Monday, July 07, 2008

THINKING ABOUT DISNEYLAND


Disneyland (LA) is an amazing place. It's corporate and wrong in so many ways, yet it still manages to do a bunch of things right. I just went there today and walked away with bagloads of ideas. I thought I'd talk about a few of them here.

Everybody who's seen the Peter Pan ride is familiar with the outdoor entrance, which is a sweep of rooftops that leads to an open children's room window. Now let that sink in ...you're not even inside the ride yet, and you're already confronted with a major architectural idea: a huge floor-to-ceiling, barn door of an open window overlooking complex and interesting rooftops! I don't know about you, but I'd kill to have a real window like that.






And the window overlooks beautiful rooftops (above)...that's so rational. Real-life rooftops are sometimes the most beautiful part of a building. You don't want to waste that. You want windows overlooking it, as in the Dulac painting above (Thanks to Steve Worth and the ASIFA archive), or maybe a whole gallery overlooking it, as in the Hungarian castle above. Who would benefit most from such windows? Kids of course, they have the imagination to appreciate it. If they somehow managed to avoid falling to their deaths, they'd surely grow up to be geniuses with visual stimulation like that! ....Just kidding of course, but it's fun to free associate.





There are a few unsettling misfires on the rides. Alice's forest and signs (above) were far more interesting in the film. Oh well, let's not dwell on negatives.




The Pinnochio ride reproduces Ghepetto's workshop, and specifically the brilliant toy shelf conceived by Gustav Tenggren (above). It's great to be reminded of that. If you're an artist, you see something like that and you want to drop everything and sculpt toys. Tenggren's best work is full of charisma...he creates environments that you want to walk around in and touch.



Here's a ride (above) that jaded people hold in contempt: the Casey Jr. ride from Storybook Land. It looks lame so lots of people never give it a try. Actually it's one of the most stimulating rides in the park. That train really tears along and the perspective and volume contrasts along the way are always unexpected and shocking. Ride the open car, second to the last from the back. Always ride in the back when you're on small train rides...that's where you experience the the most centrifugal force. It's also good for people watching.



Here's (above) the Mad Tea Party ride. The Mary Blair-type colors are awe-inspiring, and the action takes place on a broad, sweeping plain slightly below ground level, and under a canopy of beautiful but menacing lanterns. The hedges that surround it are dark to set off the color. The effect is that of a Witch's Sabbath where cups spin madly under a canopy of hovering demons. The fact that half the people in the spinning cups are on the verge of vomiting adds to the wonderful weirdness of it all.



Here's (above) what looks like an outdoor puppet theater above the entrance to a building. Could this be accurate? Did the Swiss ever stage puppet shows above the entrance of puppet theaters, just to lure the public inside? It's a great idea, even if the Disney people made it up.



Here's (above) a model of Mr. Toad's car. I've sat in similar life-size cars in Toon Town and I can testify that these are fun designs that would be worth adapting to real, working automobiles. The car is essentially a high sofa with wheels, which in my opinion is the design that's most fun to drive in real life. You have the wind in your face, the comfort of a sofa, and the airy freedom of driving without restraining walls on the side. it's the closest thing to a magic carpet ride. I sat in a real car like that (owned by Jay Leno) and the experience was thrilling, even when the car was standing still.

47 comments:

Nick said...

Hey Eddie,
Sorry this is off topic, but I wanted to ask you about the caricature of you (as a cartoonist yet!) that appears in this Bakshi Mighty Mouse cartoon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xgmf9MQl30A

It sounds an awfully lot like you, did you provide the voice? Whose idea was it to include you?

You are probably the most caricatured cartoonist to appear in cartoons of recent time. I've seen you appear in shows that you've never even worked on!

Nico said...

hooray!!!!!! Great to see an uncle Eddie photo essay again. I agree 100% with all your points!! I love DLand, this post makes me wanna go! NOW!

Miss Julia said...

This is Great -- I remember Disney from our trip to Disney World with our Kids many years ago..

Much Love,
Miss Julia

Kali Fontecchio said...

Ya I love the way the Pinoccio ride looks, and the Snow White ride too!

And oh ya- nice photo essay!

len said...

Just happening by via the dashboard... Great update on Disneyland! Have a 3 year old right now and am gearing up for the inevitable. Now I can look forward to DL with a new perspective. Thanks!

Jennifer said...

How cool is that! I've never been to Disneyland (CA), but I've been to Disney World (FL) numerous times. I really love it!

It's interesting to hear an artist's perspective of the theme park.

TentCamper said...

