BACKSTORY (July 17, 1955—Present): Required WED designers to conduct extensive research to recreate a steam powered riverboat from 50 years before. Decks assembled at the Burbank Studios while the 105' hull was constructed at Todd Shipyards in San Pedro, CA (where the Sailing Ship Columbia’s hull was also built). When the hull & decks were put together at Disneyland they fit perfectly. Joe Fowler, Disneyland’s construction supervisor and former navy admiral, insisted on creating a drydock for the ship along the Rivers of America. Walt, dismayed at how much land was taken up by the massive excavation, referred to the drydock as "Joe’s Ditch" and then “Fowler’s Harbor.” Disney funded its construction out of his own pocket when corporate funds fell short. On the first “fill-the-river” day, the water pumped into the Rivers of America soaked through the riverbed. Fowler found a supply of clay to replace the soil stabilizer used to line the river, and the second “fill-the-river” day was successful. The maiden voyage was July 13, four days before the park officially opened, for a private party celebrating Walt & Lillian’s 30th anniversary. Before the party, as Fowler was checking to make sure everything would be ready for the 300 invited guests, he found Lillian sweeping the decks of debris and joined in.
Irene Dunne, star of 1936’s “Showboat,” had trouble breaking a bottle of water (from many major American rivers) across the vessel’s bow for its christening on Dateline Disney. During the riverboat’s first official voyage, when the crowd moved to one side of the boat to view passing scenes, the boat would list from the side and water poured over the deck, as no one had determined the Mark Twain's maximum safe passenger capacity. This caused it to almost capsize a few days later when ride operators continued to wave more than 500 guests on board until the deck neared the water line. The ship came loose from its track and stuck in the muddy banks. The park quickly established a maximum capacity of 300, still in effect today. During its first few years of operation, passengers could buy a non-alcoholic mint julep or listen to card & checker players re-enact era dialogue. Occasionally the Disneyland band would play music on the lower deck bow. Underwent a major refurbishment Spring of 1995, during which all the decks and the boiler were replaced. When the Rivers of America was drained in 2002, the boat was noted to have considerable hull damage. It underwent a refurbishment in 2004 to repair the hull & replace the keel. For the park’s 2005 50th Anniversary a more colorful paint was applied. In Spring, 2007, the Mark Twain underwent an extensive refurbishment. Cast members have dubbed the Mark Twain “The Floating Breakroom” (due to how little has to be done to pilot it) and “The Floating Wedding Cake” (because of its color and ornamentation).
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DISNEYLANDER EMPLOYEE NEWSLETTER 9/61
TV PRODUCTION BEING FILMED AT DISNEYLAND
Late afternoon and night time visitors are getting "behind the scenes" of a television production as Walt Disney Productions technicians "roll the film" for a "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" program
The one hour program is scheduled to be telecast over the coast to coast network of the National Broadcasting Company some time next Spring, just prior to the big summer of 1962.
The production crew from the studio started filming the show on August 17th and the word from Tommy Walker is that if everything goes according to schedule they should be completed by Saturday, September 9th.
The name of the program, "Disneyland After Dark," tells the entire story of the show. It wll show Disneyland from just prior to dusk and will go through Tinker Bell's flight from the top of the Matterhorn and the "Fantasy in the Sky" spectacular fireworks display. In addition, all of the excitement that takes place in the Magic Kingdom in between dusk and total darkness will also be a part of the program.
"Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" television program will start on NBC-TV on Sunday, September 24, 1961 and will be seen on channel 4 in this area from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. each week. It will be sponsored by Eastman Kodak Co., and RCA on alternate weeks.
DISNEYLANDER EMPLOYEE NEWSLETTER 10/61
ARMSTRONG HEADS BIG DIXIE SHOW
Half a hundred of the world's great Dixieland jazzmen will come "floatin' down the river" at Disneyland this Saturday, September 30th, trumpets blowing and banjos strumming, when the Second Annual "Dixieland at Disneyland" show rocks the Magic Kingdom with the old New Orleans music and fun.
Louie Armstrong, the Yankee Doodle Grandee of jazz, heads the star-studded list of Dixieland talent that outshines even the 1960 array for sheer swinging Dixie music.
Joining the great "Satchmo" in "Dixieland at Disneyland," from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. will be:
• Teddy Buckner and His Dixieland Band.
• The Firehouse Five Plus Two.
• The Young Men from New Orleans.
