Hollywood Studios Blog

Aug
8

California Crazy at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Today's guest blog post is by a very talented photographer in the Disney Internet Community.  His photos are beautiful and you may have seen his work around the net, but I'm happy to welcome Tom Bricker for today's guest blog post on Studios Central!  

Imagine driving into California on Route 66 and seeing a giant orange. A giant puppy. Heck, even a giant dinosaur. Now imagine that each of these were fast food stands; from a window in the orange you could purchase orange juice, from a window in the puppy you could purchase hot dogs, and from the dinosaur you could purchase ice cream.

In the 1930s and 1940s, if you were traveling through California, you wouldn’t have to imagination these structures at all. Thanks to an architectural movement dubbed “California Crazy,” giant makeshift animals and objects littered the sides of highways, offering food and other products to travelers.

Conceptually, these crazy structures were really quite brilliant. They caught the attention of travelers more than traditional buildings, who were then more likely to stop and make purchases. I mean, after all, who would get ice cream from a small square shaped stand when you could buy it from a dinosaur?!

Speaking of dinosaurs, it was no surprise when Disney decided to build the Studios, it was no surprise that it decided to include two pieces of California Crazy architecture in its Echo Lake area: Gertie the Dinosaur and Min and Bill's Dockside Diner. The Darkroom camera shop is arguably California Crazy, but given that the camera out front is prominent to the shape of the structure, my non-expert opinion is that it’s not true California Crazy; likewise, the Hollywood Brown Derby with its giant hat sign may also be considered California Crazy.

Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner is an excellent example of the California Crazy style with a wonderful history and great details (make sure to explore the crates out front!), but Dinosaur Gertie holds the special place in my heart.

Fully known as Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction, this ice cream stand used to offer rare ice cream treats, but now is only open seasonally and offers the traditional frozen fare found all over the parks. While its former menu is intriguing, the Hollywood influence of Gertie is what’s truly interesting.

Dinosaur Gertie derives its name and appearance from the 1914 animated short by Winsor McCay titled, “Gertie the Dinosaur.” While it was not the first animated film, it was the first cartoon featuring a “personality” character a la Mickey Mouse, and was actually a predecessor of animated works by Walt Disney. Given the potential influence McCay’s cartoon had to Walt Disney, it is thus unsurprising that the Studios would honor Gertie with his own California Crazy stand! 

Tom Bricker is a photographer and blogger for TouringPlans.com. When he’s not in Walt Disney World or Disneyland, he partakes in the boring offerings of Indiana, such as gazing at cornfields and cow-tipping. He and his wife operate DisneyTouristBlog.com, a website featuring accounts of their adventures at the Disney theme parks. You can contact Tom at tom@disneytouristblog.com.

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About Matt

is the founder of Studios Central and has been preaching for a greater appreciation for Disney's Hollywood Studios since 2002.