Paul Hiffmeyer / The Walt Disney Company
Walt Disney adored trains so much that he ringed his park with them and had another built in his backyard. But this miniature Casey Jr. Circus Train in Disneyland gave him as much trouble as a full-size one.
It’s a small, if controversial, price to pay for Walt Disney’s forward-looking legacy. His motto was “Keep moving forward,” and his original rides have often evolved as technology and storytelling modes shift. Yet the Disney parks that Walt knew haven’t changed past recognition. Both American resorts retain a few attractions that Walt supervised and enjoyed himself.
Walt’s family-friendly rides were like his "Mickey Mouse Club" on TV: simply decorated and evocative of the essential emotions of childhood. The formula worked so well that many original rides were duplicated in Florida for Walt Disney World and for the three, soon to be four, international resorts.
Some remain beloved, even with the rise of newer rides by Disney Imagineers who favor video projections, complicated computer operational systems, and characters that promote the modern corporate canon. Consider favorites like Pirates of the Caribbean — a ride about drunken pillaging somehow rendered family-friendly — and It’s a Small World, whose sincere ditty has been getting stuck in the heads of generations of kids.
Bob Gurr was a longtime designer for WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) and created the vehicles for many such seminal Disney rides. Some park-goers may take these older attractions for granted, but that only speaks to their success in innovating techniques that the amusement industry has imitated ever since. “Walt knew all about the various manufacturing possibilities,” says Gurr, “and wound up inventing something new just to get the attraction he wanted.”
The best original Disney rides still deliver what Walt — and his fans — want. Take them for a spin.
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