Remember video games and arcades? Maybe, if you are old like me. In the 1970s and 1980s, Disney supposedly had a policy of not allowing outside cartoon/artwork in their parks. The arcades may have had Pac-Man, but the outside of the cabinet was stripped of the familiar Pac-artwork. “Only Disney characters inside a Disney park!” (Today, I guess that extends to any character that Disney purchased from someone else.)
The Indiana Jones Adventure had just opened the previous year, and Disneyland put one of the 1993 Williams Indiana Jones pinball games in a shop in Adventureland. But, instead of it having the traditional arcade artwork, it was retrofitted to look like it was a wooden box with bamboo legs:
It would be twenty years later before I would finally play this game and see it in its original format (at a local Des Moines arcade/bar called Up-Down). It’s a fun pin, and I kind of wish I had played this custom version. Does anyone know where it ended up after it left this location? Also, notice the boxes on the ground. Those were so kids could step up and play the game — common in arcades.
Also, do you remember when live birds were on display outside the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse?
For that matter, do you even remember that Tarzan’s Treehouse used to have another owner?
And, if I had realized it was going away the next year, I might have eaten at Aladdin’s Oasis. Notice the menus posted to the left and right of the entrance of this tiny photo.
This location had been home to the Tahitian Terrace until 1993. I guess Disney Synergy(tm) was alive and well in the early 1990s and they rethemed it to tie into the successful Aladdin movie. By the time I finally visited, this location had been changed from a restaurant to a character show. Somewhere I have video of that show that I need to dig up and post.
So many photos, so much video, and so little time. Speaking of time…
At the end of Main Street U.S.A. there is a sign that shows the wait times for attractions in the park. Here’s what it looks like today:
In 1996, there was a very different wait time sign in use in May. That was one of my first trips with my Epson PhotoPC digital camera, so the only images I have are in the tiny 320×240 format.
As you can see, the sign was a much simpler board with black signs and white lettering. It’s hard to make out, but I believe the wait time for the then-new Indiana Jones Adventure was one hour and thirty minutes! Back then, the line might start on Main Street U.S.A., go all the way into Adventureland, then upstairs to fill up the second level of the Jungle Cruise, before finally entering the attraction queue. In this days before FastPass, the entire queue was used, from the bridge and lower outside area and all of the inside of the temple.
Keep that in mind the next time you complain about how long the lines are 😉
I only have one other tiny 320×240 photo of this sign, seen here to the left. Look how simple it was. They had simple stanchions holding ropes to mark off the area. Two small potted plants served as decoration around the base of this tiny wheeled display. A simple podium and umbrella and, amazingly, two cast members staffed it.
Was this a temporary sign I just happened to catch? The reason I ask is because just a few months later there was a different wait time sign there:
They had built this larger sign into the flower bed area. Notice the construction barrier to the right, and no fencing to the left.
Then, just a few days later, it looked like this:
In this photo you can see a fence to the left and right of this sign. Did I happen to visit during a refurbishment of this sign? Or was the park transitioning from a temporary on-wheels sign to something more permanent?
Oh, and hey, Indiana Jones Adventure was only 45 minutes when I took this photo! And you will see The Spirit of Pocahontas stage show was running, as well as The Lion King Celebration parade plus The Main Street Electrical Parade! Yes, Virginia, there was a time when Disneyland had a daytime parade and a separate nighttime parade.
I am amused that, even in my first few trips with a digital camera, I was starting to notice trivial things like wait time signs and minor changes like this.
I wonder what else I’ll uncover as I continue to browse through my gallery…
I’ve always made it known that my focus when visiting Disneyland or Walt Disney World were the rides and attractions. Unless there is something truly “Disney” about a restaurant (like eating under the moonlight at the Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland, or eating in a car at Sci-Fi Dine In at Disney Hollywood Studios), I’m pretty sure I can find good restaurants all over. Likewise, I can find luxury resorts with plenty of amenities in my home town. With that in mind, I find it surprising that, during my first visit with a digital camera in 1996, I visited the Disneyland Hotel.
Back then, there was only Disneyland, a parking lot, and the hotel. Perhaps I just wanted to get off at the monorail stop and explore. Perhaps I was doing the “here’s how to drink adult beverages at Disneyland” trick (though I see no photos from anything else, so I’ll assume I was just exploring and that the alcohol trick came later).
