Vintage Disneyland Memorabilia: The World's Most Valuable Items



2015-11-24 17:14:48

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its doors for the first time.

Although planned as an open day for the press and invited guests, thousands more gained entrance having bought counterfeit tickets, and millions more watched on a live television broadcast.

Despite being beset with problems, including a gas leak, faulty plumbing and melting asphalt (which later led Disney to refer to the opening day as 'Black Sunday'), the park was a hit with visitors and never looked back.

Sixty years on, Disneyland has welcomed more than 750 million visitors and remains one of the most iconic tourist attractions in the world.

Here are the most valuable items of vintage Disneyland memorabilia ever sold, spanning the history of the park from its planning stages to the present day.

Main Street U.S.A bench

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955, visitors entered the park into Main Street U.S.A, a recreation of an American town circa 1910 inspired by Disney's own hometown of Marceline, Missouri. It also included several sights reminiscent of Fort Collins, Colorado, the hometown of Harper Goff who helped design the attraction.

"For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather's youth," Disney once said.

Throughout his lifetime he also maintained a fully-furnished apartment on Main Street, above the Fire House, and to this day a lamp is kept burning in the window in his memory.

This park bench was one of the original benches installed on main Street U.S.A in 1955, and it remained there for 44 years before being acquired by collector Kevin Doherty.

Having been restored to its original condition, it sold at the Van Eaton Galleries in November 2015 for $31,625.

Adventureland concept painting

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

Adventureland was Disney's tribute to uncharted nature, filled with wild animals, tribal masks and lush vegetation. "To create a land that would make this dream reality", said Disney, "we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa."

Walt originally wanted to fill the land surrounding the river ride with live animals, but when experts told him they would simply lie around or hide from visitors, he built mechanical ones instead.

This original concept drawing for Adventureland, dated 1954 and created by an unknown Disney artist, sold at the Van Eaton Galleries in November 2015 for $33,350.

Jungle Cruise riverboat sign

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

One of the main attractions of Adventureland remains the Jungle Cruise, a 1940s-themed journey through recreations of rivers in Africa, South America and South East Asia.

The cruise features countless mechanical animals including an Elephant bathing pool, gorillas, tigers, giant spiders, angry hippos, lions and even a swarm of leaping piranha.

There are 12 Jungle Cruise river boats in commission, with up to eight in operation at any given time. This wooden sign, hand-painted in the Disneyland sign shop, originally sailed aboard the Zambezi Miss during the 1980s and sold at the Van Eaton Galleries in November 2015 for $34,500.

Mr Toad's Wild Ride Devil prop

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

When Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, Mr Toad's Wild Ride was amongst the original rides, just as it had been in California when Disneyland opened in 1955.

Featuring characters from The Wind in the Willows, the 'dark ride' sees passengers crash through Mr Toad's mansion in race cars before heading through the countryside and into a town square.

They then ended up in court for causing chaos in their jalopies, were sent to a weasel-infested jail, escaped onto train tracks in front of a speeding locomotive, and eventually found themselves in the afterlife, surrounded by devils with pitch forks, before returning to life at the boarding station once again. 

The version of the ride at Walt Disney World closed in 1998, and was replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

This fibreglass devil prop, which had remained in the attraction since it opened in 1971, sold at the Van Eaton Galleries in November 2015 for $37,375.

Enchanted Tiki Room parrot

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

The Enchanted Tiki Room opened at Disneyland in 1963, and was the park's first attraction to feature Audio-Animatronic characters.

It was designed as a restaurant in which birds, Tiki statues and even flowers would serenade the diners, and utilised a huge air-cooled computer system to control all the characters.

This colourful bird lived in the Tiki Room during the 1970s, and was later removed and given as a retirement gift to a long-serving Disneyland cast member.

The animatronic hardware was removed from the bird and it was repurposed as a desk ornament, before Disney merchandise designers Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily restored it using fur, feathers and other Imagineering surplus materials.

The highly rare bird prop was offered for sale at the Van Eaton Galleries in November 2015, where it sold for $40,250.

Indiana Jones Adventure ride model

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

In the early 1990s Disney teamed up with George Lucas to create a new attraction based on the Indiana Jones series.

The result was The Indiana Jones Adventure, an enhanced motion vehicle dark ride which takes passengers deep into the heart of the ancient Bengalese Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Prior to its opening in March 1995 more than 400 Imagineers worked on the design and construction of the ride, including John Stone, a senior concept designer and miniatures specialist who spent 26 years with Disney before passing away in 2013.

Having produced the original Imagineering model of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride, he then made ten miniature replicas as gifts for members of the team.

This highly detailed example remained in his own collection for many years, before selling at the Van Eaton galleries in November 2015 for $40,250.

Adventure Thru Inner Space Atomobile prop

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

The Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction opened in Tomorrowland in 1967, and was the first ride at Disneyland to utilise the 'Omnimover' system (later used in The Haunted Mansion).

