Circle-Vision in 1996

When I returned to Disneyland in December 1995, there were some thing I had “just” missed (like the PeopleMover and Skyway, that had closed a few years earlier). But, some things were still there, though they would close soon after.

One such thing was the Circle-Vision theater, showing a special presentation of America the Beautiful, which was supervised by Walt Disney himself.

Disneyland’s Circle-Vision on August 12, 1996.

For the kids at home, this was where the Buzz Lightyear ride is today. You can learn more at Yesterland.com or read the writeup at the Wikipedia.

My ancient digital camera did not do well indoors without using a flash. But, since there aren’t that many photos of this online, I thought I’d share what I have.

Disneyland’s Circle-Vision on August 12, 1996.

Yep. Glorious low resolution, low quality digital photos from 1996! Above was the pre-show area, leading in to the main CircleVision theater. Below I will share the other photos I took that visit — all of equal quality.

After this theater closed, it eventually would re-open and be used as part of the queue for the Rocket Rods. They created a new Circle-Vision film for it, which features some clips from other CircleVision films (on all screens) as well as clips from Disney’s TV series segments on transportation (including clips of Walt Disney). It was nice to be in a Circle-Vision theater at Disneyland again, even if it was just something you passed through while waiting for a ride.

Walt Disney World had Circle-Vision theaters at Epcot‘s World Showcase (and still does) and Magic Kingdom‘s Tomorrowland (Timekeeper, gone and replaced by the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor).

Disneyland no long has any theater, as the building was redone to become Buzz Lightyear and the Circle-Vision screens were removed.

At least I got to see the “end” of Circle-Vision at Disneyland — the original theme park that pioneered this type of presentation. It’s one of the things I have never seen anywhere else (though surely someone else has made them).

Until next time…

Entering Disney in 1996.

Here is a real quick one… It recently dawned on me that someone could probably dedicate a whole series of articles to how admission to the Disney theme parks has changed over the years. Up until the 1990s, this would have only been a discussion about coupon books versus single and multi-day general admission tickets. Since then, however, there have been a number of changes to how admission is handled.

I will just contribute two photos taken in 1996 of how you used to get in to the Magic Kingdom in Florida.

First, notice the orange area in the following photo:

Magic Kingdom turnstile on August 26, 1996.

At that time, admission was a paper-plastic type ticket with a magnetic strip on it. At the turnstile you would insert that ticket into the orange slot and it would scan and allow (or deny) you access to the park.

Here is what my ticket, an annual pass, looked like in 1996:

1996 WDW Annual Pass (back).

And here is the front artwork:

1996 WDW Annual Pass (front).

Yes, my Walt Disney World annual pass was just a piece of plastic-paper with my name on it.

At the time, I thought this was quite cheesy compared to how Disneyland did theirs. They had an actual plastic ID card with a photo on it, and no magnetic strip that could become demagnetized. Here is the Disneyland pass from the same year:

1996 Disneyland AP (back).

And here is the back, promoting the recently opened Indiana Jones Adventure attraction:

1996 Disneyland AP (front).

Quite a difference in quality! In those years, it was said that Disneyland visitors were 70% locals from Southern California, while Walt Disney World was about 70% out-of-state tourists. I guess Disney just had more “regulars” to make feel special when they spent so much money on an annual pass. (After all, a one day pass to Disneyland in 1996 has just seen its price jacked up to $34!)

I never had a day pass to Disneyland, so I don’t know what they used for single day tickets at the time.

I recently found all of my Disneyland and Walt Disney World passes I’ve had since 1995. In a future post, I’ll do a photo essay showing the changes over the years.

One more thing before I go… The backside of the Magic Kingdom turnstile in 1996:

Magic Kingdom turnstile on August 26, 1996.

Ah, the things I took pictures of with my first digital camera.

Until next time…

Disneyland’s Christmas in August 1997.

If I told you a Disney park was starting to celebrate a holiday months in advance, today that might not phase you. (I’m lookin’ at you, Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party that starts in August this year!)

But do you remember that time in the 1990s when Disneyland started celebrating Christmas in August?

