Footrot Flats Revisited

Actually, I am revisiting the Footrot Flats Theme Park.  Also known as the Footrot Flats Leisure Park, and Footrot Flats Fun Park.

In April of this year, I discussed Murray Ball, author of “Footrot Flats”, “Bruce the Barbarian”, and “Stanley.”  I recently came across some items from the Footrot Flats Theme Park from a February of 1986 visit.  The park had started out as a driving course where young New Zealanders could practice driving.  The course made up a large portion of the park.  At the time of my visit, the ‘cars’ seemed to be converted golf carts.  Certainly not Go Kart variety.

From a publication, Cartoon Quarterly, Volume 1 Number 1, Winter, 1988, we have an article by John Cawley about animation in New Zealand.  He talks about Murry Ball, the Footrot Flats strip, and a recent (then) animated movie, Footrot Flats—a Dog’s Tail.  At that time it was the highest grossing film in New Zealand’s history.  It opened in 28 screens, and in twelve days had taken in over $1,000,000.  Since the article appeared in a US publication, and used a dollar sign in front of the amount, I assumed it was in US dollars.  Since this blog is mostly about the theme park, I am enclosing part of one page of the article, which shows the front of the theme park.  In this photo, it is called a “Fun Park.”

I have a short video from my trip in February 1986, which shows the entrance sign stating, “Footrot Flats Leisure Park.”  See the following  frame grab.

During the visit I was told that they had great plans to make the park into a destination attraction.  As you can see in the video, they had marked off areas for future development.  I did a quick and dirty cut on this video to meet the fifteen minute Youtube limit.  I probably spent more time on the cars than was necessary, at the expense of some of the other rides.  However, I think you will get a feel for what was there on our visit.

There were two gentlemen working at one of the rides who related their experience driving on an LA freeway, and losing a tire.  There they were, searching for lug nuts as the traffic whizzed bye.  Guess it helped them later in the frantic pace at the park.

I came across a reference card from the Auckland Libraries, indicating that in 1988,  “Safari Land” was moving to Footrot Flats Fun Park.  I could find no further reference to “Safari Land”, either by itself, or rolled into Footrot Flats Theme park.

Today, the only record of Footrot Flats Theme Park is its entry in defunct amusement parks.  Footrot Flats Theme Park is one of three listed for New Zealand.  ‘Safari Land’ is not mentioned as one of the defunct parks.  I wonder where it went, or if it is still in existence.

Interesting legal wrangling over the area in and around the old theme park.  Evidently in the 1950s, the land was ‘acquired’ from various owners for a port, but never developed.  The document mentions (Discussion item 8) that at one time in the 1980s, part of the area was used for the Footrot Flats theme park.  It makes no further reference to the park.  It goes on to say that in the early 1990s portions of the land were developed for housing with the rest held for recreation.  From this, I surmise that the park went out of business late 1980s to early 1990s.

There was a website for Footrot Flats memorabilia.  Just like my old Mad comic books that my mother threw away when I was off somewhere.  Don’t you wish you still had yours.  Look at the prices now for Footrot Flats stuff.  Unfortunately, this link is no longer active (thanks to Chris for this information) but if it becomes active in the future I will re-link it. (updated 1/1/13)

There is a website which purports to be site for Footrot Flats theme park photos.  Well, there are a few, you just have to wade through the site as anything with ‘theme’ in the title shows up there.

Courtesy of my obligatory visit to the gift shop, I have place mats, a birthday card, and a sweatshirt.  The sweatshirt is interesting as it is mostly black, with the dog and Wal in white outline.  The Dog has a red tongue.  Unfortunately, over the last 26 years the sweatshirt has shrunk.  Of course, maybe it didn’t shrink, maybe I filled out.  Anyway, it fits my wife, so here she is with the shirt.

And, from the visit the the gift shop here are various items.

Cooch, gotta love ‘im.

I could just never bring myself to use the card for anyone.

On the wall of my office–

I have another one of Cooch, holding a flounder in his toes.  At least I think it is a flounder.  However, two posters is enough.

Now, on to the place mats.  If I ever entertained formally, I would have these bracketed by the six forks, stemware, and napkin rings.  However…

Well, I hope that those of you who visited this park during its short existence enjoyed this brief visit to that time.

