Disneyland 1991

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

Once again in 1991, the Walt Disney Company's attention was on the East Coast for Walt Disney World's 20th anniversary with "20 new surprises" announced included the opening of Muppet*Vision 3D. In 1991, subscribers to an Orlando computer bulletin-board service picked that day for a group outing to the Magic Kingdom. They spread the word locally with fliers in bars, advising all who showed up to wear red so they would stand out.

That first Gay and Lesbian Day at the Magic Kingdom, as it was then promoted, attracted a few hundred people. Alarmed and fearful when Gay Day began, Disney tried to keep its head low, saying only that anyone had the right to buy a ticket to its theme parks and it does not endorse any unofficial group in the park. The event would later grow to attract more than 150,000 guests to WDW and expand to Disneyland by 1998. However, in 1991, Disneyland was blissfully unaware of any cultural changes.

The Disneyland passport that year included admission and unlimited use of attractions (except arcades) was $27.50 for adults and for children (3-11) was $22.50. Parking was $4.00. People complained that Disneyland had gotten too expensive.

CEO Michael Eisner took home an $11 million in stock and salary this year. He was still riding high from expanding a mom and pop company into an entertainment empire pushing the company into television sitcom production, rock-music releases, and moving into publishing forming Hyperion Books, Hyperion Books for Children, and Disney Press, which released books on Disney and non-Disney subjects

Disney animation began reaching even greater audiences, with The Little Mermaid (1989) being topped by Beauty and the Beast in 1991.

Celebration USA! Parade ran from June 21 to November 24, 1991, honoring the Bill of Rights' 200th anniversary as well the men and women of Operation Desert Storm. Chief Warrant Officer Guy Hunter, a former Desert Storm prisoner of war was the first honoree.

The parade had several floats including Old MacDonald Duck's Farm and one devoted to working in the Metropolis with the Big Bad Wolf as the Big Bad Boss. Dancers attired in red, white and blue walked along beside the float. Characters from Disney Afternoon Live also participated.

A clever gag during the parade was a walking coffee cup in the "working" section that had the name "Jack" on one side and the other a three-dimensional caricature of Disneyland president Jack Lindquist's face. The parade ended with a patriotically garbed Mickey Mouse on the railing around a gigantic re-creation of the Statue of Liberty's torch.

Instead of the usual July 4th spectacular television show, it was replaced with Disney Great American Celebration, with excerpts from both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. This was the end of the annual televised July 4th event at the Disney theme parks.

To commemorate the Bill of Rights' 200th anniversary, 251 candidates from 61 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a special ceremony at Disneyland's Main Street, in cooperation with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, on November 14 for this first time event.

As part of the Disneyland Olympic Salute, June 22 – 23 and June 29-30, a portion of each paid Disneyland admission was donated to the United States Olympic Team. Veterans of the U.S. Olympic teams visited as well and were featured in the Celebration USA! Parade. Disneyland cast members carried the Olympic torch through Disneyland on July 3 in an effort to heighten awareness of the U.S. Olympic Festival.

Disneyland supported the first CHOC Walk, a fundraising event benefiting the Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), that was developed through a partnership with Disneyland and the hospital. During its first year, the Walk had an estimated 850 walkers who raised $72,000.

The Florida State University Seminoles beat the Brigham Young University Cougars with a score of 44-28 on August 29 in the second annual Disneyland Pigskin Classic at Anaheim Stadium. The Disneyland Pigskin Classic showcased the nation's top collegiate football programs.

Wayne Coulter, 91, the oldest Disneyland cast member retired from his position as Main Entrance Reception Host on Friday, June 28. It was the third retirement so far for the Stubenville, Ohio native.

And in 1991, they were "Imagineering a Brand New Attraction" for guests in the abandoned America Sings building. Of course the sign stating that coming attraction had already been hanging on the exterior of the building for three years and it took a total of 10 years to actually put something in that building.

Mickey's Nutcracker

Mickey's Nutcracker, a spectacular musical stage show, debuted during the holiday season at Videopolis. The modern Disney re-telling of Hoffmann's children classic The Nutcracker was a big hit.