No?

Let’s park hop back to twenty-two years ago today…

Here’s a photo from August 20, 1997. Notice the Christmas garland around Coca-Cola Corner…

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

I’d have gotten closer photos if I could have, but that area was off limits. Look again. Did you notice the ladder in the street, tripod stand in the left, or the large clump of electrical cable near the lamp post?

Disneyland was being used as a filming location for a Christmas commercial for the now-defunct Mervyn’s department store.

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

They had most of Main Street blocked off during filming.

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.
Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

Guests were being routed down the left sidewalk towards Adventureland and Frontierland.

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

For Southern California folks, seeing movie crews filming is a rather ordinary experience. But, I suspect, seeing Disneyland decorated for Christmas in August was not. I was excited to see both.

Merry Christmas in August!

Some day you’ll have to me to tell you about the time I saw Shirley Jones (Partridge Family) filming in Toon Town for a Disney special…

Until next time…

Happy Birthday on the Jungle Cruise

In honor of my fake birthday today, I thought I’d share a Disney story about something that happened on my real birthday long ago…

I believe there has only been one time when I made a Disney trip on my birthday, and that was to Disneyland in 1997.

Some say getting to go to Disneyland is more like Christmas that a birthday, but this year, I guess both were true. The end of Main Street was decorated for the holidays! They were filming a television commercial for Mervyn’s California (a store that no longer exists).

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

So, in a way, I guess I celebrated both my summer birthday and Christmas that trip. You can this article for more on this Christmas in August commercial.

But I digress.

While I have no memory of going into City Hall to get a free birthday button to wear (the only place you could get them back then), but I must have, because it seems there are photos of me wearing one that day. Looking at the photos today, though, I guess it may have just been a sticker back then.

I looked so happy! Birthdays must make me happy. (Not so much, these days! #OldFart) Also note my trendy “Al’s Place” website T-Shirt I often wore during park visits back then, and my special Disney name badge. Classy.

Most likely because of the button/sticker, something kinda special happened that day — a Jungle Cruise skipper and his crew sing Happy Birthday to me on the boat.

It was very surreal, so say the least.

I don’t have a picture of it from that day, but it probably looked something like this…

Not an actual picture of me getting Happy Birthday sang to me on a Jungle Cruise boat.

So thank you, 1997 Disneyland Jungle Cruise skipper, for giving me a very special birthday at The Happiest Place on Earth. I think about this moment every year on my fake birthday.

Until next time…

Toontown Jolley Trolley in 1996

When I “returned” to Disneyland in December of 1995, there were many, many things that had changed since my childhood visits in the 1970s. I wasn’t aware of most of them, but I was aware that Bear Country had been replaced by Critter Country. I had been also reading a ton about the construction of the brand-new Indiana Jones Adventure attraction. What I don’t think I really knew much about was Mickey’s Toontown, built beyond the railroad tracks past it’s a small world.

According to the wikipedia, Disneyland has just added this all-new land in 1993. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin did not open until 1994. I now realize I got to visit it within the very first few years of existence.

My digital photos of Toontown in 1996 look very similar to digital photos taken today (image quality not withstanding), though there are some changes.

Jolly Trolly on May 20, 1996.

First, the Jolly Trolly is long gone. It was in operation from 1993 to 2003. This thing would slowly drive through the land (on a track) with a weird wobbling motion. It added a bit of cartoonish kinetic energy to the area, much like the Main Street vehicles do there. Here is a tiny 320×240 photo of it from my first visit with a digital camera.

And here is a larger 640×480 version, a few months later.

And although it’s a bit hard to make out, here’s another photo of the trolly driving around the land:

Jolly Trolley (in background) on August 18, 1996.

If I recall correctly, the Jolly Trolley had one load and unload area. It would make the loop, then let guests off back where they started. Here’s a look at the station in 2004, sign still in intact, but trolley nowhere to be seen:

Jolly Trolly station on August 27, 2004.

And here is a better look from 2005, during the 50th anniversary. Even though the attraction was no more, Disneyland still kept the sign and even adorned it with a special golden icon for the 50th.

