Disney will continue with their tradition of holiday television specials by airing two separate events this year on ABC.
The first, “The Wonderful World of Disney: Magic Holiday Celebration” will air on November 30 from 9pm to 11pm. Julianne Hough and Nick Lachey will host the special from Walt Disney World, while Jesse Palmer will co-host the show from Disneyland Resort in California.
Specials performances will be made by:
- Ciara in a Christmas medley from Cinderella Castle.
- Darius Rucker, singing “Winter Wonderland.”
- Hit group, Fifth Harmony will sing “Can You See,” from “The Star” soundtrack, and “The Christmas Song.”
- Fitz and the Tantrums will perform “HandClap” and their original Christmas song “Santa Stole My Lady.”
- Hanson will sing “Finally It’s Christmas,” from their recently released Christmas album.
- Boy band In Real Life will sing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
- Jason Derulo will perform “This Christmas.”
- Lea Michele will perform “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
Disney will announce additional performances at a later date.
The second television holiday special, titled “Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration,” will air on Christmas day from 10am to noon. Hough and Lachey will also be hosting the special, with Palmer once again co-hosting from Disneyland in California.
For “Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration” performances will be made by:
- Ciara will sing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” from Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
- Darius Rucker singing “Home for The Holidays.”
- Fifth Harmony performing “Sleigh Ride.”
- Fitz and the Tantrums will be performing “Last Christmas.”
- Jason Derulo will sing “Silent Night” from Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland.
- ”Glee” star Michele will perform “Let It Snow.”
- 98 Degrees will play their new song “Season of Love” from their new holiday record.
- Telly Leung and Arielle Jacobs, from the stage show “Aladdin,” will perform “A Whole New World” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
As with the first special, additional performances will be announced later.
The first-ever Disney Junior Music Radio Station launches on Apple Music today, Friday, September 22 with the Disney Junior Music: Nursery Rhymes Collection digital album featuring 20 classics including “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “Wheels on the Bus” and the “Alphabet Song” performed by Genevieve Goings (Choo Choo Soul) and Rob Cantor (Goldie & Bear). The physical CD will be available on October 13.
Also launching with the new station are five new EPs of previously unreleased songs celebrating music from favorite Disney Junior series. Highlights include “Happy Helpers” from Mickey and the Roadsters Racers, performed by Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck; “Make Them Proud” from Elena of Avalor, performed by Aimee Carrero, the voice of Princess Elena; “Life in the Pride Lands” from The Lion Guard, performed by singer/songwriter Beau Black; the Puppy Dog Pals theme song; and the Doc McStuffins: Toy Hospital theme song performed by Amber Riley (Glee).
About the Disney Junior Series:
Mickey and the Roadster Racers
“Mickey and the Roadster Racers” is a madcap car-racing adventure series which takes Disney’s #1 star, Mickey Mouse, his pals Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Daisy and Donald, and their uniquely personalized vehicles, on humorous high-spirited races around the globe, as well as hometown capers in Hot Dog Hills.
Modeling compassion and care for kids age 2-7, Disney Junior’s Peabody Award-winning animated series, “Doc McStuffins,” tells the imaginative story of six-year-old Doc McStuffins who communicates with and heals stuffed animals and broken toys.
Elena of Avalor
“Elena of Avalor” is an animated series that follows the story of Elena, a brave and adventurous teenager who has saved her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must now learn to rule as crown princess until she is old enough to be queen. Elena’s journey will lead her to understand that her new role requires thoughtfulness, resilience and compassion, the traits of all truly great leaders.
The Lion Guard
“The Lion Guard” follows the adventures of Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala, and his diverse group of friends, as they unite to protect the Pride Lands. Created for kids age 2-7 and their families, the stories are designed to communicate positive lessons about teamwork, community and diversity.
Puppy Dog Pals
“Puppy Dog Pals” follows two fun-loving pug brothers, Bingo and Rolly, whose thrill-seeking appetites take them on exhilarating adventures throughout their neighborhood and around the globe.
About Disney Junior
Disney Junior reflects the emotional connection generations of consumers have to Disney storytelling and Disney characters, both classic and contemporary. It invites mom and dad to join their child in the Disney experience of magical, musical and heartfelt stories and characters, while incorporating specific learning and development themes designed for kids age 2-7. Disney Junior’s series blend Disney’s unparalleled storytelling and characters kids love deeply with learning, including early math, language skills, healthy eating and lifestyles, and social skills. In the U.S., Disney Junior is a daily programming block on Disney Channel and a 24-hour channel. There are 34 Disney Junior channels in 25 languages around the world.
