BACKSTORY (July 17, 1955–Present): Originally titled “Canal Boats of the World” there was no scenery to view to view when it first opened, only muddy hills with weeds(often referred to as “Mud Banks of the World”). The park brochure described it as: “Boats of Holland, France, England and America travel through canals which pass the fabulous sights of Fantasyland.” Cast members told confused guests: “The miniature landscaping is so miniature you can't see it!” The ride got off to a bad start when the boats broke down on opening day and had to be pulled back to the dock. The original 16' long Canal boat names were: Nellie Bly, Lady Katrina, Lady Of Shallot, Annie Oakley, Gretel, Bold Lockinvar, Lady Of The Lake, and Lady Guinivere. With Ken Anderson’s design help (and the assistance of Frank Armitage, Walt Peregoy, Harriet Burns, & Fred Joerger), the attraction was rethemed, retitled, and reopened at noon on June 16, 1956. Four Mouseketeers (Darlene, Lonnie, Sharon, and Bobby) joined a half dozen other children as the American Dairy Princess christened the boats with a pint of milk poured over the hulls. Big Rock Candy Mountain was also to be built here, with the boats entering the mountain and seeing Dorothy having a party with her Oz friends; this idea never got off the drawing boards. Boats were built by the Robert Dorris Boat Works, and were first powered by outboard motors, which often overheated and had to be towed back. Gas engines were so loud that guests could barely hear the guide’s narration. After a few months, motors gave way to batteries under the seats. The first summer, the ride was staffed predominately by men, dressed in white shirts and wide brim hats. An all-male closing crew had the duty of manually pulling the boats into the storage area and connecting the battery cables to charge the boats overnight. Electricians eventually installed a two-way switch on the boats, providing a reverse gear to easily back the boats into the storage tunnel.
Storybook Canal contains 465,000 gallons of water and the banks contain buildings and trees created in a 1:12 scale. Boats are scaled-down replicas of Dutch, English, and French boats, named after female Disney characters (except for Flower, the male skunk from “Bambi”). Original 13 Storybook Boat Names: Cinderella, Daisy, Aurora, Alice, Faline, Flora, Fauna, Flower, Katrina, Merryweather, Wendy, Snow White, and Tinkerbell. Belle & Ariel were later additions.
Guests enter the attraction through a chain queue that winds in front of the loading dock. A lighthouse at the entrance was once a ticketbooth when tickets were required for each attaction (this ride was a "D" coupon). After leaving the dock, the boat passes through a cave sculpted to look like Monstro, the whale from “Pinnochio.” Monstro’s eyes open & close, and steam comes out of his blowhole. The boats then exit to the banks of the Canal, where miniature buildings, trees, & shrubs, represent the homes of Disney characters. Many settings feature recordings of characters singing.
Pinocchio’s cobblestone village with Geppetto’s woodshop, Toad Hall from “The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad,” The Sultan’s Palace from “Aladdin,” London Park from “Peter Pan,”
Cinderella’s village (the 19' gold-spired castle is the highest point in Storybook Land. Ken Anderson recalls: “We had to get special permission on Cinderella’s Castle…to bring it to Disneyland on the freeway because there were places you couldn’t get it underneath the overpasses.”), the dwarfs’ cottage & mine from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, an English village from“ Alice in Wonderland” (with a church & entrance to the White Rabbit’s hole),
The Three Little Pigs’ homes,
and King Triton’s underwater castle from “The Little Mermaid” (partially hidden behind a waterfall).
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“TOGETHER WE ARE GOING TO VISIT A MINIATURE WORLD OF FAIRY TALES RECREATED FROM SOME OF WALT DISNEY'S MOST FAMOUS MOTION PICTURE CLASSICS. OH! WE'VE JUST BEEN SWALLOWED BY MONSTRO...THE VERY SAME WHALE THAT SWALLOWED PINOCCHIO. THE DARKENED AREA ABOVE US IS WHERE PINOCCHIO BUILT THE FIRE THAT MADE MONSTRO SNEEZE... AND YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED? MONSTRO SNEEZED SO HARD HE BLEW HIS TAIL OFF!”
The painting was going on about 1960/1961. I remember the crew painting the rocks around the Sub Ride and the Matterhorn (splatter method) using four or five different colors. They had big brushes attached to a bar, and would dip them in a row of paint and then splatter them all at once onto the fake rocks. If you take a real close look at the rocks you can see the effect. Being a budding artist, I was curious about how they did the rocks. I observed that they were using Cobalt Blue for Monstro. As you may know, it’s a color used for the night sky because when white is added, the sky can change to evening dusk. Black is a “dirty” pigment, but the Cobalt Blue makes for a clean look. I asked why they didn't use black, and the response was that it didn't match the sky or the water in the canals. When I read all the current hub-bub about the color of Monstro, it surprised me. We all could see at the time that it was a very dark (almost black) blue.
