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Disneyland’s mega-discotheque Videopolis was the ultimate 1980s dance party experience
05.18.2017
09:47 am
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“Tonight’s your special night for an exclusive premiere of the summer’s newest hotspot—Videopolis. It’s the dancing, dating, party scene you’re going to hear a lot about. The volume’s cranked up, the videos are rolling. And the lighting effects? A real killer! Tonight, you’ll be the first to experience this high-tech, high-energy nightclub phenomenon.”

When the obviously un-cool Michael Eisner became Disney’s C.E.O. he was desperate to appeal to teenagers and young adults. In an attempt to attract edgier teens of the MTV generation Eisner developed Videopolis: an epic 5,000 square foot all-ages discotheque located just west It’s a Small World in Fantasyland, strategically placed in the corner of the park where the loud volume would not disturb the other park guests. This state-of-the-art, $3 million outdoor venue complete with hundreds of neon lights & lasers, 70 video monitors displaying music videos, spotlights shooting into the sky, a snack bar called “Yumz,” and a dance floor large enough hold 3,000 guests opened on June 22nd, 1985. It was constructed in just 105 days using some staging elements from a 1984 Los Angeles Olympics facility. A sophisticated light show slowly lowered from the ceiling, and three camera crews captured dancers and projected them onto two 16-foot screens as computer generated “light sticks” effects were superimposed onto them in real time.
 

 
Imagineer Carl Bongiorno described Videopolis as “the first, the fastest, and the finest… it is the first attraction completed under the new Eisner-Wells team. The fastest construction project we’ve ever completed, and the finest dance facility of its kind anywhere.” To help make the attraction popular and affordable to teens, Disneyland introduced the “Summer’s Night Pass” for just $40 which gave you a Videopolis membership card plus admission into the park every evening after 5pm all summer long. Local 106.7 FM KROQ deejay Swedish Egil gave away prizes such as a $25 gift certificate to Tower Records, a Sony AM/FM Walkman, and free concert tickets to the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. Every night, Videopolis would play “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood during the fireworks show which took place right above the dance floor, offering partying guests a spectacular view.
 

 
Many special videotaped events were held where popular singers like Rick Ashley and DeBarge performed live. A 2-hour TV special titled Disneyland’s Summer Vacation Party aired in 1986 and featured Miami Sound Machine, Boy George, The Bangles, and Oingo Boingo performing live on the Videopolis stage. In 1987 Videopolis had a short run as a TV series on the recently launched Disney Channel. Hosted by Randy Hamilton, the show spotlighted top-notch dancers as well as awkward teens who would interact with celebrity guests such as Debbie Gibson, New Kids on the Block, Tiffany, New Edition, Pebbles, and Janet Jackson.

The Disney dance party’s popularity soared in the late ‘80s surpassing its competition over at Knott’s Berry Farm’s “Club K” which was attracting up to 2,000 teenagers a night. Not all parents approved, and one mother wrote to the Anaheim Bulletin warning of “Punkers in Fantasyland,” claiming that since the dance club opened “It’s Halloween every day” at Disneyland.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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05.18.2017
09:47 am
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This super creepy ‘It’s a Small World: Zombie Apocalypse’ ride in China will give you nightmares
10.31.2016
08:56 am
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Located at the foot of Mountain Lion in the center of China’s Suzhou New District lies “Suzhou Amusement Land,” a 540,000 square meter Disneyland knock-off theme park complete with Pirate World, and a Jungle Ride where you can actually shoot at the animals with a gun. Most worthy of note is “Small World,” a ten-minute dark ride which at first glance is almost a perfect copy of Mary Blair‘s design for the 1964 World’s Fair. When the boat ride begins the familiar “It’s a Small World” theme eerily echoes out of sync throughout the tunnels and that’s when you notice that something isn’t quite right. The colorful sets are dimly lit with store-bought Christmas lights, the audio-animatronic children aren’t moving at all (in fact they are all pale, blue and green-faced apocalyptic zombies) and half the equipment isn’t working. With a chilling atmosphere and supposed strange smells you can’t help but imagine just how terrifying it would be if you were to get stuck on this ride and forced to find a way on your own.
 
