Disneyland 1960

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

Disneyland's fifth birthday in 1960 was a bit anti-climatic since, less than a year before, in 1959, the park experienced such sweeping changes. Walt Disney himself described 1959 as "the second opening of Disneyland" with the opening of the first "E Ticket" attractions like the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail, Submarine Voyage and Matterhorn Bobsleds.

It has all been well documented with a huge summer celebration that included a television special and theatrical documentary featurette, Gala Day at Disneyland.

Walt and his team were also deeply involved with the 1960 Winter Olympics held in February 1960. Walt wasn't just responsible for all the glamour and glitz, like the opening and closing ceremonies, nighttime entertainment for athletes and officials, as well as decorating the venue. He was also asked to provide help with tickets, parking, and security.

The year 1960 saw the release of several films, including Toby Tyler, Kidnapped, Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson and The Sign of Zorro (compiled from television episodes) with One Hundred and One Dalmatians and Absent Minded Professor being prepared for the first three months of 1961. Four episodes of The Swamp Fox with Leslie Nielsen ran on the weekly television show in 1960.

Disney officially bought out the Western Printing and Lithographing investment that gave them 13.8 percent of Disneyland. The buy-out actually gave the company the impetus to break away from Dell that was distributing its comic books and activity books and start its own line called Gold Key.

In July, just before the anniversary, American Broadcasting Paramount Theaters Inc., sold its 35 percent interest in Disneyland for $7.5 million. ABC's interest in Disneyland was originally purchased in 1954 for $500,000.

However, despite all this non-stop activity, under Walt's watch, Disneyland always had something new every year and new milestones were always being made and 1960 was no different.

Disneyland held its first private party on Friday, May 13, when 5,042 Knights of Columbus enjoyed exclusive use of Disneyland. The New Year's Eve Party that year was attended by over 14,000 guests showing that more and more local residents were considering Disneyland as a location to celebrate on that evening.

Enhancements were made to the Fantasyland dark rides by Yale Gracey and Rolly Crump. New attractions opened, like Nature's Wonderland in Frontierland, the Circarama film America the Beautiful in Tomorrowland, as well as the Art of Animation exhibit next to the Art Corner building, Skull Rock Cove in Fantasyland and Sunkist Citrus House on Main Street.

Of course, some things disappeared, as well, like the Kaiser Hall of Aluminum Fame in July 1960. Kaiser had convinced Walt that aluminum was truly going to be the metal of the future which is why it supposedly fit into Tomorrowland. The Kaiser pavilion was a self-guided walk-through exhibit showcasing the history of aluminum products "past, present and future." Most impressive was at the entrance, a polished 40-foot aluminum telescope shown on the opening day television special.

Dixieland at Disneyland

Dixieland at Disneyland was held for one night only in October 1960

The "Dixieland at Disneyland" event debuted on the Rivers of America in Frontierland on October 1 for one night only from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. The show started with a floating Mardi Gras parade accompanied by fireworks. A floating raft was created for each of the six bands, complete with multicolored spotlights that lighted up the musicians. And, for the grand finale, all six bands gathered aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat and sailed past the audience, swinging in time to the song When the Saints Come Marching In.

When the Mark Twain docked, the bands each marched off to six separate locations throughout Disneyland to perform for the crowd during the remainder of the night. At the stroke of midnight, the bands once again assembled and were in a foot-tapping parade down Main Street that culminated at the railroad station. It took operations by surprise when over 9,000 jazz fans showed up for the special one-night party. Tickets, which included admission to the park, were $4.50.

Bands included Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats, The Elliott Brothers and the Dixie Dandies, Disneyland Strawhatters, Joe Darensbourg and the Dixie Flyers, Albert McNeil Choir, and Young Men from New Orleans. Louis Armstrong and the Firehouse Five didn't start appearing until the second year. The event proved so instantly popular that it expanded and continued until 1970. It was held in the fall because that was the "off season" and was used to generate attendance.

Nature's Wonderland

While the original ways to explore the Frontierland wilderness were authentic, like stagecoaches and pack mules, when the park opened in 1955, they were low capacity and gave guests a very rough ride. In 1956, Walt invested roughly $400,000 for a new attraction of a mine train that would provide a more comfortable experience, as well as handle more visitors.

The little town of Rainbow Ridge, with businesses like the Last Chance Saloon and El Dorado Hotel, sprung up in the loading area as the fictional Rainbow Mountain Mining and Exploration Company arrived. Guests boarded one of six ore cars (each one holding 10 passengers) pulled by a small locomotive on a narrow gauge track to venture on a seven minute frontier excursion.

Guests started their trip going through a mine shaft and then passed through rocky cliffs, underneath the Natural Arch Bridge and more including the desert with saguaro cactii that looked somewhat human like the Seven Dwarfs. Guests saw the Devil's Paint Pots with their steaming multi-colored "lava" constantly bubbling and spurting like geysers before maneuvering between balancing rocks that threatened to fall on the train.

The dramatic conclusion was a trip through the eerie Rainbow Caverns created by Claude Coats where black light provided a breathtaking show with the many waterfalls among the stalactites and stalagmites.

