Shining City on the Hill

Last weekend I went to see Tomorrowland, the movie. It wasn't what I expected. For some reason, I thought it would be a magic portal to the 1967 Tomorrowland. After considering that, I realize this would make for a rather dull movie. George Clooney rides on the slow moving PeopleMover. Then he visits Adventure Thru Inner Space. The whole gang has lunch at the Coca Cola Terrace and listens to The New Establishment. Not too much action. No chases or ray guns.

In my mind, the 1967 Tomorrowland still exists. Somehow I'm always disappointed to reach the end of Main Street USA and realize the 1990s version has stomped out the bright future. 1967 Tomorrowland was a gleaming shining city on the hill. It was a world of turquoise, yellow, red, and light blue, clean white paint, metallic silver walls, and Univers 67. Corporations were not evil so logos were proudly displayed. There was no better way to spend time than to ride the PeopleMover on a sunny afternoon.

We've all seen how something is changed moments before it would be hip again. If they only waited a couple of years, by 2000 the 1967 Tomorrowland would be genius.

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Pictorial Souvenir Discourse Analysis

It’s amazing to me when I meet another Los Angeleno who has never been to Disneyland. Are the communists? Did they grow up with abusive and cruel parents who built a Carrie closet? Do they hate the idea of fun? Of course, they typically tell me “It’s not my kind of thing.” Or, “I don’t understand the attraction of contemporary mass market spectacle.” Boring, boring people.

When I was a kid, I had a copy of “Disneyland, a pictorial souvenir”. I know every detail of every image. The images paint such a nice story of a lazy day with family, rock and roll fun with teens, and exciting (but not overly exciting) adventures. When I looked through this recently, I began to decode the images. Yes, OCD, yes geeky, yes, too much emphasis on deconstruction in art school. I found several running themes.

1. Old people and People with hats.

Hats signify an exciting time. There are many matching hats on old people and kids. Old people let us know that Disneyland can be enjoyed by everyone. I know this is true. I've been there with my grandparents. Although they preferred that we visit each land in a counter-clockwise direction and never jump between sides of the park.

2. Nuns

There are nuns all over the place in the Disneyland visual landscape. They show up on preliminary sketches, and in souvenir books. I don't think there is any hidden religious subtext. This has more to do with the supposed cruelty of nuns who slam rulers on Catholic school children. Nuns are not thought of as carefree, anything goes, kinds of women.

 

3. Blurry motion

These say “speed.” Disneyland can be a crazed, fast paced, and thrilling place. Everything is fast: a hip dance scene in Tomorrowland, Rocket Jets, America the Beautiful Circlevision, the Peoplemover, and the Mad Tea Party Teacups. The Teacups are, and Rocket Jets (now the Astro Orbitor) were, indeed, too fast for me. All that spinning. But the Peoplemover and Circlevision were fairly slow paced. This was good. The Peoplemover had a hard fiberglass interior. I would not want to be in a Peoplemover whipping around the bend that fast, slammed against the hard seat, or in a Circlevision theater with guests throwing up.

 

4. Leg details

From a child’s point of view this must be what Disneyland looks like. These tell us that cast members are cleaning, the costume characters will interact with children, and there are horses. We also don't need to involve ourselves with details such as individual people.

 

5. Lingering

Many images show people meandering and lingering. They stare into a shop window on Main Street (why, I don’t know. The door is two feet away). Others look at unique items in the One of a Kind Shop, or watch the The Royal Street Bachelors in New Orleans Square. This tells us that there is time to relax, saunter, and discover stuff to buy. Unlike most of the stores I visit, here I can and linger and not be asked to leave. The downside of these images is the message that it's okay to walk really slowly down Main Street, 8 abreast. It's not. Some of us need lunch.

