Disneyland at 60: Shadows of the Past

By Mark Landucci
 

As Disneyland rapidly approaches its 60th birthday, I’ll be developing a series of articles that deal with possible future attractions, future plans, land re-theming and the current state of the attractions. Okay. Now to the task at hand.  We, as fans, are always waiting for the next big E-ticket attraction or the next big restaurant or the next new land.  I’m guilty of this. However, before we get into any in the future, we have to look at our past. Disneyland sparkles with hope, newness and the promise of a great big beautiful tomorrow, but there are traces of past. A past in which more than a few of us wish we could revisit again. I’d like to take a quick journey into a few of the relics that remain inside the park today. Now I know that some of you have seen a few of these artifacts before, but others haven’t. Either way, they are lying in wait for your exploration. So click on to read more about the shadows of Disneyland’s past…

Let’s take a journey down Main Street USA, after all, this is the preferred method for entering the park. While Main Street USA is full of charm and history, our first destination is just a little past the hub, over there on the right. There’s something I need to point out.  Yes. There it is, in beautiful Pixie Hollow.

Pixie Hollow at Night

Pixie Hollow is quite stunning at night. But for this exploration, it’s better suited for the daylight. Peruse through the garden, look at the flowers and vegetation and keep your eyes open for something that doesn’t quite seem right.  The clever eye will find this…

What’s this in the shrubbery??

What’s this reinforced concrete base doing in the mystical area of Pixie Hollow? It’s not supposed to be there!! Hmmm, clever Imagineers have painted this concrete base green. Perhaps to blend in with the environment? But what is it?? Well this is what’s left of Monsanto’s House of the Future (1957-1967). Briefly, this attraction offered a tour of a home of the future (set in the year 1986), and featured household appliances such as microwave ovens, which eventually became commonplace. The house saw over 435,000 visitors within the first six weeks of opening, and ultimately saw over 20 million visitors before being closed. Here it is in its heyday:

Monsanto’s House of the Future

In the following picture, the House of the Future would be just left of center, near the lone pine tree.

Pixie Hollow Today

Okay, while we are here, let’s take a quick stroll into the land of Tomorrow. Okay, exit Pixie Hollow onto Main Street USA and turn left. This one is easy because it looms overhead, beckoning you to ask, “What is that track up there?”

These Provide Shade in the Summer Months

That track is everywhere in Tomorrowland: near the entrance, intertwined with Autopia and the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage…but what is it? And I want to go up there. Well, so do countless guests who notice this structure. Besides providing shade in the summer months, this track serves no purpose now. However, it did provide a means in which to move people around. The much beloved PeopleMover (1967-1995) gave guests a relaxing and informative circular tour around, above and inside Tomorrowland. I have vivid memories of riding the PeopleMover and remember getting dizzy during the Tron sequence in the SuperSpeed tunnel.
In 1998, these tracks were repurposed for the highly-fallible Rocket Rods (1998-2000).

The Empty PeopleMover Loading/Unloading Station

Amongst fans of the park, the PeopleMover is one of the main attractions that most people would want back. This is unlikely and the reasons for that are beyond the scope of this article. However, for those feeling nostalgic, the old on-board audio music from the PeopleMover now serves as the background area music in Autopia’s queue. Keep that in mind.

Let’s move out of Tomorrowland now and head towards Fantasyland. I’ll touch on Tomorrowland again in a few minutes, but what comes next is pretty cool. Heading towards the Matterhorn, let’s take a right, towards the Fantasyland side. We’ll come to the actual entrance of the Matterhorn.
Let’s just stop there for a moment and turn around, we’ll see this:

The Former Smoking Section? Fantasia Gardens? Yes, but there’s more….

It’s a series of tables and chairs. It was also one of the few designated areas in the park for smoking. You’ll notice the water and think, hmmm is all that water just for the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage? Well, yes. It is now. But it wasn’t always this way, where’s this next picture taken?

A Functioning Boat Dock!!!

What?? Are you kidding me? A motorboat in the park??? Yes!!! The waters of Tomorrowland had another occupant: The Motorboat Cruise (1957-1993). Guests were guided (via rails) along the tranquil bodies of water near the submarines and underneath the Monorail tracks. Eventually though, they were taken through a series of rapids (class .5???) and eventually returned to safety.

To be accurate, two other attractions also shared this area by waterway: The Junior Autopia and the Viewliner train.

Here is an old waterway that was part of the MotorBoat Cruise

Wow…okay, let’s keep going. We’re going into the heart of Fanstasyland, past Dumbo and Casey Jr. Clever eyes will spy a building in and amongst the trees. They’ll see steps that lead to this interestingly decorated building and think, “What is that chalet up there? Is that a restaurant? I want to go explore that place.” But you cannot. You can only gaze upon it from afar.

It looks like this:

What is that chalet doing up there?

