Disneyland: It's the Mouse That Roared in Anaheim : Residents and officials overwhelmingly approve the image the park has bestowed upon their city.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It is a place where a small-town mayor remembers rubbing shoulders with political legend Nelson Rockefeller, where Mister Toad's Wild Ride can still bring a smile to the most hard-boiled face, where Elizabeth Taylor arrived last month in a horse-drawn carriage to chase a childhood past on her 60th birthday.

Disneyland, where more than 300 million people have come since July 17, 1955, to revel in a never-ending string of Sundays, is relished by no one more than the people of Anaheim.

Here, residents and city officials overwhelmingly agree that Walt Disney's dream has fashioned an identity for their city once known only for its pioneer German settlers and teeming orange groves. And they love it.

In Anaheim, residents admit to fighting theme park traffic jams just to get to work or shop and have grudgingly accepted the park's nightly fireworks that routinely pierce the slumber of central city neighborhoods.

Those inconveniences aside, Disneyland enjoys a 90% popularity rating--greater than George Bush's standing in the Gulf War aftermath, and certainly many times greater than the President's current standing with the people--according to a new Times Orange County Poll on Anaheim.

The poll found that 90% of residents--nearly the same in every section of the city-- have a favorable image of the Magic Kingdom. The Times Orange County Poll of 600 Anaheim residents was conducted Feb. 1 through 4 by Mark Baldassare & Associates. The survey has a 4% margin of error.

"No doubt about it," said 81-year-old former Mayor Jack Dutton, an unabashed cheerleader for the theme park who has been receiving a complimentary annual park pass for the past 26 years, "Disneyland put us on the map."

Seventy percent of residents rated Disneyland as the city's most dominant force in local politics. In interviews, poll participants said Disney's clout came from the steady stream of tax revenues that have supported city improvements and its position as Anaheim's top employer.

And perhaps key to Disney's future plans for the city, more than three in four support the entertainment giant's proposal for a $3-billion park expansion--a project so large that many have compared it to a lifeboat for Southern California's depressed tourist industry.

Six in 10 residents said they would even support city-financed construction of two mammoth parking structures estimated to cost at least $500 million that would serve the expanded park. Plans are to locate the multistory structures near established downtown neighborhoods.

An example of the park's staying power is 32-year-old Tony Falls, a poll respondent who said it was Disneyland that attracted him to Anaheim four years ago and continues to keep him here.

The plastics worker, who lives on the city's near west side with his wife and three children, credits Disney's presence with cultivating what he believes is a citywide sense of cleanliness and security.

"With Disneyland, the city stands out in the crowd," Falls said. "You take it away and Anaheim becomes more like Santa Ana, more run down. It is a major asset. It keeps a lot of bad elements out. . . . I'm living here because Disneyland is here."

Said Pammy Quilici, a 41-year-old customer service representative who participated in the poll: "God, I never thought what it would be like without Disneyland. I have a pretty stressful job working for the cable company and sometimes I go (there) by myself just to get away from things. I feel good when I come out of there."

Disneyland President Jack Lindquist likens the park's 36-year association with the city and its people to a "long marriage." It is a relationship, he said, that is complete with warts but one known more for the total change--both physical and psychological--it has left on Anaheim.

"I didn't even know where Anaheim was," Lindquist said, recalling his pre-Disney days in the early 1950s, living a short distance away in Los Angeles. He said the only time he had heard the city's name mentioned then was as part of a continuing gag on the Jack Benny television show. On the program, the comedian called out the funny-sounding city's name because it rated obscure mention as a Southern California train stop, along with Azusa and Cucamonga.

"From the time the park opened and the television show ("The Wonderful World of Disney") began attracting tremendous audiences," the park president said, "Anaheim changed from a place very few knew about to a place constantly in the limelight."

Harrison (Buzz) Price, a consultant hired by Walt Disney to recommend a site for the theme park, said analyses of the local climate--including smog movements, freeway access, real estate values and the potential for growth--made the former tract of orange groves the only "logical" choice.

"I should always be so right," Price said. "Anaheim used to be just a bedroom community back then, but it ain't no more."

The transformation is apparent in population figures for both the city and Orange County.

In 1950, five years before the park's opening, the city's population was 14,556. Only a decade later, the number had zoomed to 104,184. Census figures show that during the same time, the county's population more than tripled, from 216,224 to 703,925.

"Growth would have taken place, but without Disney, it would have been at a much slower rate," said Keith A. Murdoch, who was at the center of the dizzying expansion as Anaheim's city manager from 1950 to 1976. "Disney rapidly accelerated residential growth and definitely established the tourism industry in Orange County."

As the catalyst for that unparalleled growth, the theme park established itself quickly as a potent economic force, returning millions in sales tax revenues to city coffers and prompting construction of hotels and restaurants in what is now zoned as the city's recreation area.

The park's reputation as a magnet for municipal revenue was cited often in interviews with Times Orange County Poll respondents as key in their assessments of Disneyland's overall popularity.

