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7 Theme Parks That Inspired Disneyland

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Since opening in 1955, Disneyland has inspired new theme parks and attractions all around the world. But before the “Mickey Mouse Park” was a twinkle in his eye, Walt Disney drew inspiration from many different theme parks.

1. Electric Park, 1899-1925 — Kansas City, MO

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Though Disney spent much of his youth in Chicago, in 1911 his family moved to Kansas City, home to Electric Park. According to Walt Disney’s Missouri, the second version of the amusement park (which opened in 1907) was located only 15 blocks north of the Disney home on East 31st Street. Walt and his younger sister Ruth often visited the park, which shot off fireworks at closing time each night, together.

Disney seems to have drawn inspiration from the nightly fireworks as well as the train system that circled Electric Park, which Disney would bring to his own park in the form of the Disneyland Railroad (1955).

2. Griffith Park, 1937-Present — Griffith Park, CA

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According to Walt Disney’s recollections, the Eureka moment for Disneyland struck while sitting on a park bench watching his daughters ride the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round. He pondered what it might be like to have an amusement park where parents and children could partake in youthful enjoyment together. In "History is Bunk": Historical Memories at Henry Ford’s Green Village, Disney is quoted as saying, “What this country really needs is an amusement park that families can take their children to.”

On opening day at Disneyland, he’d echo this message, saying, “Here age relives fond memories of the past and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.” Perhaps because of the warm feelings elicited by the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, the King Arthur Carrousel (1955) would become one of Disney’s favorite attractions at his own theme park.

3. Henry Ford’s Museum and Greenfield Village, 1929-Present — Dearborn, MI

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In 1940, Walt Disney made his first trip to Greenfield Village, a historically-themed amusement park designed to depict period environments from the 17th century onward. There, he visited with students and posed for a tintype photo. Quite taken with the park, he visited once again in 1948 with animator Ward Kimball on a side trip while traveling to Chicago for a Railroad Fair.

On the way back from the trip, Disney wrote a memo to production designer Dick Kelsey which took ideas from Greenfield. “The Main Village, which includes the Railroad Station, is built around a village green or informal park,” Disney wrote in the memo. He continued on to describe an opera house, movie theater, horse car, magic shop, and kids' clothing store. These ideas would be realized with Main Street, U.S.A., a nostalgia-inducing turn of the century-inspired street that continues to serve as Disney’s main hub.

4. Beverly Park, 1946-1974 — Beverly Hills, CA

David Bradley, whose wife Bernice worked in story research at Disney Studios, bought and opened Beverly Park, a small theme park on Beverly and La Cienega Boulevards in Beverly Hills (the current site of shopping center Beverly Center) in 1946. Through Bernice, David was introduced to Walt Disney, who began picking his brain and showing Bradley his plans for a theme park of his own. Bradley went on to consult for Disney and was instrumental in some of Disneyland’s signature characteristics. To name a couple, he convinced Disney to build Main Street at a reduced scale and introduce themed photo ops to the park.

5. Tivoli Gardens, 1843-Present — Copenhagen, Denmark

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One of Copenhagen’s most famous attractions, Tivoli Gardens, drew Disney’s attention in 1951 when he visited with his good friend (and TV personality) Art Linkletter. Linkletter later spoke about the experience, describing Disney as taking notes about everything from the rides to the food that was served at Tivoli. The park featured twinkle lights and a variety of outdoor entertainment outlets, characteristics typical of Disneyland’s Main Street. The Danish amusement park was also known to be very clean and orderly, something Disney was determined to translate to his ‘land.

6. Children’s Fairyland, 1948-Present — Oakland, CA

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As the story goes, while Disney was visiting Oakland, California's Children’s Fairyland, he asked to contribute a cartoon to a wall of the park and, when given permission, drew Mickey Mouse. He would also hire the first director of Fairyland, Dorothy Manes, to work as youth director of Disneyland, a post she held from 1955 to 1972.

Fairyland is also home to an attraction based on Alice in Wonderland, which supposedly influenced Disneyland’s dark ride of the same name that opened in 1958.

7. Madurodam, 1952-Present — The Hague, Netherlands

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Madurodam opened only a few years before Disneyland with a collection of miniatures depicting famous Dutch castles and other quaint buildings on display. In his book Walt Disney and Europe, author Robin Allan credits Disney’s visit to the Dutch attraction with animator and Imagineer Bill Cottrell with influencing the creation of the Fantasyland Storybook Land Canal Boats, which take guests on boat rides past miniature depictions of scenes from Disney films.

And Four More Potential Inspirations...

World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893 — Chicago, IL

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Before Disney was born, his father Elias was a construction worker at the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair) in Chicago. Though Walt didn’t visit the Exposition himself—he wouldn’t be born until seven years after it closed—he spent much of his childhood in the Windy City and was likely intrigued by stories of the fair, which featured the first Ferris Wheel (named after designer George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.), an elevated train, and moving sidewalks.

Disneyland would include its own selection of elevated trains, including the PeopleMover (1967-1995) and the Disneyland Monorail (1959).

