Wednesday, February 17, 2016

WDW at Night, November 1971 - Swiss Family Treehouse

We're getting down to some of the last night photos, taken by my friend "Mr. X" during his visit to the Magic Kingdom in November, 1971. Can you believe that he gave me the original negatives?! But don't worry, there are still many nice daytime shots from the same group, to be shared in the near future.

All three of today's photos are from the Swiss Family Treehouse attraction; I loved the one in Disneyland (closed 17 years ago!), and the Orlando version looks just as beautiful. I always assumed that it was larger than the Anaheim tree, but Wikipedia claims that it is 10 feet shorter, but 10 feet wider. So it's a wash.

This is a nice detail of the bamboo and ship's netting railings, the light fixture (resembling a ship's lantern), and various pieces of ropes and pulleys. The thatched roof kept the family dry during the many tropical downpours (not unlike the frequent Florida rains). 

Notice the bromeliads stuck to the sides of the tree. Did you know that pineapples are bromeliads? Now you can be President of the United States! 

This is a good picture of the Robinson's dining room, including bamboo cups and steins, and crockery rescued from the shipwreck. What a pleasant place to dine on a warm Florida night! A bowl of ripe fruit hints at the bounty that their island home provided.

I included this one even though it is awfully dark. I'm not familiar enough with the Magic Kingdom to know what that structure is in the distance - do you know? We can see a small portion of the ingenious waterworks. And let's face it, tiki torches make everything cooler.


Nanook said...


Once again, thanks to "Mr. X" for more great nighttime images.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Back in the early days, the attraction was known as "Swiss Family Island Treehouse" (at least in the guide booklets) since it's on an island surrounded by the waters the the Plaza Swan Boats passed through. You have to cross a bridge to get to the island tree house. In the last image, that looks like the cluster of Adventureland Shops (Tropic Toppers, Oriental Imports, The Magic Carpet, Tiki Tropic Shop and Traders of Timbuktu) that lie between the Adventureland Veranda and the passage to Frontierland.

These are amazingly clear for being taken at night. Thank you, Mr. X and Major.

Pegleg Pete said...

Great pics, today. Thanks Major - and thanks Mr X! I've always found that all of the Disney parks' Adventurelands are best enjoyed after dark.

Chuck said...

I think Ken's guess as to the location of the third photo is correct. The entrance bridge between the "mainland" and the treehouse island originates just to the east of those shops. The large curved archway flanked by two smaller archways in the center of the photo is part of a portico that sticks out to the right of what is now called Island Traders. The sign for the shop today is hung over the lighted opening in the left of the image, just above the lighted lamp and to the left of the water buckets. Here's a more recent photo that also shows a portion of the portico ( and here's a side view (

Ken mentioned the Adventureland Veranda, which closed in 1994 and has only been open seasonally since. This represented a huge chunk of underutilized real estate right at the entrance to Adventureland, and after the closure, it seemed odd to have to walk a loooong way into the land to get to anything. In a bit of good news, the former Veranda reopened on Dec 16th as the "Skipper Canteen,"
a new restaurant themed to the Jungle Cruise ( The concept sounds intriguing, and it's certainly better than what's been there for most of the past 22 years.

I second Pegleg Pete's assessment about Adventureland at night. The subdued lighting, the torches, the sound effects, and the close, tropical vegetation give it a special ambiance that's unmistakable.

I remember walking in Waikiki one evening with a teammate and stopping suddenly, trying to identify a particular combination of senses that seemed so familiar but I couldn't quite place. Then it dawned on me, and I said out loud "it's Adventureland after dark!" I'm sure my companion thought I was quite mad.

K. Martinez said...

Chuck, I remember the Adventureland Veranda well. I had eaten there a few times and it was always my favorite restaurant at the Magic Kingdom back in the 1970's. It's my opinion that the Magic Kingdom's Adventureland (including Caribbean Plaza) was the best "land" in the Park back then. Not sure about now. Also, the Adventureland Veranda actually closed permanently after being open seasonally and was replaced with a meet and greet if I remember correctly. This of course was all before the Jungle Cruise Skipper Canteen came along.

