Disneyland – the greatest walk-thru cartoon ever drawn

Brian Sibley visited Disneyland in 1985, during its thirtieth year celebrations and discovered that the Magic Kingdom was created along the lines of a living animated film…

PRE-TITLE SEQUENCE: The air is filled with a confusion of sounds. The clickerty-clack of turnstiles, the excited chatter of children (ranging from perambulated tots to very senior citizens), the dragon-snort of an approaching steam-engine pistoning its way out of nowhere with an eager clanging of its bell, the murmur of muzak: ‘When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true…

ROLL TITLES: ‘A Day in Disneyland’. An aroma of roasting popcorn wafts towards me on the morning breeze. The turnstile clackerty-clicks and, exchanging a friendly wave with Goofy who is busy sweeping an already spotless forecourt, I pass beneath an arch where a burnished brass plaque bears the simple inscripnon: ‘Here you leave today – and visit the worlds of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.’

The tiled roofs of Sleeping Beauty’s castle gleam in the Californian sun. Click picture for larger version.

Disneyland is thirty years old but it is as ageless as its ever-smiling host, Mickey Mouse. It looks as new as if it had been run up overnight and its paint were still wet to the touch. It is as solid an institution as Mount Rushmore, yet as insubstantial as fresh-spun candyfloss.
‘Disneyland,’ Walt once remarked, ‘is like Alice stepping through the Looking-Glass. To step through the portals of Disneyland will be like entering another world.’ More than that, it is like stepping into a living cartoon. Disneyland is a three-dimensional outworking of the techniques and illusions of the animator s art.

The animator is unique among film-makers in creating worlds, entire and complete, out of nothing more than graphite, ink and paint. Everything is drawn from scratch -story, characters, settings, sights and sounds, shots and angles – dreamt up, imagined and then imbued with a semblance of reality.

Disneyland was conceived, designed and built according to the same principle. Everything is placed where and how it is for a reason, to tell a story, to evoke an emotion. Every building, tree, sign-post and flower-bed contribute to the overall atmosphere and total experience of this walk-thru movie. Absolutely nothing is left to chance.

You see it first in Disneyland’s opening sequence: a turn-of-the-century American Town Square and Main Street, constructed to a scale that gives every illusion of authenticity whilst being reassuringly smaller, neater, cleaner and more comfortable than any small American town has ever been outside the work of Norman Rockwell. Its City Hall, Opera House, Penny Arcade and Candy Store each have an individuality of their own, but they also have a uniformity by which they are blended into a simple background painting against which the props, cast and action can most effectively work for the audience.

And everywhere, just as in the classic Disney cartoons, there is quite extraordinary attention to detail. It calls to mind that sequence in Pinocchio in which the camera pans around Geppetto’s workshop, stacked and crammed with toys, clocks and novelties that appear on the screen for a mere few seconds and, for many movie-goers, pass unnoticed. But for the observant there is the reward of discovering the presence of such details. And for the fanatic who views the film again and again, there is always the certainty of finding something not noticed before, something which most people will have overlooked, something hidden there – or so it seems – just for you to find.

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