Sixty Years Ago: Disneyland 1962

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

It really makes me feel old that I can remember that sixty years ago this summer I was a kid being taken to Disneyland along with my two brothers by my parents who I miss dearly.

The cost for a child admission was sixty cents and adults paid a dollar and sixty cents but my dad was a member of the Magic Kingdom Club so admission was included in the special ticket book that included more tickets than a regular ticket book.

I wish I could remember more of the experience and in those days taking photos was usually limited by a manual camera that had a limit on a film roll.

Fortunately, my most recent book Disneyland Historical Highlights: The Walt and Roy Disney Years 1954 – 1972 has just been released and writing it forced me to do some intensive research since each chapter in the book is devoted to one year during that time period.

Disneyland was still enjoying popularity from the attractions opened in 1959 but there were some significant changes in Adventureland.

Imagineer Rolly Crump was given a six week deadline and a budget of $38,000 to remodel the Adventureland Bazaar covering roughly 2,800 square feet. It was Crump's first opportunity to be an Imagineering Art Director.

He used some of the old ticket booths as cash register stations. He used mirrors on the walls to make the space look bigger. He used columns from the Chicken Plantation restaurant that had just been torn down. He also bought some things and built some things. It became a popular merchandise location and inspired other Imagineers.

Here is an excerpt of some of the information that is in the 1962 chapter.

Meet Me At Disneyland

From June 1962 to September 8, 1962, Disneyland produced a Saturday-only show (airing at 7:30 p.m. PST and proclaimed as "Live from Disneyland Town Square") titled Meet Me At Disneyland in a an attempt to drive up attendance during the summer weeknights.

It was a live broadcast directly from the park each week so it was pretty frantic. Sponsors included Stouffer's, Fritos, Chicken of the Sea, and Hills Brothers Coffee, who were all involved as lessees at Disneyland at the time.

The show ran on a local Los Angeles channel, KTTV, which was Channel 11. The producer was Tommy Walker who was assisted by Chuck Corson. The master of ceremonies host was Johnny Jacobs (later a well-known announcer for many television shows), who would introduce the performers and interview guests in the park. Disney writer Larry Clemmons wrote most if not all of the scripts and Buck Pennington (from KTTV) was the director. Bob Matheison was listed as doing sound.

The Osmond Brothers appeared on the show broadcast July 7 along with the Vonnair Sisters, Owen Pope, Frank DeVol and others. It was episode No. 5 titled There is Something About a Band. Other shows included everyone from Fred MacMurray to the Firehouse Five to Annette Funicello to Benny Goodman to Frank Sinatra Jr.

Corson claims it was Andy Williams' brother, Don, who watched the Osmonds on that television show and convinced Andy to use them on his weekly television show. Most biographies claim it was Jay Williams, Andy's father, who saw the talented boys and recommended them to his son. Supposedly, they reminded Jay of how Andy and his brothers sang as young boys.

Meet Me at Disneyland Episode Guide:

  • June 9: Main Street U.S.A.
  • June 16: Plaza Gardens
  • June 23: Rhythm on the River
  • June 30: Swingin' Through Space
  • July 7: There's Something About a Band
  • July 14: Tahitian Terrace Show
  • July 21: Fun in Frontierland
  • July 28: Music on the Mall
  • August 4: Fun in Fantasyland
  • August 11: This Was the West
  • August 25: Swingin' at the Magic Kingdom
  • September 1: Dixie on the Delta
  • September 8: Talent on Parade

La Coquette

On April 22, to celebrate Easter Sunday, a giant hot-air balloon from the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days lifted off from the Hub with balloonists Peter Pellegrine and Francis Shields, it rode to an altitude of 2,000 feet and landed 45 minutes later in an orange grove ten miles away.

The appearance of the La Coquette balloon was an Easter favorite from 1962-1967.

The balloon was named La Coquette and was built by Goodyear for the U.S. Navy and originally used during World War II for the training of blimp pilots. For the movie, it was painted silver with various mythological figures to evoke a 19th century "Jules Verne" aesthetic.

It proved to be so popular with Disneyland guests that it made an annual appearance at Easter through 1967.

Moonliner and Rocket to the Moon

The Moonliner rocket was 72 feet tall (80 feet with the legs) and was estimated to be one-third what the actual size of the rocket might be to hold 102 passengers. The exterior featured 15,000 square feet of aluminum.

The sponsorship shifted in 1962 to McDonnell Douglas when TWA owner Howard Hughes sold his interest in TWA and that company decided to end its sponsorship of the Tomorrowland attraction.

