“Leave it as it is” – Brief Thoughts on Conservation and Hyperbole:

Mr. Trump is about to issue an Executive Order that imperils 1,018,114,328 acres of Public Land. These parcels of wilderness were originally preserved as National Monuments. Since the 1990s, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all contributed to the National Park System by setting aside land they deemed to be worthy of preservation for their scenic beauty and cultural significance. Now,  with a new Executive Order, these National Monuments will be reviewed and possibly “un-designated”.

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I find this absolutely sickening. Call your congressmen and senators and tell them you support the Antiquities Act and conservation. These National Monuments are the places that mean something to the underlying cultural values and beliefs that are the very sinew of the nation and its people. At one point, even the Grand Canyon was susceptible to the whims of commerce as miners and greedy hoteliers sought to privatize its vistas and minerals. But no, cooler and wider heads prevailed and saved the Grand Canyon for posterity. President Teddy Roosevelt swept the canyon under federal protection under the powers of the Antiquities Act, preserving the canyon  as “undertaken for the benefit of reputable museums, universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions, with a view to increasing the knowledge of such objects, and that the gatherings shall be made for permanent preservation in public museums.” And then Teddy Roosevelt underscored the meaning of conservation with a speech at The Grand Canyon: “Leave it as it is… man can only mar” what is a symbol of the natural wonders of the American landscape.  The very idea that Mr. Trump would un-designate land that’s been deemed culturally valuable is so disturbing and antithetical to his hyperbole on “making America great again.” How do you intend to “make America great” when you devalue the physical parts of this country that are outstanding and sublime and special?

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I hope Interior Secretary Zinke reminds the POTUS of the man he has called his hero on multiple occasions, President Theodore Roosevelt, and his words when talking about the National Park Service, conservation, and the parts of this country that already make this country great and worthy of our concern and respect.

A Bevy of Baxter – Disneyland Expansion during the Bicentennial

At WED Enterprises, the 1970s were marked with an unmistakable drive of creativity that produced some of the most well known and iconic Disney experiences that still are held dear, today. The 1970s were the decade where Walt Disney World opened and Walt Disney Productions put all their efforts towards bringing the fledgling resort up to operational and thematic speed. This is also the heady decade in which Disney would finally act upon Walt Disney’s idea for an urban community of tomorrow and produce a theme park, EPCOT Center, out of those ideas and plans. On top of all this, the 70s were also the decade when Disney looked beyond America and saw potential in building magic kingdoms around the world. Tokyo Disneyland’s creative nexus came about during EPCOT’s formal creation as a unified theme park (And not a series of satellite theme parks with shared innovative values) and would go on to be a thematic entity based in the best parts of her Floridian and Californian sisters. But what of Disneyland, the original Magic Kingdom? Disneyland, too, was also the product of the driving spirit of WED’s enterprise during the mid 1970s and although what was built was slightly less than all of the plans and ideas fostered for the park, the process is astounding and a hallmark of the breadth of WED’s vision and skill. Under closer observation, Tony Baxter was instrumental in the creation of Disneyland’s efforts to expand.

 

Tony Baxter can be considered a product of WED’s first generation of imagineers. Beginning his career at Disneyland as a front line cast member and working his way into Imagineering, Tony Baxter was lucky enough to be under the tutelage of Claude Coats, Marc Davis, and John Hench and absorbed their pioneering spirit into his own outlook and work at WED Enterprises. This philosophy of early WED’s character is easily seen in Baxter’s ideas for how to expand Disneyland and served as a standard of quality for how he exacted and executed his craft in all his projects. But, for the purpose of today’s article, I would like to delve into three projects. Two that never left the drawing board and one that has been built, cherished, and absorbed into the pantheon of Disney’s brand of experiences and attractions: Discovery Bay, Dumbo’s Circusland, and finally, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

 

Continue reading A Bevy of Baxter – Disneyland Expansion during the Bicentennial

Up The Waterfall: Thematic Impressions of Disneyland

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I originally wrote this piece in August of 2013 after I returned from Disneyland for the first time. Enamored and captivated with Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, I wrote this essay hoping to explain what makes Disneyland so special and what I had found interesting. Enjoy! 

