Sunday, December 19, 2010

Disneyland's Information Board

When I started visiting Disneyland with exceptional frequency, on the order of three or more times a week in the summer of 1997, the first Cast Members I befriended were the Guest Relations folks at the Information Board in Disneyland's Central Plaza. Many of them loved Disneyland as much as I did and were happy to share information on upcoming events and projects--especially Jorge, who worked there five days a week and understood my fascination with Disneyland. They tolerated me far more than they needed to, as I would recognize when I was a few years older.

For me, the Disneyland Information Board is the perfect place to work at the Park. It's outdoors in the center of the Park, so it offers the best immersion experience of any stationary position. Because of its location and function, you're likely to run into friends who are visiting the Park. You get to wear a radio and call many attractions every hour, so you know what's going on--every CFA [Central First Aid] run, every attraction breakdown, and every liaison between Cast Members with radios. You'd get to see the parade pass by. Most importantly, it's purely an information position. Guests would occasionally come to us with problems, but there was very little we could do for them at the Information Board. I would direct them to City Hall and go back to humming along with the Main Street music loop. The biggest problem is that it's one of the first places Guest Relations Cast Members are trained; as soon as you get enough seniority to really request shifts, your skills are more valuable in other locations, like City Hall.

Ten years ago today, on Tuesday, December 19, 2000, I worked my first On Stage shift, at the Information Board. I wasn't scheduled this day, but got a call in the morning asking if I would like to come in. They might as well have asked me if I'd like to meet Walt Disney. Of course, I jumped at the chance and asked my parents to come document it. (They very graciously did; as you've likely guessed, the above photo is the three of us.) I honestly don't remember that much about my first shift, so I'm very glad to have the photos!

Here my mom plays the part of a Guest. I may have been explaining that sometimes strollers are stolen from Guests, but that the child can even so grow up to be a Disneyland Cast Member.

Note that the sign reads "Disneyland" "Park Hours:" and not "Disneyland Park" "Hours:".

Looking at the board now, I see a number of nomenclature issues. The definite article "the" is used incorrectly to preface "Country Bear Christmas Special" and "Golden Horseshoe Variety Show." "Fantasmic" is missing its characteristic exclamation point(!). The wait times don't look too bad for a late December day, and based on the Splash Mountain wait time and Guest attire, it looks like it was a warm day. (Oh, wait, I have that information: the high was 79 and the low was 47.)

My strongest memory from this day comes from when it was time to close up. Note that the fireworks were set for 9:30 PM. My shift also ended at that time. With the 15 minutes of "walk time," I would probably have been aiming to have the Board closed up by 9 PM. To close it, we had to get the wait time and show signs ready for the next day, the podium covered, and the cabinets and shutters locked. This was the first year of special holiday fireworks including snow, so a considerable number of Guests wanted to know the best place to experience the snow. My explanation included some pointing further into the Central Plaza and on to Main Street. This didn't cause much of a problem with changing the signs or covering the podium, but interfered with the locking up. The keyring for the Information Board should have included only a couple of keys, at most (if the cabinets and shutters really needed different locks). However, the keyring had about thirty keys--the correct ones being a complete mystery to me. I was not able to overcome the combination of the need to point to the snow and the need to keep track of which keys I had tried in the darkness, and ended up calling for another Cast Member to come assist. The next time I worked the Information Board, most of those keys had vanished.

Because of the seniority issue, I didn't get to work the Information Board very much--only about a dozen times between December 2000 and July 2002. I'm still a bit envious of Cast Members who get to work the Board. It was integral to my wanting to become a Disneyland Cast Member and finally getting to work was everything I hoped it would be.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The PeopleMover Lives On

Fifteen years ago today Disneyland's PeopleMover closed for good. I felt old when I saw a message board thread titled, "What was the PeopleMover like?" It reminded me of Utah Phillips's song, "Daddy, What's a Train?":

Daddy what's a train? Is it something I can ride?
Does it carry lots of grown-up folks and little kids inside?
Is it bigger than our house? Well, how can I explain
when my little boy and girl ask me "Daddy what's a train?"

As a response to the Davelandblog post, "Kevin Doherty & The PeopleMover Project," here are some photos of the PeopleMover cars which continued life in the Rocket Rods queue.

The following Rocket Rods queue photographs were taken after the attraction had permanently closed:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thesaurus Thursday: Third Birthday; I Need Your Help!

My "Thesaurus Thursdays" haven't happened quite as often as I anticipated when I began, but I had to capture the alliteration while I could. (The 13th and 30th anniversaries will both happen on Wednesdays, so we would have had some wait before us.)

