What a FANtastic weekend!  D23, the Official Disney Fan Club, presented Destination D, Attraction Rewind (hosted by H20+) from November 21-23 at the Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort in Orlando, Florida.  If you aren’t familiar, this was a members-only extravaganza with presentations by Disney historians, Imagineers and Legends. Aside from a very informative compilation of panelists and presentations - D23 members enjoyed a pop-up Mickey’s of Glendale shop with exclusive limited edition merchandise (and PINS!), a Treasures of Walt Disney Archives exhibit and also a sneak peek at Disney’s Tomorrowland.  If you didn’t attend, don’t fret, you can join the D23 official fan club (for free) by signing up at the following link: https://d23.com/about-d23. There are upgraded membership levels available as well.

The weekend’s “theme” was divided into two topics, the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair and beloved Disney shows and attractions that are no longer in operation as well as little known ideas and attractions that never quite made it to completion.

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Saturday, November 22

Welcome to the 1964-65 World’s Fair!

Saturday’s main focal point was Disney’s contributions to the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. These ideas and innovations went on to become beloved attractions that we still enjoy 60 years later in Disney’s theme parks.  To tackle this monumental and voluminous subject, D23 brought in Disney Legends, Imagineers and historians who journeyed through the process of creating new and innovative attractions for the World’s Fair from conception to completion – and finally further implementation and reuse in Disneyland.  D23 combed through the Disney vaults, archives and sometimes even their own closets and attics to compile a mountain of interesting photos, documents and television footage. There were stand alone displays peppered through the Fantasia Ballroom of now retired rides (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, It’s a Small World, Sleeping Beauty and the Magic Skyway) and of course the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives Exhibit  including original World’s Fair souvenirs (see Part 1 of 3 in this series for more pictures and descriptions of Treasures Exhibit).

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Above, construction of the Unisphere of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, as seen in the “Welcome to the World’s Fair” retrospective presentation by historian Bill Cotter.

 

Welcome to the World’s Fair

Historian Bill Cotter introduces the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair

The first speaker on Saturday was well known World’s Fair historian and author, Bill Cotter.  Mr. Cotter has co-written or contributed to more than 50 books including Disney from A to Z, The Complete History of Disney TV and Images of America: the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair – Creation and Legacy, Images of Modern America, the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. The reference photos for the Stark Expo scene in Iron Man 2 and also for Tomorrow-land were provided by Mr. Cotter from his copyrighted collection of over 22k photos.  His website is found here: http://www.billcotter.com/index.htm His site that is specific to the 1964-1965 New York World’s fair is found here: http://www.worldsfairphotos.com.

There was so much incredibly interesting information in Mr. Cotter’s presentation that I can’t possibly include all of it, so here are some interesting highlights that Mr. Cotter discussed:

-       The footprint of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair was 6 ½ times the size of Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

-       There are still about 40 of the original roads that were built as part of the 1964-65 NY World’s Fair that are still in place today. In fact, most World’s Fairs operate “in the red” and by the time the fairs are being deconstructed, roads and buildings often wind up being left in place because it is too expensive to remove them.

-       During the fair, there were thousands of strollers (that were made to look like red cars) available for parents to rent at the fair.  Today, only two have been located. Mr. Cotter provided a (copyrighted) photo for use in this article of a Disney Chipmunk entertaining a child in one of these now elusive Hertz strollers.  Note, the crisp attire of the ladies and gentlemen in this scene.  Quite a bit different from amusement park attendees in 2014, isn’t it? I feel inspired to wear pearls next time I visit Disney World.

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-       There was a cutting edge “Family Phone Booth” at the NY World’s Fair.  During his presentation, Mr. Cotter displayed a picture of a family huddled together in a phone booth using a large speakerphone, which was very high-tech for that day and era. Please see the picture that Mr. Cotter was kind enough to lend to me for this article below, again, please note that it is copyrighted by Mr. Cotter.

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-       The Clairol Pavilion had lines of ladies, donning their pretty cardigans and knee length skirts (wearing pearls, of course) waiting to use new technology that would allow them to see how they might look with different hair colors and styles.

-       The Simmons Rest Alcoves were an area where weary fair attendees could actually take an afternoon nap.

-       During a 17 minute tour, the Coke Pavilion allowed visitors to be transported to other countries where Coke was being sold - Hong Kong, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, CopaCabana Beach and New Orleans with the aid of “visual devices, sounds, temperature and smells”.  The audience chuckled as Mr. Cotter mused at visitors being transported to the smells of Hong Kong while in the coke pavilion. What smell might that have been, exactly?

-       Disney’s Tower of the Four Winds had a dangerous issue during high winds and the blades on the Tower of Four Winds sometimes broke loose and flew off, and so some of the blades would eventually be secured so they would no longer spin.

-       Westinghouse created a time capsule that was buried (as they did during the World’s Fair of 1939) that is to be unearthed in roughly 5,000 years, if anyone can find it.

-       The Minnesota Pavilion originally included a “Fish for Trout” attraction where you could actually fish for trout in a booth.

-       The Belgium Waffles (with strawberries) were a huge hit at the fair, possibly the most popular food item.