The show opens with Minnie Mouse hosting a Christmas party at her house, attended by fellow Disney characters Pluto, Goofy, Chip'n'Dale, Roger Rabbit and Tigger along with human neighbors Conrad, Tina, and Ethel. The narrator then arrives to give Minnie her Christmas present – a nutcracker in the likeness of Mickey Mouse.

After the party (which the narrator remarks to the other characters needs to be over in order to continue the story), Minnie, too excited to sleep, starts dancing with her new nutcracker. When midnight strikes, Mickey the Nutcracker suddenly comes to life. He explains to Minnie that every year on Christmas Eve, he comes to life, accompanied by his friends - a quintet of tap-dancing singing tin soldiers, with their leader resembling Tina.

After their song, the soldiers and the mice go to get some snacks when suddenly, an evil pack of rats shows up. After the narrator introduces them to the leads, the rats' leader, the Rat King, arrives. The narrator explains that the Rat King was once a handsome prince who was put under an evil curse that can only be undone by the thing rat kings hate most – sugar.

The Rat King announces his plans to ruin Christmas and picks a fight with the Nutcracker and his soldiers, but Minnie tells them that she won't have a big fight going on in her house. The soldiers knock out the Henchrats and Minnie conks out the Rat King when he attempts to kill the Nutcracker.

The rats quickly escape and the soldiers go off to get another snack. The Nutcracker, grateful to Minnie for saving his life, offers to take her to his home kingdom, Candyland, using a sleigh driven by Pluto as a reindeer.

Shortly into their journey, they arrive at the Enchanted Snowflake Forest, where they meet and dance with the Dancing Snowflakes and their leader, the Queen of the Snowflakes (who, as Minnie notices, resembles Ethel). After the pair depart, the Rat King suddenly shows up in the forest, looking for the mice.

The Snowflake Queen tries to cast a spell of her own on him, but her wand shorts out, so she decides to call Acme Exterminating. The Rat King then overhears the narrator talking about Minnie and the Nutcracker going to Candyland and worries about having to go there.

The Nutcracker and Minnie arrive at Candyland, where they're greeted by Mayor Goofy. The mayor declares Minnie as Candyland's national heroine for saving the Nutcracker's life. Minnie is then introduced to the town's candymasters (Chip and Dale), the dentist (Roger Rabbit) and the sheriff (Tigger), who engage in song and dance.

During this, the Rat King ties up the narrator and then takes over the story, saying that everyone got sick on the candy they ate. He then peeks ahead in the story, sees that he's supposed to get arrested by the sheriff and promptly tears that page out of the book.

The Rat King makes up his own ending in which he takes over Candyland, but the Nutcracker puts a stop to this by clouting him with a bag of sugar. The sugar turns the Rat King back into the handsome prince he used to be (who resembles Conrad).

No longer evil, the prince thanks the Nutcracker for changing him back in time for the ending. Goofy then asks the narrator how the story ends, but the narrator doesn't know, since the last few pages got torn out. The Nutcracker comes up with one, though – he asks Minnie if she'd be his princess and stay in Candyland with them, which she happily agrees to do.

The Disney Afternoon

The 1991 Disneyland Guide highlighted The Disney Afternoon.

"The Disney Afternoon" was the title of a created-for-syndication two-hour block of animated television produced by Walt Disney Television animation and featured four half-hour series. It aired nationwide and in many other countries and was highly popular.

While various different series filled the block from 1990 to 1997, its first season was composed of Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Duck Tales, Chip'n'Dale Rescue Rangers and TaleSpin. (Darkwing Duck replaced Gummi Bears in the second season.)

To help promote the programming and to leverage the already growing excitement that had produced the highest ratings, Disneyland transformed the walkway from the Storybook Land Canal Boats to the front of "it's a small world" attraction into the Disney Afternoon Avenue that lasted from March 1991 to November 1991.

Guests entered under an archway with a huge hot air balloon with the characters on top. The walkway was now a miniature, cartoon version of Uncle Scrooge's hometown of Duckburg with two-dimensional facades that served as themed photo locations where guests could get their pictures taken or meet with costumed characters from the series. The facades were similar in style to the ones at Mickey's Birthdayland in Florida.

Part of the enthusiasm for the new temporary promotion was that guests could meet their favorite characters from the different television series including a Beagle Boy or Don Karnage or the Gummi Bears, characters not usually seen at the park.