• Matty Matlock and His Dixieland All Stars.
• The Disneyland Strawrhatters.
• The Albert McNeil Choir.
The entire show, including the river pageantry and the evening-long Dixieland dancing and lsitening at six locations, is wrapped up in one big ticket "package" that includes admission to the Park and admission to every ride and attraction, as often as desired, throughout the night.
Advance sale tickets, are priced at $4.50 for employees any time up to 5 p.m. on Friday, September 29th. The tickets are available at Cash Control in reasonable quantities to employees of Disneyland, WED, WDP and Disneyland lessees.
Like the first "Dixieland at Disneyland" festival in the Magic Kingdom, this year's show will begin on the Rivers of America.
Each Dixieland band will come floating down the river, playing Dixieland jazz in its own distinctive style.
For the finale, all the Dixiemen will board the Mark Twain riverboat, and — as a giant diplay of fireworks explodes on the water and in the air — they'll come steamin' round the bend, playing "When the Saints Come Marching In."
But the show, which begins on the river, is only the beginning. When the riverboat docks, a torchlight parade will lead the bands to six different locations, where they'll perform for listening and dancing all night long, until 2 a.m.
Between times, ticket holders may enjoy every ride and attraction in the Park — and as often as desired.
On this Saturday, September 30th, Disneyland's regular daytime operation will terminate at 7 p.m. The Park will then close for an hour, and re-open at 8 p.m. for the "Dixieland at Disneyland" show, which will continue through 2 a.m.
INSIDE THE BERM
Overheard on the Mark Twain. During one of the season's last "runs" with the going Young Men from New Orleans, a lady guest who was thoroughly enjoing the gaiety on board, looked toward shore at the burning cabin, and said, "How can they have so much fun here when there is os much trouble over there?"
GUIDED TOUR SCRIPT, SEPT. 26, 1962
Here is the text from the Live Narration of a Guided Tour, circa 1962 (previously started on this page):
NEAR MARK TWAIN DOCK
Across the river you see Tom Sawyer's Island…a mother's paradise. Here children may spend hours exploring old Fort Wilderess, rock caves and formations, suspension bridges and even go fishing. This island may be reached by taking one of Tom's rafts embarking from Fowler's Harbor. While we are here on the riverfront, I would like to mention that there are almost two miles of waterways in Disneyland, of which this river is a part. There are 81 vessels in the Disneyland fleet—these include the vessels you see here plus those in Adventureland, Storybookland, The Motor Boat Cruise, and the Submarine Lagoon.
(If not on Mine Train)
We are next going to take a trip on the…Mark Twain/Columbia.
Columbia…The Columbia is a three masted full-rigged sailing vessel. The ship has been copied after the original armed merchant vessel, Columbia, which we have already told you was the first United States' sailing vessel to circumnavigate the globe. This ship is 92' long and has a main mast of 84'.
Mark Twain…The Mark Twain is an authentic reproduction of the old Mark Twain paddle wheel steamer which operated on the Mississippi River. Powered by twin steam engines which operate the stern wheel, the Mark Twain is 108' long and has three decks. On weekends and holidays the Young Men from New Orleans, an authentic Dixieland Jazz Band, play for your dancing and listening pleasure as you float down the river. Inside Slue Foot Sue's Golden Horseshoe is one of the most popular attractions in Disneyland. The show has something for everyone. Plenty of good music, lots of laughs, the Can Can Girls and even that famous character—Pecos Bill. The show is one of the entertainment highlights here in the Magic Kingdom and we know you'll enjoy yourself. You should be here at least 30 minutes before show time in order to find good seats for this free show presented by Pepsi-Cola. Show times are posted on the front porch. And now, let's take a short cut through El Zocalo, the Mexican Market over to the little mining town of Rainbow Ridge.
To resume your vintage tour, please go to the Nature's Wonderland page.
INTRODUCTION TO A GRIZZLED OL’ DISNEYLAND FAN FROM WAY, WAY BACK
Taint many who love the history of Walt Disney’s Disneyland as much as Wild Ol’ Dan Blasius. He’s just wandered into Daveland, unsaddled his horse, rolled out his bedroll, and sat down by the campfire to have a cup of coffee. Wild Ol’ Dan is also the author of the first Hopalong Cassidy novel to be published in well over 50 years: “HOPALONG CASSIDY RIDES AGAIN.” So, as you might figure, we've asked him to put a few thoughts together on Frontierland at Disneyland. Well, turns out he has more than a few thoughts on that subject…today he’s boardin’ the Ol’ Mark Twain Steamboat for a trip down the Rivers of America.
