DISNEYLAND: THE FIRST 65 YEARS opened as an exhibition last week at the Van Eaton Galleries ahead of a massive 2-day auction taking place on August 15 and 16. Inside the small public exhibition (open by reservation only) is a treasure trove of memorabilia and ephemera from Disneyland and the Disney Parks worldwide.

One particular item that caught our attention offered a revealing look at the late 1980s when Disney was building Splash Mountain and created a sponsorship pitch book for McDonald’s. The tome was created to entice the fast food chain into to being the official sponsor of the new attraction that would be coming to both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.

As we know, McDonald’s would never come to officially sponsor the attraction but the book offers a fascinating look at what COULDA BEEN.


PICTORIAL: Amazing assortment of Disneyana and history at DISNEYLAND: THE FIRST 65 YEARS exhibit, auction

McDonald’s Sponsoring Splash Mountain

20200724_153650Expected to fetch anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000 the one-of-a-kind pitch book was hand-made for a special meeting that we can only assume took place on the date embossed on the cover, October 10, 1985 — just two weeks before Martin McFly would take his fateful trip in a DeLorean, but I digress.

Offering a wide array of options to potential sponsor McDonald’s, the book also contains custom concept artwork that shows how McDonald’s brand would be nestled in organically with the attraction’s theming; it even came with an official mascot sponsor — err, spokescritter — Br’er Frog who explains that the sponsorship could include restaurants that will attract millions of visitors per year.

The “synergistic marketing partnership” promised collaboration beyond just Splash Mountain including other theme park integrations plus “exclusive promotional rights in the fast food industry in the Untied States and Canada” plus partnerships for in-store promotions, premium merchandise, motion pictures, network television, The Disney Channel, books, music, and more.


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McDonald’s Sponsoring Country Bears

Another fantastic glimpse into the past is that the book presented supplemental ideas to sponsoring the big upcoming E-ticket attraction.

As an additional or alternate concept, Disney pitched the Country Bear Jamboree attraction to McDonald’s. Touting the fact that a very popular Christmas version of the show had just debuted the year prior, Disney invited the burger joint to be the opening sponsor for a new summer version of the show: On Vacation With the Country Bears.


McDonald’s Sponsoring Restaurants

Touted as “the great taste of Mcdonald’s [coming] to Disneyland and Walt Disney World,” the next part of the pitch book offers a few other interesting tidbits about what COULDA BEEN.

As one might expect, the Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland — which serves burgers and fries to this day — was on the table to offer those famous golden fries and other food items.

Perhaps most interesting though, is that Walt Disney Would’s Magic Kigndom have renamed the Pecos Bill Cafe to Hungry Bear Restaurant to create parity between both the east coast and west coast sponsorships. Guests visiting the Happiest Places on Earth would have encountered “Hungry Bear Restaurant presented by McDonald’s” at both American destinations.




Additional details about the McDonald’s pitch book are available officially from Van Eaton Galleries:

This hand-constructed pitch book was specially created in 1985 for Peter Nelson, the head of domestic marketing at McDonald’s. The book was created a full two years before construction on the ride would begin, and 4 years before the attraction’s opening.

The 11.5″x15.5″ multi-ring binder has a vinyl cover with an applied hand painted title that is enhanced with trimmed and applied photographic images of Brer Rabbit, and Brer Frog.

Using photographic reproductions of early concept art as well as McDonalds themed concept pieces, the pitch explains the benefits of sponsorship at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as an overview of the attraction. Several pages include hand-painted and custom elements that enhance the printed elements. The book comes in a fitted hard sleeve, and is in fine condition with only minor wear and scuffing. This is an incredible look at the early development of one of the most popular attractions at the park, and a one-of-a-kind archive of the history and creation of Splash Mountain.

See it for Yourself

DISNEYLAND: THE FIRST 65 YEARS exhibit is now open (by reservation only) ahead of the massive Van Eaton Galleries auction that will be taking place on August 15 and 16 and inside fans will find a wide variety of items from and relating to Disneyland and the Disney theme parks around the world. From it’s a “small world” audio animatronics to Space Mountain ride vehicles, there’s a myriad of wonders. Items span from 1954 to the present covering a wide range of Disneyland history as well as Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Tokyo and Hong Kong Disneyland.

While the exhibit is pretty small, it only holds approximately 200 pieces of the more than 1,100 piece collection, it’s still a wonderful trip down memory lane and a personal look back at the Happiest Place on Earth and its global sister parks.

Free Public Exhibition 

By reservation only to ensure social distancing measures.


  • Saturday, July 25th –Friday, August 14th, 2020


  • Tuesdays through Saturdays 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Sundays 12 p.m.-4:00 p.m. PT

Live and Online Auction

The auction house will also stream the auction live and bidders can participate by phone or online.

  • Session 1: Saturday, August 15th, 2020, 10:00 A.M. Pacific Time
  • Session 2: Sunday, August 16th, 2020, 10:00 A.M. Pacific Time

Van Eaton Galleries are located at 13613 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, California 91423.

To register to bid in the auction go to www.vegalleries.com/auction