Recently, there’s been a lot of interest about the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City and particularly about the Disney attractions that were there. Now iconic names like Magic Skyway, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and the Carousel of Progress are still visited and sought after to this day. However, the fair attraction with the longest reach, and the most pervasive theme song, has to be It’s A Small World (IASW).
But this article isn’t about IASW, it’s song, or it’s sometimes creepy dolls, but rather one of the icons that most distinguished it during the World’s Fair- the Tower of the Four Winds.
It’s a Small World ‘Weenie’
It’s 1964, and Walt Disney’s Imagineers were building a bunch of rides and shows for huge companies for the upcoming World’s Fair. Walt asks one of them, a talented gentleman named Rolly Crump, to make a marquee sculpture for the It’s A Small World attraction. Basically, Walt wants a ‘weenie,’ his term for a visual element designed to draw a guest into an area.
Rolly designs a gigantic kinetic sculpture, with a decorative carousel and tons of spinning fans, flowers and other doo-dads, which is built directly in front of the IASW show-building. Not only does it serve to draw guests into the attraction, it becomes an attraction in it’s own right, and it became common for fair attendees to ‘meet up by the tower’ on their way to somewhere else
After the fair ended, Walt suddenly had a problem. All of the other rides he had built were moving to their new home at Disneyland, but what to do about the Tower of the Four Winds? It weighed over 100 tons and stood 120 feet high. The final decision was to scrap the tower and house IASW behind a new building front that had been designed by Mary Blair, which is what we know and love today.
But I got thinking- ‘what would it look like if the tower had been moved to Disneyland?’
What If The Tower Was Rebuilt At Disneyland?
The Tower of the Four Winds was a massive, swirling metal structure, with a base diameter of 46 feet and a total height of 120 feet. Compare that to the Matterhorn at 147 feet and Sleeping Beauty Castle at only 77 feet. If the tower had been disassembled, shipped, and rebuilt at Disneyland, it would have visible from everywhere in the park.
In the image above, the footprint of the tower in orange doesn’t look that imposing when compared to the massive IASW show-building next to it. However, looking at the picture below you can see how much larger the ‘Four Winds’ sculpture would be.
Tower Of The Four Winds Dwarfs Sleeping Beauty
As you can see from some of the pictures above, when put in relation to sleeping beauty castle the Tower of the Four Winds wins by a landslide. While that might have spoiled the view for some, it certainly would’ve been a good ‘weenie,’ drawing guests further back into Fantasyland.
The Matterhorn Is Barely Bigger Than The Tower
All of the buildings around the Matterhorn ride, and indeed throughout the park, have been carefully constructed to create specific illusions. Sometimes Imagineers want the guest to perceive a building as being far away or the illusion of many objects in the distance when there is only a couple.
In the case of the Matterhorn, forced perspective is used to create the perception that the mountain is much taller than it really is. In the picture above, you can easily see how the massive size of the tower would ruin the forced perspective of the Matterhorn.
If the tower had been rebuilt, your mind would automatically shrink the Matterhorn down to the size of an office building (the size it actually is) instead of the formidable, icy monument it aspires to me.
I enjoyed taking a look at how the Tower of the Four Winds would’ve looked had it been brought to Disneyland, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Unless it had been seriously chopped in half, the tower would’ve not only ruined some of the magic of the castle and the Matterhorn, but probably parts of Frontierland as well.
That being said, I’m also thankful Disney didn’t try to piece bits of it together in a shadowy representation of its former self. This is one of those times where, while it’s sad to see a great thing go, it’s probably best it does (like college, for example).
I decided to write this article because of some great posts on another Disney blog. The folks at the Disney History Institute several pages on the Tower of the Four winds, including some vintage pictures, a schematic of the sculpture, and most recently an awesome 3D fly around video of the entire structure.
What do prefer- a reassembled tower or the way things stand now? Or something else?Let me know in the comments below and make sure to sign up for our free weekly newsletter so you won’t miss future Monday MapDay posts (or any of our other great content).
That’s all for this post. Thanks for riding along with me today. See ya’ real soon!