It was three years ago today that I put aside my California gazetteer and dove headlong (back) into the world of Disneyland minutiae. As I think I've explained before, my interest in Disneyland history became manifest in late 1995 when I got Disneyland: The Nickel Tour and as many issues of The "E" Ticket as were then available. I created a rudimentary Disneyland Timeline, which I maintained until early 2000. I learned a lot from habitually obsessive visits to Disneyland and the people I met during my visits and online.

But I wasn't a collector. Sure, I'd pick up Park maps (one time a Guest Relations friend gave me a whole box of unused maps that was otherwise on its way to the trash) and gratefully accept photocopied spiels or employee manuals. My aunt and uncle, who both worked at Disneyland for decades, gave me an incredible stash of Cast Member materials (including a great many Disneyland Lines) in 1997. I went to one or two NFFC Show and Sales and of course saw a lot of paper that would have supported my historical Disneyland research, but I despaired at ever being able to assemble a complete collection.

I worked at Disneyland from November 18, 2000 to July 17, 2003. I requested to work in Guest Relations because I knew that to be the best On Stage position with a historical component. I was able to (mildly) contribute some information for the Holiday Time at Disneyland and the re-write of the Walk in Walt's Footsteps tours. I (tried to) sell my management on the idea of an intranet site with a historical focus. With Kevin Yee I worked up the idea for the Disneyland Compendium, an ultimate reference work on the Resort. In October 2002, at a private Club 33 event, I even stood before a group that included Marty Sklar, Tom Fitzgerald, and George Head (global head of SQS) to explain the idea, but nothing ever came of it.

I came to a point where it was a big time investment to learn each new fact or story. I left Disneyland, began working on my undergraduate thesis, and broadened my interests. I continued to visit Disneyland on occasion, but I didn't keep close track of what was going on. After going on a weeklong camping trip along the San Andreas Fault with Bob Gurr in October 2004, I began researching California places, leading me to a California gazetteer with over 11,000 places when I left it suspended in time three years ago.

A friend and I took an index language construction class in fall 2006. Unable to agree on a topic (a common problem), we fell back to an old Disneyland "land tree" I had tried to make. That finished thesaurus had a couple thousand terms in it, but it mainly had some hierarchy and cross-references, without additional information. On August 19, as I've said before, I came across the great vintage blogs I had only previously seen in passing, and knew that things were now aligned for me to pursue my Disneyland interest with renewed vigor: I had the basis of knowledge (from all my previous years reading everything I could), I had the skill set to create the thesaurus (from my library science schooling), and I had a phenomenal sea of historical information (now easily accessible) to draw from.

I toiled alone at first. I showed a barebones printed output to people for the first several months (the earliest thesaurus showing on record is October 25, 2007, at the Cafe Orleans). My first ever blog comment was on this Gorillas Don't Blog post showing super-rare photos of the Crane Company Bathroom of Tomorrow. But as I worked on the thesaurus, I realized my initial idea, to just have a hierarchy and cross-references, wasn't working. I'd forget how I came to relate two terms together, or how I had chosen one among several possible variants to use as the preferred term. So I started sourcing everything. And then I began including full text, all while carefully tracking what I had available to me, what I knew to exist somewhere, and what I had already gone through. Once I made that decision, the usefulness of the thesaurus to me expanded by leaps and bounds.

Wanting to be part of the conversation, driven in large part by the other blogs that updated every day, I began this blog on March 18, 2008. I shared some personal stories and talked about the thesaurus. In early 2009, while on a 76-day vacation, I decided to make a daily history of the Resort a part of my effort. On an eleven-day weekend from the DC snowstorms of February 2010, I threw the weather into the mix. My blog posting pace has slowed. Since beginning the blog, I wrote my masters thesis; got a job; moved the Nixon Presidential materials across the country; and relocated back to California (on top of the thesaurus work). And, now that I'm back in California, I have a new claim on my time: twice weekly trips to Disneyland itself.

I've received some amazing help from fellow bloggers during this time. Matterhorn1959 not only let me stay with him and scan whatever I wanted, he even let me borrow numerous items from his collection to scan at my leisure. (The problem is that one cannot scan his collection in just two days, particularly when he drags you to a swap meet and then to Casa Bonita...) VintageDisneylandTickets is the most prolific scanner I know and the Vacationlands and other publications he's posted are immeasurably helpful. I'm eagerly looking forward to the day when his comprehensive guide to tickets debuts! Westcot 2000 has provided me with a significant number of Entertainment Show Schedules from the early 1990s which have already helped with Park hours and will be very interesting in the future for the group information.

