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Description: Jet Age Aesthetic: The Glamour of Media in Motion
~The tendency toward speed—the acceleration of our age—is reflected in the entertainment world as in every other area of modern living. . . . Disneyland . . . [has been] designed to effect a pleasant and exciting outlet for the sense of adventure, for exuberant energy, for imaginative play in physical action.
PublisherYale University Press
Related print edition pages: pp.57-97
https://doi.org/10.37862/aaeportal.00209.003
Chapter 2. Disneyland and the Art of People-Moving
The tendency toward speed—the acceleration of our age—is reflected in the entertainment world as in every other area of modern living. . . . Disneyland . . . [has been] designed to effect a pleasant and exciting outlet for the sense of adventure, for exuberant energy, for imaginative play in physical action.
—Walt Disney, 1959
We don’t have an edifice complex. We want our community shaped not around buildings, but around people. This will be a community for and about people.
—Walt Disney, 1966
In a climate of cultural innovation dominated by youthful technologists, it may be hard to imagine that, despite the many firsts for which Walt Disney and The Walt Disney Studios are known (synchronized sound cartoons, Technicolor cartoons, full-length animated features), the man himself was over fifty years old when the tractors arrived in Anaheim to break ground on what many consider his greatest legacy and unsurpassed accomplishment: Disneyland. Disney explained what he valued most about the place that would give rise to a new entertainment form, the theme park: “Disneyland is something that will never be finished. It’s alive. It will be a living, breathing thing that will need change. A picture is a thing. . . . I wanted something alive, something that could grow.” Disney called the park “my latest and greatest invention,” and his enthusiasm made great sense. In his training as an animator he had learned to make inanimate objects seem alive (as in Pinocchio). He emphasized the park’s organic qualities: “Not only can I add things, but even the trees will grow and become more beautiful each year.”1Van Arsdale France and Dick Nunis, Window on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park (Orlando: Theme Park Press, 2015), 187.
Disney may have invoked the park’s many trees, but even they were carefully planted and pruned, and the park’s artists were known to improve upon them when necessary.2Kelly Comras, Ruth Shellhorn (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016); and Stephen M. Fjellman, Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America (Boulder: Westview, 1992). Planning, designing, and executing the growth of systems “dedicated to the happiness of people” preoccupied Disney from 1953, when he began in earnest on the Disneyland project, until his death in 1966, when he and his team at the company named for him, WED (Walter Elias Disney), were planning the “Florida Project,” or Walt Disney World Resort.3EPCOT Film. For something as complex and successful as Disneyland, it would be foolish to imagine that any one aspect explains the whole. Yet by contextualizing Disneyland as a project that both embodied and shaped the culture of media in motion, we see that Disney’s focus on the aestheticization of “people-moving” was central to fostering the “happiness of people” when the park opened in 1955, at the dawn of the jet age.4For more on mid-century ideas of happiness, see Justus Nieland, “Making Happy, Happy-Making: The Eamses and Communication by Design,” in Modernism and Affect, ed. Julie Taylor (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 203–25.
In this chapter, I examine Disneyland from its emergence and execution to the projects completed or planned by Walt Disney himself and the company he established to create the park: WED Enterprises. Workers at WED, who became known as Imagineers (they executed “imaginative concepts in design, architecture, engineering and entertainment”), were dedicated to the art of people-moving, as well as to making people-moving into an art.5This definition comes from a letter from Harrison Price to Dick Irvine, October 5, 1960. WDA. The qualities of fluid motion, circulation, and mobility that planners and architects introduced into airport culture to mimic the movement of the jet—and which became functional problems as airports grew and air travel expanded—found a more satisfying course at Disneyland. People merely went to the park in Anaheim to experience the pleasure of jet age fluid motion, and, through technology and planning, the journey was rendered into a purely aesthetic experience. Disneyland’s significance and impact in its first decade had as much to do with its role in disseminating the jet age aesthetic as with the more familiar aspects of the park. The Disney parks, including sites in Europe and Asia, continue to draw millions of people. And they continue to renew themselves because, whatever their content and iconography, they are founded on the formal and structural principle of the technological aestheticization of fluid motion, which is how the jet taught us to see and feel and which remains essential to media culture.
By the early 1950s, The Walt Disney Studios had already taken the art of animation—of making inert hand-drawn images move—to new levels of aesthetic and technological accomplishment. But within the context of Disney’s corporate history, few moments approach the importance of Disneyland’s creation. The often-told tale of the park’s history begins with Walt’s artistic vision being met by his brother’s skeptical and conservative business attitude, an attitude that was eventually bested by the dreamer’s determination. But the truth is, both men helped shape the success of the enterprise, and there is little doubt that Disneyland stands as one of the most successful innovations of the jet age.
Disneyland received a barrage of press attention when it opened in July 1955, including the most extensive live-television coverage of a single event until that time. But analytical studies of the park were initially few; press coverage was mostly celebratory and in the travel-writing and tourist literature vein.6The press coverage makes for a valuable historical source but is notably different from what one might call the critical and analytical reception of Disney animation or “Disney Studies.” Disney had been hailed as an artistic genius very early in his career and received a great deal of attention from intellectuals. As early as 1942 one could find books such as Robert Field, The Art of Walt Disney (New York: Macmillan, 1942). Walter Benjamin and Erwin Panofsky wrote about Disney in the 1930s and 1940s. By the 1970s intellectuals had adopted a more negative stance, and the Marxist critique by such scholars as Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart in How to Read Donald Duck (New York: International General, 1975) became more dominant, making such phrases such as “Mickey Mouse history” common parlance. This change is not my subject, however. Writing about Disneyland constitutes a separate, less well-developed, and even less-appreciated subject. For a Disney bibliography, see John A. Lent, Comic Art of the United States Through 2000, Animation and Cartoons: An International Bibliography (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2005), and Lynn Gartley and Elizabeth Leebron, Walt Disney: A Guide to References and Resources (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979). The best newer volume about the parks is Kathy Merlock Jackson and Mark I. West, eds., Disneyland and Culture: Essays on the Parks and Their Influence (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2011). When scholars finally took pen to paper to analyze the park they unwittingly adopted those very genres and so wrote about their own Disneyland moment, paying little attention to the actual history of “historic” Disneyland. Among the most memorable of these accounts are the ones made by a trio of European semiologists in the late 1970s and early 1980s: Louis Marin, Umberto Eco, and Jean Baudrillard, who offered tendentious ideological critiques of the United States that masqueraded as semiotic analyses of Disneyland. They provided a series of ethnographic essays in a period when it was still rare to turn such a critical eye on the rituals of modern western culture.7Louis Marin, “Disneyland: A Degenerate Utopia,” Glyph 1 (1977): 50–66; Jean Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations,” in Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 169–87; and Umberto Eco, “Travels in Hyperreality,” in Travels in Hyperreality (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1986), 1–58. These left-leaning European intellectuals analyzed Disneyland in order to see the flaws of the United States and its consumer capitalism. In their different ways they were each bemused and skeptical. They focused on the park’s technique of simulating the real world, which they identified as a peculiar American condition of “hyperreality,” claiming this quality as a ruse intended to make visitors and natives alike believe that the rest of America was real “when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation.”8Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations,” 175. Eco called Disneyland’s representations “masterpieces of falsification,” the Sistine Chapel of the hyperreal U.S.A.9Eco, “Travels in Hyperreality.” Such perspectives now seem antiquated, since by 2007, a mere fifteen years after opening Disneyland Paris, the park in Marne-la-Vallée had already overtaken the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower among the most-visited tourist destinations in Europe.10“Disneyland Paris,” Wikipedia, accessed August 20, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland_Paris So at least some Europeans have welcomed the Disney culture of simulation in the heart of cultural authenticity, or perhaps it only proves a larger point about Disneyland as the greatest evidence that American leisure culture has a truly global reach.
Since the 1980s, when the concept of hyperreality often accompanied discussions of postmodernism, other scholars of western modernity, by taking a much longer view—whether by focusing on the periods since the Renaissance, since the eighteenth century, or since the nineteenth century—have established that the culture of simulation was hardly the result of a diabolical American genius of inauthenticity. Indeed, they have traced the concept to earlier times and to other places.11See, for example, Roberta Panzanelli, ed., Ephemeral Bodies: Wax Sculpture and the Human Figure (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2008); Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak, Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2001); Adelheid Voskuhl, Androids in the Enlightenment: Mechanics, Artisans, and Cultures of the Self (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015); Schwartz, Spectacular Realities. Still regarded as one of the great studies about America is Neil Harris, Humbug: The Art of P. T. Barnum (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981). There is not now nor has there ever been a hyperreal United States and an “authentic” Europe, for example. Disneyland, after all, incorporates many elements of the world’s fairs, those spectacular commercial and industrial events that began in Europe in the nineteenth century. In fact, the critic Walter Benjamin had called Paris “the Capital of the 19th century,” referring to the seeming mastery of spectacle associated with consumer culture in Paris at a time when many Americans were still managing the challenges of crossing the prairie in covered wagons. The Eiffel Tower displayed the wonder of Parisian modernity—the world’s tallest tower had been built in a record two years—in time to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution for the Exposition of 1889. The first projected moving images shown in public played in that same city in 1895; they were produced by the Lumière Brothers, who specialized in the manufacture of photographic materials, another modern technological artform born in the City of Light. Although Disneyland’s emergence is specific to its cultural time and place, neither its representational aesthetic of simulation nor its spectacular culture of display is without precedent. It is part of a longer history of mass culture that emerged in the mid- to late nineteenth century in the western world.
Not long after Walt Disney’s death, the first historically oriented studies, such as Richard Schickel’s Disney Version, began to consider the Disney enterprise in general and to focus on the park in an analytical and interpretive way.12Richard Schickel, The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968). Although The Disney Version can also be understood as the first of what would become the standard anti-Disney positions among cultural critics after Disney’s death, Schickel’s views regarding Disneyland were, in fact, much less negative and extremely prescient. Writing in 1968, he called it “one of the best mixed media shows ever devised” and pointed to it as an example of Marshall McLuhan’s “global village,” already grasping that Disneyland would not be reduced to “Americana” and that its use of physical space, technology, and people-moving made the park part of the communications revolution that McLuhan described and for which I suggest the jet age aesthetic helped prepare the way.13Schickel, Disney Version, 318.
In the decades that followed, American scholarship about The Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland increased substantially. Such research has been constrained by limited access to archival materials, especially regarding the creative process at WED and the history of general park operations.14The corporate archives of The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Imagineering, and the Walt Disney Animation Research Library are generally closed to the public. I was fortunate to gain limited access to the Disney archives, but, like many corporate archives, they are incomplete. Although Walt Disney’s correspondence is ample (although not accessible), it is unclear whether the materials of the Park Operations Committee and other key Disneyland entities exist. I am especially grateful for the access I received, and for the generous research support provided by archive director Becky Cline, as well as Kevin Kern. Scholarship about Disneyland falls into three general orientations: one group of scholars approaches the park from the perspective of its content (symbols and myths), which it interprets as a performance of ideology; another locates the park’s history within the context of the business of the entertainment industry; while a third regards the park as a spatial expression. The first orientation emphasizes the very American qualities of Disneyland that the European semiologists did, focusing on such themes as nostalgia; American expansion; consumerism; the racial constructions of whiteness, racism, and racial exclusion; and the perfection and conformity of the environment. To these critics Disneyland is a very dangerous place indeed, especially because it performs its content as ideological mystification with a smile on its face to an unwitting audience.15Elizabeth Bell et al., From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender and Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); Project on Disney, Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995). For a more nuanced collection, see Eric Smoodin, ed., Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom (New York: Routledge, 1994).
