Saturday, 14 January 2017

Walt's Era - Part 10: Disney's Lost Years (1957-58)

1957 and 1958 coasted along fairly well for Disney, with a few hiccups. Walt started the experiment of taking True-Life Adventures to their next logical place, with his first (and only) "True-Life Fantasy"... A scripted film featuring animals. On October 10th, 1957, the first episode of the legendary Zorro series debuted. In 1958, Walt added to the largest model train set in the world with the addition of the Grand Canyon Diorama, the  #3 engine, and a new station at Tomorrowland. That wasn't the only change in Tomorrowland either. Large parts of it went down for renovations, including the Viewliner train that only opened in 1957. On the other side of the park, the Sailing Ship Columbia, Fowler's Harbor, and the proper Alice in Wonderland ride opened. In September of 1958, Walt Disney's Disneyland on ABC becomes Walt Disney Presents. Apparently the need to so directly build up Disneyland's name recognition was no longer urgent.

Guy Williams doing a public appearance in Frontierland, in character, in 1958.
Photo: Disney.

The biggest blow to the company in this period came with Fess Parker's departure in late 1958, though they probably didn't really notice. After such a banner year in 1956, in which he carried the company's live-action films, Fess was severely underutilized through 1957 and '58. He only made one film for Disney in 1957 - Old Yeller - and another in 1958, and in both he was merely a supporting actor. Recognizing this, how his character was essentially the same in every film, and how little he was being paid by a demanding institution with so many fingers in so many pies that they could really care less about his well-being or career, he wanted to pursue other opportunities. Walt refused to lend him out to other studios for any role that did not conform to Disney's vision for him. This included missing out on a meaty role opposite John Wayne in The Searchers (which he only found out after the fact, when Walt told him in passing) and as Marilyn Monroe's leading man in Bus Stop. Therefore, when Fess was ordered to begin filming a bit part for Tonka in 1958, he refused. He was put on suspension, and eventually walked away from his contract.

What I find most notable about this period, though, is that so much of it is missing. Of the 20 films listed in this part, 10 are not available in any current format and a further four are not available in their theatrical form. Four of those films that are unavailable in theatrical form don't even have a recorded release date. Also of interest, three of those were "Tomorrowland" featurettes: Our Friend the Atom, Man and the Moon, and Man in Flight. In retrospect it would have been interesting to have had a second Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland DVD with the theatrical versions of these shows and Man in Space and Mars and Beyond, as well as missing episodes like Magic Highway U.S.A. Maybe that could have gone alongside the People and Places DVDs that should have been made alongside the True-Life Adventures DVDs. The vast majority of the missing films in this section are People and Places shorts. Unfortunately both Walt Disney Treasures and the Walt Disney Legacy Collection DVDs stalled out long, long ago.

The Blue Men of Morocco
February 14, 1957
31 minutes

Not available. Preceded the theatrical re-release of Cinderella.

The Wetback Hound
June 19, 1957
18 minutes

Not available. Preceded Johnny Tremain.

Johnny Tremain
June 19, 1957
80 minutes

This fictional story pulled from the pages of the American Revolution is a competent piece of Disney propaganda. Walt hadn't yet reached the same fever pitch of patriotism since Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, despite several opportunities to do so through 1956. Those lines I recommended for The Great Locomotive Chase about a free country of free men are all scripted here. Fess Parker is absent in Johnny Tremain, but one can almost hear his voice uttering the lines. At least Jeff York is here, virtually incognito, to deliver the best speech in the entire movie in the role of James Otis. In The Great Locomotive Chase it just felt like York was being held back. In this, his restraint is his own, his passion and charisma measured out rather than subdued. It is an astonishing performance given what we've seen him in so far.

This story of the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's ride, and the start of the American Revolution through the eyes of a fictional silversmith's apprentice was one that Walt Disney could get behind. Davy Crockett largely happened by accident: it was Bill Walsh who had the urge to see the project through. Walt didn't really think it was any great shakes. Clearly he was wrong about that, and despite his reputation as a great populist, Walt misjudged public taste more frequently than many would admit. As the reddest blooded of red blooded Americans, Johnny Tremain appears to have caught his interest. In the Disneyland episode about the making of the film, entitled The Liberty Story (and featuring the cartoon short Ben and Me), Walt unveiled plans for "Liberty Street" at his theme park. This avenue just off Main Street would have been the first new land to be added to Disneyland since it opened. That, of course, never materialized until 1971 when Walt Disney World debuted with Liberty Square.