There's so much information out there that I haven't even scratched the surface at putting it into the thesaurus. The primarily photo blogs (such as Gorillas Don't Blog and Davelandblog) provide great visual details--I just need to hire somebody to work full-time writing up descriptions of the photos! Todd James Pierce, blogless but working on a book about early Disneyland and its imitators, always has extremely thorough responses to my obscure questions about Walt-era Disneyland.

In short, I'm extremely grateful for the help I've received from the fan community. I know it seems I've been talking about the thesaurus forever without much to show for it, but Kevin and I are hoping to change that soon. We are, however, in immediate need of help from the fan community. To finish assembling Park hours for all operational dates in Disneyland history, I need hours for 1,741 more days, or 8.7% of the days since Disneyland opened. These are mostly concentrated in the 1987-1994 timeframe. The complete list can be found by clicking here. Please pass along to anybody you know who may have this information! I suspect it can be found in newspapers from that time (though not, unfortunately, in the easily searchable full-text online archives), from gate handouts, and from Cast Member materials (such as Entertainment Show Schedules). I will revise the list as I am able to cross hours off of this list.

I'll try to have more regular posts. Now that I have better access to my accumulated paper, there might be more posts waxing nostalgic of my hundreds of late 1990s visits, but I guess better that than nothing. Also, if you're a regular reader who wants to see an in-person demonstration of the thesaurus, I plan to attend the D23 event in September and I'm sure we could arrange something. Again, thanks to all for their interest and help. As Walt would say (if he knew of the word I made up), "We're just getting started--the thesaurusing goes on next year."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fess Up

Whose fingerprints are those, and how much are you asking?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Innoventions, July 1998

Today marks Innoventions' 12th birthday. Here's the video proof:

I'm a big fan of the Tom Morrow in Innoventions. In 1999 I had too much time on my hands and made a Tom Morrow music video set to "Mr. Roboto":

I even interested the Innoventions Cast Members in it enough that they played it in the "Roots of Knowledge" area. That's right, my video production has been seen at Disneyland!:

(Apologies for the video quality; these are from MPEG files I've had on my computer for the past 10-12 years.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Marquee Experience

Rather than update my blog on a regular basis, I decided to build a time machine and drop you back in that magical time...December 1997. Pieces of the old parking lot were in popular demand for the holidays. "it's a small world," holiday was all the rage. Light Magic was still a fresh memory. Something called the Swiss Family Treehouse was over in Adventureland--anybody know what that became? For some reason, everything just seemed to go by really quickly:

Oh, I forgot to mention that my time machine can get you to 1997, but in the testing phases I'm unable to bring you back. Don't worry, though, the New Tomorrowland's gonna be great!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Handy Ticket Price Guide

If you thought ticket ranges are confusing now with the two parks and multiple days, be glad you're not visiting 1964 Disneyland. Backstage Disneyland thoughtfully included a handy guide in the April 1965 issue. This should help Tim in his ticket-collecting endeavors:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Prophecy Fulfilled

Every joke has a kernel of truth to it; sometimes it just takes thirty years for the truth to become so. From Backstage Disneyland's Winter 1969 issue:

The full spread of "Classic Questions":

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Visit to New England Circle-Vision Scenes

Back in October, I made my first visit to the New England states. I had planned my weeklong excursion to travel widely through the region, but it was only after I had mapped a tentative route that I realized I could squeeze in some Disneyland connections along the way. I'm fond of the Circle-Vision film "America the Beautiful," and two scenes had always stuck in my mind: Rockport, Massachusetts and the Vermont covered bridge. Below is 1/9th of the bridge segment of the 1967 version of "America the Beautiful," as broadcast some years back on the Disney Channel:

Now, Rockport, MA was easy enough to find (see?)--and it only has one harbor. I had some trepidation in finding the bridge. The total information available to me was the narration from the 1976 version ("rustic America in Vermont, where an old covered bridge is still to be found") (which I had to assume to be correct) and visual cues from the video above. I initially hoped that the sign above the bridge's entrance contained the name of the bridge, but the sign was illegible (and, I later learned, didn't name the bridge). No information on the internet or my thesaurus identified this bridge. But knowing that there are other people like me in the world, I figured somebody would have troubled themselves to make lists of covered bridges.