Jolly Trolley station on July 15, 2005.

By 2007, the Jolly Trolly had returned — but only as a sitting area and photo opportunity.

Jolly Trolley returns! December 10, 2007.

Here are some better pictures of the less-Jolly Trolly from 2008:

Less-Jolly Trolly on December 3, 2008.
Less-Jolly Trolly on December 3, 2008.

At some point during the years I didn’t get to visit the park, the Trolley was moved a bit, and the former station was turned into a Disney Vacation Club kiosk:

Jolly Trolley DVC stand on May 9, 2017.

I guess we should be happy they at least kept the Jolly Trolley and sign around. I’m not sure there are many (or any?) extinct attractions at Yesterland that still have their signs on display inside the park…

At least the Trolley wasn’t alone. Chip and Dale’s Acorn Pit was shiny and new in 1996, but closed in 1998. Goofy’s Bounce House also is no more, closing in 2008. Since I don’t have photos of them in 1996, I’ll do those photo essays later..

Until next time…

Fantasmic in 1996.

On this anniversary date, May 13 (if Wikipedia can be believed), let’s talk about one of the greatest entertainment spectacles the world has ever seen. Or at least Anaheim has ever seen.

Disneyland’s Fantasmic! blew me away when I first saw it, though I didn’t intend to see it.

During my return to visiting Disneyland, my first trip was spent just trying to see all the things in California that did not exist in Florida’s Magic Kingdom. During my next few trips, the first with a digital camera, I was still focusing on other rides and re-learning how different things were at “Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom”.

I was not interested in shows or parades.

But when I was walking through New Orleans Square to get to a ride (Haunted Mansion, most likely), I stumbled into a performance of Fantastic and was mesmerized.

I had never seen anything like it.

Fantasmic on August 16, 1996.

So, obviously, I wanted to see it up close (which was easy to do back then just by showing up early) and take pictures of it with my brand new Epson PhotoPC camera.

Unfortunately, there was no zoom lens on the camera, so this is as close as I could get. And because my camera only had 1 megabyte of memory, I was taking photos in 320×240 resolution. If you blow them up on a modern computer screen (or even a phone!) they are so pixelated they look like 8-bit graphics 😉

So here are a few more…

Oddly enough, I didn’t take a picture of the Mark Twain in the finale. Maybe it wasn’t running the night I saw it? Or perhaps I ran out of memory?

Ah, the days of early digital cameras!

I must have found these light poles fascinating. I took two pictures, and in “high resolution” mode!

Fantasmic light pole in 1996.
Fantasmic light pole in 1996.

And that’s about the worst quality of photos I will be sharing in this essays. Hopefully.

Until next time…

Disneyland’s third theme park in 2000

Yes, Virginia. In 2000, Disneyland did announce intentions to build a third theme park with initial construction beginning in 2003 and completion by 2010.

They even had a website about it… here is what it looked like in 2000:

https://web.archive.org/web/20000817041730/http://www.thirdthemepark.com:80/

It has some before and after images of the area around the resort that are stunningly different. This is what was going on leading to Disney’s California Adventure opening.

Several things they mentioned did make it to the resort, but not into a third theme park.

More on this later.

Until next time…

Indiana Jones Adventure in 1996.

According to the always accurate Wikipedia, the Indiana Jones Adventure opened in Disneyland on March 4, 1995. This ride is the reason I wanted to return to Disneyland after not visiting there since the 1970s. I had been reading about its construction in the Disneyland section of the Destination Florida RoundTable on GEnie. (That was the General Electric text-based dial-up service I was on, years before there was such a thing as the “world wide web.”)

When my new job scheduled me to be in Irvine, California in December 1995, the first thing I did was call my hotel and ask how far they were from Disneyland. (Remember, this was before online maps — even before the things that were before Google Maps, like MapQuest.) They told me it was about 15 miles away. I was ecstatic, though I would soon learn that 15 minutes could mean an hour or more in Southern California traffic.

May 26, 1996. Indy line starting on Main Street U.S.A.