Ted

PS.  The Gisborne Herald has an article on the town’s efforts to erect full size Footrot Flats statues.  You can see a photo of a scale model of Wal and the Dog in the article.

T

About these ads

About visualhumor

Enjoy viewing and collecting visual humor from around the world.
This entry was posted in New Zealand Cartonists, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Footrot Flats Revisited

  1. Grant Cole says:

    Thanks Ted
    I’m a current resident of Te Atatu interested in the past use of this land, so the video was interesting. Its amazing how quickly things disappear, it was only 1991 that it was closed. It’s hard to find images of the park so your video was a real find.

  2. I miss the driving, it was great. Maybe our kids would be better drivers if they could have got their licence here first?

  3. visualhumor says:

    Thank you Kerry-Sue,
    My kids enjoyed driving the course. My daughter wanted to, but had to ‘let’ her mother drive for her. My daughter remembered riding the roller coaster, screaming the whole time. My son said the cars were original wooden from another ride. I don’t know about that. I had to cut that part out of the video due to the time constraints. Anyway, he sat in the front with the video camera. We had the ride to ourselves that day.
    Ted

  4. fiona says:

    hi.great video.any chance someone still has a lisence from the park ,i would love to add one to my footrot flats collection.

    • visualhumor says:

      Hi fiona,
      Thank you for the comment. I am not certain what a ‘lisence’ would be. Do you mean a ticket stub, or some such item? In any case, since I never throw anything away, it is possible I have something from my visit to the park aside from the items mentioned in the post. If I come across a stub or receipt, I will let you know.
      Ted

      • As a former staff member I believe Fiona means the small paper licences we used to give out for Driver’s Town .. I haven’t seen one of those in many many years and would love the old memories if anyone found one and took a scan.

  5. Chris says:

    Hi Ted,
    I never got to see this Park in person (as I live in Oz), but I have always been a very big fan of Footrot Flats and of course Murray Ball. So I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you have taken to share this rare info with us all. I am a big collector of all things Footrot Flats and have even created a Facebook page (Footrot Flats by Murray Ball) documenting all things Footrot that I have come across, including a Footrot Flats Leisure Park “Driver Town” pamphlet (pic on site). However, you have some things showing here that I hadn’t even seen before, which was great. As a side note, unfortunately the elswhere merchandise site you linked to is no longer operational due to various circumstances with it’s operators health, so rare Footrot Flats merchandise is so much harder to come by now. Anyway, thanks again for your great info.
    P.S. (Please let me know if you ever wish to sell the “Paws” poster or the birthday card, as I have not come across either one before… or anything else that maybe rare. Thanks)

    • visualhumor says:

      Hi Chris,
      Thank you for your comment and the facebook page information. That is truly a great site.
      As for this post, I will correct the now busted link you mentioned.
      On parting with the poster and or birthday card, I will keep it in mind. I acquired multiple copies of the early Footrot Flats books, with an eye to marketing them in the US. That went no further than my plan on marketing “Swamp” cartoons. Or “Cliff.” But that is another story.
      As I mentioned in one of the Murray Ball posts, I first learned of him by picking up a copy of “They’ve put custard with my bone,” in a used book shop. Half way through, I understood the relationship of all the characters. I was hooked.
      Again, thank you for your comment.
      Ted

  6. Graeme White says:

    The Safari Park, I believe was the “Auckland Lion Safari Action Park” home of the half-mile-down-hill-scream machine

    • visualhumor says:

      Hi Graeme,
      What an interesting comment. I wonder just where it was located to get a half mile drop. Or, was it half mile in length, with various climbs and falls? Any additional information would be appreciated.
      Ted

  7. Mary says:

    The Lion Safari park was located at Red Hills Road in Massey. I have a feeling it may have been the paddocks down the long drive (as it certainly was) beside the Tao Qi Gong Health. Don’t have a car at the moment otherwise I would go on a safari myself to check.

