Monday, February 28, 2011

Disneyland: Steps In Time

I love "before and after" photos. They're a fun and effective way to look at changes to a place over time.
I'm also fascinated by old "concept art" and enjoy comparing it to what actually was or wasn't built. (The 1920s concept art for an unrealized addition to the Old Orange County Courthouse is a great example.)
And I also dig Disneyland, which, as architects like Charles Moore and Alan Hess have pointed out, is one of the most important works of architecture of the 20th Century.
Combining those three things, I'm launching a sporadic series of posts that will feature various scenes at Disneyland: First, as the designers conceived it (1953-1955), then as it appeared when first built, and finally as it appears today. Let's start with the park's entrance,...
Technically, the image above is advertising art rather than concept art -- But it still shows what the train station and entrance were supposed to look like before anyone knew quite how it would turn out. The obvious change here is the floral Mickey, which has been through various iterations, but never ended up as a side-on view. What's less obvious is what's behind the viewer: A huge and innovative parking lot that has now been turned into a second theme park.
Like most of the "early" photos in this series, this 1950s view comes from Dave at the wonderful Daveland blog. (I knew I wouldn't get very far with this project without access to his amazing photo collection.)
It appears the entry turnstiles have migrated farther away from the train station over the years, providing for increased traffic flow. Note also how the trees and other landscaping have filled in over the years.
So far, I've only spent one day in Disneyland shooting "after" photos. But already, a number of big differences from the 1950s have become obvious.
1) People and visual clutter: There are a lot more guests milling around than there used to be, which effects everything else. More vending carts have been rolled out to provide food and drink for the thundering herds. More trash bins have been set out. And fences have been placed around landscaping, to keep it from being trampled into oblivion. The end result is a lot of visual clutter that really detracts from the intended "suspension of disbelief" as one strolls into the worlds of the past, the future, and fantasy. As much as I love churros, I don't remember rows of portable outdoor vending carts in any Fairy Tales or stories of the Old West.
2) Landscaping: The trees and other plants have filled in dramatically in the past 56 years. The huge stands of trees in Frontierland, for instance, are beautiful, even when viewed from the parking structure across the street. And certainly the Jungle Cruise and Adventureland are more convincing with lush vegetation everywhere. The landscaping ranges from excellent to occasionally breathtaking (especially in spring). But there are a few locations -- like the main path into Frontierland -- where the landscaping (beautiful as it is), conflicts with the original intention of wide open space.

3) Strollers: Yes, there have always been some baby strollers at Disneyland, but now there are THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of them, and each one is roughly the size of an SUV. Many areas of the park that were once very scenic are now enormous, ugly, stroller parking lots. Why? If your child isn't yet self-propelled, it's unlikely that he or she is getting much out of the experience. Wait to take them until they're old enough to appreciate it -- Or at the very least bring a smaller stroller that won't cause traffic jams.

4) More attractions: There's much, much more to see and do at Disneyland than there was in the 1950s. This is sort of amazing when you consider how little land the park actually sits on.

5) Guests' appearance: People used to dress up more for everything than they do now, but Disneyland guests seem to have slipped more than most. Looking back at photos from the 1950s and 1960s, the guests were a pretty clean cut bunch. Today, many guests dress like they just stepped out of a trailer park in a episode of Cops. There must be a happy medium, folks!
Anyway, look for these changes and others as this series continues -- interspersed among my other posts -- in the coming months.


Sue said...

YAY, I love Disneyland and "then and now" photos! I look forward to this series :)

soupac said...

My mothers'cousin Bob couldn't get in Disneyland because of his hair length. This was around 1967. He was one of the founding members of the "Hello People"

Chris Jepsen said...

soupac: Now you made me look up the Hello People. ( Hippy mimes with songs like, "Paisley Teddy Bear." I don't think I'd let them in either.

Connie Moreno said...

AMEN! People give me strange looks when I tell them that I refused to take my son to Disneyland until he was both old enough to walk and potty trained.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Chris, great idea for a series.

What you said about "dressing up" as a public must is so true. It is another world today. When you went "out" as in a store or movie theatre or restaurant or other public space, anything from Bullock's to Disneyland through the 1960s, people were *expected* to dress nice - kids, too. People would give you looks and sales clerks would look down their noises at you or ignore you if you didn't.

