Saturday, December 17, 2011

Disneyland: Steps In Time, Adventureland

Today's "before, after and today" images show the entrance to Disneyland's Adventureland, looking out toward the center of the park. The image above was created before the park was complete, in about 1954. The photo below shows the same spot in 1963 -- largely unchanged from its appearance when Disneyland opened, in 1955. It seems the Polynesian roof lines didn't look quite as impressive in reality as they did on paper. The exotic masks and shields (supplied by the still-amazing Oceanic Arts of Whittier), also ended up a lot smaller than planned.
Originally planned as "True-Life Adventureland," this section of the park was to be based on Disney Studios' popular nature documentaries, shot in exotic locales. Adventureland included fantasy elements mixed with features from Africa, Asia, South America, Central America, the Middle East, and the South Seas. When the park opened, those places seemed exotic, mysterious, and otherworldly to most guests. Today, many of Disneyland's guests are actually from those places. Still, this mid-Century expression of the "exotic other" is a big part of Adventureland's charm.

The photo below was taken earlier this year from approximately the same angle as the 1963 image. The thatched roof has been improved significantly, the faux elephant tusks have been made to  look like wood instead of ivory, (to make things more PC), and the nearby foliage has filled in to look a bit more green and jungle-like.
At its 1955 dedication, Walt Disney read, "Here is adventure. Here is romance. Here is mystery. Tropical rivers - silently flowing into the unknown. The unbelievable splendor of exotic flowers...the eerie sound of the jungle...with eyes that are always watching. This is Adventureland."

Compared to Disneyland's other realms, Adventureland has always been rather small. In the beginning, its only real attraction was the Jungle Cruise. It is also the only land not to have what Walt called a "weenie": That is, a highly visible and curiosity-inspiring object at the back of each land that drew people into the land from the entrance. Main Street's weenie was Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Tomorrowland had the Moonliner Rocket. Frontierland had the smokestacks of the Mark Twain Riverboat. And so forth. But guests approaching the Adventureland entrance couldn't see more than a short distance forward, which I suppose heightened the mystery of what might be hidden around that first bend.

Today, Adventureland features several additional attractions, including the Indiana Jones Adventure, the Tarzan Treehouse (formerly the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse), and the Enchanted Tiki Room. Of course, its best attraction is the opportunity to relax on the Tiki Room's lanai, sipping a Dole Whip float and watching the 1963 tikis do their thing.

4 comments:

Major Pepperidge said...

Very interesting! An excellent look at concept vs. reality. I have always thought that the little grass-thatched roof was a bit strange, out there practically all by itself. A larger structure would have been nice, but money was probably very short.

Connie Moreno said...

That was cool! I love comparison shots.

The Viewliner Limited said...

Chris, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks for all the great posts. All the best, Richard.

JG said...

That was fun. Thank you.

Best wishes for the coming year.

JG