2/20/2019-  This week Mario, Beth and Brian take a look at Disney's involvement in the 1964-65 Worlds fair and how they shaped the future of Disney Imagineering.

1964-65 Words Fair

  • A Brief History of the World's Fair
    • The Great Exhibition held in London in 1851 is usually Regarded as the First World's Fair. Prince Albert, along with other members of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSEAMC) pitched it as a celebration of modern industrial technology , where inventors from around the world would come to showcase their designs. However some believe the Exhibition was created to merely cement Britain as the Industrial leader of the World.
    • The Exhibition was held in an ornate glass structure nicknamed The Crystal Palace designed by renowned English Architect Joseph Paxton. Notable Exhibits showcased in the building included the World's Largest Diamond, the first Automated Voting Machine, and the First Modern Pay toilets. over 800,000 guests payed a penny to use them
    • In Philadelphia in 1876, the first U.S. World's Fair was held. This world's fair celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the United States' Independence and featured a 1,500 horsepower steam engine that generated power for all the exhibits at the fair.
    • In 1889, to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French revolution, France held the Exposition Universelle in Paris. For the Fair, Engineer Gustave Eiffel designed the Now Famous Eiffel Tower as the Center point of the Fair. At the Time, it was the Tallest Standing Structure in the World.
    • Four Years later, in 1893, Chicago held the World's Colombian Exposition. The most notable exhibit of this Fair was the World's first Ferris Wheel, designed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. We also have our first Disney Connection at this point in time. Walt's father Elias worked as a carpenter at this time and worked on some of the Exhibits at this World's Fair.
    • In 1939, the Golden Gate International Exposition was held in San Fransisco and Marked the completion of the San Fransisco-Okland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Walt Himself attended this World's fair and was struck by an exhibit by Narcissa Thorne. Thorne was an American Artist who specialized in creating extremely detailed miniatures of Interiors throughout history. This sparked a love for miniature design with Walt, which he used to help display many of his upcoming projects. Walt even considered starting his own travelling miniature exhibit called "Disneylandia". Unfortunately, this project never reached fruition.
  • Disney in the Early 60s
    • By the early 60s, the Disney Company as a whole was flourishing. Sleeping Beauty had been a huge success for the Animation Studio, multiple TV shows were being produced, Disneyland was experiencing a number of notable expansions, and the initial development of Disney World  The Florida Project was underway.
    • During this time, Walt and the Imagineers at WED were focusing a large portion of their time on the newly designed land of the park known as New Orleans Square. This section of Disneyland would be home to two of Disney's most iconic creations: Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.
    • Organizers of the 64/65 New York World's Fair Approached Disney during this time to Convince him to develop a number of Attractions for the Expo. Walt saw this as an excellent opportunity to develop new technologies for his parks with the aid of corporate sponsorship, and also test the practicality of an East Coast entertainment venue, i.e. Disney World.
    • Walt Agreed to design 4 Attractions in total; Ford's Magic Skyway for Ford Motor Company, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for the state of Illinois, Progressland(Carousel of Progress) for General Electric, and It's a Small World for Pepsi and UNICEF.
    • Walt was so passionate about these projects and considered them so valuable to the future of his company, that he stopped nearly all progress on current projects in Disneyland so that WED's resources could be devoted to the World's Fair
  • Ford's Magic Skyway
    • During the 1960s, the expansion of the US's highway system was paving the way for the future of Transportation. Ford reached out to Walt to design an attraction that would not only be an advertisement for the company, but embrace this look towards the future.
    • Walt say this project as an opportunity to develop a new ride system, and set his imagineers to work. Rob Gurr and Robert Broggie they came up with was christened the WEDway transit System, a precursor to the People Mover. Guest rode in shells of Ford Vehicles that were connected to a constantly moving track. They moved through a number of scenes detailing the history and Future of technology, narrated by Walt himself.
    • The rides technology can be seen most apparently in the TTA Peoplemover, but also helped inspired the Omnimover ride system used in many places throughout Disney Parks across the world.
    • Though this is the one World's Fair attraction that did not make it back into a Disney Park, some of the Animatronics were used in other locations on Disney Property.
  • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
    • Abraham Lincoln  had been a lifelong hero for Walt, long before the World's Fair Sponsors approached him. He had done some initial development on an Attraction he called "One Nation, Under God." The attraction was to be very similar to what Disney World's Hall of Presidents would become. Because of his fascination with Lincoln, Walt had instructed his Imagineers to begin work on him first.
    • Walt invited the Head of the New York World's Fair, Robert Moses, to tour his design studio, and showed him the work on the Attraction. Moses was so impressed that he decided the attraction had to be included in the fair. Walt appreciated   the gesture, but knew that there was no way he and WED could complete all the work before the Fair opened. Walt instead suggested centering an attraction around a single president, and of course, his choice was Lincoln
    • The attraction featured a preshow advertising the state of Illinois, the sponsor of the pavilion. The main show consisted of an Audio-animatronic figure of Lincoln reciting excerpts of his famous speeches. The Animatronic was sculpted by Blaine Gibson.
