Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Face used as a model for the Prince in the Disneyland castle

Q: A local children's show in the Philadelphia market featured a young artist by the name of Gene London. Gene was a Disney-trained artist, and it was said he was good friends with Walt. Local lore has it that Walt gave Gene a ring. As a kid in the late '60s and early '70s, I can remember many times when the show featured Walt (1960s) or Disneyland or a new Disney movie release and communication between the host and Disney artists, etc. It is also a local tale that when Walt Disney World was under construction, Gene London's face was used as a model for the Prince in the castle murals. Are our local tales true?
Joe, Edgewater Park, New Jersey

A [Dave Smith]: I cannot authenticate the local stories, but I do recall Gene London as being a big Disney fan. He visited the Disney Archives a few times in the 1970s, was appreciative of what we were doing to preserve Disney history and he would always give me a big hug.

Philly Local TVGene London Show
gene LondonWhen TVparty first started a page for memories of The Gene London Show, we weren't prepared for the enthusiastic response.
People from all over the country have contacted us by the hundreds with their fond memories of this local kid show. So settle back and read some of the best Email messages we've gotten about Gene London.

I fondly remember the general store. Gene London was incredibly gifted in bringing his characters to life through voice and drawing. I was one child who was deeply impressed in a positive way by his talents. I've always thought about him and what he might be doing now.
I remember these words to the song.....
Come right on in to the general store
We've got licorice, gum drops, sour balls,
Anything that you're hankering for
You'll find in Cartoon Corners General Store.

And of course, I remember - The Golden Fleece that was in a chest and the magical drawings that were brought to life by the voices that Gene London would give to them.
His show was one of my very favorites. 37 years later that remains the case. :)
- Rita Lopez

I remember Gene London so well - someone had the first verse to the song - I was such a fanatic I remember the 2nd verse - There's lots of stories and songs that you know Toys to build and a big pot belly stove Something else I've forgotten, let's see Of course, Gene London, that's me!
- a reader

I was a temporary resident for 4 year in Collingdale, Pa while my father attended medical school in Philadelphia. I was about 8 years old and enjoyed the culture of the Northeast since I was from Texas.

I will always remember my friends Kenny Wilde (USN) (RIP), Frank Doyle, Jimmy Lieberknight and the rest of the gang near Mc Dade Blvd. The Mumurs Parade, Pusey Elementary, Hoagies, The Spectrum, The Philadelphia Warriors, riding my bike to Darby, Big Wheels, The Dallas Cowboys beating the Miami Dolphins, being chased by red-headed Irish girls, Jackie Delaney and Christine Sullivan, and watching Gene London on Saturdays.

Those were the days... Yo!!

- Mark H Reyes, Texas

I just remember Gene London telling a story while he illustrated it and CRYING as he did this. It was pretty scary to a kid to watch this grown man blubbering as he told a story. Anybody remember the theme song? It was something about the "cartoon corners general store". I believe that was the fictional store where Gene worked. Gene seemed to have a Disney fixation, and I'm pretty sure that he probably is now in possession of the cryogenically frozen head of Walt.
- Bill Jacoby

About ten years ago, while a bike messenger in New York City, I made a delivery to Gene London's apartment around 6th Avenue and 20th Street. I mentioned that I recognized him, and when he commented that he thought I was too young to remember the show, I responded that I remember the later seasons. The seasons that contained a purple puppet of some kind as a sidekick. Gene said he didn't remember any puppet on the show, and then after a moment of reflection, gasped, and said, "Oh, the PUPPET! I forgot all about the puppet. Working with that thing was so horriiible, I must have completely blocked the memory out!" With his eyes wide, his hands over his mouth, he thanked me for the package and sent me on my way.
- a reader