In the early days of this attraction, the line would often start on Main Street U.S.A. and wind through Adventureland. They’d have cast members hold the line to let traffic cross from time to time. In 2017,  the same thing was being done for Disney California Adventure’s Guardians of the Galaxy when the line would extend into A Bug’s Land.

After going in to Adventureland, the line would use the second level of the Jungle Cruise building and then finally enter the actual Indiana Jones queue. At the time, the GEnie rumors were that the queue was built to hold a three hour line. Today, that massive indoor queue is just a walkway since they hold everyone outside and merge in FastPass/MaxPass visitors at the entrance. It dawns on me that, since FastPass, there are folks who have never really experience this amazing queue the way it was intended.

AT&T sponsor sign on May 22, 1996.

Do you remember the original ride sponsor? Here’s a photo of the sign at the exit, taken during my first trip with a digital camera. Ah, the glory of low resolution 320×240 digital pictures!

Yep, it was AT&T. They also sponsored Spaceship Earth at EPCOT Center. The EPCOT sponsorship made sense to me since their logo already looked like Spaceship Earth. But Indy? The only link was this sign at the end. 

According to the story of the ride, tourists were going in to choose one of those three doors to give them either youth, riches, or visions of the future. The ride used to have an elaborate mechanism that made it appear like each car was “randomly” going through one of three entrance doors. A wall of haphazardly arranged mirrors would tilt so you could watch the car in front of you as it turned the corner and went through a door. Then, the mirror would move back, and your car would go and you would see that you got a different door. Very cool!

Choose wisely!

And what is the connection to the sponsor? At the time, AT&T was running a similar “choose wisely” ad campaign about selecting them for your long distance* service.

  • Old Guy Note: In olden days, “long distance” was a term used to mean calling someone who wasn’t in your local town. You paid extra for each minute of the long distance call. During the 1980s, a large telephone monopoly was disrupted and a bunch of competing phone services started up. You could then choose another company to provide you long distance service at lower rates.

You also got a bit of AT&T ad material every time you rode. Throughout the temple, there  were writings that you could decode with an AT&T-sponsored translation card they gave you. I suppose the idea was that you would have something to kill the time during your three hour+ wait 😉 I have a bunch of these cards. The writing was just a special font. I had a friend who could just read them (it’s easy once you realize that the symbols look quite a bit like the letters they represent). Years later, a special font was used in Guardians of the Galaxy with similar things for you to translate. It seems we have another connection to Guardians! (And, maybe as an indication of the changing times, many of the Guardians signs also have English translations already on them — no need to make you think while on vacation, I guess.)

In the early years, everything in the temple queue was shiny and new, yet it looked like it had been there for hundreds of years. The only thing that looked fresh was the bat guano in the bat cave. The in-queue effects (the first time Disney had ever done that, I believe?) all worked. In the last several trips I made, none seemed to be working. Do they ever work?

In case you haven’t even seen them, in the “spike room” you could push on the bamboo pole to trigger an effect that would make the ceiling (slowly… very slowly…) move down with a thunderous rumble.

There was also the rope you could pull on to annoy the archeologist that was hanging on to it below. Keep pulling and he’d drop something. Pull more, and he’d plummet to his … nap. (I mean, no one would die in a Disney queue, would they?) Good times.

A few years later, a similar rope was added at Disney/MGM Studios near the Indiana Jones Stunt show, though their sign makes it much more obvious you can pull the rope. Here’s their version from 1999:

Disney/MGM Studios Indiana Jones “rope” on November 13, 1999.

