This Week: Yesterland
is often a fleeting experiencethe things that entertained our society
in past eras can look awfully dull or silly to us now. Thus, Americas
original theme park, Disneyland, constantly updates or replaces its attractions,
hoping to snare new visitors. But sometimes its antiquated amusements
are still important in ways other than just entertainment; they can be
viewed as pieces of cultural history or even as works of art. While most
of these outdated rides are lost forever, their histories are chronicled
at Werner Weiss Yesterland,
a virtual theme park of ghostly amusements. Out of his Illinois basement,
this Internet technology specialist (whos “slightly older than Disneyland”)
creates one of the most unique “Disneyana” sites on the Web.
did you first visit Disneyland?
What do you remember most about it?
was four years old when my parents took me to Disneyland for the first
time. I still remember riding the Midget Autopia and Mine Train, visiting
the Satellite View of America, watching the gasoline-powered model planes
and cars at the Flight Circle, and walking up the little hill where the
Matterhorn would later be built.
did the experience make you feel?
was amazed and delighted by Disneyland. Almost 45 years later, Im still
fascinated by the Disney theme parks. I not only find them to be entertaining,
but I admire them as works of art.
many times have you visited the park?
What was your favorite attraction?
went to Disneyland an average of twice a year from 1960 through 1975.
After that, my visits became less frequent. Because of my website, people
assume I visit Disneyland frequently. But Ive only been there around
10 days over the past 25 years. I take my family to Walt Disney World
much more frequently than to Disneyland. To me, Pirates of the Caribbean
was and is the best Disneyland attraction. Fortunately, there doesnt
seem to be any chance that its heading to Yesterland.
parks were popular regional attractions previous to Disneyland.
What made Disneyland the “nations theme park”?
those regional attractions were amusement parks, not theme parks. Back
in 1955, there really werent any theme parks—although Knotts
Berry Farm in Buena Park, Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, and Greenfield
Village in Dearborn each provided some elements of what we would now consider
a theme park experience. Walt Disney invented the theme park. Disneyland
owes more to movie studio back lots than to amusement parks. When Disneyland
opened, it had no roller coaster, no Ferris wheel, no games with obnoxious
barkers, no surly ride operators and no trash on the ground. Instead,
guests were immersed in an idealized world that took them to the past
and the future, to the exotic jungles, and into realms of fantasy.
was Walt Disney trying to achieve with Disneyland?
(beyond monetary profit)
Disney wanted to create a place where families could have fun together
and experience things they might never be able to do in the real world.
When Walt Disney built the Matterhorn, his goal wasnt a themed roller
coaster. He wanted guests to feel the experience of racing a bobsled.
How many people would ever have a chance to travel in a submarine? Walt Disney
made sure that at Disneyland they would get that chance—and his submarines
would have windows, making them better than the real thing (even if his
submarines never really went below the surface). And as far as monetary
profit was concerned, Walt Disney took a huge risk, driven by his belief
that the public would respond favorably to his vision.
often are attractions replaced?
How many total do you estimate?
a few rides from 1955 are still around, although theyve been updated
and enhanced over the years. Some recent rides and shows, including the
Rocket Rods and Light Magic, were retired so quickly that those guests
who only visit every two of three years missed them entirely. I really
cant give you a total number because it depends on what you consider
an attraction. If you count rides, stage shows, parades, exhibits and
events, the number is huge.
was the first attraction to be torn down?
strange-looking Phantom Boats attraction opened in 1955
permanently in 1955.
happens to the removed attractions—are they ever stored?
parts of old attractions are reused for new attractions. For example,
the organ in the ballroom of the Haunted Mansion came from the 20,000
Leagues Under the Sea walkthrough attraction. The majority of the
Audio-Animatronic characters in Splash Mountain once entertained guests
in America Sings. The Disney Company auctioned off one of the Mike Fink
Keel Boats and even the old Harbor Boulevard Disneyland sign on eBay.
do you feel is the biggest loss?
miss the Mine Train Through Natures Wonderland. The Mine Train took
guests on a leisurely ride through a mountain wilderness, a surprisingly
large desert, and a cave with colorful waterfalls. Natures Wonderland
was replaced by Big Thunder Mountain, featuring much faster mine trains.
Im sure it was a good business decision, and Big Thunder Mountain
is an excellent ride, but I wish I could take my children on the old Mine
do you think the “feel” of Disneyland has changed?
Is this good or bad?
“feel” of Disneyland hasnt changed that much. Its
still a wonderful place, and it continues to evolve. On the positive side,
the park is the product of almost 47 years of improvements. On the negative
side, the park seems more crowded now, and maintenance standards unfortunately
arent as high as they once were.
you think the new attractions are better or worse than older ones?
surprised that Disneyland has never topped their masterpieces from the
1960s—Its a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the
Haunted Mansion. The Disney Company has built many good attractions since
then at 10 Disney theme parks around the world (eight of which Ive
visited)—but even at those parks the top attractions are the updated
versions of the 1960s masterpieces. Some would argue that the Twilight
Zone Tower of Terror in Florida or the Indiana Jones Adventure in California
are now the best attractions, and its true that they have a level
of detail that exceeds anything from the 1960s. But Im still waiting
for Disney to top Pirates of the Caribbean.
did you come up with the idea of cataloging the lost attractions?
1994, I signed up for an Internet dial access account. Unbeknownst to
me, the account included 10 MB for a personal website. When I realized
I had Web space, I decided to teach myself HTML and put up a website.
I tried to think of a subject that might actually attract some visitors.
I looked through my old color slides and found pictures of defunct Disneyland
attractions. So I created a website based on the concept that these attractions
were not bulldozed, but that they were now at a park called Yesterland.
The grand opening of Yesterland was May 20, 1995.
did you get the photos documenting them?
started with my own color slides from the 1960s and 1970s. Ive been
fortunate that visitors to my site have contributed additional photos.
Since I started Yesterland, Ive been taking snapshots of
attractions in anticipation of using those pictures in the future. Thats
how I was ready to add Captain EO and the Rocket Rods.
did you research the background info for each attraction?
have a good memory, which allows me to describe the experience. I have
old Disneyland guide books and back issues of Disney News magazine
for more information and to jog my memory. And I have several books about
Disneyland history with which I can verify dates and facts.
there any attraction that you feel ought to be replaced?
most recent visit to Disneyland was in 2000. I was not impressed by Innoventions
in Tomorrowland. Innoventions is located in the structure that originally
housed the Carousel of Progress and later America Sings. But instead of
being an entertaining, multi-scene show like its predecessors, Innoventions
is just a series of exhibits, only marginally more interesting than the
displays at Best Buy or Circuit City.
kinds of reactions has your site received from visitors?
get many compliments from visitors to my site. I also get a lot of questions
that I cant answer, such as a recent note asking, “why did
they stop making the old-fashioned hats at the Mad Hatter?”
you ever gotten any reaction from the Disney Company itself?
received e-mail from many current and former Disney employees, but never
in an official capacity.