As you are undoubtedly aware, Disney+ launched this week to great fanfare (and some tech glitches, but mostly fanfare). Among the content garnering the most praise on the platform is the docuseries The Imagineering Story by director Leslie Iwerks, which our own Alex Reif says is worth the price of the service on its own. Sure enough, many of our staff members have also now had a chance to watch the first installment of the series and have had similarly positive things to say. Moreover, even in this first hour, we learned plenty of things about the company and parks we all love.
With that, we thought we’d take a look at some of the things that caught our attention in episode 1 of The Imagineering Story.
The pitch for a park across from the studio was rejected by the city
In “Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years” and other such productions, it’s typically been shared that Walt moved beyond his original plans to build a park across from the studios in Burbank simply because his ideas outgrew the space. However, here it’s mentioned that the Burbank City Council actually rejected Walt plans, necessitating the eventual move to Anaheim. On top of that, it sounds like Walt was not too pleased when the decision was handed down — but we doubt he was too disappointed about it all a few years later.
Walt’s famous “Disneyland will never be completed…” quote wasn’t what it seems
Any Disney fan worth their weight in churros has heard the quote, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” In fact, this phrase is often used by fans and the company alike when justifying changes to the parks we all love. That’s why it’s interesting that this remark wasn’t initially intended to be the idealistic musing many assume it to be. Instead, it was really Walt’s retort to critics who complained that Disneyland opened in such an incomplete state. Kind of changes things, doesn’t it?
We finally got a look at the Matterhorn’s “basketball court”
One of the greatest legends of Disneyland is that there’s a basketball court located inside of the Matterhorn. Depending on who you ask, the reason for this could be a legal loophole about sporting complexes or some clandestine league. Alas, the truth is far less interesting — and the term “court” is generous. Yet, getting a glimpse inside the area and getting to watch Imagineer Bob Gurr make an underhand shot made this segment as exciting as any fan would hoop.
Bob Gurr had to learn trigonometry to design the Matterhorn
Speaking of Bob Gurr and Disneyland’s famed mountain, the Imagineer revealed that he was a little out of his element when he was asked to help design the world’s first tubular steel coaster. In fact, he claims he needed to study trigonometry, stating, “That’s extra math I need to do in addition to designing the track.” On top of that, he mentions that he doesn’t even like roller coasters!
Disneyland wasn’t coming together and Walt was worried
Often times we think of Walt as being a steadfast dreamer who never faltered in his faith. On the contrary, those interviewed for this docuseries note that the man was actually quite panicked that his Disneyland project wasn’t coming together. He apparently remarked that, despite having spent half of the funds earmarked for the park, he still didn’t see anything someone would bother spend 15¢ on. Thankfully, it would all work out eventually.
July 17th, 1955 was even crazier than you’ve heard
We all know that the grand opening of Disneyland wasn’t so grand. In addition to apparently being one of the hottest days of the summer, a common story suggests women’s high heels were digging into the still-fresh asphalt. Oh, but things were so much worse according to anecdotes found in The Imagineering Story. Some of my favorite tales include the Mark Twain Riverboat riding dangerously low in the water due to overcrowding and guests essentially hijacking Autopia vehicles from other riders! And you thought the social clubs were a problem…
Mark Davis felt that early Disneyland lacked laughs
Disney fans know Marc Davis as a brilliant animator and Imagineer — but it turns out he wasn’t such a fan of Disneyland in its early years. That’s because he appreciates a good sense of humor and apparently found the park lacking in that department. Luckily for him and for all of us, he did his best to change that and suggests that a gag on The Jungle Cruise was the first laugh added to the park.
Early Disneyland doesn’t look so old in color
This might be in the eye of the beholder but, as far as we’re concerned, the classic park looks just as amazing then as it does now… as long that boring black and white are removed.
We get to hear what Herb Ryman and Mary Blair sound like
It’s not very often you come across audio of these two important figures so it was very interesting to hear their voices featured in part one of the series.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back soon as more episodes of The Imagineering Story arrive on Disney+.