Welcome to Jim Hill Media - Entertainment News : Theme Parks Movies Television

Is everything on display in DCA's "Blue Sky Cellar" actually going to get built? Maybe. Maybe not

Jim Hill

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.

Is everything on display in DCA's "Blue Sky Cellar" actually going to get built? Maybe. Maybe not

Rate This
  • Comments 4

Anne L. writes in to ask:

"This past week, I couldn't help but notice that -- out of all the major Disneyana sites on the Web -- JHM is the only one that hasn't mentioned DCA's Blue Sky Cellar yet. Why is that?"

To be honest, Anne, you kind of answered your own question. Given that everyone else out there seemed to be posting pieces about this admittedly neat display of Imagineering concept art & models, it just didn't make sense to follow the crowd. So I deliberately went in a different direction. Seeing if it might be possible to do a week's worth of stories that didn't mention Anaheim or Orlando.

Well, I made it as far as Friday.

Anyway ... That's what I find so frustrating about some members of the online Disneyana community. Their definition of what a good Disney-related news story just seems to be so narrow. If an article doesn't touch on a new ride, show or attraction for a Disney theme park, then it's not worth reading.

And as someone who likes writing about the entire Walt Disney Company -- not just the Parks & Resorts but also Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney Consumer Products, Disney Press, Disney Theatrical, ESPN et al -- an attitude like that can just be maddening. The very idea that people only want to talk a single aspect of this huge corporation. Especially when there are so many fascinating things going on right (EX: Disney's ambitious global expansion plans, where they plan on using super-hot franchises like "High School Musical" & "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" to help the company try and connect with billions of new consumers overseas) that are going unreported.

Besides ... For those of us who have been writing about the Mouse for a while now, we've learned the hard way that it's sometimes dangerous to get too over-excited about any new rides, shows and attractions that have been announced for the Disney Parks. Because these plans have this nasty habit of changing.

Walt Disney pitching early Disneyland
Copyright 1954 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

Don't believe me? Okay. Then let's set the Wayback Machine for September 1954. And let's join Louis Berg -- the "This Week" movie editor for the Los Angeles Times -- as he's being led around the Disney lot by Walt himself.

Now what's interesting about this is that Berg was really the first reporter to get a detailed look at the early plans for Disneyland. Walt took Louis through the soundstages where the rides were being fabricated, showed him the models & blueprints. Disney even took Berg out to the Anaheim construction site and let him watch as they dug the wells that would be used to fill the Rivers of America, the Jungle Cruise as well as the moat around Sleeping Beauty Castle.

And once Berg got back to the Los Angeles Times, he wrote a feature story entitled "Walt Disney's New Ten Million Dollar Toy." " Why '10 Million Dollar Toy' ?," you ask. Well, as Louis explained in his article:

Nine million dollars is the official budget for the project, but it is clear to everyone concerned, including Disney, that the actual cost (of this theme park) will be 10 million or over.

When I asked Disney if he could stick to the budget -- already twice expanded -- he exploded in mock wrath.

"I can stick to the budget all right. It's the fool people working for me who keep coming up with new ideas."

Disneyland's Frontierland Concept Art
Copyright 1954 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

And some of those "new ideas" that Walt discussed with Louis never actually made it into Disneyland. Take -- for example -- the initial plans for Frontierland (Which -- according to Berg's interview with Disney -- was Walt's favorite "land" in the Park). Which called for live actors portraying Pecos Bill, Daniel Boone and other legendary pioneers to regularly interact with Guests in this part of Disneyland. Not to mention at least one pretty politically incorrect attraction. Here's Disney description:

"We'll have shooting galleries, but no ordinary ones. The shooting stand's liable to be a prairie schooner from which a kid can take pot shots at replica Indians, wired for sound, circling the wagon, yipping and yelling."

Or -- better yet -- how about the walk-thru version of Disneyland's "Alice in Wonderland" attraction that Walt described to Louis. Where ...

... You'll be offered a soft drink and find yourself reduced in size, in a room with giant furnishings. Or a sip from another bottle will make you a giant moving in a miniature world.

Now keep in mind that everything that Berg was shown was in the blueprint and model stage. And that these plans would undoubtedly change as Disneyland moved through its construction phase.

But, me personally, what I find fascinating is how these plans kept changing. Take -- for example -- this December 10, 1954 story. Again from the Los Angeles Times. Which describes the International Street section that was (at least according to this article) already under construction at Disneyland.

Disneyland International Street model
Copyright 1956 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

International Street will be one of the most colorful segments of the fabulous center Walt Disney is constructing near Anaheim, members of the Los Angeles Foreign Trade Association learned yesterday.

Details of the international aspect of Disneyland were furnished at the association's luncheon in the Biltmore by Robert H. Burns, merchandise manager of the 160-acre playland project.

Nine types of foreign architecture will feature the exhibits and shops of 14 European nations along the street. Typical foreign products will be on sale, Burns explained.

