Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Walt Disney World, November 1971

I'm getting down to the last few slides from Walt Disney World's first month of operation. 

This first one was taken inside the Contemporary Hotel - it shows the huge tile mural designed by Mary Blair, and represents the Grand Canyon and all of its flora, fauna, native peoples, and history. Mary famously included a five-legged goat, though it is not visible here.

Those plastic trees are kooky!  

This next photo seems to have been taken from the top of the Contemporary, looking out toward Bay Lake. You can see for miles! I am assuming that the boat is one of the ferries that brought guests to the Magic Kingdom; as far as I know those 3-story buildings were torn down to make way for the massive Bay Lake Tower - some of the most expensive rooms at the resort!


K. Martinez said...

I love the story of why Mary Blair put the five-legged goat in the Grand Canyon Concourse mural. I don't think those plexi-glass trees lasted that long, but I did like them.

The second view is of the North Garden Wing and Bay Lake, but the view looks too low to be taken from the top of the Contemporary. And yes, it was torn down for the Bay Lake Tower. The ferry boats ran on Seven Seas Lagoon back and forth between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Magic Kingdom docks, not Bay Lake. That is probably a launch touring Bay Lake. The launches going to the Magic Kingdom from Bay Lake would come from the Fort Wilderness dock which is at the sound end of Bay Lake. Now maybe someone knows different, but that's how I knew it.

Always love pics of 70s WDW. Thanks, Major.

Nanook said...


Every time I see an image from the Grand Canyon Concourse of the Contemporary Resort, I always think about its unique smell (more so in its former times), but still there, nonetheless.

Kooky-? Well, why not-!!

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

Man, I love the Contemporary Resort! Everything from the lobby floor to the bathroom wallpaper is elegant but comfortable. If I ever have the money to stay at one of the monorail Resorts, the Contemporary will be the one. I love the Wave Bar, with its cool little alcoves fitted out with black leather banquettes, round coffee tables, and light fixtures that look like something from the transporter room of the Enterprise.

I've met hotel staff at Disney Resorts who are clearly overworked and not having a great day, but all the stuff interaction I've had at the CR has been with people who seemed like they really enjoyed being there.

(BTW, Nixon was a crook.)

Pegleg Pete said...

Great pics today, Major. Thanks as always, but I am sad indeed to learn that we're almost at the end of this series of fantastic photographs.

(Melissa – was Marni Nixon really a crook? As soon as someone dies, the rumours start flying!)

Scott Lane said...

Ken: Yes, that's the way I remember it. Can't imagine what a launch would be doing at the north end of Bay Lake. Particularly that early in the morning. (judging by the angle of the sun)

Nanook: YES! I always thought it was just me that noticed that smell!

The North Wing is where I stayed with my mom & dad on our first visit to WDW in '72 (our room's visible in this photo)....and on our last vacation together in '81. Sad that they're gone. I think the new tower completely screws up the overall design of the hotel.

And I really miss those trees. I wonder if you can get Plastic Tree seeds from Burpee...?

Chuck said...

The launch is probably coming from the maintenance/drydock/out-of-service slip area, located at the extreme NW tip of Bay Lake. Either that or it's patrolling for enemy subs, which were a serious problem during the first couple of years of operation.

Steve DeGaetano said...

What's the story of the five-legged goat?

K. Martinez said...

Steve DeGaetano, Supposedly the five-legged goat in the mural was intentional. When Mary Blair designed the mural she put the five-legged goat "mistake" in the mural according to Native American beliefs that only the gods could create perfection, and all man made creations must be made with an intentional imperfection. Now whether that's true or not, I don't know, but I do like the story and have read about it on several blogs.

Anonymous said...

The South Garden Wing is still standing and is standard guest rooms (not Disney Vacation Club).

I agree with other posters that the DVC tower destroys the symmetry of the resort overall and the grandeur of the original A frame tower.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Well, the Contemporary Hotel holds absolutely no nostalgia factor for me at all, but I definitely wanted to hear more about the freakish goat everyone was talking about (Thanks Ken!). Man! Mary Blair sure seemed to be a tad on the wacky side, but then that’s coming from me.

Never been to the Florida park, but my sister and I have it on our bucket list. I’d love to glide in to that hotel on the Monorail, even if the famous smell is not the same as it once was.

Anonymous said...

I have always been fascinated by the CR, the image of the monorail running right inside is just too cool for words. The Detroit International terminal has a big monorail running right inside the concourse that appears to be a direct architectural successor to this imagery.

When I was a kid, Mary Blair's work seemed weird and out-of-place everywhere but IASW.

May be just nostalgia, but now that I am an adult with grown-up taste, I love it.

The belief in conscious imperfection is widespread in many cultures, notably also in Japan, where the woodwork temples always included tiny flaws indicating humility of the craftsmen.

Cool pics, Major, thanks as always.


Nanook said...

@ Scott Lane-

Either by accident or on purpose, many areas of Disney parks have very unique smells, which are great for triggering strong memory associations. The Grand Canyon Concourse, with its myriad of smells - including those emanating from operation of the Monorail - combine to make a rather unique olfactory cocktail.

Patrick Devlin said...

JG, I know just how you feel regards Mary Blair's work. When I was much younger I only saw accurate, representational art as the "real thing". I got older (something I don't remember doing) and I now admire a great deal more art. Ms. Blair had a mastery of the different media and of form and color. Maybe getting old ain't so bad...

