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Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

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First up, Ted H. asks:

Why hasn't Disneyland done anything with the Train dioramas? I mean the dinosaur one isn't too bad. But the Grand Canyon thing is lame.
Plus is Disneyland the only place (that) these exist?

Thanks for your great knowledge on all things Disney!

To answer your second question first, Ted: Actually, the Primeval World sequence from the Disneyland Railroad was faithfully recreated for Tokyo Disneyland. You can see this cloned sequence by climbing aboard the Western River Railroad. Which -- oddily enough -- can't be boarded in that theme park's Westernland section. You'll find TDL's one-and-only train station over in Adventureland.

As for Disneyland - Paris, a somewhat modified version of the Grand Canyon diorama actually serves as a transition point between Main Street U.S.A. to Frontierland. But -- just as with the Anaheim original -- you'll only be able to see this scene if you're seated on the steam train.

Now -- as to why the Imagineers have never made any attempt to update and/or change out these somewhat tired scenes at Disneyland ... Actually, they have, Ted.

For over 30 years now, the guys at WDI have suggested numerous ways that Disneyland's dinosaurs could be repurposed. Among the ideas that have been trotted out over the past three decades are:

  • When the Imagineers were toying with building Discovery Bay back in the 1970s, one of the ideas that was floated as a possible attraction for this expansion area was a boat ride that would take Disneyland guests into the distant past as well as the far-off future. For this proposed ride's "distant past" sequence, what the guys from WDI wanted to do was pull all the dinosaur AA figures out of Primeval World and then place these robotic reptiles (Which had originally been built for the 1964 New York World's Fair) along the river bank of the time travel attraction.
  • During the 1980s, when the Imagineers were looking for a way to add a little oomph to Disneyland's dated & tired "Jungle Cruise," one of the concepts that was considered was moving the dinosaurs over into this Adventureland attraction. Where -- as part of the new finale for this boat ride -- guests would find themselves venturing into a previously unexplored portion of the jungle. Where creatures that were once thought extinct were shown to be very much alive.
  • Perhaps the most intriguing ideas dates back to in the late 1990s, when the Imagineers still thought that Disney's Animal Kingdom's "Countdown to Extinction" attraction (AKA "Dinosaur") might be a franchisable attraction. Given that 1998 redo of Disneyland's Tomorrowland had been deemed a total bust, the guys at WDI were desperate to come up with some sort of future-themed attraction that they could then drop into this part of the Anaheim theme park. Something daring & dramatic that might then possibly change the public's perception about the New New Tomorrowland.

    Among the ideas that were proposed was cloning DAK's "Countdown to Extinction" ride. This would have involved shutting down and then gutting the "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" theater to make room for the Dino Institute portion of that attraction (I.E. The queue, load/unload as well as the gift shop area).

    As where the actual ride track for the Disneyland version of the CTX ride would have gone ... Well, this was where the Imagineers were planning on being extremely crafty. What they were basically looking to do here was pull down the Anaheim theme park's old Administration building as well as leveling the Grand Canyon diorama and placing the "Countdown to Extinction" show building there.

    Mind you, the Primeval World was to have remained pretty much where it is today. The only difference was that -- in addition to those dinosaurs from the '64 World's Fair -- guests on the train would then have been able to see Time Rovers rolling through this setting. Carloads of happy Disneyland visitors narrowly avoiding being eaten by allosauruses and carnotaurs.

    Speaking of which ... Yes, you would have still be able to see the Primeval World sequence from the train. Only -- in this version of the Disneyland Railroad story -- your steam train would have just passed the Dino Institute. And clearly some of the Institute's time-traveling equipment must be malfunctioning. For a "temporal rift" has formed outside of the building. And -- for a few brief moments, anyway -- Disneyland Railroad passengers would have been able to peer into the distant past.

    Of course, what the Imagineers were hoping was that -- once those Disneyland Railroad passengers got a glimpse of what was going on inside the Dino Institute -- they'd then race on over Tomorrowland and immediately get on line at "Countdown to Extinction." That was the plan, anyway.

    Unfortunately, given how poorly the 1998 redo of Tomorrowland was received, the then-management team at the Disneyland Resort wasn't all that eager to throw good money after bad. They preferred to save the company's cash for the then-still-under-construction Disney's California Adventure theme park. So the Disneyland version of CTX never really got past the talking phase.

As for what might have been done with the Grand Canyon dioramas: Over the past 10 years or so, I've heard a number of suggestions from Disney Company employees. Among the ideas that have reportedly been pitched was incorporating all of those stuffed animals as well as that spectacular backdrop of the Grand Canyon into the queue area of a brand-new version of "Western River Expedition" (I.E. That Disney theme park ride that Marc Davis always dreamed of building). But I bet you can guess how far those plans got, Ted.

Anyway ... That's a little background of what was almost done with Disneyland's Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas. I hope that that answers your question, Ted.

Next up, Charlie B. drops by with a quick note of congratulations:

Jim --

Congrats on breaking that "Cars" premiere story earlier this week. Just today, Disney officially admitted that they would indeed be holding the premiere of this new Pixar Animation Studios' film at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. It must feel great to be able to scoop all of the other Disneyana sites like that.

It's articles like that that keep me coming back every day to JHM. So please keep them up!

Charlie B.

Dear Charlie B.

