|By Ted Linhart|
Given the behemoth that the Walt Disney Company has become, it’s hard for today’s guests to realize that in Disneyland’s early decades its success depended on outside companies deciding to sponsor attractions. In today's new article, we will examine a rarely-seen Summer 1968 publication called “You’re in good company… A Report To Disneyland Lessees." This unusual, 20-page document was essentially a sales brochure to brag about how great the Park was, how much better it was going to be, and ultimately to get the sponsors to renew their leases. Join us for a fascinating look back at an era when corporate sponsorship played a key role in Disneyland's success...
When Disneyland was being developed in the early 1950s, the company did not have free cash to build “The Happiest Place on Earth." In Walt Disney: The Triumph of The American Imagination, Neal Gabler writes, “All the time he had been planning Disneyland, Walt admitted that he hadn’t paid particular attention to how he would finance it." Eventually Walt pursued money from both TV networks and exhibit sponsors. He struck a deal with ABC for a Disney program in exchange for an investment in Disneyland which was fundamental to the Park’s construction. Gabler details that:
“ABC had committed to take $2 million of ten-year bonds, would guarantee loans up to $4.5 million [backed by an oil tycoon], and would put $500,000 directly into the Park – in return for 34.48 percent interest, the same share as that of Walt Disney Productions.”
The ABC money, however, was not enough to fulfill all of Walt’s dreams for Disneyland. Gabler continues:
“Even before they had finalized the ABC deal, the brothers were courting executives of major companies, escorting them through the studio and making Disneyland pitch for the companies to lease concessions or underwrite attractions; among the wooed were American Machine and Foundry, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Ford Motors, BF Goodrich Ties and the Kellogg cereal company. Contrary to Walt’s accounts of resistance to the Park, almost everyone swooned… Walt collected $2.3 million in lease payments."
By 1968, Disneyland was at a transitional phase of its existence. Its creator had been gone for just over a year and it was no longer a nascent experiment — annual attendance at Disneyland had reached 8 million, Tomorrowland was successfully overhauled with the additions of Carousel of Progress, Adventure Thru Inner Space, Flight To The Moon, and the Peoplemover, and Pirates of the Caribbean and Club 33 were thriving after just one year of operation. However, the focus of theme park innovation inside the Walt Disney Company was moving from Anaheim to Orlando as “The Florida Project” was being developed and so the recent spate of upgrades would not happen on that scale again until 1983 when the new Fantasyland opened.
Despite all of Disneyland’s financial successes at the time, it still relied heavily on the revenue from its lessees as evident by Disney's willingness to publish the booklet you are about to see in order to show them how much they had to gain by renting space in the Park.
This booklet was acquired at a specialty auction of Disneyland items and I have not seen another one like it offered anywhere else. My interest was driven by the 33 logos of other companies on the cover (seen above) and that the Disney attractions that I am most passionate about were products of sponsorship – Spaceship Earth, Horizons, Carousel of Progress.
The full list of those lessees and their participation in the Park at the time is as follows:
Good Year – Peoplemover
Spice Islands – Le Gourmet in New Orleans Square
Welch’s – Refreshment stands in Fantasyland
Swift & Co – Red Wagon Inn and Market House in Main Street
Kodak – Free photo information and assistance
Lincoln Savings – Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
Timex – Main Street store
Pendleton Wool – Frontierland shopping
United Airlines – Enchanted Tiki Room
Hallmark – Cars available at stores in the park
CH Sugar – Candy section in Market House on Main Street
Monsanto – Adventure Thru Inner Space
Western Printing – The Book Store on Main Street
Coca Cola – Coke Refreshment Corner on Main Street & Coke Refreshment Garden
Bank of America – Banking services in the park
Wurlitzer – Products on display and concerts using their equipment in the park
Frito-Lay – Casa De Fritos in Frontierland
Santa Fe Trains – Disneyland Railroad
Atlantic Richfield -- Autopia
Sunkist – Main Street Citrus House
Upjohn – 1890s drug store
AT&T – America The Beautiful
McDonnell Douglas – Flight To The Moon
Sunsweet – Market House on Main Street
Kal Kan – Disneyland Pet Facility
Hills Bros Coffee -- Main Street Coffee House and Garden Patio
Chicken Of The Sea – Pirate Ship in Fantasyland
Global Van Lines – Lockers in Town Square in Main Street
INA Insurance – Official Information and Registration Center
Carnation – Plaza Gardens and Ice Cream Parlor in Main Street
Quaker Oats – Aunt Jemima pancake at various restaurants
GE – Carousel of Progress
Pepsi Cola – Western variety show in Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland
None of these companies are specifically mentioned in the document as they are really the audience for the content, not the subject. Let’s take a look inside...
The first page is narrower than the overall document and is headlined “The Stage is set for summer ‘68” and states “Altogether Walt Disney Productions invested more than $60 million dollars in the Magic Kingdom [in the past three years] and the results have been startling. Almost every week and every month during the past year some attendance record has been broken.”
Pages 2-5 focuses on live entertainment inside the park and how $1.5 million had been spent on shows. This reminds us how important concerts were to the Disneyland experience in the 50s and 60s but that they are less so today. The report states “No one, of course, comes to Disneyland to stand in line… they come to participate in as many adventures as possible in their six hour average visit. But many years ago Disneyland pioneered the concept (followed so successfully at Expo ’67) of entertaining its queue lines with live performers… And now a $1.5 million stage show is ready… that will help the Park surpass even last year’s record-breaking attendance.” This is followed by a list of unknown performers (organized by land) that includes such acts as Dapper Dans and Keystone Kop Sax Quartet on Main Street, Shoeshine Boys and Teddy Buckner and his Allstars in New Orleans Square, The Americana Brass in Frontierland, Pearly Band in Fantasyland, Disneyland’s Kids Of The Kingdom and The Hager Twins in Tomorrowland.
