Monday, June 14, 2010

Take Your New Disney Friends Home!

Disney and Kodak have such an extensive and long term relationship that it often seems hard to separate the two. When Disneyland opened in 1955, Kodak was there on Main Street. A longstanding story has it that Main Street's pavement is red due to color testing experiments using Kodachrome - since the film stock tended to go more towards the red spectrum than blue, Disneyland's pavements were red, making Main Street photograph better (Disney tells this story on their guided tours, and like most of the information told there, one should take it with a grain of salt). Kodak even sponsored the 1959 "Grand Re-Opening of Disneyland". The ties between the two companies go back a long time.

Thus it's sort of hard to remember that there was a gap in Kodak's sponsorship of film and camera products and services at Disneyland, one that lasted right up until the opening of EPCOT Center with her big and expensive Imagination pavilion. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, GAF was the film sponsor of choice on Main Street. GAF dropped out around 1976 or 1977, and there was a time when Disneyland and Walt Disney World actually had no film sponsor - those "Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World" booklets actually had no little "Compliments of.." blurb in their lower left corner and the back page of the guide, traditionally a venue for the film sponsor's advertisement, highlighted upcoming Disney films. By late 1977, Polariod had stepped in, and they remained sponsors for five years until the opening of EPCOT Center in 1982.

Polaroid had much cooler stuff to offer than GAF - many Disney World people fondly remember the "Borrow a Polaroid Camera, Free.*" ads on the back of their late 70's and early 80's "Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World", and Polaroid offered old-timey photo opportunities with instant results on Main Street, Caribbean Plaza, and the Walt Disney World Village (the Great Southern Craft Company probably opened in 1977 with the entry of Polaroid and existed mainly for its "Lilly Langtry Photo Studio", covered here on this blog).

But GAF - which stands for Great American Film, I kid you not (you'll have to decide for yourself whether it was or not) - had their own wacky offerings in their Walt Disney World sponsorship days, from the GAF Photo Trail (more here) to GAF Photo Tips. Well call me old fashioned, but my favorite thing about GAF at Walt Disney World was.... awkward advertisements.

Here's one from the back of a 1972 Walt Disney World guide, the earliest such guide I've been able to locate (these early slimmer guides featured a GAF advert on the very back page as well as the worst map of the Magic Kingdom imaginable):

You can click on these things for a more legible version. I love the text: "The scenic delights of Walt Disney World deserve the finest in photography. To insure natural quality pictures you can be proud of, we recommend the full line of GAF quality photo products." Call it my love of the Atari 2600 coming out, but I love and obsess over household items that have artificial wood grain applied to them. It's not so much a camp appreciation as it is a fascination with an era when products were still meant to be handsome showpieces, pieces of furniture as well as functional entertainment. At least I think that was the idea.

Here's one from a 1974 guide. Some kid traced over Mickey with a pencil. Maybe it was Andreas Deja. Probably not.

Look at all those handsome products... you used to be able to buy those Pana-Vue Slides everywhere at Walt Disney World in little strips like you see here, each themed to an area or even specific attraction. They were usually beautifully done promotional images, much better than any camera or photographer (then or now) could capture. And look - there's the GAF View-Master in its signature cardboard bucket; the blue projector is even included. Does anyone even make View-Master projectors anymore? And as we'll shortly see, the "Bring Your New Disney Friends Home To Meet Your Old Friends", an awkwardly worded corporate pitch if ever there was one, emerged as something like GAF's "message" to Walt Disney World vacation goers in the mid 1970's.

Our final example is from 1975, the year of the bicentennial, America on Parade, free showings at the Hall of Presidents, and more:

It may be the most handsome of them all.

Now the real reason I'm showing you all this is actually just to justify posting this little gem, which I've seen in numerous issues of Walt Disney World Vacationland and struck me as one of the strangest and funniest things from the early years of Walt Disney World:

I'm not sure if it's Billy's impossible, jellylike anatomy, his father (in a green business suit!!!!) looming in from the edges of the frame, or Billy's absurd bucktoothed smile and his exclamation of "OBOY!", but this cartoon just kills me every time. I start looking at Billy's arms in panel two and I simply can't contain myself. And while it's true that View-Masters have given me and the rest of the word many wonderful things over the years, this may be my favorite.

So there you have it, a totally basic overview of the absurd joys of GAF in the early days of Walt Disney World. They may not have given you Figment, but they did provide "Donald and Mickey Meet Billy's Friends", just another strange strange artifact from the Vacation Kingdom of the World's formative years.


mfeige said...

Your Introduction brings up the omni-present Kodak-Disney partnership which has given me pause on my recent trips to the World. While I haven't checked into Kodak's stock price or performance recently, my general impression is that it cant be doing as well as it did when it sold a role of film for every 26 pictures. I Know it was late to the digital film party and I don't think it's caught up. My mother had a Kodak Digital camera about five years ago and it was an abomination. While they still have Photopass and their disposables, the business must of slowed tremendously. That said what happens when that partnership ends, does a camera manufacturer pick it up? A Sony or panasonic etc or more high end like Nikon are they nearly as game for something like Imagination. Just thoughts about what seems to be a dying company and hence a dying partnership.

Anyway, was that off topic enough for you?

short, but sweet article FoxxFur

Tannerman said...

Fisher-Price now owns View-Master, by way of Mattel, and yes, there's still a projector... albeit nothing like the classic products of the 70s/80s.

Paul! said...

I have been told a few times over the years at vintage photographic equipment shows, that GAF stands for General Aniline & Film.

Unknown said...


Billie and Friends is pretty obscene for a comic.

I am surprised this passed any kind of muster with Disney.

Matt--I know Kodak is pushing its printer line pretty heavily. Also, the Photopass cameras are Nikons.

philphoggs said...

GAF remains untarnished from my own golden era, plus the View-Master line was still in good hands there.
That said, this Billy ad is oh.
Billys shirt is its own being, dad's (we hope) animation likely rooted in Hong Kong, 80 yr old male script/ penmanship, and characters escaping a mono planed View-Master,BTW cleaned up by Disney. Add a perfectly scaled Minnie embracing a twisted granny glassed viewer, whats not to like?

BK said...

Viewmasters are definitely still made and are part of fisher price property as of the last one I bought in 2002 sitting on my desk here in my office. This reminds me though that I have some old disks somewhere in a box in the basement of the Main Street Electric Parade from the 80's that were my most prized set of viewmaster slides. Even more valuable to me than my HE-MAN ones! I've even got the vintage viewer shown in the pictures somewhere in a box with those slides...

silva said...

I knew the fact that Kodak and Disney has been together from beginning but some of the facts and products you introduced here were completely new for me. And it was really good to get this knowledge.
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