Disneyland Stage Lines
All of the coaches that made up the Disneyland Stage Lines were constructed at the Studio and have the distinction of being the first Disneyland attraction completed. At the park, the coaches were one of ultimately three ways guests could explore the Painted Desert and the Indian Country of the Old West. The Pack Mules were the other opening day option while the Conestoga Wagons would be added later in the summer of 1955.
The Disneyland Stage Lines coaches were built smaller than full-size scale and were pulled by miniature horses. Owen Pope and his wife, Dolly, were hired by Walt Disney in 1951 to acquire and train livestock for his forthcoming park following a recommendation from Disney Legend Harper Goff, after he had seen the couple’s equestrian show at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Owen oversaw the construction of all horse-drawn coaches and wagons for Disneyland.
Walt prioritized authenticity and attention to detail in all aspects of building Disneyland, especially when it came to the historic elements of the park. In fact, when Disney Legend John Hench questioned the need for the elaborate, and costly, leather strapping on the Disneyland Stage Lines coaches, Walt told him: “You’re being a poor communicator. People are okay, don’t you ever forget that. They will respond to it. They will appreciate it.” So, as Hench tells it, “we put the best darned leather straps on that stagecoach you’ve ever seen.”
Disney Legend Bill Cottrell, who served as the first President of WED (Imagineering) came to understand Walt’s insistence for authenticity and attention to detail created a value in the experience of simply being in the park. That meant people would be willing to pay an entry fee, and not just buy tickets to ride attractions. While this viewpoint is now commonplace in the amusement park industry, that wasn’t the case in the 1950s. In fact, many amusement park operators though Walt was wasting money in these areas. Years later, Cottrell explained how the wagons, despite having a limited capacity, fit into Walt’s unique vision for his park:
“Walt had this great belief in taking history of the wagons and stagecoaches and the buggies, and so on, and making these vehicles, not going off and buying old things, but rebuilding them, because they were usually too large and we had to have them scaled down a little. So these beautiful things were all made and they were not practical and he knew they were not. He knew that they were not going to make money because they couldn’t carry enough people. But they were part of the concept that the main gate establishes a certain show for people. And not everything has to make money. You pay to get in the place and so what do you see? Everyone’s in costume. And the streets are clean. And you have flowers. And you have these vehicles that a few people can ride and so forth.”
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