Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fish Tales...Part One

As a shameless plug for our newest replica to be released this week, it only makes sense to spotlight one of Disneyland's greatest creations ever- the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship Restaurant.  A product of pure imagination, the 79' long vessel was appropriately berthed in Fantasyland when the park opened in 1955...and boy, do I miss it!

A twist on authentic sailing ships of the 15th to 18th centuries, her highest mast rose 60' from the deck.  Like any other architectural structure in Disneyland, the boat was carefully planned and drafted before being built. 

This "side elevation" was drawn by a young man named Fred Stoos, who also notably drafted the blueprints for the submarine Nautilus in the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  The drawing is dated May 7, 1955, only about two months before the Park's opening day.  Notice that Fred cleverly added a tiny pirate to show scale!

Here's a delightful sketch detailing some ornamentation - a cheery school of tuna!

The plan for an impressive sculpture to adorn the stern, approved by art director Bill Martin.  Dated May 16, 1955, the famous Chicken of the Sea's "blonde mermaid" sits queenlike in her shell throne borne on the back of a giant sea turtle.  The turtle's head rests atop a plaque bearing the company's logo.  If you scroll back up to the top you can see the painters neglected to paint the turtle's head to match the rest of him. Because of this, most people never even noticed the turtle.
Over at the Disney Studios' staff shop, sculptor Chris Mueller puts the final touches on the figurehead for the ships' bow.  According to records, the figurehead and stern ornaments were first modeled in plastilene as 1/2 inch scale miniatures.  (Do those models survive anywhere today???)

Meanwhile, down in Anaheim, construction of the full-size boat begins.  Believe it or not, the hull was built behind Main Street's Town Square, in an open area behind what is now Disneyland's Opera House, and later trucked over to Fantasyland.   The entire ship was made of Douglas fir and trimmed in bright Honduras mahogany.

I just couldn't tell this story without detouring your attention over to Daveland for an account of the construction of the ship's gigantic lantern by the Ferro family. If you haven't already read about it, do it now, and then get yourself right back here.

Welcome back! 
Let's zoom ahead now to September 1955.  Disneyland has been open for two months already, and guests have been staring at the ship every single day wondering if they'll ever get to climb aboard.  Up til now only the team of carpenters and painters have had the pleasure of playing pirates upon the poop deck...but at last, the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship is ready for visitors.  In the photo above, a painter poses with pride for the camera.  Hopefully, this shot made it into his portfolio. (Looks like that little kid standing next to him is hungry.  Quick, let's order lunch!)

The first lucky people to gobble up tuna sandwiches, tuna burgers, tuna salad, and tuna pot pie on the galleon's deck were those proud painters who invited their equally proud families. Two vending machines dispensed paper cups of coffee and orange punch for ten cents.

Stepping downstairs to the lunch line, we encounter a three-paneled mural displaying some Chicken of the Sea products that you might pick up at the grocery store back home. 

What's in the treasure chests?  Could it be just more canned tuna?
That's plenty for today.  Come back soon for more thrilling tales of the Fantasyland Pirate Ship!


Daveland said...

I'm speechless - so many great photos; especially the interior mural shots!

The Viewliner Limited said...

Incredible post Kevin. All those hours of craftsmanship... and all is gone. What a shame. Great memories though.

Major Pepperidge said...

Wowee, such a fantastic post. I love all of that ornate sculptural detail. And I'll bet there's not one hidden Mickey either!

Thank you for this amazing collection of photos, and of course your great text to go along with them.

Kendra Melton said...

wonderful post!

Jeff Kurtti said...

The sawmill was in the Opera House, that's why the Doug Fir and mahogany structure was built there and trucked over.

Talbot Family said...

I love shameless plugs :)

Chuck said...

Fantastic info. I always love your enthusiasm, Kevin!

AJ Wolfe said...

Incredible post. The sketches and history are so detailed! And now I need that replica...

JG said...

I'm speechless....and I want a tuna sandwich, but it has to be eaten next to skull rock.

Thank you.


Centaurette said...

What wonderful documentation of this treasured Disneyland favorite. Those murals are a revelation--and the 70s "seascape tableaux" that I remember liking as a kid are now a shockingly pale substitute! Looking at the art, I would have to agree with the idea of Eyvind Earle's having been behind them--not just by virtue of the plants, but by the extremely similar rendering of the figures to Earle's 1953 Disney Little Golden Book, "Peter Pan and Wendy." Lots of pirates and similar material there, of course.

Dave B. said...

Is there a color version of the mural around somewhere? I was teasing John that I was going to have Tang recreate the mural and put it behind the registers at Company D today. :)