Steps Enticing You to a World of Tomorrow

This was old terminal for the Skyway to Tomorrowland (1956-1994), which was another beloved attraction amongst guests. The architecture and style of this building serve a great case study in how Disneyland mastered the art of theming. Set against the village landscape of Fantasyland, this chalet was decorated with colors and artwork that made it blend in the surroundings.

This is how the building looked in the 1950’s:

Early Skyway to Tomorrowland Terminal

The Skyway predates the Matterhorn (1959) and in fact, went through the Matterhorn. A quick side note, the Matterhorn also served as mechanism to hide the unsightly Skyway tower that was on (what was then called) Holiday Hill.

Vintage Image of the Skyway Going Through the Matterhorn (Notice the round buckets? These were replaced in 1965 for the traditional gondolas)

There are two things about this attraction that I shall never forget. The first thing is, when the gondolas passed through the Matterhorn, the sound of the mechanical nature was so loud that I had to cover my ears. The second, and I wish I could revisit this, is coming from Tomorowland into Fantasyland at night. As you passed through the Matterhorn, you began your slow descent into the soft glowing lights of Fantasyland. I remember feeling as if we were really being transported elsewhere.

One final note. Since this attraction had two terminals, it would be fair to ask what became of the Tomorrowland station? Well, for a time, it was used as a service station for the highly-fallible (remember?) RocketRods. The station has been fully removed. However, I’ve heard that the steps leading up to it are still there, near the Innoventions attraction building. I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I’d love to explore that area sometime. In addition, I’d welcome any news on this!!!

Oh, so where were we??? Oh yes, we were in Fantasyland, stopped, looking at the old Skyway to Tomorrowland terminal. Well, let’s continue to move west towards Frontierland. There was a time when you couldn’t walk from Fantasyland to Frontierland. But those days are gone. This path is known as Big Thunder Trail.

As we venture down this path, we’ll come up to this on the right.

What’s this Mystery Tunnel???

You will see a small body of water and a rock tunnel at the end. It sure looks interesting and it probably has a story or two to tell. What role in Disneyland’s history did this tunnel play? Well, the role this played was part of a lost attraction that seems to be atop the list of the most cherished amongst fans.

Would you believe that this tunnel, depicted in the image above, is the same tunnel depicted in the image below?

Bear Country

Mind blowing, right? This particular segment was part of the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland (1960-1977), it was known as Bear Country. It’s also been called Bear Valley and Bear River. However, I think its true name is Bear Country. This attraction was built as an expansion to the already existing, Rainbow Caverns Mine Train (1956). One of the features of this section is that it had extensive animatronics, including jumping fish. Today, in fact, the fish still jump from time to time.

This attraction was pretty much demolished to make way for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. That being said, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad does pay some homage to its elder railroad. In the beginning scene, there are colorful caverns that can be seen. This is a tip of the hat to the old Rainbow Cavern. In addition, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is set in the mining town of Rainbow Ridge.

Further articles will explore this beloved attraction, but for now, that is pretty much all that remains. I will leave you with one last part of the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, a mine train that was visible from the Rivers of America, near what was Cascade Peak.

A Subtle nod to a long lost attraction

I believe that this train has since been removed from this location. I challenge you to go out and explore all of these on your own. You will get a better sense of the park and you may discover something new on the way. If you find something, make sure to share it with us!!!

Anyway, I hope you found something useful (or interesting) in this article. Until next time, see you in the parks.

– Mark

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Mark Landucci comes to us from Northern California where he’s lived his entire life. He has a degree in Journalism from Sacramento State and continues to be a professional writer. Mark’s interest in Disneyland can be traced from the late 70’s when he made his first visit to the park. Instead of buying balloons, candy, t-shirts or hats, Mark’s only souvenir requests were the large park maps. He’d bring them home, open them up on the floor and stare at every detail. This is something he may (or may not) admit to still doing! Mark had a yearly subscription to the E-Ticket magazine and continues to look for missing magazines to fill his collection. In addition, he likes to read books about Disneyland as well as biographies of some of the men and women that built the park. Additionally, he listens to podcasts centered around Disneyland and Disneyworld. He is eager to discuss any facet regarding the design, history, future, attractions and social importance of the parks. In fact, Mark often offers a different view of the parks and what they mean. While he favors Disneyland, he’s warming up to the idea of Disneyworld. Maybe he’s humidifying up to the idea of Disneyworld J. Either way, he believes they both offer something unique.

Being the father of two daughters, he seems to live vicariously through them when they go to the parks. And daily conversations about the parks, including trivia about the parks is quite commonplace. I think they get annoyed with Mark, but don’t tell him that. Mark will write somewhat humorous articles that cover: attractions, history, design and maybe delve into the esoteric elements that Disneyland has to offer.
 
 
 

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One thought on “Disneyland at 60: Shadows of the Past

  1. Hey mark I feel the same way You do about the park. I am 50 and been going there since the 70s myself. I am a fanatic Disney nut. There are times I just go sit on main street for hours and eat watch and smile, No need for rides just being at the park. My first trip 1967. just love it. Michael

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