It's hard to forget Aunt Jemima's Pancake House, which was a popular Disneyland restaurant from the 1950s-1970's. The restaurant was located in Anaheim, CA at Disneyland Park. It was in Frontierland, on New Orleans Street, overlooking the Rivers of America. This was prior to there being a New Orleans Square, and guests could access it from both Adventureland and Main Street. The restaurant was one of the theme park's most popular attractions. People loved the pancakes and waffles, as well as the singing Aunt Jemima character who would visit with guests. People might claim to be visiting tomorrowland, fantasyland, the skyway, or other Disney parks, but the real peoplemover was this restaurant.
History Behind the Aunt Jemima Restaurant
In 1955, New Orleans Street was the home of Casa De Fritos restaurant, which eventually became the Silver Banjo Barbecue. When that restaurant closed, it gave way for the Aunt Jemima Pancake House. In 1962, the name change to Aunt Jemima's Kitchen, because the menu expanded to include more than just breakfast items. Some of the most popular items were a Mark Twain Special and the Golden Horseshoe.
The Quaker Oats Company owned the Aunt Jemima pancake mix and was the sponsor of the Disney restaurant. According to Disney History 101, "Quaker Oats quickly became one of forty-seven lessees to sign a contract with Walt Disney Productions in relation to product placement at Walt Disney's Disneyland." While the restaurant was popular at Disneyland, it never expanded to Walt Disney World.
The Aunt Jemima character was a star attraction of the restaurant. Aylene Lewis was the actress who famously played the Aunt Jemima Disneyland character. She never served customers food, but rather greeted guests and took pictures with diners. She was also known to delight customers with her singing.
In 1970, Quaker Oats ended their sponsorship of the restaurant. Disney removed the Aunt Jemima character and rebranded the restaurant as the Magnolia Tree Terrace. Later that year, Hormel Co began sponsoring and renamed the restaurant the River Belle Terrace.
In 1957, Disneyland began celebrating National Pancake Day by hosting pancake races. Participants would race down Main Street USA holding a pancake skillet. This tradition was kept until 1964.
Aunt Jemima Today
The Aunt Jemima character has transformed throughout the years, and in 2020 Quaker announced it would be removing Aunt Jemima's name and image from its products. Fans of the Aunt Jemima Disneyland attraction can still find memorabilia and collectibles on Ebay.
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