As for Waikiki I used to know that place on the same level as I do Disneyland and WDW. Now so much has changed with the hotels cutting off access to their gardens and grounds by walling up areas and the overdevelopment that a walk down Kalakaua Avenue isn't as magical as it used to be. At least for me it isn't and I've been going since the early 1970's. Back then, Waikiki was wonderful.

Again, thanks for the wonderful research. I had to look in my guide booklet from 1972 to remember the names of the Adventureland shops that were there at the time these photos were taken.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, he does read the blog once in a while, so hopefully he’ll see your comment!

K. Martinez, huh, I never knew that the WDW treehouse was on an island. Interesting. And cool! Could the Swan Boats pass under the bridge? Thanks also for the info on the nearby shops.

Pegleg Pete, I agree with you, and could almost say that about all the lands. Arguably!

Chuck, I’m glad to hear that the Magic Kingdom reopened that Veranda as the “Skipper’s Canteen”… it drives me nuts to see closed shops, restaurants, and attractions when I go to Disneyland, and it would do the same at WDW. I am very surprised that you actually had a Disney park moment while in Waikiki!! Thanks for doing all of that research.

K. Martinez, ugh, meet and greets… I guess there is something wrong with me, because I do like seeing the characters in the parks, and I know it is fun for kids (and a lot of adults, apparently) to have their pictures taken with their favorite princess (or whatever), but the concept of waiting in a long line to do so is nuts to me. Those people who waited 3 hours (or more) for Anna and Elsa… I just don’t get it, clearly. They DO realize that "Elsa" is a person in a costume, don't they?

K. Martinez said...

Major and readers. In this link you can take a ride on the Plaza Swan Boats as it passes the landmarks of the Magic Kingdom along its entire route including around the Swiss Family Treehouse island.

Chuck said...

Thanks for sharing the video, Ken. I never rode the Swan Boats, so this is a perspective I never had a chance to see.

On a related note, I found a picture of a Swan Boat going under the treehouse island's exit bridge, taken from the entrance bridge: Fun fact - the two bridges are not identical. As you can see here, the exit is over a truss bridge, while the entrance is a suspension bridge. They are also significantly different in flavor.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

I can’t look at these without hearing the Swisskapolka in my head.


Both the 1971 and 1978 issue of Walt Disney World's attraction poster is printed as SWISS FAMILY ISLAND TREEHOUSE (I show this in my attraction poster blog spot on WDW 1971 posters . While smaller in size, it uses the same artwork as the original Disneyland treehouse poster with "ISLAND" added to the title. Sometimes vintage signage and printed material refer to it as ISLE as opposed to ISLAND. -Mike


I always liked how WDW's Treehouse was on an island - and while I loved the Plaza Swan Boats , I didn't like the Swan Boats coming into Adventureland .... They were a visual distraction inside Adventureland to me. For the opening of WDW the Swisskapolka was completely re- recorded for use in the Florida park . By 1973 Disneyland also began using the new Florida version of the recording .

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, thanks for the link to the video. It looks very 80’s! Don’t you think it’s weird that the driver tells the passengers that the tree for the Swiss Family Treehouse is not real? I would think that they would want to preserve some sort of illusion. It’s almost like a studio tour in which the goal is to strip back the curtains, so to speak. I don’t know, it just surprised me.

Chuck, I think I would have enjoyed those Swan Boats… it’s a real shame that they don’t exist anymore.

Monkey Cage Kurt, it’s a catchy tune! You could do worse, if you have to have a song stuck in your head.

Mike Cozart, I went back to your blog to look at the excellent WDW poster photos, and I see how the world “Island” was shoe-horned in!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Are you kidding? I found Swisskapolka on YouTube and have been listening to it for hours now. It SO ROCKS!!!

Major, don’t you think it’s one of those “no real trees were harmed in the making of this tree house” kind of things? People are very sensitive now that we have reached such heights of enlightenment.