The Douglas Moonliner debuted a new design and color scheme from the original TWA Moonliner.

The dedication ceremony took place June 8th where Donald Douglas spoke to an audience that included Walt Disney, Joe Fowler and the Tomorrowland spaceman. The new business relationship resulted in changed signs, the uniforms of the attendants, and an updated briefing film with Douglas images for the pre-show area under the direction of Claude Coats. New speakers and projection systems were installed.

The Moonliner was renamed the McDonnell-Douglas DC-78. McDonnell Douglas painted its name on the rocket and replaced the horizontal red stripes with vertical blue ones, destroying the forced perspective Imagineer John Hench had originally created that made the rocket look taller.

The Rocket to the Moon attraction had guests enter a double hemisphere building where they supposedly boarded the Star of Polaris spaceship piloted by Captain Collins. Roughly 104 guests filled a three-tiered circular theater that was meant to be the passenger compartment of the spacecraft.

At the center of both the ceiling and floor of the theater were large, round "scanner screens" where film of the flight to the moon and back were projected as if they were portholes. At appropriate times, the seats vibrated and air jacks under the seats helped with the sense of losing gravity.


Vacationland magazine for Summer 1962 stated: "For Disneyland's brand new Jungle River Cruise — part of another $7 million expansion at Walt Disney's Anaheim wonderland — has been designed as a combination 'you are there' exploration and fun-filled laugh provoking adventure whose 'actors' are elephants, tigers and many more beasts of the jungle.

"Starting with a proven success — the true-life jungle cruise has been one of Disneyland's most popular attractions since opening — Walt Disney is adding a jungle-full of animated animals — startlingly life-like — and making the explorer's voyage longer and full of humor.

"Top highlight is sure to be the Indian elephants — big ones and 'little squirts' — who will frolic, splash and swim in a unique 'elephant bathing pool'. Their trunks loaded with watery surprises (for unwary animals and explorers), nearly two dozen of the full-size elephants will eventually call Disneyland 'home', all brought to life through the marvels of Disneyland animation.

"The emphasis in new attractions is on Adventureland, with (1) the 'world's largest Tree House, (2) a 'Big Game Safari' shooting gallery, (3) a colorful African motif for portions of the bazaar shops and stores in Adventureland, and (4) the fabulous 'Stouffer's in Disneyland' dinner-show restaurants. Stouffer's Tahitian Terrace will feature nightly dancing and South Seas entertainment."

In preparation for the upcoming installation of Imagineer Marc Davis' Elephant Bathing Pool and African Veldt scenes both advertised in 1962 as "newly discovered territory", the river was extended to 1,920 feet. The two-story boathouse was removed and rebuilt as a single-story structure.

Swiss Family Treehouse

In 1960, Disney released a popular live action adventure film titled Swiss Family Robinson, based on the 1812 novel of the same name by Johann David Wyss. However, Disney made some significant additions to make the story more exciting and amusing.

Directed by Ken Annakin (whose name inspired George Lucas to create an Anakin Skywalker character) and shot in Tobago (in the Caribbean) and Pinewood Studios (outside London), the film recounts a large Swiss family on their way to New Guinea whose ship is attacked by pirates.

Shipwrecked on an uninhabited island, the father and his two eldest sons salvage material from the ship, including furniture, supplies, and ship parts, like the steering wheel, and construct a treehouse on the island.

An attraction poster for the Swiss Family Treehouse.

The treehouse (designed primarily by Disney animator and director Wolfgang Reitherman with input from John Hench) was built in a 200-foot spread samaan in the Goldsborough Bay area. Samaan is a wide-canopied flowering tree with a large symmetrical crown native to tropic regions.

Director Annakin said that the treehouse "was really solid - capable of holding 20 crew and cast, and constructed in sections so that it could be taken apart and rebuilt on film by the family." Unfortunately the surrounding dense foliage only allowed three hours a day when there was enough sunlight to shoot on that particular set.

After the filming was completed, the locals begged Disney to let the treehouse remain (without the interior furnishings) and it became a popular tourist attraction, but was finally destroyed in 1963 by Hurricane Flora. While the treehouse was destroyed, the tree itself remained, but fell into obscurity as new generations are now unaware that the Disney film (which has also fallen into obscurity) was ever filmed there.

Walt Disney felt that children of all ages wanted a treehouse of their own and decided that using the centerpiece from the film would be a great addition to Adventureland because, at the time, there was only one attraction: the Jungle Cruise.