For scholars interested in the economic dimension of Disney’s larger corporate strategy, the park exemplifies the power of branding and the diversification of the company into tourism and leisure, and its early and continued leadership in the field of product development. These studies are focused on how the park works as part of Disney’s corporate strategy. Disneyland is a venue where products are sold; it is a brilliant embodiment of corporate synergy: characters inhabit the rides, appear on products in the gift shops, visit guests in the restaurants, and are represented in the myriad experiences throughout the Disney environment. Activities, experiences, and products are monetized into generations of family life and spending in the park and on Disney products.16This literature is vast. A good place to start is Janet Wasko, Understanding Disney: The Manufacture of Fantasy (London: Polity, 2001).
Such readings of Disneyland are too general, seeing the park as an embodiment of cultural expressions that also operate elsewhere in the culture (and thus imply that Disneyland did not cause these cultural values). Simultaneously, they are too specific because they simply assert that Disneyland is important in the history of the entertainment industry. Disneyland is much more important than that.
Studies of Disneyland’s spatial organization have been some of the most significant interpretations of its history and impact, contextualizing it within a broader history of gardens, parks, and utopias, as well as within a history of urban planning. Such approaches understand Disneyland as a brilliant amalgamation of earlier practices—building on traditions of gardens, tivolis, world’s fairs, and amusement parks (complete with water elements, the domestication of real and robotic animals, industrial displays, and the corporate management of formerly public spaces). More locally, the geographic and spatial dimensions of the park’s history have also been grounded in other forms of mid-century American planning, particularly as they relate to the development of Southern California’s regional culture, including suburbanization and the development of malls, planned living communities, and industrial parks.17The best publication about Disneyland that also is based on remarkable use of the Walt Disney Imagineering archives was written for an unprecedented exhibition. See Marling, Designing Disney’s Theme Parks. See also John M. Findlay, Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture After 1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), and Eric Avila, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).
Diverse as these approaches are, they all invoke the park’s “theming,” beginning with the creation of different “lands” that created a sense of overall design through Imagineering’s aesthetic of “detailism”—coordinating all aspects of the artificial environment in which structures also help tell stories. The built environment is not monumental, but it is conjured to be enlisted as part of a narrative.18Scott A. Lukas, Theme Park (London: Reaktion, 2008), 77. Two lavishly illustrated and well-researched books published with support from Disney are Chris Nichols, Walt Disney’s Disneyland (Cologne: Taschen, 2018), and Don Hahn, Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Disney’s Magical Mid-Century (Los Angeles: Disney Editions, 2017). Yet such places are also constructed in order to be traveled through. Observers point to the park’s hyperrealism, which one might consider a form of realism for which there is no literal original. The lands are designed to evoke in visitors a variety of emotional responses: nostalgia on Main Street, U.S.A., the thrill of empire in Adventureland, discovery in Frontierland, and the wonder of the transformation from the flat world of Disney cartoons to three dimensions in Fantasyland. In Tomorrowland, this very detailism often presented a challenge: conjuring a utopian frontier that had never been encountered. The narrative works only because the visitor moves. As Imagineer Marc Davis explained of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room (initially sponsored by United Airlines), the attraction that introduced one of WED’s signal technologies, Audio Animatronics, lifelike moving and talking automata, or animation in three dimensions, “Rides should be what people don’t expect them to be, and it doesn’t have a lot to do with continuity of story. It does have to do with the entertainment value of surprise and seeing things you can’t see anyplace else.”19“Marc Davis and the Haunted Mansion,” “E” Ticket 16 (Summer 1993): 27. Disneyland is not, in fact, merely a simulation; it is often pure moving spectacle, and when it is narrative, that narrative unfolds because of visitor motion. It is no accident that an image of Walt Disney surrounded by modes of air transport dates from this period (fig. 2.1).
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Description: Walt Disney’s Introduction on Disneyland Television Show by Unknown
Fig. 2.1 Walt Disney’s Introduction on Disneyland Television Show, “Fly with Von Drake” episode, 1963. © Disney
By building on these ways of looking at the park, I examine Disneyland’s aesthetic in which the media and technology of its mid-century moment not only shaped how the park came to be but also explains why it resonated so profoundly at the time it opened. Disneyland is pure jet age because its underlying formal work, as a place of profound visual and sensory design and intention, offered visitors a chance to enact the new form of the jet’s highly valued positive quality of movement: its fluid motion. Like the jet age airport, Disneyland also made the experience of motion itself into something beautiful, pleasurable, and easy. That motion became an object to see and simultaneously hardly feel—like riding in a jet; the thrill of Peter Pan’s Flight is in its smooth and easy path over London.
Disneyland’s emphasis on motion as a beautiful and joyful sight and the park’s successful people-moving made it a place where visitors participated in jet age aesthetics. While inside the park and in constant circulation, people learned to toggle between the material and virtual worlds, aided by new forms of media and technology. Disneyland organized, ordered, and aestheticized kinesis and “transport” itself. It is not merely in obvious symbolic artifacts, such as Tomorrowland’s ostentatiously sponsored TWA Rocket to the Moon, that Disneyland can be seen as part of the jet age moment (fig. 2.2). At Disneyland, as has been noted by others and as many of the Imagineers have explained, filmmaking was also transferred to three-dimensional space.20Scott A. Lukas, ed., A Reader in Themed and Immersive Spaces (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon–ETC, 2016). But the entire place operated under a vision in which Walt Disney engaged his jet age interest in people-moving, turning transport into the story that connected the different lands while making a function into an attraction, narrated as the driving tale of human progress, written on the American landscape. The constant movement of the attractions and of the guests themselves defined a visit to the park, which was intended to be an experience more than a show. Disneyland also helps us better understand that this experience of toggling between the material and virtual worlds, rather than fast travel, is why the jet created an age that made such an impact and of which the park is an important part.
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Description: TWA Rocket to the Moon by Unknown
Fig. 2.2 TWA Rocket to the Moon, Disneyland, circa 1956. © Disney
When Disneyland opened, visitors parked their cars only to be transported all day long. Rather than a series of different lands, the park was a series of roads, tracks, and skyways that ultimately narrated journeying and offered a history transport technology as the key element in a larger history of progress. Visitors experienced the transformation of a functional activity (transport) into a beautiful attraction. Transport defined the space in every land from the moment of arrival, when guests encountered the whirring train at the Disneyland Main Street Station (fig. 2.3).21For Michael Sorkin, the ride is reduced to free-market capitalist circulation: “If culture is being Disneyfied . . . the royal road there is precisely that: going for a ride!” Sorkin, “See You in Disneyland,” in Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space, ed. Michael Sorkin (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992), 216. Although this is not my interpretation, his observations about the operations of the park are astute.
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Description: Disneyland Main Park Entrance, with train by Unknown
Fig. 2.3 Disneyland Main Park Entrance, with train, circa 1950s. © Disney
Although one could argue that nothing like Disneyland had ever existed, it was not entirely unprecedented. Its originality inhered in its recombination of familiar experiences in spaces devoted to exhibition and spectacle combined with the repertoire of Disney film narratives and their associated characters and themes. Disney called it a “combined amusement park–public wonderland–fair–carnival–showplace of magic and living facts, wondrously devised for the visitor’s participation.”22“Walt Profile Press release,” circa 1955, 16. WDA. Although we tend to focus on the importance of fictional narratives as the center of Disney storytelling, Walt had become increasingly aware of the value of information to the entertainment business. Perhaps the Studios’ wartime work for the government (making instructional films and propaganda such as Victory Through Air Power) had raised his awareness, but judging from his commitment to expanding the repertoire from animation to live-action film and into documentary with the True-Life Adventures and People and Places series, Disney began to cast his venture as being in the business of visual communication as much as entertainment—“infotainment” before the fact, one might say. In a 1953 memo he mused that the “motion picture screen has become one of the major sources of popular information. . . . The screen must now devote a substantial portion of its time and showmanship to factual matters.”23Walt Disney, “People and Places,” May 21, 1953. WDA.
By extension, Walt saw Disneyland’s mission as extending well beyond being a mere pleasure zone. When his team visited multiple amusement parks to research working models in 1954, they were most impressed with the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, which they reported was an “extremely excellent combination of education and entertainment.”24Disneyland Inc., “Report on Amusement Parks,” June 1954, 5. WDA. Another press release for Disneyland called it “a world’s fair, a playground, a futuristic city and a tropical park all rolled into a permanent landmark.”25TWA Press Release, “Disneyland New West Coast Magnet,” n.d. (circa 1954–55), 1. Simple categorization failed because the park was not exactly like anything else, even as it drew on familiar European exhibition practices that engaged in the best of industrial and corporate design, updating them technologically by adding the moment’s relentless preoccupation with transportation and motion, mobility, and circulation.
Disneyland also emerged from a more local and practical problem: Walt Disney’s desire to respond to the public’s interest in touring his studio. He had experimented with satisfying this curiosity by making a studio tour film called The Reluctant Dragon (1941). The film showed how the studio made animated films, and it offered audiences a vicarious visit to the new studio in Burbank.26Didier Ghez, “The Reluctant Dragon,” in The Walt Disney Film Archives: The Animated Movies, 1921–1968, ed. Daniel Kothenschulte (New York: Taschen, 2016), 184–93. The departments were actually re-created on soundstages. Designed by Kem Weber, this state-of-the-art studio had features that would become signature elements at Disneyland: purpose-built furniture, thematic coherence throughout the buildings, and a heavily choreographed space mixing a campus environment with streets bearing whimsical names, such as Dopey Drive and Mickey Avenue (the sign for this intersection was created for The Reluctant Dragon; figs. 2.4, 2.5).
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Description: Burbank Studio by Unknown
Fig. 2.4 Burbank Studio, The Walt Disney Studios, circa 1940. © Disney
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Description: Street sign erected for The Reluctant Dragon in Burbank by Unknown
Fig. 2.5 Street sign erected for The Reluctant Dragon in Burbank at The Walt Disney Studios, circa 1939. © Disney
The Burbank studio, opened in 1939 on the heels of the wild financial success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), is notable for its planned space, which was designed to house the specialized work to be done there, as compared to the hodge-podge development of the original studio on Hyperion Avenue.27As Disney alumnus Jimmy Johnson explained, “What began as an impromptu art form was transformed into an efficient business.” This was a typical expression about the early company. See Johnson, Inside the Whimsy Works: My Life with Walt Disney Productions, ed. Greg Ehrbar and Didier Ghez (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2014), 20. As part of the vision for Burbank, Disney also began to imagine a small park and train ride on land he owned across the street, a place he considered calling Mickey Mouse Park.28Karal Ann Marling, “Disneyland, 1955: Just Take the Santa Ana Freeway to the American Dream,” American Art 5 (Winter/Spring 1991): 189. In various iterations it would be used by employees or visitors to the Studios. That park plan never came to pass, but it laid the foundation for some important thinking about the place that would eventually become Disneyland.
Simultaneously, Southern California, already home to the creative side of America’s major media and communications industries in its movie studios, experienced two significant revolutions in transport. First, the American interstate highway system began to take shape, and its expansion and postwar freeway-building connected the Los Angeles basin to the rest of the country. In the mid-1950s the growing national highway system threaded Northern and Southern California, opening the region to a national network of drivers. Southern California had also been the heart of a developing aviation industry, both military and civil. After World War II, jet travel would place such seemingly remote places as California and Hawaii within reach of the East Coast of the United States and Europe.29Peter Westwick, ed., Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).
