Sunday, April 19, 2009

Phantasia at the Old Towne Mall

If you scaled down Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. and added a low ceiling, you'd have the long-vanished Old Towne Mall. I spent a lot of time there when I was little. Instead of the staples of most 1970s malls (the organ store, the fashion shops, the record store etc...) it had gift and hobby shops, a double decker carousel and two dark rides.
The dark rides were The Castle* and Phantasia. The former was a spookhouse ride ( which I rode twice, with my eyes shut). Phantasia was kid friendly. A chairlift took you through fairy tale scenes. The climax was a glowing green spinning tunnel. People who were older at the time remember the ride as "cheesy" and "cheap." My second-grade self thought otherwise. It was a ride! It took you into another world!
I'm not sure what went wrong. Maybe bored teenagers broke things. Maybe the mall (which had trouble staying afloat) couldn't afford to maintain it. Possibly both. Phantasia began to fall apart.
I was too little to understand why anyone could neglect or damage a ride. I was still in the It's another world! mode....
...and my other world was getting creepy! Why was it falling apart? Why was the main character in the scene slumped over his window like he was dead? It spooked me. I couldn't get the "dead guy" out of my head for a long time.

*Possibly Dracula's Castle or Count Dracula's Castle.


GhostBuild said...

Goodness, to see the degeneration first hand is so unfortunate and I guess a bit telling regarding the concern of the staff for the attraction. Would it have killed them to whip out the duct tape and paste the hero back into some semblance of his correct place/pose?

In my neighborhood you see this in the science museums. You come across an animated display that is obviously broken but it's like there's a lack of concern to even consider stop-gap measures.

Namowal said...

Hi Ghost,
I hear you with the duct tape comment!

Something's sad about a broken display, whether it's for entertainment or education. The effect/illusion is damaged, and it's disappointing that nobody seems to care.
It's possible Phantasia got trashed faster than anyone could fix it. In its first ten years Disneyland learned that Dark Ride + Props in Reach of Riders = Ride gets Mangled. A reoccurring problem on the Snow White ride was smartass kids stealing the witch's apple. They ended up replacing the apple with a reflection of one in a concave mirror, so it was visible but not touchable.

Linda said...

Those rides could be so dreamy. And when they aren't kept up, it's kind of a dream-destroyer.

Sally said...

I enjoyed reading about it.

walterworld said...

Where the heck was that place?

Sounds like quite a childhood memory. To go from enchanting at first to creepy towards the end is a sad story arc indeed.

Take care!

Namowal said...

Hi Linda,
The good news is that Disneyland takes much better care of their rides than Old Towne did.
Old Towne itself got creepy in its final years. The rides vanished, and most of the shops were dark and empty. A sad ending to a once-festive place.

Hi Sally,
Thanks for swinging by!

Walter World,
Old Towne mall was on Hawthorne blvd between 190th street to the north and Del Amo blvd to the south. It was remodeled into a strip mall in the 1990s called the Torrence Promenade, but old timers often refer to the shopping center as "Old Towne"

kim said...

Aloha! Fabulous article..I found it because I was searching for the name of the Magic Shop in Old Towne Mall, I worked there in the Seventies.

kim said...

The Dark Rides are my favorite, everywhere I went.

Namowal said...

Aloha, Kim!
Nice to find someone else who remembers Old Towne Mall. There's surprisingly little about it on the internet.
That's cool that you worked in the magic shop. I love magic tricks. I don't perform them well but I like understanding how they work.

TokyoMagic! said...

It is strange that there isn't more about Old Towne out there on the internet. I also remember those two dark rides! I think I remember the figures inside Phantasia as being just stationary manikins. I also remember lots of giant mushrooms. I think there was a pool/pond with real water in it that you traveled over upstairs. and I remember that rotating tunnel! I seem to remember that the green was painted on in large spots or polka dots that glowed under black lighting. I remember the "tilting" effect from it was pretty intense since you were suspended in the center of it in basically just a ski-lift type of chair. I would LOVE to see photos of the exterior and interior of that attraction.....there has to be some out there somewhere!