All posts by Scott Wolf

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant

A reminder to visit the Snack Bar at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant
A reminder to visit the Snack Bar at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World takes you back to the fabulous 1950s! Drive-In movie theaters were all the rage. You could drive your car in, park, hook a speaker on your car window, and for those that weren’t necking in the back seat, you could enjoy a movie in front of you on the big screen.

From the moment you walk in to the Sci-Fi Dine-In, you’ll remarkably feel like you’ve stepped back in time, under the starry night sky (whether daytime or nighttime!), for some silver screen entertainment of the day.

As you hop in your ‘50s convertible, you’ll be seeing actual 1950s science-fiction-themed footage, with sound coming out of the authentic drive-in portable speakers.

Once you’ve ordered your classic American cuisine, you’ll SHRIEK at the “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” BEWARE as “Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster,” and be TERRIFIED by “Robot Monster.”

It was always fun to get a cartoon short accompanying the movie back in the day, and you’ll be treated to classics such as Tex Avery’s “The Cat Who Hated People,” and Tom and Jerry in “Mouse into Space.”

Intermission reminds you to visit the snack bar, with classic animated dancing hot dog, popcorn and beverage cups!

Of course, this is a Disney version of the ol’ drive-in, so you’ll see a few Disney treasures in the mix. Watch for Walt Disney and robot Garco, as Walt discusses the possibility of life on other planets in an introduction from the 1957 “Disneyland” television show, and the zany animated short from that episode in which a scholarly man tries to determine if there is “life on Mars.”

Garco the robot
(above) Walt Disney with Garco as see at the Sci-Fi Dine-In, (below) A clip from a 1954 article, with Garco creator Harvey Chapman, his wife, and son Terry

Incidentally, Garco, was not just a prop for this TV show. Walt Disney was a man of vision and strove for authenticity. So for his robot sidekick for the television episode, he utilized an actual 5’8” 235 pound robot that was built by Harvey Chapman in 1953. He was built out of used aircraft parts and christened “Garco,” for the “Garrett Manufacturing Company” for which he was built. He had vacuum fingers to pick things up, a steel claw to grip, and he could telescope his legs to reach things on higher shelves.

Besides Garco, you might also spot 1967 Disneyland Ambassador Marcia Miner with Mickey Mouse in outer space apparel within the movie clips. This is footage from the grand opening of the new Tomorrowland in Disneyland which debuted the PeopleMover, Adventure Thru Inner Space and the General Electric Carousel of Progress amongst other things. You can listen to my conversation with Marcia here!

So the next time you’re in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, consider eating at a blast to the past, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant. It’s out of this world!

Eat in a 1950s convertible at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and Restaurant
While the kids and grandma sit up front, Shani & I enjoy the back seat 🙂

Letterhead for Disneyland’s first fabulous decade

Letterhead for Disneyland's tencennial celebration
Letterhead for Disneyland’s tencennial celebration

If you received a press release 60 years ago from Disneyland about their tenth anniversary celebration, the above is the letterhead you would see.  The “tencennial” celebration saw the premiere of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” which was still enjoying great success at the New York World’s Fair, the opening of the beautiful Plaza Inn restaurant at the end of Main Street, and at Christmastime, the debut of “Fantasy on Parade.” This was also the year Disneyland’s 50 millionth Guest passed through the gates!

Walt Disney’s biggest frustration that year were costs going up because he didn’t want park admission to be raised, and the fact that he didn’t buy more land surrounding Disneyland. He paid $4,500 an acre, but by 1965, the land was now selling for $8,500 an acre.

Music was in abundance at Disneyland in 1965, with the big name big bands performing led by the legendary leaders including Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Duke Ellington among others. The park also held their folk music Hootenannies, the annual Dixieland at Disneyland, and the Humdingers shows featured popular rock ‘n’ roll of the day.


Disneyland’s 30th anniversary 30 years ago

1985 Disneyland 35th anniversary parade
The 1985 Disneyland 35th anniversary parade

30 years ago, I took this parade photo during Disneyland’s 30th anniversary! 30 years! I thought Disneyland was so old! That year, 1985, was such an exciting time at the park. One of the features of the year was the Gift Giver, the brainchild of Disneyland’s marketing guru (and future president) Jack Lindquist. The Gift Giver machine gave away gifts to every guest. Every day people were winning prizes such as  popcorn, a pin, a Disney Home Video cassette, an RCA color television (yes, color!), a PSA roundtrip airline ticket, and every 3,000th Guest won a 1986 Pontiac Firebird! Just about this day, on August 24, 1985, Disneyland welcomed it’s 250 millionth Guest, and won a bunch of prizes including 30,000 (in keeping with the “30” theme) free air miles, a trip to the two year old Tokyo Disneyland and a new Cadillac. That guest, Brooks Charles Arthur Burr, was three years old! He was being carried by his father, but it was Brooks who was holding the ticket!

