I am in the process of generating a new version of my Walt Disney World photo gallery. It will contain over 32,000 photos when this is complete.
An update to my Universal Studios Orlando resort photos will follow. Because of the Harry Potter expansion, I’ve now spent more time in those parks my last visit than I have since the parks opened. Good stuff over there.
I’ll post another update here when the new gallery is online. In the meantime, you can explore the one from September 2018:
I’ve already touched on Disneyland’s New Orleans Square a bit when I discussed entertainment offerings in 1996, but let’s look a bit closer at some other things in the area.
Learning about Club 33 on the early Internet (long, long before Facebook, in the early stone ages of dial-up and text-based newsgroups) felt like being let in on a big secret. So of course I took a picture of the door!
As Club 33 became less of a secret, you’d see more and more people doing the same, or posing by it. I still kick myself for not going in when I had a chance. And kicking myself again for turning down the second and third chance, too. I think I was just too focused on rides back then.
And before the Year of a Million Dreams turned it into an apartment, upstairs above Pirates of the Caribbean was the Disney Gallery where you could see great things like this K7 spaceman outfit from the early years of Disneyland:
And, if you knew the right people (sigh, like those who invited you to Club 33 and you turned them down), they might even show you some other secrets, like this “hidden” cast member elevator:
I also got to visit a cast member store (which I think was located in a trailer backstage somewhere). I bought a strange black ball with Mickey ears on it that you could stick on a car antenna. Who would have known that, in a few years, those antenna balls would be a massive craze with hundreds of styles! (The one I bought was before this, and doesn’t even say “Disneyland” on it — just a discreet black ball with mouse ears. I’m not even sure if it had (C)Disney anywhere. I wonder if I still have it.)
But I digress…
I’ll share a few more. Somehow I learned about a “hidden pet cemetery,” and a cast member gave me a little tour. Today, it’s well documented (it was the original cemetery, and then a clone was made and moved out front when they expanded the Haunted Mansion queue), but back then, it seemed really special to get to see it. Funny how giving everyone a digital camera (on their phone) at all times makes having photos of things far less rare.
And over at Pirate’s of the Caribbean, I snapped a photo of one of the pirates unique to the Disneyland version. I believe he sat at the left of the “waterfall” up ramp at the end of the ride, just before where Jack Sparrow is today.
He disappeared a few years later during an update, and has been gone ever since. I think. I really need to check my later photos. I could be completely wrong (and I’m sure you’ll let me know if I am).
There was also some kind of big deal about turnstiles being moved to the exit of Pirates. I don’t recall why, but I took a photo:
Oh, and for what it’s worth, back then this pirate was still looking for the woman that the clothing he was holding belonged to 😉
“I be willing to share, I be!” he would say, as an (apparently) nude woman popped up slightly out of the barrel behind him.
Ah, fun times.
I guess that’s all for now. In writing this article, I did learn that the problem with strollers isn’t really a new one. It just seems today there are more of them, and more people bring their own, and they are larger. But even in 1996, I thought the mess of “parked” strollers was awful enough that I wasted one of my dozen or so photos on it.
Actually, maybe “parked” is too strong a word for that photo. How about “left in a clump, seemingly at random” instead?
Howdy, folks! In a previous article I mentioned thinking the photos of Fantasyland I took in 1996 looked pretty much like ones I would take in 2018. Now that I get to my Frontierland photos, I think the same can be said about them, too. For instance, new teepees had been recently added to the entrance:
And over on the shore of Tom Sawyer Island, Cascade Peak was pouring water down beside the long-abandoned tracks of Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. (Be sure to visit that link above for a great article about this on Yesterland.)
And the Keel Boats (look in the top left of this next photo) were still taking guests around the River’s of America:
Remember how they’d tell everyone to not stand at the same time, else the boat would “keel over”? That was a joke, wasn’t it?
And over on Tom Sawyer Island, you could still climb up some very high rock formations to look around. I took this photo from up top of one, and I recall being stunned they let guests climb that high. There weren’t any guard rails or anything, yet I didn’t see guests falling down left and right and hurting themselves. They still had the “playground” equipment (like teeter totter rock and such) still in operation back then, too…
As you can see, things in the old west really don’t change that much.
I think I will make this the final part (at least for now) since it has become clear I could spend a month just writing about what was going on during the construction years of Disney’s California Adventure. And I get bored easily.
There is one other significant preview item from 2000 – the other DCA preview center that was open inside Disneyland at the Opera House exit:
Unlike the original preview center in the esplanade, this one allowed photos. It also had far, far less on display than the other one.
Unfortunately, the low resolution of my digital photos makes this sign hard to read, but I found it interesting that it says “Beginning early in 2001” rather than a specific opening date. And look! There’s that Walt Disney quote about “Disneyland will never be completed” too.
Inside were some concept photos around a large map of the new resort area. Disneyland (blue/purple blob) was at the top, and the “districts” of Disney’s California Adventure were shown below it. Instead of “lands” like other Disney parks, DCA was going to have areas that groups together sub-areas in a way that certainly made sense to someone.
In this map, I think the red was the Grand Californian hotel, and yellow/orange represents Downtown Disney.
I have the very first press package for Disney’s California Adventure, and what was eventually built was a bit different. These concept drawings, however, were much closer to reality since this was just a year from opening.