I'm not much into DLand, but kids and wife are. The love it. Your great photos make me almost want to go.

I love your blog and am adding it to my blogroll

trevor said...

Wow, Nick's right!

That's Eddie alright! No one can imitate that laugh!

Is this what you were talking about in APC where you, Steve Worth and Vince were talking about Ralph firing people and in your case on camera?

"He said it in a cartoon and he meant it!"

- trevor.

PS: Eddie, have you ever been to Disneyworld? Much much bigger and more tourists.

hoodiemama said...

This is my first time reading your blog, and I loved this essay! I can't wait to go back to Disneyland and look at everything in a different way. Thank you!

Jenny Lerew said...

Yes, the Peter Pan ride is wonderfully designed.

You must have taken your children to Disneyland when they were little, didn't you? There's an advantage that I think small kids have with Disneyland if they were able to go while still very young and impressionable. Since I'm from CA I first was there as an infant, and the first visit I can remember I was about 3. That can happily taint you for every visit afterwards--Disneyland becomes as much a part of your childhood as any past home you lived in-except it's a kind of Brigadoon that never changes between your visits(of course it did change, but not so much before the late 70s).

I even used to dream about it--in one I confused the Park with the Disneyland souvenir map we had--so in my dream I saw the whole place as having a painted sky like the Pirates ride with drawings of the characters in line art on the "sky"(look up a circa 1960s map for reference). That's pretty weird, but everything about Disneyland can be wonderfully weird to kids.

You on the other hand must have seen it for the first time as an adult, which I'd think would be so different. I know when I saw Disney World in my 20s I was disappointed--to me its scale was too oversized to have much charm.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: I wish I could have grown up with Disneyland like you did. Have you been there lately? They finally fixed Tom Sawyer's island.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Nick: "Catastrophe Cat" was an undirected show. It has my name on it but really the artists who worked on it did it, without any help from me. I wanted to buy time for a show I really cared about by putting a show through the system that had no direction at all. That was a big mistake and I paid dearly for it.

I don't know who got the idea of putting me in it, or who drew the scene I'm in. There might be a line where I speak, which would have been recorded as a pick-up when we were recording something else.

quasivoid said...

The painting of Ghepetto's workshop by Gustav Tenggren is really amazing. I think it's not only beautiful, but there's that heady part of the shadow that elicits so much emotional, psychological, and intellectual wonder.
I've never been to Disney's World, or Land for that matter. How was the painting incorporated into that attraction in reality?

Great blog!

Eshniner Forest said...

I wish I could visit disney land in the 50's or 60's.

Nick said...

Interesting, so you essentially just let the artists control everything in the cartoon, without any supervision.

In my opinion, it doesn't really look much worse because of it. What was the show you wanted to allocate more time to?

Anonymous said...

Nice post.

You must be intrigued by the Harry Potter/Hogwarts idea they have for DL, Fl? I don't know too much about it but they 'apparently' want to build Hogwarts Castle and the main Hogsmead street that leads upto it.

Just reading about it gives me goosebumps but actually walking through it would be magical.

Michael, UK

trevor said...

That makes sense, Eddie. Because when I watched it, I noticed that the overall design of the characters kept changing, and the quality wasn't consistent ( or, to use a word I dislike, "on-model" ).

But it sounds like someone had a tape recorder in their pocket and was talking to you from that one line of dialogue: "haw, Haw HAW! What a great idea for a gag!" Didn't sound rehearsed, but very natural.

And that's clearly Ralph's voice saying "Eddie, you're fired!"

- trevor.

Catastrophe Cat

Josh "Just What the Doctor Ordered" Heisie said...

Disneyland is great. Even though it's obvious that some bigshots are trying to "update" parts of it, they still can't kill the spirit of it all. Just ignore all the "updates" and it's a fun happy place! I'd live in Disneyland if I could!

Jenny Lerew said...

But it sounds like someone had a tape recorder in their pocket and was talking to you from that one line of dialogue: "haw, Haw HAW! What a great idea for a gag!" Didn't sound rehearsed, but very natural.
And that's clearly Ralph's voice saying "Eddie, you're fired!"


Trevor, that "gag" line was recorded in a booth, not surreptitiously. He was asked to do it.

I think the whole episode isn't the cute memory for Uncle Eddie as it is for we who just get a kick out of the random caricature.
Even so, I've only heard Eddie say the most admiring things about working at Bakshi's and about Bakshi's talent. That says volumes.

Jenny Lerew said...

Actually(and this is going far far afield from the whole Disneyland subject, for which I apologise as it's such a good one), one of you enthusiasts should compile all the U.E cartoon appearances. I only know of three but I'm not well-versed in TV animation to be honest-at least not the way the kids who grew up on it are.

