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Writing Credits:

On July 17, 1955, Walt Disney opened the gates to Disneyland, the beloved American icon that has become a cherished destination for generations. It was also the day Walt's sixteen-year dream came true. The centerpiece of this volume is a captivating and nostalgic film that takes you inside that dream. Rare archival footage, new interviews with key people and Walt's own words reveal how his innovative vision became a reality. Then discover more Disneyland secrets with a fun-filled trivia game, and relive the magic of the recently restored Disneyland U.S.A. presented in CinemaScope with a new 5.1 audio mix.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 81 min.
Price: $32.99
Release Date: 12/11/2007

DVD One:
• Leonard Maltin Introduction
• “People and Places: Disneyland USA” Film
• “Wonderful World of Disneyland” Trivia Game
DVD Two:
• Leonard Maltin Introduction
• “Operation Disneyland” Vintage Featurette
• Three Episodes of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color
• “Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction” Featurettes
• Gallery

• Booklet
• Concept Art
• Reproduction of Disneyland Ticket Book


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Disneyland Secrets, Stories, And Magic (Walt Disney Treasures) (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 7, 2008)

Back during the initial batch of “Walt Disney Treasures” DVDs in 2001, we received Disneyland USA. That set compiled a few Disneyland TV shows devoted to the park, and it allowed us to watch that place’s development via the paid programming. Walt really was a genius: he ran hour-long ads for his theme park and got paid to do so!

For more info about Disneyland over the years, we inspect 2007’s Disneyland Secrets, Stories and Magic. While the prior entries in the “Walt Disney Treasures” series collected previously created shorts or TV episodes, Secrets gives us a new film as its centerpiece. The titular documentary runs one hour, 21 minutes and 14 seconds as it offers a combination of archival elements and interviews.

Hosted by Julie Andrews, we hear from Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller, “Disneyland Feasibility Study: author Harrison “Buzz” Price, Disney artist Herb Ryman, author/former Disney PR executive Tim O’Day, retired Disneyland Executive VP Ron Dominquez, City Manager of Anaheim (1955) Keith Murdoch, retired President of Disneyland Jack Lindquist, retired Director of Disneyland Participants Relations Peter Clark, Disneyland Opening Day Manager Milt Albright, filmmakers Pete Docter, John Lasseter and George Lucas, Walt Disney Company former senior executive/director emeritus/consultant Roy E. Disney, retired Chairman Walt Disney Resorts Dick Nunis, Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, retired Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump, international ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering/former Vice Chairman/Principal Creative Executive Marty Sklar, early Disneyland publicist/opening day reporter Charlie Ridgway, former Imagineering Project Director Bruce Gordon, Imagineering Senior VP of Creative Development Tony Baxter, retired Disneyland Operations manager Bill Sullivan, retired Disneyland Operations director Bob Matheison, Walt Disney Archives director Dave Smith, Disney artist and historian Stacia Martin, early Disney Imagineer Marc Davis, Disney composer Richard Sherman, Custodial Guest Services manager Ray Sidejas, retired Disney Imagineer X Atencio, former Walt Disney Company President/Walt’s son-in-law Ron Miller, Walt Disney Company president and CEO Bob Iger, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo, Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Vice President/Senior Creative Executive Tom Fitzgerald, Walt Disney Imagineering Senior Vice President of Creative Development Eric Jacobson, former Disneyland Band member/character voice talent Ray Templin, former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner, former Disneyland Resort president Matthew A. Ouimet, Disneyland Special Effects Vice President Bryan Wittman, former Disneyland International chairman Jim Cora, longtime Disneyland Cast Member Oscar Martinez, former Disneyland Operations Director Bob Gault, former Walt Disney Imagineering Chief Creative Executive John Hench, former Disneyland Band leader/Disney Theme Parks Talent Booking Director Stan Freese, Disneyland Entertainment retired Vice President Dennis Despie, retired park performer Wally Boag, early Disneyland Director of Marketing Bill Long, Disneyland Merchandising Vice President Marianne Sharpe, Main Street Electrical Parade creator Bob Jani, retired Disneyland Community Relations manager Mary Anne Mang and Disneyland’s 30th Anniversary Ambassador to the World Melissa Tyler Wackerman. We also get archival remarks from Walt himself.

Magic looks at what influenced Walt to create his own theme park as well as the slow evolution of that dream. We follow issues with finances, initial designs for the park, the choice of the Anaheim site, and problems that came with Disneyland’s 1955 opening. From there we learn about changes that subsequently came to the park such as the elimination of “Holidayland”, eliminated and added attractions, and various innovations intended to keep Disneyland fresh. We follow these events over the years up until Walt’s 1966 death, and we also see how the park continued after his demise.

While I’d like to describe Magic a deep, informative history of Disneyland, I can’t. It certainly traces the park’s development over the years, but it tends to do so in a fluffy, superficial manner.

This appears obvious from the very start of Magic. It doesn’t seem difficult to figure out how to structure the documentary: you open with the genesis of Walt’s idea and follow it through to fruition. From there you trace the park’s development from its 1955 opening through to today.