The Disney Junior: Nursery Rhymes Collection digital album, as well as series EPs for Doc McStuffins, Elena of Avalor, The Lion Guard, Mickey and the Roadster Racers and Puppy Dog Pals EPs can all be heard on Apple Music’s Disney Junior Radio Station today at http://disneymusic.co/DJMusicRadio. All albums are now available digitally and at streaming services. For more information on Walt Disney Records’ releases become a fan at Facebook.com/disneymusic or follow us at Twitter.com/disneymusic.
Doc McStuffins – http://disneymusic.co/DJMDocDL
Elena of Avalor – http://disneymusic.co/DJMElenaDL
The Lion Guard – http://disneymusic.co/DJMLionGuardDL
Mickey and the Roadster Racers – http://disneymusic.co/DJMRoadsterDL
Puppy Dog Pals – http://disneymusic.co/DJMPDPDL
Disney Junior: Nursery Rhymes Collection – http://disneymusic.co/DJNurseryRhymesDL
Disney Junior: Nursery Rhymes Collection – http://disneymusic.co/DJNurseryRhymesAZ
Have you dreamt of stepping foot into the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite that sits four stories high overlooking Main Street, U.S.A. from one side and Fantasyland from the other? This magnificent suite features all of the comforts and conveniences of a luxury hotel and is located inside of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom. The features in the suite include rich décor and beautiful elements such as a cut-stone floor, mosaic art, rich, hardwood paneling, and stunning stained-glass windows.
As you may know, only a very select few will ever have the chance to step foot inside, let alone spend a night in the iconic Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort. This once in a lifetime experience, you see, is not one that is for sale.
Today, we are sharing how you can have the chance to win this amazing experience from Give Kids the World and Disney!
By giving your support in the form of a donation to Give Kids the World, you and five guests will be entered to win:
- A dream-come-true night at the famed Cinderella Castle Suite at Walt Disney World Resort and 2-day Disney Park passes for each guest
- Feast on a fairy tale breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table
- Get flown to and from Orlando, courtesy of Give Kids The World Village
Give Kids The World Village is an incredible nonprofit organization that is located in Central Florida. This amazing resort grants weeklong, cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. The weeklong stay includes everything the families need, from meals to transportation, allowing these families to focus on having fun and being together.
Walt Disney left an amazing legacy to the world, more than most in history. But perhaps his lesser known gifts are his quotes and statements made over his storied career. (More akin to “Edicts”; when Walt spoke, like EF Hutton, everybody listens!) Two of his most important quotes, ones that the company adheres to this day are… “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world” and
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”. Walt was never content to rest on his laurels and he detested sequels. His never wanted his park to become a museum, it was always to change with new and better entertainment for his guests. With this, many attractions, parades and shows have been re-imagined or replaced. This is the result of moving forward.
Case in point is the iconic Downtown Disney area. For more than thirty years, this shopping, dining and entertainment venue gave guests a place to come to enjoy some Disney magic out of the parks, and without the cost of a ticket. Previously billed as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, Walt Disney World Village, Disney Village Marketplace and Downtown Disney. Now it has been re-imagined into four distinct districts, 150 new tenants, with new upscale outlets and new eateries, and two parking garages, ending the struggle to find a parking space.
Some of the original restaurants have closed to make room for the new, or have shuttered to be renovated to blend into the new upscale landscape. One such guest favorite was the iconic Fulton’s Crab House. The eatery resided in a building replica of a riverboat Walt named after Lillian, his wife. The operators, Levy Restaurants have completed a stem to stern renovation, up and down, which now showcases a luxurious and modern sternwheel steamboat, with interior designs that Disney states reflects the “crisp luxury of modern yachting”.
Recently, the restaurant hosted a limited seating, Rooftop Wine Dinner, the only eatery in Disney Springs to offer rooftop-level waterfront seating. This culinary event was hosted by Executive Chef Steve Richard. This event gave the lucky attendees a chance to experience the world-renowned offerings of Chef Richards, and the unique wine pairing selections from some of Italy and Spain’s eclectic wineries, but before I get into the evening, I got a rare chance to interview Chef Richards and Jimmy Kraus, the General Manager. I asked Chef Richards his take on the new theming of the restaurant and he said…” You can see that Disney Springs is very different than Downtown Disney was, the entire area was upgraded, activities, retail and different food and beverage options have been added, it was time to upgrade and move forward and bring it to the next level”. I asked if he worked at Fulton’s, and he stated…” I worked at Portabella’s for five years, now under construction, soon to become Terralina’s”. “Since then, I have been the area chef for Levy Restaurants at Disney Springs, and my oversite included Fulton’s and recently been focused as the executive chef at Paddlefish”.
