Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Reels Solved! (1955)

This article reconstruction takes us back to early 1955, when Walt visited the Arrow plant in Mountain View to check on progress. Given the July opening, things were probably hopping. Note the reference at the end of the article that; "Disney and some of his movie cameramen visited the Arrow plant... scenes of the work going on at the Mountain View shop may be included in a progress report on Disneyland, to be presented on Disney’s television program in the near future."

Those film segments were used in the July 13, 1955 Disneyland TV pre-opening update show - a portion of which is at the end of this posting.

M. V. Firm Aids Disney

News Staff Writer - Mercury News

MOUNTAIN VIEW - When Walt Disney’s $10 million playground, Disneyland, opens near Los Angeles this summer, thousands of American children will shout with glee when they view the rides now being constructed by a Mountain View industrial firm.

Workers at the plant, Arrow Development Co., 243 Moffett Blvd., are working feverishly on six of the feature rides for the Fantasyland section of Disneyland. The rides are:


“Casey Jr.” - two 65 foot miniature trains identical to those seen by millions in Disney’s award winning cartoon, “Dumbo.” The two odd little engines each will pull six circus type coaches over a 1,200 foot track, all being built by Arrow.


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” - a ride which will take the children through a darkened building in which the various scenes of the cartoon, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” are depicted. The specially designed cars will glide silently along in order that the riders can hear the soundtrack from the movie.


Mr. Toads Hotrod” - this will consist of half scale replicas of 1903 model automobiles similar to the one seen recently in Disney’s television production of the cartoon, “The Wind in the Willows.” The hotrod, for which “Mr. Toad” traded his family home, “Toad Manor,” in the cartoon, is electrically powered and will run on tracks to give the riders the impression they are driving.


The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” - this ride will be made up of large cups and saucers which will spin as the children sit inside and view scenes of the Hatter’s party with “Mr. Doormouse.”


"King Arthur Carousel” - a 50 foot diameter merry-go-round which will have 72 horses for the young “knights” to ride.

(Yesterland Image)

Dumbo the Flying Elephant” - This ride will be similar to the familiar airplane ride found in most amusement parks, but replacing the airplanes will be replicas of “Dumbo,” complete with large flapping ears.

Ed Morgan, one of the four partners in the corporation, said his company landed the contract with Disney through the recommendation of  Stanford Research Institute, which did the site and population density research for Disneyland. SRI’s headquarters of was in Menlo Park California, not far from Mountain View.  (That would have been Harrison Price. ~df)

The people at the institute had seen Arrow’s work on a small-scale stern-wheeler steamboat ride for children, located on Lake Merritt in Oakland, and told Disney the firm would be the logical choice to manufacture some of the rides for Disneyland.

At conferences held at Disney’s studios in Burbank, Morgan and his associates, Bill Hardiman, Andy Anderson, and Karl Bacon, were told the important thing to remember was that the rides must be constructed so that they look exactly like the originals in the various cartoons.

Arrow Development Co., Inc., founded in 1946 to manufacture merry-go-round horses, recently found it necessary to expand its facilities and leased another building located on Ortega Street in Mountain View.


Recently, Disney and some of his movie cameramen visited the Arrow plant to inspect the progress being made.  While not definite, it  is possible scenes of the work going on at the Mountain View shop may be included in a progress report on Disneyland to be presented on Disney’s television program in the near future.

If so, some of the workers at Arrow will not only be contributing their skills to the development of the giant-sized playground that will be Disneyland, but will be actors in the dramatic project, scheduled for completion in July.

Original Story Clipping

Some of the footage did appear in a July 13, 1955 special report on the progress at Disneyland. I note that the interior of the building where the carousel horses were being sanded looks like the inside of what is now one of the model shop buildings in Glendale.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Great Flying Saucers Who-dunnit?

Artist's Renderings of both patented designs

There are a couple of important points which are often overlooked in th story of the Flying Saucers; The first is the identity of the gentleman riding in the saucer in this picture;

Ed Morgan, developing his flotation skills.
May I have the pleasure of introducing... Mr. Edgar Allen Morgan, one of the four co-founders of Arrow Development. This photo shows Ed testing one of the prototype flying saucers at Arrow's facility in Mountain View, CA.

Here is another pair of shots of a couple of other interested parties trying out their flotation skills:

Karl Bacon, and a fellow named Walt, contemplating levitation.

These two images are from US Patent Des 192,932, Amusement Ride Car, filed June 29, 1961 and issued May 29, 1962 to (Imagineer) Robert H. Gurr of Costa Mesa CA.  In the description it claims "The ornamental design for an amusement ride car, substantially as shown."

For those who may be unaware of the differences between the types of patents issued in the United States, the DES in the patent document name may be obscure. What this means is that the things being patented are the visual or "design" elements - in other words; the appearance of the object; its' size, shape and contours, as opposed to its functions. That is also why the word "ornamental" appears in the title.