The next two pages look at the prior year, 1967, which is described as “a tough act to follow." This is based on record-setting attendance including 1,462,202 visitors in August, 7,937,743 in the full year (+18.4% over 1966 and +108.9% over year one 1955), and 60 “Private Parties” for corporations and organizations.
Pages 6-9 review the park’s recent and past expansions, with an emphasis on the new Tomorrowland, which explains why attendance is forecast to grow in 1968. “The original 22 major attractions [of 1955] have grown to 52… the opening day $17 million investment to more than $100 million… In the last three years alone, Walt Disney Productions invested $60 million in ‘grand openings’ that have not only resulted in major attendance increases but have literally changed the face of Disneyland.” Pictures of New Orleans Square, The Primeval World, It’s A Small World, Pirates of The Caribbean, PeopleMover, America The Beautiful, Adventure Thru Inner Space, Carousel of Progress, Flight To The Moon and Tomorrowland Terrace are then featured.
There is a subsection about “Disneyland and the Disney Image” where corporations give testimonials about the value they get out of association with Disney. John Gillis, a VP at Monsanto which had just sponsored the House of the Future and was moving on to Adventure Thru Inner Space, said, “We like people to think of us as being first rate in every sense, and we think that the association with Disney is a good showplace for us."
“Marketing… the two-way street that makes Disneyland work for you” features a case study in how Disneyland can help its lessees. The company involved is Carnation Dairy and the promotion was the Fun and Flavor Sweepstakes which is described as a “vast and complicated campaign that not only had the full cooperation and assistance of Disneyland’s marketing division, but also the cooperation of several other park lessees in a partnership promotion.”
The pages here contain images of the sweepstakes which involved a grand prize of a trip to Disneyland, a GE TV set, and a Kodak Instamatic and second, third and fourth place prizes of TV, Instamatics and Carnation products. We also get a glimpse of Disneyland Ambassador Sally Sherbin, a twenty-year old UCLA student who was a hostess and tour guide at Great Moments of Mr. Lincoln and a VIP tour guide at Carousel of Progress.
Club 33 — perhaps named after the 33 lessees — opened in May of 1967 and it is given its own page in the report since it was a great VIP benefit. “This new service offers Disneyland lessees a place for the exclusive entertainment of Very Important People in a Very Important Fashion. From motif to menu, Club 33 has been designed for royal treatment… where businessmen and their guests may meet and dine in private surroundings away from the busy activities of a normal Disneyland day.”
The next two pages discuss how great Disneyland is to market to young people — a goal as important in 1968 as it is in 2016. “Clearly all of Disnelyand’s lessees gain in both present and future recognition through exposure to America’s biggest market — the youth market.” What follows is a series of stats including the number of “Date Night” attendees (806,356), the number of young people attending special events (75,000) and the number of high school seniors attending graduation parties (76,000).
As we get to the end of this illustrative document we encounter a page dedicated to “Disneyland and the Vacation Center” which mentions all of the facilities in and around Anaheim including hotels/motels, the Convention Center, the Stadium, and theaters. It also touts the $250 million Disneyland generates for the area each year.
By 1968, plans for Walt Disney World were well underway and the last section, titled “Around the Disney world", discusses all of the company’s other projects starting with a whole page devoted to Orlando. “WED Enterprises is moving ahead with the design of the attractions and facilities that will be completed during Phase One of the project.” The page mentions that “Disneyland’s Lessee Relations Division will be contacting companies regarding participation in the Florida project’s first phase — the theme park, and other aspects of the vacation and recreation area.” EPCOT is referred to here as “Phase Two."
Other cities referred to are Burbank where Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was produced; Hollywood where its movies were made including the recently-released Jungle Book; Mineral King, California where the aborted Ski resort was still in development; Washington, DC where “legislation was recently approved by the House Banking and Currency Committee for a gold medal in honor of Walt Disney”; and Marceline, Missouri, Walt’s hometown where the USPS was going to issue a Walt Disney 6 cent stamp.
While many companies still have a brand presence across all the Parks today, they are drowned out by the overwhelming din of Disney, Marvel and Star Wars merchandise that is now in place. As far as I can tell, the Lessee Division no longer exists within the Walt Disney Company, but if it does it must have a drastically lower level of importance than it did in 1968 when these 33 companies got their own dedicated booklet that we had the pleasure of enjoying today.
Ted Linhart was born and raised in New York City and works at NBC Universal where he is an SVP of Research for the company’s cable networks. Ted has a passion for television and has long been a collector of many items. He is also quite passionate about the Disney Parks and, in particular, Walt Disney’s view of the future which was cemented the first time he went on Horizons in 1985. Over the past several years, Ted has been collecting letters, documents, brochures and other ephemera relating to the history, construction, and evolution of Disneyland, Disney World and EPCOT. Ted started posting pictures of his collection via his Twitter account @TedonTV and followers started asking him to post more pictures online. That led Ted to create his blog Disneydocs.net where pictures of each of his items are archived.
You can find all of Ted's article here.