Do long lines at amusement parks take the fun out of the experience? Steve Dobbs from Fullerton, California, heard such complaints from his grandkids on a recent visit to Disneyland. So, instead of promising to take his grandkids on a less busy day, the loving grandfather decided to bring the joy of an amusement park to them. Living so close to Disneyland, he could feel the pressure growing that somehow he needed to outdo the allure of the Happiest Place on Earth. Dobbs said, “Disneyland is tough to compete with,” but that wasn’t going to stop him from coming up with a way to get his grandkids to spend more time with him.
Leave it to an aerospace engineer with 30 years of experience at Boeing to create the happiest backyard on Earth.
Dobbs began evolving his idea by tinkering around with old Madame Alexander dolls that his wife was planning to throw out. He animated the dolls by attaching motors to the figures, then affixing them inside a tunnel (whose walls were made of completed jigsaw puzzles). He then noticed the dolls had a certain “It’s a Small World” quality about them. He then fabricated a train track using children’s electric Thomas the Tank Engine cars, creating an unforgettable ride for the kids. Seeing the happiness on his grandchildren’s faces, Dobbs was motivated to add to the park.
Dobbsland, as the kids call the small theme park taking up residency in his backyard, has many Disney-themed rides for his grandchildren to choose from. Sleeping Beauty’s castle rises up from the center of the yard, as Elsa and Anna dolls glisten beneath icicle spotlights and the award-winning “Frozen” soundtrack sings from a outdoor sound system. A “Finding Nemo” ride is composed of a submarine made from trash bins, which rides through an ocean of PVC pipes and large blue tarps.
Now, all this couldn’t be possible without the help of his senior engineering students from Cal Poly Pomona, who helped design and construct a majority of the rides, including a Matterhorn roller coaster that can reach 12 mph. “I like tying the engineering of Disneyland into the art and the fantasy of it,” Dobbs says.
Although Dobbsland doesn’t exactly compete with Disneyland’s size, many good times have been spent in that backyard, definitely making it the Happiest Place for the Dobbs Family.