Frontierland always had it’s “southern” spirits. From it’s sparkling Mississippi River, and Mark Twain River Boat, to Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House. Walt Disney realized that a historical “New Orleans” type background would fit perfectly toward a few new attractions WED Designer’s were planning for Disneyland. These new attractions included a Haunted Mansion, a Thieves Marketplace, and a Pirate Wax Museum.
This idea spured off into an entirely different land, the first added “land” to Disneyland since the parks initial opening day of July 17, 1955.
Construction began on the new “New Orleans Square” in 1961, leveling the South Western Part of Frontierland. A huge basement was dug, after guests enjoyed dinning and shopping they could go downstairs through a Pirate Wax Museum.
After completion of steel frame working on the New Orleans Square “basement” work stopped on the project. Walt Disney was planning bigger things for his WED Imagineers. The 1964 World’s Fair caught the attention of Walt, and Disney was creating several attractions for Company’s to sponsor in the fair. Even though the fair brought a halt on new attractions at Disneyland, it was good for two reasons. One, all the companies wanted attractions that would be, in effect, “state-of-the-art,” which would technically be helping Walt Disney Productions advance in the field of the theme park industry. And two, part of the deal was when the World’s Fair was over, all the attractions could be shipped off to Disneyland.
When work was finished on “It’s a small World,” Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, the Primeval World Exhibit, and General Electric’s Carousel of Progress, construction resumed on New Orleans Square. This time when work restarted Walt told his designers to take what they learned from the World’s Fair Projects, and put them into the new attractions in New Orleans Square.
During the Disney excursion into the 1964-65 World’s Fair, breakthroughs were made in the combination of sound and animation of three-dimensional figures, these “audio-animatronics” were used extensively in many other Disneyland Attractions, such as: “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln,” and The Carousel of Progress (both originally featured in the World’s Fair)
Because advancements had occurred in these fields, WED Designers were able to incorporate the Audio-Animatronic Movements into the still wax Pirate Figures, turning them into swindling, singing, and moving characters. Also, to increase ride capacity, the attraction turned into a boat ride, using the same system It’s a Small World uses.
These newer, more complicated plans, created an attraction that would not fit inside the New Orleans Square basement. It was so big, it couldn’t even fit inside the park perimeter. So, the large New Orleans Square “hole” was converted into a tri-level structure, with 3 levels stacking on top of eachother. The stacking did not start just at the beginning of the attraction, the other layers were being used for shops, and restaurants: The Blue Bayou, a members only “Club 33”, and a Cast Member only Cafeteria. A large show building, outside the park burm, contained most of the attraction.
After Pirates of the Caribbean upended on October 31, 1966, work on another New Orleans Square Project resumed.
Originally built with the rest of New Orleans Square, a Mansion created in the appropriate style, of a Louisiana type Plantation house, with large gardens, and superb architecture. All though there was one difference about this mansion, it was empty, literally. It was just a shell of a house, with nothing inside.
Once work finished on Pirates of the Caribbean, work could begin on the “Haunted Mansion.” Again, Disneyland Imagineers used their knowledge from designing Pirates of the Caribbean, to make a better attraction.
Like in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Imagineers learned valuable lessons on ride capacity, and changed the Haunted Mansion from a walkthrough, to a ride through attraction. This would also allow designers to put the bulk of the show, inside another show building outside of Disneyland’s burm.
Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion opened six years later, in 1969.
Small shops, and elegant restaurants, New Orleans Square is truly a unique experience at Disneyland. On it’s opening day, July 24, 1966, Walt Disney and the mayor of the Real New Orleans were there to present the first additional “land” to Disneyland.