The attraction 'shrank' riders down and sent them on a journey through the atoms of a snowflake, even passing beneath a giant eye staring at them through a microscope.

As visitors stood in line they could watch their fellow riders in their 'Atomobiles' being shrunk down to enter the ride.

This rare prop was one of those 'shrinking' Atomobiles, mounted on a moving track to pass through the microscope. It sold as part of the landmark Story of Disneyland sale at the Van Eaton Galleries in 2015 for $41,300.

It's A Small World animatronic doll

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

It's A Small World was originally created by Walt Disney for the Pepsi pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

The ride, which featured animatronic children from around the world singing a song of unity, was then moved back to California and opened at Disneyworld in 1966.

The ride's design and colour styling was created by the renowned Disney art director Mary Blair, with the scenes and characters were designed by Imagineer Marc Davis.

This robotic doll, originally used as part of the famous ride at Disneyland during the 1960s, sold at the Van Eaton Galleries sale for $41,300.

Frontierland Cigar Store Indian

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

For years this cigar store Indian figure stood watch in front of the Frontierland Trading Post, as thousands of visitors had their photographs taken with him.

It was one of several fibreglass versions made from the original Disney Studio sculpt, which would be replaced every ten years with a new model.

This figure was retired from the park in the late 1970s, and later sold during a Disney Prop Department sale. It sold again at the Van Eaton Galleries sale for $44,250.

Captain Eo poster artwork

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

Captain Eo was a science fiction musical film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Michael Jackson, which made its debut at Disneyland in 1986.

The film was shown in 4D, combining 3D visuals with live effects including rumbling seats, lasers, smoke and an in-theatre 'star field'.

The film cost $30 million to produce, setting a record price of $1.76 million per minute for its 17-minute running time, and was shown at Disney parks around the world for 10 years.

This H.R. Russell artwork is the only original Disneyland attraction poster artwork ever offered for sale. It sold at the Van Eaton Galleries auction for $47,200.

Pirates of the Caribbean ticket sign

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

Created by the Disneyland Sign & Pictorial Department in the mid-1960s, this delicate glass sign was one of two which hung outside the original entrance to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

This ticket sign remained in place from 1967 to 1984, when the ticket system was replaced by the universal Disneyland Passport.

Today just two original signs from this period remain in New Orleans Square, at the entrance of Club 33 and the entrance to the ‘Crystal D’Orleans’ shop.

Having spent years in the personal collection of a former supervisor of the sign department, the sign sold during the Van Eaton Galleries auction for $47,200.

Golden Horseshoe Revue sign

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

Since Disneyland opened in 1955, the Golden Horseshoe Saloon has welcomed visitors to Frontierland and entertained them with a series of shows.

The longest-running show was the Golden Horseshoe Revue, which ran from July 1955 until October 1986, and featured a combination of musical numbers, comedy and vaudeville routines.

For years the star of the revue was Wally Boag, a slapstick comedian and magician who appeared as the main act until his retirement in 1982.

Today Boag is honoured with his own window on Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A, and his passing in 2011 was marked on Twitter by comedian Steve Martin, who worked at the park as a teenager and looked up to Boag: "My hero, the first comedian I ever saw live, my influence, a man to whom I aspired, has passed on."

This original 1960s hand-painted sign for the revue, one of the most-performed shows in the history of the stage, sold at the Van Eaton Galleries in November 2015 for $48,875.

Tomorrowland concept drawing

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

Tomorrowland was one of Disneyland's original 'lands'  when it opened in 1955. It depicted a vision of the future – 1986, to be precise – and included attractions such as the Rocket to the Moon, the House of the Future and The World Beneath Us.

Earlier in 1954, Walt Disney had hosted a TV series called Disneyland, ostensibly an advert for his theme park, in which he introduced the upcoming attractions.

As the park was still under construction, Disney used concept drawings by head art director Bruce Bushman to illustrate his ideas.

This concept drawing of Tomorrowland was the very one used on the first episode of the Disneyland show, aired in 1954, and is the only one of Bushman's original illustrations to remain in private hands. It sold at the Van Eaton Galleries auction for $54,460.

Tokyo Disneyland Audio-Animatronic head

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

Audio-Animatronics was the trademarked system of robotic animation devised by Imagineers for Disney theme parks in the early 1960s.

The system is still used to bring characters to life throughout the park, from the birds in the Enchanted Tiki Room to the Hall of Presidents, and has since influenced similar attractions around the world.

In 1971 the Mark V-style head was devised for use of all human characters at Walt Disney World, and remains in use to this day.

This particular head was part of Meet the World, an attraction created for the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and was used until the show was closed in 2002.

This example was the very first complete Audio-Animatronics head ever offered at auction, and sold at the Van Eaton Galleries in November 2015 for $57,500.

Pirates of the Caribbean concept artwork

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

This concept painting was produced in 1965 by legendary animator/Imagineer Marc Davis, during the development phase of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

Davis was in charge of creating stories throughout the ride, including this particular 'Bride Auction' scene.

