How The Lone Ranger Built Disneyland
Before I start, know that Hollywood Thoughts is a very big fan of Disneyland.
That said, our friend from Tabloid Baby visited Disneyland yesterday but didn't have the time - or the inclination - to visit the neighboring Disney theme park called 'California Adventure.'
He's not the first.
Let's face it: to most folks, Disney's California Adventure (DCA) is a misfire.
Bit-O-Trivia: More than fifty percent of Disneyland's guests are locals (arriving from within a 50 mile radius).
Armed with that knowledge, I ask you this question: Who wants to make the drive from Santa Monica (or Tarzana... or Long Beach... or Inglewood... or from any nearby locale) to watch a pair of humanoid Watts Towers dance down the parade route (like I did)? Or gaze upon mini replicas of Hollywood Boulevard buildings? Or get blasted with the fake stink of pine trees whilst 'paragliding' over a northern California forest?
Hey, Disney, I live here. I can get the real deal everyday of the year... for free. I don't need a $50 'park hopper' to enjoy real California pine trees.
Yeah, yeah. I know. DCA was also built to satisfy foreign travelers who don't have the time to see and experience all that California has to offer. A second 'gate' also keeps visitors on Disney property for more days. More days, more Disney dollars spent.
That said, ever wonder how DCA got built?
The Lone Ranger's dad died.
But let's get started by getting into our Astro Blasters and zip back to 1954:
Jack Wrather was a prominent figure in Hollywood. He was also married to former actress, Bonita Granville. When Walt Disney ran short of money during the very early days of Disneyland, Wrather offered to build the Disneyland hotel. The two men were pals and Disney gladly accepted the offer. Now he could relax knowing his visitors would have a nearby decent night's lodging. To sweeten the pot, Disney later extended a spur from the monorail to the hotel's entrance-- a unique feature that set Wrather's carpet joint apart from the ricky-ticky overnight dives that lined Harbor Boulevard.
Flash forward several decades to Wrather's death.
The newly widowed Bonita Granville phoned the Disney studios with an offer: now that her husband was dead, Bonita wanted to unload most of his holdings. They included his entire film and TV library (of which the "Lone Ranger" series was a part). Wrather also held the operating contract for the Long Beach Queen Mary... and, of course, the deed to the Disneyland Hotel.
Disney agreed to pay for the film library and the hotel.
Bonita played hardball. 'Take everything... or nothing.' Disney wanted absolutely nothing to do with the run-down and under-visited Queen Mary. In twenty years time, several operators of the floating hotel had come and gone. None were able to generate success in Long Beach.
Bonita threatened to sell to the highest bidder (you go, girl!).
With visions of a monorail depositing tourists to some sort of cheesy lap-dance-and-all-you-can-eat-buffet bistro, Disney capitulated and bought-out Bonita. Disney could now rightly claim the namesake hotel as their own. They also got a giant boat in the port of Long Beach.
Disney, like the others before them, could find no way to generate additional dollars through the Queen's turnstiles. A second gate-- a seaside theme park (similar to the old Pacific Ocean Park) was suggested as a way of getting more visitors to the Long Beach landmark. Plans were drawn, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on designing every aspect of the new Disney/ Long Beach park.
Disney thought they had a slam dunk concept: the new "Disney Seas" would revitalize Long Beach and keep the Queen alive. Who wouldn't want a Disney theme park with an ocean view?
Apparently the Long Beach city council.
Disney was told to get lost. Cutting their losses, The Burbank-based company dumped the Queen Mary contract as quickly as possible, and floated their Disney Seas concept to Tokyo Disneyland. Japan's Disney Seas park is a hit.
The Queen Mary continues to struggle.
Interestingly, Disney was also snubbed around the same time by the residents of Virginia when they tried building a "Disney's America" theme park within sight of some historic Civil War battle sites. I guess a bloodied, bandaged, and kepi-wearing Mickey Mouse was too much for relatives of Great-great-great Grandpas lost in the Battle of Spotsylvania.
Final Stretch: Our trip returns to Disneyland's parking lot-- home of DCA.
From the get-go, DCA has been regarded by critics -- and guests -- as being a failure. The park is accused of being derivative. Many feel that DCA is too "off the shelf"-- a term that refers to the attractions as not seeming 'uniquely Disney.'
Here's my prediction:
DCA ultimately fails to bring-in the requisite operating dollars. Disney will get their "America" park. DCA's Santa Cruz boardwalk will be transformed into a turn-of-the-century Coney Island. The San Francisco section will be made over into Boston's waterfront (can anyone say, "Tea Party Flume ride"?). The Edwards Air Force Base ripoff will suddenly become, "The Kennedy Space Center Moon Shot," and the Hollywood land section will be shoved outside the park's security fences (where the general public will be allowed to visit free of charge like today's Downtown Disney). It's here where wrung-out 'Tourist Daddys' (the kids safely tucked-away for the night in the Disney Hotel), will be able to hire a 'Disney Escort' for a fun-filled Disney-night.