Visiting Disneyland in 1996.

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.

Disneyland parking entrance on August 16, 1996.

I took a better photo of the main entrance sign during my next visit on August 16, 1996:

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!

Club 33 parking on August 16, 1996.

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:

Indiana Jones Adventure show building on May 22, 1996.

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:

Disneyland pickup spot on August 18, 1996.

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:

Disneyland ticket booths on May 25, 1996.

As you can see, the park had long lines to get in even back then.

Tiny 320×240 photo of the Disneyland ticket scanners from May 21, 1996.

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).

Disneyland outside lockers on August 18, 1996.

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.

Until then…

Digital photos in 1996.

I first experienced the Internet in the early 1990s via an old text-based dial-up service called GEnie (operated by long-time Disney-sponsor General Electric). GEnie had opened up a portal to a few types of internet services, including things like Gopher (the pre-web search engine) and FTP (the pre-web file transfer). They also had something that let you view text pages on the internet. It wasn’t until July 1995 that I would learn that these text pages could also have pictures!

I had accepted a new job and moved to Iowa. On my desk was a SUN workstation running SunOS (Unix). It had a program called Netscape that let you see those same text pages, but with small pictures! It’s hard to believe there was a time when we didn’t know what the “world wide web” was.

One of the early web sites I visited was a personal home page for the Banks Family. They had gone to Walt Disney World and used something called an Apple QuickTake to take photos and then upload them to their website each night. Yes, Virginia. Apple basically invented the consumer digital camera in 1994.

Since my new job allowed me to get to Disneyland and Disney World often, I decided I would like to have one of these computer cameras* to document my trips also. There weren’t many options back then, so in 1996 I decided to buy an Epson PhotoPC for $500.

* During those early years, I had to call it a “computer camera”. No one knew what a “digital camera” was.

The PhotoPC had 1 megabyte of storage. It could take a dozen 320×240 images (or a few at 640×480) before you had to hook it up to a PC to download those images over a serial cable.  This is the camera I used for all my Disney and other theme park trips from 1996 to 1999. (I did soon spend $300 to add a 4MB memory expansion which let me store up to 99 640×480 photos.)

Film cameras of the day could have as few as 12 pictures per roll (like the Kodak Disc camera), or maybe 24 or 36 pictures for a more standard camera. Getting over a dozen digital and not having to buy film was amazing! Even if the pictures looked like this…

EpsonPC photo taken on May 20, 1996.

That is a 320×240 image from the PhotoPC. Understand that, back then, a “large” PC screen might have only been 640×480 so the full size pictures the camera took where perfect for the technology of the day. And since the internet was a dial-up service and very slow, photos were scaled down even smaller else they would take “forever” to load. While today that image looks like a thumbnail, back then, it filled 1/4th of the screen.

If I had known how important the world wide web would become, or that we’d one day have high speed internet and 4K monitors (I’m sure this will seem retro and quaint in a decade), I would have upgraded my camera sooner to the a model that took larger photos. But, at the time, this camera took images larger than I could use on the web.

With that in mind, I’ll leave you with a few more images:

Epson PhotoPC photo taken on May 20, 1996.

This was the walkway that led to the parking lots. You can even see cars parked to the left and right of it. Unfortunately, the resolution is so low, I can’t tell if I was facing towards Disneyland (are those the ticket booths at the end?) or away from it towards where Disney California Adventure is today.

And just to compare, here is what a full size 640×480 image looked like:

Epson PhotoPC photo taken on August 16, 1996.

That was the old Disneyland Hotel “lake.”

I look forward to walking you through some of these old photos in future postings. Hopefully this post will give you an idea of what I have in mind for future articles.

Until then…

Welcome to the DisneyFans.com blog!

Welcome to one of the oldest Disney fan sites on the internet (though not at this domain). This site is part of my DisneyFans.com project which originated as a free home page way back in 1995. I decided to finally start using this domain for new articles like those I used to post to my old site back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

For those unfamiliar with my background, from around 1995 to 1999 I was travelling for work and found myself in Orlando, Florida and Irvine, California several times each year. I ended up with annual passes to both Disneyland (when it was just one park) and Walt Disney World (when it only had three parks) for those years. I acquired a digital camera in 1996 and began documenting all my trips, and sharing those photos online (initially through an FTP server I ran at nights over a dialup connection on a Windows 3 laptop). What a long, strange trip it’s been since!

After that job ended, I switched to only visiting Disney for vacations, and then mostly to Disneyland (my favorite of all the U.S. parks). I tried to make two or three trips each year. This ended in 2009 when I finally ran out of income. After that, I went vacationless for nine years and unplugged from the Disney fan community.

In 2017 I had a unique opportunity to join a Disney friend of mine at his timeshare in southern California. Having someone else provide lodging and transportation made it an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. This return to Disney got me motivated to revisit my website and start reorganizing and updating it.

My first major project was to update the layout of the old site so it could be viewed on modern devices like phones and tablets. Initial work has been started, but much is still to be done. My second major project was to go through all my photo archives and re-sort everything. I’ve done that with the Disneyland Resort photos so far, though I’m sure there is still much more work to be done.

I plan to use this site to comment on interesting videos and photos I have in my extensive collection. It seems my high-tech digital camcorder I took to the parks in 1999 now contains footage that is twenty years old. It will be fun looking back. My digital camera photos began in 1996, so we will get to explore a bit further back with those.

Welcome aboard!

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