I then asked if the new menu would resemble the old Fulton’s, and Steve replied…” We were careful to preserve some of the favorite items from Fulton’s because it was a staple brand from Downtown Disney and we didn’t want to leave the old fans of Fulton’s behind, so there are a number of things we’ve kept, including lobster corn dogs, a terrific appetizer item, a fantastic crab cake dish with Maque choux. We still have three species of crab that we steam, Snow crab, Queen crab and King crab, which were a pillar of the Fulton’s menu. In addition to steaming the crabs, we now serve them from the seafood boil kitchen, which is a new kitchen, not found at Fulton’s”
I asked Chef Richards if he could elaborate on the different species of crab, and he summed up with…” King Crab is the largest of the three, Queen Crab is also known as Beardi Crab, and two main species of Snow Crab, one called Opilio, and the larger one, more prized is the Queen Crab”. I than asked what is a guest favorite, and he replied…” The Snow crab is the most popular, because people are most familiar with it” “But the best crab, if you are going to have one bite of crab; the Beardi, or Queen crab is the one I recommend. It’s not as large as the King crab, but much sweeter”
Is the seafood served local, I asked? “Some of it is local, since we opened we served Mahi Mahi from the waters of Florida, to Hawaiian Opah, from the Pacific” I asked who designed the new menu, and Steve said…”I was certainly involved in the development of the new menu, and we worked with a talented group of people who worked together to get the menu where it is today” “In fact we changed it a few times since we opened in February”. How often do you anticipate changing the menu? “Since opening, we have changed the menu approximately once a month, not fully, but a few items, we are listening to what our guests tell us, what they like and what they would like to see”. “We recently added several new sandwiches, we added a blackened catfish sandwich for the lunch menu, and for dinner a terrific buffalo chicken sandwich and a Cajun chicken sandwich and chicken Caesar wrap”
Asking about the major differences between lunch and dinner menus, Chef Richards replied…” There is a lot of overlap between the two. There are more sandwiches available for lunch, and several lighter entrée salads for the daytime” “There is a considerable part of the dinner menu for lunchtime, so no matter what time you come, there will always be something to please the guests” And what about landlubber crowd I asked…” We have two steaks on the menu, filet mignon and a prime New York strip, nicely marbled which is served with saluted mushrooms. We also offer a pork chop with applesauce, also available is a terrific burger, a proprietary blend of brisket and chop, served with pimento cheese, red onion on a brioche bun” I inquired about the wine list, and Steve said…”Jimmy (Manager Jimmy Kraus) worked very hard on the wine list, and we have an unique list of wines for our guests” Manager Jimmy chimed in and said…”Our servers are trained in making suggestions for wine choices for our guests, and we have three wine stewards in the building, all sommelier certified”
So, from my brief interview, you can see that the new Paddlefish is in capable, confident hands. So, let’s talk about the four-course tasting wine dinner that evening. Held on the restaurants rooftop deck, my wife and I strolled around the top deck before things began and were struck by the amazing 360deg views of Disney Springs. The Décor is modernist with a lean towards the nautical. The rooms are nicely appointed and give an airy, outdoor feeling. We started our appetizer selection with warm skewers in a small glass, of grilled shrimp and lemongrass, followed by Thai glazed Louisiana broiler claws. Both offerings were flavorful with just the right hint of spices. The vino served was Contratto extra Brut, a wonderful compliment to the food.
After the reception, the group walked forward to an interior dining room/bar, with an outside area, complete with a dozen white, high-boy tables, if you wanted to take in the view of Disney Springs while imbibing on your favorite libation. It was before the first course while at our table the group was introduced to Chef Steve Richards, Manager Jimmy Kraus, and the rest of the crew. Notable, Trey our wine sommelier was introduced, and he was on hand to explain all the wine offerings served with each course. First up, Yellow-fin tuna Crudo with avocado mousse, miso soy glaze and Snracha emulsion. Sommelier’ choice…Gramona Gessami Blanco, which went well with the tuna and accompaniments.
The second course was a velvety smooth Plant City cream corn bisque, King Crab toasted bread center and chive oil. The soup had a huge depth of flavor, and the King Crab bread center melted in your mouth. The wine, Monte Carbonare Soave, was another perfect choice that Trey selected. Our Third course was my favorite, because I simply love lamb and octopus, and because my wife is not a fan either selection, I sampled two servings! The lamb was cooked to perfection and you could cut it with your fork, and the octopus, which I know from personal experience, is very hard to cook just right…Too much and it’s chewy like gum, too little, mushy and not very appetizing. However, the chef got it down perfect, it was done to perfection, and the marmalade and mint gremolata were the perfect sidekicks. Wine pairing for this course…Mocali Brunello de Montalcino. For myself, this wine was a bit bold for my palate.