Magic pays a little lip service to that concept, as it does tell us a little about Disneyland’s progress, but those moments take a serious backseat to the promotion. I won’t go so far as to call Magic an 81-minute commercial for the theme park, but the truth isn’t far from that. We hear a lot about how great the attractions are but we rarely learn any insights about them.

This seems particularly problematic during the program’s second half. The first 40 minutes take us up through Walt’s death in 1966, so logically, the rest would offer details about how that affected the park and what came since then, right?

Not really. Again, those subjects receive a little examination but not enough to prove remotely satisfying. Magic flits through various subjects with little rhyme or reason, and it never does so in a detailed manner.

Magic studiously avoids any even marginally controversial subjects. The most negative stories relate to the messy park opening in 1955, and those details aren’t exactly stirring. I could refer to Magic as sanitized history, but I won’t, and it doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t mind the emphasis on positivity; indeed, I expected that tone.

I do mind the relentless promotional push and the lack of much information that tells us anything useful about Disneyland. Every once in a while, Magic teases us with interesting facts. For instance, at one point we get a little info about “Disneyland That Never Was”, proposed attractions that never came to fruition.

But after a few short moments, that subject comes to a close and we move back to more happy talk. I could’ve watched 80 minutes of information about these abandoned concepts, and I suspect the vast majority of the fans interested in the DVD would feel the same way. Unfortunately, the film’s producers prefer to regard Magic as a glorified commercial.

Which absolutely puzzles me given its inclusion on a “Walt Disney Treasures” DVD. This series appeals the most to the diehard Disney fans. I expect the folks interested in Magic probably already know a lot about Disneyland and they want to be able to examine visual documentation of its origins and development.

Magic provides some material of that sort, as we do find a lot of potentially valuable archival footage. However, those snippets fly by so quickly that we don’t take much from them. They don’t fill a ton of the running time anyway, as we usually see the interview subjects instead. I don’t mind that – I certainly think the commentators deserve their time on screen – but the structure remains frustrating, as the clips tease us.

I love the Disney parks and love to learn more about their behind the scenes operations. I hoped to get lots of fascinating details from Disneyland Secrets, Stories and Magic - or at least to find a succinct, logical history of the seminal theme park. Unfortunately, Magic works in neither way. It fails as Disney history and it rarely provides valuable insights into the location’s “secrets”. It’s nothing more than a glorified infomercial, and that’s a great disappointment.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus A

Disneyland Secrets, Stories and Magic appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Note that some shots – such as many of the modern interviews - come in the 1.78:1 ratio. Since so much of the archival footage was shot 1.33:1, though, I’m glad that the presentation was left non-anamorphic to better fit those elements.

A hodgepodge of recent interviews and archival footage, Secrets presented the material in an acceptable but unspectacular fashion. In general, the modern interview shots looked somewhat soft much of the time. Sharpness generally was acceptable, but it tended toward the fuzzy side of the street and rarely developed a very crisp and detailed impression. Some jagged edges and moiré effects occurred, and I also detected mild haloes at times. The image yielded some video artifacts as well; these occasionally gave the program a moderately grainy appearance.

Colors looked acceptably accurate and realistic, but they suffered from the vaguely drab tone of the program. The hues came across as somewhat flat and lackluster, though they didn’t seem runny and significantly problematic; they just lacked much vibrancy. Black levels appeared similarly bland, and low-light sequences seemed a bit muddy and murky.

Unsurprisingly, the archival clips were erratic. They came with a mix of problems like iffy definition, source flaws, and lackluster colors. However, I thought they held up fine given the various periods covered. We got a lot of old material, and we couldn’t expect these snippets to arrive without problems. Ultimately, Magic was watchable but not much more than that.

It should come as no surprise that the Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack of Disneyland Secrets, Stories and Magic presented a pretty subdued affair. The major material from the side speakers concentrated on music, as the low-key score offered gentle stereo imaging. Otherwise, the mix usually seemed focused on the center. Occasionally some park effects blossomed in the front side speakers, but those occasions didn’t come frequently. The surrounds remained essentially inactive, as they offered little information.

Audio quality appeared perfectly acceptable most of the time. Speech was acceptably natural and distinctive. The music seemed clear and well reproduced, as the tunes appeared warm and vivid. The effects were a smaller part of the mix. Still, they came across as clean and fairly accurate. Nothing special occurred here, but the audio of Magic was fine for this sort of program.

When we head to the extras, the main attraction comes from People and Places: Disneyland USA. This 41-minute and 49-second film from 1956 comes to us with anamorphic 2.35:1 visuals and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. While clearly intended as a promotional piece 50 years ago, it now acts as an invaluable way for us to see Disneyland in its very early days.

In that regard, it succeeds to a spectacular degree. With its lush CinemaScope photography and deliberate pacing, we get a thorough and fascinating view of Disneyland circa 1956. This is the kind of material that really appeals to Disney buffs; indeed, the film is much more compelling than the Magic feature itself.

