top of page
  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Disney Does it All

The 1960s were a busy decade for Disney, including innovations in animation in two and three-dimensions, as well as other areas.  For example, Disney’s used xerography to speed up the animation process, which allowed them to no longer have to hand ink each animation cel’s outlines; the myriad of spots on the 101 Dalmatians (1961), would have been impossible without it.  Other animation classics included The Sword in the Stone (1963), Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), The Jungle Book (1967) and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968).

In addition to Mary Poppins in 1964, which also included animation, Walt Disney productions released such live action classics during the 1960’s as Pollyanna (1960), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), The Parent Trap (1961), The Absent Minded Professor (1961), The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964), The Ugly Dachshund (1966), and The Love Bug (1968). 

Beyond motion pictures, the 1960s was filled with exciting events for Disney.  Although mechanized characters were already in use in some of Disneyland’s exhibits, it was not until the 1960s that computer and hydraulic technology caught up enough for the imagineers to be able to create audioanimatronics, which debuted at Disneyland's Tiki Room in 1963.  Disneyland was updating itself and adding new attractions as well.  Although the monorail was introduced in 1959, it made its way out of Disneyland to the Disneyland Hotel in 1961.  Disney developed a new technology called Circlevision, which allowed the audience to see a movie in 360°, with screens surrounding them in a circle, and different movies, beginning with America the Beautiful were shown. "Flying Saucers" came and then went in 1961 and 1966, due to technical difficulties. The new Tomorrowland debuted in 1967 and was a world on the move with McDonnell Douglas’s "Flight to the Moon," Goodyear’s "Peoplemover," and Monsanto’s "Adventure through Inner Space."

Across the park in Adventureland, the Jungle Cruise got touches of humor and an audioanimatronic update beginning in 1964, and New Orleans Square opened in 1966, with "Pirates of the Caribbean" premiering in 1967 and "The Haunted Mansion" in 1969. Disney was commissioned to build four exhibits for the 1964 New York World’s Fair—"It’s a Small World" for Pepsi, "Progressland" for General Electric, "Magic Skyway" for Ford and "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" for the State of Illinois.  Disney’s ancestry can be traced back to the great fairs and expositions of the Nineteenth Century, and Disney had come full circle by contributing to one.

The theme of the 1964 World’s Fair was Man’s Achievement in an Expanding Universe, and expanding his achievements was just what Disney was planning to do.  Disney’s exhibits were all an astounding success.  Look Magazine proclaimed Disney “Giant at the Fair.”  91 percent of those attending the World’s Fair visited Disney’s exhibits, and "It’s a Small World" hosted 10 million people on the Happiest Cruise that ever sailed.  Disney, in creating these exhibits, was not only exhibiting his latest technology, audioanimatronics, but was also testing the East Coast waters (Hollis and Silbey, 1988, p. 81).  The four exhibits eventually found their way to Disneyland during the mid-1960s, and “It’s a Small World,” as Brode (2006) notes paved the way for multiculturalism.

After the overwhelming ovation and accolades these exhibits received, Walt Disney secretly pressed forward with his latest and by far most ambitious plan yet, Walt Disney World and EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).  Beginning in 1964, Disney began to secretly buy land in Florida for this “Project X.”  He wanted enough land so that he would not have to deal with the eyesore that Anaheim had become surrounding Disneyland park, and by 1965 Disney had amassed 27,443 acres—an area equal to twice the size of Manhattan Island.  Walt Disney did not live to see this dream fulfilled, because he died of lung cancer in December of 1966, six months before work on Walt Disney World began.   Walt Disney wanted to use all of his experience at Disneyland to create an experimental prototype community, essentially using Disney ideas in the arena of urban planning, to tackle the problems of America’s cities.  After Walt’s death, these plans were changed and EPCOT was turned into a themed park, and not the prototype city that Disney had envisioned.  Eric Sevareid said of Walt Disney:

He was an original, not just an American original, but an original, period.  He was a happy accident, one of the happiest this century has experienced.  And judging by the way it's behaving, in spite of all Disney tried to tell it about laughter, love, children puppies, and sunrises, the century hardly deserved him.  He probably did more to heal or at least soothe troubled human spirits than all the psychiatrists in the world.  There can’t be many adults in the allegedly civilized parts of the globe who did not inhabit Disney’s mind and imagination at least for a few hours and feel better for the visitation.  It may be true, as somebody said, that while there is no highbrow in a lowbrow, there is some highbrow in every lowbrow.  But what Disney seemed to know was that while there is very little grown-up in every child, there is a lot of child in every grown-up.  To a child, this weary world is brand-new, gift-wrapped.  Disney tried to keep it that way for adults.  By the conventional wisdom, mighty mice, flying elephants, Snow White and Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy and Dopey—all these were fantasy, escapism from reality.  It’s a question of whether they are any less real, any more fantastic than inter-continental missiles, poisoned air, defoliated forests, and scrap iron on the moon.  This is the age of fantasy, however you look at it, but Disney’s fantasy wasn’t lethal.  People are saying we’ll never see his like again. (Bright, 1987, pp. 188-189)

While Disney’s appeal was to the young and the young at heart, adolescents and young adults were more drawn to the musical scene, which spoke to their restless, rebellious souls.


bottom of page