The fourth course was dessert. White chocolate and Passionfruit mousse, and a Ginger Florintine cookie. This was my wife’s favorite course, dessert. This dessert was heavenly! The chocolate and Passionfruit complimented each other perfectly, the ginger cookie made a nice ending. The wine for the dessert course was Poire Prisonniere, a specialty brandy with a real pear in the bottle. The brandy was very good, as brandies go, but neither myself or Donna drink brandy, but our fellow diners said it was top notch!
There you have it. The new and improved former Fulton’s Crab House, now re-named and re-imagined as the Paddlefish Restaurant is in the very capable and competent hands of Head Chef Steve Richards and Manager Jimmy Kraus. This four-course Wine Dinner was a little tease of what to expect at the new eatery. With Chef Richards at the helm in the kitchen, offering fresh eclectic menu choices, along with some old favorites, and a rooftop scenic dining area, the only one in Disney Springs, Paddlefish will continue to be the top pick on every Guests list to dine.
Paddlefish is at 1670 Buena Vista Dr.
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 407-934-2628
Sunday -Thursday 11:30am-11:00pm
Rooftop Deck Live Music Every Friday & Saturday 9pm – Midnight
Here’s a quick trivia question…According to the Guinness Book of World Records, what theatrical presentation has the greatest number of performances in history? The answer is…” Disney’s Golden Horseshoe Revue” And the actor, comedienne and star of this production was none other than Wallace Vincent “Wally” Boag. By the time Wally retired, he had performed in nearly 40,000 productions of the Horseshoe Revue. Wally was born in Portland Oregon on September 13th, 1920 to Evelyn and Wallace B. Boag. At an early age, Wally loved dancing and at the tender age of nine, joined a professional dance team; and eventually founded his own dance school. But he gravitated at age 19 towards what would be his trademark in show business, comedy. He was a natural, with almost perfect comedic timing. He began performing in theaters and nightclubs, in this country and worldwide. As a tribute to his skill, he graced the stages of the Tivoli Theaters in Australia and New Zealand, Radio City Music Hall in New York City and the Palladium in London.
And it was at the Starlight Roof in the London Hippodrome that, during his magic and balloon act, he brought out a 12-year-old girl, future Disney star Julie Andrews to assist with the act. Her singing voice so astounded the audience she was kept in the show. Wally’s beginning with Walt Disney and the Golden Horseshoe Revue came about in the 1950’s with Boag performing in revues in Australia, met English actor and tenor Donald Novis. Novis liked what he saw in Boag and got Walt Disney to let him audition for the new show. Novis was the Horseshoe Revue’s first tenor. The 45-minute stage show was written for Walt by American jazz pianist and bandleader Charles LaVere and American songwriter, composer, and screenwriter, Tom Adair.
The show was a success from the beginning. Wally portrayed Pecos Bill, a traveling Salesman in the old west; with a spirited, fast-paced comedy act, besieged with squirt guns, (Which he “blasted” the audience’ with!) and old vaudevillian “slapstick” humor. He always seemed to spit out an endless quantity of broken teeth and would create colorful animals out of balloons, which he gave the moniker, “Boagaloons”. Boag once quipped that “My longest job before the Golden Horseshoe Revue was 54 weeks. And to think it all began with a two-week contract I signed with Walt Disney when the park opened.”
Wally quickly became one of Walt’s favorite comedy actors. Before the Revue, in 1945 he won a contract with Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, appearing in such films as Without Love, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, and The Thrill of Romance, with Esther Williams. In addition to his performances in the Golden Horseshoe Revue, because of Walt’s admiration of Boag, did everything he could to broaden his career at Disneyland. Some of the many contributions of Boag to Disneyland was voicing Jose in the “Enchanted Tiki Room” and also contributed to the script for the attraction. Wally was also involved in the development of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. In addition, Boag often toured and consulted on special projects and promotions for The Walt Disney Company. In 1980, he entertained audiences around the country during a 28-day, 20-city tour promoting the re-release of Disney’s animated classic Lady and the Tramp. He also traveled to Japan to help translate material for the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983. Wally published his memoir, Wally Boag, Clown Prince of Disneyland, in 2009.
