Disney Documentary Hour: Very First Wonderful World of Color

by Keith Mahne

The Walt Disney television series moved to NBC on September 24, 1961 to take advantage of that network’s ability to broadcast in color. In addition, Walt Disney’s relationship with ABC had soured as the network resisted selling its stake in the theme park before doing so in 1960. In a display of foresight, Disney had filmed many of the earlier shows in color, so they were able to be repeated on NBC, and since most of Disney’s feature-length films were also made in color, they could now also be telecast in that format. To emphasize the new feature, the series was re-dubbed, “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”, which premiered in September of 1961, and retained that moniker until 1969. Continue after the page break for the very first episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color

The first NBC episode dealt with the principles of color, as explained by a new character named Ludwig Von Drake (voiced by Paul Frees), a bumbling professor with a thick German accent, and uncle of Donald Duck. Von Drake was the first Disney character created specifically for television.

Sadly, Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, twelve years after the anthology series premiered. While the broadcast three days after his death had a memorial tribute from NBC news anchor Chet Huntley with film and TV star Dick Van Dyke, the intros Walt already filmed before his death continued to air for the rest of the season. After that, the studio decided that Walt’s persona as host was such a key part of the show’s appeal to viewers that the host segment was dropped. The series, retitled, ‘”The Wonderful World of Disney”‘, in September 1969, continued to get solid ratings, often in the Top 20, until the mid-1970s.

We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you too are passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at disneyavenue316@yahoo.com.

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

The Disney Afternoon Story (Part 1)

by Sam Vlas

How many of you, dear readers, came out of school after a long day and tuned in for the Disney Afternoon? Who else grew up with such classics as “DuckTales”, “Rescue Rangers” and “Darkwing Duck”? I certainly did and I was one happy bloke!  Want to know a little bit more about your favorite shows? Let’s get dangerous and continue after the page break…

I remember the shows of the Disney Afternoon fondly (even the shows that came after) and I find it sad that nothing really took its place. I mean, sure, there are some good animated series (like “Phineas and Ferb” and “Gravity Falls”), but wannabe funny, irritating, annoying pre-teen sitcoms are not a good replacement. The Disney Afternoon had something special, something that I can’t quite determine what it is. Were they genuinely funnier, more exciting, more adventurous or just plain better? Let’s take a look at the Disney Afternoon and its shows.

Disney wasn’t exactly a newcomer to the television medium when the Disney Afternoon was launched. We all know the famous “One Hour in Wonderland”, “The Wonderful World of Disney” and “The Mickey Mouse Club”. Television animation, however, didn’t start until 1984. It was in this year when under then CEO of Disney Michael Eisner, The Walt Disney Pictures Television Animation Group was formed. Remember, this was a hard time for the Disney Company. Michael Eisner and Frank Wells just came in, the Animation department had hit rock bottom (The Black Cauldron was set to release) and the overall popularity of the Company was in great danger. Animated television series, at that time, were considered risky, because of the hard work that’s put into these series and the uncertainty of actually making your money back. Eisner saw that a larger budgeted (and therefore better in quality) cartoons would have a bigger chance of succeeding with the large broadcasting companies.


The first “real” show that would later be included in the Disney Afternoon block was “Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears”, loosely based on the famous fruit-flavored candy bears, released in 1985. Quite an odd setting, isn’t it? There’s not really much plot going on in this series, just the Bears going on some crazy adventures, fighting off bad guys as they try to harvest their craved Gummiberries. Even with all this nonsense going on, this was the series that made the Television Animation department of Disney skyrocket, as it did fairly well on television with positive feedback and good ratings.
“DuckTales” was the next in the Disney Afternoon canon, released in 1987. It follows the rollicking adventures of Scrooge McDuck (who is called Dagobert Duck in Dutch, fun fact!) and the nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie (Kwik, Kwek and Kwak in ye olde Dutch), as they fight off the evil Magica De Spell, the Beagle Boys and Flintheart Glomgold. A classic adventure series, which did so well that it received not one, but two spinoff series, both of which ended up in the Disney Afternoon. Those series were “Quack Pack” and, one of my all-time favorites “Darkwing Duck”!