Such changes prompted a greater contemporary consciousness about transport’s impact on history, which in turn fostered a nostalgic train fad in America. Animators at The Walt Disney Studios, who had the talent and resources, responded by building working trains for their own backyards.30Marling, “Disneyland, 1955,” 179–80. Among them was none other than Disney himself. In 1949 he opened the Carolwood-Pacific Railroad, which ran through his own backyard in Holmby Hills (fig. 2.6). As plans for a park took shape, Disney always intended that a train would circle around it. Like the one through his own backyard, as well as the one originally sketched for the park across the street from the Studios, the train would be enclosed inside a berm so that those seated on the train could not see the world outside; the train would circulate along the perimeter of a “make-believe” world. Vehicles that moved people defined space, but constant motion would eventually shift the emphasis from such defined spaces back to simply moving through them.
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Description: Walt Disney and children riding the Carolwood-Pacific Railroad in his backyard in...
Fig. 2.6 Walt Disney and children riding the Carolwood-Pacific Railroad in his backyard in Holmby Hills, circa 1950s. Photo, Disney Family Museum. © Disney
The broader public interest in trains extended beyond tinkerers and people who had the means to build model trains. In 1948, Disney, who had sold papers on the Santa Fe line as a boy, accompanied by the animator Ward Kimball, attended the Chicago Railroad Fair, an enormous months-long event that commemorated a hundred years of the railroad west of that city. There they saw many things that they would later adapt for Disneyland, such as Indian villages and a re-creation of French New Orleans. The Railroad Fair also framed American history as a history of transport and technology in ways that shaped Disney’s view of the past.31This connection is made convincingly by Marling, “Disneyland, 1955,” 180–84.
While the particular role of trains for Disney and their appearance in the park may link them directly and anecdotally, virtual voyages and vehicles had been vital to the cinema and to expositions and amusement parks. Whether one considers such early attractions as Hale’s Tours, in which passengers boarded fake trains and watched a cinematic landscape go by, or whether one goes back to actual train passengers in the mid-nineteenth century, whose window views seemed to prefigure the experience of the moviegoers’ experience of time and space (as has been argued by Wolfgang Schivelbusch), the convergence of such train rides at Disneyland locates the train within film history and the history of world’s fairs and other amusement parks, even as it relocates the train within a transport context of the 1950s.32Schivelbusch, Railway Journey; Jeffrey Ruoff, ed., Virtual Voyages: Cinema and Travel (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006); and Teresa Castro, La pensée cartographique des images (Paris: Aléas, 2011). Earlier and fundamental studies of such mobilized spectatorship include Friedberg, Window Shopping; Giuliana Bruno, Street-Walking on a Ruined Map: Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); and Schwartz, Spectacular Realities.
Although the idea for Disneyland had thus been percolating for some time, the actual financing and building of the park became a relatively speedy project by 1953. The key dimensions of this often-told tale include the fact that the Disney brothers did not agree on risking the Studios’ assets in order to finance Walt’s wild idea, and so it became an independent project. After liquidating a great deal of his personal wealth, he had to raise still more cash, and, as he would later say, “ABC needed the television show so damned bad, they bought the amusement park.”33Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (New York: Knopf, 2006), 508.
In exchange for agreeing to broadcast a weekly television show, the third-place network, desperate to make a splash, financed the park with $500,000 and became a 35 percent owner. It also guaranteed another $4.5 million in loans for a project that would cost $17 million to build.34Wasko, Understanding Disney, 21; also see Gabler, Walt Disney. The network had bet on the right horse. Disney’s need for cash had significant long-term consequences for movie studios, including Disney’s leading the way to the kind of cross-platform synergy that today characterizes the entertainment industry more generally. At the time it established two things: First, it showed that television could be productively used by movie studios, which had initially considered the medium as competition. Second and more important at the time, Walt Disney’s Disneyland, the television show, functioned as a ten-month advertisement for Disneyland, the place. As Walt explained in the first episode, “Disneyland the place and Disneyland the show are one and the same.”35“Walt Disney’s ‘Disneyland,'" Episode 1, October 27, 1954. Television’s antigeographical space made it easy to foresee the Disneyland geography, in which different lands would be juxtaposed around a hub, as Karal Ann Marling has observed. The discontinuous park geography even resembled the channels on a television dial.36Marling, “Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks,” 74–75.
Disney himself had conceived of the park’s basic shape, with the spacious hub that allowed visitors to both circulate freely and be easily oriented (fig. 2.7). The hub also visualized Disney’s main preoccupation in designing the park: moving people through space and turning that motion into something to look at and simultaneously experience. Disney prioritized circulation and the “flow” of people who would be “transported” through the park by the movement of their own two feet, by purpose-built vehicles, by themed ride environments, and by engaging in a form of “three-dimensional story-telling art that places guests in the story environment.”37John Hench and Peggy Van Pelt, Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show (New York: Disney Editions, 2003), 67. The remarkable achievement of creating an artificial storytelling environment has preoccupied interpreters of the park, while visitors’ movement through the space has seemed relatively insignificant. Analysts and observers, I would suggest, have unwittingly naturalized this movement in the same way that viewers do not see the camera movements in classic Hollywood films, and they have thus failed to see the vehicles and spaces of flow as the park’s major aesthetic experience and intent.
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Description: Walt Disney in front of a map of Disneyland by Unknown
Fig. 2.7 Walt Disney in front of a map of Disneyland illustrated by Peter Ellenshaw, circa 1954. © Disney
Such movement also participated in an antimonumental logic. As the epigraph from this chapter attests, “We don’t have an edifice complex. We want our community shaped not around buildings, but around people.” In the same period that Walt Disney was working on opening Disneyland, airport planners were working on antimonumental airports that met the demands of the jet age. With the same approach to building spaces, they also sought to account for how people “naturally” or seemingly unconsciously moved through space. Disneyland was designed to anticipate change and growth with flexible, modular, and evolving spaces. As Disney explained, one of the appeals for him was that “Disneyland will never be finished.”38France and Nunis, Window on Main Street, 187. Such change also suggested that culture would be improved and forever in a state of progress. In airports and at Disneyland, planners, architects, engineers, animators, and ordinary consumers glamourized and aestheticized such change and flux. Motion also denoted a sense of moving through time and represented the idea of progress itself. At Disneyland, visitors would participate in the speed of the age by seeing how far they had come by virtue of how fast they would be going tomorrow. But like the jet age itself, the future had already arrived.
It should come as no surprise that, to realize this jet age vision for his project, Disney assembled a team with close ties to actual jet age planning.39For the best account of the early history of Disneyland, see Todd James Pierce, Three Years in Wonderland: The Disney Brothers, C. V. Wood, and the Making of the Great American Theme Park (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2016). The people he hired from outside the Studios came from his circle of friends, who were often guests at his home and who specialized in orchestrating highly aestheticized spaces dedicated to moving large numbers of people. Welton Becket, his Holmby Hills neighbor, was already known for designing Bullock’s department store and was working on the Beverly Hilton and beginning the Capital Records Tower at the time Walt was planning Disneyland (fig. 2.8). Becket would design the Theme Building at LAX (see fig. 1.20) the year Disneyland opened, and he would later work on several Disney projects, including the Ford Magic Skyway at the New York World’s Fair of 1964–65 and Disney’s Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort (complete with a Monorail running through the lobby) (fig. 2.9), as well as Century City in Los Angeles. Becket convinced Walt to forsake using architects and have his own animators design the park.40Marling, “Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks,” 58.
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Description: Capitol Records Building by Welton Becket Associates
Fig. 2.8 Welton Becket, Capitol Records Building, Los Angeles, circa 1955–56. Dick Whittington, photographer
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Description: Disney’s Contemporary Hotel by Welton Becket Associates
Fig. 2.9 Welton Becket, Disney’s Contemporary Hotel, Walt Disney World, 1995. © Disney
Among those rejected architects were the well-known team of William Pereira and Charles Luckman, who were introduced to the Disneyland idea at a party at Walt’s house and who subsequently wrote him, explaining that they had gone “hook, line and sinker for Disneyland.” Disney rejected the initial plans that he had invited them to submit. They did advise him early on regarding certain key principles, such as having only one entrance to the park, which they believed would reinforce the public’s orientation, advice that Disney took and that distinguished Disneyland from its competition.41Letter from William Pereira to Walt Disney, April 10, 1952. WDA. Pierce, Three Years in Wonderland, 37. In fact, Disneyland was so different in design from other parks that when its planners pitched the concept to the heads of the most successful amusement parks in the country, they proclaimed it would be dead on arrival.42Harrison Price, Walt’s Revolution! By the Numbers (Orlando: Ripley, 2004), esp. 28–32. The Pereira and Luckman team was offered a consolation prize, however: designing the Disneyland Hotel, operated independently by Disney’s friend Jack Wrather, in 1954–55, the same period when they were working on the new master plan for LAX. Both projects shunned monumental architecture in favor of unremarkable rectangular buildings that could be added to or moved. Instead, each project, though notably different in scale, would be distinguished for the way it could be connected to and moved through. They were not destinations but passthroughs for people on the way to somewhere else—repeating the hub as a concept if not formally re-creating its design (fig. 2.10).43Donald W. Ballard, The Disneyland Hotel: The Early Years, 1954–1988 (Riverside: Ape Pen, 2005).
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Description: Disneyland Hotel by Unknown
Fig. 2.10 Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, circa 1959
Disney’s relationship with Pereira and Luckman, whose own partnership did not last very long, left another vital legacy for Disneyland. In 1953 Charles Luckman introduced Disney to the work of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Disney met C. V. Wood, the aviation engineer he would hire away as Disneyland’s first general manager. Disney and Wood then hired retired Naval Admiral Joe Fowler to help supervise construction. Van Arsdale France, also from the aviation industry, eventually joined the team. Perhaps most significantly, Disney met consultant Harrison Price at SRI. Disney hired SRI and “Buzz” Price, who managed such things as site selection and is credited with inventing the term Imagineering. He consulted for WED into the years of the Florida Project and shaped Walt Disney’s final and very personal project—Cal Arts—serving on its board of trustees for many years. Price epitomized the rational planning approach that Disney would embrace in building the park.44Price, Walt’s Revolution, and James Skee, “By the Numbers: Confidence, Consultants, and the Construction of Mass Leisure, 1953–1975” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2016).
The SRI consultants and the company Price built, called ERA (which had one major client: WED), have often claimed that they made invaluable contributions to Disneyland’s success. In particular they believed that they had taught Disney about people-moving by using scientifically managed and quantifiable information to shape planning and decision-making regarding park building, growth, and attraction design. No doubt Disney wholeheartedly endorsed the rationalized form of knowledge-gathering undertaken on his behalf. He needed the research he paid for, if only to bolster what he planned to do anyway, which required enormous capitalization and thus risk-taking and buy-in from his brother Roy and eventually the Disney board of directors after WED became part of the Studios in 1961.45Skee, “By the Numbers.” Disney sold his interest in WED Enterprises in February 1965, and although it was renamed Walt Disney Imagineering in 1986, the creative and other ties during Disney’s lifetime were profound. Dave Smith, Disney A to Z, 5th ed. (Glendale: Disney Enterprises, 2016), 813. What is less clear is the extent to which SRI and ERA really could generate data that were any better than Walt’s and the Imagineers’ anecdotal observations, which they gathered by simply watching how people used the park spaces. They made changes and projections based on those ethnographic and qualitative observations.
