“With his work at the studio intensifying, Walt found relaxation in his hobby of miniatures. He began by making his own small objects for the caboose of the Carolwood-Pacific train; he spent hours nightly fashioning tiny replicas of furniture in the red barn he used for a workshop. His long, slender fingers allowed him to manipulate small objects with inordinate skill.
He was fascinated with small objects, and he collected them during his travels to Europe. When Lilly, Diane and Sharon returned from a shopping tour of Paris, they found Walt on the floor of their hotel suite, surrounded by small animated animals. He was particularly impressed with a caged bird which moved its tail and beak and issued an intermittent song. He brought the bird to the studios and instructed one of his technicians, Wathel Rogers: “Take this apart and find out how it works”. Rogers performed an autopsy on the bird and discovered that it was operated by clockworks and a double bellows.
One day Walt said to Ken Anderson: “I’m tired of having everybody else around here do the drawing and painting; I’m going to do something creative myself. I’m going to put you on my personal payroll, and I want you to draw twenty-four scenes of life in an old Western town. Then I’ll carve the figures and make the scenes in miniature. When we get enough of them made, we’ll send them out as a traveling exhibit. We’ll get an office here at the studio and you and I will be the only ones who’ll have keys.” While Anderson started work on the sketches, Walt placed advertisements in newspapers and hobby magazines seeking vintage miniatures of all kinds.
He began work on the first of the scenes, which he called Granny Kincaid’s cabin, based on a set of So Dear To My Heart. Everything was depicted in scale - the spinning wheel, rag rug on the plank floor, flintock rifle on the wall, guitar, washbowl and pitcher, family Bible on the center table. In the bedroom beyond the living room could be seen the feather-bed four poster with crazy quilt. The kitchen was equipped with wood-burning stove and tiny pots and utensils. Walt attended to every detail. For the chimney he picked up pebbles at his vacation home in Palm Springs. To bend wood into the contours of chairs, he borrowed the pressure cooker from the family kitchen. He planned Granny Kincaid’s cabin without human figures; viewers would hear the voice of Granny describing the scene, and Walt recorded a narration by Beulah Bondi, who had played Granny in So Dear To My Heart.”
Excerpted from An American Original: Walt Disney by Bob Thomas.
The Disneylandia project (the eventual name chosen) was one of the first small steps which lead eventually to the full-scale Disneyland park in Anaheim. It was never completed past the cabin scene and a test of a barbershop quartet scene, along with a miniature ‘dancing man’ figure that Buddy Ebsen performed the movements for. Walt’s attention soon progressed to making a full-scale entertainment venue, rather than a touring display of miniatures.
Many of Walt’s private collection of miniatures, as well as ones he personally made, are on display at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
It’s amazing to me how an idea like this evolved, over time, into Disneyland.
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