-       The theme of this fair was “Peace Through Understanding”.

I highly recommend visiting Mr. Cotter’s sites, referenced above.

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Above, historian Bill Cotter hosts “Welcome to the World’s Fair, a retrospective presentation about the 1964-65 World’s Fair

Next up on our packed itinerary, we heard Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr discussing Disney’s contributions to the fair in a presentation titled “Walt Disney, a Giant at the New York World’s Fair”.

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Marty Sklar began his career at Disneyland in 1956 and throughout his career he worked for WED Enterprises, which was an acronym for “Walter Elias Disney Enterprises.  WED was described by Walt as a backyard laboratory, a workshop away from work.  Mr. Sklar worked on it’s a small world, Enchanted Tiki Room and other well known attractions.  He wrote an autobiography that I cannot wait to read titled Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Centruy Creating Disney’s Magical Kingdoms. These two characters shared numerous stories and anecdotes, pictures and footage.

Bob Gurr is best known for designing such iconic ride tracks and vehicles for the Haunted Mansion, Disneyland Monorail, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Submarine Voyage and Autopia vehicles.  For the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney tasked Mr. Gurr with designing an innovative track system utilizing Ford automobiles (on their wheels – not something else) for the Ford Motor Company Pavilion’s Magic Skyway. The track system design was reused at Disneyland as the People Mover. This fellow is very resourceful and innovative and it was an honor to listen to him describe the NY World’s Fair.

As you can see, D23 really put together a fabulous line-up for guests. Other great presentations included:

Disney Music Magic at the New York World’s Fair presented by historian Stacia Martin.  Stacia Martin took us on a journey through the Sherman Brothers’ contributions to the World’s Fair and also Disney, presenting a fantastic video of an interview with Richard “Dick” Sherman who, along with his brother, Robert (“Bob”) wrote the song for it’s a small world, The Carousel of Progress and more. She played an moving video of an interview of Bob Sherman discussing and singing such iconic songs as “Children of the World” and “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”.  Here is a link to a CBS This Morning interview with Mr. Richard Sherman, discussing Mary Poppins’ songs and others: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeKzl3KposU.

Below, Disney historian Stacia Martin hosting “Disney Music Magic and the New York World’s Fair.”

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Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was presented by historian Michael Kelley and former Imagineer Jack Gladish who looked behind the scenes at this attraction that was very near and dear to Walt Disney’s heart, more detail is provided about the attraction further along in this article.

Below, historian Michael Kelley and former Imagineer Jack Gladish.

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Ford’s Magic Skyway was presented by Bill Cotter and Disney Legend Bob Gurr. Photo below.

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Carousel of Progress presented by Disney Legend Marty Sklar and Imagineer Gary Landrum.

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It’s a small world presented by Disney Legend Bill Sullivan and historian Tim O’Day who stood in for Alice Davis, who was unavailable.

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Lost on the Way to the World’s Fair presented by Disney Archives director Becky Cline revealing some of the proposed creations that did not make it to New York.

So, let’s get down to the Disney contributions to the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.  What were Disney’s contributions to the World’s Fair?  There were four.  All four of the Disney attractions were rated in the “Top 10” tier and often in the “Top 5” tier during the duration of the fair for guest attendance.

The attractions were… bah-dum-ching! (drum roll, get it?)

1: it’s a small world, housed in The Pepsi Pavilion

In addition to the $2.00 price of an adult ticket to enter the fair, some fair attractions had an additional fee. It’s a small world had such a fee, selling 10 million tickets for a cost of .60 per child and .95 per adult.  All of the proceeds went directly to UNICEF.  An improved method of moving guests on and off of rides, dubbed the “people eater” increased the capacity of a ride from 1,000 guests per hour to about 3,600 people per hour, which is still the norm. Thus, there was rarely a large line for this attraction and it was often visited because it was available- helping UNICEF to fill its coffers.

Alice Davis (who was scheduled to speak but could not attend, unfortunately), Mary Blair and Marc Davis (Imagineer) are largely credited with designing this ride. The vibrant artwork of Mary Blair is behind the stunning visual display that defines it’s a small world. Alice Davis is now a Disney Legend who designed the costumes for the children of it’s a small world and her husband Marc Davis, who was part of WED at the time, also designed the ride. Alice Davis sketched the costumes for the children and Mary Blair chose the colors for them.

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Above, Walt Disney is pictured with designers Marc Davis and Mary Blair in this image featured in the “it’s a small world” presentation in which Disney Legend Bill Sullivan and Historian Tim O’Day explored the development and operation of this beloved attraction.

Children of the World. The song that we all know and love was written by the Sherman Brothers. But originally, Walt had intended for each of the lands to include the national anthem from each individual country being represented.  The result was total chaos. Walt asked Bob Sherman to write a song that “would explain all of this”, meaning the children of the world in their respective lands offering hope for the future, living together in peace - in a bright tempo.  When Walt heard the song the Sherman Brothers prepared he said, “that’s my song”.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the audience as Bob Sherman played the tune on a piano, singing a long (via a video provided during Stacia Martin’s presention) …”there is just one moon and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone… it’s a small world after all”.  Suddenly I liked this song very much.