Walt's interest in Johnny Tremain goes beyond just his political predilections. In The Liberty Story he mentions that the fight for freedom from tyranny is still being waged around the world. He does not say it by name, but the spectre of the Vietnam War looms large over the subject. 1957 was also the tenth anniversary of Walt's testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. It isn't Walt's style to mention these things overtly, because the real world and its daily complications has no place in his Magic Kingdom. They are there, however, un-named, casting their shadow if one deigns to notice. When his fictional creations speak of liberty, they are not speaking against Mexico or England, they are speaking against the Soviets. When Heinz Haber talks about the potential threat of the nuclear bomb in Our Friend the Atom, it is with the knowledge that the USSR has one. When Walt dedicated Tomorrowland with the words "Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals. The Atomic Age, the challenge of Outer Space and the hope for a peaceful, unified world." it was in response to the Cold War. Disney offered reassurance, and in Johnny Tremain it is the reassurance of America's noble roots.

The plan didn't quite work out the way it was supposed to. Box office receipts are difficult to come by, but the film is largely forgotten today and Liberty Street was shelved for one reason or another. That may be because, while it is an entertaining little film in its own right, Johnny Tremain isn't a truly great film. Aside from York's performance, there is no real meat to any of the characters. Even in the depths of his despair after the ruining of his hands, we aren't given any pause to feel for Johnny. Luana Patten, all grown up, is pretty dull and interchangeable. Sebastian Cabot does a decent job but his entire subplot is kind of pointless. The Founding Fathers are mythic presences but not characters as such. It is more like watching a waxworks tableau planned for Liberty Street than a genuine movie. Catchy song though... I've got that earworm stuck there in spite of my being a true blue Canadian and loyal citizen of the Commonwealth.

July 3, 1957
29 minutes

Not available. May have preceded the theatrical re-release of Bambi.

Alaskan Sled Dog
July 3, 1957
18 minutes

Not available. May have also preceded the theatrical re-release of Bambi in different theatres or markets.

August 28, 1957
29 minutes

Not available. Preceded Perri.

The Truth About Mother Goose
August 28, 1957
15 minutes

The Truth About Mother Goose, also preceding Perri, blows open the facts behind famous nursery rhymes... A little bit of peeking behind Walt Disney's curtain, if one wills. The tone and delivery of this animated documentary is more fitting of an episode of Walt Disney's Disneyland than a theatrical short. Its more modern style and inconsistent animation quality is actually inferior to those episodes of the TV series that were being brought over to theatrical release. That's a strange turn of events, making The Truth About Mother Goose somewhat forgettable except for the earworm of a theme song.

August 28, 1957
95 minutes

Trying something a little different this time, Walt turned to Felix Salten, author of Bambi, to supply a definite plotline for a True-Life Adventure. The product was Perri, the adventures of a little orphaned squirrel as she tries to make her way in North America's "Wildhood Heart".

Dubbed a "True-Life Fantasy", it's not that far off of a proper True-Life Adventure. Though given a story through Salten's book and a couple song numbers, it's still as reasonable a documentary about the life of Eastern Gray Squirrels as any True-Life Adventure was about any other animal. Contrary to the affirmation at the beginning of each film, the series never was wholly accurate. One of their most notorious fictions will be coming up soon. Stories were crafted from the footage shot in the field, and shaped by Disney's own conceptions of nature and what made for good entertainment. A "True-Life Fantasy" is just highlighting that fact.

Shockingly, what might sound like a quaint little children's film begins in an unprecedentedly bloody way. Perri's family are at the bottom of a food chain of pine martens, bobcats, raccoon, and anything and everything slaughtering each other to feed their young. Credit goes to the writing team for being conscientious enough to show that even as they cast certain animals as the villains, they are not killing wantonly. However, they're so bloodthirsty that they even describe a beaver as killing the living aspen and stripping its flesh.

Besides footage of adorable animals mercilessly killing one another (and a cameo by live-action Bambi), the most notable sequence is a winter dream that looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie. Perri is just a year older than him, almost to the day, so I don't know if he ever saw it during his youth, or if there is something in Burbank's water, or what. Fields of glistening white, gnarled aspen, a looming blood moon, and animated snow make for a surreal moment in an otherwise straightforward film.

