Yes, you read that correctly. We’re familiar with silver anniversaries (25), golden anniversaries (50) and even diamond anniversaries (60 and 75). But did you know that for your fifth anniversary the appropriate gift is made from wood?
For Disneyland’s 5th anniversary in 1960, lumber of any kind came in handy due to all of the new additions to Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Not one to allow himself and his staff to rest on their considerable laurels, Walt Disney entered the second half of the park’s first decade with a series of additions that would become fondly remembered experiences of the past and the basis for some of today’s favorite attractions, shows and shopping destinations.
On May 13 Disneyland presented its very first private party when over 5,000 Knights of Columbus enjoyed exclusive use of the Park. Similar parties became an annual tradition for many major companies and organizations until they were gradually phased-out in the early 1990s.
The Art of Animation opened on May 28 in Tomorrowland and featured an entertaining and informative display exploring the history and process behind creating animated feature films. Many of the elements of the attraction were from a touring exhibit that promoted the theatrical release of Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” in 1959.
The attraction was located next to the legendary Art Corner where original Disney animation cels from classic Disney animated shorts and feature films could be purchased for as low as 75-cents!
The Art of Animation attraction, combined with the Art Corner, was the early predecessor to the original Disneyana Shop on Main Street, U.S.A. and The Disney Gallery in New Orleans Square (now on Main Street) at Disneyland Park. Similarly, the Disney Animation attraction and Off the Page gallery in Hollywoodland at Disney California Adventure are the 21st counterparts to the Art of Animation and Art Corner combination attraction and shop.
Also debuting on May 28, 1960, was the very fondly remembered Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland attraction in Frontierland. This spectacular outdoor adventure had one of the largest footprints in the park but also one of the most immersive experiences, not unlike today’s Radiator Springs Racers.
Based on many of Walt Disney’s Academy Award®-winning True-Life Adventure nature films (“Olympic Elk,” “Bear Country,” “Beaver Valley,” “The Living Desert,” etc.) the attraction provided Frontierland with a true wilderness teeming with over 200 lifelike birds, animals and reptiles brought to life by very early Audio-Animatronics technology.
The attraction is fondly remembered for its incredible vignettes including Cascade Peak and Big Thunder Falls (sound familiar?), the Painted Desert with its geysers and bubbling pots of boiling mud and the climatic Rainbow Caverns with its fluorescent waterfalls, stalactites, stalagmites and ethereal music.
Reminders of the Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland remain today in abundance in Frontierland. The name “Big Thunder,” as in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, was borrowed from the waterfall but actually referred (initially) to the quakes and shaking within the mountain itself. The little town of Rainbow Ridge featured in the queue area of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a direct descendant of the same little town that formed the façade of the Mine Train attraction.
Additionally, the pond along today’s Big Thunder Trail is where the mine trains would cross a trestle over a pond filled with black bears fishing and others playfully scratching themselves on nearby pine trees. Sharp eyes will also recognize a few mesas and buttes from the Painted Desert dotting the landscape of present-day Big Thunder Ranch.
On June 10, Pack Mules Through Nature’s Wonderland began to take guests “On the Trail” through the backwoods of Frontierland. This particular attraction, although charming and certainly authentic, could not keep up with capacity demands and eventually faded into Disneyland history by 1973. It also didn’t help that the adorable mules also had a habit on nibbling on everything within reach, especially popcorn, hats and lollipops.
On October 1 Dixieland at Disneyland park-wide event debuts and becomes a popular annual occasion featuring many of the top names in jazz including the legendary Louis Armstrong. A highlight of the event was an elaborate musical procession of boats, barges and rafts on the Rivers of America, accompanied by the stately Mark Twain Riverboat and an abundance of colorful fireworks.
The Dixieland at Disneyland show on the Rivers of America would prove prophetic. Starting with this particular effort, the Rivers of America was often to stage spectacular musical acts and shows such as the “Rollin’ River Revue” in the 1980s. Throughout various productions elements were advanced, tested and adjusted, culminating in the 1991 debut of “Fantasmic!”
One of Fantasyland’s most unusual landmarks debuted in 1960 – Skull Rock and Pirates Cove, situated behind the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship (later known as Captain Hook’s Galley). Roughly situated where Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction resides today, the pirate ship and Skull Rock were favorite play areas for kids of the 60s and 70s who grew-up with these two impressive playgrounds.
The pirate ship, in particular, provided spectacular views of the Fantasyland skyline while Skull Rock glowed with green, menacing eyes in the evening providing an especially spooky place to explore at night. Although very much a part of yester-year, both the pirate ship and Skull Rock were replicated in 1992 as part of Adventureland at Disneyland Paris in France where they continue to attract brave adventurers of all ages.
This post is part of a special Disney community countdown to the Disneyland 60th anniversary called 60 Days to 60 Years. Today’s post is by Tim O’Day is an executive PR/creative consultant, pop culture historian, author and popular moderator. Follow Tim on Twitter @ODayPR by clicking here. The Art of Animation photo used with the permission of Davelandweb.com. If you love pictures of Disneyland’s past, this is the place for you!