THREE LITTLE PIGS
“ON OUR RIGHT IS GEPETTO'S VILLAGE FROM "PINOCCHIO." WE WILL VISIT IT LATER, ON OUR TOUR OF STORYBOOK LAND. AROUND THE BEND ON YOUR LEFT IS THE CAVE OF THE BIG BAD WOLF. SEE HIS CHOPPING BLOCK OUT IN FRONT? ON THE ISLAND ARE THE HOMES OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS...ONE MADE OF STRAW... ONE OF STICKS...AND ONE OF WOLF-PROOF BRICKS. HEAR THE LITTLE PIGS SINGING INSIDE?”
“ON THE OTHER SIDE OF OUR CANAL IS THE STORY OF CINDERELLA. THE CHATEAU IS WHERE CINDERELLA LIVED WITH HER WICKED OLD STEPMOTHER AND THREE STEPSISTERS WHO KEPT HER LOCKED IN THE TOWER. HIGH UP ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP IS THE CASTLE WHERE CINDERELLA WENT TO THE BALL. HALFWAY DOWN THE MOUNTAIN ON THAT STONE BRIDGE ABOVE THE CITY IS THE PUMPKIN THAT WAS ONCE CINDERELLA'S CARRIAGE. ON THE MOUNTAINSIDE IS THE FRENCH VILLAGE WHERE PRINCE CHARMING CAME LOOKING FOR THE GIRL WHO LOST THE GLASS SLIPPER.”
“BEYOND THIS SHADOWY CAVE IS THE BLACK FOREST FROM THE STORY OF SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. DO YOU KNOW, THIS IS THE VERY SAME CAVE THE WICKED QUEEN WENT THROUGH WHEN SHE WAS LOOKING FOR SNOW WHITE? AS WE COME AROUND THE BEND, ON OUR RIGHT IS THE COTTAGE WHERE SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS LIVE. AND LISTEN, IT SOUNDS LIKE THEY'RE HAVING A PARTY... HEAR THEM SINGING INSIDE? BACK THROUGH THE TREES, BY THOSE BIG ROCKS...YOU'LL SEE THE DWARFS JEWEL MINE.”
“IN THE CENTER OF OUR CANAL IS LONDON PARK. THIS IS THE PARK PETER PAN, TINKERBELL, JOHN, AND WENDY FLEW OVER ON THEIR WAY TO NEVER-NEVER LAND.” “HERE ON THE LEFT IS ONE OF THE MOST UNUSUAL SUCCULENT AND DESERT FLOWER DISPLAYS IN THE COUNTRY INSPIRED BY THE MOVIE "LULLABYLAND". THIS GIANT PATCHWORK QUILT IS DECORATED WITH MORE THAN FIFTY DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF CACTI. PLEASE BE VERY QUIET BECAUSE IT IS RUMORED A GIANT SLEEPS BENEATH THE QUILT AND WE WOULDN'T WANT TO AWAKEN HIM.”
“ON THE LEFT JUST BEYOND THIS BRIDGE IS THE OLD ENGLISH VILLAGE WHERE ALICE-IN-WONDERLAND LIVES. THERE IS THE MILL BY THE WATER'S EDGE AND BEHIND THAT BIG OAK TREE IS ALICE'S TINY COTTAGE, AND THERE IN FRONT OF THE TREE IS THE MAIL BOX OF WHITE RABBIT, ESQUIRE. THE LITTLE BURROW BESIDE THE MAIL BOX IS WHERE WHITE RABBIT LIVES, AND IS THE SAME ONE ALICE FELL THROUGH ON HER WAY TO WONDERLAND.”
“BE SURE TO LOOK FOR ALL THE TINY TOMBSTONES IN THE CHURCH YARD, AND THE BEAUTIFUL STAINED GLASS WINDOWS* IN THE CHURCH.” “ALL OF THE TINY TREES AND PLANTS HERE IN STORYBOOKLAND HAVE BEEN MINIATURIZED THROUGH A MAGICAL PROCESS KNOWN ONLY TO THE FANTASY CHARACTERS WHO LIVE HERE. MOST OF THE PLANTS GROW NO MORE THAN AN INCH A YEAR.”
*Note: Disney Legend Harriet Burns created the leaded glass windows in the church, using real lead. Talk about attention to detail!
“STRAIGHT AHEAD IS TOAD HALL FROM THE STORY "WIND IN THE WILLOWS" AND DOWN BY THE WATER IN THE STUMP OF THAT OLD TREE IS RATTY'S HOUSE. RATTY IS THE CARETAKER FOR MR. TOAD'S MANSION. NOW, I'LL TELL YOU A LITTLE SECRET--SEE ALL THOSE CHIMNEYS ON MR. TOAD'S ROOF? BUT DID YOU KNOW THAT THERE'S ONLY ONE FIRE PLACE INSIDE? THINK HOW CONFUSING THAT MUST BE FOR SANTA CLAUSE ON CHRISTMAS EVE!!!”