6. Darkness

Whether it’s real night outside, or simulated night in the Blue Bayou, these images are indicators that Disneyland is not just for kids. You can have dinner with your middle-aged friends or neighbors. You can take your spouse on a special dinner date while the kids hang out in Fantasyland. Or you can throw caution to the wind and get groovy with the young adults.

The Road To Tomorrow

One of my favorite objects is a piece of tile from the Coca Cola Terrace at Disneyland. While we were working on the Encounter Restaurant project, I mentioned that I was heartbroken about the refurbishment of the Terrace. The team at Walt Disney Imagineering graciously retrieved a tile from the construction debris and gave it to me.

The 1967 Coca Cola Terrace was magnificent piece of architecture. It combined modernism with a touch of California levity and space age forms. When I was young, we went dancing at the Terrace on weekend nights. During the day, it was a great place for cheeseburgers and chicken fingers. Oh, yeah, I’m that fancy. The ceiling was fantastic. Like stars in the night sky, it had a random pattern of lights rather than symmetrical ordered rows. The crowing jewel of the Terrace was the stage. When not in use, it was a sculptural planting bed. As a band began playing, it rose up from the ground and became an elevated stage. It’s still there, and is used for the Jedi Training Academy. If only the New Establishment were still together.

Many of these images have been sent to me over the years. Consequently I don’t know the correct provenance. Gracious thank you to those who have shared these. These sites are great resources and most probably the original owner.

http://gorillasdontblog.blogspot.com/

http://www.davelandweb.com/disneyland/

http://www.yesterland.com/

Feelin' Groovy

There is nothing groovier to me than square, squeaky clean people who are trying to be “down and groovy.” The Kids of the Kingdom, and The New Establishment were musical groups at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland in 1968. And boy, are they square. They make me look like Neil Young. But, because they are trying to be “with it” and “cool” they become truly groovy.

As designers, we’re all taught to stay ahead of the popular culture curve. When I was in school, we spent quite a bit of time and energy being “cool” and cutting-edge. Years later, when Noreen and I started AdamsMorioka, I let go of trying to stay ahead of the hip curve. It was a great relief to not have to try to be cool anymore. I admire the performers in The New Establishment and The Kids of the Kingdom. They probably played some big hits like, Up, Up, and Away, Cherish, and Windy, and then went out with their friends convinced they were the hippest people at a night-club, or they really knew how to groove and everyone else was just plain un-cool.

The Road Less Travelled

Disneyland WEDway Peoplemover, 1967

I went to the Apple store last weekend to get a new iPhone. When Alex, my helpful sales guy, was doing the transfer, he noticed my phone screen-saver. It’s geeky, but I have an image of the Peoplemover at Disneyland. Alex, who was young and groovy, said he loved the Peoplemover and wished it were still there. This is a sentiment I hear all the time. The Peoplemover was a fine piece of design, functionally and aesthetically. The cabs were just the right size, the materials were durable, and the color palette was wonderfully slightly shifted from primary colors.

The Peoplemover opened with the Tomorrowland redesign in 1967. This version of Tomorrowland was the bight future, gleaming white, a world on the move. When Tomorrowland was refurbished in 1998, Rocket Rods replaced the beloved Peoplemover. Since Rocket Rods was retired in 2000, the tracks have sat empty.

When friends back east hear that I have a Disneyland Annual Passport, they are mystified. “What do you do there? Do you go on all the attractions?” they ask. Of course I don’t. Like every other Southern California resident, I use my passport to have lunch, sit on a bench, and walk around the Park. If I go on an attraction, it’s the slow ones: Disneyland Railroad, the Mark Twain Riverboat, maybe Pirates. The Peoplemover was a favorite slow attraction. It was wonderful to leisurely tour Tomorrowland and yell at guests from above. Noreen always had good advice for the guests walking below us. She would yell at them, “No matching outfits!” or “No running! Slow down Sir!” or “No holding hands. No touching.” Perhaps this is the real reason for the Peoplemover’s retirement.

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Tomorrowlounge

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