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Wednesdays with Wade: Disneyland U.S.A.

Wednesdays with Wade: Disneyland U.S.A.

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"Now you can visit Disneyland! For the first time on the Screen...All the wonders of Walt Disney's fabulous new Magic Kingdom. A trip to...DISNEYLAND U.S.A. In CinemaScope and Technicolor! A People and Places Featurette!" That's what one of the movie advertisements proclaimed when that featurette premiered in movie theaters across the country on December 20, 1956.

"This film is one in a series presenting interesting People and Places. Here is a newly created land-a living, growing place for all people of all ages."

How many of you were as disappointed as I was when the Disney Treasures edition "Disneyland U.S.A." was released and it didn't feature this short that provided "B roll" clips of material for looks at the Disneyland park for episodes of the Disneyland television series like "Disneyland, the Park" for a couple of years?

What was "People and Places"? It was a series of live-action shorts similar to Disney's popular "True Life Adventure" series but instead of focusing on animals, just as the title suggested, it focused on different cultures beginning with the February 1953 release, "The Alaskan Eskimo". There were seventeen installments including: "The Ama Girls,"" The Blue Men of Morocco,""Cruise of the Eagle,""The Danube,""Japan,""Lapland," "Men Against the Arctic," "Portugal," "Samoa," "Sardinia," "Scotland," "Seven Cities of Antarctic," "Siam," "Switzerland" and the final installment, "Wales" released in June of 1958.

Many of these travelogues were filmed in Cinemascope and "behind the scenes" clips as well as the featurettes themselves were featured on the Disney television show. "Tiburon," a "People and Places" short that took William Smith four years to complete was never released theatrically but popped up on an episode of the Disney television show.

In 1959, Golden Press released a Disney's "People and Places" book by Jane Werner Watson "and the staff of Walt Disney Studio" with information and photos from some of these featurettes. This 176 page hardcover featured a forward by Walt Disney and stories on "Lapland-People of the Reindeer," "Morocco-The Blue Men" and "Samoa-The Sacred Islands".

It is amusing to realize today that the concept of a "Disneyland" was so foreign that it earned a place in a series devoted to other cultures that seemed exotic and strange to audiences.

This forty-two minute featurette was directed by Hamilton Luske who began his career at Disney in the Thirties as an animator and according to legend was the first animator cast by Walt Disney on 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." He soon became a supervising director on the features and eventually directed and was associate producer on some of the Disney television programs. He retired in 1967 after directing "Scrooge McDuck and Money".

"Disneyland U.S.A." was written and narrated by Winston Hibler, a task he also performed on some of the "True Life Adventures" series. Originally hired as a camera operator, he wrote the "Johnny Appleseed" segment for "Melody Time" and Walt moved him into the story department. Along with his writing partner Ted Sears, "Hib," as he was known around the Disney Studio, also composed lyrics for Disney songs, including "Following the Leader" from "Peter Pan" and "I Wonder" from "Sleeping Beauty."

Assisting Hibler on the script was Larry Clemmons who started in the animation department and would later go on to script "Jungle Book," "The Rescuers" and "Robin Hood".

Music was by Oliver Wallace, whose work at the Disney Studio encompassed everything from songs for "Dumbo" to the theme song for Donald Duck to "Der Fuehrer's Face".

The film was photographed in CinemaScope by Charles P. Boyle of the American Society of Cinematographers who had worked on other Disney productions from "Johnny Tremain" to "Davy Crockett" to "Old Yeller".

" 'Disneyland U.S.A.,' the newest offering in Walt Disney's famous 'People and Places' series was produced in CinemaScope and color by Technicolor. This picture is designed to give moviegoers a dazzling tour of Disneyland, with exciting closeup views of its myriad marvels.This Technicolored featurette begins with a helicopter flight over all of Disneyland." Proclaims the pressbook released for this film.

Yes, Disneyland used to have its own heliport, right behind Tomorrowland, so that those with enough money could even avoid the congestion on the new Golden State Freeway. So after a colorful aerial view of Disneyland (and the realization that it is still pretty barren since the landscaping hadn't fully grown in and that we can see worker's vehicles behind Main Street), the viewer begins his tour of Disneyland on Main Street.

What a wonderful trip it is down Main Street and a look at shops that no longer exist including the Butcher Shop and the Gibson Card shop and even two young ladies on the porch of the "Intimate Apparel" shop. If you look closely, you'll even spot "Trinidad", the most photographed character in early Disneyland. Trinidad was a "White Wing" and kept pretty busy in those early days. During the days of horse drawn vehicles in Chicago, the clean up men were called "White Wings". Walt personally hired Trinidad who had a big white mustache (mustaches not outlawed in Disneyland until 1958) and swept up on Main Street.

Frontierland is next and from the Mark Twain you can catch a glimpse of Tom Sawyer's Island and all the guests fishing for catfish. They could keep all they caught but the practice soon ended when it quickly stopped being a fun day at Disneyland lugging around smelling fish that were soon forgotten or deposited throughout the park. In the film, you can not only catch a glimpse of the pack mules but also the Stagecoach and the long forgotten Conestoga covered wagon. Another view of Frontierland is provided on the E.P. Ripley.

Adventureland is a chance to catch the "serious" jungle cruise (except for the gag about the name of the waterfall) and see some of the early "electro-mechanical animals" that fascinated early guests.

Tomorrowland showcases the Autopia without a center rail that is enjoyed by guests of all ages and the dangerous unloading area that cast members dubbed "Blood Alley." How many remember the days when guests boarded the Astrojets at ground level like the Dumbo ride?

Fantasyland features those old "festival facades" but unfortunately the only glimpse of the interior of an attraction is Storybookland by both boat (with a middle-aged male host) and by Casey Junior. Perhaps this was done to reassure visitors that there was now something to see on this ride rather than just mudbanks. If you are sharp enough, you might even catch a glimpse of one of the old ticket kiosks in front of the carousel.

The film ends with a selection of special events at Disneyland including an Easter parade with horseless carriages and a circus parade led by Walt Disney and Fess Parker. Those are authentic circus wagons that also appeared in "Toby Tyler" and were eventually donated to the circus museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Actually, the film ends with the flag lowering ceremony on Main Street and the reading of the plaque at its base and then some night shots of the Mark Twain, Main Street and the illuminated Sleeping Beauty Castle to remind people that Disneyland stays open at night. (That's the reason Entertainment Director Tommy Walker came up with the idea of a night time fireworks show, to keep people in the park.)

It is understandable why this short was never re-released because Disneyland was constantly changing with things disappearing and new things being added every year. In fact, in a way I wish they had waited another year so we could have seen some shots of the Viewliner. Thank heavens there is a segment on the early Mickey Mouse Club show of a ride on the Viewliner piloted by Walt Disney himself but those early Disneyland segments on MMC seem to have been edited out of reruns as well.

During this celebration of Disneyland's birthday, maybe it is time to re-release this glimpse of Walt's original park.

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  • How many remember the days when guests boarded the Astrojets at ground level like the Dumbo ride?

  • I am going to visit Disneyland along with my family to explore wonders of this magical kingdom created by the Walt Disney. I dot research paper to write on Disney's productions I am doing it with the help of typemyessays.com/research-paper-writing-services source. My children are particularly very much interested in exploring this mysterious place.

  • Great article! It was fun to read!

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