Disney later used this piece of artwork in guidebooks for both Disneyland and Disney World, and on a set of postcards sold at the park in the mid-1960s.

As one of the very few pieces of concept artwork by Davis to remain outside the official Imaginering archives, the painting sold at the Van Eaton Galleries auction for $70,800.

Original Disneyland map and prospectus

(Image: Profiles in History)

(Image: Profiles in History)

Walt Disney first had the idea for a theme park in the late 1940s, and spent the next few years trying to find funding.

In 1953, along with artist Herb Ryman, he created hand-painted maps depicting how the park would look, along with a prospectus to give to potential investors.

The opening line read: "Walt Disney - sometime - in 1955 will present to the people of the world - and children of all ages - a new experience in entertainment. In these pages is proffered a glimpse into this great adventure - a preview of what the visitor will experience – Disneyland."

He travelled to New York, but returned home empty-handed, having failed to drum up support. In 1954 he then turned to the TV network ABC, who agreed to help finance the theme park in return for Disney hosting a show about it on their channel.

This is one of those hand-painted maps and prospectuses, created by Walt Disney in 1953.

This piece of highly rare and historically important Disneyland memorabilia sold during a Profiles in History auction in 2012 for $80,000.

Audio-Animatronics A-Frame

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

When Disney first began to use Audio-Animatronics on a large scale throughout the theme park, the Imagineering department created a system to produce parts for the robotic figures.

This casting system meant that they could create standard kits such as this - the Series A-1 Audio Animatronics frame, which was used for characters in dozens of iconic rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.

This original Series A-1 figure frame, presented without head or hands but with several animatronic cylinders intact, sold at the Van Eaton galleries in November 2015 for $115,000. 

Pirates of the Caribbean skeleton

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

Pirates of the Caribbean was the last Disneyland attraction that Walt Disney himself helped to create.

Opened shortly after his death in 1967, it became of Disneyland's best-loved and iconic rides, and was the unlikely inspiration for a series of blockbuster films four decades later.

Visitors were taken into the depths of the pirate's quarters, and one section featured long-deceased crew members frozen in their final moments.

Amongst the most famous images from the scene, and the entire ride, was a skeletal pirate drinking rum from a bottle as it trickled through his ribcage.

Dating from the ride's original installation in 1967, this animatronic pirate spent decades on display before being sold at the Van Eaton Galleries auction for $129,800.

Enchanted Tiki Room singing bird

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

The Enchanted Tiki Room opened at Disneyland in 1963, and was the park's first attraction to feature Audio-Animatronic characters.

It was designed as a restaurant in which birds, Tiki statues and even flowers would serenade the diners, and utilised a huge air-cooled computer system to control all the characters.

This Tiki bird was part of the room's singing chorus throughout the 1970s, and later sold from the personal collection of a park Imagineer at the Van Eaton Galleries auction for $153,400 – a then-record price for a piece of Disneyland memorabilia.

Tomorrowland PeopleMover

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

(Image: Van Eaton Galleries)

When Tomorrowland became New Tomorrowland in July 1967, visitors to Disneyland were presented with the new PeopleMover attraction.

The ride gave them a guided tour of Tomorrowland and other Disneyland attractions, and it's estimated that around 100 million passengers took a trip on the PeopleMover until it finally closed in August 1995.

Just 13 original ride vehicles from the attraction are known to exist, with ten in private hands and three in backstage areas at Disneyland.

This pair of cars was fully restored using original blueprints with assistance from the designer of the PeopleMover, Imagineer Bob Gurr.

They featured fully rebuilt lower drive chassis and custom-fabricated working control panels, with working P.A systems and even a short recording on the ride from the original 1967 tour guide.

This pair of ride vehicles was sold at the Van Eaton Galleries sale in Novemnber 2015 for $471,500 – the highest price ever paid for Disney theme park memorabilia, or indeed any kind of Disney memorabilia.

Walt Disney's original Disneyland map

The world's most valuable Disneyland memorabilia is the item that started it all: Walt Disney's original Disneyland map.

In September 1953 Disney was desperately seeking funding for his dream project, but had already been turned down by several banks. So he decided to take a different approach, and set up a meeting with the TV network ABC.

Together with artist Herb Ryman, Disney then spent a frantic 48 hours creating this map, featuring a vision for Disneyland which he could sell to investors.

His brother Roy then took it to New York and gave a presentation to ABC executives. He proposed that if they helped finance the park, Disney would produced a TV show for the network based on Disneyland's four main sections:  Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Frontierland.

The network agreed, construction began, and the hit TV show Disneyland was born - attracting millions of viewers each week, and advertising the theme park ahead of its opening in July 1955.

The map was used throughout the development of Disneyland, and Walt Disney later gave it to his friend, studio employee Grenade Curran.

It then spent more than 60 years in Curran's private collection, before selling at Van Eaton Galleries in June 2017 for a record $708,000.

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