In Disney films, Walt has scripted small roles for Boag in the Absent-Minded Professor and the Son of Flubber. Walt had also intended to have Boag voice Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. During a story meeting for Pooh and the Bluster Day, Walt believed that Wally would be perfect for the role. But, sadly Walt passed away in December of 1966, and although Wally auditioned for the Tigger role, in the end it went to actor Paul Winchell. The last Disney production that Wally had a role, was a cameo in the Love Bug. He also made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show as himself in 1980, but that was the end in Disney films. However, his original Golden Horseshoe performance was showcased in 1980 on the Danny Kay TV special that was celebrating the 25th anniversary of Disneyland. Wally got to host a 1981 episode of the Muppet Show, performing several skits of his “Pecos Bill” routine.
1971, Boag revived his Pecos Bill character for the newly opened Walt Disney World and re-imagined the show into the faster, funnier Diamond Horseshoe Revue. Three years later he returned to Disneyland and finished his career there, retiring in 1982. The Golden Horseshoe Revue closed in 1986. In 1995, Boag was inducted as a Disney Legend and has his own window on Main Street in Disneyland above the Carnation Company. The inscription reads… “Theatrical Agency… Golden Vaudeville Routines… Wally Boag, Prop.”
The famous and iconic building and stage that Wally performed on was the Golden Horseshoe Stage. (During construction, it was described as Pecos Bill’s Golden Horseshoe Saloon) It debuted in 1955 with some original attractions at Disneyland. The “saloon” is located in Frontierland and has a colorful view of the Rivers of America, New Orleans Square and part of Critter Country. The interior of the saloon was designed by Imagineer Harper Goff. He also designed a saloon set for the movie Calamity Jane starring Doris Day. Goff at the time was also designing exteriors for buildings on Main Street, USA when asked to work on this project. The first “unofficial” use of the stage was on July 13, 1955. It was Walt and Lillian’s 30th Wedding Anniversary, and Walt utilized it for a private party with friend and family for the celebration. It had the premiere of the Original Golden Horseshoe Revue.
Wally’s first official appearance and performance of Pecos Bill was on Saturday, July 16th, 1955 as the Golden Horseshoe opened a day early for a corporate sponsors private party. On July 17th, 1955, the first show to open on stage was Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe Revue. The show ran for a record 40,000 times. One of the key highlights of the show was when the children in the audience got to sing and dance on the stage. The favorite song was “Davy Crockett”. The show played from July 17th, 1955 until October 12th, 1986. In addition to Wally Boag, it starred Ron Schneider, Judy Marsh, Betty Taylor, Fulton Burley, Jack Watson, Burt Henry and many others. Saloon owner Slue Foot Sue and her entourage would welcome the audience with “Hello Everybody” and follow up with classic songs such as “Riverboat Blues”, “A Lady has to mind her P’s and Q’s and then introduce the performances of Wally Boag and others. The show would be interjected by Pecos Bill, singing his self-titled signature song. Over the years, the building has housed numerous stage shows, and now it currently plays Laughing Stock and Company seven days a week.
In a tribute to Wally Boag and his longtime partner Betty Taylor, who played Slue Foot Sue, his one-stage sweetheart, Disney announced a limited show run entitled “A Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue” was a tribute to the family musical shows of the past. It ran from January 10th to February 4th, 2013. It showcased many dance routines and songs from the original Revue, as “Can Can”, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, “Hello Everybody” and “Belly up to the Bar”.
Wally Boag and Betty Taylor shared a stage at Disneyland five days a week for nearly three decades. Taylor was born on October 7th, 1919 in Seattle Washington. She, like Wally got the show business bug at an early age, taking dance lessons at 3 years old. By the time, she was 14, she performed in nightclubs around the country and led her own band called Betty and her Beaus at 18 years old, which included 16 male musicians and performed at the Trianon Ballroom in Seattle. While in Los Angeles, Taylor heard about auditions for a performer at Disneyland, applied and got the job. After nearly 45,000 performances in which she appeared as the charming, energetic blonde in the role of Pecos Bill’s sweetie, she never lost her enthusiasm for the role. Betty retired from the Golden Horseshoe Revue in 1987.
But the deaths of both these beloved and iconic performers makes one pause and reflect. Wally Boag passed away on June 3, 2011 in Santa Monica California. And as if to say “I’ll always be your sweetheart”, Betty Taylor passed on June 4th, 2011, just one day after Wally. George Kalogridis, then president of Disneyland Resort stated…”Wally was instrumental in the development of live entertainment during the early years of both Disneyland Park and Walt Disney World Resort,” Kalogridis said. “His characters will continue to live in the hearts of our guests, while his larger-than-life personality will forever make him the true Clown Prince of Disneyland.