As a testimony to the film, Ashley was struck by how well they "made me care about a silly squirrel." It was the only proper attempt at a "True-Life Fantasy" (more scripted animal films will come along soon enough), and audiences rewarded it with a positive reception. As, essentially, a live-action take on Bambi, it earned it. I wonder why they never made any more...

December 25, 1957
30 minutes

Not available. Preceded Old Yeller.

Old Yeller
December 25, 1957
83 minutes

Old Yeller is one of the definitive live-action Disney films. While I can't speak for kids these days, it seems like one of those films that everyone just knows the story of, in a general way, and has at least heard of the tearjerking end. Does it live up to its reputation?

I can't say that it made me cry, but Disney's directorial workhorse Robert Stevenson made a very competent picture. Second-to-last of Fess Parker's films for the company, he is barely more than a cameo. Yet his presence is felt even in (and because of) his absence. His work off the homestead forces Tommy Kirk into adulthood, which is really what Old Yeller is about... Not the story of a dog, but the story of a boy becoming a man. Fess pops in long enough to deliver his sage advice with authority and sincerity. Chuck Connors also drops by as a positive male role model. Jeff York as the lazy, exploitative neighbour is less of a masculine ideal, but the actor is in true form once again.

The film marks Tommy Kirk's and Kevin Corcoran's feature debuts. Kirk began working at Disney as one-half of the Hardy Boys on The Mickey Mouse Club and is deservedly remembered as one of the best child actors that worked for the company at the time. Corcoran also got his start on The Mickey Mouse Club as "Moochie," the world's most obnoxious child, and continued that same essential role by name or otherwise throughout his Disney career. I know that from here on out, Corcoran is going to appear with greater frequency, and it's going to be a tough slog. Old Yeller would have been a more enjoyable film if Tommy Kirk shot him instead of the dog.

As I noted with Johnny Tremain, Disney films offered reassurance and, in some senses, an idea of domesticity. What I find most interesting about Old Yeller is that all the exciting stuff that would have been the typical subject matter of a Western happened off-screen. Your average film would have followed Fess Parker onto the cattle drive, but Old Yeller stays with those left behind. There is plenty of danger to be had at home between wolves, bears, wild hogs, rabies, and Kevin Corcoran, and the film appeals to that now-diminishing milieu of children being allowed to play outdoors. There is a little bit of Tom Sawyer's Island in there, among the trees of the Golden Oak Ranch where the film was shot.

The tragedy of it also makes it unique for a Disney film. Having to kill the title character might seem odd when talking about Disney's penchant for reassurance, but in this case, it is the reassurance of adulthood. Kirk's character goes through his cycles of anger, love, and loss, and bears it up to gain wisdom and maturity. For a company that mostly peddled in reversions to childhood and didn't typically deal with themes of loss (and still doesn't), this is quite a refreshing twist. Curious that a film starring children should be, in the end, one of their most mature.  

Mars and Beyond
December 26, 1957
30 minutes

Now for something fun... I can't say exactly which segments of Mars and Beyond were cut to being the 50-minute episode of Walt Disney's Disneyland down to a 30-minute theatrical short, so I had to watch the entire thing. Oh darn!

Capping off the televised Man in Space trilogy, Mars and Beyond is the most feverishly imaginative of the three installments. With so little about Mars known by 1956, Ward Kimball basically had free reign to fill it in with his own insanity. It begins with a history lesson, though this history is Disney's standard post-Enlightenment, Eurocentric, chauvinistically Modernist take on the subject. The Middle Ages were a fascinating and unfairly maligned time, so it offends me a little to see it so cavalierly brushed aside. Not to mention the veritable slander against indigenous cultures outside of the Mediterranean. No, I'm not a whole lot of fun to ride Spaceship Earth with either.

Still though, the mid-century pop-art style is excellent, and it segues nicely into a satire of Pulp fiction (with one of my favourite obscure Disney characters, the Martian overlord), a recapitulation of evolution, and a truly inspired, and often downright weird, impression of what life on Mars cold be like in all its alien variety. The finale shows a hypothetical flight on a Mars ship designed by former Nazi scientists, followed by the creation of a Martian colony and the exploration of the vast universe beyond... All with great pomp and fanfare. I find all of this far more exciting for "Tomorrowland" than any of the IP's that Disney has stuffed in the theme park. There's no real depth or meaning to Mars and Beyond, but it is terrific Retro-Futurism for fans of that sort of thing. Which I am!

June 10, 1958
25 minutes

Not available.

June 11, 1958
28 minutes

Not available.