In June 1960, Walt Disney spent $1.8 million to expand the area into Nature's Wonderland. The new seven acre wilderness was touted as having 156 types of plant life and over 200 amazing animals, many electric mechanical that would perform simple repetitive movements like a bear scratching its back on a tree.

The expansion had sections to represent Disney's True-Life Adventure nature films like The Living Desert (1953), Beaver Valley (1950), Olympic Elk (1951), and Bear Country (1953). Cascade Peak now towered seventy five feet in the air with its three waterfalls.

The engine cab and cars were repainted a bright yellow with an additional ore car added to each train and the ride was extended another two minutes. In the redesign, all seats now faced forward.

Disneyland spent $1.8 million on the Nature's Wonderland expansion

Guests went under a big waterfall, over creaking trestle bridges, passed by four spouting geysers and more. Many items from the original attraction were retained including the almost human cactii, the Devil's Paint Pots, and the Rainbow Caverns.

The last train ride was on New Year's Day 1977 and the attraction was closed to make room for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Several items were retained and used in the new attraction.

However, Cascade Peak, that had been built for Nature's Wonderland, remained until 1998. Cascade Peak actually looked taller than seven stories, because of the little pine trees that had been selected to surround its base. Its main purpose was to block the sight of Beaver Valley and Bear Country from all the traffic on the Rivers of America that included the Mark Twain, the Sailing Ship Columbia, the Mike Fink Keel Boats and the Indian War canoes. Its waterfall, named Big Thunder, also helped aerate the water in the river. Cascade Peak, of course, was not a real mountain, but a building of steel beams and wooden frames built by the same Disney team that had built the Matterhorn a year earlier. Lack of maintenance over the years resulted in severe water damage and termite issues. In addition, work was needed on the faux rock façade. The needed repairs were deemed too expensive and the entire structure became the victim of bulldozers in 1998.

Of course, the name Big Thunder later inspired the name of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad that replaced the area in 1979. One of the original mine trains and two ore cars were incorporated into a curving length of track near the largest waterfall, where it had appeared to have been derailed. In 2016, after many years of sitting abandoned backstage, they were officially donated to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park, where they will be restored and displayed next to Walt Disney's Carolwood barn.

An October 2017 Mickey Mouse short titled Rainbow Caverns had Mickey taking Minnie on a romantic vacation to Nature's Wonderland and the Rainbow Caverns, but someone had "dropped a big thundering mountain" in its place. Mickey finds an abandoned mine shaft and mine train that is the exact model and color of the original attraction and uses it to locate the original area utilizing his vintage Disneyland souvenir map, that is an exact replica of the large promotional poster Walt used to advertise the new addition to guests. They encounter some of the icons of the original attraction including twisting caves, Balancing Rock Canyon, the Devil's Paintpots and the Old Unfaithful Geyser, even Marc Davis' bear repeatedly scratching its rear on a tree and, finally, the fabled dayglow Rainbow Caverns.

Skull Rock Cove

One of the most dramatic scenes in Disney's animated feature Peter Pan (1953) takes place at Skull Rock in Neverland Lagoon. Captain Hook and Mr. Smee take the Indian princess Tiger Lily to the location and threaten to drown her at high tide if she does not reveal the whereabouts of Peter Pan. Fortunately, Pan rescues her just in the nick of time after a battle with the villainous Hook.

Skull Rock does not exist in the original James Barrie novel, but was the creation of the Disney artists for the film's story.

For the first five years of the park, the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship Restaurant, that was meant to represent Captain Hook's infamous ship, was anchored in a shallow pool. The surrounding area was devoid of any landscaping. It looked unfinished next to some of the other attractions. It seemed natural to put it into an appropriate setting from the film.

In December 1960, Skull Rock Cove was added to the area and included sandy beaches, an outdoor dining area with tables and chairs made of the ship's kegs, palm trees and a pathway leading to volcanic rock outcropping.

Rockwork stood 30-feet tall and curved around the northeastern shore of the lagoon. The massive rock that resembled a skull was designed by Imagineer Ken Anderson. The new addition not only added to the atmosphere of the pirate ship, but screened the Casey Jr. train from view and helped the transition to the rocks that surrounded Monstro the whale just around the corner.

From the skull's open mouth, a waterfall poured out over the craggy lower teeth. Several smaller waterfalls at various heights cascaded down from either side. The skull featured huge, hollow eyes that at night were lit by an eerie green light. A huge crack squiggled down the top of the forehead.

Skull Rock and the Pirate Ship became the unintentional victims of the New Fantasyland project in 1982. During the renovation, several rides like Dumbo and King Arthur's Carrousel were relocated. The intention was to do the same with the ship and Skull Rock and move them to the queue area for the Storybook Land Canal Boats.

However, damage to the ship prevented that from happening and removal of Skull Rock was already in progress and too late to stop. Some of the lower rockwork still remains.

Art of Animation Exhibit

The Art of Animation exhibit was located between Circarama and The Art Corner in Tomorrowland. Previously, the space had been occupied by the Satellite View of America that had opened with the park.