Burns said one of the purposes of the project, which is scheduled to open July 15, is to promote international good will and simulate international trading.

From what I've been told by veteran Imagineers, International Street really was supposed to have been one of Disneyland's "lands" on Opening Day. It was only Walt's last minute decision (which supposedly came in late December / early January) that his theme park needed a Tomorrowland that forced International Street on to the back burner.

So you see what I'm saying here, folks? Plans change. Even if something has been announced in the newspaper and seems like a "Go" project, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's actually going to happen.

Disneyland Hotel brochure
Copyright 1962 The Wrather Corporation.
All Rights Reserved

Still don't believe me ? Okay. Then let's take a look at a story from the January 12, 1973 edition of the New York Times, where ...

Walt Disney Productions, Inc. announced yesterday it had agreed in principle to acquire the Wrather Corporation's Disneyland Hotel and related facilities in Anaheim, Calif. for 187,061 Disney common shares and $100,000 cash.

The shares will be paid after the effective date of Disney's scheduled stock split, which would make them worth approximately half their current value. Disney's stock closed at $223 a share on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, so the total value of the stock to be would be more than $21 million.

"And what's wrong with that article?," you query. "The Walt Disney Company did in fact acquire the Disneyland Hotel from the Wrather Corporation."

Yes, it did. But not in January of 1973. But -- rather -- in March of 1988.

Why did it take another 15 years for the Mouse to finally get its hands on the Disneyland Hotel? Long story short, the Oil Embargo of 1973 caused stagflation. Which made Disney execs seriously reconsider all of their ambitious future plans for the corporation. Which (at that time) included the acquisition of the Disneyland Hotel as well as construction of Epcot (the city, not the theme park).

Epcot City
Copyright 1966 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved

And in the face of those hard financial times, Disney officials had to make some very tough decisions. Including (as the New York Times reported in its January 11, 1974 edition)

Walt Disney Productions has laid off 630 permanent employees in its Disney World park in Orlando, Fla., the company said yesterday. In addition about 70 part-time employees have been let go as well as 1,000 college students who worked the two-week Christmas season.

James Stewart, administrative assistant to the president, E. Cardon Walker, in Burbank, Calif. said the company had done the same thing last year, but employment was higher a year ago than it is now. The park employees about 11,000 at the peak of attendance during the Christmas season.

The company said that lower attendance this year was the result of rainy weather in both Florida and California and a shorter Christmas period in California. It held that the energy crisis was not a primary reason for the lower attendance.

In the quarter to Dec. 31, attendance at Walt Disney World totaled 1.95 million and was down 4.8 percent from the year before. Attendance at Disneyland was 1.72 million and was off 3.9 per cent.

So long story short, folks: Even though I -- like every other Disneyana fan on the planet -- like looking at all the pretty pictures & models currently on display in DCA's Blue Sky Cellar, I can't help but think about all of the other rides, shows or attractions -- not to mention entire theme parks & resorts -- that ultimately didn't get built due to tough economic times and/or circumstances that were beyond the control of the Walt Disney Company.

Blue Sky Cellar Logo
Copyright 2008 Disney; All Rights Reserved

So just keep that in mind, okay? And then -- if you really want all of this new stuff for DCA to get built -- hope & pray that our economy turns around sooner rather than later.

Your thoughts?

Blog - Post Feedback Form
Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment
  • * Please enter your name
  • * Please enter a comment
  • Post
  • and the other difference is that Walt's main objective was plussing the park for the guests' enjoyment, and today the exceutives' main objective is hitting targets that will trigger a bonus

  • Jim, you write, “That's what I find so frustrating about some members of the online Disneyana community. Their definition of what a good Disney-related news story just seems to be so narrow.”  I totally agree with you.  If you spent all of your time writing about the theme parks, we’d miss so many interesting articles like this classic:  “Are you ready for this? "Disney Princess Cereal" !?” (http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2005/08/10/659.aspx).  Just kidding, of course, Jim.  

    It may be maddening to you that people like me have a narrowed interest in Disney but you set yourself up for this a long time ago by writing all those great theme park-related articles.  I’ve been checking out your site for awhile now and the things that have drawn me here were the history of the parks and the rumors.  Those things are also what keep me coming back...oh, and the distant hope that you might complete the Star Tours series :)

    Keep up the good work and don’t get too frustrated with us Disney fanboys.

  • Well, I, for one, have heard nothing about Blue Sky Cellar.  I don't read any other Disneyana sites.

  • I'm with some of the others, I DON'T vist a bunch of Disney sites, I was first drawn here by some of those long ago plans, and have stuck around for all the other stuff that's proved just as interesting.  I like the site because it doesn't come across as a Disney site that's too full of itself.

    So remember Jim...some of us LIKE to "think about all of the other rides, shows or attractions -- not to mention entire theme parks & resorts -- that ultimately didn't get built"...due to whatever reason!

    Keep up the good work, we enjoy all!

Page 1 of 1 (4 items)