Slide Show: Wild and Wonderful Concept Art from Long Lost L.A. Theme Park

Art Comments

Theme park designer Christopher Merritt and historian Domenic Priore dove deep to find never-before seen photos and incredible 1950s concept art for their new book Pacific Ocean Park: The Rise and Fall of Los Angeles’s Space Age Nautical Pleasure Pier.

That wild-eyed sea serpent coaster! Those grinning Technicolor trees! A dark ride with exploding lava pods! The ideas are so far out that it’s almost impossible to believe that this wonderland was actually built in Santa Monica in 1958. It’s even harder to believe, certainly harder to accept, that it all came to an unceremonious end less than a decade later.

The attractions at the pier are all documented, including the fascinating music history, which stretches from Lawrence Welk to Pink Floyd playing the same ballroom, which was known as The Cheetahwhen POP’s run came to an end in 1967. These guys even make the spiral of failed comebacks that doomed the Disneyland also-ran a fascinating read.

The book is filled with tikis and robots and flying bubble cars, so basically the greatest achievements in the history of mankind. Enjoy a grand salute from King Neptune as Pacific Ocean Park is brought back to life in the pages of this terrific book.

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  • Fred

    “Neptune’s Courtyard” bears a strong resemblance to the LAX Theme Building (which was built later, in 1961).

    I wonder if the POP attraction had any influence on the LAX design?

  • Drew Edward Hunter

    I went to POP with my parents in the late ’50s several times. As a kid visiting from Louisiana, all of southern California was most exotic to me, and POP was one of the most amazing things I had ever experienced. From the bubbles in Neptune’s Courtyard to the volcano of Mystery Island, it was thoroughly magical, unique and stylish. For decades I told friends back home about POP, but — unlike Disneyland — nobody had heard of it. So now, with this book, POP will at long last get the attention it has so long deserved. POP, along with Disneyland, was a major influence on me creatively, and today I make my living as an dark ride attractions designer. The inspiration of POP can not be underestimated, and I am thrilled that this new book about the park will hopefully inspire even more young people to follow their dreams.

  • peter gelfand

    i worked at the Beach House Nite club (5 Navy Street) at the south end of POP from was one of 2 businesses still going after the fire (Jacks at the Beach restaurant being the other) We often scavanged materials from the old park..and the underground tunnels. designed to move staff an revenue were truely a marvel..a unique bit of LA history…….