April 1956 Popular Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Disneyland opened its gates in Anaheim, California on July
17, 1955. It was billed as the most high-tech theme park in
the world, with a 'wow' factor on par with the
World's Fair extravaganzas. One of its much-ballyhooed features
was the 'realistic' jungle safari tour with life-like animal
automatons and authentic 3-D jungle sounds. This article, published
less than a year after opening day, highlights some of the equipment
and methods used by artists and engineers to achieve the effects.
Electronic Realism in Disneyland
Sound effects liven scenic make-believe at mammoth park
Whether you want a rocket trip to the moon or a riverboat
ride through the African jungle, you can find it in Disneyland,
the super dream-and-play area created by the famous Walt Disney
in Anaheim, California.
Carousel uses 10 speakers around canopy for
But more than a land of fun and fantasy, Disneyland has proven
to be a vast laboratory and workshop where engineers and technicians
have let their imaginations run wild in creating new equipment
and startling visual and sound effects.
The sky was the limit in setting up Disneyland, and hundreds
of specialists from such companies as Altec Lansing, Ralke,
Berger Electric, Graybar Electric, etc., combined their talents
to create illusions of sight and sound.
One hundred and sixty acres of flat, sandy ground were transformed
into an intricate terrain of make-believe mountains, valleys,
rivers, lakes, and forests. Artists, architects, earth-movers,
builders, studio technicians, and electronics men teamed up
to change a wasteland into the many little worlds that comprise
Disneyland. These include: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland,
Cruising down jungle river, visitors see and hear warlike
savages, drum-beats, wild-animal cries.
Close-ups (above & below)
reveal behind-the-scenes Altec Lansing speakers, camouflaged
to resemble huge mushroom growths in foliage.
The sound installation, made by Altec, simulates the noises
of dozens of beasts and birds that inhabit the banks of the
jungle rivers. Prerecorded tapes are the storehouse of such
In the Adventureland control room, trumpeting elephants, roaring
lions and rhinos, chattering monkeys - as well as the beating
of native drums - originate from a bank of tape players. These
machines play continuously a tape of any desired sound, repeating
it at 10-second intervals. Operating in this manner, the tape
machines repeat their messages 4320 times daily.
Finding the sounds to go on these tapes was a job in itself.
It required months of searching through the sound track morgues
of movie studios, broadcast stations, and universities.
Seventy-four separate loudspeaker systems, each carefully
camouflaged beside animals and in the trees, reproduce the sounds.
Six miles of cable connect these speakers to power amplifiers.
One difficult problem encountered was how to move the sound
of birds that were supposed to be flying from one spot to another.
Complete realism was required; the system had to do the job
without the customary relay clicking and time delay switching.
Invented solely for this task was a unique unit dubbed a "rotation
audio fader." This device transfers the bird calls from one
set of speakers to another so neatly that visitors to Adventureland
swear they actually see the non-existent birds flying in the
All other sounds in Disneyland blend into their surroundings
so well that it is impossible to identify them as being artificially
produced. The myriad of voices, music, and background sound
is so vital to the operation and success of Disneyland that
a full-time sound crew has been hired to stand by constantly
to service the equipment. - John A. Norman.
Maze of equipment and wiring is electronic
heart of Disneyland. Technician Jim Hervey adjusts tape system
that is sound source for all audio effects heard throughout
160 acres of play area.
Posted September 1, 2015