After the Death of Betty, Kalogridis stated… “Betty’s role as leading lady in Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue helped turn it into the longest-running stage show in entertainment history” `’It is a tragic coincidence that her passing comes just one day after the death of longtime co-star Wally Boag.”
Wally Boag influenced generations of performers, most notable of whom is Steve Martin. Martin studied Boag’s humor and timing while working at Disneyland as a teenager. On June 3, 2011, after Boag’s passing Steve Martin proclaimed on Twitter “My hero, the first comedian I ever saw live, my influence, a man to whom I aspired, has passed on. Wally Boag.
Wally Boag will continue to entertain in the minds of Disney fans worldwide, those who were fortunate enough to see him perform live. He and his fellow performers are a testament to Walt Disney and his dedication to bringing to the masses, the best in family entertainment and amusement.
Every Disney fan acknowledges that throughout his lifetime, Walt Disney always thought on a grandiose scale. Even as a child, Walt wanted to do it bigger and better than the other guy, and always put more than 100% in every endeavor he pursued. He was the first to perfect synchronized sound and voice to his Mickey short cartoons, the first to apply the 3-color strip Technicolor process to “Flowers and Trees” silly symphony cartoon, and in retrospect, take the biggest gamble in his career; in producing the first animated cartoon full-length feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” which even his wife Lillian and his Brother Roy thought would be his downfall. But Walt Disney was also a man who thought outside the proverbial box. Walt Disney, early on became infatuated with the world of miniaturization, i.e. everyday items brought down to Lilliputian size, but with an attention to detail that was second to none. And believe it or not, it was Walt’s love of this miniature world that gave rise to, none other than Disneyland itself.
It is hard to pin down just when Walt became enamored with this pastime, but throughout his career, Walt had always looked for a hobby to help him forget, at least for a time, the pressures of the studio. He had tried Polo, golf, bowling but never settled on anything for long. One of his greatest hobbies was Railroading and his love of trains. This love actually transposed into why there is a train circling the Magic Kingdom. Walt in the early 30’s helped his nephew Roy E. Disney build a Lionel train layout, and more then probable, was involved in building miniature props and accessories for the track.
More than likely, the impetus that got Walt into this demanding hobby was an exhibit he saw at the Golden Gate International Exposition, held at San Francisco’s Treasure Island in 1939-40. This was a World’s Fair, and among its many exhibits was one by Mrs. James Ward Thorne (Nee- Narcissa Niblack Thorne). Mrs. James Ward Thorne was additionally heir to the Montgomery Ward department store fortune. Mrs. Thorne too was an avid collector and displayer of miniature dioramas, utilizing Lilliputian objects of uncompromising detail. Her displays represented American and European rooms, all from different eras. The rooms were fashioned in such detail, most viewing them actually believed they were in that time period. Walt Disney was captivated, to say the least.
Walt’s interest in miniatures grew throughout his lifetime, and between his own creations and his world-wide collections, in the late 1960’s, his collection included more than a thousand pieces, comprising of paintings, books, eleven classic cars, a 1915 Model T Ford, 1903 Cadillac, 1904 Rambler, and a 1911 Rolls Royce. There was also a model battleship and steamboat. Included were musical instruments such as banjos, a mandolin, a guitar and an organ, crafted by conductor Frederick Stark. There was even a set of dueling pistols and a leather case with fourteen miniature six-shooters. It was an impressive display.
It was Walt Disney’s love of trains that started him into seriously creating these miniatures for himself. When he built his “Carolwood Pacific” 1/8 scale working steam railroad in his backyard, he almost single-handedly built the small caboose himself. This caboose sported miniature brass doorknobs, oil lamps and spring latches. It was for this caboose that Walt made his first major piece…A pint-sized potbellied stove. He said… “I had a pattern made up, and it turned out so cute with the grate, shaker and door, and all the little working parts, I became intrigued with the idea,” Walt wrote. “I had a few made up: one was bronze, another black, and I even made a gold one! Then we made more and started painting them in motifs that fitted the period at the turn of the century.” The stoves were 5 ½ tall, and each had a different design. Walt made about one hundred; giving them out as gifts to friends, and even sent a few to an antique shop in New York, where Mrs. Thorne actually bought two for her own collection. He made no profit on the stoves, which he charged $25.00, he was just intrigued if they would sell. After, Walt said… “It has been fun making them and others appreciate them, too, so all in all, I feel well repaid,”
Although Walt was building small, he always thought big. These miniatures and tableaus gave Walt the idea of creating entire miniature worlds. He originated the idea of creating miniature scenes of life in an old Western Town. Walt conspired with animator Ken Anderson and told him his idea. He said…: “I’m tired of having everybody else around here do the drawing and the painting. I’m going to do something creative myself. I’m going to put you on my personal payroll, and I want you to draw twenty-four scenes of life in an old Western town. Then I’ll carve the figures and make the scenes in miniature. When we get enough of them made, we’ll send them out as a traveling exhibit. We’ll get an office here at the studio and you and I will be the only ones who’ll have keys.”
