By Marcy Carriker Smothers, Disney Author
Grab your popcorn – Walt liked his with extra butter – then sit back, relax and watch the new Disney+ series “WandaVision.” Debuting today, the new show stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda and Paul Bettany as Vision—two super-powered beings living idealized lives who begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems. The series, which takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” is curiously inspired by classic sitcoms spanning the 1950s to early 2000s. In the spirit of looking back through the years, let’s take a journey through some of the sights, sounds and especially tastes of Disneyland park over the decades:
1950s – When Disneyland park opened in 1955, the food offerings ranged from hot dogs for the families eating on the go as they went from attraction to attraction, to sit down meals at Swift’s Red Wagon Inn (now Plaza Inn), where “fancy” meals were served in an elegant setting. The food focal point of Fantasyland was the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship and Restaurant. Tomorrowland’s quick service eateries were the Yacht Club and Space Bar. Main Street U.S.A.’s Carnation Café offered hot dogs, sandwiches and chili along with an array of ice cream treats representing each land. Ta Cup, a fried tortilla bowl filled with hamburger meat and cheese, was the signature item sold at Casa de Fritos in Frontierland (Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante occupies the space now). Menus at The Golden Horseshoe advertised “Tongue Teasing Foods and Drinks,” along with the famous stage show.
1960s – The Blue Bayou Restaurant was ready when New Orleans Square was dedicated in 1966, however Pirates of the Caribbean was not. Walt delayed the opening of his anticipated themed restaurant saying, “It’s a bad show to look out at the bayou without pirate boats floating by.” Upstairs, the private and exclusive Club 33 was where Walt intended to host dignitaries and sponsors, including those that were being courted for what was then called simply Disney World. (His brother Roy added Walt’s first name to the Florida Theme Park after Walt passed away, insisting that there couldn’t be a Walt Disney World without Walt.) The cuisine throughout New Orleans Square was authentic – Monte Cristos, beignets and Mint Juleps – and remain today. Adventureland featured the Tahitian Terrace along the banks of the Jungle River. Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue, the only restaurant at Disneyland park to have a name on it other than Walt’s or one of his Disney characters, offered spareribs, chicken, plus fish and chips. Fantasia Ice Cream – a blend of banana, pistachio and cherry – was introduced to Disneyland park!
1970s – DOLE became the sponsor for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, notably the only attraction at Disneyland park with Walt’s name on it. In the beginning, only fresh pineapple spears and pineapple juice were sold; DOLE Whips arrived the following decade. Originally planned to be a restaurant concept, the idea was abandoned when it was determined that the guests would be so “enchanted” with the birds above, they would linger and never leave. The dinner show became a theater experience with three performances an hour. Outside, the Tikis in the Garden of the Gods were carved by Disney Legend and Imagineer Rolly Crump using an ordinary plastic fork from the Walt Disney Studios commissary.
1980s – Churros and Disneyland park go together like Wanda and Vision. Intended for Videopolis in Tomorrowland, they were first tested near the exit of the Mark Twain Riverboat. Only 100 were made on that one fateful day in 1985. When they were wheeled through Frontierland, guests were following the cart, and needless to say – they sold out! Variations on flavors, colors, textures and dipping sauces were innovated more than a decade later; the churro remains a fan favorite and darling of social media. Big Thunder Barbecue opened at Big Thunder Ranch in 1986. Set outside, Guests were served beef or chicken from the chuck wagon. The fixings were delivered family-style to picnic tables. The beloved BBQ’s operation spanned nearly thirty years – with a few name changes – before finally closing to make room for a galaxy far, far away.
1990s – Believe it or not, it took almost forty years to bring a fully realized, chocolate-covered ice cream bar in the shape of Mickey Mouse to Disneyland park. There were several iterations over the years, with the vanilla bar first having oblong and oval shapes, and a version with only Mickey’s ears covered in chocolate, before technology finally caught up with the Mouse that started it all. The treat we know and love today, Nestlé’s Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar, was introduced by Nestlé in 1992. This decade also brought us skewers across the path from Indiana Jones Adventure at Bengal Barbecue. Beef, chicken, veggie – but no snake!
2000s to Today – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland park in 2019 and included intergalactic foods from Batuu including Blue and Green Milk, (believed to be Luke Skywalker’s favorite), and podracer engine-roasted Ronto Wraps. State of the art culinary theming is also evident at Oga’s cantina and Chef Strono “Cookie” Tuggs Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo. Back on earth, the Tropical Hideaway in Adventureland became the new home of solo artist Rosita, along with assorted baos, lumpia, and reimagined DOLE Whip.
Our brief trip through the decades of Disneyland park illustrates how Walt put it in 1955: “Where the food is as fabulous as the fun.”
And may I suggest you set the mood while cooking just like I do any time I write about our beloved Disneyland park: Listen to the sounds of Walt’s original Magic Kingdom on Walt Disney Records The Legacy Collection: Disneyland.
Marcy Carriker Smothers is the author of “Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food,” exploring the lore of each land, beginning with Main Street, U.S.A., an homage to Walt’s childhood home of Marceline, Missouri, to Tomorrowland, set in futuristic 1986.