There is so much “Yester-DCA” in this photo. You can see the original Paradise Pier with the Mickey ears on the roller coaster loop. The Orange Stinger is shown, as well as the Maliboomer space shot ride. The Sun Wheel has its original face.
Basically, nothing in that drawing still exists, at least not in that form.
Do you remember this preview center?
At some point, I need to dig out my original press packet and go through it and do a series on “what was planned” versus “what we got.” If you know of a site that already did this work, please let me know and I’ll just link to that instead.
Unless I come up with a part 5, this concludes this series. For now.
As the year 2000 rolled around, and we all survived the “Y2K Bug,” things were really happening. Disney’s California Adventure was less than a year away from opening.
Grizzly Peak had appeared…
California Screamin’ had appeared…
A beautiful new tram area for the Pinnochio lot was in use, with the Grand Californian Hotel across from it…
The old ticket booths in front of Disneyland were gone, and new ones had been built on each side…
It was $41 per day to get in, or $199 for a Premium Annual Pass? Geez, Disney. Who has that kind of money for an amusement park? At least the Southern California pass was “only” $79. Man, ridiculous pricing.
The construction wall had been moved up closer, and now had large windows in it so you could see the new park’s entrance.
Let’s take a peek through those windows.
Oh. In May it wasn’t very interesting. I’ll keep jumping around 2000 until I find something that is.
By August, we had a much better look at the new post card entrance, the Golden Gate bridge, and the huge letters that would spell “CALIFORNIA.” The park is supposed to open just five months after this photo was taken. Can they possibly make it? Let’s see how they were doing a few months later…
By November, the mural painting was going up and things were looking much more like a theme park entrance. Disney might just pull this off after all (take that, highly inaccurate and wildly speculating Disfan rumor sites of the day).
I also remember how excited folks where to see the Hollywood backdrop lit up for the first time:
And, of course, Disney had already began selling merchandise earlier in the year. They had a little cart set up outside of Disneyland in the esplanade area.
Look at all the stuff! Shirts, buttons, pens, mouse pads, and more! I wonder how much these things would go for on eBay these days?
This is also when the fancy new outdoor picnic area first appeared, with its special lockers.
And, of course, Downtown Disney construction was in full swing.
Also, this was the year the parking structure would open. In May, it was still blocked off:
But in August, it was open for business!
Though there was still work going on. The escalators had opened without any roof, so temporary coverings were added.
I could probably do a few more pages about what was going on with the parking structure. The original traffic routing and layout was quite different than what it is today. Instead, I’ll put in one more photo showing the new parking structure tram loading area, along with construction on one of the other escalators.
There was so much going on. One of the hardest things to remember is that the area surrounding Disneyland used to be quite … rough. Liquor stores, run down convenience stores, crappy motels… These things were what drove Walt Disney to buy so much land in Florida so he could control what was built next to his projects.
But during the Disneyland Resort project, the entire surrounding area got a facelift. I wish I had photos of “before” to share, but I never thought to take pictures of run down motels and scary looking liquor stores.
Previously, I showed you a bit about the state of parking in 1998 as construction on the upcoming Disney’s California Adventure began. Let’s jump ahead to the next year now.
My visit in 1999 began with me parking at the Lion King lot.
A tram would take guests to the “Christmas tree lot” at the front of the park. Notice the copper color scheme on Space Mountain back then, from the “new” New Tomorrowland that had recently opened.
The same lots (Lion King and Pinnochio) were still being used, but this directional sign was new. Notice something added?
A Disneyland Resort Preview Center had been opened to give guests a glimpse of things to come — specifically, Disney’s California Adventure, the Grand Californian hotel, and Downtown Disney.
The Preview Center was set up along the construction wall across from the Disneyland entrance.
It was basically just a tent with some potted plants (er, potted trees?) around it, and lots of scaffolding. Because scaffolding is magic.
I’d love to show you what was inside (such as all the concept art that was on the walls), but there was a strict “no photography allowed” policy — and a cast member enforcing it! (Somewhere I have a picture of the sign that says I can’t take pictures there, but I couldn’t find it at the time of this writing.)
You could, however, climb up to the top of the observation deck and take pictures of the construction progress.
There wasn’t much going on at this point.
They did have a panoramic photo of the view with an artist rendering overplayed on it so you could better picture what they were working on.
Hey, look! This hole is going to become Soarin’ Over California!
This was also when they were building the new cast member costuming building.
And it went up much faster than DCA! Two months later and…
If you parked in the Pinnochio lot, you could see the parking structure construction:
Although the construction made getting in and out of the park a bit inconvenient, it was a very exciting time to be visiting. In just three years the resort would more than double in size with a new theme park, high end resort hotel, and shopping complex.
But, there was still more previewing yet to be done.
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.
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.
I am not sure which lot this is (Pinnochio, I think?), but the entrance area was far less dramatic than the old Disneyland entrance:
$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!
Of course, this required Disney to staff the “open” tram entrance with a guard.
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:
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.)
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).
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.
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!)
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:
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”:
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!
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.
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.
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.:
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?
KNGO radio… Congo! And they were dressed like area cast members.
And lastly, who remembers Lagniappe the mime?
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.
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:
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…