But I digress. Back to Disneyland’s Indy…

The ride itself was amazing, and still is, but today’s version pales compared to the original 1995-1996 version. Here’s a few highlights:

  • The ride used to be so “rough” there was no way to ride it without holding on for dear life. Someone managed to shoot video of it in 1995 (you can see how bumpy it is) and I commend them on that accomplishment. I guess I can see why they tamed it down, but it was far more of a thrill ride in the early years.
  • There was also a windy cavern that was REALLY windy. It, supposedly, blew off too many caps and caused issues from having to stop the ride to clear the track that they toned that down.
  • There was also the debris that would fall from the ceiling. Just as you’d turn a corner and be facing the main ride chamber, the music would swell, and a green light blast would shine and there’d be a fire burst nearby. Debris would fall from the ceiling. It was ice that would drop, where it could just melt away at the bottom. (Someone finally posted a clip of this effect happening ,so even if you’ve never seen it yourself, now you have “proof” it existed.)
  • But my all-time favorite part was the different “random” profiles for the vehicles. They would stall in different places, speed through a scene or drive slowly through it, and do so differently each time you rode them. I’m sure there was a finite set of “random” variations, but it was so nicely done it never felt repetitive. My favorite was the one where the car kept grinding the shift gears, and you could feel the gears grind under the floor board! Impressive!

Here’s a YouTube video summarizing some of the missing effects from the original Indy ride (though it is incorrect about one, and doesn’t comment on the random ride profiles that were bragged about during the early promotional material):

There were also a few secrets that users of GEnie and the newsgroups (there were no fan websites yet, really) had discovered.

  • There was a LIFE magazine with Mickey on the cover.
  • There was a reference to Star Wars’ Obi Wan Kenobe (which was also in the Indiana Jones movie).
  • And Disney had told us about the ID numbers of the vehicles being Imagineer birthdates.

Another detail that changed was the sign just before going up the stairs. The original version looked much more authentic, but it was replaced with a warning-heavy version that looked far more modern and out-of-place.

Speaking of signs, have you ever noticed the “nails” used throughout? They are historically-correct representations of what was used before we had modern nails. Nice details.

And speaking of details, in the original days, all the light bulbs were unlabeled and looked like old bulbs. Today, you will find modern bulbs scattered around (with modern writing on them showing the wattage, etc.). 

Also, the “generator” in the outdoor queue is supposed to be powering all the lights in the temple. You can trace the wiring running from it all the way into the load area. As the generator spits and sputters, the lights will flicker and dim. It was a very cool effect that I don’t know if many notice these days.

Indiana Jones Adventure was one of the greatest things Imagineering has ever done.  What we have today is still a great ride, but it’s just a shadow of the ride as originally intended back in 1995. I’m glad I got to see it during those early years.

Until next time…

Tomorrowland in 1996.

Updates:

  • 2018-02-25: Added “new” Tomorrowland history notes from Werner Weiss of Yesterland.com.

The Tomorrowland of 1996 was probably the “new” Tomorrowland, not to be confused with the new “new” Tomorrowland that would open two years later. After speaking with Werner of Yesterland.com,  I found that there were several other “new” new Tomorrowlands along the way. (See his notes at the end of this article.)

I’ll just call this one Tomorrowland ’96, in tribute to the recently renamed Epcot ’94.

First, the Rocket Jets were still in their original spot:

Rocket Jets on August 18, 1996.

By having them up on the second story (you took an elevator to get to them), it make them seem much more frightening. To prove that, here’s a non-public photo I vowed I would never share publicly:

I’m not traumatized by my two-story Rocket Jet ride. I’m smiling. That’s a smile. See the teeth?

Today a new version sits on the ground at the front of Tomorrowland, and the skeleton of the old Rocket Jets is a kinetic sculpture that may or more not kinet any more.

In 1996, you could also catch the original run of Captain EO, which I did, because I don’t think I ever caught it when it was at Epcot. (Recall, I visited Disneyland a few times in the 1970s, then my 1980s and early 1990s were only trips to Walt Disney World):

Caption EO playing at the Magic Eye Theater on August 18, 1996.

A short time later and that theater would be redone for Honey I Shrunk the Audience. Then, years later, it would be repurposed to become Captain EO Tribute after the passing of the film’s star, Michael Jackson. I wonder what will happen if Rick Moranis or Eric Idle passes away?

There was also this long-closed Carousel of Progress / America Sings Building that was being worked on for Tomorrowland ’98:

Carousel of Progress building on August 18, 1996.

The PeopleMover had been closed since shortly before I got back to visit in 1995, darnit. “Missed it by that much!”