Indeed, I quickly found Dale Travis's Vermont Covered Bridges List, with photos of many of the bridges. Now I had to hope that the Circle-Vision bridge was on the list and had at least one photo with enough contextual information. I opened up every photo link on the page, but in my first pass couldn't identify it. On my second pass, however, I recognized some details on the Mill Bridge page that caused me to perk up. First was the sign; no other bridge had such a sign. The second was more subtle. The background of the Circle-Vision video shows a short waterfall in the distance, with a road in the further distance. The third photo on the Mill Bridge page shows a waterfall. Studying the Google Maps aerial view made me comfortable that all the details matched. You can also drive through the bridge via Google Street View and spin around 360 degrees, which I find very fitting.

I knew where the bridge was, had it programmed in my GPS, and still missed the turnoff--it's that inconspicuous from Vermont State Route 110. The bridge is down below to the left, not visible in this shot from the road:

After circling back, I got down to the bridge and drove through it in "reverse":

I parked down the road so I could investigate on foot:

After walking across it several times, I decided to capture a series of photos that would mimic the main camera from the Circle-Vision film. The approach shows a little more "civilization": the other road (Spring Road) is now paved; there is a guard rail in place; and a sign warns about the bridge's interior height:

The next photo includes the sign I hoped would include the name of the bridge:

Instead, the sign warns
I didn't have a horse or other beast, so the local authorities didn't get a chance to shake me down. I also shot the details that helped me to identify the bridge. The waterfall is easy to see, but the road in the distance is now obscured by foliage:

Traveling through the covered bridge:

And the view once through the bridge:

Now, I had loaded the video on my phone, so I could do a comparison (and perhaps be the first person to watch Circle-Vision while at the bridge site itself?). I tried to also document this comparison. The result wasn't great, but the landscapes match unmistakably:

I do have some sad news to report: While the Mill Bridge I visited and documented looks just like that in "America the Beautiful," it is not the original. As you can read about on the Vermont Agency of Transportation's page, an ice jam destroyed that bridge in the spring of 1999. It was replaced in July 2000 by a lookalike bridge.

My second New England Circle-Vision destination was Rockport, which I saw on a glorious fall day. Unfortunately, that scene was filmed from a boat, and I didn't have the time or desire to try to recreate those shots exactly. (Also, there is no Google Boat View from which I could use photos.) The Rockport scene starts with a boat navigating into the harbor past Motif No. 1 (the iconic red building on the right)... glimpse the picturesque harbor:

(And then the film cuts to Mill Bridge, so jump back up to the top of the post!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Disneyland and the Weather

Yeah, yeah, everybody always talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it. I'm here to change that: I'm putting it in the thesaurus. For some time I had contemplated enhancing my day-by-day history of the Resort with daily weather data, but it seemed a daunting task. Since I just had an eleven-day, weather-induced weekend, I looked into it further and came up with a plan.

In a perfect world, the data I draw on would be an unbroken climate record from 1955 to the present at a station in Disneyland (perhaps in the Central Plaza). The only thermometer I can think of at the Park is at the entrance to Coke Corner, but its unrecorded temperatures mean it's pretty much worthless for my purposes. It would be interesting to know if Disneyland did record climate information; I haven't found anything to suggest that they share it, if they do.

So, the next best solution is to find a nearby climate station whose weather is similar to Disneyland. Luckily, there is indeed such a reporting station: the Santa Ana Fire Station, part of the National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Observer Program. The Fire Station at 120 West Walnut St., Santa Ana (NWS ID: STAC1) is close to Disneyland (5.5 miles away), about thirty feet lower in elevation (not much), is only about a mile closer to the ocean, and has records dating to the early 20th century.

However, no climate station of any reporting length has perfect records, so I had to search for backup stations for when the Fire Station didn't report data (about 500 days over the course of nearly 55 years). In ranked order in terms of similarity to Disneyland's weather, I chose:
  • Tustin Irvine Ranch: records until 7/31/2003, when it was replaced by the station named Irvine Ranch. It tended to run a few degrees warmer than the Santa Ana Fire Station during the day and usually more than a few degrees cooler at night. Casual analysis showed it may have received more precipitation, as well. At 235 feet in elevation, it's not too much higher than Disneyland.
  • Anaheim: This might seem like a more natural choice for Disneyland, but it only began operation on August 1, 1989. While the station name is Anaheim, it is actually in Atwood, north of CA-91 and east of CA-57; its further inland location means it will generally run warmer than the Santa Ana Fire Station (and Disneyland).
  • Irvine Ranch: This station succeeded the Tustin Irvine Ranch station as of 8/1/2003, but is much higher in elevation (540 feet). My assumption is that the old Irvine Ranch station was done in by suburbanization.
So, within the thesaurus will be daily data (when available) for each of the above stations from July 1, 1955 to the present. Even with all that data, there were still 29 dates for which I had no data. I used Long Beach Daugherty Field (LGB) as my last resort. It's quite a bit closer to the ocean and not as close to Disneyland as I would like, but it has a lengthy reporting record that filled in when necessary. Unlike the other stations above, I only included LGB information for those days with otherwise missing data.