Well, to be honest, I'd feel a whole lot better about breaking that story if A) I'd actually gotten the date of the "Cars" premiere right (In my original article, I said that this screening would be held after the Coca Cola 600 was run. In truth, this Pixar Animation film will actually debut before that NASCAR race is run. The official date of the "Cars" premiere is May 26th, while the Coca Cola 600 doesn't get underway 'til May 28th) and B) if I'd gotten the number of tickets that will be sold to the public right (I counted on Disney trying to fill the stands at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. Which have a seating capacity of 167,000. In truth, the Mouse is only looking to fill about a fifth of those seats. Seeing as current plans call for only 30,000 seats to be sold to the public for this once-in-a-lifetime event.)

But -- beyond that, Charlie ... Yeah, I guess you could say that I did okay.

FYI: Here's a copy of the official Walt Disney Pictures press release for the premiere:

Cars World Premiere at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 26th

First-Ever Multi-Screen Digital Cinema Premiere; Vocal Cast From Film Along
with Racing Legends and 30,000 Guests to Attend Benefit Event Sponsored by Kodak

Disney?Pixar's exciting new computer-animated feature "CARS" will stage its World Premiere on May 26th at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina in one of the most unique and elaborate movie events of all-time, it was announced today by *** Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. Paul Newman, Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip, and others from the voice cast of the film will be joined by a host of stars from the racing world and 30,000 guests that are expected to attend the "CARS" World Premiere, taking place at the same location as that weekend's famous Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race.

The screening of the film represents the first multi-screen digital cinema premiere ever, with Texas Instruments and its DLP Cinema® technology serving as Disney's event technology partner in providing the digital cinema projectors. A series of four giant custom-built outdoor movie screens (115-feet wide and 50-feet tall) will be constructed at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Turn #2 of the track. Each screen will have three DLP Cinema 2K digital projectors dedicated to it. A state-of-the-art sound system is also being created and installed for the event. Academy Award®-winning filmmaker John Lasseter ("Toy Story," "A Bug's Life," "Toy Story 2"), who directed "CARS" will also be attending along with producer Darla K. Anderson ("A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc."), and other key players from Pixar Animation Studios and The Walt Disney Studios.

Tickets for the premiere will be made available for purchase by the general public starting today. Proceeds will benefit Speedway Children's Charities, and Association of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps. For tickets, call 1- 800-455-FANS, visit the Lowe's Motor Speedway box office, or order online here.

To cap off the weekend, the #96 DLP HDTV car will be wrapped as the film's lead character "Lightning McQueen" for the NEXTEL Cup series race in Charlotte the same weekend. Commenting on the announcement, Lasseter said, "We're thrilled to bring the premiere of 'CARS' to Lowe's Motor Speedway and excited to share this film with such a great community of race fans. Humpy Wheeler, the president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, has become a great friend and helped all of us at Pixar when we were developing the story and characters for the film. In fact, Humpy provides the voice of Tex, a 1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. I have loved automobiles and the world of racing for a long time and 'CARS' is a very personal story to me. This premiere event is the perfect way to debut our film to racing and movie enthusiasts."

Cook added, "Pixar has captured the feel and excitement of the racing world in their latest film, 'CARS,' and we felt that it would be great fun to stage the premiere in a setting that would do justice to the film. John Lasseter has done an amazing job bringing the world of cars and racing to the big screen, and combining it with that magic Pixar story sensibility that appeals to absolutely everyone. With the proceeds of this benefit going to two fantastic children's charities, we hope to launch the film in grand style and help some worthy institutions at the same time."

Humpy Wheeler said, "It's a great honor to be working with Disney, John Lasseter, and his colleagues at Pixar in hosting the World Premiere of 'CARS.' This is a fantastic film that celebrates everything that we love about cars, and it also gives us a unique view of the world of competitive racing. All of us at Lowe's are looking forward to the big event on May 26th, and are delighted that we have been chosen to participate."

And -- finally -- Matt U. has some questions about what Disney's doing on Broadway:

Hi Mr. Hill,

I was wondering if you could fill us in on the goings-on of Disney's upcoming Broadway productions. I haven't heard much of anything for a while now. So I was wondering if you could fill me in on how "Tarzan" is coming along, as well as what the future might hold for other projects.


-Matt U.

Dear Matt U.

Well, based on the large number of domain names that Disney Theatrical has been registering over the past few weeks, it's clear that this arm of the Walt Disney Company has been busy trying to get its Internet house in order:


Plus it's pretty obvious that Disney Junior (I.E. That branch of Disney Theatrical that puts together stage versions of famous Disney films like "Aladdin," "Cinderella," "The Jungle Book" and "101 Dalmatians" that can then be presented at the junior high & elementary school level) is becoming more & more important to this part of the Walt Disney Company.


But if I had to hazard a guess as to what was going to play a huge part in the future of Disney's shows on Broadway, I'd have to say that it was group sales. Given the huge number of group sales-related domain names that Disney Theatrical has recently registered. These have included:


Mind you, group sales for "Mary Poppins" tickets (Which doesn't even begin performances 'til October 14th) are already underway. While single seats for this new Disney show won't actually be going on sale 'til June 11th.

But as for "Tarzan" ... That new Disney Theatrical production actually begins previews tonight at the Richard Rogers Theater. And if you really want to know what that show is like ... well, then you might want to drop by JHM on Monday morning.

Anyway ... That's pretty much it for this week, folks. Have a great weekend, okay?

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