Halfway through, the ride takes another strange turn when you are greeted by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who are haphazardly thrown in alongside characters from Voltron. Copyright laws have been very difficult to enforce in China, however, it should be noted that “It’s a Small World” is the only Disney song that is of fair use. At the request of UNICEF, Disney left the song copyright-free as a gift to the world’s children. Strangely enough, there is yet a second, equally terrifying “It’s a Small World” knock-off in China which includes a dead baby hanging from the ceiling just eighteen miles away from the official, newly opened Disneyland park in Shanghai. Enjoy these video stills and ride-through courtesy of the website Theme Park Review and good luck falling asleep tonight.
 

 

 
The nightmare continues after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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10.31.2016
08:56 am
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Meet Harper Goff, the legendary set designer behind Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory


 
“This is where all my dreams become realities, and some of my realities become dreams.” American artist and banjo player Harper Goff (1911-1993) was a man of many talents with an extraordinary imagination. He set the standard for camouflage colors during WWII, laid the foundation for the Steampunk revolution, conceptualized Disneyland alongside Walt Disney, and created the unforgettable set for Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. However, due to issues with his union card Harper remains uncredited for nearly his entire life’s work.

Living in New York City, Harper Goff worked as a magazine illustrator for Collier’s, Esquire, and National Geographic. Harper’s techniques as well his imagination were groundbreaking even early on. In his paintings, he often refused to use modeling talent but instead incorporated real life village citizens into the details of his colorful works. Friends, family, and neighbors traveled to exotic beachfront estates and vacation spots around the world courtesy of Harper Goff, half of them never even realizing it. During his service in WWII while Harper was working on a do-it-yourself painters kit he was approached by the U.S. Army to develop a set of paint colors that would become the new standard for camouflage. Near the end of the war, he was transferred to the U.S. Navy where his razzle dazzle technique helped confuse the silhouettes of ships taking the idea of camouflage to a whole new level.

When Harper moved to California to work for Warner Brothers Studios he became a set designer on films such as Casablanca, Sergeant York, Charge of the Light Brigade, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Errol Flynn classic Captain Blood. It was while working as an Art Director on Kirk Douglas’ The Vikings that director William Wyler saw in Goff a “character type” and began casting him as an actor. “I showed up wearing a beard, they figured I’d make a good Nordic,” said Harper, who would end up heaving a battle axe at his blonde viking wife in the film. Harper made dozens of appearances in film and television as an actor much to the amusement of his real life blonde wife Flossie. In 1951, while shopping in a London model railroad shoppe Harper had a chance encounter with Walt Disney when they both expressed a mutual interest in purchasing the same model train.

“He turned to me and said, ‘I’m Walt Disney. Are you the man that wanted to buy this engine?’ Well, I almost fell over. He asked me what I do for a living, and I told him that I was an artist. Walt said, ‘I’ve heard of you, but I can’t recall where.’” It turned out Walt Disney had seen some of Harper’s illustrations in Esquire magazine and had always admired them. Disney said, “Give me a call me when you get back to the States.” Ultimately Walt bought the locomotive and hired Harper to illustrate the earliest concept artwork and renderings for his proposed “Mickey Mouse Park” (originally intended to be constructed in Burbank). “I liked the idea of working with Walt Disney, and when I called him he began to explain his idea for a kiddie-land near the Studio — perhaps with a steam train connected to Traveland across the L.A. River. He wanted to build something adults could enjoy along with their children.”

Walt sent Harper on a three-month “information gathering” journey to amusement parks all across the United States. “They were dirty places and it was hard to imagine what Walt had in mind creating. I said to him when I got back, ‘Walt, I don’t think this type of environment is what you want,’ and he replied, ‘Mine will be immaculate and the staff will be young and polite,’ then I realized he could do it.” Orange County was eventually chosen as the site for Disneyland and Harper, who was dubbed the “Second Imagineer” envisioned the look and feel of the theme park. Harper used his hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado as the main influence for Disneyland’s City Hall, and his Art Director experience on the film Calamity Jane to design the Golden Horseshoe Saloon.

