Disneyland 1972

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

While I am concerned about all the recent rapid changes at the Disney theme parks in the United States, I try to remind myself that–even in slow periods–change was always part of the DNA of the parks.

My recently published book Disneyland Historical Highlights: The Walt and Roy O. Disney Years 1954-1972 available on Amazon.com devotes each chapter to just one year in Disneyland's history.

I included 1972 because even though Roy O. Disney passed away the previous December and had intended to retire from the company after the 1972 annual stockholder's meeting in February, his influence is still in evidence in the 1972 Disneyland.

When I interviewed Imagineer Marty Sklar, he told me that they suddenly realized that they had been ignoring Disneyland because the Walt Disney Company had focused all its time and resources on making sure that Walt Disney World got opened in October 1971, so they quickly had to scurry to show some attention to Walt's park.

What they did was re-use things that were successful at Walt Disney World even though the company philosophy was that each park was to have things that were unique. They expanded Country Bear Jamboree into an entire new land at a cost of eight million dollars (back in the day that a million dollars was a huge amount and not just a low end prize on a lottery ticket) and were so convinced that the attraction would be a success that they built two identical theaters at Disneyland to handle the expected demand.

Seeing how much guests loved the Electrical Water Pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom, Disney decided to put similar two-dimensional floats adorned with Christmas tree lights on land and run it down Main Street U.S.A. During the first rehearsal, they blew out most of the power for the park. Here are three highlights from Disneyland in 1972.

Winnie the Pooh for President

The 1972 Pooh for President campaign provided an alternative to Nixon and McGovern.

Winnie the Pooh's first campaign for President began on the night of July 14, 1968 at a special Family Night at the Hollywood Bowl. A host of Disney costumed characters showed up to support Pooh.

The musical entertainment for the evening was provided by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Disneyland's Kids of the Kingdom that featured the release of thousands of red, white, and blue balloons at the finale.

Pooh moved his campaigning to the Tomorrowland Stage at Disneyland to become part of the Kids of the Kingdom show On Stage U.S.A. that was performed twice a day. The segment was appropriately called "Winnie the Pooh for President" and sometimes included rotating celebrities like puppeteer Shari Lewis and singer Peggy Lee.

The show was performed during July and August, ending when children went back to school and attendance at Disneyland dropped, but it proved to be popular and generated publicity for the park.

"Pooh in '72" was the campaign slogan for a three day special Disneyland event that ran from October 21 to October 23, 1972. Each day there was a ticker tape parade down Main Street U.S.A. The Disneyland Band under the direction of Vesey Walker played "Hip-Hip-Pooh-Ray" from Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.

Sears was having huge sales of exclusive Disney Winnie the Pooh merchandise so were eager to get on board for the promotion. The Sears stores sold some exclusive "Winnie the Pooh for President" merchandise including a plush figure attired in the campaign costume.

Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore did meet and greets all day at their National Campaign Headquarters in the Carnation Plaza Gardens.

Marilyn Magness, Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment Portfolio Leader for the Resort, recalled working on the event. "Pooh for President was a fun campaign. The first time Winnie the Pooh ran for president was a fun concept to put together. At that time, what a risk! But what fun to overdress Pooh in his Uncle Sam hat and his little vest and have Tigger be his campaign manager."

On October 1, 1972, at a convention held at Walt Disney World, Pooh was nominated to run for president on the Children's Party ticket. Drawings had been held at Sears, Roebuck and Co. and those stores across the nation selected delegates from each of the 50 states to be sent with their families to Walt Disney World.

Sears sold an exclusive Pooh for President record album and coloring book.

As part of the festivities, the delegates nominated Pooh for President of the United States in the forecourt of Cinderella Castle. Two days after the Walt Disney World event, from his "West Coast retreat" at Disneyland, Pooh announced his platform and campaign strategy.

Although supposedly still recuperating from his Florida visit, Pooh took the microphone for some 30 seconds (in Sterling Holloway's offstage voice) to address a large group of personal friends and enthusiastic supporters who had gathered near Sleeping Beauty Castle.