There's that Mighty Mouse one, at least one other from the WB TV days and an appearance on The Simpsons from the first season that Jim Reardon put in there(he worked at WB TV before going to write and direct on Simpsons)...on the Itchy & Scratchy seminal ep I think IIRC.

And of course, Pinky & the Brain all started with I believe a Bruce Timm caricature of Eddie and Tom Minton that Lynne Naylor designed into mice at the producer's behest during the several months we were all developing Animanacs(say what you will about WB but they kept an entire show staff on salary while we all had a pretty good time fooling around with a million possible show ideas--that would never happen today and I think we had Jean MacCurdy to thank for it).

The original Pinky design even had Eddie's black poindexter glasses and squint, but as always with glasses they were much thought too much trouble/pencil mileage for overseas animators to wrangle. But it was as appealing as Lynne could make it and that's pretty appealing.
Unfortunately the voices used were a disappointment-while Orson Welles is funny & the actor did a great job--the real Tom Minton's unique vocal stylings would have been much funnier to duplicate imho. Same goes for Pinky/Eddie.

Now--back to discussing the sublime qualities of Disneyland! : )

trevor said...

You read my mind, Jenny! As soon as my computer's fixed, that's what I'm gonna do.

I've already made one Uncle Eddie tribute video, but it was too big to upload, so I'll have to give it a go later on.

Three cheers for Uncle Eddie! Hip hip....

( you guys say this part out loud )

Hip hip....

Hip hip....

Yaay Eddie!

- trevor.

Gwendolyn said...

All valid points about Disney...I'd love to see you do something more rant-like!

www.doom13.blogspot.com
(Visit, if you want to. My posts are sort rants/thought provoking essays as well)
Gwendolyn

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny, Trevor: Thanks for the kind words!

About Pinky and the Brain: the studio did consider having Tom and I do the voices. In my case I had a bad day at the audition. I was asked to do my characteristic laugh and, having taken my dense pills, I responded blankly with "What laugh? I laugh just like everybody else." I didn't know I had a weird laugh. To be honest, I still don't know it, but at least I'm used to hearing contrary opinions now.

The other problem was that I (and possibly Tom) didn't have a range of voices that we do. The actors union allows a studio to get three different character voices out of an actor for the price of one. That means if they hired me they'd still have to pay somebody else to do the other two. It's a rule that effectively eliminates single-voice people.

Old Hollywood used lots of single-voice people: Arthur Q. Bryant (Elmer Fudd), Pinto Colvig (Goofy), and a host of famous film stars who also did a lot of radio work.

tmusichans said...

Seeing your pics makes me want to go!!

Jim Rockford said...

odbigThought provoking post.
Im must admit I'm really not much of a Disney guy and I havent been there since the 70's.
But I think Disneyland was at its best in the 1950's and early 60s,
Before they completely sold out and became shameless cynical money whores.
Now Disney is just a brand name,an empty corporate logo that has little relation to the Disney of the past.
When I think "Disney" I think of The Absent Minded Professor,Herbie the Love Bug,20 thousand leagues under the sea,and the myriad of the other fun family films they used to make throughout the 50's 60's and even to some extent into 70's.

Now Disney trys to shamelessly cash in on every flash in the pan trend.everything is a ploy to wring every last buck from parents whose kids mindlessly get caught up in the idol worship of some shallow pop culture icon they created like Hanna Montana.

The family values are gone.

Now Disney wants your 12 year old daughter to dream of being a shallow irresonsible pop star like Britney spears or Myley Cyrus-.

The writing was on the wall when they in a stroke of corporate arrogance and mindlessness decided to destroy all of the cool 50's and 60's motels that used to surround Disneyland to fit their new corporate identity.

I will never forgive them for that.
Gone are all the Kitschy retro futuristic motels like the inn of tommorrow & the eden roc,etc.
Those buildings were amazing artifacts from a better time.

That was a monumental and unforgiveable act of corporate stupidity.

I have learned that change usually means something bad...worse music,worse cars,worse buildings,a worse culture and whats worse is very few people care,as long as they have their beer ,Suv &reality shows,and money left for a nose ring and some tatts they're content..its all that brave new world crap.

"ending is better than mending"

we just wrecklessly cast off the culture of the past and mindlessly embrace whatever is new.whether it actually has any socially redeeming qualitys or not.

I apologize for sounding so negative,but this is reality (unfortunately)

I really wish I could have seen the Monsanto house of the Future.
Back when the future was still looked upon optomistically.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Hey, great icon Eddie!!!