Disney Legend Marty Sklar explained that The Tower of the Four Winds was a structure that Walt had built to dress up what was a very plain metal building that housed the it’s a small world attraction. The slogan “Meet me under the Tower of the Four Winds” encouraged patrons of the fair to use the 120 feet tall (12 stories) whimsical structure that Rolly Crump designed as a landmark location. The mobile-like spinning animals and arms were said to represent the boundless energy of youth.  Rolly Crump understood both the business and creative side of the Walt Disney World company and was discussed at length by Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr as well as others during the day’s presentations. One of the presenters said that Walt Disney remembered a fellow who use to make metal propellers out of ink pens, propping them all over his desk (Rolly Crump) and asked that he be recruited for this project.  He was brought in and designed a very delicate, beautiful large structure.  However, Rolly Crump is said to have been quite dismayed when he was taken to view the actual structure as it had been “beefed up” and made to be much thicker than he envisioned due to wind codes in New York.

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The Tower of the Four Winds – and the entrance to “it’s a small world” – can be seen in this image from “Walt Disney: A Giant at the Fair,” a presentation in which Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr explored Disney’s contributions to the Fair.

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During the “it’s a small world” presentation, concept art of the attraction was displayed and discussed by Disney Legend Bill Sullivan and historian Tim O’Day.

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A souvenir it’s a small world record is displayed in the Treasures of Walt Disney Archives exhibit from the fair.

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The back of the record (above) is reproduced and was being sold in the gift shop, a pop-up “Mickey’s of Glendale” (as seen in picture below).

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Below, a stand alone exhibit of the it’s a small world attraction had a large picture of the entrance, a costumed child and poster art.

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Above, a picture of a picture (ha! we do whatever we have to do to bring you all the details!) of a smiling Walt Disney with the concept for it’s a small world.

2: Ford Motor Pavilion: A Ride on a Magic Skyway

The Magic Skyway was located in the Ford Pavilion and used actual convertible Ford cars (the newly released Mustangs and also classic Lincolns) on a track that was designed by Bob Gurr to transport families through time. The journey included the early age of man, showing how man is bettering his way of life creating fire, weapons and a wheel, etc.  Bob Gurr described how the tail lights were replaced nightly on the cars because they smashed into each other during the unload area due to “cheap” components that Ford used when they built the track, as opposed to the higher end and more sturdy concept track built at Disneyland prior to coming to the World’s Fair.

The Ford Pavilion showcased a fabulous orchestra of musical instruments that was created using automobile parts including a differential, mufflers, tail pipes, hydraulic lines and windshield wipers! This was presented and discussed by historian Stacia Martin during her musical journey through pavilions at the fair. The music sounded great, actually.  Slightly “tinny” but still, pleasing. The orchestra is pictured below.

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Above, Walt Disney tests out some of the creative characters that were part of the Ford Magic Skyway attraction, as revealed by historian Bill Cotter and Disney Legend Bob Gurr during their presentation on one of the Fair’s most innovative experiences.

3: General Electric’s Progressland - Carousel of Progress

The Carousel of Progress was, and still is, an amazing attraction.  After the fair it was moved to Disneyland and then later, to Disney World in Florida. This is one of Walt’s favorite attractions and audiences were fascinated as they revolved around six stages that each represented a different age in electric’s development. Interesting factoids about the Carousel of Progress:

-       The first “wait-time” sign was utilized during the World’s Fair of 64-65 on the Carousel of Progress.

-       GE didn’t want to display the older washers and dryers in the show, they wanted to only display the newest and greatest products– and Walt refused to budge.

-       “Grandma” from the Carousel of Progress was actually flown on a plane, sitting in a chair as a publicity stunt.

-       The show’s cost was included with the price of the daily ticket, no additional fee.

-       The roof of the show would change colors at night using General Electric lightbulbs.

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Above, concept art from the Carousel of Progress as presented by Disney Legend Marty Sklar and Imagineer Gary Landrum.

Below, the illuminated “Progressland” pavilion housing the Carousel of Progress

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#4: Illinois Paviloin - Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

The Illinois Pavilion housed Walt Disney’s Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln exhibit, which was extremely popular with everyone.  Mr. Lincoln was an innovative audio-animatronic figure that would recited excerpts from President Lincoln’s speeches about civil rights and liberty Fair attendees were amazed while he gestured, blinked, smiled, frowned. Mr. Lincoln was Walt Disney’s expression of patriotism and reflected his lifelong fascination with the tall man in the top hat.  When Walt Disney was a boy, he dressed up as Abraham Lincoln and went to school in character!

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Above, Disney Legend Sam McKim’s concept art of the sixteenth president.

Below, Historian Michael Kelley and Former Imagineer Jack Gladish during “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” a behind-the-scenes look at the groundbreaking attraction.

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Above, a souvenir record that was available for purchase from the Illinois Pavilion, Mr. Lincoln attraction. You could affix postage, write an address and then dare to mail a record in the U.S. Mail!

Stay tuned for the final article, part 3 of 3, covering the final day of the event which focused on attractions that were retired and attractions that didn’t quite make it to the finish line.