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Disneyland Article
Disneyland And Imagineering Part 4
Last time we left off, we were meeting some of the Imagineers who were responsible for the initial creation of Disneyland. We began to see the park take physical shape and learn about the origins of Main Street USA and Sleeping Beauty's Castle. There were roughly 6 months until the opening. The orange and walnut groves that once existed all to themselves were being transformed into a pear-shaped amusement park that would re-define that industry forever. Disneyland wasn't the "originator," for there were roughly 75 years prior to it's opening, but it was a creation that had never been attempted to that size and detail and, most of all, creatively ground-breaking. We learned how Walt studied and had researched traffic patterns of guests and how it affected them on a different level of their consciousness in a park environment.

When you get someone and you lose someone, those are milestones. When it is a life-long loved one, it can be even more so. You struggle with the absence, become more aware of mortality, and you never look at life the same way again. So, you heal and pick yourself up and shift gears forward. This article is dedicated to my Dad.

"Emulation is the sincerest form of flattery"

I could have never imagined that I would create a flower garden anywhere. I am neither ultra masculine nor effeminate, which are both perfectly fine with me. I'm floating somewhere around in the middle, a combination of strength and feeling. It is documented, gardening can be very therapeutic. I don't know, maybe I just navigated toward it naturally. Somehow, I put home, peace, color, fragrance, things that heal, rather than hurt, together. And I hurt. What better place to grow one than at home. We had been renovating, fully intending to re-landscape the front yard. In the design, my wife and I decided that we wanted a planter, set back from the street and close to the front of the house. We never really discussed what we would put in the planter. Eventually we planted star jasmine creepers, rose hybrid bushes (very thorny), and some random hearty shrubs, without any real design. In fact, it was the only thing for which we didn't have something specifically in mind. I think a month or so after getting everything in the ground, I stood back and looked at the arrangement, thinking, "Yeah this is fine, but we worked so hard to make the house look nice and since it's out in the front yard, we should do something special." Even though I didn't have a garden layout, when I started thinking seriously about it, there was only one possible solution, "I know what I want, I want to make it look like the flower beds in Disneyland!" My wife looked at me like I had just bought some magic beans. Needless to say, learning by trial and error, I killed a few plants in the process. As time passed, the garden did very well for our climate and it was the color and fragrance that really brought the front of the house to life. Wanting it patterned after Disney's ideas is indeed a compliment to him and another very special person.

Greening Disneyland

To call Morgan "Bill" Evers a gardener would be a gross understatement. Actually, he is a second generation horticulturalist. He was born and lived not far from where Disneyland is located. He grew up in and around his father's local landscaping and design business, along with his brother Jack. His introduction with Disney had come from a request by him to help design the layout surrounding his Carolwood scaled train that ran on the Holmby Hills property. Disney was so impressed by his talent, particularly with scale and shape, that he felt he would be an asset to his project in Anaheim. Because Evers had studied botany, Walt felt that he would be right for designing the landscape with his vast knowledge of hundreds of species of plants. He did not want the park to just be filled with any local greenery, although he did default to this in some areas because of time and expense; but mostly time. In fact, as the park was being readied for opening, Walt realized something more was needed, he instructed Evers and his staff to use place cards with the scientific names of plant species attached in the plant beds. Many times they didn't actually match the plants, or turned out to be very important sounding names for plants you might see anywhere.


Still, Disney wanted a variety along with the indigenous population. When Evers had been in the Merchant Marine, he collected species all through his tour. So, his subsequent business didn't just cater to the usual landscaping for the local affluent, but to introduce species that hadn't been grown or even been seen in the Southern California area.

With respect to the flora and shrubbery that adorns the park, whether it be for decoration or concealment, the best way to describe their input would be to say, sadly under-appreciated. Oh, not by all, but many; this observation by a guest sums up the contribution "I always think we SEE the landscaping at Disneyland and DCA, and we appreciate the beauty of it. But oftentimes many people overlook just how incredibly detailed the landscaping really is at the parks. Like the plants around the Nemo Submarine attraction; they are plants you might see underwater. Or the beautiful arrangements all over Main Street that are changed so often overnight to keep everything "fresh and lovely" (Olympicnut).