Harper Goff’s influence on the Adventureland portion of the theme park cannot be overstated, particularly on the ride the Jungle Cruise. In Harper’s own words: “We began to think of hippos and other animals which could be operated without wires and still have animated elements. We brought in Bob Matte, who later created the shark for Jaws to engineer the original animals. I also worked with Bill and Jack Evans on buying expeditions for the landscaping. We would call cities to see if they were tearing out trees for improvements and go and buy them — we got many that way.” While making trips back and forth between Burbank and the Evans and Reeves Nursery in West L.A. they’d pass a house in Beverly Hills that had spectacular tree in the front yard. Harper and Jack believed it’d be the perfect finishing touch to the Jungle Cruise ride. “Finally, I thought what have we got to lose, and I had Jack Evans stop while I went in to ask the people if they would consider selling it. I told the owner we would replace it with a flowerbed or anything they wanted and surprisingly enough the owner told me yes — it was blocking the sunlight and view coming through his windows and we could just come and take it away… it was the tree that went around the original Burmese Temple, and we got it for nothing.”
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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09.30.2016
11:02 am
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1957’s ‘House of the Future’—according to Monsanto and Disney
09.04.2015
02:16 pm
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Photo: Ralph Crane, LIFE Magazine
 
From 1957 to 1967, in Anaheim’s Disneyland, there existed the “House of the Future,” a creation of the plastics division of Monsanto, in order to demonstrate the wondrous uses to which plastic would be put in the decades to come. Today the house seems like a relic, a path not taken, much like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 concept that was unveiled at the Montreal Expo in 1967.

Monsanto’s house was also called the “Plastic Mushroom,”  owing to its design, it seems, which required that four wings flare out from a concrete stump in the center. (As with The Jetsons or Star Wars, gee-whiz futurism apparently resides in buildings being perched on top of other things.)
 

 
The Monsanto domicile was featured in a November 11, 1957 story in LIFE about “New Shapes for Shelter” in which the following description appeared.

“Plastic Mushroom,” Monsanto Chemical Co.‘s experimental house, consists of only 20 molded pieces. Whole house rests on a 16-foot-square block of concrete. The four wings are cantilevered from utility core in center. Floors and ceilings are foot thick, of rigid urethane foam set between reinforced plastic panels. The 1,300-square-foot house has two bedrooms, living room, family room, kitchen and two baths. All fixtures, like bathtub and sinks, are molded plastic.

After the “House of the Future” was torn down in 1967, Disneyland visitors were deprived of the chance to tour it for themselves—until now! The Disney History Institute (not affiliated with Disney) recently posted a “Virtual 360° Flythrough” on YouTube that will allow you to take a tour of the premises. After you hit play, you have the option of grabbing the frame and swiveling your point of view around so you can see everything in the home. It’s best if you keep the point of view directed at the direction you’re moving, most of the time.
 

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.04.2015
02:16 pm
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Mother And Daughter Banned From Disneyland For Being Too “Princess-like”

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For years now, and at GREAT personal expense, I’ve been quietly putting together a convincing Prince Charming outfit, praying waiting for the day I could sneak into Disneyland and cavort undetected with Jasmine and Pooh.

Well, thanks to Natasha Narula (above right) and her daughter, Drew, I can now kiss that dream goodbye.  Hey, Natasha, next time you wanna “blend,” maybe pick something more elaborate than that shabby 40-dollar wedding dress?!

The mother-of-two told yesterday how she was left ‘stunned and humiliated’ after being ordered to return to her hotel to change when staff insisted she could not enter the complex in fancy dress because she could be mistaken for a Disney princess.  She said that one of them then told her the dress was ‘too pretty’ and may be confused for a member of staff in character.

‘But I spoke to a manager and she said they were concerned children would think I worked there and wanted to have their picture with me.  ‘I didn’t even have any make-up on and didn’t look anything like the characters in the park, it wasn’t like I was wearing a big Mickey Mouse outfit, it was just a dress.  She was forced to change into an old pair of jeans and a shirt before she was eventually admitted to the park.  Drew was allowed to keep her dress on. 

The divorced mother said: ‘I was just a bit of fun for me and my daughter but we were treated like criminals.  ‘The only things I had left were what I’d worn the night before so I had to go into the park wearing dirty clothes.  Disneyland confirmed it had a global policy banning adults from wearing fancy dress in their theme parks.  A spokesman said: ‘No one over the age of nine is allowed to enter our theme parks in fancy dress.  It prevents confusion.’

Ah, yes, “confusion.”  I’m sure that’s exactly what it prevents!

Mother and Daughter Banned from Disneyland…Because They Were Dressed as Fairy Princesses

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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04.20.2010
04:19 pm
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