He is the terror who flaps in the night, the parking meter that expires while you’re shopping, the old lady in front of you in traffic… You get it. “Darkwing Duck” follows the egocentric alter-ego of Drake Mallard, as he fights the evil Fearsome Five and his own struggles to be a good father to his adopted daughter Gosalin, of course aided by his companion Launchpad McQuack. The show first aired in 1991 and quickly became a fan favorite. It was one of my own favorites as well; the quick pacing, genuinely funny humor and the sometimes very relatable problems made it a personal hit.
One particularly strange show, which for some reason I really liked, was “TaleSpin”. Who did ever come up with this idea? Let’s take some characters from “Jungle Book”, make them air cargo freight pilots and make them fight air pirates! So much bizarreness, yet so enjoyable. How is it possible? How weird (and bad) the premise sounds, for some reason it actually worked. The series was fun, the stories were at least trying to be a little bit different and the villain Don Karnage… o, Don… was absolutely hilarious. First released in 1990, its pilot (ha!) episode “Plunder and Lightning” even was nominated for an Emmy Award! Quite the achievement, if you ask me.
Please tune in next time as I take on the second half of the Disney Afternoon saga, with such classics as “Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers”, “Goof Troop”, “Gargoyles” and the ones based on Disney Classics such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Winnie the Pooh”, “Aladdin” and “Timon and Pumbaa”. Hope to see you then!
We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you too are passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at disneyavenue316@yahoo.com.

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Excuse me? Oh, I S.E.A.!

by Sam Vlas
For me, what makes the Disney theme parks so special, are the stories. And those stories can be very clear and well-known. But the mystique of certain parks and resorts is created by the stories that aren’t that apparent, but are certainly there. Today we are going to look at a prime example of such a Story, which is unique to the Asian parks, but can rival Harry Potter in scope and lore. I’m talking about the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Who? What? How? Continue after the page break and find out, adventurer…


Back stories for parks, themed areas and resorts, often created by Imagineers, are some of the hidden gems of Disney theme parks. One particularly interesting group of individuals is the S.E.A., the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. This society, consisting of scientists, rangers, scavengers, spelunkers, archaeologists and adventurers, is dedicated to exploring every corner of the earth and gathering every bit of knowledge they possibly can.

Sounds like an exciting club to be part of, doesn’t it? Traces of the crazy antics of this Club can be found most prominently in two Asian Disney parks, Tokyo DisneySEA and Hong Kong Disneyland. We are going to look at both of these parks and where the S.E.A. can be found.



First, we’re off to Tokyo! More specifically, to DisneySEA. This is where the Society made its first appearance (what do you think SEA is in capital letters for?) and where the most “evidence” of the Society can be found. The foremost place to look at is Fortress Explorations in the Mediterranean Harbor section. Here you can explore rooms and play with unusual objects as you wander through the corridors of the grand stronghold. But, dear reader, this is all but a simple playground. It is here where S.E.A. introduces itself and makes the purpose of this Fortress clear:

“Within this citadel and on its waterfront, you can witness first-hand the progressions of our explorations and research. Our quest is never-ending and it is our hope that you will return here often to embark on your own explorations of Adventure, Romance, Innovation and Discovery.”

A very interesting premise. I mean, who doesn’t want to do that? The four main rooms of the Fortress each represent a different aspect of S.E.A. You have the enormous galleon outside on the waterfront (Adventure), the beautiful Victorian planetarium (Romance), the Galileo-esque pendulum room (Discovery) and the DaVinci-esque flying machine (Innovation). Throughout the Fortress are plaques, not only explaining the objects and rooms, but also giving hints about the Society. Also, we can find the crest of S.E.A.

Tower of Terror is the second place to look at, since it focuses on one of the presumed members of the Society: Harrison Hightower III. Obviously inspired by famous Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, Hightower was an adventurous guy who travelled the world and collected all sorts of artifacts he could find. One particular artifact, a Tiki idle, burdened him with a terrible curse which caused the Hightower Hotel to fall in despair. The Hotel remains cursed to this day, but we can find many clues on the life of Henry Hightower III. Somewhere in the lobby, a newspaper can be found, chronicling his latest acquisition:

You can see Hightower on the 1899 group photo of S.E.A. on the far left holding his prized possession in his hands. The other “old guy with a fez” in the chair on the foreground is someone who the world actually just came to know: Lord Henry Mystic of Mystic Manor. We’re going to leave the islands of Japan and head straight to the ancient forested hills of China… to Hong Kong!
Because it is here where in 2013 S.E.A. made a “second” appearance in the queue and overall back-story of Mystic Manor. This time it tells the story of Lord Henry Mystic and his monkey companion Albert. Mystic, like Hightower, is a world traveler and collector of fine art and exotic curiosities. His prized (and, surprisingly, also cursed) possession is Pandora’s Box, a very “special” music box. If opened incorrectly, it will set the spirits inside it free and havoc (and hilarity) ensues. We can find painted and written recordings of Lord Mystic’s adventures in the queue.
Many interesting Easter-eggs can be found in the queue. We get to know some more members of S.E.A., and we can also find the group portrait seen in this article. It is clear that the Imagineers had a lot of fun constructing these fictional characters, locales, stories and articles. The portrait can make one curious: who are these people? Are we going to see more of them in future attractions or parks? Who knows?

