Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, and Magic

by Tony Phoenix, staff writer

Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, and Magic

Ratings (out of five):

  • Movie: 4
  • Audio: 4
  • Video: 4
  • Goodies: 4
  • Interface: 4
  • Value: 4

Movie specifications

  • Suggested retail price: 29.99
  • Feature run time: 111 minutes
  • Aspect ratio: full frame 1.33.1
  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Originally scheduled to be released during the 50th Anniversary Celebration, Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, and Magic was suddenly cancelled. Fast-forward to this December, and the collection has finally been released as part of the Disney Treasures collection.

I had the opportunity to see a screening of the title documentary back in October, during the Disney Vacation Club member's cruise—tied in with the Disney Legends theme. I walked out of the theater feeling like I had just tried to drink from a firehose. The documentary looks at the history of Disneyland, at Walt, and his love and passion for this place called Disneyland.

In the film, the interviewees, and Walt himself, share their experiences with the beginnings of Disneyland through today. Many of the stories will no doubt be familiar to the hard-core Disney fan. I know I had heard a lot of them before. But to hear them in the words of the people who actually lived the stories makes it that much more meaningful. One of the more touching segments is the tribute to Walt, the memories of people about his passing.

The documentary is extremely well edited, smoothly merging contemporary interviews done specifically for this collection with historical footage. The participants in the interview list are a who's who of Disney history—starting with Julie Andrews and Diane Disney Miller, we hear from one of the largest collections of Disney experts ever assembled. We even learn from contributors, such as Herb Ryman and Marc Davis, who passed away a few years ago. But it isn't all well-known names. The DVD also contains interviews from a number of behind-the-scenes cast members like Bob Matheison, a retired director of operations for the park. I also appreciate that with Bob Iger and Jay Rasulo, it takes more than 40 minutes before they make their first appearance (And Michael Eisner shows up even later).

Probably one of the more jarring aspects of the documentary is the use of the "Illuminations" music from Epcot as the theme song for this show. I have to admit to loving that music—it regularly appears on my music playlist—but to have it overlaying a Disneyland documentary is a bit out of place for those who know the music and placement.


"People and Places: Disneyland U.S.A."

The Disneyland U.S.A. show first played a year after Disneyland opened. It was one of the very first Cinemascope films, and takes you on a tour of the park. It opens with an amazing slow flyover of the park in a helicopter, zooming in on the different lands and attractions. In addition to the original soundtrack, there is an audio commentary track with Leonard Maltin and Imagineer Tony Baxter. But most interesting is a music-only track, which allows you to enjoy the movie footage while listening to a 5.1 surround-sound restoration of the original musical score.

Wonderful World of Disneyland Trivia Game

There is a trivia game that offers both a basic and advanced game. You are asked trivia questions from each of the lands. Once you have answered a question from each land successfully, you are taken to a ticket book, where you can choose from a ticket (A through E), and then choose a clip from an attraction based on that ticket. There are probably 20 clips total, but you only get to see one each time you get through the game. So there is a lot of repeat value. The advanced questions can be tough—including the use of "Where is the photo from?" Wrong questions send you to Main Street, where you have to answer a general Disneyland question before being able to move back to the land-specific questions.

"Operation Disneyland"

Created specifically for the ABC affiliates who aired the grand opening of Disneyland, this show has never been seen by the public before. It explores the behind-the-scenes efforts to air the opening special. This provides a fascinating look at the opening of the park, including dress rehearsal clips, the control room and camera locations used to pull off this show.

"Disneyland Under Construction"

If you've had a chance to see the time-lapse video showing Disneyland under construction that has been showing at the Main Street Opera House, you'll have gotten a taste of this section. Narrated by Tony Baxter, Ed Hobleman, and Walter Magnusson, you can look at the construction of each of the lands through multiple camera locations. The placement of the Moonliner in Tomorrowland is especially interesting.

"Wonderful World of Color" Episodes

Also included in this set are three Disneyland-centric episodes from the Wonderful World of Color show. In "The Golden Horseshoe Review," we see the famous team lead by Wally Boag, and some special guest stars including Annette Funicello and Ed Wynn. In "Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair," Walt takes us through the attractions built for the World's Fair in New York, including Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Carousel of Progress, and "it's a small world." Finally, in "Disneyland Around the Seasons," Walt showcases Disneyland in the spring, summer, fall, and, most especially, at Christmastime.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

In keeping with the rest of the Treasures collection, the interface is pretty flat, with not much interactivity at all. The video ranges from acceptable 50 year-old transfers to modern high saturation video. Since most of the content is from archives, there isn't much to complain about. Of special note is the music-only track option for Disneyland U.S.A. clip. The 5.1 surround remastering is wonderful, and really envelops the room when it plays.

The Final Evaluation

While the main documentary is interesting on its own, it would be a must-own for ardent fans. But, with all of the additional material rounding it out, this collection becomes one of the best Treasures releases to date. It is the right balance of old and new. And serves as a fitting tribute for Disneyland's first 50 years.