For the Imagineers themselves, the success of the park derived from something else entirely. John Hench, who began his career as a Disney story artist, argued that Disney’s sense of the flow of people was a “know-how” that “developed in the Studio and from making films, because it really is, basically, to relate an idea with another idea, to control this relation. And this is what films do. It’s really a theatrical problem to relate ideas in sequence with some kind of concept in time.” This theatrical problem had to be adapted to three dimensions in the park. Hench described working with Disney early in the process of creating the park: “[Walt] would tell us to watch people. See how they behave; don’t force them down artificial paths. You’ll have to study people.”46“Interview with John Hench and Marty Sklar by Richard Hubler,” May 14, 1968, 26. WDA. Disney also spent lots of time in the park once it opened to observe how guests used the spaces. When a maintenance director explained that they would have to fence in a flowerbed because people kept walking across it, according to Hench, Disney resisted: “When guests make their own path, they probably have a damn good reason for doing it.”47Hench and Van Pelt, Designing Disney, 30. Disney’s view was very much in keeping with the times. This was, after all, the era of the rise of ergonomics. As noted earlier, Henry Dreyfuss explained, “When the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed.”48Dreyfuss as cited in John Harwood, The Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945–1976 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 96. Harwood’s reading of ergonomics is as a posthumanist construction, which I am not sure is useful. In a 1966 film describing ten years of success at Disneyland, the echo of such principles stands out: “In the planning and building there were no standards to follow; whatever worked became the code. Whatever failed to meet the public need was changed, replaced by a better idea.” Perhaps Disneyland’s singular success can be attributed to its founder’s knowledge, experience, and investment in both forms of knowledge: the rational planner who was also steeped in the theatricalization of cinematic storytelling. Disneyland, as Walt said at its opening, seemed to embody the contradictory logic of being dedicated to the “ideals, dreams and hard facts that have created America.”49EPCOT Film; Walt Disney, “Disneyland Dedication Speech,” July 17, 1955. What may have been unusual and unusually insightful about Disney was that he did not see a contradiction in employing both of these forms of knowledge.
The park concretized and spatialized this ambitious vision by offering interconnected transport modes. Freestanding transport, as much as the themed ride-throughs, offered riding itself as an aesthetic experience—for those on the ride and for those who watched. At the same time, guests journeying through the park experienced an overall narrative of historical progress through transportation.
At the park’s one entrance, guests looked up at the Main Street Station to find the train that traced the park’s perimeter (see fig. 2.3). From there, Main Street, U.S.A., teemed with old-time vehicles such as omnibuses, delivery trucks, horse-drawn streetcars, and surreys designed for Disneyland by Bob Gurr, a car designer without an engineering background (figs. 2.11, 2.12). As visitors made their way to Frontierland they encountered a variety of watercraft on the artificially constructed Rivers of America, defining westward expansion. These craft were set in an evolutionary relation to each other, from the simplicity of the Indian War Canoes and the Mike Fink Keel Boats (which had also been featured on the Disneyland show’s hit Davy Crockett series), to the sophisticated beauty of the three-masted Sailing Ship Columbia, added in 1958, to the Mark Twain Riverboat, a working steamship built for the park (figs. 2.132.17).
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Description: Main Street, U.S.A. Vehicle by Unknown
Fig. 2.11 Main Street, U.S.A. Vehicle, Disneyland, 1966. © Disney
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Description: Main Street, U.S.A. Vehicle by Unknown
Fig. 2.12 Main Street, U.S.A. Vehicle, Disneyland, 1973. © Disney
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Description: Indian War Canoes and Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island by Unknown
Fig. 2.13 Indian War Canoes and Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, 1959. Rivers of America, Disneyland. © Disney
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Description: Indian War Canoes by Unknown
Fig. 2.14 Indian War Canoes, 1956. Rivers of America, Disneyland. © Disney
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Description: Keel Boats by Unknown
Fig. 2.15 Keel Boats, circa mid-1970s. Rivers of America, Disneyland. © Disney
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Description: Columbia Sailing Ship by Unknown
Fig. 2.16 Columbia Sailing Ship, circa 1970s. Rivers of America, Disneyland. © Disney
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Description: Mark Twain Riverboat by Unknown
Fig. 2.17 Mark Twain Riverboat, 1979. Rivers of America, Disneyland. © Disney
While Tomorrowland’s Autopia represented a play freeway with gas-powered cars that guests could drive, newer and more experimental modes of transport, such as the Skyway (a Swiss innovation redesigned for Disneyland) and the Monorail (a German-American innovation called the “highway in the sky,” the first of its kind operating in the Western Hemisphere when it opened in 1959), directed guests’ attention skyward, leaving the ground for walking (fig. 2.18). The Monorail offered “silent, electric-powered travel high above the Magic Kingdom,” and the Skyway actually never fully stopped running to load its passengers.50WED Monorail Script, “revised” September 27, 1966, 7. WDA. A circle through the park would eventually lead visitors to the future of transport in the Rocket to the Moon in Tomorrowland.
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Description: Monorail by Unknown
Fig. 2.18 Monorail, 1959. Disneyland. © Disney
The challenge of presenting the future and keeping it from feeling dated plagued Disney so much in Tomorrowland that they left the area quite under-developed in the park’s first iteration (fig. 2.19). According to Dick Irvine—an art director at Disney who had left to go to 20th Century Fox and then came back to Disney and was responsible for the developmental oversight of all the park’s attractions, the 1964–65 World’s Fair Disney projects, and was named WED’s chief operating officer in 1967—Walt said, “The minute we do Tomorrowland, it’s today and it’s past.”51“Interview with Dick Irvine by Bob Thomas,” April 24, 1973, 20. WDA. In fact, it originally was set a mere thirty years in the future, to 1986, when Halley’s Comet was expected to return and when it was envisioned that supersonic travel might inaugurate an age of space travel. Tomorrowland’s iconic entryway “weenie” (as the “landmarks” were called), the Clock of the World, an hourglass-shaped tower that showed what time it was everywhere in the world simultaneously, hardly pointed to that interstellar future. Instead, it betrayed its jet age consciousness of increasing simultaneity of time across space, which served as a visual shorthand for the jet’s time-space compression (fig. 2.20).52See Leslie, “Pan Am Terminal at Idlewild/Kennedy Airport.” Nothing could have seemed more 1955 than that. In fact, Tomorrowland seemed so associated with the jet age that one observer concluded that it even looked like an airport: “It called for a huge concrete shell to cover the entire area. . . . It looked not unlike the TWA Terminal at Idlewild in New York.”53“Interview with Bruce Bushman,” no date and no interviewer. WDA. This undated comment, found in the Walt Disney Archives, had to have been made in retrospect, because the TWA Terminal did not even exist when Disneyland opened. In fact, it might have been more apt had he noted that the iconic TWA Terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen, who received the commission in 1956, the year after Disneyland opened, looked a lot like what had been built at the theme park the year before. One cannot help but wonder if TWA had asked Saarinen to consider what had already been built in Anaheim, a project into which a great deal of corporate identity had already been poured (figs. 2.21, 2.22).
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Description: TWA Rocket to the Moon, Tomorrowland Entrance by Unknown
Fig. 2.19 TWA Rocket to the Moon, Tomorrowland Entrance, 1955. © Disney
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Description: Tomorrowland Clock of the World by Unknown
Fig. 2.20 Tomorrowland Clock of the World, Disneyland, 1955. © Disney
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Description: TWA Rocket to the Moon by Unknown
Fig. 2.21 TWA Rocket to the Moon, 1955–59, © Disney
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Description: TWA Terminal by Saarinen, Eero
Fig. 2.22 TWA Terminal, JFK, 1962. Ezra Stoller, photographer. © Ezra Stoller/Esto
Since Tomorrowland represented a jet age idea of a future that closely resembled the present, it always needed updating to be “futuristic.” In 1964, planning began for a $22 million renovation, which opened in July 1967 as New Tomorrowland. The park’s vision of the future was now seen less through such symbols as rockets and interplanetary travel than through abstraction: the sight and experience of fluid motion, a spectacle of a networked system of people being moved on planet Earth. It was touted as “A World on the Move” in a press release. “The new land is alive with whirring wheels, jet propelled travel and exciting sights and sounds on every side. Architecturally, the new land is designed to facilitate movement of large numbers of people along an exterior corridor and through its colorful pavilions—conveying a constant impression of movement and activity.”54WED Press Release, Summer 1967. WDA. See also Hench quoted in “E” Ticket 17 (Winter 1993–94): 9. WDA.
Fluid motion and a naturalized choreography in which nothing actually stops defined New Tomorrowland (figs. 2.23, 2.24). Gone was the Clock of the World, replaced by the PeopleMover, designed by WedWay Transportation Systems and dubbed a new concept in transportation for High Density Traffic Flow Areas. Another press release emphasized that the PeopleMover was a “series of vehicles that never stop moving, even when passengers are boarding or debarking . . . vehicles that can’t collide, compartment doors that open and close by themselves.”55“Peoplemover and Omnimover,” News From WED, n.d. (circa early 1967), 1. Anaheim Public Library. In other words, the name finally said it all: the vehicle, like the vision, was about people-moving (fig. 2.25).
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Description: Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland, concept drawing by Unknown
Fig. 2.23 Disneyland’s “New” Tomorrowland, concept drawing, circa 1964–65. Disney News Magazine, Summer 1967. © Disney
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Description: Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland by Unknown
Fig. 2.24 Disneyland’s “New” Tomorrowland, circa 1967. Disney News Magazine, Summer 1967. © Disney
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Description: PeopleMover at Entrance to New Tomorrowland by Unknown
Fig. 2.25 PeopleMover at Entrance to “New” Tomorrowland, 1974. Disneyland. © Disney
The PeopleMover improved the belt technology that WED had developed for the Ford Magic Skyway at the 1964–65 World’s Fair; Disney’s original inspiration had been the way people moved through buildings at the Swiss National Fair of 1964 in Lausanne.56For the evolution of the attraction, see http://samlanddisney.blogspot.com/2011/03/wedway-peoplemover.html Of the many renovated and new attractions, it ran through New Tomorrowland as its pulsing beat. The park promoted it as an automatic and all-electric point-to-point shuttle service, although in reality it merely offered a “scenic tour” through Tomorrowland. The park promoted it, however, as if one day it would be an actual working form of transport. Additionally, WED developed the Omnimover vehicle for the Monsanto-sponsored Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction. The Omnimover was a continuous chain of constantly loading vehicles (called Atomobiles—still in use in the park in such rides as the Haunted Mansion, where they are known as Doom Buggies), and the vehicles had the ability to rotate 360 degrees and “aim” passengers at particular areas for viewing, directing their gazes in a three-dimensional show, an improvement over the more limited control of the viewers’ gaze in films, where such directed attention was achieved only through camerawork.
The impact of such change in 1967 started to clarify for more astute observers that Disneyland’s genius lay in its infrastructure and system of flow. As the architect Peter Blake wrote in 1972, “The real Tomorrowland is the vast infrastructure that no paying customer ever sees. . . . The real Tomorrowland is also above grade: the grid of trains and other earthbound vehicles, and of skybucket aerial vehicles (none of which pollute the atmosphere). . . . And the real Tomorrowland is also an electronic communications network . . . a jet-engined power plant that provides all the needed juice and much, much more.”57Peter Blake, “Lessons of the Park,” in The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdom, ed. Christopher Finch (New York: Abrams, 1975), 430–31. Blake was writing on the heels of the 1971 opening of Walt Disney World, when New Tomorrowland could be understood with even greater clarity in relation to the park in Florida. It was placed in relation not just to the history of Disneyland since its opening but also with regard to Disney and WED’s 1964–65 World’s Fair work, which itself had led to the planning for Walt Disney World and EPCOT, the place that Disney imagined and proposed publicly as the culmination of his vision of fluid motion in the month before he died.