Growing up in the Delaware Valley during the late '60's and '70's, Gene London and his show "Cartoon Corners" were a big part of my childhood. 
  Gene was blessed with tremendous artistic talent, great storytellling skills, and a personality that appealed to children. I loved his show, and looking back on it now, can really appreciate the creativity associated with it. I fondly remember Quigley Mansion, the Golden Fleece and those amazing "flying" sequences, the stories drawn in crayon by Gene, and the wonderful storylines including a take-off on "The Wizard of Oz" that I still think was a tremendous undertaking for a locally-produced show, and a storyline about Gene's girlfriend Debbie getting amnesia from a jar that falls on her head. All of the productions were rather well done. 
Gene's show taught us all about the importance of using our creative talents, and how we could share our creative gifts with others. Having been blessed with the same talent for drawing that Gene has, I could and can relate to his love for it. Gene London was part of the inspiration for me to use and share my talents. I would love to see tapes of those original shows to relive the magic. Thanks Gene...never forget the positive impact you've had on a generation of children.
- Frank T 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

America, Fantasyland, Worlds of Nature and Stories from Other Lands

Q: When I was a child back in the '80s, my parents gave me an older set of Disney books that I absolutely loved. There were four books in the set, they had dark green covers and each book had a different color binding (red, yellow, blue or lighter green, I think). One book had nursery rhymes and fairy tales featuring great illustrations of Disney characters, another had stories like Pollyana, Old Yeller and Darby O'Gill, etc. I don't know what these books were called, but I would love to get copies of them. Do you know the titles, when they were printed and if it is still possible to find these books? I would love to purchase them for my daughter!
Elaine, Orlando, Florida 

A [Dave Smith]: This was a popular mail-order set, called The Wonderful Worlds of Walt Disney, published by Golden Press in 1965, with the four books titled America, Fantasyland, Worlds of Nature and Stories from Other Lands. More than a million of the sets were sold. Copies can be found through used book dealers or on eBay. 


Map of Fantasyland

"Published by Golden Books from 1961 to 1965, this is one of four books in a slip-cover set designed to excite families about the joys that awaited them in the World of Walt Disney. The books included: Fantasyland, Nature, America, and Stories from Other Lands. I found this copy of the Fantasyland book for $4 at my Friends of the Library Bookstore. Boxed sets on eBay run about $30 on the lower end. I like the old-school feel of the illustrations--this is the Disney I grew up with."
- by By Calsidyrose



Monday, June 6, 2011

Walt Disney and the Role of Carrot during World War II

Q: I run the World Carrot Museum, online at, and am researching the role of carrot during World War II. I have found that Hank Porter, on behalf of Disney, created several "carroty" characters for use in the British publicity campaign to eat more vegetables. Can you throw any light on these original cartoon characters via any archives/books you have?
John, Skipton, U.K. 

A [Dave Smith]: According to David Lesjak's book Toons at War, "Disney artists helped the British government promote food products by designing a family of carrots for England's Food Minister. The January 11, 1942 issue of The New York Times magazine announced, 'England has a goodly store of carrots. But carrots are not the staple items of the average English diet. The problem… is to sell carrots to [the English public].' The Disney-designed carrots included Carroty George, Dr. Carrot, and Clara Carrot. The vegetable characters were reproduced on a poster and recipe booklet, and the carrot images were used extensively in a newspaper ad campaign." 

[Marcio Disney]

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Disney's River Country Water Park

Q: While preparing for an all-adult family trip to Walt Disney World, my brother and I were reminiscing about River Country, which was the water park we visited on our first trip in 1987. We were wondering when it closed and what was built in its place?
Carrie, New Rochelle, New York 

A [Dave Smith]: River Country closed on September 1, 2001, after having been open for 25 years, and nothing has been built in its place. It was essentially superseded by the more elaborate water parks of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. 

[by Marcio Disney

The water park was created by the same man who created Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

"The original working title before being changed was "Pop's Willow Grove" and featured a sandy bottom and unique water filtering system using confluent water from adjacent Bay Lake, which was dammed off creating a natural-looking man-made lagoon. It was much smaller than the resort's other two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, with the latter nearly four times the size of River Country."
- Wikipedia

It was commented by a Cast Member that a contributing reason for the closing was the new state rules concerning water parks. Pools and water activities must have their water originating from municipal water systems, not natural bodies of water but officially, the closure was due to high amoeba levels from Bay Lake which Walt Disney World was built on.


Click Here to read ‘Explorers’ invade Disney’s abandoned Discovery Island and River Country water park at Inside the Magic.

