DLR Grand Canyon Diorama

One of my strongest memories of DLR as a child was the Grand Canyon Diorama. Riding a train was one thing, but going from present to past was mesmerizing. It was a must ride and typically, it was our last ride of the night because it dropped one off at the Main Street Train Station.

In typical Disney fashion, the present diorama was based on the Grand Canyon nature series run on Wonderful World of Disney and was based on an area at the South Rim of the parks. It won the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Subject. Claude Coats of 6’6″ fame researched and built the diorama using the now industry SOP of Story Boards and miniatures.

(April 11, 2013) Claude’s window at Disneyland Resort Coats & Company, Main Street Windows
(Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

Delmer Yoakum, of Hollywood backdrop scenery fame, designed the color scheme. Del also contributed to HM and PotC as well as the Primeval World added to the ride 8 years later. The color scheming alone took over 4000 hours.

All the wildlife could be found in the Grand Canyon and Claude used painstakingly detail in the present view. Walt at first questioned the turkeys in the diorama, and Claude not only assured them that they were there, but their numbers were growing to one of the largest turkey populations in Arizona. The flora is authentic and required preserving, flame proofing and in some cases painting. They were hung upside down for a year while they cured, so as not to droop over time.

As important to the authenticity would be the musical score. Walt relied on Ferde Grofé who also composed for the award winning featurette. The exhibit debuted on March 3, 1958 making it over 60 years old today. Having just gone through a complete renovation, this diorama is still wowing train passengers today, and is a must see for every DLR trip.

Source: Jim Fanning/D23

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dngnb8 is one of our contributors to D-COT and helps provide some very interesting historical info as well as the latest official Disney news.

11 Comments

  1. Wow! I am REALLY excited to ride this in November! It sounds like an amazing experience :)

  2. Very cool — thanks for the background on this cool attraction! :up: :up:

  3. I have distinct memories of asking my Mom to ride this section of the Railroad over and over when I was littler. It’s part of the reason why the Railroad is one of my favorite attractions at Disneyland! Very nice historical overview! :up: :up:

  4. I just had a heart attack. I thought I somehow sent this to a D-Cot post rather then to Steve for review. PANIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

  5. @acamm THIS is what my instastory was! You will SERIOUSLY love this.

  6. It’s always fun to ride the rails and seeing both The Grand Canyon & Primeval forest.

  7. Great job @dngnb8 Really enjoyed seeing this in person during our DLR trip. Wish the train would go in super slow motion during this part of the ride so we can take it all in. :up:

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