged carrying the first bag of Disney Dollars and waddled down the sturdy three-step wooden staircase placed against the opening.

After the truck pulled away, Castillo exchanged $75 in United States currency for Disney Dollars. A costumed Mickey Mouse presented him with a framed plaque, signed by Treasurer Scrooge McDuck, officially declaring him to be the first person to buy Disney Dollars.

The plaque read: "Disney Dollars. First Disney Dollar Exchanged May 5, 1987. Disneyland. Scrooge McDuck. Treasurer" and had the first Disney Dollar embedded in it.

"It was worth the wait," said Castillo, who had heard about the event on the local Channel 2 news. "I come to Disneyland about seven times a year, but this is my first Disney collectible. The minute I heard about Disney Dollars, I knew it would take off because everyone loves Disney."

Like vintage attraction tickets, the souvenir value of Disney Dollars, since they are no longer being produced, now exceeds the face monetary value of the actual bill and eBay listings often have these collectibles listed at several times their original cost.

WESTCOT

In 1987, Disney executives, including Jack Lindquist, began talking about a second gate based on elements of Epcot. The cost of the project was estimated at $1.2 billion dollars with construction beginning in 1992 and an opening date of 1998. The hope was to make the Disneyland area a multiple-night stay, like Walt Disney World, and to attract 25 million visitors a year.

Lindquist mentioned an area north of the park with those offices moving to a new building Disney had purchased from Global Van Lines. He also mentioned the famous 40-acre strawberry farm across West Street. Lindquist assured the audience that the parking lot area was no longer a consideration.

The Master Plan was released to the public on May 8, 1991, but was being downsized by 1992 and, by 1995, the project was dead. Many factors were involved, including costing too much money, Anaheim not wanting to pay anything, too many hotels planned, and the failure of EuroDisney among other factors.

The entrance to WESTCOT Center featured a 300-foot golden sphere on a lush green island and featured an attraction inside. The silver Spaceship Earth on the other side of the country was a mere 180 feet high.

Just beyond this icon would be Ventureport, "a futuristic gateway from which guests embark on magical journeys to the Wonders of WESTCOT themed pavilions."

The pavilions included the Wonders of Living, Wonders of Earth, and Wonders of Space. On the perimeter would be the four pavilions in the World Showcase known here as The Four Corners of the World: Asia, Europe, The Americas, and Africa. All together it was called "The Seven Wonders of WESTCOT."

The Wonders of Earth pavilion would allow guests to be immersed in exotic environments, such as a jungle, the desert, underwater, or the frozen world of the Arctic. The Wonders of Living pavilion would be focused on the human mind and body and feature Body Wars, Cranium Command, The Making of Me, and a different version of Journey Into Imagination. Wonders of Space would feature a journey through the Cosmos.

The Four Corners of the World would have the New World (the Americas) with a turn-of-the-century Main Street, an updated version of the American Adventure, a Native American spirit lodge (Canada), and a Mexican fiesta show and restaurant.

The Old World (Europe) would have the Circlevision film Timekeeper, a show prepared for the never-realized Russian pavilion, a Greek amphitheater, a Tivoli Gardens playground for children, and a James Bond-style chase aboard the Trans-European Express railroad featuring famous European buildings zooming past outside the windows,

The World of Asia would have the thrill ride called Ride the Dragon, a roller coaster that followed along the Great Wall of China into the Dragon's Teeth Mountain. The trains would be designed to look like a Chinese Lion-Dragon that you often see in parades. Architectural details from Japan, China, and India would be blended together in this land.

The World of Africa included a raft ride down the fictional Congobezi River, African drummers, a farming culture exhibit, and an Egyptian palace.

The Disneyland Hotel would undergo an extensive renovation and expansion, as well. There would also be the upscale and pricey New Disneyland Resort Hotel, based on the Hotel Del Coronado, with a limited amount of rooms. The 1,800-room Westcot Lake Resort would wrap around a six-acre lake with shops and restaurants.

The Public Esplanade would feature the Disneyland Center (shopping, dining, entertainment, like the later Downtown Disney), the Disneyland Bowl (a 5,000 seat amphitheater, much like the Universal Amphitheater), and the Disneyland Plaza (transportation hub). There would be three huge parking structures around the perimeter of the resort that featured moving sidewalks that would go to a PeopleMover system.

I'M GOING TO DISNEYLAND

Disney refers to the marketing campaign as "What's Next?" It is a reference to the unseen narrator's question after a major triumph where the response from the celebrity is "I'm going to Disneyland!"

The narrator is Mark Champion, a veteran radio play-by-play announcer for several professional sports teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Detroit Pistons, and the Detroit Lions. He got the job because a college classmate was a marketing director at Disney.

Typically, the celebrity records two different versions, one mentioning Disneyland and the other Walt Disney World. Disney gives them an "MVP" all-expense paid trip, flying them on a private jet to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, and then puts their family up in a suite for the duration of their vacation. They also are made the grand marshal of a parade and take part in various events for Disney during their stay.

As former Disney CEO Michael Eisner recalled, "In January 1987, we were launching Disneyland's Star Tours, an attraction based on Star Wars. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, my wife, Jane, and I had dinner with George Lucas, as well as Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who had just become the first people to fly around the world without stopping.

"It was late and the conversation hit a lull as we waited for our food. So I asked Dick and Jeana, 'Well, now that you've accomplished the pinnacle of your aspirations, what could you possibly do next?' Rutan responded, without hesitation, 'I'm going to Disneyland'. And of course I go, 'Wow, that's cool! You made the right choice.' But my wife interjects: 'You know, that's a good slogan'."

Just weeks later, Disney launched the series of commercials following Super Bowl XXI on January 25, 1987. That first commercial was done by quarterback Phil Simms who was reluctant to do it but was paid $75,000 (later the price was dropped for others to around $30,000) and was the MVP for the game.

Simms played for the New York Giants, who beat the Denver Broncos 39-20. Broncos quarterback John Elway had been offered a similar amount of money whether his team won or lost, just so Disney could hedge its bets.

Disney had produced halftime shows for the NFL so it had a good relationship with the organization and paid them a fee that allowed a Disney cameraman to be on the field at the critical moment.

Disney then followed this up with making three more such commercials in 1987, following other major sporting championships. These included yachtsman Dennis Conner, after winning the America's Cup; NBA star Magic Johnson, after the Lakers won the NBA Finals; and MLB player Frank Viola, after the Twins won the World Series that year.

Other commercials featuring non-Super Bowl participants included Bruce Springsteen; Gretchen Carlson (Miss America 1989); Santa Claus (1997); Michael Jordan; Nancy Kerrigan; and even American Idol winners like Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, and Scotty McCreary.