    • visualhumor says:

      Hi Mary
      I took a look at google maps for that area, but nothing looked familiar. Ditto with street view. However, it has been a quarter century…
      I thought google earth, with their ability to view historic maps, at least in the US, might help but loading google earth on my xp machine just crashes it. Sigh.
      Anyway, thank you for the comment update.
      Ted

  8. Frances says:

    I have a mug from there

  9. Hi Ted and posters ..
    I actually used to live on the Auckland Lion Safari Park .. My father was the head animal handler at the time and both he and I lived in a bus.. a lot of good unclear memories of the place… I was very young and now not so young..
    In “88 or ’89 when the Lion park was closed we were moved to join with FootRot Flats .. my father stayed on as Animal Handler and groundsman .. I spent many many a day sweeping the small paths and walkways of the FootRot and remember it all very fondly..
    I’d meet Murray Ball a couple of times as promotional things for the park.
    If you or anyone here ventured onto the horse rides I was likely the kid that lead the trek..
    Sadly in 2009 my father passed away .. otherwise I would have pointed him to this site.. Some of your posters having been in the area may even recall him .. Alec Newton was his name.
    I tried looking for pictures or video and yours was all I found.. and 86 seems before my time there… though I remember it all so well.
    I don’t recall what I was doing as a kid then or why I don’t really recall the park closing but I was sad to read that almost nothing remains of the old park .. I didn’t realise that both Futron and Tiger Island were gone too and its been a good decade plus since I moved to Australia.

    Thank you for the fond memories.

  10. H says:

    Hi there – I have some video footage of my family at the Footrot Flats Theme park from 1986…will try and dig it out. A day with all the rides busy and everything. My Dad got a few shots of the various rides. Love this nostalgia!

    • visualhumor says:

      I hope you can find it, and are willing to share. Many people are interested in what the theme park was like, and would enjoy experiencing the park for the first time, or reliving the park through your video.

  11. Marion Eveni says:

    Hi Ted
    I am so pleased that you have a video footage of the theme park. It brings back a few memories for me..as when I was younger I remember the roller coaster. .and the big slide..but sadly don’t have any photos. Those memories mean alot to me as my dad took me to the park that one time. . I am still living in Te Atatu North, I was raised and grew up in Te Atatu. Its just sad to see that the land was sold to have more homes. I really wished that we still had the theme park.
    Thanks again. And I have put a link of your article on to my Facebook page because I know alot of my friends and family would want to see your video.
    A BIG THANKYOU

    • visualhumor says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had to cut it to fit you tube so left out the ride on the roller coaster, and other items. I probably should have cut out more of my family and left in more of the park, but I think I got the important stuff.
      Ted

  12. Jonny says:

    I love your video of the park, I think it’s hypnotic and wonderful and thank you so very much.

  13. Jonny says:

    Would you consider uploading the footage from your video that didn’t make the first YouTube cut? It’s fantastic stuff and I’d love to see more. Thank you.

    • visualhumor says:

      Hi Jonny,
      The video on the cutting room floor, as I remember, has us on one of the rides, and walking around the park, and looking around from an overlook. I probably got the flavor of the park with what I posted. However, I will dig out the footage and see if there is more of the park, sans family, that might be of interest.
      Thank you for your very nice comments.
      Ted

  14. mark says:

    The park started as leisure land, then changed to Footrot flats and then had another couple of name changes…. i think adventure west and then someplace different?… the gondola system they had there which cost 1 million sold at auction for only a few thousand dollars (needed LOTS of repairs) there was a rumour that it was going to go between henderson square (west city) and the old k mart plaza before the up grades). Some of the lights on poles used around the park were purchased by carey park Christian camp in henderson valley and they have them on their drive.

  15. Anthony Cassidy says:

    I’m a 37yo Australian, who moved to Auckland when I was 28. I’ve always loved footrot flats, and enjoyed the film as a child. I’ve always wondered where the eipcentre for Footrot flats was when the boom hit. I figured it was a north island since all the cues from the comic strip fit. I wondered whether it was Tirau, since there is a big sheepdog there. I looked up Murray Ball on the wikipedia to see if there was any little monument in his home town. Then I noticed that there used to be a theme park on the footrot flats wikipedia page, so I search for where is footrot flats theme park, and ended up here. It’s funny that it was in Te atatu north.. Only last year I was looking at buying a house there (I now live in eden terrace). Murray Ball’s home town (Fielding or whatever) should at least build a statue to him while he’s still alive. I still have the newspaper clipping of when his last sheep dog died in 1999 (Jess or whatever). That still makes me sad.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s