The Discovery Island is adjacent to Disney's River Country water park

Before there was Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, Walt Disney World’s mega water parks, there was River Country. River Country, which is located at the back of Fort Wilderness on Bay Lake, was revolutionary when it opened in 1976. Back then, hotels didn’t routinely build their own water slides and aqua playgrounds as they do today.

The “old-fashioned swimming hole” theme was in line with the times. As one poster astutely described it: “Remember that in 1976 the ‘country theme’ was big. On TV we had The Waltons, Little House on the Prarie, etc. The nation was celebrating our bicentennial. Home decor reflected a rustic theme. Fake spinning wheels, eagle emblems, and decorated steel milk canisters were found in living rooms all over the U.S. A very simple and patriotic craze happening right along with disco, if you can imagine that.”

River Country was small by today’s standards. It included two flume slides, one tube slide, and rope swings, T-bars and a barrel bridge in Bay Cove; a heated swimming pool with two short slides that started high in the rocks but ended well above the surface, giving the guest a short free fall; a beach area; and Kiddie Cove for pint-sized guests. 

I visited River Country on three vacations in the early 80s, and like so many others, have fond memories of those times. My sister and I worked up our courage to go down Slippery Slide Falls, screaming as we fell into the pool, and couldn’t get enough of the Whoop ‘N Holler Hollow flumes. Going to River Country was a highlight during those trips to Walt Disney World. As adults, we visited once with our spouses — no children yet — in the 1990s. It was fun reminiscing, but of course River Country loomed larger in our childhood memories.

River Country closed for good in November 2001. Some say filtering lake water was no longer considered safe, and others blame the popularity of Typhoon Lagoon, which opened in 1989, and Blizzard Beach, which opened in 1995. Whatever the reason, fans of River Country still mourn its loss and actually hope for its return one day. Their hope is buoyed by the fact that the water park was never torn down; Disney just allowed nature to reclaim most of it.

Recently, photos of the abandoned River Country surfaced online, prompting extensive discussions on several fan forums. Viewing the photos is like looking away from the proverbial train wreck — it’s virtually impossible to tear your eyes away. It’s fascinating to see what has become of the property after eight years and three hurricanes. Many detailed shots can be seen here and a side-by-side comparison of like photos taken then and now are here. For a look at guests having fun at River Country, check out this video. You’re sure to chuckle at how swim suit styles have changed.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Family Reading Program Read, Write, and Draw hosted by Vincent Price

Q: This may not be the place to ask this but I thought it couldn't hurt to try. Back in the 1980s, the Disney Channel aired a show called Read, Write, and Draw, hosted by Vincent Price. I'm not sure how old I was exactly, but I do remember that I mailed in a story to the show and received something back from them. I think my story was used on one of the shows but I am not sure. I was wondering if you knew whom I might contact to find that information?
Tracy, Brooklyn, New York 

A [Dave Smith]: The Family Reading Program Read, Write, and Draw was first announced in the January-February 1987 issue of Disney Channel Magazine. The beginning of a story was presented, and kids 12 and under were invited to send in their endings. Starting with the July issue, it was announced that famed actor Vincent Price would be reading some of the stories at various times during the week. The program continued until fall 1988. We have no listings of the contents of the short segments in the Archives, nor do we have copies of them. There is one sample show currently on YouTube. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

John McLeish - The Narrator of the Goofy "How To" Cartoons

Q: Who does the voice of the sportscaster in the Goofy cartoons on football and basketball? I believe he also does the same thing in this short called Football Now and Then as well as in Moochie of Pop Warner Football. Do you know who the actor is?
Michael, Granite Bay, California 

A [Dave Smith]: The narrator of the Goofy "how to" cartoons was John McLeish, who was an animator and story man at Disney in the 1940s.

[Marcio Disney]
Here is a photo during the production of Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon on November 7, 1940. Actress Frances Gifford, who played a studio artist in the film, is the woman in the photo. Clockwise from Gifford: John McLeish, T. Hee, Ward Kimball, Fred Moore (back), Norm Ferguson (back) and Erdman Penner.

Dumbo was also narrated by John McLeish.

Goofy - How to Play Football (1944)

Goofy - How to Play Baseball (1944)

Goofy - How to Play Golf (1944)

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