The landscaping is something that has never been lost in the shuffle by me. When you think about it, without the "organic community" woven throughout the park it would be a very different place. More like what Disney didn't want; a cold, ride-driven carnival made of rickety rides, and asphalt, strictly for immediate thrill, and pretty much everything else left out. Evers' job wasn't just to plant the vegetation, but to design the entire layout around the attractions as well. He felt very strongly about this. A gardener maintains and is an absolute necessity, but a landscaper designs. The design that he provided blends with the entrance, the front garden and flag area, Town Square, sidewalks, and the pathways that branch off into the different lands. Fencing, sand, rock and gravel of all types and sizes, themed to fit as well as enhance. Sculptures of familiar characters made from metal, stone and the well known Topiary Gardens are placed in view and sometimes partially hidden to require more scrutiny. Signage, lighting of all types and varieties were also designed to fit as needed. Indeed, he created a stunning place to escape; a home for what everyone was waiting for the attractions.

Hitchin' a Ride

The Imagineers I have written about would be, by today's standards, equivalent to today's executives or management types; the overseers, the men who answered directly to Disney and who worked with him on the overall design of the park. Having studied Management and working as an employee for a management staff, I understand both sides of the coin. The structure of the staff for Disneyland was quite different, more than any that I have studied. In a typical management/employee setting, management writes and implements policies and procedures to run their business. However, the staff for creating Disneyland was encouraged to contribute artistically at every level. It was an organization where there was a basic management/employee model for the subcontractors who were hired for the basic construction - that is, hired to complete a task and then move on to projects elsewhere. But those who were hired in, or were moved over from various studios and such, worked in a different fashion. The staff, from senior to entry level, were oftentimes working together rather than a more traditional business model. Although many artists were not answering directly upstairs, they were hand-picked to work in their respective fields, and lent themselves anywhere and everywhere, over and over. The flow of creativity within the entire management/employee structure was more like a two-way street with information and ideas traveling back and forth rather than from management on down.

So far, I have listed a few of the designers that, more-or-less, were responsible for the look of the park globally. This next group of artists was, for the most part, focused on areas or "lands" or particular attractions. More often than not, Imagineers worked on not just one single project, but several at the same time, and still had a larger responsibility as well. Our next Imagineer is a perfect example of that.

Bill Martin was born in 1917, and grew up in Iowa. His family moved west and, in 1937, he graduated from Los Angeles Junior College. After graduation, Martin continued his studies at the Chouinard Art Institute. However, when World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Army Air Corp, attained the rank of captain, and was assigned to train the air crews. After his stint in the service, he went to work as an art director for Panoramic Productions and then, like many other Disney alumni, he went to work at Twentieth Century Fox with an emphasis on set design, which would play a very important part in designing the land's themes and set pieces. Then, in 1953, Martin was contacted by Disney because of his artistic abilities and his reputation as a set designer. He was offered a position primarily responsible for set design and creation. He was assigned to oversee and create Fantasyland. Although that was his primary focus, I have to mention he and others would brainstorm in general about ideas that would comprise Main Street USA. Martin made contributions to Carnation Plaza and the future New Orleans Square along with the rides therein. Because the then named Disneyland-Alweg Monorail wove through a great part of Fantasyland, he was also responsible to make sure it blended aesthetically with its surroundings while still being technically functional. As he focused on Fantasyland itself, he contributed to Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Snow White's Adventures, and Peter Pan's Flight, the latter being considered one of the major attractions at that time. Come to think of it, it has always been a crowd-pleaser. Of all the dark rides in Disneyland, it always draws large crowds of all ages, even with its relative simplicity. We will return to this Fantasyland attraction, but I wanted to stop here and paint a picture of what everyday life was like prior to the opening and what was being developed as opening day approached.

World War II had ended and prosperity was high. People worked hard; consequently, they were eager for some adventurous respite to offset their workaday life. Life was simpler and the everyday pace was slower in general. But that didn't deter workers from seeking out new and more exciting day trips and extended vacations, for themselves and their families. The population dressed with more style and detail, and it was common for men to wear suits in more social situations, and women often wore day gloves and other accouterments to match their everyday dress. More attention was placed on a sense of class and there was a lot more accessorizing. It wasn't out of vanity, people just cared a lot more about their appearance and the behavior of their children, even in the environment of an amusement park. The short attention span that defines our society now did not exist then. The renaissance for Disneyland was still 5 or 6 years away and a lot of that was due to limited technology in the 1950's. Some of the advances that were on the horizon would come from an unlikely source, but without which, much of what exists today, wouldn't. Opening attractions such as Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan's Flight and the Mark Twain's Riverboat were primary contributions to the original environment that would take guests away from the real world. The latter was a very detailed element, one in which Disney put an extra amount of care to replicate its real life counterpart. It was no coincidence that this was due largely to its influence on Disney's early life and his love for Mark Twain. Even though the gates had not yet opened, word was spreading fast. In the next article, we will delve deeper into the opening attractions themselves and meet more of the Imagineers who made them come to life.

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