Up the Waterfall: Thematic Impressions of Disneyland

Julie Rheim: “Well, that is absolutely fantastic! But how do you top it!?”

Walt Disney: “Well, we set the place on fire! We have the audience trapped down there in this flaming city!”

Julie: “But how can they get out, now?”

Walt: “Well, now, you got into this mess by going DOWN a waterfall… How would you suppose we get them out of there?”

Julie: “By going UP the waterfall?”

Walt: “That’s right! By going UP the waterfall…. Anything’s possible at Disneyland!”

— Walt Disney and Ms. Disneyland Tencennial, Julie Rheim, discussing Disneyland’s forthcoming Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, 1965.

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For almost all of my life, I’ve been a fan of Disney. Mickey Mouse presided over my first birthday. Childhood birthday gifts and holiday tidings usually brought a Disney film on VHS. And since the ripe old age of two, my family and I have spent time in the Vacation Kingdom of the World, happily just 230 miles up Florida’s turnpike and the perfect distance away to still be a satisfying and enchanting weekend escape that maintained the mystery of a far away destination, but close enough to capture my attention and establish a sense of familiarity that makes a return to WDW so comforting. That is the real crux of my involvement in Disney. Disney World was the physical manifestation of the incredible feeling and mood and happiness that Disney, as a whole, brought. EPCOT Center dominated the formative years of my interest and is still the cornerstone of my ongoing proclivity for themed design and Disney history. EPCOT provided a linkage to how the real world worked. Its optimistic drive and broad creative aims inspired an understanding in not only the exhibitive aims of the park but in how Disney used technology and art to convey a message and create an environment. Enjoyment and appreciation of EPCOT, funnily enough, broadened interest in the rest of the Disney world and the Magic Kingdom.

In an attempt in getting me excited (was that even really needed?!) for one of our earliest trips to WDW, my parents bought me a ‘Disneyland Fun’ VHS so as to familiarize me with what we would soon be visiting. Although for a park a continent away, the familiar visuals and localities on screen did their job and ‘Disneyland Fun’ became my mental image of the Florida property, despite glaring differences. That’s not our castle. Our Haunted Mansion looks scarier. We don’t have Star Tours in Tomorrowland, that’s over in MGM! And where is EPCOT!?

 

And so, I was aware of “the other”. There was an other Magic Kingdom out there. One that was seemingly older, had more in it, and yes, lacked an EPCOT. Despite that “flaw”, I was interested.  And as I got older and learned more about Disney World, so came knowledge of Disneyland. Here was Walt Disney’s original park…. While Disney World captured my immediate attention for research and, ultimately, this entire blog, Disneyland was always revered, in my mind, as the gold standard for history and the park that set down the precedence for what thematic entities followed. Of course, with that, came a desire to visit.

Florida, sadly, is very far away from California. My family and I have always been very lucky when it comes to traveling and we have seen much of the east coast.  While always an event to plan around, a vacation up to New York City or Washington DC was always more economical and feasible than an odyssey out west. Being from a family of teachers, and a student of history myself, who can complain when your destinations take you the very epicenter of what you study? And with Disney World just within reach for an easy getaway, Disneyland was really a world away. Happily, however, my chance to aim for Disneyland came earlier this year…. And as evidenced by this writing, I made it after almost twenty years of waiting and wondering.  What follows, and what this entire post is meant to be, is a reflection of Disneyland, as seen through the eyes of someone who grew up entrenched by Disney World, or, frankly, any other Disney park. This is not history; this is going to be an opinionated thematic analysis of Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom as seen by someone for the first time.

 

Continue reading Up The Waterfall: Thematic Impressions of Disneyland