Today we are revisiting the history of Disneyland’s Halloween Tree and why it is there!
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On October 31, 2007 Ray Bradbury flipped the switch to light Disneyland’s Halloween Tree for the first time ever in Disneyland.
But what is this tree and why is it at Disneyland?
Well, the Halloween Tree is a beautifully decorated oak tree in Frontierland just in front of the Golden horse Saloon. This tree is inspired by Ray Bradbury’s novel “The Halloween Tree” where a group of kids go across time and space to save their friend. They go through many ancient cultures including the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures, and also Celtic Druidism, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Medieval Paris, and The Day of the Dead in Mexico. In this journey they learn the origins of Halloween.
In this novel and many other novels and short stories, the author celebrated his love of Halloween.
But what does Ray Bradbury have to do with Disney and Disneyland?
Well, he had a very long history with Disney. In fact, his obsession with Halloween began because when he was 9 years old, he watched the Disney Silly Symphony cartoon “The Skeleton Dance”.
And years later in 1964, he met Walt while they were both Christmas shopping. Bradbury went up to him to introduce himself and
was relieved when Walt told him he had read his books. He then asked Walt to lunch, and Walt agreed to meet up the next day.
And that’s when a very long friendship started.
Ray arrived to Walt’s office the very next day where they started talking about the World’s Fair, both Walt and Ray had contibuted to the World’s Fair with Bradbury writing an 18-minute script recounting the history of America for the U.S. pavilion., and Disney creating “it’s a small world,”“Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln,” Ford’s Magic Skyway, and Progressland attractions.
Walt was concerned that more than a hundred forty pavilions representing eighty nations would all be torn down by the end of 1965.
He thought it was a senseless waste—and Ray agreed.
So Walt told Ray his grand idea of a kind of World’s Fair he planned to build in Florida. It would grow and change with the times, but it would never die.
Ray thought it was one of the best ideas he’d ever heard! He loved Disneyland and visited whenever he could, and was thrilled to think that Walt was thinking about building a bigger park in Florida. He told Walt about his last visit to Disneyland and then they traded childhood memories.
Before Ray left, Walt took him to his Imagineer’s workshop where he showed him a reanimated Abraham Lincoln and some partially constructed buccaneers for Pirates of the Caribbean. Then he took Ray for a ride on a PeopleMover prototype.
That was the first of Ray’s many visits to The Walt Disney Studios. In later months, Walt introduced him to the writers, artists, and Imagineers who helped him weave movie and theme park magic. During those visits, Ray contributed ideas and insights to various Disney projects.
A year later Walt told Ray he was going to overhaul Tomorrowland. Ray was really excited to hear that and asked Walt to hire him to help with ideas to rebuild it.
But Walt said it was no use, he told Ray that, because they were both geniuses, they would kill each other after two weeks . He would rather be continue their friendship. And so, Ray continued contributing with ideas and insights externally. In appreciation for this, Walt asked him what he could do to repay him. Ray remembered his favorite Disney cartoons and movies and immediately asked Walt if he could open the vaults. Walt agreed and let him have 20 items of his choice from the vault.
This friendship continued until Walt passed away in 1966.
After Walt’s death, Ray Bradbury continued his association with The Walt Disney Company. And years later, when plans to build Epcot were being made, Bradbury was hired to help develop the storyline and script for an attraction that focused on the history of communication. This attraction later became Spaceship Earth. He also helped with the design if the structure. And he was happy had had all those informal talks with Walt about the development of Epcot because he would be able to put in some of the ideas they had talked about.
In the late 1980s, as Disney was preparing to build a new theme park outside of Paris, Ray hung out at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, talking to the Imagineers who had known Walt, such as John DeCuir, Sr. and Harper Goff, plus many post-Walt-era Imagineers such as Tim Delaney, Tony Baxter, and Pat Burke.