“Horizons” at Epcot – “If we can dream it, we can do it.”

The Horizons attraction at Epcot
The Horizons attraction at Epcot

The Horizons attraction at Epcot resided at the current location of Mission: SPACE. In it, Guests would glide by scenes of Audio Animatronics characters depicting scenes of future possibilities. In this scene of an underground schoolroom, the teacher instructs her students about diving safety, and to never horse around. She adds, “Don’t even sea horse around!”

It was in this attraction, that Guests first heard the saying, “If we can dream it, we can do it.” This phrase has often been attributed to Walt Disney, as one of his quotes, however Walt never said it. It’s origin is this 1983 attraction, where it was heard in both dialogue and song.

Pizzafari in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The Pizzafari restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom
The Pizzafari restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

This unique lamppost found just outside Pizzafari, restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, gives Guests an idea of the stylings found inside the restaurant’s six themed rooms.

If you eat at Pizzafari, while dining on pizza or other related fare, be sure to listen closely to what sounds like African-styled music. Each song is animal-related and you’ll hear familiar melodies such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Black Bird,” “Octopus’s Garden” and the theme to the TV series “Mister Ed.”

One Man’s Dream at Disneyland

The 1990 One Man's Dream stage show at Videopolis in Disneyland
The 1990 One Man’s Dream stage show
at Videopolis in Disneyland

This is NOT a black and white photograph. It’s a full color photo of the ultra-creative way the classic One Man’s Dream stage show began in Disneyland. The music would build and almost instantly the set and characters appeared in full color. The 30 minute show, which was only at Disneyland in 1990, was truly magical, and featured dancers and Disney characters in a revue of brilliant song and dance numbers from Disney’s classic animated features.

One’s Man Dream culminated with a truly grand finale of all the dancers and Disney characters coming together in song, donning their traditional costumes but in sparkling gold!

One Man’s Dream was performed at the Videopolis stage in Disneyland, which today is known as the Fantasyland Theatre. The show was also a big hit in Tokyo Disneyland, and a newer version, One Man’s Dream II: The Magic Lives On, delights audiences daily.

The (original) Disney Gallery

The Disney Gallery sign at the bottom of the entry stairway
The Disney Gallery sign at the bottom of the entry stairway

28 years ago this week, on July 11, 1987 to be exact, the Disney Gallery opened in Disneyland above the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance. The space was originally being designed as a space for Walt Disney to entertain guests and dignitaries, however all worked ceased after Walt passed away in 1966. When the Disney Gallery opened, it gave Guests the chance to visit this previous inaccessible area, and to see unique Disneyland artwork and artifacts, with new exhibits regularly. I remember the gallery as a wonderful relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle downstair, with multiple rooms, a quiet outdoor seating patio, and the friendliest of Disneyland Cast Members. I thought you’d enjoy some of my old Gallery photos. While the Gallery no longer resides in that area, there is still a Disney Gallery by the lobby of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

The entrance to the Disney Gallery, just above the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance.
The entrance to the Disney Gallery, just above the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance.
The Disney Gallery in Disneyland
The Disney Gallery in Disneyland

RIP Disney Legend Blaine Gibson

Blaine Gibson, Shani Wolf, Scott Wolf and Harriet Burns
Blaine Gibson, Shani Wolf,
Scott Wolf and Harriet Burns

by Scott Wolf

It saddens me to tell you that Blaine Gibson passed away yesterday at the age of 97. Blaine was a true Disney Legend in every sense of the word. Beginning as an inbetweener on the Pluto cartoon short, “Bone Trouble,” and then on “Fantasia” and “Pinocchio,” an as an assistant animator on “Bambi.” Blaine then sculpted for Disney. He did the carousel horse heads in “Mary Poppins,” the pirates and ghosts for Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean respectively, the dolls for it’s a small world and even the Partners statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.

This is a photo of Shani and me with Blaine and another Disney Legend, Harriet Burns at the Disney Studios. Blaine and Harriet were dear friends who both lived near each other in Northern California until Harriet’s passing in 2008.

Blaine was so kind and maybe the most humble person I’ve ever met! It was great fun talking with Blaine about his Disney days, and I’m so grateful he let me record some of those conversations! It is my pleasure to share this conversation with you: