Before Disney’s California Adventure, part 1.

Happy Anniversary to Disney’s/Disney California Adventure (February 8, 2001).

Yes, Virginia, there used to be a time when you could park in front of Disneyland and walk to the entrance. The construction of Disney’s California Adventure (today known as Disney California Adventure) changed all that. Let’s take a peek back to the pre-DCA days. We’ll begin in the year 1997.

The Disneyland parking lot was still in use in 1997.

Disneyland parking lot on May 17, 1997.

By my visit in May of 1998, it was not. They were using the Pinnochio lot near the Disneyland Hotel, and the Lion King lot (Simba and Timon) at the corner of the old parking lot.

Parking sign on May 23, 1998.

I am not sure which lot this is (Pinnochio, I think?), but the entrance area was far less dramatic than the old Disneyland entrance:

New parking entrance on May 24, 1998.

$7 to park? Are you kidding me? Geez, Disney.

This was also the time when the tram would have to wait for traffic and cross a public road!

Why did the tram cross the road on May 23, 1998?
To get to the other side on May 26, 1998.

Of course, this required Disney to staff the “open” tram entrance with a guard.

Disneyland guard guarding the tram entrance on May 23, 1998.

This was also when the new tram drop-off spot for the Lion King lot opened up. Disfans were calling it the “Christmas tree lot.” It had color-coded light posts (red, blue and yellow) and those odd oversized concrete traffic cones. If you look in the right of this photo, you can barely make out the old Disneyland sign, too:

The “Christmas tree lot” tram area on May 24, 1998.

There was quite a bit of a barren walk from the tram drop-off to the park entrance back then. (It’s just as far today, but you pass ticket booths and such now.)

Walking to the entrance on May 23, 1998.

Construction walls were up across from the entrance to Disneyland. In this photo, you can see the transition between the older, smaller yellow and blue trams, and the new mega trams (called “Tramzilla” by Disfans back then).

Construction walls on May 22, 1998.

But in the “public” area where guests could walk, much nicer construction walls were used, and they had concept art. The tree lined walkway in the left of this next photo is the one I showed in an earlier post.

And that’s what 1998 was like. The former Disneyland parking lot (which I believe was larger than all of Disneyland itself) was turned into a construction zone with only a corner left for parking. The rest of parking was across the way (the side where Downtown Disney extends to the Disneyland Hotel today).

The parking structure was under construction, but it was still two years away from completion.

To be continued.

Until next time…

Fantasyland in 1996.

King Triton statue on May 23, 1996.

I was hoping to find some interesting photos from Fantasyland in 1996, but it seems most of the photos I took there during my first visits with a digital camera look about the same as the area does today.

Sure, the King Triton statue is now gone and replaced by a Tinkerbell meet-and-greet. And sure, the statue of Ariel the mermaid is also in Yesterland, but beyond that, the photos I took that visit could just as easily have been taken this year. (Except I’d expect modern photos to be larger than 320×240!)

Ariel statue on August 16, 1996.

I suppose it might be of interest to know that Sleeping Beauty Castle‘s walk-through attraction was open in 1996…

“But Allen, it’s open today, too. What’s the big deal?” I hear none of you asking.

Well, there was the original version of the castle walk-through, then there was the 1970s update of the castle walkthrough, and then there was … no castle walkthrough. For many years.

After 9/11, the castle was sealed off and remained hidden away until it got fully refreshed and updated in 2008. The version of the walk-through that is beyond the entrance in that photo no longer exists in that form.

So that counts. I think.

About the only other thing that caught my eye was a photo I took of this:

Ground on August 16, 1996.

This was a “unique” discovery in 1996. As its internet fame grew, you’d see people stopping and pointing at it, or taking pictures of it, or even asking a cast member to take one of them with their digital camera that they had to call a “computer camera” so the CM would even know what that meant…

But I digress.

If only selfies had existed back then, we might have had our first (more awkward?) “purple wall”:

The Purple Wall

Yep. That’s the official Disney blog posting about a purple wall. That should make all my odd pictures and comments here seem even better 😉

But back to that ground photo …  I’m not even sure if it’s still there today, though I expect it is. Maybe no one cares any more because the original information was either completely bogus, or correct but no longer relevant. Either way, I took a picture of it in 1996. Take that, purple wall!

You know what that is, don’t you?

Until next time…

Disneyland entertainment in 1996.


Disneyland Band on May 26, 1996.

If you visited Disneyland in 1996, you might have caught some of these acts. Some are still performing, like the Disneyland Band. You’d still find them giving concerts on Main Street, marching to the castle, or performing on the Mark Twain, though today’s incarnation is a much more hip and edgy high energy group compared to the traditional band of yesterland.

There is also still a ragtime piano player at Coca-Cola Corner. In the 1990s, it was Rod Miller. He was loved by the entire internet.

Rod Miller on August 12, 1996.


The mobile piano, on May 21, 1996.

You might even catch some mobile piano playing before a parade. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but I wonder how you remember to play ragtime and steer and peddle at the same time!