I can’t help but seeing the infinite possibilities with these types of park-wide stories. You can make television series, books, more rides, games, almost anything out of these “open” stories. When done right, Disney and Imagineering could have a potential gold mine. I listed only three examples here, but what about Mysterious Island, Paris’ Discoveryland, the Adventurers’ Club? Are they connected too? There are so many mysteries surrounding this group of explorers and that depth is what makes Disney storytelling some of the best in the industry. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for S.E.A. and hopefully the Imagineers will dive deeper into the lore of this mysterious society.

I’d love to stay a bit longer, but adventure lurks on the horizon! Have a pleasant day, good exercise and always check your underpants… for snakes.


(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Disneyland Paris 22nd Anniversary Part 2

Today Disneyland Paris celebrates 22 years as being Disney’s most beautiful park in the world. On 12 April 1992, Euro Disney Resort and its theme park, Euro Disneyland, officially opened. Visitors were warned of chaos on the roads and a government survey indicated that half a million people carried by 90,000 cars might attempt to enter the complex. French radio warned traffic to avoid the area. By midday, the car park was approximately half full, suggesting an attendance level below 25,000. Speculative explanations ranged from people heeding the advice to stay away to the one-day strike that cut the direct RER railway connection to Euro Disney from the centre of Paris. Regardless of all that chaos Disneyland Paris went on to celebrate the opening of one of its most beautiful parks. Continue after the page break as we take a look back at the opening of Disneyland Paris…

The event started off on a beautiful sunny day with Michael Eisner leading the opening ceremonies:

The park invited several celebrities and their families to enjoy in its opening celebration:

Michael J Fox

Jeffery Katzenberg

Michael Eisner

George Lucas
Eddie Murphy

And a video of Michael Jackson being toured around Disneyland Paris:

And to end off the festivities and to officially open the park, a video of Roy E. Disney and Michael Eisner at the ribbon cutting ceremony:

That about does it for our tribute to Disneyland Paris for its 22nd Anniversary. You can find a wonderful 5 part article by Michael Sandstrom who was responsible for taking some of the celebrity pictures above over at the popular Disney and More blog. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Disneyland Paris 22nd Anniversary Part 1

by Keith Mahne

Tomorrow Disneyland Paris will celebrate its 22nd Anniversary. Following the success of Walt Disney World, plans to build a similar theme park in Europe emerged in 1972. Upon the leadership of E. Cardon Walker, Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983 in Japan with instant success, forming a catalyst for international expansion. In late 1984 the heads of Disney’s theme park division, Dick Nunis and Jim Cora, presented a list of approximately 1,200 possible European locations for the park. By March 1985, the number of possible locations for the park had been reduced to four; two in France and two in Spain. Both nations saw the potential economic advantages of a Disney theme park and offered competing financing deals to Disney. Continue after the page break as we join Disneyland Paris in celebrating 22 magical years…

Michael Eisner, Disney’s CEO at the time, signed the first letter of agreement with the French government for the 4,940-acre site on 18 December 1985, and the first financial contracts were drawn up during the following spring. The final contract was signed by the leaders of the Walt Disney Company and the French government and territorial collectivities on 24 March 1987. Construction began in August 1988, and in December 1990, an information center named “Espace Euro Disney” was opened to show the public what was being constructed.

In order for the fourth park to be based on the original, modifications were made to the park’s concepts and designs. Among the changes was the change of Tomorrowland to Discoveryland, giving the area a retro futuristic theme rather than futuristic. Other altered elements include the Haunted Mansion, which was redesigned as Phantom Manor, and Space Mountain. The park’s location brought forth its own challenges. Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant is said by its designers to have been necessarily reevaluated for a continent on which authentic castles stand. Modifications to the park were made to protect against changes in weather in the Parisian climate. Covered walkways were added, though these are described as “Arcades” and not covered walkways, and Michael Eisner ordered the installation of 35 fireplaces in hotels and restaurants.

The park, as well as its surrounding complex, initially failed to meet financial expectations resulting in an image change in which the word “Euro” was phased out of several names, including Euro Disneyland. The park was known as Euro Disneyland until May 1994, Euro Disneyland Paris until September 1994 and Disneyland Paris in February 2002. As Michael Eisner noted, “As Americans, the word ‘Euro’ is believed to mean glamorous or exciting. For Europeans it turned out to be a term they associated with business, currency, and commerce. Renaming the park ‘Disneyland Paris’ was a way of identifying it with one of the most romantic and exciting cities in the world.”