People Mover-less on August 18, 1996.

Hey! That’s Esmarelda (bottom left, above) walking out of Tomorrowland! This, my friends, was one of the reasons why Walt Disney wanted so much land for his Florida Project. He said he didn’t want to see a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland on his way to Frontierland, and I’m guessing seeing Esmeralda do the same also counts.

And taking a peek at the People Mover tracks showed work being done for the upcoming Rocket Rods ride:

People Move track without the People Mover track in 1996.
Disney VR on May 20, 1996.

Speaking of Walt Disney World… Did you ever see the Disney virtual reality demonstration at Epcot ’95? (Yes, Virginia. There was virtual reality in the early 1990s.)  It was in one of the buildings near Spaceship Earth, and I saw it with my dad during the summer of 1995. They selected a few guests to demonstrate the system on a stage while we all watched overhead monitors showing what they were seeing. It was an Aladdin magic carpet ride game. During my 1996 Disneyland trip, I got to play it at the Starcade. It was very cool.

V.R. is the future, I tell you!

I guess I should also point out the Circle-Vision was still showing movies:

Circle-Vision presents America the Beautiful on August 12, 1996.

That movie was interesting because Walt Disney was involved in it, and he could be seen over and over in various scenes. It’s hard to hide from a 360 camera. (Yes, Virginia, Disney was doing 360 movies back in the 1960s.)

This location later became the queue for Rocket Rods (the theater still intact and showing a new Rocket Rod film sequence), then later Buzz Lightyear.

Space Mountain was presented by FedEx and had the “speed ramp” up to the top:

Space Mountain speed ramp on August 18, 1996.

And the ride itself had recently gotten onboard sound via add-on speakers they put on the existing cars:

Space Mountain cars modified with add-on speakers.

During a later redo, they would get all-new cars with the speakers integrated into them.

The Submarine Voyage was still running:

Submarine Voyage on August 16, 1996.

Besides the subs being yellow instead of grey, it was very close to the original version that opened in 1959. A few years later, it would close and the lagoon would sit, abandoned, for what seemed like “forever” until Nemo saved it. Florida’s version, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, was not so fortunate. It just sat there for what seemed like “forever” and then got replaced with a Winnie the Pooh playground for toddlers.

And, who can forget the Toy Story Funhouse, showing that Disney began putting things in the Tomorrowlands long before Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor. If I recall correctly, this was an exhibit that was used at a movie theater during the promotion of Toy Story, then moved to this area in Tomorrowland as an attraction.

I only took a few photos, so this one must have really stood out. It was the first time I ever saw a human Green Army Man.

It’s worth noting that the original versions had their feet connected on a platform just like the toys. They would wobble around just like the toy versions did in the movie. Cute.

It’s also worth notice that orange floor. Back in the 1970s, Radio Shack stores were also orange and brown. I guess those were good colors for the future, in the past.

I guess that about covers Tomorrowland. I took a few photos of Star Tours, but that remained mostly unchanged until the updates for the new movies so nothing interesting to share there.

Notes from Yesterland.com:

Werner Weiss contributed some more details about the various “new” Tomorrowlands:

  • 1959 – Significant additions to Tomorrowland at Disneyland, but not called “New Tomorrowland.” Included Disneyland Alweg Monorail, Submarine Voyage, and Matterhorn Bobsleds (Matterhorn is now classified as part of Fantasyland).
  • 1967 – “New Tomorrowland” at Disneyland. Included G.E. Carousel of Progress, Goodyear PeopleMover, Monsanto Adventure Thru Inner Space, AT&T Bell System Circle-Vision 360 (replacing the 11-screen 16mm version), Flight to the Moon (replacing Rocket to the Moon), Coca-Cola Tomorrowland Terrace, Space Stage, and the tile murals by Mary Blair.
  • 1994 – “New Tomorrowland” at Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World.
  • 1998 – “New Tomorrowland” at Disneyland. Included Rocket Rods, “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” Innoventions, and Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port. 

Thanks, Werner!

Until next time…