"It means big income to the city," said Luis Lopez, a 32-year-old draftsman. "I think it's the best thing we have here in Anaheim."

As another factor that has earned their allegiance, Lopez and others cited the park's position as the city's top employer. (The current payroll of 6,000 swells to 10,000 in the summer.)

Since the park's opening, Disney officials estimate that generations of local residents have found part- and full-time work with Disneyland, where employees are strictly referred to as "cast members."

Those who, in exchange for a paycheck, have accepted the house dress codes and rigid prohibition of facial hair include actor-comedians Steve Martin and Teri Garr; Ron Ziegler, who was press secretary to then-President Richard M. Nixon, and Ronald Dominguez, former ticket taker and now executive vice president of Disney Attractions West Coast.

Martin reportedly worked in a magic shop on Main Street, USA. Garr was a character in park parades, and Ziegler once toiled as a college-age guide on the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland.

"I've given the jungle-cruise spiel to Mr. Nixon, Mrs. Nixon, the White House staff and a great many ambassadors," he said of his White House renditions of the boat ride narration.

Ziegler, now president and chief executive officer of the Virginia-based National Assn. of Chain Drug Stores, said he remembers standing in the Disney employment line with a college friend in the late 1950s and without hesitation accepting the jungle cruise job for the weekend, 6 p.m. to midnight shift.

"There was a tremendous esprit de corps among the people who worked there," he said. "Before the park opened (for the day), I remember (various ride operators) used to challenge each other to relay foot races down Main Street."

Today, Disneyland has become such a signature for Anaheim that U.S. Sen. John Seymour--a former Anaheim mayor--proudly wears a Mickey Mouse watch in Washington.

The park is literally a city to itself, with its own fire department and security force, identifiable by uniform or Secret Service-like radio ear pieces. Anaheim Police Chief Joseph T. Molloy described his theme park counterparts as "very competent" and more capable than most business security forces in dealing with police situations as they arise.

In recent weeks, an army of Disney police worked Elizabeth Taylor's birthday party at the park and arrested more than a dozen gate crashers, requiring little assistance from city police. Two weekends ago, park medical and security officials, without calling city officials, handled an incident in which about 30 park guests were made ill by unidentified fumes while inside the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride.

The park's response to the boat incident, however, was criticized by some park guests who said Disneyland officials were slow to provide assistance or information about the problem.

Largely because of its economic presence, residents have equally strong opinions about Disney's role in local politics and rank the theme park's influence well ahead of the city's active developers, professional sports executives--and even themselves.

"The biggest industry in Anaheim happens to be Disneyland," said 55-year-old local chemist William Kelly, a poll participant. "Strictly from a financial point of view, I would think the city is very conscious of Disneyland."

And Disney executives, by their sizable political contributions--about $60,000 since 1986--and gifts of annual fishing trips and park admissions, have shown they also are conscious of maintaining good relations with the city's elected and staff officials.

Probably the best examples of the park's political clout have been Disney's ability to establish height restrictions on buildings located on the park's borders and its successful battles with the city to block a proposed tax on park admissions and at other entertainment venues in Anaheim.

Lindquist recalls Disney's involvement with those issues as probably the rockiest stretches in the company's relationship with the city.

In 1975, Lindquist helped lead an especially bitter protest against the City Council's attempt to establish an admissions tax.

"We packed the council chamber," Lindquist said. "We had demonstrators lined up outside City Hall for blocks."

William Thom, mayor at that time, said that opponents of the admissions tax--with Disney in the lead--were so vehement that he "chickened out" and cast the deciding vote to kill the issue.

"It was a wild time," Thom has said.

Although the poll found that most residents favor imposing such a levy, recent discussion of the tax has generated little more than a whimper since last year when Lindquist warned that a repeat attempt by the city could kill plans for Disney's $3-billion expansion.

"Like any marriage, we've had our ups and downs," Lindquist said. "But both parties in the marriage still really like each other and realize whatever problems we have can be worked out."

Now--with the blessing of 77% of Anaheim residents, according to the poll--Disney and the city are negotiating a new chapter in their long association.

City improvements needed for the construction of the planned Disneyland Resort, with its three new hotels, six-acre lake, pedestrian walkways and Westcot Center theme park, could cost the city an estimated $1 billion, according to city and Disney officials.

The plans still must meet with environmental and municipal approvals, and the city has yet to assess how much in additional revenue the expansion would generate for Anaheim.

Objection to Disney's plans has been minor, but homeowners near the park have expressed worries about traffic, air quality, declining regional water supplies, overcrowding and the presence of mammoth parking garages planned near their neighborhoods.

Poll participant Kelly, who lives miles away in Anaheim Hills, said he could not endorse the expansion because he feels the project will tax the already-crowded freeway system.

"It is going to be difficult to handle," Kelly said. "Before too long, I think you'll find those roadways are going to suffer."