Blake understood why one of the greatest urban planners of the century, Robert Moses, president of the 1964–65 World’s Fair, sought Disney’s participation in what he hoped would be the most successful fair of all time. Of course, Disneyland was already a major phenomenon. To give a sense of its impact: six years after the park’s opening, 25 million people had already visited. In a survey, 99.9 percent of Disney visitors said they would recommend a visit to a friend. Interestingly, for every child who went to the park, four adults attended.58“Disneyland Data 1961,” A6. Box 96, NYPL, NYWF. In Disney, Moses saw a master planner, a designer, and a man who was as accomplished in the art of people-moving as he was in providing amusing and entertaining content. As Welton Becket, who worked at the fair designing the Ford Magic Skyway, noted, the tables had turned regarding Walt’s relation to architecture and planning. Whereas Disney had picked the brains of architects such as Pereira and Luckman when he was planning Disneyland, it was now Disney who was in the position to explain to architects how to “design public space for optimal use, including such things as where to locate the concessions, the toilets and ticketing.”59Paul F. Anderson, “Disney and the World’s Fair,” Persistence of Vision 6/7 (1995): 69.
Moses sought out Disney based not just on the success of Disneyland, but also because Disney had already applied his knowledge more broadly, at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. In 1955, the International Olympic Committee selected the California location for the VIII Olympic Winter Games. It would be the first purpose-built site to host an Olympic Games (including the construction of the first Olympic Village). Walt Disney, who had been an early investor in the Sugar Bowl ski resort in the Donner Pass, became the head of the Pageantry Committee. Within five years the WED team took over many planning activities beyond designing the opening and closing ceremonies, for which they were initially hired. Imagineer John Hench redesigned the Olympic torches and the relay, and he oversaw the creation of colossal ice sculptures (fig. 2.26). Disney designed the main ceremonial stage with flagpoles and giant aluminum crests of the participant nations, all underwritten by corporate sponsors. Additionally, and perhaps most significantly, WED consulted on such aspects of the event as ticketing, parking, and the organization of crowd movement.60Michael A. Crawford, “New Heights: Walt and the Winter Olympics,” Walt Disney Family Museum. http://www.waltdisney.com/blog/new-heights-walt-and-winter-olympics. During the games, Disneyland Cast Members even came to the site and entertained athletes.
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Description: Ice sculptures at Squaw Valley Olympic Village by Unknown
Fig. 2.26 Ice sculptures at Squaw Valley Olympic Village, 1960. Bill Briner
Moses initially had hoped to ask Disney to install a working monorail on the fairgrounds. In 1962 he wrote to Martin Stone, head of the Fair’s Industrial Division, to remind him that “we are bending every effort to get the Walt Disney monorail” to the New York fair.61Memo from Robert Moses to Martin Stone, June 4, 1962. Box 60, NYPL, NYWF. There had been a monorail at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, but Disney’s was considered to be superior. Eventually Moses abandoned the plan for the Disney system as too expensive and complex, and he sought a less ambitious monorail by AMF, a recreation company best known for making bowling alley equipment, but he persisted in enlisting Disney’s creative energies. Disney, in partnership with several sponsors (three corporate, a state government, and UNICEF) organized four extremely successful attractions that were visited by 91 percent of fairgoers: the GE Pavilion’s Progressland, featuring the GE Carousel of Progress; “it’s a small world”; Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln; and the Ford Magic Skyway. The skyway alone accounted for visits by more than 15 million people.62WED Press Release, Summer 1967, 3. Anaheim Public Library.
Disney embraced the opportunity to participate in the fair, and not simply because he was flattered by having the premier urban planner of the age seek out his advice. He had his own business reasons to venture east of the Mississippi. Within the Disney organization, various parties struggled over what might motivate their involvement, and they carefully considered exactly what value they brought to the fair. On the one hand, in an October 1960 memo, the organization tried to define and differentiate their business: “The Disney organization owns and operates Disneyland Park, which is a combination amusement and recreation center and permanent exposition. . . . We are not in the business or profession of industrial or exhibit design and we do not seek employment in that field as such.”63Jack Sayers, Memo, October 1960. WDA. But in a letter from Disney consultant Harrison Price dated October 5, 1960, to Dick Irvine, Price defined “Imagineering” as “imaginative concepts in design, architecture, engineering and entertainment.” It seems hard to separate this neologism from what people had begun to call industrial design, a field highly involved in world’s fairs. In other words, it seems that the Disney people were undeniably in the business of industrial design. Imagineering is simply what they named it. Price described “institutional, expositional and show design” as part of Imagineering’s mission, and then explained that WED had devised a theme for its client, an institutional story that would be incorporated into shows or exhibits, along with a budget, and then had implemented the engineering and construction phases.64WED Press Release, December 26, 1963, 8 A5. Folder A 1169, NYPL, NYWF. During the World’s Fair, WED used stationery listing addresses in Glendale and Forest Hills, Queens.
Two aspects, however, stand out as distinct from the charge of ordinary industrial designers: WED emphasized their expertise in traffic flow and people-moving and their ownership of the work they produced. Industrial designers may have been interested in lighting and ergonomics, but the sorts of elements that Price liked to enumerate—turnstiles, ticketing, parking, and walkways—seemed to fall into the bailiwick of landscapers and engineers. WED’s interdisciplinary team handled this diverse charge on its own. Additionally, Price explained that while it had been customary that the “designer’s” creation would eventually belong to the client, WED retained ownership of the content. The company worked as cosponsor on every project and reserved the right to bring everything it designed back to Disneyland.65Letter from Harrison Price to Dick Irvine, October 5, 1960. WDA. This commitment to product ownership can even be gleaned from general publicity. Marty Sklar, who wrote many of the early Disneyland scripts as well as the Disneyland News, noted in a 1963 letter regarding a story for Popular Science, which Ford was trying to arrange, that “we are hopeful that we can do so [be featured in the story] without revealing any mechanisms for which patents are being sought.”66Memo from Marty Sklar to Card Walker, July 31, 1963. WDA.
From WED’s perspective, the fair allowed the company the unprecedented opportunity to seek funds for research and development of new attractions that would debut at the fair in New York and then be brought to Disneyland. They were happy to tell the GE story, for example, because the “content” really amounted to the design of the experience—the carousel, the Audio-Animatronics figures—as much as the story of progress through electricity and the GE message that “progress was their product.” Although Walt Disney Imagineers crafted the narrative content and managed the corporate story, they also understood the attractions as vehicles for the display of the Disney exhibition systems.
Corporations sometimes struggled with the flash proposed by the Disney packaging, fearing that their own product would be buried by the attraction itself. This explains why it proved hard to find a sponsor for the show originally called “One Nation Under God,” initially imagined as an Audio-Animatronics hall of presidents but that eventually featured only one president: Abraham Lincoln. As Harold Sharp, vice president of Coca-Cola, wrote when declining to sponsor the attraction, “We certainly would like for every visitor to be subjected to this awesome spectacle but we would also like for him to go away with some kind of first-rate and enduring impression of the delicious and refreshing qualities of Coca-Cola.”67Letter to Jack Sayers, August 1, 1962. Box 28, AO3, Folder 636, NYPL, NYWF. The show had nothing to do with soda, and so the company felt the connection was simply too remote for Coca-Cola to sponsor.
The fair opened doors for Disney, presenting opportunities for the company to enter into new relationships with more corporations, many of which might be more inclined to partner at the world’s fair than in the park in Anaheim. For example, it gave Jack Sayers, in charge of leasee relations for Disneyland, an excuse to reach out to such corporations as American Airlines and IBM, although preexisting relations between such companies also shaped who would or would not work with Disney. For example, as Sayers reported in a memo, “IBM feels their competitive position with GE would preclude any World’s Fair development.” Conversely, Ford was eager to get involved with Disney in 1964 because “they are determined to have a better show than GM at this Fair following GM’s domination of the 1939 World’s Fair with Futurama.”68Report on the World’s Fair by Jack Sayers, November 8, 1960. WDA. And, in a sense, Disney did produce for Ford the “Futurama” of the 1964–65 World’s Fair: the Ford Magic Skyway.
Relations with the Ford Motor Company had begun much earlier, when Disney had hoped to install a hall of presidents at Disneyland and had discussed it with Henry Ford II when he visited the park in July 1960. The project, however, shifted gears to creating a $2.5 million fair attraction, still undefined as of May 1961, when the opportunity to work together presented itself. What is interesting to note is that from the start Disney sold Ford not the content of a show but rather WED’s expertise in crowd management: “From the standpoint of handling capacity crowds, Disneyland Park has provided a laboratory for experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere. All our technical and management experience in taking care of large attendances will be available to you.”69Memo from WED to Mr. Mott Heath at Ford, May 24, 1961. WDA. They also pointed out that the crowd at Disneyland was 80 percent adult with above-average incomes and job status and who also owned more than one car per family. Such demographic information also probably helped them settle on a very adult Ford Magic Skyway exhibition at the fair.
More than 15 million people visited the Disney/Ford exhibition, which consisted of two large buildings designed by Becket, whom Disney himself selected for the job (figs. 2.27, 2.28). After a walk-through of miniature dioramas of different places where Ford made cars, as well as a presentation of a history of Ford told through a series of equally small dioramas, visitors passed through a comical orchestra made from car parts. All this led them up to the physical space of the Magic Skyway, which fairgoers had already previewed outside on the fairgrounds—a classic Disneyland method of teasing by showing some of an attraction from the grounds outside. Riders entered via cars, especially the highly touted new Ford convertible, the 1964 Mustang, mounted on one of the ingenious technological aspects of the attraction of which WED was proudest: a belt on which the cars were affixed and which moved passengers at a uniform speed (figs. 2.29, 2.30). The automatization of the loading process reduced wait time and soon became part of other Disney attractions back in Disneyland. The eleven-minute journey began via a time tunnel to “the dawn of time in the animal kingdom, (where mammals without benefit of mind) destroy themselves” (fig. 2.31).70Letter from Martin Stone to Robert Moses, February 13, 1963. Box 28, Folder P1. 42, NYPL, NYWF. As Walt Disney explained, the Ford Magic Skyway continued the plausible implausibility of such attractions as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, but here with relatively simple Audio-Animatronic dinosaurs: “What we want to provide guests . . . is an entirely original experience, something no one had ever seen or done before. It could never happen in real life . . . but visitors feel they have lived through a wonderful once in a lifetime experience.”71Anderson, “Disney and the World’s Fair,” 37. The attraction’s catalogue explained, “The ride then moves to man and his dominion through ingenuity—with particular reference to the invention of the wheel. The illustrative scene in this section is man’s challenge to move an elephant, and thus how man’s conquest of transportation problems is achieved.”72Letter from Martin Stone to Robert Moses, February 13, 1963. Box 28, Folder P1.42, NYPL, NYWF. Through a second time tunnel, passengers arrived at Space City, a City of Tomorrow, where the taped voice of Walt Disney himself urged them to explore the world where Disney’s jet age temporality promised that “tomorrow was created today.”73The exhibit’s end was absolutely reminiscent of Norman Bel Geddes’ work for Chrysler in Futurama at the 1939 Fair. “Ford Meets Disney at the Magic Skyway,” Henry Ford Museum, May 9, 2014. https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/ford-meets-disney-at-the-magic-skyway.
