Four Score and 55 Years Ago
Walt Disney was a master of creation. Roy Disney was a master of finance. Between the two, a foundation of funding and fantasy has given park visitors years of enjoyment.
One of these explosions of creativity was spawned by the 1964-65 Worlds Fair. Walt was engaged on numerous projects for the fair sponsored by major corporations. It’s a Small World, The Magic Skyway, Carousel of Progress, and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (and the hidden attraction). All paid for by others and eventually moved to Disneyland after the fair. Additionally, a 1 hour TV Special on The Wonderful World of Disney (1964 available on Youtube) allowed Walt to market the new rides.
It’s a Small World
Unicef sponsored It’s a Small World, a journey around the world touching children of all nations. The speed of the boats and rotational loading and unloading resolved an issue of crowds. The size of the boat and speed of the ride allowed a continuous process of loading and unloading reducing wait times. Mary Blair, Alice Davis and Marc Davis (yes Alice’s hubby) have their fingerprints all over this project. The Sherman brothers penned the tune and talk about the difficulty of making the tune malleable enough to be played and sung by all the different languages. Roland “Rolly” Crump even jokes about the tune, in Disneyland Secrets, Stories and Magic (2007 on Youtube). He speaks on how the tune drives people crazy, then he adds how Walt’s magic was the ability to create rides that touched everyone. This ride was my mom’s favorite. As a child, I would sit next to her and hear her singing in German.
Carousel of Progress
General Electric’s Carousel of Progress ride design was designed differently then the general theatrical show. Because of the amount of animatronics, there was a worry that lots of movement would mean lots of repairs and upkeep. The resolution was to move the audience and have the stage stationary. This would eliminate the effect of the stage motion on the joints of the characters. This attraction was moved from DLR to WDW in 1970 and is constantly updated in the last scene so as to accurately represent the today vignette. Once again the Sherman brothers create a song that every Disneyphile can relate too, A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. Doesn’t this song just resonate how Walt felt about the world? Truly, this song captures what Disney creativity resonates.
The Magic Skyway
Fords Magic Skyway was called the highway in the sky by Walt. Guess it yet? Yep, this was moved to DLR as The Peoplemover. The ride design was made with Ford vehicles to show people the new 1965 models to be released. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!!! A surprise 5th attraction. This ride moved people around the fair. It also moved them by a prehistoric panorama of, DINOSAURS!!!! Yes, the Primeval World dinosaurs were moved to DLR and added to the Disneyland Railroad. This attraction is also a part of the Western Railroad in Tokyo and there is a model of the stegosaurus kept in the Disney Archives 20’ long, 12’ high, and 12’ wide. The omnimover system resolved the propulsion issue of one car stalling and backing all the others up. If one motor fails on the track, all the others keep the vehicles moving. The omnimover system, which you can see in many airports around the world, is just another example of how Walt never kept his patents to himself. He truly wanted to better our world.
Great Moment with Mr. Lincoln
The State of Illinois sponsored this attraction about the “Great Emancipator”. Royal Dano voiced the President (he also played him in the movies). This attraction, more then any other, was viewed as the greatest achievement. The animatronic Lincoln seemed so lifelike, people thought it was a real actor. Walt had a great fascination with Mr. Lincoln’s life. He wanted this representation to be factual and respectful. Walt obtained the actual molding of the president for Blaine Gibson to create the face mask from. Think about it, this was a casting of the actual presidents face!!!!! Think about the clout required to be able to use this casting for an “attraction” at a theme park? INCREDIBLE!
This attraction is still a must see at any DLR visit. Marc Davis speaks of an incident in Disneyland Secrets, Stories and Magic where there was a preview of the attraction for dignitaries and the hydraulic system sprung a leak. The fluid was red and Mr. Lincoln was in a white shirt. The crowd thought that the were presenting the assassination of Lincoln. Walt was not happy and all hydraulic fluids were switched to clear. They also had an issue with offensive hand gestures that were not intended. Today, human animatronics proliferate the parks and keep all of us entertained. Did you know some of the technology behind animatronics is used by NASA? Just Walt being Walt again with his inventions impacting our lives in the most important ways.
The attractions were not the only contributions to the fair. Walt had Rolly Crump design the giant mobile, and the Disney crew also had a hand in the lost and found process of close circuit television. I have always found it fascinating to know where things came from and what were the inspiration. I presume it is safe to say the 1964/65 World Fair, more then any other single event, had more impact on the parks, and our lives today. Numerous patents, iconic attractions, a TV special and 55 years later, we are still impacted by this great mans vision. Walt just wanted the world to live better and his generosity with his inventions are with us today in the greatest of advancements.
Take a moment and watch the TV special on Youtube. Not only will the opening sequence trigger memories as thick as a pea soup fog, but you will learn more about the process of creation from the Worlds Greatest Imagination. And now, a word from our sponsors…
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I really enjoyed seeing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and also the Diorama on the Disney Railroad while we were there last year. Walt and Roy Disney really were geniuses to create attractions that can stand the test of time!
Thank you for another terrific article!
Oh my gosh, thanks for all this info. especially the Skyway. who knew the original people mover cars were Mustangs??
Ahem, cough, well, I don’t want to brag…. but, I did! LOL. Check out the special on Youtube. It is so nostalgic. I feel like I am 4 years old laying on the carpet in front of our console tv when I watch these old youtube vids
These are all very awesome stuff to have in the parks! I love them all!
Just wow! the Carousel of Progress has a very special place in my heart I have so much love for that attraction!