The Ama Girls
July 9, 1958
29 minutes

Not available. The Ama Girls preceded The Light in the Forest.

The Light in the Forest
July 9, 1958
83 minutes

Fess Parker's last film for Disney puts him back in buckskins and paddling canoes down the Ohio River. The timeline of The Light in the Forest backs up to 1764 and the aftermath of the Treaty of Paris and Royal Proclamation of 1763, in which the British gained control of French possessions in North America and obligated colonies to sign treaties with Native American tribes prior to expansion, thus denying any right of conquest to settlers. This principle of treaty was one of the causes of the American Revolution, which is alluded to in The Light in the Forest when a would-be settler in Native territories asks Fess "Who says we can't [settle], the king?"

Politically, Disney sides with the concept of peace and treaty, but doesn't particularly weigh in complex geopolitics or whether the Crown or the Colonies were in the right here. At the centre of The Light in the Forest is the human drama of True Son, a Euro-American boy who was adopted into a Native family but forced to return and assimilate back into colonial life. Fess has a more substantial role in this film than in Old Yeller, but still plays second fiddle to Walt Disney's most advanced audio-animatronic creation to date, James MacArthur.  

MacArthur does a fine enough job conveying a young man torn apart by which community hates him more, the colonists or the Natives. Unfortunately, and this will come up in later films, he is not the most emotive actor in the world. There are some really good scenes, like the English lesson between True Son and his biological mother (played by Jessica Tandy) where they share a Gospel reading and Native American names for God. Most scenes are fairly brash cliches in which things happen to True Son by the more charismatic actors around him.

As evidenced by the poster's tagline "Two Refreshing New Stars in a Different Motion Picture," Disney is putting poor Fess out to pasture here while trying to build up its body of new, young contract actors. The torch has been passed, as it were, to Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, and now James MacArthur. The Light in the Forest isn't too different of a film though, compared to the Westerns and wilderness stories thus far.

Paul Bunyan
August 1, 1958
17 minutes

Paul Bunyan is a great, fun short nicely retelling the life of that legend of American fakelore. Though he may have been inspired by pre-existing tales, the first published version of Paul Bunyan's exploits was in 1916. This cartoon renders that story in the gorgeous "cartoon modern" style that had been revolutionizing the look of all cartoons, let alone Disney's, throughout the Fifties. This reliance on less lifelike forms and more graphic designs had an early start at Disney with the influence of Mary Blair, but was really taken up by studios like UPA, which had been created by former Disney workers leaving the company after the 1941 strike. Paul Bunyan was one of the apogees of cartoon modern style at Disney. Another is a series of commercials that Disney made of Nash automobiles in 1955. Disney's feature films haven't caught up yet, but it's coming on.

Our Friend the Atom
Unknown date, August, 1958
~30 minutes

I don't have a full release date for the theatrical version of Our Friend the Atom, but it was in August, which means it likely preceded the next True-Life Adventure, White Wilderness. After Man in Space, Our Friend the Atom is the gold standard of "Tomorrowland" episodes. A smiling Walt promotes the beneficial uses of atomic energy in a sunnily optimistic portend of the future.

Like every Tomorrowland episode, aired first on TV and then edited to a featurette for the silver screen, it more or less starts off with a history of research into the atom and a still very educational primer on atomic theory. That is all against the backdrop, however, of the atomic bomb. Our Friend the Atom is the first time that Walt directly has to deal with a modern crisis. It was alluded to in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (scenes from which open Our Friend the Atom), but Walt has to confront it in all its horror here.

In the Fifties, people were scared of the ever-present threat of atomic annihilation, and justifiably so. Most public media about it focused on the doom and gloom. The infamous civil defense film Duck and Cover was released in 1952, and many, many more such films were shown in theatres and schools (including one charmingly titled Target You!), constantly warning everyone of the chaos and destruction that could rain down at any moment. Science Fiction films found the atom to be a ready source of monsters in too many films to name, the greatest of which being Godzilla (released in the USA in 1956). Aliens constantly descended upon us to warn us off atomic power, from cinema classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) to the sublimely awful Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). Humanity's first introduction to the atom was the most destructive weapon ever devised... And it was up to Walt to be a voice of reassurance.