Two of the existing attractions got overlays so that the Fantasyland Autopia became the Chip'n'Dale Rescue Rangers Raceway and the Motor Boat Cruise became the Motor Boat Cruise to Gummi Glen, the home of the Gummi Bears. Both rides now featured two-dimensional cutouts of the various characters along the ride, as well as new entrance signage.

The Videopolis Train Station was rechristened with a colorful, character filled sign declaring it the Disney Afternoon Train Depot.

Guests could pick up a free Disney Afternoon Live map that had 28 characters in circles encircling its border. Twelve of those circles were incomplete so guests would then go to a dozen locations, such as Scrooge's Vault (a pit filled with yellow balls to suggest gold for kids to dive in) or Duckburg City Hall to collect the appropriate character stamp for each circle.

Baloo the bear's dressing room was at a meet-and-greet location in Stage 1 that was under the bridge that now leads to Toontown (since that land had yet to be created) where the train crossed into Fantasyland. Another reason for this temporary land was to test ideas for Mickey's Toontown, including a specific meet-and-greet location for Mickey Mouse.

There was a Videocade Game Center where guests could sample the new NES video games based on DuckTales and Rescue Rangers.

Videopolis featured a stage show with costumed characters Baloo from TaleSpin, Chip'n'Dale from Rescue Rangers and Launchpad McQuack from Duck Tales called Plane Crazy. They tried to stop villains Don Karnage and Fat Cat from stealing the X-22 spy plane that they have shrunk (thus the reason for the Plane Crazy title).

A Second Gate?

In 1987, Disney executives, including Jack Lindquist, began talking about a second gated theme park in Anaheim based on elements of Epcot in Florida to create a West Coast version to be called WestCot or WestCot Center like Epcot's original name of Epcot Center.

The cost of the project was estimated at $3.1 billion dollars with construction to begin sometime in 1992 and an opening date of 1998. The hope was to make the Disneyland area a multiple-night vacation destination stay, like Walt Disney World, and to attract 25 million visitors a year. WestCot alone was projected to bring in at least 10 million guests annually its first year.

The Master Plan for WestCot with a proposed budget was released to the public on May 8, 1991.

CEO Michael Eisner announced that as part of the "Disney Decade" of the 1990s, Disney would build another theme park in Southern California. The company also explored the possibility of a nautically themed park called Port Disney in Long Beach where it was operating the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose and WestCot in Anaheim.

Disney found too many challenges with the Long Beach project, including continuing battles with different city departments. So, in December 1991, it officially announced it was abandoning those plans and would be proceeding with WestCot in Anaheim.

While inspired by Epcot, and its core philosophy of technological innovation and international culture and borrowing some of its attractions, WestCot would be physically different, because of space limitations and the urban setting surrounding the park.

WestCot would have been divided into two sections: Ventureport (the hub for this version of Epcot's Future World) and World Showcase, similar in tone to Epcot's version, but with only four pavilions representing a larger range of international cultures rather than pavilions devoted to just a single country.

The entrance to WestCot featured a 300-foot golden sphere called SpaceStation Earth on a lush green island and featured a new omnimover attraction inside called Cosmic Journeys, a combination of film, simulation technology and 3-D.

To reach the sphere required crossing over a bridge and walking under a cascading waterfall, to enter a huge lobby where guests could then ride the attraction or proceed to Ventureport's three pavilions. Just beyond this icon would be "a futuristic gateway from which guests embark on magical journeys to the Wonders of WestCot themed pavilions."

The three Ventureport pavilions included the Wonders of Living, Wonders of Earth, and Wonders of Space. They would all be enclosed so that Disney could control the entire experience.

Surrounding the perimeter would be the four additional pavilions in the World Showcase not representing individual countries, but geographical regions known here as The Four Corners of the World: Asia, Europe, The Americas, and Africa.

All together the pavilions of Ventureport and World Showcase were called "The Seven Wonders of WestCot."

The Wonders of Earth pavilion would allow guests to be immersed in exotic environments, such as a humid jungle, the hot desert, underwater, or the frozen world of the Arctic where guests could actually play with ice. It would also include an attraction based on Charles and Ray Eames' Powers of Ten film.