Imagineers thought that it would be a waste of time, space, and money, because guests would never want to climb all the way up only to have to walk all the way back down. When the attraction opened, adult climbers outnumbered kids three to one.

They studied the gnarled roots of the mammoth Moreton Bay Fig Tree planted in the 1800s by Anaheim horticulturist Tim Carroll to aid in authentically creating details of the Disneyland version. Imagineer Bill Martin was in charge of the ultimate design with input from those people who had worked on the tree for the movie.

The 62 concrete banyan-like roots go down roughly 42 feet and were installed on January 17, 1962. Ten months later at 2 p.m. on November 18 (just in time for the extended Christmas hours) the tree was unveiled. Actor John Mills (who played Father Robinson in the movie) and his daughter, actress Hayley Mills (who had appeared in several Disney films), were there for the dedication, along with the rest of their family.

Landscaper and Disney Legend Bill Evans, with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, dubbed the original tree "Disneyodendron Semperflorens Grandis" which means "large, ever-blooming Disney tree" and the new version as Tarzan's Treehouse retains that same designation.

The tree's final cost was $254,900. It utilized six tons of reinforced steel and 110 cubic yards of concrete. The smaller branches were taken from real manzanita trees and were adorned with vinyl leaves fiberglassed onto each branch.

The steel limbs had an 80-foot span and supported a network of 1,000 branches with 300,000 handmade vinyl leaves and floral blooms that all had to be attached by hand.

The Swiss flag flew from the top of the treehouse, which sparked a comment from a confused, but still irate, visitor from Switzerland who told the hosts at the attraction that "the Swiss people do not really live in trees!"

When the attraction opened on November 18, Disney guests had to climb up 68 steps to see all the different rooms and areas like the kitchen, library, Mother and Father's master bedroom, the boys' room and more. Interestingly, they had to walk down 69 steps (one extra step) to return to the ground.

The Swiss Family Treehouse had a quaint, but effective, plumbing system that actually worked and provided kinetic entertainment for the guests. A huge, river driven water wheel at the tree's base provided the power for a mini-bamboo-bucket brigade that scooped up the water and transported it to the uppermost room, where it flowed into a bamboo canal system.

From there, gravity would rush and twist water through each treehouse section to an eventual return to the river below. Disney claimed it cycled through 200 gallons an hour from the river.

Throughout the attractions guests could hear Mrs. Robinson's shipwrecked pump organ playing Buddy Baker's buoyant composition, the Swisskapolka.

Tahitian Terrace

Tapping into the same love for South Seas culture that inspired the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Tahitian Terrace restaurant simply reformatted and expanded part of the Plaza Pavilion restaurant that already had a Hawaiian themed patio facing toward the Jungle Cruise attraction and was known as the Pavilion Lanai.

The Tahitian Terrace in 1962.

Until the opening of the Blue Bayou restaurant, the Tahitian Terrace was considered the fanciest dining location at Disneyland. It was primarily just open during the summer and during busy seasons for lunch and dinner. The food and entertainment reflected the islands of Polynesia like Tahiti, Samoa, and Hawaii.

It was an outdoor seating area with tables and chairs and a higher level with a roof all facing the stage and served by waiters and waitresses. Unlike other restaurants, there were set times to dine because of the show. It was an approximate thirty minute experience with a live band providing the appropriate Polynesian rhythms.

Originally it was sponsored by Stouffer's but was later taken over by Kikkoman. During construction, Walt Disney felt the tree was too short and suggested cutting it in half and adding a section of concrete in the center. When he told Admiral Joe Fowler he wanted a curtain of water to part and then close again, Fowler immediately replied "Can do!" which earned him his famous nickname.

From the back of the menu: "Walt Disney has opened wide the portals to an enchanting island world across the blue Pacific…a world of romance, beauty, and exciting entertainment!

"Towering high above you is an amazing tree, a tree that grew (in less than a year) to a height of 35 feet through a secret formula of Walt Disney and his 'imagineers'! The branches of this 'species Disney-dendron' are laden with more than 14,075 hand-grafted leaves and fiery-colored flowers that bloom perpetually. Today this tree is Disneyland's second largest of this rare, unnatural species, exceeded only by the Swiss Family Treehouse.

"Nestled beneath the tumbling waterfall is a matchless stage setting…a stage whose 'curtain' is a cascade of water, and whose 'footlights' are a leaping flame of fire burning on the water itself! For your summer evening entertainment, the falls magically draw aside…and out from behind the waters, sarong-clad natives appear to perform the swaying rhythms and amazing rituals of the islands…the hypnotic bare-foot fire walk and thrilling fire-knife dance, and the traditional grass-skirted hula of Samoa, Tahiti and Hawaii."