Although opening day, by the earliest estimates, will not arrive until the end of the decade, most residents and tourist-based businesses are looking past the traffic and public-debt problems that such an expansion could bring.

One who for decades has maintained his enthusiasm for all things Disney has been former Mayor Dutton.

He was in Florida when the company opened Walt Disney World. He is planning a trip this spring for the opening of Euro Disney in France and will happily regale visitors with stories of his Disneyland encounters with Rockefeller and the notorious Nicolae Ceausescu, the former Romanian president who was executed after the overthrow of his government.

"I've met dozens and dozens of movie people, too, as mayor and councilman," said Dutton, who owns a local mobile home park. "You can take that info to a bar and put it up on the counter. That and two bucks might get you a beer. But I think everybody is delighted to have Disneyland here."

ADDRESSING GANG PROBLEM: Anaheim Council moves to hire more police officers. B12

Disneyland Trivia Opened: July 17, 1955 Park size: 80 acres Parking lot: 102 acres, with space for more than 15,000 vehicles Employees: 10,000 during the summer peak, 6,000 in winter Robots: More than 1,100 "audio-animatronic" figures are in the park

Maintenance Paint: 20,000 gallons are used each year Water: 19 million gallons in 10 bodies of water Light bulbs: More than 100,000 Electricians: 51 full-time

Housecleaning Hand towels: 26 million used annually Trash: 30 tons collected on a busy day, 6,000 tons annually Streets: Hosed down and steam-cleaned each night

Odds and Ends Fireworks: Nearly 3,200 summer displays since 1956 Music: Disneyland Marching Band has walked more than 2,900 miles since first parade on opening day Phone calls: The park received more than 4 million phone calls in 1991

Landscaping Annuals: 1 million planted per year. Trees: 5,000 Shrubs: 40,000 Sprinklers: More than 50,000 sprinkler heads and drip emitters

Food Consumed, 1991 Hamburgers: 4 million French fries: 3.4 million servings Popcorn: 3.2 million boxes Ice cream: 3.2 million servings Hot dogs: 1.6 million Soft drinks: 1.2 million gallons

Then and Now 1955 Attractions: 18 Hotels/motels: 7 Hotel/motel rooms: 87 Restaurants: 34 1992 Attractions: 60 Hotels/motels: More than 150 Hotel/motel rooms: More than 17,000 Restaurants: More than 450 Source: Disneyland

WHAT ANAHEIM WANTS: Strong Support for Civic, Disney Developments

Anaheim residents love Disneyland and strongly support the park's expansion plans. They also favor a sports and entertainment admissions tax and support the sports arena and two proposed projects in the Disneyland area.

Mouse Magic

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of these people and institutions in Anaheim?

Favorable Unfavorable Don't know Disneyland 90% 9% 1% Mayor Fred Hunter 50% 25% 25% City Council 49% 30% 21%

Do you favor or oppose Disneyland's building the $3-billion Westcot Center next to the existing park? Favor: 77% Oppose: 20% Don't know: 3%

Tax and Build

Do you favor or oppose charging an admissions tax on tickets to all Anaheim sports and entertainment facilities to generate city revenues? Favor: 54% Oppose: 42% Don't know: 4% Do you favor or oppose the city of Anaheim's new sports arena, at the cost of $100 million, currently under construction near Katella Avenue and the Orange Freeway? Favor: 54% Oppose: 42% Don't know: 4% Do you favor or oppose the city of Anaheim's building a "people mover" elevated rail system, at an estimated cost of about $750 million, to provide mass transit in the Disneyland and Convention Center area? Favor: 51% Oppose: 45% Don't know: 4% Do you favor or oppose the city of Anaheim's building two multistory parking garages in the Disneyland area, at the cost of about $500 million, to relieve traffic and parking problems resulting from the Disneyland expansion? Favor: 60% Oppose: 36% Don't know: 4% Source: Times Orange County Poll

SERIES AT A GLANCE

Taking a look at Anaheim--inside the city Mickey Mouse made famous.

Sunday: While eight of 10 residents like living in Anaheim, the quality of life is not what it used to be.

Monday: Residents say gangs, violence and fear of crime have invaded their once-tranquil neighborhoods.

Tuesday: There is a sense of political powerlessness among Anaheim residents, who overwhelmingly support City Council reform measures.

Today: Who can beat Mickey Mouse for a neighbor?

How the Poll Was Conducted

The Times Orange County Poll was conducted by Mark Baldassare & Associates. The telephone survey of 600 adult residents of Anaheim was conducted Feb. 1 through 4 on weekend days and weekday nights, using a computer-generated random sample of listed and unlisted telephone numbers. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error is plus or minus 4%. For subgroups, such as residents of a specific geographic area, the margin would be larger. For this analysis, Anaheim was divided into three areas based on ZIP codes--west (92801, 92803 and 92804), central (92802 and 92805) and east (92806, 92807 and 92808).

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