“(JUST) BELOW (TOAD HALL) IS THE HOME OF HIS VERY CLOSEST FRIEND, MR. MOLE. HE'S HOME RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THAT'S HIS LITTLE BOAT OUT IN FRONT (in the daytime, but at night—BECAUSE THERE IS A LIGHT IN HIS WINDOW.) HE WASN'T HERE LAST TIME WE CAME BY.”
MICKEY MOUSE CLUB MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 1957: BUILDING STORYBOOK LAND
Each day, hundreds of visitors to Disneyland climb aboard colorful canal boats, or aboard Casey, Jr., the circus train, to see a modelmaker's paradise called Storybook Land. There, in a miniature Swiss-Italian village, is the tiny, gail painted shopof Geppetto the woodcarver. The dwarf's cottage, where Snow White took refuge from her evil stepmother, nestles under the trees. In the mountainside behind the cottage, the dwarf's jewel mine can be glimpsed. Pig Island is there, with the house of straw, the house of sticks, and the sturdy, neatly-painted house of bricks.
Not far away is the model of the French chateau where Cinderella lived, and the castle high on the hill where she danced the night away. Across the canal, the stately residence of J. Thaddeus Toad is set in a formal, English garden.
The houses and palaces and windmills of Storybook Land are tiny. Even the largest ones are only a few feet tall. But they are as carefully planed and sturdily buildt as any full-size home.
To Disney artist Ken Anderson, who designed this miniature wonderland, the project was a challenge. "It wasn't any easier because it was small," he says now. "The land had to be graded just as it would be for a big building. The wiring had to be installed. All the things you have to consider in designing an ordinary, full-scale building had to be considered here.
"We had special problems, too. Pinocchio's village, for example, has to have a certain character. It has to 'fit' the idea of the story. And what kind of a house did Alice live in before she followed the white rabbit down that hole into Wonderland?"
After the plans and drawings came the work in the model shop. There, under the skillful hands of Fred Joerger and his staff, Storybook Land began to take form. The buildings were made of marine plywood or redwood, covered with fiberglass. Tile roofs and brick chimneys were molded of fiberglass and joined to the houses. Metal flashings were used for foundations, to resist rot. Each little house and shop had openings so that air could circulate through and prevent mildew. There were hundreds of tests to find the right transparent dye for tiny, plastic "stained glass" windows. Tiny lead doorknobs were installed on tiny doors that opened and closed on minute hinges. Little thatched roofs were covered with plastic, so the birds couldn't carry them off.
When at last the buildings were finished and painted, the setting was ready for them at Disneyland—miniature trees, miniature shrubs, miniature mountains, and appropriately enough, streets of tiny, hand-laid cobblestones!
“AROUND THE BEND YOU'LL SEE THREE DUTCH WINDMILLS FROM THE STORY "THE OLD MILL". THE ONE IN THE CENTER IS WHERE ALL THE BIRDS AND LITTLE ANIMALS TOOK REFUGE DURING THE GREAT FLOOD IN HOLLAND. THE DIKES AND LOCKS HERE IN FRONT HELPED KEEP THE WATER FROM FLOODING THE FARM LANDS.” (Inspired by the 1937 Disney short, "The Old Mill.”)
“STRAIGHT AHEAD IS GEPETTO'S VILLAGE. GEPETTO WANTED A SON SO BADLY HE CARVED ONE OUT OF WOOD. THAT'S HIS TOY SHOP DOWN IN FRONT WHERE PINOCCHIO FIRST CAME TO LIFE. THE STREETS ARE PAVED WITH COBBLESTONE AND THERE'S A TINY STREAM FLOWING DOWN FROM THE ALPINE MOUNTAINS...ON THE HILLSIDE IN FRONT OF US YOU CAN SEE THE CHURCH BELL RINGING IN THE STEEPLE OF THE OLD CHAPEL. SOME SAY THAT PINOCCHIO HIMSELF RINGS THE BELL, BUT YOU MUST LOOK VERY CLOSELY...AND IT TAKES A LOT OF IMAGINATION. (softly to the children)--CAN YOU SEE HIM?”
Formerly, this area was themed to Peter Pan, so the narration here reflects that: “THROUGH THE CAVE ON YOUR LEFT IS NEVER-NEVERLAND--WE CALL IT THAT 'CAUSE WE NEVER, NEVER TAKE YOU THERE. THAT'S WHERE OUR LITTLE BOATS GO TO SLEEP AT NIGHT. WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR TRIP THROUGH STORYBOOKLAND AND HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY/EVENING IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM... PLEASE REMAIN SEATED UNTIL WE COME TO A COMPLETE STOP...THEN STEP BACK THIS WAY AND I WILL HELP YOU TO THE DOCK. PLEASE DON'T STEP ON MY CUSHIONS WHEN YOU LEAVE, AND, IF YOU'VE BEEN TRAILING YOUR HAND IN THE WATER WHEN I WASN'T LOOKING, PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR DRY HAND WHEN YOU LEAVE THE BOAT. THANK YOU AND COME AND SEE US AGAIN REAL SOON!”