For three, and sometimes four, generations of families, Disney is the tie that binds them together.
Many baby boomers can recall watching, with their parents, Walt Disney Presents (1958-1961) and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969) on their living room televisions. Families were able to enjoy the antics of Mickey Mouse and friends, the frontier days with Davy Crockett and all those nature adventures with playful pups in the wild – and an occasional domesticated otter.
While most kids during the 1950s and 1960s never saw Disneyland, many of them eventually traveled to California or the new Disney World in Florida as adults during the 1970s. Some of these trips combined kids and grandparents. Many today combine the baby boomers with their grandchildren.
Disney In New York
For the kids of the early 1960s who could not convince mom and dad to take a two-week vacation to drive to California, Disney did arrive in their backyards in the form of Freedomland U.S.A. and the New York World’s Fair. Freedomland was dubbed the “Disneyland of the East” and the 1964-1965 World’s Fair featured many Disney creations such as It’s A Small World and the animatronic Abraham Lincoln reading the Gettysburg Address.
A new book by Chuck Schmidt (Disney's Dream Weavers - The Visionaries Who Shaped Disneyland, Freedomland, the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair and Walt Disney World -- and the ties that bind them) looks at the connection between Disney and these two New York attractions. The 124-page paperback book (Dog Ear Publishing, September 20, 2012) is available at Amazon.com and other online stores.
Schmidt’s book explores the common thread that winds its way through four very different but distinctly connected amusement centers. Disneyland in California was the world's first theme park. The beloved Freedomland was created by former Disney employee C.V. Wood. The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair witnessed Disney's cutting-edge audio-animatronics technology that also was on display to a lesser degree at Freedomland. Walt Disney World in Florida was Walt Disney's noble attempt to right the wrongs of America's urban landscape.
The similarities start with the 1955 creation of Disneyland. C.V. Wood, the park's general manager, was a key employee who brought to life Walt Disney's decades-long dream. After Wood left Disney's employ under acrimonious circumstances just a year later, he attempted to imitate his former mentor in grand style by building several parks of his own, including Freedomland. His other parks were Magic Mountain in Colorado and Pleasure Island in Massachusetts.
Goofy About Disney and Freedomland
The author is a huge fan of Freedomland. An award-winning journalist, Schmidt began his newspaper career as a copy boy during 1967 for the Staten Island Advance in New York City. He quickly moved up the ranks, first as a part-time sports reporter, then as an assistant sports copy editor and night sports editor.
Since 1984, Schmidt has been the newspaper's Sunday news and travel editor. During this time, he has covered several major Disney events, including Walt Disney World's 15th and 25th anniversaries, the 1998 grand opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park and the christenings of the Disney Cruise Line's Dream (2011) and Fantasy (2012) ocean liners. Since 2009, the author has shared his love and knowledge of all things Disney in his Goofy about Disney blog.