Eden Springs Park, 1930s-Present — Benton Harbor, MI

Disney was always fascinated by trains. When he was young, his uncle Michael Martin was a train conductor, and in his later years one of his most prized possessions was his live steam miniature backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad.

It is rumored that Walt Disney may have visited Eden Springs Park and purchased a miniature train built by House of David religious community members, which he took back to California to study.

Playland at the Beach, 1926-1972 — San Francisco, CA

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A year before Disneyland opened, Disney traveled to Northern California to visit Playland at the Beach, a San Francisco attraction put together by brothers George and Leo Whitney. George Whitney’s son, George K. Whitney, would become Director of Ride Operations at Disneyland (and the park's seventh employee) after being personally recruited by Disney.

Knott’s Berry Farm, 1940-Present — Buena Park, CA

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Though Walter Knott and Walt Disney owned competing amusement parks just several miles from each other, they had an apparently cordial relationship with one another.

In the 1940s, Knott’s Berry Farm was home to a Bottle House and Music Hall, which had a collection of Swiss birdcages filled with automaton birds that made whistling noises. Some speculate that Walt Disney gained inspiration from these birds for his own Audio-Animatronics and, more specifically, the Enchanted Tiki Room (1963).

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Pop Culture
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
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At its best, Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’ Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY

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Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of this year and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In June, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE

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In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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Words
10 Pieces of Lying Lingo from Across the United States
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Maligner. Fabricator. Fibber. Con artist. There are all sorts of ways you can say "liar," but in case you're running out, we’ve worked with the editors at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to come up with 10 more pieces of lying lingo to add to your storytelling stash.

1. HASSAYAMPA

This term for a liar originally referred to a gold-rusher in Arizona, according to DARE. It can also be used to describe an old-timer, especially one who likes to exaggerate. The word hassayampa (also hassayamper) comes from the Hassayampa River, which is located in the Grand Canyon State. According to the Dictionary of American Folklore, “There was a popular legend that anyone who drank of the Hassayampa River in Arizona would never again tell the truth.”

2. JACOB

“You’re a Jacob!” you might say to a deceiver in eastern Alabama or western Georgia. This word—meaning a liar, a lie, and to lie—might be based on the Bible story of twin brothers Jacob and Esau. Esau, the elder and firstborn, stood to inherit his parents' estate by law. At the behest of his mother, Jacob deceived their father, blinded in old age, into thinking he was Esau and persuaded him to bestow him Esau’s blessing.

3. LIZA

Liza or Liza Jane can mean a lie or a liar. Hence, to lizar means to lie. Like Jacob, Liza is an eastern Alabama and western Georgia term. However, where it comes from isn’t clear. But if we had to guess, we’d say it’s echoic of lies.

4. STORY

“What a story you are,” you might say to a prevaricator in Virginia, eastern Alabama, or western Georgia. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), story, meaning a liar, is mainly used in the phrase, “You story!” Story as a verb meaning “to give a false or malicious account, lie, tattle,” is an English dialect word, according to DARE, and is chiefly used in the South and South Midland states. “You storied to me about getting a drink,” you might tell someone who stood you up.

5. LOAD

To load or load up means to trick, mislead, or “deceive by yarns or windies,” according to cowboy lingo in northwest Texas. The term, which can also be a noun meaning a lie or liar, might also be heard in northwest Arkansas and the Ozarks.

6. YARN

To spin a yarn, or to tell a long tale, began as nautical slang, according to the OED, and comes from the idea of telling stories while doing seated work such as yarn-twisting. (The word yarn comes from the Old English gearn, meaning "spun fiber, spun wool.") By extension, a yarn is a sometimes marvelous or incredible story or tale, and to yarn means to tell a story or chat. In some parts of the U.S., such as Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, and Tennessee, to yarn means to lie or tell a falsehood. “Don’t yarn to me!” you might say. Street yarn refers to gossip in New York, Kentucky, and parts of New England.

7. WINDY

Telling a windy in the West? You’re telling an “extravagantly exaggerated or boastful story,” a tall tale, or a lie, says DARE. Wind has meant “vain imagination or conceit” since the 15th century, says OED.

8. LIE

In addition to being a falsehood or tall tale, a lie in the South and South Midland states can refer to the liar himself.

9. STRETCH THE BLANKET

You’ve probably heard of stretching the truth. How about stretching the blanket? This phrase meaning to lie or exaggerate is especially used in the South Midland states. To split the blanket, by the way, is a term in the South, South Midland, and West meaning to get divorced, while being born on the wrong side of the blanket means being born out of wedlock, at least in Indiana and Ohio.

10. WHACK

In the South and South Midland, whack refers to a lie or the act of lying. It might come from the British English colloquial term whacker, meaning anything abnormally large, especially a “thumping lie” or “whopper,” according to the OED. In case you were wondering, wack, as in “crack is wack,” is probably a back-formation from wacky meaning crazy or odd, also according to the OED. Wacky comes from whack, a blow or hit, maybe from the idea of being hit in the head too many times.

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