This becomes significant when considering the roles of the patent applicants.  In this case, what Bob Gurr is being credited for is the styling of the ride vehicle.  For the design of the rest of the ride system we have to look elsewhere. Fortunately we have a clue; the name of the firm that did the design engineering on the ride system; Arrow Development.

US Patent 3,251,595, filed May 11, 1962 and issued May 17, 1966 to E. A. Morgan et al for Air Car and Supporting Apparatus, fills in the blanks. ("et al" means "and the rest")

In 9 pages, containing 17 figures and 11 claims, covering the Flight Deck and Ground Structure, Automatic Valves, The Air Car, Directional Control, Loading and Unloading and Plenum Chamber Pressure, Edgar Allen Morgan and Karl W. Bacon, the inventors, laid out all the details of Disneyland's Flying Saucer Ride. It is a true work of engineering art utilizing air cylinders, poppet valves and huge blower motors to levitate the cars, which worked beautifully in Mountain View, but based on the photographs also went thru some changes, including dropping air assist steering the position of the valve plates from on top of to below the platform.

US Patent 3,251,595 - Air Car and Supporting Apparatus

Flying Saucers Air Valve

This multi-port air valve was designed to open and close based on the pressure above and below the disk. What no one realized at the time the ride was built in Anaheim, was that the size of the air chamber below the show floor was smaller in Mountain View. That difference in size caused a problem in Tomorrowland; the air in the bigger chamber would start to oscillate and throw off the pressure balance across the cylinders. As that vibration increased, eventually all the valves would open, letting out all the air and effectively shutting the ride down. This was called "dumping the table." Although they tried to adjust and correct the problem, there was no easy way to dampen the oscillations and stabilize the pressure. Changing the chamber was out of the question. Karl and Ed did try putting damping springs on the 18,000 valves, but nothing they did corrected the problem fully.

There is another detail in one of the patents; The rider was supposed to be able to steer the saucer with air jets, as shown in the following illustration. The small arrows represent pressurized air coming upwards from the middle of the Car Plenum Chamber and passing thru two valves, one on each side of the car, into tubes which exhausted the air sideways, supposedly propelling the vehicle laterally. Its an interesting idea, but based on how it was built at the park, it probably didn't work well. Bob Gurr reminded me recently that the original concept for the Flying Saucers, which had propellers under each vehicle and a gasoline powered motor, was scrapped because it was too noisy and dangerous.

The air flotation idea would lay dormant for nearly fifty years, until the opening of Luigi's Flying Tires in Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure in June of 2012. That had much larger vehicles which had problems of their own, and that ride closed in less than three years. To this day, many people have fond memories of the Flying Saucers and their bumper car qualities.

The Flying Saucer patent is one of eight issued to Karl and Ed for rides developed for Disney between 1955 and 1965. The earliest, US 3,006,286; Amusement Vehicle Apparatus, issued in 1959, was for the track and guidance system used on most of the early dark rides which Arrow developed for Disneyland and which are still in use today on Alice in Wonderland, Snow White's Scary Adventure, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Chris Pais tells this story of the end of the Flying Saucers and their replacement;

"I was with Walt the day he decided to close the Flying Saucers. When I arrived at his apartment on Main Street he asked me what I thought of the attraction. I told him that it seemed to break down a lot. I asked him about how it worked and said I believed that they didn't get enough lift...not enough air pressure was helping to move them. Next, I asked about how deep the chamber below the saucers was. Walt replied that it was almost like a swimming pool and I replied that maybe they could fill some of the area in.

Walt asked me to follow him over to the attraction, which was closed, again. He climbed over the metal railing and I started to follow him in, but he told please not to, as he thought it was dangerous. 

Walt began examining the flapper valves and stepped backwards onto one, which twisted his ankle and caused him to fall backwards, landing on his back and striking his head. I was stunned and asked if he was alright. He told me of course he wasn't. 

I told him to lay still and went to find help. I found a security guard who radioed in what happened. Soon an ambulance and several security men arrived. Walt was put on a gurney and taken to the ambulance. I held his hand until they closed the doors. He told me he'd call me later, which he did. 

The next time I saw Walt at the park he told me he had decided to shut the attraction down. That he'd been promised a lot by the guys that created it, but it had been a major let-down. He told me that he wanted another 'space attraction' to replace the saucers. We discussed an attraction where guests could fly through outer space. I pointed to the Matterhorn and commented how the guests had really embraced it. He liked the idea of a second tubular coaster. 

The end result was an attraction that he called The Space Port. A futuristic airport in space where guests could blast off into the galaxy. He wanted it inside a building with planets and stars whizzing about. Today we now know that as Space Mountain which sits exactly where the Flying Saucers had been."

Even tho the saucers are gone, there the memory is carried on in the fluted cone of Space Mountain, which is a reflection of the detail around the seats of the Flying Saucer vehicles.