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Description: Magic Skyway, Ford Pavilion, New York World’s Fair by Unknown
Fig. 2.27 Welton Becket, Magic Skyway, Ford Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1964. Brochure: Lincoln-Mercury Treasury of World’s Fair Attractions
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Description: Ford Pavilion at the World’s Fair by Unknown
Fig. 2.28 Ford Pavilion at the World’s Fair, New York, 1964–65
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Description: Loading area for Magic Skyway, Ford Pavilion, New York World’s Fair by...
Fig. 2.29 Loading area for Magic Skyway, Ford Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1964–65
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Description: Entering the transparent tunnel, Magic Skyway by Unknown
Fig. 2.30 Entering the transparent tunnel, Magic Skyway
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Description: Primeval Earth Diorama, Magic Skyway by Unknown
Fig. 2.31 Primeval Earth Diorama, Magic Skyway
If transportation as progress was the attraction’s manifest narrative, the mode of transport was as meaningful as its content. A booklet describing the Ford Pavilion emphasized comfort, convenience, and the fact that no effort would be required of passengers whose “engineless” cars were powered and guided by a central control panel. The ride would seem as if the vehicle were moving “on a cushion of air like the experimental Ford Levacar. Will it also fly?” it asked.74“Ford Pavilion Booklet,” April 14, 1964, n.p. In other words, history progressed through transport technology and soon, driving in a car, which already seemed as smooth as flying in a jet, might actually take flight (fig. 2.32).
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Description: Levacar Mach 1 Concept Car, Ford Rotunda by Unknown
Fig. 2.32 Levacar Mach 1 Concept Car, Ford Rotunda, 1959, Dearborn, Michigan
The final Disney attraction organized at the fair, “it’s a small world,” took passengers on a boat ride that was also updated for the jet age. Promotional material explained that the “boats will be propelled at the rate of two feet per second by silent, hidden jet streams beneath the water line of the channel. This WED system will eliminate vibration, noise and engine fumes.”751964 WED Brochure. Anaheim Public Library. In other words, given such “attributes” as fluid motion, even a little boat took on jet age qualities. Additionally, although passengers journeyed in a boat, the jet, its advocates promoted, led to a greater harmonization of cultures around the world. To design the attraction, Disney turned to Mary Blair, a former employee, and asked her to return to work for him after a long hiatus that included extensive experience in advertising and in doing illustrations for Golden Books. He was firm in seeking her style for the attraction’s overall design and for its interior artwork.76John Canemaker, Magic Color Flair: The World of Mary Blair (San Francisco: Walt Disney Family Foundation, 2014), 34. Because Blair had been a children’s book illustrator, she ably used that format’s big blocks of color, transforming the art of the flat page by blowing it up, tipping it in many directions to achieve a pop-up book effect. Toys, wrapping paper, and scenic backdrops were displayed against iconic tourist posters–like settings. Elaborately costumed Audio-Animatronic dolls moved electronically, but the sense of fluidity was aided by glitter everywhere—on the costumes, on the backdrops and props. Blair described her work as creating a “theater in the round” and explained that “the audience moves, the performers move, and everyone . . . seems to have a grand old time.”77Canemaker, Magic Color Flair, 34. The use of bright colors throughout and careful use of specific colors for certain places (tartans in Scotland; a frantic, mismatched noisy palette for Latin America; heavy blues for the South Seas) cedes in the final scene to unity through the filtering out of all colors other than white and gold. As WED’s description noted, “With the finale, all boundaries have been removed; the hosts on this tour are simply children who share the common bonds of friendship, imagination, purity and understanding.”78WED Profile, It’s a Small World, 1964. I want to thank Suzanne Hudson for her astute analysis. The attraction “which tells the story of ‘The Family of Man’ at a child’s level,” was from its inception destined to return to the park in Anaheim where it would be part of a new land, International Land.79Letter, Robert Moses to Martin Stone, February 13, 1963. Box 28, Folder P1.42, NYPL, NYWF.
Although “small world” had to be built at breakneck speed in New York, Disney insisted that it also include a showy “marquee,” as did many of the Disneyland attractions, which drew visitors in and established mood—here of color in motion.80WED Profile, It’s a Small World, 1964. Anaheim Public Library. Rolly Crump designed the Tower of the Four Winds according to Disney’s vision, which Crump translated into a 140-ton tower of mobiles, which included fifty-two wind-driven elements.81Rolly Crump as told to Jeff Heimbuch, It’s Kind of a Cute Story (Baltimore: Bamboo Forest, 2012), chapter 9, location 1370. See also “Sheet Metal Contractor Builds the World’s Largest Mobile,” American Artisan (April 1964): 54–58. A press release described the tower as a “graceful, soaring landmark . . . with over one hundred multi-colored elements spinning and swiveling on it. These include miniature carousel with stylized animals from several countries; figures of birds, flying fish, winged dragons, butterflies and bees; propellers of varying sizes and shapes—all in perpetual motion.”82Press Release, 1964 World’s Fair. WDA. Ten million people visited the attraction at the fair, which is still in operation today at Disneyland in Anaheim (figs. 2.33, 2.34).
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Description: Walt Disney and Rolly Crump in front of the Tower of the Four Winds by Unknown
Fig. 2.33 Walt Disney and Rolly Crump in front of the “Tower of the Four Winds,” 1964. © Disney
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Description: Walt Disney and Mary Blair with It’s a Small World dolls by Unknown
Fig. 2.34 Walt Disney and Mary Blair with “it’s a small world” dolls, circa 1964. © Disney
The GE exhibition also showcased motion and progress but emphasized circularity rather than linear form. Disney had been working with General Electric to tell the story of progress through electricity since 1958 when they hoped the firm, whose slogan was “Progress is our most important product,” would invest in the development of Edison Square, which would present a turn-of-the-century cityscape in Disneyland featuring the genius of Thomas Edison and his centrality to the story of American progress in several dioramas connected in a circle. The final scene would be set in the future, where people lived on an “island in the sky” full of GE products such as “space scanners and sky views.”83“Disney’s Edison Square,” “E” Ticket 22 (Winter 1995): 7–11. By the time it became part of the world’s fair Disney attractions, the circular design of the original four tableaux had evolved into a theater where the audience was automatically rotated around the stage rather than the other way around. This allowed the show, called the GE Carousel of Progress, to run constantly for four audiences simultaneously, but it also “transported” the audience through time by moving them, even if only in a circle. Real people in the audience would circle through time in a form of history in which the structures are the same: families with new and improved appliances facing a “great, big beautiful tomorrow as the attraction’s song explained.”84The carousel is a powerful 1960s metaphor: a wheel, as ancient as time, that is updated by becoming automatic. The 1960s also saw the introduction of the circular slide holder, also called a carousel. While Kodak introduced various round tray-holder formats in 1961, the technology evolved until 1966; in 1965 the device design made “automatic” shows possible, and one can’t help but wonder whether there is a connection between the Kodak carousel and the GE Carousel of Progress of 1964. The Disney show’s circular form of time, like the jet age notion of the future arriving in the present, was made possible by the aesthetic of constant circulation that collapsed transport and media in the park. Constant and efficient circulation also characterized the novel technology all four attractions shared: Audio-Animatronics, whose potential was thought to have reached its apex in the Lincoln figure, which the State of Illinois eventually sponsored.
Like the GE attraction that had been in development for years before it came to the fair, an environment dedicated to American heritage had been in the works for Disneyland since 1956. A press release that year even announced Liberty Street, which would feature “operating shops and a show . . . related to aspects of the founding of our nation” and would highlight the role of American enterprise, a “living experience” rather than a show. Its centerpiece would be two life-sized sailing vessels used in trade on a waterfront that faced a Hall of the Declaration of Independence and a Hall of Presidents. Early discussions about the fair limited the attraction to “One Nation Under God” (which was not produced), featuring the Constitution and the presidents who led the nation. The Disney people urged Robert Moses to come view the model in California, where he could visit Disneyland and the show prototype “at the studio,”85Memo from Robert Moses to Stuart Constable, February 28, 1961. Box 97, A6, NYPL, NYWF. because they also intended the show to include the “most astonishing development in animation and theatrical technique.”86WED Presentation for World’s Fair, “One Nation Under God,” n.d. (likely 1961), 2. Box 97, A6, P.6, NYPL, NYWF.
WED called Audio-Animatronics a “breakthrough in three-dimensional animation that is quite properly a product of the Space Age. It utilizes many of the same equipment that controls our satellites, rockets and missiles in space” and would “bring President Lincoln to life before their eyes.”87WED Presentation for World’s Fair, “One Nation Under God,” 2. Not only did Audio-Animatronics reanimate a dead president, but the speakers that had been carefully placed throughout the auditorium gave the audience a greater sense of immersion and participation; the intent of the attraction was for guests to “actually feel themselves present at one of Lincoln’s speeches.”88“Disneyland’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” in News From Disneyland 1, n.d. Anaheim Public Library. Such innovative uses of sound built on Disney’s earlier installation of Fantasound for “Fantasia” and anticipates multichannel processes such as Dolby. The cost of the exhibit and the richness of its content made finding a sponsor difficult. When the State of Illinois finally stepped up at the last minute, the other presidents disappeared from the venture in favor of Lincoln. As WED employee Jim Algar explained, “This is the way Walt would work. He would do whatever idea could be brought to fruition. If the whole thing couldn’t be had, do the Lincoln part, later do the Hall of Presidents.”89Interview with Jim Algar by Bob Thomas, n.d., 23. WDA.
Although the fair gave a big boost to Audio-Animatronics, fairgoers and Disney alike were equally attuned to WED’s other achievements in people-moving, and Audio-Animatronics were just a part of that. As a post-fair customer survey noted with pleasure, one respondent liked best the “the Magic Skyway Ride and the use of the automobiles to transport people through the show.” The survey summary also remarked on comments about the “good handling of crowds.”90Ford, “Survey,” “World’s Fair Business Survey,” December 30 to January 30, 1965. WDA. Back in California, WED had been planning a pirate walk-through using Audio-Animatronic figures during the period of the fair. But when it came time to build the attraction at Disneyland, Walt wanted people to be transported instead: “We’ve learned too much from the Fair about moving people with vehicles, we can’t leave this as a walk through.”91Paul Anderson, “Disney and 1964,” Persistence of Vision 6/7 (1995): 124. People-moving clearly animated Walt Disney more than Audio-Animatronic pirates.
As Disneyland continued to succeed by every metric imaginable (number of visitors, profitability, worldwide visibility), WED’s growth preoccupied Disney more than Disneyland per se and more than the Studios’ filmmaking did, even though this was the period when Mary Poppins was in production. Experiences such as the world’s fair emboldened Disney to undertake an expansion east, and that became his full-time preoccupation. As Marty Sklar retrospectively explained, “As it turns out, the Fair was one of the stepping stones to Walt Disney World.”92Anderson, “Disney and 1964,” 30. Others concurred. The success of the Disney attractions in New York not only offered WED capital investments in research and design to develop new attractions but also “set the stage for our being able to move ahead in Florida and have the confidence and the backing of not only the world of potential exhibitors but the financial world.”93“Interview with Donn Tatum by Bob Thomas,” May 24, 1973, 27. WDA. Thus, empowered by the success of the New York attractions, work accelerated in a secret room in Glendale at the WED offices on what they discreetly referred to as the Florida Project.
