Friday, June 11, 2010

Turn On The Old Music Box

 Illustration by X. Atencio, 1956

Recently one of my own childhood wishes came true... we bought a player piano!  I have wanted one for as long as I can remember, probably from the moment I first encountered the tinkling sound inside the Wonderland Music Store at Disneyland. I was entranced by the perforated paper roll going 'round and 'round, causing unseen fingers to play the keyboard. It was just about the happiest thing I'd ever heard.

In the early 1970s the Wonderland shop and piano were near the exit to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.


Just beyond the racks of Disneyland Records and Big Golden Books, in its own magic spot was the player piano, surrounded by rows of red and white boxed music rolls that you could buy for your own piano at home (if you were lucky enough to have one!)

The QRS Company has been manufacturing paper piano rolls since 1900, and (unbelievably) is STILL IN BUSINESS!!! with over 45,000 titles -  everything from Minnie's Yoo Hoo to Guantanamera.  Still in those same red and white boxes.


And here's a 1994 photo of the original Wonderland Music Player Piano in storage backstage in the Arcade Warehouse... Could it still be there?

The Wonderland Piano was a real old antique, even when it appeared at Disneyland in 1955. Made by the Chase & Baker Co. in Buffalo, New York, the piano would be 125 years old this year.  On opening day it stood in the original Music Store (near the current Magic Shop), and in 1960 both store and piano moved next door to Lincoln.  When Bear Country debuted in 1972, the piano was installed in the Wilderness Outpost where it must've played "Oh My Darlin' Clementine" a million times until it was finally retired in 1986 (though we hope not "lost and gone forever!")

The insides of player pianos are completely insane!

And now that we're all in the mood for it, let's have a little song we can join in and sing!  I have here an old QRS "word roll" with the lyrics printed right on the paper. 
"Muuu-sic, Pro-fessor!!"

video
"Turn On The Old Music Box", from Pinocchio (1940)

16 comments:

Michael said...

That's amazing. I wonder if they still have the piano - I'd love to see it restored. And I'd *really* love to be able to roam that record store! Oh, for a Disneyland that sold things as obscure and bizarre as player piano rolls.

Congrats on the player piano. I had a friend who had one when I was a kid and I could have watched it play forever.

Paula said...

Brilliant! Enjoy your new toy...

DIsney On Parole said...

Wow! My favorite memory of the Disneyland Player Piano, is when it was in Bear Country. I used to go out there and listen to it between parades.
At the holiday's they had a great selection is "Holiday" rolls... I loved "I'll be home for Christmas"
Gone but not forgot!
Thanks Kevin.

Firefly said...

i believe there is a coinola on the second floor of the golden horseshoe still. i haven't been up there in a while but usually peak my head in to a make sure it hasn't been banished into storage like our other player piano friend.

http://www.jansworld.net/golden_horseshoe_pages/gh_other_entertainment.htm#The%20Golden%20Horseshoe%20Player%20Piano

When I was a kid we had 3 player pianos in the house at one point! They're fun!

Todd & Doug said...

Love the new posts, K! What we wouldn't give to be able to step in to that photo, enjoy the music and buy up many copies of those wonderful BIG Golden Books!! Thanks for sharing! Todd & Doug

Dan Alexander said...

Very cool! I love the X Atencio illustration here and the mention of "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo" (one of my favorite Disney songs, with such a lively and unique sound).

Katella Gate said...

What an excellent addition to your home, may the having be as pleasant as the wanting.

Are you getting an old fashioned pneumatic type or a computer controlled modern one? If you do have the old type that plays rollers, resist the temptation to play old rolls. Sometimes fragments of paper break off and get sucked into the mechanism, causing all kinds of *expensive problems*.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Awesome news! We had a player piano briefly when I was a kid, the kind you had to pump with your foot - man it was a chore but well worth the effort.

I remember seeing the piano in Bear Country, never knew that was THE wonderland music piano! They better still have it!

Thanks and congratulations Kevin!

Major Pepperidge said...

Very neat, especially since you can still get rolls for it. Gershwin used to perform his own music for piano rolls, I'd love to get copies of those (wonder if there are modern copies?).

My great aunt had a player piano in her home, and as kids we loved to play with it. That's where I learned the song "Yes, We Have No Bananas"!!

Katella Gate said...

Major: There's a CD available called "Gershwin Plays Gershwin: The Piano Rolls" that is still available.

Chuck Munson said...

Kevin,
Congrats on a great piece of history and a wonderful sound (love a player piano).

I was blown away by the fact that rolls are still produced. That begs the question of how big the market is?

Le Cram said...

Great! What is the X. Atencio illustration from?

rivamonte said...

AWESOME!!!!

C33 said...

I'm happy to report that there is still a player piano at Disneyland. It plays away in the Golden Horseshoe when there isn't a show going on. It's tucked in the corner and not terribly loud, but it certainly adds to the atmosphere!

Greg said...

I used to buy piano rolls there in the 70s for $1.25 each. When I relocated to Orlando, FL in 1991, I had to leave the player piano and 400+ rolls behind. If I had it to do over again...

WaltsMusic said...

Great pix of the Wonderland Music Store! Thanks for sharing Kevin!
@Le Cram - The X illustrations are from Disneyland Record WDL-3001 Life of the Party. All player piano music.