recess radio program

7/15/04
Disneyland Opens
    by Kevin Shortsleeve

On July 17, 1955 Walt Disney opened the doors to Disneyland and turned his cartoon world into a three-dimensional experience.
Disney's interest in fantasy takes us to the root of understanding what he was trying to achieve with his theme park. For Walt Disney had nearly a contemptuous regard for reality. As he once said, "I don't want the public to see the real world they live in. I want them to feel they are in another world."

To better grasp what Disney was trying to accomplish with Disneyland, one only has to look at the history of the technical achievements of the company. At the root of Disney's initial success was a drive to make a fantasy structure, the animated cartoon, as realistic as possible. In 1925, he mixed live images of humans with the cartoon world in his Alice in Cartoonland series. In 1928--the dawn of the sound era--Steamboat Willy, the first Mickey Mouse Cartoon, became the first animated cartoon to 'speak.' 1932 saw the next Disney innovation, the first color cartoon, with Flowers and Trees. 1936 was marked by Disney's invention of the shifting vanish- ing point, adding realistic perspective to a cartoon called The Three Little Kittens. In 1937 Disney further enhanced the realism of his cartoons with the invention of the multiplane camera, which added a sense of depth to The Old Mill. By 1942 Disney was able to depict the woods in Bambi in impressively realistic terms.

Once this level of realism was achieved, Disney, perhaps naturally, began to look for the next step in his drive to create 'reality' from fantasy. By the early 1950s, he knew what the next level must be; a three-dimensional experience that an audience could walk through, smell, touch and ride on with the wind rushing through their hair.

After Walt Disney's death, The Disney Company continued to develop Walt's dream, and innovations in how to make fantasy seem real continued. Who Saved Roger Rabbit, was the perfected blend of real life and animation, Toy Story, was the first full-length computer animated cartoon, and the film Dinosaur, was in many ways, the ultimate achievement in Disney's quest to create a seamless imaginary world. And, amid the release of these more recent films, we note that the Disney Company unveiled MGM Studios Orlando--a theme park whose theme is the movies. A replica of Hollywood in 1939, when one enters MGM Studios one walks into the past-with antique cars and authentic 1930s storefronts. Here, then, we have come full circle and are entering a fantasy of a place where Disney first made fantasy his ultimate goal.

Copyright 2004 Kevin Shortsleeve

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