With the Florida Project, WED would do more than build a theme park in the East. Instead, in its planning and vision, the forty-three-square-mile parcel of land (“twice the size of Manhattan,” as Disney would boast) sixteen miles southwest of Orlando, Disney’s aims regarding people-moving would reach another level entirely.94EPCOT Film. Disney sought to build a whole complex, eventually known as Walt Disney World Resort, complete with an airport of the future, a theme park, an industrial park, and a centerpiece he called EPCOT—a Disneyland without the themed lands, without Audio-Animatronics, without the characters. EPCOT would be about the beauty and pleasure of moving people and things practically and efficiently.
EPCOT, an acronym for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, would be a place where new technologies and living-working experiences would be prototyped and put on display and, like Disneyland, “will always be in a state of becoming.”95EPCOT Film. As Hench put it, EPCOT would “show how many of today’s city problems can be solved through proper master planning,” and in that way, of course, Disney would fold entertainment into a form of utopian systems planning underwritten by a beautiful transport network of circulation and mobility.96Sam Gennawey, Walt Disney and the Promise of Progress City (Orlando: Theme Park Press, 2014), 136. Disney’s vision for EPCOT was not entirely new. It combined the turn-of-the century utopianism of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City model with the more newfangled radial plans of Victor Gruen, whose book, The Heart of Our Cities (1965), was definitely on Disney’s reading list. Disney was aware of Gruen’s work at least as early as May 1960, when he read an article in Horizon written by critic Ada Louise Huxtable describing Gruen’s eventually unrealized plan for the 1964–65 World’s Fair in Washington, D.C. Gruen had proposed a reusable plan for a circular, climate-controlled city, which is exactly what Disney would propose in Florida.
Disney lived long enough only to offer his vision in a movie made to persuade the legislature of Florida to agree to various government concessions to The Walt Disney Company and to muster additional corporate sponsorship for the project. It would be one of his final filmed appearances. The EPCOT project was Disney’s; the film’s script was an interpretation of his vision written by Sklar, and the visual renderings were in part drawn by Herb Ryman, the same artist who had visualized Disneyland in its earliest stages. Disney had originally asked Becket to draw up a plan, but he refused.97Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (New York: Knopf, 2006), 610. Filming began in late October 1966 and went into early November; Disney died December 16.
The film, which was first screened in February 1967 in Winter Park, Florida, captures in verbal and visual narrative not only a vision of what EPCOT would be, but also summarizes what Disneyland had already achieved in its more than ten years of operation. It is a story of transport and people-moving. The film’s entire twenty-five minutes offer only furtive glimpses of Disney characters (the first in the shape of Mickey’s head in plantings at the park entrance in an aerial view, the second a quick view of the spinning Dumbo attraction). There is not a single reference to the park’s different lands or to use of theming and detailism within the lands to create a total environment. Rather, the film’s first five minutes, which are dedicated to the retrospective analysis of Disneyland and its success, consist of quick-paced cuts to inventory the park’s many modes of transportation. As the narrator explains, “People and vehicles are constantly in motion at Disneyland. Here people travel aboard almost every method of transportation man has ever designed,” adding that Disneyland’s 340 million passengers have traveled in both “comfort and speed.”98EPCOT Film.
The film is more than a Disneyland travelogue, however. It also promotes WED Enterprises, which it describes as a “design organization” made up of designers, architects, and engineers skilled in the “Disney way.” The organization included fine craftsmen and technicians who used their creativity and technical knowhow both inside the Disney organization and beyond it, such as at the world’s fair. The film positions WED as much more than an entertainment company by citing praise from the well-known urban planner James Rouse. In 1963, at the graduation of the Harvard School of Design, Rouse called the park the “greatest piece of urban design in the United States today.” Specifically, he noted that Disney had lifted the standard of the amusement park to entirely new heights by concentrating on its respect for people and by fulfilling “all the functions it sets out to accomplish, unselfconsciously, usefully and profitably to its owners and developers.”99EPCOT Film. After establishing Disneyland as a place in motion, an ideally planned place that works for the people who use it, the film pivots to the studio—“a little bit of Florida, here in California”—and to the presenter, Walt Disney, who, after more than ten years of hosting his television show, was quite skilled at pitching his ideas on the screen. Dressed in a fine suit, he stands in a large room filled with maps and people hard at work and proclaims, “We know what our goals are.” And he explains that planning is under way for the “Disney World Project.”
Before an enormous map, he describes a venture that is “tied together with a high speed rapid transit system” and centered on something called EPCOT, which would “always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise. . . . Everything in EPCOT will be dedicated to the happiness of the people who live, work and play here, and those who come here from around the world to visit our living showcase.” The film transitions to an animated film of renderings—beginning with the premise “No city of today will serve as the guide for the city of tomorrow.” The notion of creating something unprecedented is exactly what had guided the construction of Disneyland almost fifteen years earlier (fig. 2.35).100EPCOT Film.
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Description: Walt Disney introduces the Florida Project in The EPCOT Film by Unknown
Fig. 2.35 Walt Disney introduces the Florida Project in The EPCOT Film, 1966. © Disney
EPCOT emphasized the multimodal flow of people and vehicles on which the airports of the jet age were also being constructed. One might think of EPCOT as a combination of Le Corbusier’s radial city and Disneyland’s hub structure with Walt’s commitment to keeping infrastructure out of sight by operating such unsightly necessities as garbage and delivery trucks in underground tunnels. It additionally integrated many of Gruen’s notions, such as parking cars outside the main commercial zones, which would be ceded to pedestrians (something already practiced at Disneyland). EPCOT’s transport was part of an arterial system of silent circulation. All motorized vehicles would run underneath the city, with trucks on one level, cars on another, while electric powered vehicles, already part of the Disneyland ecosystem, like the Monorail and the PeopleMover, would glide above pedestrians on rails: the latter, they boasted, would be a “silent, all-electric system that moves non-stop.”101The Walt Disney Company Annual Report, 1966, 23. Anaheim Public Library. The nonstop operation meant that there would be no breakdowns and no traffic jams. The film then cut to Disneyland, where the PeopleMover and Monorail could be seen efficiently and fluidly crisscrossing each other.
If EPCOT were to be an experimental community, Disneyland’s Tomorrowland would now serve as a lab for EPCOT. Specifically, Imagineering would now begin to see Tomorrowland as WED’s three-dimensional test space, where they could try new modes of transport that they would develop and send to Florida. At the same time that the Florida Project was getting under way, WED was taking on the transformation of Tomorrowland into New Tomorrowland. Disney himself found enormous inspiration in linking the two projects. The press release for New Tomorrowland envisioned the WedWay Transportation Systems as the “potential means of tomorrow’s transportation for large numbers of people at jet age airports [and it is in fact installed in Houston], fashionable shopping malls, sports stadiums, parking facilities, sprawling new universities and other institutional and industrial land residential areas.”102“Peoplemover and Omnimover,” News from WED, n.d. (circa early 1967), 5. Anaheim Public Library.
What the never-realized plan for EPCOT makes clear is that transport in Disneyland was no simple thematic motif. The rise of a connected, technological, fast-moving world happened not at the expense of aesthetic experience but largely because of the central role played by people such as Walt Disney and the WED Imagineers, who embraced and advanced a form of techno-aesthetics in which images were transformed into places and experiences through technology—in which inert objects did not simply appear to move, they actually did. The idea of organizing spaces around a perpetual and naturalized form of fluid motion not only sets Disneyland apart from the jerks, spins, and hijinks of the turn-of-the-century amusement parks from which it may have descended, but it also locates its origins in its own period of the jet age—for which Disneyland may well stand as the era’s crowning achievement. Disneyland, Walt proudly explained, as we noted earlier, “is dedicated to the dreams and hard facts that have created America with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”103Walt Disney, “Disneyland Dedication Speech,” July 17, 1955. Dreams and hard facts—the seamless interchange between the mediated world and the material world became the centerpiece of Disneyland’s kinesthetics, which embraced and advanced the jet’s fluid motion in singular fashion, at once defining a jet age aesthetic in its most popular period form while also embracing and advancing the epistemological terms by which most entertainment as well as all media have functioned ever since. Circulation rather than simulation kept things flowing at Disneyland and has kept people moving in, out, and through at Disney parks, now all over the world, in one glorious, seemingly continuous ride.
Epigraphs: Walt Disney, Speech, “New Traffic Signals for the Entertainment Industry,” 1959, and The EPCOT Film, Walt Disney Productions, 25 minutes, color, 1966. Script by Marty Sklar, draft September 8, 1966, p. 20. WDA.