His short speech outlined his policy platforms to put "hunny in every pot." He also mentioned his battle to "lick" the high price of ice cream cones, that there would be hot fudge sundaes every Monday, and ban all spankings. The crowd cheered enthusiastically and loudly.

Pooh and his press secretary Tigger, with campaign manager Eeyore, left on a old-fashioned two week cross country, whistle-stop train campaign tour sponsored by Sears and Amtrak before setting up his official campaign headquarters in Disneyland.

The tour started on the Disneyland Railroad with plenty of photographs of Pooh surrounded by Disney characters, but eventually transferred to a special Amtrak Train that started at Los Angeles Union Station and stopped in many towns on the way to Chicago and Washington D.C.

"We went from Union Station in L.A., across country to Kansas City, Chicago and the Sears Tower, then on to Washington, D.C., then back west and up the coast to Seattle before returning to Los Angeles. We did it all in two weeks and all by train," said Gary Moore, who at the time was a photographer for Disneyland and accompanied the other seven Disneyland personnel on board.

"When we got to Barstow that first night, there were several thousand people with children all waiting to see Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore."

A baggage car had been adapted into a traveling stage with big doors on either side that would open up, depending upon which side the audience was at a particular stop.

The show lasted roughly 10 to 15 minutes as the Pooh characters danced to a pre-recorded soundtrack. Afterward, they joined the audience for photo opportunities. The excitement of the audience was so great that the stops ran much longer than expected, resulting in the train running faster between destinations.

One night, the Disney personnel were awoken in their private sleeping car at 1:30 a.m. as they approached a small town in New Mexico with a population of only 200 people.

"It turned out there were about 2,000 people waiting there to see Winnie the Pooh," Moore said. "Children were bundled up and sitting on their dads' shoulders and more, so they switched us to the siding there so we could do the show."

At the urging of his press secretary and "close personal friend" Tigger, Pooh declared, "If elected in November, I will put two tricycles in every garage, provide free candy on holidays, and make sure everyone enjoys two Saturdays a week."

Owl was in the running to be Pooh's pick for vice-president.

"According to press secretary Tigger," claimed one report, "Owl is on the inside track because of the learned bird's appeal to both the left and right wingers."

Pooh ended up picking Piglet.

"Pooh-litical" rallies in support of Pooh for President were held all over that month, with marching bands and free balloons, pictures, buttons, and posters for kids supplied by Sears.

During the three-day event in Disneyland, Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore were available for meet and greets all day at their National Campaign Headquarters in the Carnation Plaza Gardens.

According to the California Orange County Registrar of Voters, Pooh did receive some votes in 1972, but because the records from that year were not yet computerized, the exact amount is unknown.

The popularity of the 1972 campaign guaranteed that one in 1976 would be even bigger.

Bear Country & Country Bear Jamboree

The Summer 1972 issue of Disneyland Vacationland magazine featured the Country Bear Jamboree on the cover.

Originally, the area for Bear Country had been an extension of Frontierland and featured the Indian Village. The huge popularity of the Country Bear Jamboree attraction in Walt Disney World prompted Disneyland to create an entire new land called Bear Country that would showcase that attraction and draw more guests around the loop of the Rivers of America. Disney spent roughly eight million dollars on the four acre spot.

Bear Country opened in 1972 with the main attraction being the Country Bear Jamboree. The Indian Trading Post remained, as did the canoes, but now they were themed to Davy Crockett. The Hungry Bear Restaurant appeared. The Golden Bear Lodge and Mile Long Bar also were added along with Ursus H. Bear's Wilderness Outpost.

To enhance the pathway between the Haunted Mansion and the entrance to the newly opened Bear Country, the Imagineers installed a cave on the mountainside just above eye level. The cave was identified as being the home of Rufus the bear who was in constant hibernation.