Chuck said...

JG - while it looks similar (and wicked cool, I might add), I'd hesitate to use the term "monorail" to describe DTW's tram system. Rather than running on wheels on a single beam, it runs on cushion of air on a "guideway" that sort of resembles an open-topped raingutter. The trains have no internal motors; motive power is provided by a cable and pulley system (which isn't surprising as the technology was partly developed by the Otis Elevator Company). It's a pretty nifty combination of old and new technology, although I doubt the term "hovercablecar" is ever going to catch on.

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, hmmm, I wonder if the second photo was shot from one of the Contemporary Resort’s rooms? Seems likely, now that you mention it. Thanks for the info about the launches… clearly I know nothing about the WDW watercraft!!

Nanook, I’m trying to imagine the smell of the Grand Canyon Concourse. Not sure I can do it! But I know how other aromas can take me right back to someplace in my childhood.

Melissa, ha ha, “Six Degrees of Richard Nixon”. Didn’t John Lennon experience some significant event at the Contemporary Resort? Maybe that’s when he decided to use too much reverb on all of his songs (and I say this as an admirer… but he did crank up that reverb!).

Pegleg Pete, all good things must come to an end, but I still have lots of good stuff for you in the future!

Scott Lane, some darn kid is taking that launch for a joy ride! This is why, if elected President, I will make teenagers illegal. I will sell you some plastic tree seeds, and give you a deal on my deed to the Brooklyn Bridge!

Chuck, it is well known that Bay Lake was lousy with u-boats for the first few years.

Steve DeGaetano… please read K. Martinez’s comment!

K. Martinez, I’ve always wondered about that story; it seemed odd that Mary Blair would otherwise consider her mural “perfect”, but hey, I didn’t know the woman. I wish there was a two-headed goat too.

Anonymous, it often feels as if today’s executives are not at all concerned with a theme, or if a new structure will negatively effect an area. All they care about is that there are now hundreds of additional rooms. Oh well, their job is to make money, I suppose…

Monkey Cage Kurt, a wacky artist? Who ever heard of such a thing?! ;-) Now Disney needs to breed (or genetically manufacture) their own live 5-legged goats. Take one home with you today! Growing up, the Contemporary Hotel was as iconic as Cinderella Castle… as expensive as it is, I almost feel like there is no other place I would want to stay.

JG, I agree, the Monorail feature is about as cool as it gets. I did not know that Detroit’s airport had a monorail… news to me! I’m not sure I was aware of who Mary Blair was when I was a kid, but I always loved the look of the styling in “Alice in Wonderland” and other films in which she had a prominent role (Peter Pan). Don’t the Japanese also purposely dent ceramics for the same “imperfect” reason?

Nanook, I remember riding “Adventure Thru Inner Space” and the smell was like an old friend. Same with “Pirates”, which everybody remembers.

Patrick Devlin, considering Walt Disney’s desire to bring more and more realism to his animation, it is a wonderful mystery as to why he embraced Mary Blair’s flat colorful style. But I’m so glad he did.

Chuck, whoa, it runs on a cushion of air? That’s pretty cool. It’s a “No-no-rail”. I’ll have to look up that Detroit system and learn more about it.

Nanook said...

@ Major-

Fragrances are a big deal for hotel chains - 'scent branding', if you will. Back in the day, that may have merely been a specific fragrance formulation for their cleaning products. These times, it's all about "marketing" their scents as brand extensions. (Lucky us-!) As if the world really needs more unwanted smells to bombard the senses...

As I've mentioned before, it would seem the 'smells' in the Grand Canyon Concourse were a combination of cleaning products, food/beverage (alcohol) products from their open-air restaurants, perfumes/colognes from the guests, the 'mechanical' odors from the Monorails, and certainly in its formative years - cigarettes. Can't discount that smell, which I would argue when combined with other scents, definitely has its place.

Anonymous said...

@Nanook, makes scents.

@Chuck, fascinating info on the trains. I never knew any of that about WDW.


Anonymous said...

@Patrick Devlin. You're right, I don't recall getting older, but somehow it happened anyway. Glad to know I'm not alone.


Chuck said...

JG - just for clarification, I was describing the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) tram system, not the WDW monorails. WDW's monorails are mechanically similar to the DL monorails - supported by tires on a single beamway, powered by electrical motors onboard the trains, full of excited guests with noses plastered to windows, etc.

TokyoMagic! said...

RIP Marnie Nixon! I remember seeing her name at a very early age on the label of one of my Disney soundtracks. I'm pretty sure it was a Mary Poppins soundtrack. They had her singing the songs from the movie instead of Julie Andrews. However, I'm not sure why they would have ever produced a Mary Poppins soundtrack with someone else doing the lead vocals. I think she sang on some of my other Disney soundtracks as well.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, my grandparents were smokers until I was about 10 years old, and when I was really little I associated the smell of cigarette smoke with them, so for me it was a “happy smell”! Now it’s just gross cigarettes.

JG, again with the puns!

JG II, thanks to constant surveillance, we are never alone.

Chuck, there you go, being all confusing again.

TokyoMagic!, it turns out that Julie Andrews’ singing voice sounded just like Lee Marvin.

Melissa said...

Major, John Lennon sign the paperwork that dissolved his association with the Beatles at the Polynesian Resort, just down the monorail a piece.

The smell of Wintergreen always takes me back to my grandfather's chewing tobacco, and it's always a hugely comforting scent for me.