With the plans set in motion, Walt in addition to creating his own miniatures, began seeking out all kinds of miniatures for his dioramas. In order to keep prices becoming bloated because of his name, he asked Kathryn Gordon and Dolores Voght Schott, two secretaries at the studios to use their name. One ad read…
“WANTED: Anything in miniatures to a scale of 1 ½” to the foot or under. Up to and including early 1900’s. Give full description and price. Private collector. K. Gordon (and her address).” Over time, Walt had miniature tea services, wine and perfume bottles, silverware, candelabra’s, jugs and Wedgwood pitchers. The first scene Walt labored on was the cabin seen in the live action feature “So Dear to my Heart” This was the cabin Granny Kincaid lived in, and the detail was astounding. Inside was a braided rug, and the floor was made of planks the size of matchsticks. There was a spinning wheel, a guitar, a flintlock rifle was hanging on the wall and even a bible was set on the miniature table. Walt constructed the chimney out of pebbles he picked up at the Smoke Tree Ranch. Although Granny herself was never made, Walt had Beulah Bondi, the actress who portrayed Granny in the film, narrate on a recording, as Granny describing the inside scene.
This tableau gave rise to Walt’s idea of an Americana exhibit he called “Disneylandia”. He envisioned a complete western town, to be showcased around the country. The cabin was unveiled at the Festival of California Living in the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles from November 28 to December 7, 1952, with the public’s positive reaction. A press release followed with Walt’s Disneylandia plan. In a 1953 interview, Walt explained… “This little cabin is part of a project I am working on, and it was exhibited as a test to obtain the public’s reaction to my plans for a complete village,” The second project in the works was a music hall stage, with a tap-dancing vaudevillian, which Walt called…” Project Little Man” Remember, this was before the perfection of audio animatronics. So, the studio filmed actor and dancer Buddy Ebson dancing against a grid pattern for reference points. The figure was sculpted by Charles Cristadoro and was controlled by cams and gears. Unfortunately, Walt was not pleased with the carved face on the figure, he thought it lacked expression. A third display of a barbershop quartet, with a barber, customer and two patrons waiting was started by Walt and his technicians. But Imagineer Roger Broggie remembered… “We got as far as building the guy in the chair and the barber, Then the whole job was stopped!”
But as time rolled by, Walt came to the realization that this display would be viewed by a narrow audience, and the monies generated would not be enough to make the project profitable. But these miniature tableaus, although unrealized, gave Walt the spark for a real-life adventure, Disneyland! Roger Broggie remembered what Walt had said… “We’re going to do this thing for real!”.
As the plans for his Disneyland became more and more detailed, Roy O. Disney traveled to New York to solicit funds for this new “Theme Park”. Part of that spiel was a presentation of a “Lilliputian Land”, to be located between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. This would be the tableaus that Walt never realized. Here is the original pitch… “Lilliputian Land. A land of Little Things…a miniature Americana village inhabited by mechanical people nine inches high who sing and dance and talk to you as you peek through the windows of their tiny shops and homes. In Lilliputian Land, there is an Erie Canal barge that takes you through the famous canals of the world, where you visit the scenic wonders of the world in miniature.
“Here a little diamond-stack locomotive engine seventeen inches high steams into the tiny railroad station. You sit on top of the Pullman coaches like Gulliver, and the little nine-inch engineer pulls back the throttle taking you on the biggest little ride in the land. And for the little people who have little appetites—you can get miniature ice cream cones, or the world’s smallest hot-dog on a tiny bun.”
But this tiny land was never expounded, due to many factors. One attraction that Walt encountered in the Netherlands, called “Madurodam” was the idea behind a new attraction to replace Lilliputian Land. In Madurodam, prominent world landmarks where presented in miniature size. Walt went a step further and imagined “Storybook Land” to be placed in Fantasyland. This land would present locations from all his classic animation features, in miniature scale. Featured was the Seven Dwarfs Cottage, Mr. Toad’s mansion and Gepetto’s Toy shop. Imagineer Ken Anderson was the overseer on the project and said… “It was one of Walt’s favorite rides. He’d make frequent visits to the model shop at the Burbank studio to provide comments and his expertise on the miniature models.”