When Walt Disney was producing the animated feature film Sleeping Beauty (1959), he realized that a great way to publicize the "high art" approach of the film, as well as address all the letters that flooded into the studio from young artists interested in animation, would be to put together a traveling exhibit showcasing the history of animation and how animation was done.

The traveling exhibit was titled The Art of Animation: A Walt Disney Retrospective.

There were three versions of this exhibit, and each featured different original art. In fact, a 24-page exhibit souvenir guidebook with a white cover was produced featuring material from the Bob Thomas book The Art of Animation (1958) also meant to publicize the film Sleeping Beauty.

One of the exhibits was showcased in Tomorrowland at Disneyland and it was natural to be placed next to The Art Corner that sold animation related material in May 1960. The exhibit featured early optical devices, like thaumatropes and a zoetrope, as well as displays explaining not only the history of animation, but the process along the perimeter of the circular room. The interior of the room had plastic chairs, potted plants and ashtrays so guests could smoke. Television monitors showed segments from the Disneyland weekly television show episode The Art of the Animated Drawing, first shown on November 11, 1955.

There were two other traveling versions of the exhibit that toured the United States beginning in 1958 and then one was sent to be shown in Europe and the other to Japan in 1960 to once again promote the release of Sleeping Beauty in those countries.

The famous attraction poster done by Paul Hartley also promoted that this was part of the "international exhibit" seen around the world. It was a popular exhibit because, at the time, very little was known about animation. It also served to help drive sales at The Art Corner next door. The expansion of the CircleVision theater next door in 1967 resulted in its removal.


Inspired by seeing a Cinerama presentation where three large screens were synchronized to show a motion picture, Walt Disney had Ub Iwerks develop a process where a movie could be presented on a series of screens that completely surrounded the audience. The two men share the patent on the process.

It was called Circarama, not only as an allusion to Cinerama, but also because the film was sponsored by the American Motors Corporation, who produced cars like the Rambler. The building was located just to the left of the entrance of Tomorrowland.

The audience stood in an asphalt paved circular area 40-feet in diameter with the 8-foot high screens elevated about 8 feet off the floor. There were no "lean" rails in those early days.

A Tour of the West presented a journey beginning on Sunset Boulevard in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel, then a high-speed trip down Wilshire Boulevard and then along the Los Angeles Freeways to Monument Valley, Arizona, and then off to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

In 1958, Walt created a brand new Circarama film for the Brussels World's Fair, America the Beautiful. The new film showcased portions of the entire United States. It was then shown at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, Russia in 1959. In June of 1960 the new film debuted at Disneyland, sponsored by Bell Telephone, as a free attraction.

Sunkist Citrus House

Nearly 160 acres of citrus trees had to be cleared to build Disneyland. The oranges grown on the property over the years were sold to Sunkist, the largest shipper of fresh produce in the United States. Sunkist marketed its fresh-squeezed fruit juice as a healthy alternative to artificial beverages like Coca-Cola.

The Sunkist Citrus House took over the former location of the Puffin Bakery in July 1960. The former bakery's dining room was enlarged by taking over the adjacent space that had been previously operated by Sunny-View Farms Jams and Jellies. While the interior space was now one large dining area with tables and chairs and the counter on the far left, the exterior still looked like two separate businesses. It was later replaced by the Blue Ribbon Bakery and, eventually, the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor.

The shop was owned by the Perricone Citrus Company (Sam Perricone) and run by B.C. "Bo" Foster. Guests could have fresh citrus shipped anywhere in the United States in a special Disneyland box. Orange juice was fresh squeezed every day at Disneyland for the Citrus House as well as distributed to all the restaurants in the park.

In addition to fresh squeezed orange juice from oranges and lemonade from concentrate, as well as frozen fruit juice bars, the shop sold lemon tarts, lemon meringue pie and orange cheesecake from Marcheta's Bakery in Garden Grove.

Every day, employees drove to Yorba Linda to get the oranges, to Corona to pick up the large containers of frozen lemonade concentrate, and to Garden Grove for the pastries. The shop also made the non-alcoholic Mint Julep (orange juice, lemonade, mint flavoring, sugar and grenadine syrup) sold on the Mark Twain at the time.

The main attraction of the Citrus House was the semi-automatic juice squeezers, where an employee had to constantly feed the oranges one at a time into the chute on top of the squeezer. They used size 138 oranges, meaning an average size so that 138 oranges fit into a single carton. Only Valencia oranges were used, never navel oranges.

The machine automatically cut them in half and squeezed the juice with six reamers on one side and six on the other. The reamers slowly rotated around, picked up an orange half, squeezed it, and dumped the peel in a circular motion with a continuous stream of juice trickling out.

Walt was fascinated by the machine and often in the early morning hours, before the park opened, he would unlock the shop and make himself a glass of orange juice, often inviting workmen he found on the street to join him so he could keep using the machine. Eventually, he was given a small version by Sunkist for his Disneyland apartment.

When Walt Disney was alive, every year at Disneyland was filled with new, exciting things that we take for granted these days.



  1. By carolinakid

    Another beautiful article, Jim. This was Disneyland as it existed in my first year of life! Iím glad I got to experience several of these attractions when I made my first visit in 1968.

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