Before Disney’s California Adventure, part 2.

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.

Lion King parking lot on March 23, 1999.

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.

“Christmas tree lot” tram area on March 23, 1999.

The same lots (Lion King and Pinnochio) were still being used, but this directional sign was new. Notice something added?

Parking lot sign on March 23, 1999.

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.

Disneyland Resort Preview Center on March 23, 1999.

It was basically just a tent with some potted plants (er, potted trees?) around it, and lots of scaffolding. Because scaffolding is magic.

Disneyland Resort Preview Center tent on March 23, 1999.
Disneyland Resort Preview Center entrance on May 23, 1999.

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.

Preview Center observation deck on March 23, 1999.

There wasn’t much going on at this point.

DCA construction on May 23, 1999.

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.

View of the view on March 23, 1999.

Here’s four close ups of the entire thing in stunning 640×480 resolution:

Hey, look! This hole is going to become Soarin’ Over California!

Soarin’ Over California construction on March 23, 1999.

This was also when they were building the new cast member costuming building.

Cast member costuming building construction on March 23, 1999.

And it went up much faster than DCA! Two months later and…

Cast member costuming building construction on May 12, 1999.

If you parked in the Pinnochio lot, you could see the parking structure construction:

Parking structure construction on May 11, 1999.

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.

Until next time…

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…

Pleasure Island’s Comedy Warehouse in 1997.

I don’t want to leave Walt Disney World out, but I haven’t had time to go through and resort/rename them yet. The filename format of my earlier digital camera was MMDD_XXX.JPG, so I can only tell the month and date unless I open the image in special software. (It takes special software because this was before the Exif standard used by modern images. In those early years of digital cameras, there was no standard. My Epson PhotoPC uses a JFIF header to store date code, and since no graphics programs knew how to handle this, any image I rotated or edited completely lost this information. But I digress…)

In 1989, Walt Disney World opened a bunch of nightclubs and called it Pleasure Island. It stills seems like an idea that didn’t belong with the family image of Disney, but for those who did drink, it was a real fun place.

Pleasure Island in 1997.

One of the bars was called the Comedy Warehouse. You could see a group of comedians perform an improv comedy show multiple times a night. I remember visiting Pleasure Island during a family vacation. There weren’t many places a minor could go, but the Comedy Warehouse was one of them…

When I started visiting Walt Disney World on my own in the 1990s, I wanted to see how different a visit to Pleasure Island would be for someone older than 21.

Staff, not cast member, at the Comedy Warehouse.

The comedy show was hit or miss, like most improv. Suggestions were taken from the audience and skits were performed. There was a phone in the audience they could call and get suggestions, too. I recall noticing that the show I saw in 1997 was very similar to the one I’d seen years earlier with my family. It seems tourists are fairly predictable when it comes to audience suggestions.

Comedy Warehouse in 1997.

The thing I liked the best about this place was all the Disney tributes in the building. By 1997, Epcot had already started to change from the E.P.C.O.T. I loved as a kid in 1983. This former Imagination pavilion sign caught my attention:

Magic Journeys sign at Comedy Warehouse in 1997.

Magic Journeys was the original 3-D film at E.P.C.O.T.’s Future World. I learned later that it also ran at Disneyland in their Tomorrowland. Ah, look at those glorious 1982 colors!

Captain Hook’s Galley sign at Comedy Warehouse in 1997.

I do not know where the Captain Hook’s Galley sign was from, unless it was from the famous Disneyland Chicken of the Sea restaurant. If you follow that link, you can read all about it on Yesterland. Perhaps there was a similar eatery at Magic Kingdom in Florida? Or perhaps this was just a replica sign made for the club? If you know, please leave a comment. For now, I need to get back to going through all these old digital photos.

Until next time…

My original custom T-shirt…

A long, long time ago (let’s call it 1995, because it was), I had my very first personal home page. It was hosted for free at a site called GeoPages. The very old timers out there might know this by the it’s later name: GeoCities. Back then, you could get 512K of free storage for your very own web site! (I know, hard to believe, but true!)

In 1996, I purchased my first digital camera, and started taking digital photos during my visits to Disney parks. As my online photo library expanded, I started using some other hosting services to share the thousands (I know, hard to believe, but true!) of digital photos. I eventually moved my site to Simplenet.

In 1995, I had also signed up to an email aliasing service called POBox.com that gave me a redirection URL that I could point anywhere. I started out with www.pobox.com/~alsplace redirecting to my old www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/1842 site, and then was able to change that to point to whatever my old Simplenet address was. (And, I think, my people.delphi.com address somewhere in between.)

It was during this time that I made this classy home-made T-shirt to wear during my Disney trips…

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a mid-90s state-of-the-art heat transfer T-shirt…

Al’s Place T-shirt front pocket logo, circa 199X.

Al’s Place T-shirt back design, circa 199X.

You know how webmasters in the early days had egos, right? I’d proudly wear this “classy” shirt to the parks to promote my personal home page. There were several variations of the shirt over the years as the count of photos I had increased. This was somewhere in the middle. (Eventually it would become a DisneyFans.com shirt.)

One time, while getting food at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, a cast member noticed the shirt and asked me about it. She wrote down the web address so she could visit my site later. To my surprise, she presented me with free “happy birthday” chocolate cake. This was one of many special things I received in those early years because of my website.

Times have really changed since then. Today there are hundreds or even thousands of Disney fan sites. There are endless “news” sites that echo the same tidbits. But back then, there weren’t that many of us… internet newsgroups were still the main place to discuss Disney theme parks. Web forums would come much later 😉

What a long, strange trip it’s been…

In future posts, I’ll share some of the real shirts I have collected over the years, including a number of limited edition ones which, for some reason, I’ve never even worn…

Until next time…

BONUS: Do you see my later DisneyFans.com shirt in this following photo?

Circa 2000 retro/VR Magic Kingdom theater rumors?

Recently, I’ve been trying to find the source of an old rumor about Disney doing a retro (though we didn’t use that word then) attraction theater at Magic Kingdom. On July 28, 2000, I wrote the following in an old Yahoo! group (yes, Virginia, there was a day before Google)…

Now, it is known Disney has taken film of all their major parks being built (except, perhaps, Disney’s California Adventure?)… Disney also used to really document early animatronics (there is archived footage of the original C. of Progress somewhere)… Does anyone know if Disney bothered to film each segment of World of Motion, Horizons, etc., before closing them down “for the future”?

Someone has a site suggesting putting up a “VR lost attractions” area at the photo expo at WDW’s TMK. It’s a great idea, and shows like CoP could be done great by simply filming it from the audience in 3-D. Other attractions could be done using Cave technology or whatever. Has anyone seen the site I talk about? If so, where is it? I’ve not been able to find it 🙂

— Al

Here we are, almost 20 years later, and I guess the odds of me finding that site are long gone. Most sites from back then are only available thanks to archive.org copies.

Does this ring any bells to anyone?

Happy new year!

Welcome to 2019!

Aren’t you glad Disney didn’t do this every year?

November 8, 1999.
November 7, 1999.
November 8, 1999.

Man, that thing was huge. It actually made Spaceship Earth look small!

November 8, 1999.

It was a massive structure.

November 8, 1999.

…which looked pretty nasty from the side.

November 8, 1999.
November 8, 1999.

But hey, it says “2000” on it, so it’s only going to hang around until the end of the next year. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Until next time…