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.

PPS.  On July 29, 2014,  3news in Auckland, NZ, had an interesting story by Tristram Clayton, a reporter for that station, on Grisborne’s statue effort.  Sounds like the project is moving ahead.

T

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Enjoy viewing and collecting visual humor from around the world.
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35 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.

  16. Amanda Marsden says:

    Anyone know of Dog “Footrot Flats” fame hanging on to the old year with the caption: I haven’t had enough yet! It was a picture I saw at an exhibition in New Zealand in 1990. Any suggestions of how I can get a copy?

  17. Phil says:

    Hi Ted,

    Many many thanks for posting this and the video.
    I worked at Leisureland as it was first known when it first opened (just drivers town and a few other rides) during my school holidays. I then re-joined about the time your video was shot and helped build the roller coaster during my university break, these showground rides are still in action today around the fairgrounds and Auckland Easter show as part of Mahons amusements. The park had a couple of the name changes from Leisureland to Footrot Flats and finally to “Something different fun park” in a last ditched attempt to stay afloat following the stock-market collapse of 1987 (and avoid paying Murray Ball any commission). Yes The Lion Safari park was integrated into the park at this time, on a shoe string as was common at the time, and eventually met its demise in the late 80’s. I could write a book on the reasons for its failure but really owe it a hell of a lot… I met my wife there (she used to be the dog and horse the cat) and learned much of the philosophy I use today in running my business there, many many friends and lots of stories… like the day the roller coaster crashed…

    Ted many thanks again you have made my day!

    • visualhumor says:

      Phil,
      So, why don’t you write the book?
      I assure you that I am not the only one who wants the stories. You could at least share the roller coaster crash…
      I can see a blog in your future. “Things I learned that my parents never knew” or something along that line. WordPress.com will get you started.
      Ted

      • Phil says:

        thanks Ted!
        Might make a nice job when I retire!
        I linked your video on face book and have had a bit of nostalgic interest! Nice to be able to share with the kids, who have heard the stories but never seen the pictures…

      • visualhumor says:

        Phil,
        Don’t wait. You don’t have to spend hours a day pounding away on the keyboard. Jot notes now on file cards, put them away for future reference. Even if you don’t publish, your kids will appreciate it.
        I wrote my first book over a span of two decades. I finally just shoved it onto kindle where it lives on the 99 cent shelf. It uses areas in which I worked many years ago, and tells an improbable story. The second book I wrote over a span of a year, mirroring events at a job. It also keeps company on the 99 cent shelf with the first one. Both books are works of fiction, and in no way are representative of actual situations at either job. Both books were fun to write, in that I could kill off people in fiction, who while they may have needed to be killed, would have landed me in prison if I had done it in real life.
        In your case, I do not think we are talking fiction. Many people are truly interested in the theme park, and the comic. Your book would be a welcome read for all those people.
        Of course, you could fashion a novel with the background of the theme park(s).
        In any case, give it some serious thought.
        Ted

  18. Shaun says:

    Ted, thanks so much for the information and video. I went to the park whilst working in NZ in 1985, can’t remeber the month but it was something between June and December. A lot of the stuff you show on the video was not there. I think it was in transition from Leisureland to Footrot.
    The driving course was there but they had single seat go karts. Petrol engines mounted behind the driver. The cart was surrounded by a metal plate that was mounted with springs. So when you hit the kerbs or other carts no damage was done.
    There was also an Omni theatre. There were no seats so you had to stand up. It added a whole new experience to roller coaster and helicopter through canyon films. We all used to lean over or sway side to side with the movie.
    Thanks for the memories.

    • visualhumor says:

      And I thank you for the comments and memories. I don’t think I have ever heard of a stand-up Omni theatre. The Go Carts sound like motorized Dodgem Cars. Must have been a hoot to drive (and hit other drivers…).

      • mark says:

        the ‘omni’ theatre is what is known as the cinema 180. Rainbows end in Manukau Auckland has one as well. It was also built in the 1980’s…. so must have been ‘all the rage’. The drivers town cars had metal ‘bumper’ type triangle shape steel above each front wheel. that way if you hit the curb, you would get stuck on it. A ‘tow truck’ would come and rescue you. I dont think the bumpers were there at the begining.. but i guess too many people were driving off road. Also located there was the worlds largest tree house. that was just above the drivers town. Mahons Amusements useto have a number of their ‘portable’ rides set up there pretty permanently, including at some time, the graver tron, cinema 180, dodgems, cannonball run (rollercoaster) sizzler, superloop, massive truck slide, etc. very cool.

  19. Danual Newton says:

    I recall the car speeding through Italy was one of my favorite shows of the cinema when it was still going.
    Its always interesting checking back and reading the new posters comments so many memories to be had as FootRot and the Lion Park played such a HUGE part of my life and my Father’s.
    I miss all the animals we had at the Park and then at FootRot.
    I recall as head animal handlers we had the first litter of cubs that the Lioness had at home in the living room teaching them human contact.
    Or the Horses and the treks out along the water edge in Te Atatu and back onto FootRot.
    Thank you all for the great memories..

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