Kali Fontecchio said...

To Eddies comment for someone else: Didn't Pinto Colvig do Bluto at some point? And also some Tex Avery characters...well I guess it was always Goofy though haha. Pinto as Bluto=not good.

Irene Rexlee said...

Never been to Disney Land but can see it in your blog..^_^..

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jim: True, so true...but some of the old feeling remains. Of course, like Jenny said, I didn't see Disneyland till I was an adult.

Kali: Glad you like icon. It is kinda weird, isn't it?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Gwendolyn: You're thirteen? Boy, you write a lot better than I did at that age. Well, since your bog says you're cynical and sarcastic you can be the curmudgeon on this site. Pick a fight with IDRC or Hunsecker.

mom v many said...

Hey Eddie,
Thanks for the flash back. I'm from CA but live in Vermont now (20yrs) and every now and again I crave a Disneyland fix. We did take the kids to Disney World many moons ago and I guess it may be time to go again. We have a big family (10 kids,yes all mine,no I'm not crazy, I don't know how I do it either..) and the younger ones are complaining and feel a bit slighted! LOL!!

trevor said...

Does IDRC stand for 'I Don't Really Care'?

- trevor.

Anonymous said...

What is really cool about Disneyland in comparison to disneyworld, is that the oldest rides (fantasyland) have the most wonderful patina of extra years of maintenance and restoration- you can actually see layers of touch up paint jobs, the peter pan ride is an excellent example.

Where the effect was opposite was for 20000 leagues, when it was still open- there was zero visibility thru the portholes, and grafitti inside the sub. I think they may have decided to mothball it in Disneyland when I rode it. ( newest ride at that time was captain eo)

Anonymous said...

pinto colvig did bozo the clown, before larry harmon bought the concept and franchised it

Jorge Garrido said...

Hey, Pinto Colvig wasn't a one voice guy!

Now, Billy Bletcher, THAT was a one voice guy!

Jorge Garrido said...

I hate to hate on him while he's absent, but the injuries I've suffered at his hands justify this: he should change his name to IDRK, and that's no typo.

But he does love to pick fights, doesn't he?

Nellz said...

I love it!! Thats so true about Disney world everything you said...I cant wait to take my daughter when she gets older..take care

Adrian said...

Really interesting post. I agree - it's wrong in so many ways but still does a lot correct. I've been to -world but not -Land. The photos made this post very well done.

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Joel Bryan said...

All I know is, I enjoy Disneyland a whole lot more filtered through your perceptions, Uncle Eddie!

Mattieshoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mattieshoe said...

sorry. wrong link. you're better off not going there. I was talking about this:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v98/speedyboris/acmebowl1.jpg


you might want to delete that last post. I was just surfing and came across that site: it's certainly not work-safe.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Mattie: I couldn't follow your link. It says you moved or deleted what was there.

Chip Butty said...

Seeing Disneyland at a young age was mindblowing. I was hooked by the cornbread middle america idealization of everything and Disney was the first animation I'd known.

Studio Ghibli Museum in the Mitaka suburb of Tokyo is the Miyazaki equivalent, only it's a single (big) building not a theme park...it's also very idealized, round and appealing architecture walkthroughs based on the Ghibli films!

Mattieshoe said...

Eddie:

Really? that's strange.it seems to work for me.


Anyway, it's the Title card for the Tiny Toons episode "The Acme Bowl"

and it's a lot ore interesting to look at then a lot of the Title cards for TTA
(and pretty much all the title cards for Animaniacs)

Oswald Iten said...

It may be a little odd to comment on an older post, but the whole CGI-dead end discussion following Michael Barrier's Wall-E revie reminded me of why I was so fascinated by Disneyland despite all the fake happiness.
What makes it, at least in my opinion, so much more appealing than any virtual reality/three dimensional IMAX experience is that it is physically there, you can actually step into it, not just have a your brain fooled into believing it is real.
And I don't mean the rollercoasters, some of them are great, but I could really touch this "phantasy world", no matter how fake it feels. And of course, I know I'm looking at a constructed world, it's not like I'm being fooled to believe that this is the real world.
In a way it's like watching a good cartoon. I know I'm watching a cartoon, but that's the whole point. If I wanted to see real animals I would've gone to a zoo or to the forest.

Minako said...

Hi... just happen to cross your site...

Im planning to go to Tokyo or Hong Kong Disney this Christmas. Hoho and I found some stuffs from Hong Kong Disneyland here as well:
disneycloth.cwahi.net

I will definitely take tones of photos there!!!