That was one of the main reasons for the popularity of the drive-ins during this period. They were so liberating! Smoke. Eat what you want. Have an alcoholic drink. Talk through the movie. Don't have to wake up or be publicly embarrassed by dad when he falls asleep during the movie. I went to the opening of the long gone Fountain Valley drive-In. You didn't have to see anyone- or dress up- as you would if you went to a movie theatre. My mother wouldn't get out of the car to go to the ladies room, as she was not "dressed"!

Would also love to hear more about boys rejected from Disneyland for their hair or what they wore. Anyone?

Does anyone know about the day at Disneyland when the Yippies converged on the park? Disneyland shut the whole park down. You should see the picture of lines of riot police in helmets and nightsticks in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle!

- An HB kid in exile on the east coast

Anonymous said...

I for one was working that day the Yippies closed the park Hill's Brothers. It is etched in my memory.

Anonymous said...

Please tell us more about that day!

Chris Jepsen said...

I hate to sound like his press agent, but Daveland has given the Yippie nonsense some excellent coverage:

soupac said...

The mime thing just didn't work, because then they sang. They did get some time on the Smothers Bros show. Look that up Chris. Kinda silly. Disney had an informal order back then, no hippies. They were able to get into Knotts, though.

Anonymous said...


Dave does a great job of summarizing that day. Lucky for me to have been there to see it, hear the announcements as the park shut down land by land, see the guests streaming behind the scenes on the east side parallel to Main Street and back through the gates in front of Hill's Brothers. Let alone the vast numbers of cops arriving in the afternoon, 4 to a car, driving through the side entrance along the Time Shack and parking close to the Inn Between. Lastly my date (a co-worker) and I stuck in the Parking Lot with the flood of cars trying to exit to West Street with the Yippies running, followed by the cops marching, through the line-up. We thought it was exciting...and especially so when we were released at 8pm but paid through 1 am.

Anonymous said...

Do I understand your complex analysis? Disneyland now has (1) more attractions than it did when it opened; (2) more visitors than it did when it opened (including those with a need for strollers); (3) trees and plants that have grown over the years; and (4) less formally dressed visitors? That is brilliant analysis, if you consider pointing out the obvious brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for info about the Yippies from a first-hand account! That is why I love O.C. History Roundup.

Any researcher in the social sciences will say that baseline data is just that. Making meaning of the data comes much later in the process. It seems like Chris is just starting this new series, and this was a call for interesting feedback and ideas, since the whole purpose of this blog is to include historians, interested locals and others and their points of view regarding mostly 20th and 21st century OC history.

Speaking as someone who lives on the the east coast-and who hasn't been to Disneyland since 1970- Chris is clearly looking at the vision vs. the result over a period of significant change. As I have no idea what Disneyland is like today, I was provoked to post about my own experience, for what little that might be worth.

As I look at an artifact of history I own (a Disneyland souvenir book from 1966) it reminds me how I enjoy this process and mix of intellectual and social discovery, curiosity about a very specific place and very unusual modern times, and personal first-hand accounts usually ignored by most people and media. So please keep up the good work, Chris!

PS. Chris, would love for you to cover more of the history of the US space program and OC, particularly Boings's HB Apollo facility.

-An HB kid in exile on the east coast

Chris Jepsen said...

@soupac: Of course, loitering hippies is part of the reason the Knott's put a wall around the Farm and started charging admission.

@Anonymous troll: My point with this series is to show changes at Disneyland over time. It's a little mix of history, nostalgia and fun. And I mentioned right up front that I was pointing out some of the OBVIOUS changes in this first post. I'm guessing you want to read a rant against Disney and how their corporate mentality has crushed your hopes and dreams. There are PLENTY of blogs and BBS-type sites devoted to that already.

@Anonymous "HB kid in exile": Yes, the stories of the various aerospace companies in O.C. are well worth researching and telling. Enough to keep a lot of historians busy for a long time.

soupac said...

Maybe the Hello People had something to do with that. I met them, they weren't bad guys. There was an incident at Knotts though, they got heckled at the wagon camp and the keyboard player told the crowd what he thought about that, much cursing. This was around 1974. They were told never to return.

marty mankins said...

Wow. Very cool post with some great vintage photos of Disneyland. I grew up in Garden Grove, about a mile from there and love to look back and see how much the whole park has changed over the years.