The Wonders of Living pavilion would be focused on the human mind and body and feature versions of the Epcot attractions Body Wars, Cranium Command, The Making of Me, and a significantly different version of the Journey Into Imagination attraction but still featuring Dreamfinder and Figment.

The Wonders of Space pavilion would feature "a journey through the Cosmos," utilizing ideas for a proposed but never built Space pavilion at Epcot.

The Four Corners of the World would have had the New World (the Americas) with a turn-of-the-century U.S. Main Street in the spirit of the Centennial Fair in Philadelphia to mirror Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A.; an updated version of Epcot's American Adventure attraction; a Native American spirit lodge show (representing Canada); and a Mexican fiesta show and restaurant, along with another spirit and legends show, reflecting the Inca and Aztec cultures.

The Old World (Europe) would have the CircleVision 360 film from Disneyland Paris called Timekeeper; a Greek amphitheater; a Tivoli Gardens that would integrate a playground and rides for children; and a James Bond-style chase aboard the Trans-European Express railroad featuring famous European buildings zooming past outside the windows. Eventually, there were plans to incorporate a Russian attraction based on a show that had been developed for the proposed-but-never-built Russia pavilion at Epcot.

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 is often seen in parades.

At its peak lift, guests would have been prevented from seeing outside the park by billowing red and gold silks that engulfed the moving cars. Architectural details from Japan, China, and India would be blended together in this land.

For smaller children there would have been a carousel, but instead of horses, it would be composed of mythical Asian animals from all the cultures represented. A white marble Indian palace would have housed a dining and entertainment area.

Also proposed for this area were a copy of Tokyo Disneyland's Meet the World show and a Three Great Religions of the World show.

The World of Africa included a white water raft ride down the fictional Congobezi River, African drummers performing outside, a farming culture exhibit, and plans when the park expanded to include an Egyptian palace. The Story Teller Tree Show would present stories of African history told beneath the tree with a live narrator and the Tishman African Art Exhibit placed nearby.

The World Showcase area would have been home to the World Cruise also known as "The River of Time" which would have been the longest Disney ride ever at forty-five minutes long. There were five ports of call roughly nine minutes apart from each other. In some ways, it was similar in concept to the Disneyland Railroad serving not just as transportation but to give an overview of the area.

During the cruise around the World Showcase there were scenes under each pavilion depicting Audio Animatronics recreations of moments like Leonardo da Vinci working on the Mona Lisa, the burning of Rome, and Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, among other key tableaus, much like the ones in Epcot's Spaceship Earth.

The scenes would tell the story of the cultures of each pavilion and the evolution of world civilization. Each of the five stations would support the scenes just witnessed as guests could disembark at any station to explore the pavilion.

The buildings of World Showcase would have been built as six-story structures with the first three floors housing attractions, retail shops, shows, and restaurants, but with the top three floors featuring hotel guest rooms. It would be the first Disney resort hotel within one of its theme parks and the program was called "The Live the Dream Program".

From the Los Angeles Times May 9, 1991: "Also proposed for the 470-acre Disneyland Resort are three new hotels, a seven-acre public plaza and a collection of retail, dining and entertainment facilities called Disneyland Center to be built around a six-acre lake."

The Public Esplanade between Disneyland and WestCot would feature the Disneyland Center (shopping, dining, entertainment, much like the later Downtown Disney, but with fountains and extensive elaborate landscaping), the Disneyland Bowl (a 5,000 seat live entertainment amphitheater, much like the Universal Amphitheater and would be located between the main plaza and the Harbor Boulevard entrance to the park), and the Disneyland Plaza (transportation hub).

There would be three huge parking structures around the perimeter of the resort (one on the northwest side near Ball Road and a pair of others on the east side near the Melodyland Church) that featured moving sidewalks that would go to a PeopleMover system that would shuttle up to 8,000 tourists an hour from the parking structures to the parks and hotels. Disney wanted new off-ramps from Interstate 5 that would directly feed into the project's parking structures and expected Anaheim to foot that bill.

When WestCot was cancelled, CEO Michael Eisner held a three-day executive retreat in Aspen, Colorado, to come up with a new idea to use that area of land. At that meeting of over 30 executives came the idea for a California-based themed park that became Disney's California Adventure, which opened in 2001 on the same property that would have featured WestCot.