 
1     Van Arsdale France and Dick Nunis, Window on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Park (Orlando: Theme Park Press, 2015), 187. »
2     Kelly Comras, Ruth Shellhorn (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016); and Stephen M. Fjellman, Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America (Boulder: Westview, 1992). »
3     EPCOT Film»
4     For more on mid-century ideas of happiness, see Justus Nieland, “Making Happy, Happy-Making: The Eamses and Communication by Design,” in Modernism and Affect, ed. Julie Taylor (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 203–25. »
5     This definition comes from a letter from Harrison Price to Dick Irvine, October 5, 1960. WDA. »
6     The press coverage makes for a valuable historical source but is notably different from what one might call the critical and analytical reception of Disney animation or “Disney Studies.” Disney had been hailed as an artistic genius very early in his career and received a great deal of attention from intellectuals. As early as 1942 one could find books such as Robert Field, The Art of Walt Disney (New York: Macmillan, 1942). Walter Benjamin and Erwin Panofsky wrote about Disney in the 1930s and 1940s. By the 1970s intellectuals had adopted a more negative stance, and the Marxist critique by such scholars as Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart in How to Read Donald Duck (New York: International General, 1975) became more dominant, making such phrases such as “Mickey Mouse history” common parlance. This change is not my subject, however. Writing about Disneyland constitutes a separate, less well-developed, and even less-appreciated subject. For a Disney bibliography, see John A. Lent, Comic Art of the United States Through 2000, Animation and Cartoons: An International Bibliography (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2005), and Lynn Gartley and Elizabeth Leebron, Walt Disney: A Guide to References and Resources (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979). The best newer volume about the parks is Kathy Merlock Jackson and Mark I. West, eds., Disneyland and Culture: Essays on the Parks and Their Influence (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2011). »
7     Louis Marin, “Disneyland: A Degenerate Utopia,” Glyph 1 (1977): 50–66; Jean Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations,” in Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 169–87; and Umberto Eco, “Travels in Hyperreality,” in Travels in Hyperreality (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1986), 1–58. »
8     Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations,” 175. »
9     Eco, “Travels in Hyperreality.” »
10     “Disneyland Paris,” Wikipedia, accessed August 20, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland_Paris »
11     See, for example, Roberta Panzanelli, ed., Ephemeral Bodies: Wax Sculpture and the Human Figure (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2008); Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak, Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2001); Adelheid Voskuhl, Androids in the Enlightenment: Mechanics, Artisans, and Cultures of the Self (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015); Schwartz, Spectacular Realities. Still regarded as one of the great studies about America is Neil Harris, Humbug: The Art of P. T. Barnum (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981). »
12     Richard Schickel, The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968). »
13     Schickel, Disney Version, 318. »
14     The corporate archives of The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Imagineering, and the Walt Disney Animation Research Library are generally closed to the public. I was fortunate to gain limited access to the Disney archives, but, like many corporate archives, they are incomplete. Although Walt Disney’s correspondence is ample (although not accessible), it is unclear whether the materials of the Park Operations Committee and other key Disneyland entities exist. I am especially grateful for the access I received, and for the generous research support provided by archive director Becky Cline, as well as Kevin Kern. »
15     Elizabeth Bell et al., From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender and Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); Project on Disney, Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995). For a more nuanced collection, see Eric Smoodin, ed., Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom (New York: Routledge, 1994). »
16     This literature is vast. A good place to start is Janet Wasko, Understanding Disney: The Manufacture of Fantasy (London: Polity, 2001). »
17     The best publication about Disneyland that also is based on remarkable use of the Walt Disney Imagineering archives was written for an unprecedented exhibition. See Marling, Designing Disney’s Theme Parks. See also John M. Findlay, Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture After 1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), and Eric Avila, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006). »
18     Scott A. Lukas, Theme Park (London: Reaktion, 2008), 77. Two lavishly illustrated and well-researched books published with support from Disney are Chris Nichols, Walt Disney’s Disneyland (Cologne: Taschen, 2018), and Don Hahn, Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Disney’s Magical Mid-Century (Los Angeles: Disney Editions, 2017). »
19     “Marc Davis and the Haunted Mansion,” “E” Ticket 16 (Summer 1993): 27. »
20     Scott A. Lukas, ed., A Reader in Themed and Immersive Spaces (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon–ETC, 2016). »
21     For Michael Sorkin, the ride is reduced to free-market capitalist circulation: “If culture is being Disneyfied . . . the royal road there is precisely that: going for a ride!” Sorkin, “See You in Disneyland,” in Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space, ed. Michael Sorkin (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992), 216. Although this is not my interpretation, his observations about the operations of the park are astute. »
22     “Walt Profile Press release,” circa 1955, 16. WDA. »
23     Walt Disney, “People and Places,” May 21, 1953. WDA. »
24     Disneyland Inc., “Report on Amusement Parks,” June 1954, 5. WDA. »
25     TWA Press Release, “Disneyland New West Coast Magnet,” n.d. (circa 1954–55), 1. »
26     Didier Ghez, “The Reluctant Dragon,” in The Walt Disney Film Archives: The Animated Movies, 1921–1968, ed. Daniel Kothenschulte (New York: Taschen, 2016), 184–93. The departments were actually re-created on soundstages. »
27     As Disney alumnus Jimmy Johnson explained, “What began as an impromptu art form was transformed into an efficient business.” This was a typical expression about the early company. See Johnson, Inside the Whimsy Works: My Life with Walt Disney Productions, ed. Greg Ehrbar and Didier Ghez (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2014), 20. »
28     Karal Ann Marling, “Disneyland, 1955: Just Take the Santa Ana Freeway to the American Dream,” American Art 5 (Winter/Spring 1991): 189. »
29     Peter Westwick, ed., Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012). »
30     Marling, “Disneyland, 1955,” 179–80. »
31     This connection is made convincingly by Marling, “Disneyland, 1955,” 180–84. »
32     Schivelbusch, Railway Journey; Jeffrey Ruoff, ed., Virtual Voyages: Cinema and Travel (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006); and Teresa Castro, La pensée cartographique des images (Paris: Aléas, 2011). Earlier and fundamental studies of such mobilized spectatorship include Friedberg, Window Shopping; Giuliana Bruno, Street-Walking on a Ruined Map: Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); and Schwartz, Spectacular Realities»
33     Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (New York: Knopf, 2006), 508. »
34     Wasko, Understanding Disney, 21; also see Gabler, Walt Disney»
35     “Walt Disney’s ‘Disneyland,'" Episode 1, October 27, 1954. »
36     Marling, “Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks,” 74–75. »
37     John Hench and Peggy Van Pelt, Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show (New York: Disney Editions, 2003), 67. »
38     France and Nunis, Window on Main Street, 187. »
39     For the best account of the early history of Disneyland, see Todd James Pierce, Three Years in Wonderland: The Disney Brothers, C. V. Wood, and the Making of the Great American Theme Park (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2016). »
40     Marling, “Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks,” 58. »
41     Letter from William Pereira to Walt Disney, April 10, 1952. WDA. Pierce, Three Years in Wonderland, 37. »
42     Harrison Price, Walt’s Revolution! By the Numbers (Orlando: Ripley, 2004), esp. 28–32. »
43     Donald W. Ballard, The Disneyland Hotel: The Early Years, 1954–1988 (Riverside: Ape Pen, 2005). »
44     Price, Walt’s Revolution, and James Skee, “By the Numbers: Confidence, Consultants, and the Construction of Mass Leisure, 1953–1975” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2016). »
45     Skee, “By the Numbers.” Disney sold his interest in WED Enterprises in February 1965, and although it was renamed Walt Disney Imagineering in 1986, the creative and other ties during Disney’s lifetime were profound. Dave Smith, Disney A to Z, 5th ed. (Glendale: Disney Enterprises, 2016), 813. »
46     “Interview with John Hench and Marty Sklar by Richard Hubler,” May 14, 1968, 26. WDA. »
47     Hench and Van Pelt, Designing Disney, 30. »
48     Dreyfuss as cited in John Harwood, The Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945–1976 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 96. Harwood’s reading of ergonomics is as a posthumanist construction, which I am not sure is useful. »
49     EPCOT Film; Walt Disney, “Disneyland Dedication Speech,” July 17, 1955. »
50     WED Monorail Script, “revised” September 27, 1966, 7. WDA. »
51     “Interview with Dick Irvine by Bob Thomas,” April 24, 1973, 20. WDA. »
52     See Leslie, “Pan Am Terminal at Idlewild/Kennedy Airport.” »
53     “Interview with Bruce Bushman,” no date and no interviewer. WDA. »
54     WED Press Release, Summer 1967. WDA. See also Hench quoted in “E” Ticket 17 (Winter 1993–94): 9. WDA. »
55     “Peoplemover and Omnimover,” News From WED, n.d. (circa early 1967), 1. Anaheim Public Library. »
56     For the evolution of the attraction, see http://samlanddisney.blogspot.com/2011/03/wedway-peoplemover.html »
57     Peter Blake, “Lessons of the Park,” in The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdom, ed. Christopher Finch (New York: Abrams, 1975), 430–31. »
58     “Disneyland Data 1961,” A6. Box 96, NYPL, NYWF. »
59     Paul F. Anderson, “Disney and the World’s Fair,” Persistence of Vision 6/7 (1995): 69. »
60     Michael A. Crawford, “New Heights: Walt and the Winter Olympics,” Walt Disney Family Museum. http://www.waltdisney.com/blog/new-heights-walt-and-winter-olympics»
61     Memo from Robert Moses to Martin Stone, June 4, 1962. Box 60, NYPL, NYWF. There had been a monorail at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, but Disney’s was considered to be superior. »
62     WED Press Release, Summer 1967, 3. Anaheim Public Library. »
63     Jack Sayers, Memo, October 1960. WDA. »
64     WED Press Release, December 26, 1963, 8 A5. Folder A 1169, NYPL, NYWF. During the World’s Fair, WED used stationery listing addresses in Glendale and Forest Hills, Queens. »
65     Letter from Harrison Price to Dick Irvine, October 5, 1960. WDA. »
66     Memo from Marty Sklar to Card Walker, July 31, 1963. WDA. »
67     Letter to Jack Sayers, August 1, 1962. Box 28, AO3, Folder 636, NYPL, NYWF. »
68     Report on the World’s Fair by Jack Sayers, November 8, 1960. WDA. »
69     Memo from WED to Mr. Mott Heath at Ford, May 24, 1961. WDA. »
70     Letter from Martin Stone to Robert Moses, February 13, 1963. Box 28, Folder P1. 42, NYPL, NYWF. »
71     Anderson, “Disney and the World’s Fair,” 37. »
72     Letter from Martin Stone to Robert Moses, February 13, 1963. Box 28, Folder P1.42, NYPL, NYWF. »
73     The exhibit’s end was absolutely reminiscent of Norman Bel Geddes’ work for Chrysler in Futurama at the 1939 Fair. “Ford Meets Disney at the Magic Skyway,” Henry Ford Museum, May 9, 2014. https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/ford-meets-disney-at-the-magic-skyway»
74     “Ford Pavilion Booklet,” April 14, 1964, n.p. »
75     1964 WED Brochure. Anaheim Public Library. »
76     John Canemaker, Magic Color Flair: The World of Mary Blair (San Francisco: Walt Disney Family Foundation, 2014), 34. »
77     Canemaker, Magic Color Flair, 34. »
78     WED Profile, It’s a Small World, 1964. I want to thank Suzanne Hudson for her astute analysis. »
79     Letter, Robert Moses to Martin Stone, February 13, 1963. Box 28, Folder P1.42, NYPL, NYWF. »
80     WED Profile, It’s a Small World, 1964. Anaheim Public Library. »
81     Rolly Crump as told to Jeff Heimbuch, It’s Kind of a Cute Story (Baltimore: Bamboo Forest, 2012), chapter 9, location 1370. See also “Sheet Metal Contractor Builds the World’s Largest Mobile,” American Artisan (April 1964): 54–58. »
82     Press Release, 1964 World’s Fair. WDA. »
83     “Disney’s Edison Square,” “E” Ticket 22 (Winter 1995): 7–11. »
84     The carousel is a powerful 1960s metaphor: a wheel, as ancient as time, that is updated by becoming automatic. The 1960s also saw the introduction of the circular slide holder, also called a carousel. While Kodak introduced various round tray-holder formats in 1961, the technology evolved until 1966; in 1965 the device design made “automatic” shows possible, and one can’t help but wonder whether there is a connection between the Kodak carousel and the GE Carousel of Progress of 1964. »
85     Memo from Robert Moses to Stuart Constable, February 28, 1961. Box 97, A6, NYPL, NYWF. »
86     WED Presentation for World’s Fair, “One Nation Under God,” n.d. (likely 1961), 2. Box 97, A6, P.6, NYPL, NYWF. »
87     WED Presentation for World’s Fair, “One Nation Under God,” 2. »
88     “Disneyland’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” in News From Disneyland 1, n.d. Anaheim Public Library. Such innovative uses of sound built on Disney’s earlier installation of Fantasound for “Fantasia” and anticipates multichannel processes such as Dolby. »
89     Interview with Jim Algar by Bob Thomas, n.d., 23. WDA. »
90     Ford, “Survey,” “World’s Fair Business Survey,” December 30 to January 30, 1965. WDA. »
91     Paul Anderson, “Disney and 1964,” Persistence of Vision 6/7 (1995): 124. »
92     Anderson, “Disney and 1964,” 30. »
93     “Interview with Donn Tatum by Bob Thomas,” May 24, 1973, 27. WDA. »
94     EPCOT Film»
95     EPCOT Film»
96     Sam Gennawey, Walt Disney and the Promise of Progress City (Orlando: Theme Park Press, 2014), 136. »
97     Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (New York: Knopf, 2006), 610. »
98     EPCOT Film»
99     EPCOT Film»
100     EPCOT Film»
101     The Walt Disney Company Annual Report, 1966, 23. Anaheim Public Library. »
102     “Peoplemover and Omnimover,” News from WED, n.d. (circa early 1967), 5. Anaheim Public Library. »
103     Walt Disney, “Disneyland Dedication Speech,” July 17, 1955. »
Chapter 2. Disneyland and the Art of People-Moving
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