Somewhere inside the hotel there used to be this massive collage of Disney memorabilia:
My ancient 640×480 digital photo doesn’t do it justice. If I had encountered this today, I’d have taken tons of photos of the various items in this display case. I wonder if this display is still there somewhere?
I was also impressed to find that there was live street entertainment at the hotel:
The Bellhops would ride up on their golf cart and perform. I did not have a video camera with me during that trip, but I did find someone else’s brief video of the Bellhops from a few years earlier (1991) on YouTube:
A quick web search did not turn up much about this band. Anyone know more about them?
Moving on, I was impressed with the “lake” that existed between the three Disney Hotel towers! You could rent a paddle boat and ride around.
This area has been remodeled at least twice since I took this photo. During a recent visit with Werner of Yesterland.com, he pointed me to a collection of old Disneyland Hotel press photos from this era that showed more about this “lake.” In those years, before it was actually owned by Disney, it was quite an attraction on its own with entertainment and activities. If you go back early enough, there was even a large golf course next to the original tower!
But I digress.
I also snapped a picture of the pool area. By today’s standards, it doesn’t seem that impressive.
I’m not sure what caught my attention in this photo. Perhaps it was the lush landscaping behind the pools that blocked out the view of a contested city area. Perhaps it was the sandy beach where the volleyball court is.
I’ve wanted to stay at the Disneyland Hotel for a long time, but the pricing was outrageous to me back then… Today, we’d jump at a chance to stay there and pay 1990s prices.
Thanks for joining me on this quick look at some of my earliest digital photos from Disneyland. I figure we have about 150,000 more to get through, so check back again sometime.
This was one of the stage shows that was also replicated at Walt Disney World. Their version was at the Disney/MGM Studios, though it doesn’t look like I have any photos of it. It was Huntchback of Notre Dame by the time I took photos there. Regardless, I think I preferred the Disneyland version since it made use of a trap door in the stage to let characters “appear” rather than having them run on/off stage.
But I digress.
The theater, back then, was far less themed than the one that Disneyland has today:
I don’t even think I really wanted to “waste” my time and watch a show, but I was online friends with a show technician that was working the show that day and I wanted to say hi. He was one of the guys that would be up on all that scaffolding running lights and such. I wonder if his position was eventually replaced by computer-controlled lighting…
It also had fire…
The theater would later get updated and become home to a Snow White show. Remind me to talk about Disneyland, food, and that Snow White show when I get to it. I heard some really neat stories about it.
Ever wonder what a nighttime parade made up of thousands of sparkling lights would look like to a 1996 digital camera?
Neither did I, but let’s find out.
Here’s the Main Street Electrical Parade as seen though the lens of a first-generation digital camera:
I’d share more, but I think you get the idea: It looks bad on a 1996 digital camera.
But, back then, unless you had a good camera and knew how to use it, and a scanner, this was about the only way you’d have seen it other than in person. My Kodak Disc camera photos of the Florida version of the parade in 1982 were even worse.
It’s really sad that this parade was leaving the park forever in 1996, but at least there was something new and shiny to look forward to:
I can’t wait to see what Light Magic looks like through the lens of a first generation digital camera.
A quick follow-up to the previous article… I found a few more parking lot related photos I took in 1997. Here’s one showing the layout of the parking lot — a very helpful map for those who can’t remember where they parked:
The Disneyland Tram runs approximately every 15 minutes?!? It would be faster to walk 🙂
I also found a higher resolution photo of the old parking lot walkway. You would park, then walk to this walkway, and head towards the entrance.
At 640×480 resolutions, you can almost make out the details of the Disneyland Train Station. Almost.
I also found a somewhat blurry view from the monorail that shows where this walkway is in relation to the park entrance. This was from the far end monorail which now runs through the entrance (over the bridge) at Disney California Adventure.
Above, you can see one of the old yellow trams (left), and the walkway (right side). Today, you’d be looking at Buena Vista Street at DCA!
Another image I wanted to share from 1996 was too small, so here’s a slightly less small version of it — the guest information booth with clocks showing the time at every Disney resort around the globe!