To the delight of many guests, a distinctive snore constantly emanated from the cave opening. The snore was originally recorded sometime in the mid-1930s, probably by story man and voice artist Pinto Colvig, to be used for the dwarf Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

It was discovered in the Disney Studios sound library decades later and incorporated into an El Dorado Hotel second floor room in Frontierland's mining town of Rainbow Ridge façade. Then the snore was moved to the opening of Rufus' cave. For awhile in Bear Country, the exterior of the men's restroom in the area was themed as Rufus' dressing room. (The female restroom was themed to Trixie.)

The famous sleeping bear was not originally part of the Country Bear Jamboree but was incorporated into the show with the holiday overlay Country Bear Christmas Special that debuted in 1984. Rufus was now the sleepy, lone stage hand in charge of fixing lights, running projections and changing backdrops.

He is constantly admonished by Zeke, Wendell or Henry for not having something working. Poor Rufus who is never seen is often heard to be out of breath as he struggles to run to different locations to fix things, sometimes resulting in something crashing to the floor in the booth behind the audience or a sudden electrical jolt.

He generally just speaks in surprised grunts. He was also incorporated into the Country Bear Vacation Hoedown show that premiered in February 1986 in a similar role.

Country Bear Jamboree was one of a small handful of Florida-only attractions that opened with the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971.

In a beautifully ornate proscenium theater, a variety of audio-animatronics bears and a handful of other animals like a raccoon perform a series of musical numbers with a country and western theme on multiple different stages, just like an old fashioned knee-slapping hoe-down at the Grand Ole Opry…but with lots more fur.

"Clap your hands and stomp your feet and try to keep right with 'em. One sure thing the Bear Band's got is real ol' country rhythm".

The entire cast is onstage for the finale of the Country Bear Jamboree.

The concept art for this lively show was some of the last artwork ever seen by Walt Disney himself and it gave him a good laugh shortly before his untimely passing. Designed by Imagineer Marc Davis and Al Bertino (the physical inspiration for the "Big Al" character), the Country Bear Jamboree was originally intended to be an indoor evening attraction at the Bear Band Restaurant in Disney's planned Mineral King Ski Resort, which was to be built in California in the 1960s.

As Imagineer Wathel Rogers recalled, "After the Mineral King contract had been signed, Walt had an idea for entertainment after people had been skiing. Walt said, 'What we are going to do is have a bear band and have them perform two or three programs of entertainment. We'll say that the bears had come out of the sequoias and we trained them to be entertainers'."

The Mineral King project fell through, but with a few changes the show premiered opening day at the Magic Kingdom in Florida, where it was so popular that a replica was built in 1972 at Disneyland in California with two theaters to accommodate the expected huge crowds. It was the first new ticketed attraction at Disneyland since the Haunted Mansion in 1969.

When it was decided that the attraction was going to be Florida-specific, it was natural that, since country music was so popular in that part of the country, when the Floridian bears came together to make music it would be country-western.

Henry and Wendell were based on a comedic musical country-western act known as Homer and Jethro. Just like Henry and Wendell, Homer played guitar and Jethro played the mandolin. Davis playfully based Wendell's appearance on fellow Imagineer Harper Goff, who played the banjo in the musical group The Firehouse Five Plus Two. Homer and Jethro wrote Fractured Folk Song and Mama Don't Whoop Little Buford, which Henry and Wendell sing in the show.

Jethro wrote the lyrics to the song Mama, Don't Whoop Little Buford, sung to the tune Beautiful, Beautiful Brown Eyes, composed by Arthur Smith in the late 1940s, but popularized by both Jimmy Wakely and Rosemary Clooney in 1951. The song's original lyrics feature the refrain "I'll never love blue eyes again" which were replaced by the words "I think you should shoot him instead."

As the years have progressed and the world has changed, more and more things in Disney animated cartoons — from smoking to making fun of women drivers to humor in the theme park shows — were no longer considered appropriate for today's audiences. In particular, the Mama Don't Whoop Little Buford segment reportedly concerned some Walt Disney World guests that it was promoting child abuse. Audiences 40 years ago laughed at the idea of corporal punishment, having sometimes been the victim of it themselves by strict parents or teachers.

