The History of Disneyland on Television with Rob Klein, Part 2

by MouseStation Crew, staff writer

MouseStation 290 - The History of Disneyland on Television with Rob Klein, Part 2

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Show run time 0:43:41

In today's show, we have the conclusion of Steven Ng's conversation with Rob Klein of the Disney Archives about the history of Disneyland as portrayed on television over the years.

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Feature: The History of Disneyland on Television with Rob Klein, Part 2

Steven Ng sat down with Rob Klein of the Disney Archives as last summer's NFFC National Convention drew to a close to discuss Rob's presentation, entitled "The Adventure of Disneyland Through the Television Media," at the convention on Disneyland's television history. The first part of the conversation ran on last Thursday's show. Today, we bring you the conclusion.

Disneyland Around the Seasons aired on December 18, 1966, just 3 days after Walt Disney's death. Nobody had known how sick Walt was, and everyone was shocked when they made the announcement that he had died. The show was already recorded before he died, and it showed the opening of "it's a small world" after it moved to Disneyland from the New York World's Fair as well as the dedication of New Orleans Square, and was the last time we got to publicly see Walt at Disneyland. Rob had a great story that Thurl Ravenscroft told him about Walt actually walking Thurl and others through the waterway before the water was in for Pirates of the Caribbean, proving that Walt did get to see the attraction at some stage of development.

After Walt's death, Disney started using commercials to promote Disneyland. Rob was able to find a 1967 commercial advertising New Tomorrowland. Dave Smith gave him information on where to find them, and he had an Indiana Jones-type adventure trying to find the box at one of their secret warehouses. Rob opened the box and found 16mm reels, all catalogued. He called the film department and asked if they could transfer them for him to view. They did it for him as a work print, so it's not DVD release quality yet but it's neat to see that stuff.

The next shows marked a transition from Walt doing a documentary-type show to more of a musical show with a subplot, a la Disneyland Showtime. Kurt Russell kind of plays the Walt role in that show. In it, they found a way to showcase the Haunted Mansion using a narrative show. The basic plot was that the Osmond Brothers came to Disneyland to sing, but then Donny gets lost. That gave them license to wander the whole park looking for him. That show is a little more evergreen because there's a story to it.

From the 1970s onward, there's a change in style from storytelling to variety shows like Sandy Duncan in Disneyland (April 10, 1974), which preempted the weekly broadcast of The Sonny & Cher Show. It was sponsored by McDonalds, had Ernest Borgnine, John Davidson, Lorne Greene, Ruth Buzzi & Jackson Five to perform, and had no real plot. Basically, they but they go all over the park to perform. Side note: the video for "Mr. Postman" by The Carpenters was shot at Disneyland on the Mine Train ride, and may be the best footage available of the Mine Train. The entertainment style continued to shift, including David Hasselhoff performing at Disneyland as a tie-in with the NBC show Knight Rider, since it was shown on the Peacock Network. In the story premise, KITT drives into Tomorrowland and delivers Hasselhoff to sing. This truly marked a shift to more sketch comedy instead of long narrative.

After the break, Rob and Steven talked about commercials, how Disney started using the "It Can Only Happen at Disneyland" tag line, the "What's Gotten Into the Matterhorn" campaign, and moving into the modern production era where they use things that are standard now. Disneyland's 30th anniversary special featured a performance of "Neutron Dance" by the Pointer Sisters with dancers in TRON costumes. They also used the song "I'm So Excited," synched up with character actors doing voices for Animatronic characters and matched up the Animatronic characters movements to the vocals. When Rob showed the "I'm So Excited" sequence to folks at the Studio, everyone laughed at it; the NFFC audience didn't laugh for most of it, but they finally started cracking up when Lincoln started his part. Chuck thinks that everyone was just in shock for most of it. Chuck watched with Bob Gurr and Bob couldn't understand it and was at a loss for words. Some of the shows that were discussed are available through the Disney Treasures DVD Collection.

Even the Archives has to buy the Disney Treasures DVDs because they're in such small quantity that the company can't give any away. Rob asked that, if Disneyland titles come out, everyone needs to support it because the success of those releases will ensure the release of future materials, good numbers means more will be released

Rob's process for the presentation started when he realized that there was no timeline for the shows. He noted that Bill Cottier's book The Wonderful World of Disney Television did a great job on the subject from a print perspective, but he thought that there needed to be video as well. He wanted to put together a video timeline, so he started researching and pulling clips. The commercials from the '70s and early '80s material is very scarce because it predates VCRs. Rob hopes that it's relevant for everyone. His biggest surprise was finding the commercials from the 1960s because it was possible that they had all been tossed. He had been hoping to find commercials for the Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion, but he doesn't know if they were ever made; he's still looking, though. Sometimes they get a call when stuff is found somewhere in the Studios. They recently found three boxes of acetates from the 1940s; they were reading song titles from the box and they think that the songs were never released. There may be a renaissance in the next few years as some of these assets come to light. The Archives is really working on sharing them with everybody. The small handprints on the plexiglass display case is proof that the High School Musical 2 props are popular with the young set, and they're looking for stuff that will get the big kids' handprints on the plexiglass.

Most of these shows were presented on these Walt Disney Treasures DVDs: Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic and Your Host, Walt Disney. The former is available new for $75, while the latter is still available in initial release for about $24.

Mark and Mike talked about the show, and also speculated about the "Are You 23?" campaign. Mark also explained why he will not be covering the shareholder meeting live this year.

We'd like to thank Rob Klein for chatting with Steven Ng, and Chuck Oberleitner and the NFFC for setting it up.

Listener Feedback

Jennifer from Red Bank, NJ wrote in to ask our advice on renting cars at Disney. She has gone often but never rented a car. This time, she and her boyfriend will be visiting his grandparents an hour and a half from Orlando. She thought it would be awkward to rent a car for just a day, and asked about renting a car and still sending their luggage via Disney's Magical Express.

Mike and Mark noted that you can't send your luggage via DME and not have at least one member from your party on the bus. Mark also suggested renting from Alamo or National, which have locations at the Car Care Center near the Magic Kingdom and at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel. Mark and Mike discussed the different merits of the two locations, and agreed that you really need to have a reservation in place to ensure that you get the car that you want. Mark also told the story of the "Up Buckle" signs.

Ro wrote in to ask if we had ever done a review system spotlight on the Caribbean Beach Resort. We haven't, but Mark offered to do one next Tuesday just for her.

Kristen Lopez wrote in to add her input on the subject of forcing kids to ride attractions that they're afraid of. She related the story of her being forced to ride Splash Mountain and almost falling out of the log on the big drop. In her case, she still avoids any ride that is considered "wild" because of that incident.

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