You can see the time at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and Euro Disney! (Euro Disney, you ask? Geez, you are young. That’s what Disneyland Paris was called from 1992 to 2002. I guess Disney’s California Adventure and Disney/MGM Studios were not the first parks to get a name change.)
And, lastly… This image:
I have no recollection what the purpose of that sign was, but something about it must have caught my attention.
My first trip to Disneyland was probably around 1974 or 1975. I remember our family road trip from Houston, Texas to California. We stopped at the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. I also recall seeing Newspaper Rock and hearing my mom wondering if they represented aliens (check out the fingers and toes). Today I just wonder how families planned these trips in the days before the Internet. Travel brochures? That must have had something to do with it. I remember we had one that mentioned a ride called the “Haunted Mansion.” I pictured “dune buggies” driving through an old haunted house.
But I digress…
I have no photos from that visit (or the one or two more I got to make in the late 1970s), nor did I take a camera with me when I got to return to Disneyland in December 1995. I do recall that 1995 visit, though, since I finally learned where many of my childhood memories came from – like seeing a giant whale (Storybookland) and a skeleton drinking from a bottle (Pirates of the Caribbean). There were so many things I remembered from Disneyland that were not found in Florida’s Magic Kingdom.
By 1996, I had my first digital camera and would start documenting all my trips. Do you remember this Disneyland sign?
That sign was in use until they expanded the resort and added California Adventure. Vehicles would enter from the main entrance on South Harbor Blvd. (Disneyland’s official address is 1313 South Harbor Blvd with the 1313 rumored to either be MM – 13th letter of the alphabet twice for Mickey Mouse – or Disney poking fun at superstition.)
The parking lot entrance itself was much smaller than what we are used to today. I can’ t recall if there was another entrance on the other side of the park, or just an exit.
I took a better photo of the main entrance sign during my next visit on August 16, 1996:
Notice the power lines? For those too young to remember, they cut across the Disneyland parking lot (where California Adventure is today) and you’d park under or around them. Here’s what that looked like:
I’m not sure of the direction that photo was taken, but that may be the Paradise Pier Hotel in the back right (though it was probably still known as the Pan Pacific Hotel at the time. Disney bought it in 1995, but didn’t rename it until 2000.)
If you were lucky, you could park close enough to just walk to the entrance, else you took trams. If you were even luckier (or richer), you might have been able to use the special parking area just for Club 33 visitors!
Thanks to the Internet, this “secret” club in the park was now well know (at least online). But, back then, the only photos you could find were a few official Disney press photos. Today, every inch of Club 33 seems to be documented as “everyone” that wants to seems to have gotten inside. (I’ve even been there, in 2017, after declining three invitations back around 1996 or so.)
Back then, annual pass holders also got special parking. It’s hard to believe there was a time when annual passes were rare enough to give perks like that!
In 1996, the Indiana Jones Adventure was the hot new ride. It had just opened up the previous summer for Disneyland’s 40th anniversary. It was constructed on land that was formerly the Pinocchio parking lot. Originally, it was just a huge, green building with a security booth on top:
When the Grand Californian Hotel was built years later, they decorated the building up a bit and planted palm trees in front of it so it would look nicer for guests staying at the expensive hotel.
Another detail about the old parking lot was a covered waiting area for folks getting picked up:
Today, the closest you can be dropped off is near the Harbor Blvd. entrance where shuttles and taxis are allowed to go.
The actual entrance of Disneyland was a bit different. The ticket booths used to be in front of the park under the monorail track:
As you can see, the park had long lines to get in even back then.
Once you got to the front of the line, they would scan your ticket with these ticket scanners. There was even a Hidden Mickey cut into the back of the booth. (I have photos of many of these early Hidden Mickeys that I submitted to the original Hidden Mickey site — hiddenmickeys.org — though as I check now, the site may be down. Here’s an archive of it from 1998.)
I’ll leave you with one item that doesn’t seem to have changed much: the outside lockers. Although today this is now at the end of Downtown Disney rather than across from a parking lot, I think the locker area is about the same other than having all the greenery in front of it (blocking the view of guests who are eating at the picnic area).
I should really try to get “now” versions of some of these photos the next time I make it out there.
I hope you enjoyed this short tour of some of my earliest digital photos. I plan to do more postings like this from time to time, so be sure to follow my Facebook page or Twitter account to stay in touch.