The story of the Fisherman and the Genie, pulled from the One Thousand and One Nights, is the running metaphor for atomic power: a force that is lethal until recaptured and tamed into serving humanity rather than destroying it. The historical and educational portion of the episode demystify the atom, and then the genie grants three wishes for how atomic power may be used effectively. It's naive in retrospect, but it accomplishes its goal of helping everyone calm the Hell down and actually conceive of a future that didn't revolve around post-apocalyptic survival. Even the title was carefully orchestrated to achieve reassurance... Our Friend the Atom... and Walt prepared a whole suite of Disneyland exhibits, books (the cover of which illustrates this entry), and so forth, recognizing the monumental and important task he took on himself.

White Wilderness
August 12, 1958
72 minutes

Like The Vanishing Prairie, this next True Life Adventure feature begins by taking us back in time... Beyond the white settlers of North America, and beyond the arrival of Native Americans, all the way back to the Ice Age. Through the art of Disney animation, we are shown the vast glacial sheet that stretched its frozen limbs across Europe, Asia and North America. Winston Hibler tells us of the great, forgotten legends of this time, immortalized on the painted cave walls of Europe: the mammoth and mastodon, the woolly rhinoceros, and long-horned bison (some of which did not live in Europe and none of which, contrary to Hilber's narration, went extinct because of the Ice Age). This Ice Age drama still plays out, he says, and the vast arctic domain of the Canadian high north stand in for this ancient landscape of ice and snow.

Once again we follow the seasonal round, beginning with the spring thaw, when the ice pack is cracking and straining against the increasing light and warmth of the sun in unparalleled scenes of nature in its sublime might. The first arrivals are the lumbering, querulous walrus, followed by the polar bear. Modern nature documentaries on the Arctic always make a point of showing tumbling polar bear cubs... It's such a common trope that it's easy to forget that this is probably about the first time it was done. Not that I can blame any filmmaker, since it's such an adorable sight. Having brought modern documentaries to mind, noticeably absent from White Wilderness is the impending sense of doom which permeates them. This is still the Fifties, and climate change was not even on the radar. As justifiable as it is - since climate change is one of our planet's most pressing issues - there is no looming, deathly serious explication of how polar bears are on the verge of extinction or any such thing. White Wilderness refreshingly just lets us enjoy them.

Next come seals and lemmings, in one of the greatest oversights of the True-Life Adventures. Roy Disney the Younger had in mind to film the legendary suicidal mass migration of the lemming. Unfortunately, a legend is all they are, and Roy was forced to physically throw the poor rodents from cliffs. Not one of the series' prouder moments.

At least that bit of "helping nature tell her story" was bloodless, if not blameless. Disney seems to have gotten well over its aversion to nature's reddened teeth and claws. One of White Wilderness' highlights is the annual caribou migration over the tundra, which in turn attracts hungry packs of timber wolves.  Rather than turn the camera discreetly away from the kill, we see it in graphic detail. Caribou after caribou goes down beneath the fangs of the wolf, some still alive as they are being ripped apart and consumed. Then comes the wolverine of the boreal forest, who succeeds in pulling a young osprey down from its nest despite the impassioned attempts of the mother to dissuade it. This is an almost shocking amount of violence for a Disney film, proving that a Disney film often surprisingly dashes expectations. 

The end draws nigh. Some denizens of the arctic stay, but others make for the south. The seasonal round circles back, winter sets back in over the majestic, inhospitable waste of the White Wilderness, and another extremely good True-Life Adventure draws to a close.

Seven Cities of Antarctica
December 25, 1958
30 minutes

Not available. Preceded Tonka.

December 25, 1958
97 minutes

I can't blame Fess Parker for not wanting to do this one. It's a bit like The Littlest Outlaw as a film that's just sort of there, with no real hook to it. And it is, once again, a story about a boy and his horse.

In a fascinating interview by Michael Barrier, Fess said of Disney's live-action directors: "I want to tell you, there was not one of them on an A list." He went on to speculate that Walt didn't hire strong directors because "He wanted the last word. He didn't want anybody to challenge him." And, finally, that "he was just satisfied with what he was seeing." That helps to explain these sorts of dull films like Tonka, going all the way back to the first in this entry, Johnny Tremain. They are adequate films, but not exceptional. Some are deserved classics, like Old Yeller, but a lot of them are merely filler more deserving of television. Ironically, some of the best films from this "golden age" were originally made for TV. Very few films, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, are genuinely exceptional, and that one was by an outside director, perhaps verifying Fess' claim. Barrier, after his own project to watch all of Walt's films, observed: "The natural question to ask about Walt Disney's live-action films is, 'Why aren't they better?'"

