Monday is “Grab Bag” day here at Entertainment Legends Revealed, with each Monday featuring a different area of the world of arts and entertainment (that is not featured on the other four days of the week, that is). They’ll eventually repeat, but for now, we’re still on the initial installments of each of the various “Grab Bag” legends!
This is the first in a series of examinations of legends related to amusement parks and whether they are true or false.
AMUSEMENT PARK LEGEND: The Opening Day of Disneyland was so fraught with problems that for a decade or so Walt Disney did not acknowledge it as the park’s actual opening.
Every year, on July 17th, workers at Disneyland (at least the “cast members” or whatever the heck they call the people who interact with the public) wear buttons stating how many years it was since Disneyland opened its doors on July 17th, 1955.
However, that Sunday was such a disaster that for over a decade, Disney did not even acknowledge that day AS the opening day for the park!
You see, July 17th was sort of locked in as the opening day for the park because Disney had an arrangement with ABC to have the opening broadcast live on television, so whether the park was totally ready or not, it WAS going to open that day.
And, well, it was not ready.
One of the most famous incidents that day was the fact that, due the asphalt in the parking lot just being poured that day it was not yet totally dry, so women in high heels in particular had problems walking on the ground as their heels would go right into the still soft asphalt!
That wasn’t it for the problems – Disney had the option of one of two pieces of plumbing being operational the first day – the toilets or the water fountains. Disney (wisely, in my view) chose the toilets.
However, the day was a particularly warm one (over 100 degrees) so the lack of operational water fountains did not go over well (even doubly so since Pepsi-Cola was one of Disney’s early sponsors, so the cantakorous likely felt that there was a c-o-n-spiracy going on with the “broken” water fountains).
In addition, while the event was a “By Invitation Only” one, counterfeits sprang up like wildfire, so the event was overcrowded. As such, vendors were unprepared for how many people would be there and, accordingly, ran out of food.
Finally, a gas leak closed down Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland for the afternoon.
However, you wouldn’t know the problems from the media coverage, as Disney handled it quite smoothly, with the help of some celebrities helping out in the coverage of the day, like Art Linkletter and Bob Cummings.
Oh, and this guy, seen here with Disney…
I wonder what ever became of that guy, “Ronnie” as Walt called him on the special.
In any event, due to the calamities of the day, Walt always referred to the day as “Black Sunday,” and for the rest of his life, Disney actually did not refer to July 17th as Opening Day.
In a press release sent out to celebrate the first year of Disneyland, the Opening Day is clearly stated as July 18th (the first day the public was allowed entrance).
For the next decade or so (basically until a year or so after Disney’s death), the Opening Day of Disneyland was July 18th and July 17th was known as “Dedication Day.”
Here IS the dedication that Disney gave that day…
To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
Nicely put, Walt.
Anyhow, the ACTUAL opening day became the OFFICIAL opening day during the late 1960s, and it’s been that way ever since.
AMUSEMENT PARK LEGEND: Riders of The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Orlando were unexpectedly doused with vegetable oil during a ride!
After a long and popular tenure at Universal Studios (both Orlando AND Hollywood branches), Back to the Future: The Ride became a thing of, well, you know…
It was replaced by what has become one of the most popular amusement park rides of all-time, The Simpsons Ride.
The Simpsons, as they are wont to do, even made self-referential fun of the fact that they are replacing Back to the Future, with a video that plays as people wait on lie that works in Doc Brown from Back to the Future…
Christopher Lloyd even voices Doc Brown for the short video (which features Professor Frink going back in time to try to stop Krustyland from taking over from Doc Brown’s Institute of Future Technology, only to inadvertently CAUSE the ruination of the Institute, allowing Krusty to take over).
The ride was the fastest ride to ever reach one million customers, which it achieved in July of 2008, only months after opening in May of 2008.
However popular it was, fans of the rides were likely NOT fans of something that happened on June 13th of 2008.
As you might know, Lisa Simpson on the Simpsons is a vegetarian, but I don’t think even she would appreciate the fact that a mechanism broke down during the ride, dousing all the people riding the ride with vegetable oil (or at least something that was basically vegetable oil)!!!
No one was injured, and the riders were given a change of clothing and allowed to shower at the park.
Universal Studios did not know how the oil got there.
Luckily for Universal, no one was lawsuit-mad, and after their dry cleaning was paid for, everyone lived happily ever after.
I just still want to know where that vegetable oil came from! How weird is that? Vegetable oil?!?
AMUSEMENT PARK LEGEND: Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World is designed to be able to be broken down in the event of a hurricane.
Cinderella’s Castle is a major tourist attraction at both the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World….
AND in Tokyo Disneyland…
For something as fairly straightforward as Cinderella’s castle, it sure has drawn a lot of untrue stories over the years.
The simplest false story about the castle is the notion that bricks are involved in the building of the castle. That’s just plainly untrue – it’s just made to LOOK like brick and stones are used to make it.
However, an explanation for what it REALLY is made out of is also off the mark a bit, as well. The castle is often described as being made out of fiberglass (besides, of course, the concrete and steel foundation). While there ARE fiberglass aspects to the castle, the majority of the castle is instead made out of fiberglass-ESQUE material, specifically it is carbon fiber reinforced gypsum plaster. As you might imagine, “it’s made out of fiberglass” is a lot easier to relay than “it’s made out of carbon fiber reinforced gypsum plaster,” which would explain the confusion.
A story about Cinderella’s Castle that is even more fanciful is the notion that the castle is designed so that it could be taken apart in case of a hurricane, as Orlando is certainly susceptible to hurricanes.
Well, while the spires and all that stuff CAN be removed, it is specifically NOT designed to be taken apart in case of a hurricane.
For one, it would take days to take it apart – not very useful in case of a hurricane.
For two, you would need special 300 foot cranes to take it apart – again, not very useful in case a hurricane is coming.
Instead, then, Disney just built the castle so that it could survive and all-out hurricane.
It was built to easily withstand 110 mile per hour winds, and likely could survive even faster winds without incident.
I don’t know where the story began, but I suppose the castle just doesn’t look strong enough, and that’s where it started. In any event, it’s not true.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org