Since this was a Florida-only attraction when it opened, the bears all had biographies that emphasized their Southern roots. For instance, Liver Lips McGrowl was the "Miami Serenader", Trixie was known as "The Tampa Temptation" and Big Al grew up around the swamps that became Walt Disney World. When it opened in Disneyland, it was natural to change them to bears from the North Woods.

The back story for the attraction was that Ursus H. Bear, after a restful hibernation, rounded up his musically inclined kinfolk and friends to put on a down-home celebration. As guests, we've been invited to join in on the fun as the show continues to celebrate that first performance so many years ago.

Over the years, a variety of different shows with different costuming and songs have rotated through at Disneyland, including a Christmas Special show (introduced in 1984) and the Vacation Hoedown (introduced in 1986) that continued to be the show until 2001.

Performances were by master of ceremonies Henry (and his raccoon hat Sammy), Gomer the piano player, The Five Bear Rugs (Zeke, Zeb, Ted, Fred, and Tennessee with Zeb's non speaking son Oscar and his teddy bear sitting on the edge of the stage), Wendell who plays the mandolin, Liver Lips McGrowl, Trixie, Terrence, The Sun Bonnets (Bunny, Bubbles and Beulah), Ernest the fiddle player, the "swinging" Teddi Barra and the unforgettable Big Albert. On the adjacent wall, the talking heads of Buff the bison, Max the deer and Melvin the bull moose often joined in the festivities.

Some of the songs in the original show were Mama, Don't Whip Little Buford, All the Guys that Turn Me On Turn Me Down, Blood on the Saddle, and The Ballad of Davy Crockett. The Vacation Hoedown featured On the Road Again, California Bears, Thank God I'm a Country Bear, The Great Outdoors and Rocky Top among other songs.

Main Street Electrical Parade

An advertisement for the Main Street Electrical Parade.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… Disneyland proudly presents our spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-syntho-magnetic musical sounds — the Main Street Electrical Parade!"

The parade was inspired by The Electrical Water Pageant that included Baroque Hoedown as its main musical theme and music produced by a Moog synthesizer. It premiered at Walt Disney World's Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake beginning in October 1971. Rafts holding two-dimensional frames were decorated with colored Christmas bulb lights that created charming images of sea creatures.

The illusion of movement was created by turning on and off one set of lights and replacing it with another set.

Director of Entertainment Bob Jani along with Ron Miziker developed a dry land version for Disneyland the following year with over a half million twinkling lights on floats that were two dimensional flat frames (just like the Electrical Water Pageant) on wheels designed by Bill Justice.

In addition–unlike the Walt Disney World version–cast members attired in lighted costumes accompanied the procession.

When the original contractor could not complete the floats in time, Disneyland itself finished building the floats (as well as using some previously existing parade floats) and installing the lights.

The new parade also used the Baroque Hoedown as it main musical theme, interwoven with songs from Disney films produced by a Moog synthesizer that created a somewhat futuristic, other-worldly aspect to the event.

The locomotive pulls a giant bass drum at the start of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Eventually, Don Dorsey used eleven synthesizers to create the soundtrack. Jack Wagner provided the synthesized vocoder voice for the intro and outro to the parade.

The original parade floats included the Blue Fairy, a large drum pulled by the Casey Jr. train engine, Cinderella, a Chinese dragon and a circus calliope.

The parade did not operate during 1975 and 1976 as it was temporarily replaced by America on Parade to celebrate the American Bicentennial. During that break, the Main Street Electrical Parade was redesigned with more dimensional floats, a longer running time and a memorable patriotic climax.

The parade units included Tinker Bell, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Pete's Dragon. Over the years, units left or were added including ones for It's A Small World, Briny Deep (Bedknobs and Broomsticks) and 1985's Return to Oz.