Banjo Lessons and Nautilus Plans

There are two places in the Disneyland Resort where you’ll find advertisements for banjo lessons from a Mr. Harper Goff.  One is on an upstairs window across from the entrance to the World Famous Jungle Cruise, the other inside Trader Sam’s, under the biggest window box (the one with the Orange Bird).

It’s fitting, because Goff designed the Jungle Cruise – or, rather, the Jungle River Boat Ride.  He based it upon the Humphrey Bogart/Katherine Hepburn classic The African Queen, and the name of each boat is a pun on a famous river.  When we get ours for our backyard, Noe’s going to call it the Sassagoula Shelly (the Sassagoula being the river that goes from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney.)

Original plans called for a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea adventure to be built there, not a Jungle Cruise.  On a trip to the Walt Disney Archives a few years back, I found some of these original plans.  It was also fitting, because Harper Goff designed the gorgeous submarine The Nautilus for the film.

Harper Goff’s love of trains led him to work for Walt Disney, as they met in London upon both bidding on the same model engine.  Walt took Goff on as an artist, and he designed not only attractions for Disneyland, but later for EPCOT Center, my favorite defunct theme park.  He also played banjo with The Firehouse Five Plus Two, which explains the advertisements.

He is lauded for his boats and submarines, but not many people know that he’s also pretty much responsible for Main Street, U.S.A.

The tale that Main Street, U.S.A. is based upon Walt’s hometown of Marceline, MO is more an invention of imaginative writers than one based upon fact.  Goff came from Fort Collins, CO, and if you look at photos of early Marceline, early Fort Collins and Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland, the resemblance is very, very obvious.

Have a great weekend!


About fabrocks

The Fabulous Disney Babe is back.

Posted on August 12, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Don’t forget the Golden Garter,er, Golden Horseshoe – taken from the set’s first use in WB Musical CALAMITY JANE p- the same set appeared in several other films as well…
    The World Famous Jungle Cruise boathouse has at least two of Harper’s original design drawing plates for the launches as part of the main queue on the lower level, he is also plugged in the “Jungle Radio” loop. If you get to the upper level of the WFJC boathouse 9the far section, usurped by Indiana Jones for their use), there is a upper platform of luggage – centered in amongst that is a tenor banjo case – not labeled, but there – and, Harper was a tenor player. First banjoist for the Firehouse Five Plus Two (as you pointed out). And, he taught Kirk Douglas to play the baritone uke and turtle shell four string for 20K as well.

    His Colorado inspiration is also heavily drawn on for Frontierland at WDW. Oh, he also was a heavy design influence on the World Famous Discovery Bay Project, too. 😉

    You got me on the 20K ride for the WFJC location – I know that the “True Life ADventure River” was originally planned for the south-eastern corner of the park (Herb Ryman classic weekend pitch map) and that “Captain Nemo’s Submarine” was penned in the lagoon at the top of Fantasyland (same map) alongside Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship.

    Harper also did a good chunk of the work on the 20K Walkthrough exhibit that was in Tomorrowland, and, for the proposed placement of same in what is now the Opera House on Main Street.

    But wait, there’s more…he went on and did design work for FANTASTIC VOYAGE as well as thei original (Gene Wilder) WILLY WONKA….

    Thanks for this post, ma’am. Harper was, “the man.”

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