Saturday, April 02, 2011

Monsanto's Fountain of Fashion

The mother of all rain lamps, Monsanto's Fountain of Fashion!

No vision on earth has yet been discovered that can so thoroughly hypnotize a person into an unblinking stupor as the drip-drip-drip of mineral oil cascading down a nylon thread. Sometime back in the 1960s - or maybe earlier - some genius somewhere combined illumination with precipitation and came up with a miracle we now know as the Rain Lamp.



If you've never seen a rain lamp, you're either too young or too tasteful for your own good. When I was ten I wanted a rain lamp for my bedroom with every polyester fiber of my being. The Sir George's Smorgasbord by our house had one suspended from a pole above the desserts and it was all my mom could do to prevent us kids from disrupting the never-ending chains of diamonds with our fingers.

Disneyland, as with everything else, had the biggest and most impressive rain lamp ever conceived by mankind. Stretching from floor to ceiling, Monsanto's Fountain of Fashion was the grand finale of an Adventure Thru Inner Space, and though the precise reason for its existence was lost on most people, the effect was unforgettable. 

Just out of reach...

Restrained by their lap bars - and possibly the admonishment of their moms -  Atommobile passengers had to fight off temptation to reach out and touch the forbidden strands of the Fountain of Fashion. Within a swirling tornado of a million oil droplets, faceless mannequins depicting a woman and a little girl on a swing wore clothing made from "Blue 'C' nylon and polyester yarns." At their feet, a bed of oversized white daisies gave a hint of nature in this unnatural place, while helping to conceal the oil intake reservoir. 

Maintaining the Fountain of Fashion must've been a flippin' nightmare.

I finally obtained a rain lamp of my very own by the time I was in my late twenties.  It had a gold-painted figure of a Grecian woman on a base surrounded by green plastic ferns. One time a fern came in contact with one of the nylon threads and a leaf conducted about 8 ounces of oil out over the edge of the basin, completely ruining the top of a bookcase below.  The greasy mess slightly diminished my enthusiasm for rain lamps, but seeing these photos of the Fountain of Fashion makes me want to give them another chance.

The Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction debuted in Tomorrowland on June 29, 1967.  In his opening day remarks, former Monsanto president Charles A. Thomas said about the ride: 
"At the end of the trip, of course, the visitor is exposed to 'a word from the sponsor.'  I think you'll agree that we have shown considerable restraint in this area..."

So the Fountain of Fashion and the Miracles From Molecules display was Monsanto showing restraint?  Good golly, just imagine what they would've come up with had they let loose!

17 comments:

Jeff Kurtti said...

Kevin Kidney is a genius. Period.

thepicklebarrel said...

the sight and smell of flowing asbestos juice always makes me wanna buy monsanto products!

VioletStereo said...

Note to self: If ever purchasing a rain lamp, make sure that it's fully enclosed. Or just stick to those vintage Niagara Falls or forest fire motion lamps... no oil involved.

AmbassaBoy Quinn said...

Oh, Kevin .. I have ALWAYS wanted an oil lamp. The next door neighbors had one and I could watch it for HOURS! Guess I need to make a visit to eBay. :)

Imagineering Disney said...

Haha fun, interesting post!

Is that Adventures Thru Inner Space shot taken in what in recent years was the Star Tours extended queue room? Looks like it.

MintCrocodile said...

My grandparents had/has an oil lamp that they hung from the ceiling and I used to just stare at it with wonder and amazement.

I dont remember riding Adventure Thru Inner Space when I was younger so I didn't know the attraction had an oil lamp until I purchased an early version the "The 'E' Ticket" magazine.

That must have been a sight to see.

Chris Merritt said...

My grandmother also had one - and my brother and I would always get our grubby little mitts on the oil - what a mess!

Kevin - I double dog dare ya to do a post on the Tee Hee animated signs next (bonus points for including the "speedramp" PeopleMover ones as well...!

I used to stare at those things, totally fascinated!

Eric Mueller said...

Agreed. Kevin Kidney is a genius.

Katella Gate said...

Thanks for this great post. The best part of the Rain Lamp was how the atomobile track looped around the display, almost 360 degrees.

Fred said...

Kevin - How could you forget the granddaddy of all rain fountains????
Topanga Plaza in Woodland Hills! Those gooey drops ran down the fishing line from it's opening in 1964 until a terrible renovation in the 80's.

MIKE COZART said...

Kevin: I've got the blueprints for this set piece if you want to build a full size one for your living room........even has the patterns for the small flowers in the center......

Grego said...

Back in the late 90s, I had a friend who lived in a house that his parents had decorated when they won the lottery... in 1965. The house was completely unchanged, as far as I could tell.

The best was the floor to ceiling rain lamp in the foyer, surrounding a statue similar to the Grecian one described (but, like, five feet tall). I remember asking him to turn it on and he remarked that he couldn't imagine it working. Three or four minutes later, when the first drops slid down the track, we knew for sure we'd found a treasure...

Jamie said...

Grego: That house sounds AMAZING.

Great article, I think some restaurants around here had rain lamps, always a fascinating thing! There's probably no video visual on the Fountain of Fashion eh?? I have been looking..

John said...

Awesome. I remember that lamp at the end of ATIS, it was in the end of the ride.

I also remember a lamp much like you describe as your first. I don't remember where, but I have seen it, in a place we frequented. Probably a restaurant.

Thank you.

JG

Connie Moreno said...

Holy crap, how did I miss this post??? I am blown away by all the memories this has brought to the surface!!! But first...I do not remember this Fountain of Fashion and it really bugs me. However, that must explain why my father was insistent on buying a rain lamp for our livingroom. He LOVED Disneyland. And I loved our lamp. Guess what? I think we had the one you described with the Grecian lady! WOW!. Oh and Sir George's Shmorgasboard...LOL, I hadn't thought of that in YEARS!

The Hatbox Ghost said...

How about a Hatbox Ghost rain lamp? It could drip blood, ectoplasm or grape Kool-Aid. And don't tell me there's no market for it.

;-)

JJohnson said...

This is a great blog post. My granny in Garden Grove had a really gaudy rain lamp. It was truly mesmerizing...and awesome.