And I wonder what happened to this contraption…

The Tomorrowland Terrace stage was (and still is?) used for live music, but I think I took this picture because of the security guy that was there keeping an eye on those rowdy teenagers.

Tomorrowland Terrace music on August 12, 1996.

The Bayou Brass Band was a longtime favorite of New Orleans Square. You could even buy their CDs in the park.

The song that stood out the most to me was their version of Lowrider by the group War.

They added so much to the atmosphere of the area, and they were apparently an outside band just hired to perform there (unlike other offerings that are created in-house and don’t have official members).

There was also a (thankfully) short-lived fad of percussion groups, likely inspired by the success of the show Stomp around this time. Disneyland had their own mini-version. Percussionists, dressed as custodial staff, would be pushing around trash cans. They would gather and do a short drum performance. I used to see them in Tomorrowland all the time, so I was calling them the “Tomorrowland Trash-It Authority” (in reference to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority at Magic Kingdom in Florida). But, as I look through my old photos, I see they were not restricted to that land. Here they are on Main Street U.S.A.:

August 15, 1996.

And it wasn’t just the lanes that could be alive with entertainment. Did you ever catch the “radio broadcast” from the rooftops in Adventureland?

May 23, 1996.

KNGO radio… Congo! And they were dressed like area cast members.

And lastly, who remembers Lagniappe the mime?

Lagniappe on August 18, 1996.

Lagniappe was a fan favorite and you’d find him interacting with guests and riding his unicycle throughout New Orleans Square. Disneyland eventually let him go, and the internet was very sad. If you miss him, you can drop by his page at the Mark Wenzel website. I had plans to interview Mr. Wenzel on my Park Hopping Podcast many years ago, but never got around to it. It would have been fun to hear the mime speak.

Until next time…

Country Bear Playhouse in 1996.

1996, probably May.

The Country Bear Jamboree was one of the few original attractions that opened at Magic Kingdom in Florida in 1971. This musical animatronic show is likely the inspiration behind all the pizza parlor shows that started popping up a decade later, such as Chuck E. Cheese’s (or just Chuck E. Cheese depending on which Mandela Effect universe you are from) and Showbiz Pizza.

Disneyland got its own version a year later, but the California version had two theaters instead of just one — supposedly because of how much of a hit the original had been at Walt Disney World.

I had seen the Florida version many times growing up, and recall seeing it at Disneyland as well. But, for my early digital camera trip, they weren’t showing the original show. Instead, I got to see the Vacation Jamboree:

Vacation Jamboree sign on August 16, 1996.

Disney used to be pretty strict about photography and video recording inside their attractions. I know Walt Disney World was still telling people to stop recording in 1999 (because I have a bunch of video from my trip that year where I’d be recording, and a cast member would walk over to me and tell me to stop). Maybe they had a similar policy at Disneyland in 1996, because these were the only two photos I took. Seems I would have gotten at least one inside the theater if I took the time to take pictures of two signs outside…

Until next time…

Adventureland in 1996.

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:

1996 photo of Disneyland’s custom Indiana Jones pinball game.

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?

A live bird in front of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse on August 18, 1996.

For that matter, do you even remember that Tarzan’s Treehouse used to have another owner?

Aladdin’s Oasis on May 20, 1996.

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…

Until next time…

Disneyland ride wait times in 1996.

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:

 Disneyland wait times sign from May 16, 2017.
Disneyland wait time sign on May 26, 1996.

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 😉

Disneyland wait times sign on May 20, 1996.

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.

Simpler times.

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:

Disneyland wait times sign on August 14, 1996.

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:

Disneyland wait times sign on August 18, 1996.

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…

Until then…

Disneyland Hotel in 1996.

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:

Disneyland memorabilia on display in 1996 (probably August 16, 1996).

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 band at the Disneyland Hotel on August 16, 1996.

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mjw3oQTAl8
YouTube user “starleet2001” 1991 home video of the Bellhops band.

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.

Paddle around the Disneyland Hotel lake on August 16, 1996.

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.

Disneyland Hotel pool area on August 16, 1996.

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.

Until then…

The Spirit of Pocahontas in 1996.

Just down from it’s a small world was the Fantasyland Theater, home of The Spirit of Pocahontas. (Be sure to see the Yesterland article for all the details.)

The Spirit of Pocahontas on August 15, 1996.

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:

Theater control booth on August 15, 1996.

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 Spirit of Pocahontas on August 15, 1996.

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.

Until next time…

Main Street Electrical Parade in 1996.

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:

MSEP on August 14, 1996.
MSEP on August 14, 1996.

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:

Light Magic sign on August 14, 1996.

I can’t wait to see what Light Magic looks like through the lens of a first generation digital camera.

Until next time…

Disneyland parking lot.

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:

Parking lot vehicle locator map on May 11, 1997.

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.

May 17, 1997.

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!

May 10, 1997.

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:

May 11, 1997.

I have no recollection what the purpose of that sign was, but something about it must have caught my attention.

Until next time…