Men were brought up from the audience to have an embarrassing hula lesson. All the guests were given complimentary artificial leis.

At the time, the menu was considered exotic for typical American tastes with Barbecued Pineapple Ribs, Skewered Chicken (with soy sauce), broiled teriyaki steak, coconut shrimp and coconut pineapple ice cream, although the highlight for many was the (non-alcoholic) Planters Punch Tahitian, a blend of all the exotic fresh fruits of the islands in a tall frosted cylindrical glass with faux flower memento.

The Tahitian Terrace menu.

In the 1960s, "Stouffer's in Disneyland," as the brand was labeled, sponsored three restaurants in Disneyland: Plaza Pavilion, Tahitian Terrace, and French Market Restaurant. Originally, they were going to sponsor The Enchanted Tiki Room when it was proposed as a restaurant.

Big Game Safari Shooting Gallery

This attraction had several different names during its existence: Big Game Safari Shooting Game, Safari Shooting Gallery, and Big Game Safari. While the name changed, everything else about the actual attraction remained exactly the same.

It was the largest of the three shooting galleries at Disneyland. It had a larger variety of targets than any other shooting gallery in the United States and the artwork was designed by Imagineer Sam McKim. It had twelve air rifles called "elephant guns".

The summer 1962 edition of Vacationland magazine proclaimed, "If you're a marksman, the new Big Game Safari is for you. While it's based on a time-tested shooting gallery tradition, this jungle hunt is an authentic Disney creation — a one-of-a-kind rapid-fire adventure where you'll shoot at all kinds of jungle animals and birds, each handcrafted for Disneyland."

It was located in the area that previously housed the Cantina between the Guatemalan Weavers shop and the bazaar shopping area. It required a "C" ticket or twenty-five cents for one round. It had a thatched roof and was decorated liberally with bamboo.

Leaning up against the bamboo laced counter, shooters stared across a stretch of water to see the tropical jungle background and hear animal sounds. The proscenium was framed with cut-plywood green jungle foliage.

The moving targets included lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, hippos, snakes, apes and other exotic animals, as well as tikis and natives. They were traditional chain-driven targets that moved back and forth in front of the African backdrop.

MacGlashan Enterprises had been producing lead shot shooting galleries like this one since 1935, including the ones in Frontierland and in the Penny Arcade on Main Street that was removed because Walt decided the sound interfered with the ambiance of turn-of-the-century America. Disney bought the company in 1969 and it continued to operate independently.

An attendant would come along with a plastic tube to load each rifle. This gallery used MacGlashan air guns and fired .22 caliber lead pellets that were still powerful and dangerous. They had no gunpowder charge at all, relying on the energy from the compressor alone for propellant.

A full round of ammunition cost just 25¢ or a "C" coupon. The game had 16 guns total, allowing for a maximum capacity of 16 guests at the same time. The average shooting time per guest was estimated at 56 seconds, allowing for 53 guests per gun, per hour.

The estimated two million lead pellets yearly were so abrasive that they caused severe dings on the targets and the surrounding artwork. As a result, the attraction required new hand painting every night using roughly forty gallons of paint every week. Sometimes it would take up to eight hours to repaint.

Usually the painters tried to do most of the work within the two hours from seven am to nine am. They had a special trailer designed specifically for the shooting gallery with paint buckets on the sides and special rollers and brushes. Eight times a year, the repainting built up so much that the surfaces had to be burned clean and completely repainted.

Backstage Disneyland magazine (Winter/1965) stated the attraction required eleven different colors of paint. The article stated: "The paint they use on everything is vinyl except for the water targets, and these are painted with colored shellac.

"Occasionally funny things happen, especially when a new man is working. For instance the Adventureland gallery has several giraffes and if the eyes are accidentally touched, they move and scare whoever is painting them. It takes only one shot and one piece of lead, and the paint job is on its way to being done again."

Paint shop supervisor Ray Schwartz said, "The painters have to be artists as well as good brush and roller men. Several of the targets have intricate patterns like bark on the trees, spots on the giraffes, etc. and the fellows have to make them look real. Authenticity and realism are an important part of every Disneyland attraction."

The pellets would sometimes ricochet off the targets, even flying into the guest area behind the shooter. The U.S. government began regulating lead exposure and companies stopped manufacturing the ammunition used at the galleries as demand dwindled. The guns at shooting galleries were later replaced by rifles that utilized infrared beams of lights rather than pellets.