    • The Attraction was very successful, and in July of 1965, Disney opened a copy of the attraction inside Disneyland. After the World's Fair was over, the State of Illinois pavilion was demolished, and the original Lincoln animatronic was believed to have been lost in the process. However several years later, it was discovered in a storage container that had been shipped back to Disney and sat untouched since its arrival.
    • The Disneyland Version of the attractions has had a number of revisions over the years, but remains open to this day.
  • Progressland (Carousel of Progress)
    • General Electric approached Walt to develop an attraction that would detail the history and future of electric appliances in the home and their effect on day-to-day life.
    • WED's imagineers designed a circular theater that would rotate to place guests in front of different stages. The theater could hold 238 guests per rotation, meaning the attraction could host 40,000 people a day.
    • Walt turned to the Sherman Brothers to create the theme song for the ride, who came up with "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, heard throughout the attraction. Later, the Sherman Brothers stated that the song was Walt's theme song due to his always postive view towards the future and progress
    • As usual, Walt was very involved in all the Projects going on within the Company. As Imagineers were showing the scene setups to Walt, they got to the one where Uncle Charlie is sitting in the Bathtub. Author Bob Thomas reported, "Walt himself climbed into the bathtub to devise the action. 'He shouldn't be reading a newspaper; it should be the "Police Gazette." There should be a glass of iced tea on the toilet seat there. And--let's see--his toes would be sticking up at the other end of the tub, and wiggling. Yeah, let's have his toes wiggling.’”
    • At the end of the Attraction, Guests were invited to the second floor of the pavilion. Here, a sort of planetarium was constructed, where images of nature and energy were projected onto the domed roof.
    • After the Fair, the attraction was moved to Disneyland and renamed The Carousel of Progress. It opened again in 1967, with GE continuing their sponsorship, and almost no changes from the iteration in New York. , guest were taken up a moving walkway where a model of Progress City was displayed, Walt's initial EPCOT idea.
    • In 1973, the Attraction was closed and moved to Disney World in 1975. Over the years, the final scene has been updated a number of times to keep up with emerging technology (kinda)
  • It's a Small World
    • Pepsi was the corporate sponsor for the UNICEF Pavilion at the fair and in charge of choosing the attraction held in the pavilion. With only 11 months before the opening of the fair, Pepsi had still not decided on a concept to fill the spot. Actress Joan Crawford, who was on Pepsi's Board of Directors reached out to her Friend Walt, knowing that if anyone could create an attraction in that short of time, it was him.
    • The task of designing the pavilion itself was given to future Disney Legend Rolly Crump. Crump came up with the Tower of the Four Winds, which was a 120 foot tall spinning mobile that would house the ride. The marketing slogan of "Meet Me at the Tower of the Four Winds" was started and became extremely popular during the Fair
    • The Tower of the Four Winds was what Walt deemed a "Weenie", an eye-catching landmark that would draw guests towards it.
    • It's a Small world's unique interior design was created by Mary Blair, who had formerly worked as an art director for Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.
    • This was Disney's first attraction that would feature Audio Animatronics on such a large scale. After pulling him away from his efforts on Pirates and the Haunted Mansion, Walt assigned Marc Davis to create all the animatronic figures in the ride. Davis' Wife, Alice, designed the costumes for the figures
    • WED's design for It's a Small World was meant to be a "prayer of peace" during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and show that harmonious relations between countries was indeed possible.
    • Up until this point, the development of the Attraction had been using the Title "Children of the World." The last thing Walt needed to pull it all together was a musical number. Walt, of course, turned to the talents of the Sherman Brothers, who had created a number of songs for other Disney attractions and movies. The Sherman Brothers came up with the song "It's a Small World (After All)" which was originally a slow ballad. Walt said he wanted something a bit more cheerful for the ride, so he had them rewrite it as the up-tempo song we know today. Walt loved it so much the second time around that he decided to rename the attraction to "It's a Small World"
    • The attraction was an instant hit, and insanely successful. Over the two year run of the World's Fair, Ten Million Tickets had been purchased for this attraction alone. WED realized that this type of attraction could be the future for Disney Parks. The boat ride system allowed a large number of people per hour to experience the attraction, and the Audio-animatronics captured guest's attention like nothing else. Using what they learned from it's a small World, Walt and the Imagineers completely overhauled the in-work Pirates of the Caribbean attraction to feature a similar layout.
  • Closing Points
    • As a supplement to these history episodes we want to know if our listeners would like to hear more about the imagineering team behind the attractions? We've been thinking about restructuring the history episodes to focus more on the careers of imagineers and how their work influenced the future of Disney Imagineering.
    • Congratulations to listeners Charlie and Sam for finishing their Disney movie marathon!Back in September we received an email that Sam and Charlie had committed to watching every Walt Disney Animation (or supported studios i.e. Disney MovieToons, Pixar, Studio Gibli)
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