Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Weird Disney: A Strange Look at Disney's Past

By Keith Mahne

The Disney Parks contain some of the most spectacular attractions and experiences the world has ever known. But just like everything else, it takes time to perfect that Disney quality. Back in the early days of the Disney Company, particularly Disneyland, several strange and just downright weird things were created to entertain guests or for marketing purposes. Things you wouldn't have thought were capable of existing inside a Disney theme park. Well, as you'll witness today, they sure had a few doozies. Join us as we have a look at some of the strangest things to ever exist in Disney history...

Aunt Jemima Pancake Race:


One of the weirder promotional stunts that was ever held at Disneyland was the annual Aunt Jemima Pancake Race. The Pancake Races were a relatively short-lived phenomenon at Disneyland. These amateur athletic events were only staged in the Park from 1957 through 1964.

 America on Parade Float with a Witch Being Dunked:


World Showcase Dolls:

Some of you might remember these rather scary looking, larger-than-life dolls that once roamed Epcot’s World Showcase.

The Aluminum Pig:

This was part of the Kaiser Aluminum attraction in Tomorrowland at Disneyland until July 1960. The mascot of this exhibit was KAP, the Kaiser Aluminum Pig, which is a reference to pig aluminum (the unmilled rough form of aluminum).

The Crane Bathroom:

Sponsored and installed by Crane Plumbing Company, their handout brochure boasted, “This fabulous bathroom, actually designed for the future, is available for your home today!”
Located in the same building as the Hall of Chemistry and Hall of Aluminum, the Bathroom of Tomorrow (built only to be seen, not used) featured a wide array of modern conveniences. The fixtures, styled by celebrity industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, were a vibrant citrus yellow (the ones that weren’t plated in 24-karat gold, that is). Because this was an unusual exhibit, it called for an unusual dedication. Instead of a formal ribbon cutting, Walt was joined by Dreyfuss and Crane Co. President Frank F. Elliot for a fun valve-turning ceremony.

Fishing in Frontierland:

Walt Disney doing a little fishing.

In Disneyland’s early days, the Rivers of America were stocked with fish. Kids could rent a rod and, if lucky, catch a fish to take home! That attraction was phased out, fairly early on.

A Silly Symphony Character Line Up:

During the 1930's, Mickey Mouse Clubs were organized by local movie theater owners and allowed to come up with their own promotions. The picture above is one of the results.

Pinocchio and Edward G. Robinson:

During the 1940's the studio tried to get creative in promoting new releases. Above is a publicity shot with a Marionette and a gangster.

100 Little People Dressed as Pinocchio:

For the premiere of the film, 100 little people were dressed as Pinocchio  and placed on the top of a marquee.

Scary Minnie Mouse:


A couple of the original Minnie Mouse costumes used in Disneyland's early days...hope you don't have any small children around while looking at this one.

Big Headed Mickey and Minnie:

Here are a couple of costumes of Minnie and Mickey that followed the "scary" ones. A step in the rite direction but definitely a part of Weird Disney history.

The Three Little (Scary) Pigs:

"Hi kids..we're the three little pigs...can we have a hug..."

The White Rabbit:

Walt Disney riding with Alice and, what can only be described as the Donnie Darko Rabbit. Between the scary rabbit and the terrifying Minnie Mouse behind him, I think Walt may have needed a new pair of pants that day.

The Main Street Phantom of the Opera:


"Oh look little Jimmy this is Main Street, USA and over there is....RUN!!!!!"

Believe it or not there was once a Phantom of the Opera character haunting the Main Street Cinema in Disneyland's early days.

The Space Family:

Tomorrowland's own Space Family.

The Dairy Bar:

Not a lot of info is available on this particular "exhibit" in Tomorrowland, other than its operating dates of January 21, 1956 to September 1, 1958. One thing we can assume is that Walt needed some cash and the American Dairy Association stepped up to the plate. Using the slogan, “Today’s Food Builds Tomorrow’s Man,” Disney was able to justify the presence of this exhibit in the middle of Tomorrowland. Guests could see what future farming might be like before partaking of a glass of “Nature’s most nearly perfect food” at the Dairy Bar.

Early Mickeys and Minnies in a Cage:

Early characters lacked the sophistication we’re used to today. Take a look at these early Mickeys and Minnies. And what were they doing in a cage?

Newspaper clip of Walt:

How about this newspaper clip of Walt with the wrong caption and the correction that came out a few days later.
Goofy Waterskiing:

At Disney World we see Goofy waterskiing behind a structure that is reminiscent of an outhouse.

Mickey and the Strange Snowman:

Here’s Mickey with a rather strange looking snowman who is actually the official mascot for the Quebec Winter Carnival.

Well there you have it folks, some of the weirdest ideas and creations that have come out of the Walt Disney company. Do you have some other weird Disney history you think should have made the list? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.

Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

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