I make no representation that this pastiche is a true climate record for Disneyland, but it's close enough for my purposes. I think the weather information together with Park hours gives color to the daily history. Torrential rains and mid 50s is a lot different than high 70s and no precipitation, right? To show what I've done, let's take a look at a few dates in the summer of 1955. In The "E" Ticket #43 (Fall 2005), Ron Dominguez said, "In August of 1955 we had a terrible heat spell and attendance took a nose-dive. That kind of worried a lot of people." (I think this is also in Randy Bright's Disneyland: Inside Story, among other places.) For eight days, from August 31 to September 7, the high temperature was 97 degrees or higher, with a peak of 108 degrees on September 1. (The reading is among the highest in my Disneyland climate record.) This is what the record looks like for September 1, 1955:

  • DATE: 0901d September 1
  • DAY: THU Thursday
  • DLHR: 1022 10 AM - 10 PM
  • DLHRNOTE: 10 AM - 10 PM
  • ETY: DATE Date
  • PRECIP: PRECIP-NO Day without Precipitation
  • TEMPMAX: 108°F(h) 108°F
  • TEMPMEAN: 89.5°F(m) 89.5°F
  • TEMPMIN: 71°F(l) 71°F
  • WX: Santa Ana Fire Station (STAC1): Obs Hour Temp: 6PM / High Temp: 108°F / Low Temp: 71°F / Mean Temp: 89.5°F
    Obs Hour Precip: 6PM / Precip: 0 in.
    CDD: 24.5 / HDD: 0 / GDD: 39.5

    Tustin Irvine Ranch (TVEC1): Obs Hour Temp: 6PM / High Temp: 110°F / Low Temp: 66°F / Mean Temp: 88°F
    Obs Hour Precip: 6PM / Precip: 0 in.
    CDD: 23 / HDD: 0 / GDD: 38
  • BT: 1955-09
As I mentioned earlier and you can see here, the Tustin Irvine Ranch station is a touch warmer during the day and several degrees cooler at night than the Santa Ana Fire Station. And yes, I am tracking which days had precipitation, but it's not exactly perfect. The late afternoon reporting time means that that's precipitation from the 24-hour period 6 PM-6 PM--not the 24 hours of September 1. If it rained after 6 PM on September 1, it would be reported with the September 2 numbers. So, it's not an exact indication of all rainy days, but it can reveal wetter patterns (such as this one from 1978) and at least get one in the ballpark of rainy days. For the record, from July 1, 1955 to November 30, 2009 (the latest date for which quality controlled climate data is available), my climate record reveals 2,120 days with precipitation.

Monday, January 11, 2010

President Nixon's 1971 Gold Pass

I've blogged about the Richard Nixon-Disneyland connections before. Today, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum (a part of the National Archives and Records Administration) is releasing additional Presidential materials (read a description). While the Library is releasing many documents of tremendous historical importance, I was also given permission to process the Disney Alphabetical Name File. The Alphabetical Name Files was a group of materials maintained by the White House Central Files, which was mainly a cross-filing of materials by the names of people and organizations. The Name Files do have some original materials as well. Walt had, of course, passed away before Nixon became President, but the Disney file contains correspondence from other Americans named Disney, as well as correspondence with members of Walt Disney Productions, such as Roy Disney and Bob Jani.

Also in the file is the President's 1971 Disneyland Gold Pass, as seen below. It was sent to the White House attached to cardstock...

...and came with brief instructions on the benefits it conferred:

For Vintage Disneyland Tickets, a close-up of the front of the pass:

Without a pressing preservation or exhibition concern, I wasn't going to remove the tape which secured the pass in place, so I do not have a scan of the back.

Elsewhere in the files I have seen evidence of the Nixon having received a 1969 pass, and in another as yet unprocessed file we have his 1970 pass. I have not found any later passes, which leads me to wonder if Nixon received these more because of his relationship with Walt and Roy than because of his position as President. (After all, the President would undoubtedly be able to visit Disneyland for free!)