He does add "Actually, a few of them—including some obscure titles—are very good. Others are fully as watchable as almost anything else from the fifties and early sixties, a period notorious for its many lame Hollywood movies." So I suppose it still says a lot about Disney's quality that the expectation is for them to be better than many of them are. Sometimes, as I work through these films, it's clear that the best things Disney is doing are on the small screen and in the theme park.

The following shorts lack a release date. There are some possibilities, however. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was re-released on February 7th of 1958 and Peter Pan was re-released on May 14th. 

Man in Flight
Unknown date, 1958
32 minutes

With World War II over a decade past, the most inoffensive part of Victory Through Air Power was repackaged as an animated history of powered flight. On it's own, divorced from the source material, it's a fun little piece chronicling the adventure of Man in Flight... The Wright Brothers, the European pioneers, The Great War, Charles Lindburgh, they're all here. Viewed in this context, against the minimal and pop-modern style of the "Tomorrowland" shorts, this bit of early Forties animation is something of a throwback.

Man and the Moon
Unknown date, 1958
20 minutes

Once more, a portion of the Man in Space trilogy is edited down to a short feature, and once more I don't know exactly which parts were abridged, forcing me to watch the whole thing. Following the same pattern as Man in Space, it has much of the same charm and some of the same faults. The Middle Ages are once again scandalized and slandered with a handwaved gesture. Apparently the people of Mediaeval Europe were so ignorant and superstitious that the moon was barely mentioned, even though I can directly quote one of my favourite poems of the Middle Ages, about the moon:
When Diana lighteth
Late her crystal lamp,
Her pale glory kindleth
From her brother's fire.
Sleep through the wearied brain
Breathes a soft wind
From fields of ripening grain,
The sound
Of running water over clearest sand,
A millwheel turning, turning slowly round,
These steal the light
From eyes weary of sight.
Little straying west winds
Wander over Heaven,
Moonlight falleth,
And recalleth
With a sound of lute-strings shaken.
Love's sweet exchange and barter,
Then the brain sinks to repose;
Swimming in strangeness
Of a new delight.
The eyelids close;
Oh sweet the passing o'er from love to sleep.
But sweeter the awakening to love.
Such was the narrative of Modernist, post-Enlightenment chauvinism. My attention is particularly grabbed by the lunar stories of history's great novelists, like Cyrano de Bergerac and Jules Verne. Then Wernher von Braun returns with his next stage of plans after the original rocket from Man in Space. This time it is for a space station, followed by a lunar vessel constructed in orbit. 

Historically, this pre-Apollo vision of space is interesting. The progress of ideas actually makes a great deal more sense than how it was done in historical fact. First there would be artificial satellites followed by a manned space launch (Man in Space). Once getting to space was conquered, a space station would be built as a launch pad for a ship built in space for use in space, to make an initial sweep of the moon from orbit (Man and the Moon). Finally, after subsequent landings on the moon, special ships - even more alien in design - would be built in orbit for a trip to Mars and beyond. In fact, once we got to space, we decided to just strap on even more powerful rockets, launch people from the Earth directly to the moon, land on it, come back, and promptly forget about the whole thing. 

Artistically, the moon launch in Man and the Moon is a wonderful sequence of live action and stop motion Retro-Futurism filled to overflowing with pomp and circumstance. The soundtrack for this sequence was recycled from the Walt Disney Takes You To Disneyland record of 1956, where it stood in for Rocket to the Moon in the Tomorrowland portion. Like all Tomorrowland-related music from the period - The Monorail Song for example, or Tomorrowland Spaceport and World of Tomorrow theme - it's the intense, almost anxious, discord of a world perpetually racing towards the future. 

As much as that its not necessarily me, as a lover of Victorian and Mediaveal history most at home in Fantasyland and Frontierland, it still makes me nostalgic for the Tomorrowland of a bygone age when Rocket to the Moon and Space Station X-1 were attractions in a park with a definite purpose.    


  1. Not about the specific content of this post, but I visited the Sherman Oaks Antique Mall today, and they had an entire box of black-and-white production stills from live-action Disney movies made during the 50s, 60s and 70s. $14.99 a pop! I didn't get any, but I thought of you.

    1. GAH! You guys have the best stuff in SoCal, at least from a Disney (and movie) fan perspective!

  2. Interestingly, the Antique Mall is maybe a mile away from the Van Eaton Gallery (that place that occasionally hosts collections of Disneyland memorabilia).