Taint nuthin’ more beautiful than the Ol’ Mark Twain comin’ round the riverbend…
Howdy Pards—Yep, it's true, they gathered water from many different rivers all across the country, they did. Then they put those waters in a bottle and handed that bottle to movie star Irene Dunne back on Sunday afternoon, July 17th, 1955. Then, with the whole country watchin’ on live nation-wide TV, she officially christened that genuine, authentic, real, honest-to-gosh steam-powered sternwheeler...“The Mark Twain.”
And, it's a fact that since that historic day back in 1955, more than a half century ago now, the Ol' Mark Twain has carried more passengers than any other steamboat in the history of the world! Bar none.
Taint nuthin' more beautiful than the Ol' Mark Twain coming round the riverbend at Disneyland... nuthin' I can think of anyways...
Reckon you could say that sternwheeler represents the true spirit and history of the rivers of this great country of ours...Did you know that the Mark Twain was the very first steamboat built in well over 50 years when they opened Disneyland? It was.
You can actually feel the magic of travelin’ back in time along the Mighty Mississippi when you board that big, beautiful sternwheeler. Memories of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and even old New Orleans...come back to ya’. There is just no doubt; the Mark Twain is the shinin’ jewel of Frontierland and all of Disneyland, and a real symbol of those exciting days of yesteryear along the rivers of our great country.
Back in the early days of Disneyland you could clearly see that big, beautiful steamboat while standing in the hub and lookin’ through the stockade entrance to Frontierland...twernt no question you were headed for the days of the wild frontier. Yessirreebob! Reckon that riverboat was kinda like a magnet to me and millions of others.
Truth is, Walt planned it that way. Yep. He always said you had to have a landmark in the distance, a "wienie" he called it, that folks would want to walk towards. So, course, the distant Castle was that landmark drawin' folks down Main Street U.S.A. Once they reached the hub, if they looked right they would see, in the distance, the MOONLINER pointed towards the sky...a clear symbol of the world of Tomorrow. Straight ahead through the castle they could see the Carrousel in a world of fun and fantasy. And, if they looked West...through that stockade...there it was, yessir that incredibly beautiful riverboat, waiting to take take ya into the past on a magical journey down the river.
Now every kid who ever boarded the ol' Mark Twain wanted to head for the very top deck, of course. Yep, you could see everything from way up there...sometimes the Disneyland band would come on board and play tunes all the way down the river! But it was always a voyage of discovery...and, with Indian Villages and wildlife and river pirate hideouts, scattered all over the place, it was easy to imagine yourself travelin' a hundred or more years back in time.
Lots of grown folks these days remember fondly when their Moms and Dads, Grampas and Grammas first took 'em on that steamboat long, long years ago. A good many folks remember watchin' the ducks along the river...and really enjoyin' the gentle journey back in time... Yep a lotta warm and wonderful memories have been made on the ol' Mark Twain...memories that last a lifetime.
There have indeed been some mighty special events on that boat over the years...like its maiden voyage to celebrate Walt and Lilly's Anniversary a few days before the park opened...or the time Louis Armstrong brought his special New Orleans Dixieland magic to the second deck back in '62. Millions upon millions of pictures have been taken of the Ol' Mark Twain as it made it's way 'round the river. As Dave says, folks sometimes think of it as a "floatin' birthday cake".
I reckon you could say that boat has watched Disneyland grow up over the years... It was there back in the days when there were hardly any trees around, back when real Indians danced around their teepees along the shore, it was there when stagecoaches and covered wagons and pack mules headed off into the backcountry, it was there when that Haunted Mansion showed up and New Orleans Square and Ol' Splash Mountain...yep it's seen all of Disneyland's history and, truth is, it has been a mighty important part of that history over the years.
To me, no visit to Disneyland is complete without a few relaxing minutes aboard this wonderful, genuine, authentic, real, honest-to-gosh, steam-powered sternwheeler. The pride of Disneyland...and, now, a real part of American History itself...having carried more “guests” than any other steamboat in history...yep, that's the Ol' Mark Twain, a truly wonderful part of Walt Disney's legacy, in the happiest place on earth.
Adios for now. Talk to ya on’ down the trail.
Wild Ol’ Dan