Even after Disneyland’s opening, Walt never did lose his fascination with miniatures. During the planning for the ’65 World’s Fair, the Ford Pavilion’s Magic Skyway Rotunda entry was lacking an exhibit to showcase Ford as an international Company. Walt Disney immediately proposed a miniature village. The “International Gardens” display recreated buildings of celebrated landmarks from eleven countries. Walt supervised this work himself.
So, you can see that out of “Thinking small”, Walt Disney, as he has done all his life, created big and bold. The only thing that limited Walt’s grandiose ideas was perhaps the technology of the day. But as Disney fans worldwide observe every day at his theme parks, Walt’s ideas, bolstered by today’s high tech world, are just a big as Walt would have wanted!
For some of us riding the railroad at the Magic Kingdom is something we do every trip. This is the first attraction you see walking into the Magic Kingdom and was part of the opening show since the park opened in 1971 until January 7, 2017. Since this is such an icon in the Disney Parks I want to share with you some unknown facts about the railroad and the story of it’s history. Before Disneyland: Walt Disney loved locomotives and as a little boy he wanted to become an engineer. As a teenager, he obtained a job on the Missouri Pacific Railway , selling products to train passengers including newspapers. (Walt was a paperboy when he was a little kid as well) This love for trains continued to grow and Walt started to collect train models. The small trains were not good enough for Walt and he decided to buy a 5 acre lot in California. This lot would soon become home to the site to his new house and his own miniature railroad. Disney named his railroad Carolwood Pacific Railroad (CPRR) referencing his address at 355 Carolwood Drive. The railroad featured the Lilly Belle , a 1:8-scale live steam locomotive named after his wife and built by the Walt Disney Studios’ machine shop team led by imagineer Roger E. Broggie. The Lilly Belle ran on the CPRR for the first time on May 20th, 1950
Disneyland: Walt knew straight from the beginning that a railroad had to be in his first theme park. While designing the railroad with the rest of the imagineering team Walt looked to the CPRR for inspiration. He first started looking at making a miniature railroad but when a seller would not accept his offer Walt knew he had to do a full size handmade railroad. Through WED Enterprises Walt Disney was allowed to have personal ownership of the DRR and financed two trains to make sure it was done on time for Disneyland’s opening day. The names of both trains contained the word Retlaw , which is Walter spelled backwards. On July 17, 1955, Disneyland and the Disneyland Railroad opened, and kicked off with Walt Disney driving the Disneyland Railroad No. 2 locomotive into Main Street, U.S.A. Station with California Governor Goodwin J. Knight on board. Today the Disneyland Railroad has 5 locomotives with 4 stations. It received a complete renovation due to Star Wars:Galaxy Edge construction. The railroad recently reopened on July 29th, 2017 with a new route along the northern edge of the Rivers of America which features rock formations, five waterfalls, a trestle bridge , and the line’s only left-hand turn.
Walt Disney World: Since the Disneyland Railroad was doing so well Walt knew he needed to make one in Florida. The Walt Disney World Railroad was once again managed by imagineer Roger E. Broggie. Since he has experience with the Disneyland Railroad he knew exactly what to do for Walt Disney World. Roger determined that the best and cost effective way to make the railroad was to use already built locomotives, as opposed to building them entirely from scratch like the Disneyland Railroad’s first two locomotives. Broggie and a team of imagineers traveled to a railroad boneyard in Mexico. They found four locomotives built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in the boneyard and a fifth built by Pittsburgh Locomotive and Car Works that could potentially be transformed. The imagineering team wanted the locomotives to look like they were used in the 1880s to go along with Main Street U.S.A. Three of the Baldwin locomotives were at WDW opening day and the 4th went into service on December 1st, 1971. The Pittsburgh locomotive could not be salvaged. For the first few months of Walt Disney World the Main Street, U.S.A. Station at the park’s entrance was the only stop. On May 1, 1972, they opened another station near Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café in Frontierland. It was taken down in November 1990 to make way for Splash Mountain and was replaced by the current Frontierland Station, which opened in late 1991. During construction of Splash Mountain and the Frontierland Station, the Walt Disney World Railroad was temporarily renamed Backtrack Express and operated a single train, which only traveled back and forth along the section of track between the Main Street, U.S.A. section and the Mickey’s Starland section. Today the railroad has 3 stations and circles the entire park. The railroad could be affected by the new Tron Lightcycle Power Run attraction coming to Tomorrowland.
I hope you all enjoyed this Disney Geek’s look into the Walt Disney Railroad’s and if you did please share! If there is an attraction or resort that you would like to suggest for my next article let us know below!