Two alternate audio tracks accompany “USA”. We can watch the film with an audio commentary from film historian Leonard Maltin and Imagineer Tony Baxter. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They provide a lot of Disneyland history and put much of what we see into the context of its era. Of course, they indulge in some gushing nostalgia for the Disneyland of their youths, but they give us more than enough good info about the park of the 1950s and later to make this a valuable chat.

In addition, we can view “USA” with a music-only track. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, this allows fans to get a better listen to the score. It doesn’t do much for me, but I’m happy it’s here.

DVD One concludes with a Wonderful World of Disneyland Trivia Game. This comes with both “Beginner” and “Advanced” levels. For each, you must answer one question for each of the park’s lands. If you respond incorrectly, you head to Main Street to reply to an item there. Once you get it right, you head back to another land to try again. Get through all of them and you receive a reward.

In terms of difficulty, the “Beginner” items are definitely easier than the “Advanced” questions, but neither area consists of “gimmes”; you need to know Disneyland moderately well – or be able to guess logically – to progress. As for the rewards, they’re not bad. They give us video glimpses of many Disney attractions.

Unfortunately, you can only see one per time through the game, and that makes it a serious pain to access all of them. This is a terrible way to grant access to some fun clips. I don’t have the patience to work through the game multiple times, and I think the DVD should give us an alternate way to get to these interesting snippets.

As with all the “Walt Disney Treasures”, Magic comes with a Leonard Maltin Introduction. On DVD One, the film historian offers a two-minute and 12-second chat in which he gives us an overview of what to expect on the discs as well as a little Disneyland info. It’s a nice opening to the set.

One ad opens the set. We get a Preview for the Pixar Short Films Collection.

Onto DVD Two and its components we go. For a look behind the scenes of the preparation for a live TV broadcast, we check out Operation Disneyland. This 14-minute program examines all the work that went into the show aired live from Disneyland’s opening day. Much of the time it comes across like a modern featurette designed more to impress than inform us about the “engineering miracle”, but it still has its good moments. It provides a nice glimpse of all the challenges that occurred on that day.

After this we find three episodes of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. These include “The Golden Horseshoe Revue” (1962, 49:20), “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair” (1964, 50:00) and “Disneyland Around the Seasons” (1966, 50:04). “Revue” takes us to that show’s 10,000th performance, and it boasts special guests like Ed Wynn and Annette. “Fair” shows us the attractions Disney created for that event, and “Seasons” looks at different Disneyland activities through the span of a year.

Funny how one era’s cheap glorified commercial becomes another’s valuable archival footage. “Revue” is the worst offender in terms of the advertising quotient, as it really exists for no reason other than to entice us to visit Disneyland. And it borders on false advertising; no, it doesn’t promise that we’ll ever find such an elaborate “Revue” if we actually visit Disneyland, but I’m sure more than a few viewers headed there with the belief that they’d find Annette in attendance. “Venue” is good to have as a glimpse of Disneyland’s shows circa 1962, I don’t think it entertains.

At least the other two prove more useful. I could live without the history of fairs in “Fair”, but once we get to 1964, we find nice information about Disney’s involvement in that year’s World’s Fair. Those segments take us behind the scenes to glimpse the creation of animatronics and other technical pieces, and we get some good stuff.

Finally, “Seasons” takes us through a year at Disneyland. We start on New Year’s Eve and go through Christmas. This acts as absolutely nothing more than an excuse to show us attractions and parades at the park. And that’s fine with me. Like I mentioned earlier, this was nothing more than a long ad 40 years ago, but now it provides a valuable look at a long-gone era. Even though it repeats some material from “Fair”, it’s a good view of Disneyland in the mid-Sixties.

Two more elements appear under “Bonus Features”, Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction offers a collection of featurettes that run 37 minutes, 43 seconds total. These examine the different “lands” of Disneyland such as Frontierland and Fantasyland. It presents archival footage of Disneyland along with narration from Tony Baxter and Studio Inventory Group’s Ed Hobelman and Walter Magnuson. Along with some other shots, we see time-lapse footage of the building of various parts of the park as the speakers give us insights into Disneyland and what we’re seeing. This is really great visual material, and this turns into a valuable extra.

A Gallery comes next. It includes 58 stills as we look at conceptual art, design sketches and other pieces of planning for the park. I like what we see, but the collection feels a little short, as I’m sure it could’ve presented many more images.

DVD Two presents another Leonard Maltin Introduction. During this three-minute and 28-second clip, he provides another overview of the disc’s contents. Those elements are fine, but I prefer his brief reminiscences about his childhood longing to visit Disneyland.

We finish the set with some non-disc-based materials. A booklet provides a few notes about the release and Disneyland, and we also get a card with Concept Art that shows Herb Ryman’s design for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Finally, we find a reproduction of a Disneyland ticket book circa the Fifties. All three elements add to the package’s value.

Sometimes a DVD provides great extras and a mediocre main program. That occurs with Disneyland Secrets, Stories and Magic. The titular documentary is fluffy and frustrating, with average picture and audio quality. However, we get lots of fine supplements here, as we discover loads of fascinating archival elements. Those make this a worthwhile collection for Disney fans – just don’t expect much from the package’s main show.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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