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Disneyland Article
This Is How Disneyland Looked In The 1970s

Space Mountain
Orange County Register
Mark Eades
July 14, 2016
July 24, 2016
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The seventies at Disneyland started with an invasion, then went into space, and ended with a wild ride in the frontier.

Unfortunately for Disneyland, the riots that had been happening in cities across America during the latter half of the sixties and some of the protesters turned their attention to Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. On Aug. 6, 1970, the Yippies (an offshoot of the hippies of the sixties) decided to invade Disneyland.

The Yippies were members of the "Youth International Party," a counter culture offshoot of the free speech and anti-war movements. They had long hair and wore loud clothing, bandanas and more.

But the park and area police were ready. The protesters were told, upon entering the park, to behave or they would be asked to leave. But they didn't listen and for a short time tried to take over Tom Sawyer Island. When some tried to incite violence and confront police, they were arrested and escorted out. Finally, Disneyland officials decided to close the park, fearing that families with children could get hurt.

Disneyland instituted a dress code for park visitors shortly after that to try and keep any Yippies from entering the park in the future.


That event did not deter visitors, as the park continued to enjoy record attendance. Though Disney Imagineers were busy building Walt Disney World, which opened in October 1971, they did not neglect Disneyland, opening up a new land in 1972: Bear Country. It occupied space that was previously the Indian Village.

The new land was reached via a "pass" after walking by the Haunted Mansion. Above the pass, could be seen an entrance to a cave. A hibernating bear could be heard snoring from inside that cave.

The centerpiece of the new land was a new Audio-Animatronics show: Country Bear Jamboree.

Big Al, who sang "Blood on the Saddle," was the hit of the show. Female cast members working in the area took a liking to the character, naming their canoe team for years to come: Big Al's Gals.

That same year, the Main Street Electrical Parade kicked off, with more than a million twinkling lights on the floats as they slowly rolled down Disneyland's parade route each evening, playing a synthesized version of "Baroque Hoedown" along the way.


Disney Imagineers decided to honor Walt Disney, who passed away in December 1966, with an attraction called "The Walt Disney Story." The film-based show featured interviews with Walt. The show also meant the end of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," but that only lasted a couple of years as visitors started a letter-writing campaign demanding the return of the nation's 16th president. So in 1975, Lincoln was restored into the Main Street Opera House, but included the tribute to Walt.


The nation's bicentennial was approaching, and Disneyland wanted something patriotic. The Imagineers came up with a new show called "America Sings" for the building that housed the Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland. The lead character was Sam the Eagle, voiced by Burl Ives. The four-act show in the rotating building took guests on a musical journey of American songs. Meanwhile, the Carousel of Progress was packed up and sent to Walt Disney World, where it opened in 1975 and is still playing to this day.

A small change also happened to the Disneyland Railroad, when the Santa Fe Railroad decided it would no longer sponsor the attraction.


Disneyland decided to ring in 1975 with a two-year celebration of America's Bicentennial and a new parade called "America on Parade." The Main Street Electrical Parade took a sabbatical while the patriotic procession took over, with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy leading the way. One of the features were newly designed characters representing different American eras, including Betsy Ross.

Since Americans had walked on the moon, Disney Imagineers decided it was time to send guests on a journey farther into space. In 1975, the attraction known as Flight to the Moon was closed and re-designed as Mission to Mars. Most of the building's changes were cosmetic, with images on the monitors in Mission Control and inside the "rocket" were changed to represent the trip to Mars.

Construction also began that year of a long-awaited attraction that had been on Disneyland souvenir maps for years: Space Mountain. During construction, crews excavated a large hole, which was the eventual location for the "Spaceport," also known as the load/unload station. But that winter, El NiƱo hit California hard and the hole filled up with water for a while. Cast members decided to have some fun and put a sign on the construction fence that said: Future site of employee swimming pool.


The hole was drained of water, the uniquely shaped building was completed and Space Mountain launched, with several Mercury astronauts on hand for its initial flight. The enclosed roller coaster was an immediate smash hit, creating a line that would snake out of Tomorrowland and down Main Street U.S.A. Disney's Imagineers were fearful that some would get inside the building and get cold feet, so several "chicken" exits were thoughtfully provided - even one right by the load area.


What had gotten into the Matterhorn? With the success of Space Mountain, Disney Imagineers decided to up the thrill level on the Matterhorn Bobsleds by joining two bobsleds together, making it a faster ride. In addition, there was a new element added: the Abominable Snowman. "Harold," as he was named by cast members, has been scaring riders in the Matterhorn ever since.


It was time to shake things up in the Old West. Attendance on the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland had been declining, and the opening of Space Mountain sealed its fate. The Pack Mules were sent packing in 1973 and the attraction was closed in 1977. But after the old railroad was derailed into Yesterland, bulldozers moved in and Disney Imagineers reshaped the land to look like a scene out of Bryce Canyon National Park.

The new structure was called Thunder Mountain, and all around it, rails for another roller coaster were laid for the wildest ride in the wilderness: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Attractions Referenced

America Sings

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Carousel Of Progress

Country Bear Jamboree

Flight To The Moon

Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln

Haunted Mansion

Indian Village (Frontierland)

Matterhorn Bobsleds

Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland

Mission To Mars

Pack Mules Through Nature's Wonderland

Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad

Space Mountain

Tom Sawyers Island

Walt Disney Story

Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments With Mr Lincoln

Parades Referenced

America On Parade

Main Street Electrical Light Parade

Lands Referenced

Bear Country

Main Street U.S.A.


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