Here is a video featuring time-lapse aerial views of the park under construction:

Next up is a early EuroDisney promo from 1991 (it was adlibbed in English which is quite comical):

Check back tomorrow for part 2 as we focus on Disneyland Paris Opening Day Ceremonies. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

Disney Magic Maker: Orlando Ferrante

By Keith Mahne

Today we begin a new segment here on Disney Avenue called Disney Magic Maker. This segment will pay tribute to the men and women who helped dream up the best theme parks in the world. We will start off with none other than Orlando Ferrante. During his 40 years at Walt Disney Imagineering, former vice president of engineering, design, and production Orlando Ferrante helped create magical Disney lands around the world. From Walt Disney World to Disneyland Paris, Orlando’s keen administrative and planning skills, his “can do” attitude, and his humble and fun-loving heart served him well when orchestrating the combined efforts of inspirational artists, engineers, production, and installation teams creating Disney theme parks. Continue after the page break as we pay tribute to one of the best Disney Magic Makers, Mr. Orlando Ferrante…

Born on September 24, 1932, in Los Angeles, California, Orlando won a full football scholarship to attend the University of Southern California, where he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After serving two years in the United States Navy, he played professional football as an offensive guard for the Los Angeles and San Diego Chargers in 1960-61. It was “who you know” that helped Orlando get his foot in the door at Disney. Having played football at USC with Dick Nunis, former chair of Walt Disney Attractions, and Ron Miller, former Disney company president, Orlando chose to join Walt Disney Imagineering in 1962.

Upon arriving at Disney, Orlando’s first job was overseeing the installation of the first Audio-Animatronics attraction at Disneyland, the Enchanted Tiki Room. In 1966, Orlando helped coordinate the relocation and installation of the attractions developed by Disney for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, including it’s a small worldCarousel of Progress, and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Also in 1965, he established a new department inside WDI called Project Installation Coordinating Office or PICO, which coordinated the creation and installation of Disneyland attractions, including the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as shows and attractions for Walt Disney World. He later recalled, “Creating Walt Disney World was a big effort. We needed a well-organized group coordinating the efforts for both Parks and for future Disney Parks, as well.”

Orlando Ferrante with PICO hardhat

In 1972, Orlando was named general manager of administration, followed by vice president of administration and production, overseeing all of Imagineering. He moved on to serve as vice president of manufacturing and production in 1979, followed by an appointment to vice president of engineering and production. “My main love,” he said, “has been the production and installation of the shows and rides. I love seeing the ideas and being able to help make them a reality.”

Orlando looks up at Cinderella Castle with pride

In 1990, he moved to France where he served as vice president of show and ride engineering, production, and installation at Disneyland Paris. Before retiring in 2002, Orlando moved to Venice, Italy, to help launch the second Disney Cruise Line ship; he also headed show and ride engineering, design, and production of Tokyo DisneySea, which opened in 2001.

Down on Main Street, U.S.A. in Walt Disney World, Orlando and his football buddies got their own windows. Next to Dick Nunis and Ron Miller is a window with “O. Ferrante” painted on it. At the time, Marty Sklar was the one who did all the windows and so he placed Nunis, Miller and Ferrante all together. He made Orlando “the masseur” and in fact, “masseur” is a perfect fit. Whether it was Country Bear Jamboree, The Hall of Presidents, or it’s a small world, you can bet Orlando had a hand in making sure everything was in place and ready for opening day. Marty Sklar, a dear friend of Orlando’s said of him, “I think his years playing football gave Orlando a strong sense of teamwork. He didn’t mind getting dirty to get the job done. And as result, he was well loved and remains well loved by those who worked with him.”

WDW Window

Orlando was finally honored with a window on Main Street in Disneyland, on March 18, 2003. His window is located above the Market House on Center Street and reads: The PICO Organization, Installation & Coordination of World Class Projects, “We Never Sleep – In Any Time Zone,” Orlando Ferrante, Founder. At the window dedication ceremony, Jim Thomas, former Senior Vice President of Project Management at WDI, stated, “I think most people know that Imagineers pride themselves on being dreamers and doers and if ever there was anyone who epitomized the doer in Walt Disney Imagineering it’s Orlando Ferrante. He got things done because of his incredible and undying belief in the people around him.” Orlando was also named a Disney Legend in 2003.

Disneyland Window

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);