Saturday, October 01, 2016

Happy 45th, Walt Disney World!

You all know GDB to be primarily about Disneyland, but I have an appreciation for Walt Disney World too. That massive park debuted on October 1st, 1971, which means that today marks the 45th anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World. As a kid I remember seeing a lot of publicity and I  wanted to go there SO much. But, 45 years later, I've still never set foot in Florida.

I don't have any amazing opening day photos to share, but I do have a few nice random images from the park's first few years. Like this beautiful November 1974 photo of the entrance to Tomorrowland! There are those distinctive pylons, which additionally served as fountains. The smooth turquoise walls also had water cascading over them - a nice touch. 

In the distance is the Star Jets, which had just opened this year - in fact, they might not even be open yet in this photo, since they debuted on November 28th. That attraction sits above the station where the Peoplemover would be in 1975.

Look at that beautiful Florida sky! 

Next is a photo from November of 1971 - the park was only weeks old. Hey, there are the Three Caballeros! José Carioca (a parrot), Panchito Pistoles (a rooster), and Donald Duck. Talk about colorful! I love seeing Donald with a serape, and a sombrero perched at a jaunty angle on his head. The small glimpse of Frontierland shows that it is very clean and tidy. Tom Sawyer Island (in the background) would not open until May of 1973.

And finally, here is a nice photo of one of the Swan Boats as it made its way around a waterway that led through Fantasyland and (as seen here) Adventureland. Notice the pieces of ship's hardware to our right, a sign that we are near the Swiss Family Treehouse. 

The Swan Boats opened on May 20th, 1973; apparently the boats experienced frequent mechanical issues and were difficult to maintain. The ride was eventually closed in August of 1983.

Happy 45th Birthday, Walt Disney World!


walterworld said...

What a fun day this must have been. Thanks for remembering Major.

Patrick Devlin said...

Gee, Major, I always thought you had seen the Florida version of the Magic Kingdom :) I now feel I'm in decent company.

That entrance shot to Tomorrowland is beautiful, or rather the entrance itself is simply beautiful. It's always a shame to see great design go by the ways due to the cost of maintenance or budget.

It's also remarkable how skilled the helms-woman on the Swan Boat is: so skilfully has she lined up the approach to the narrow straits ahead she has no need to keep her hands on the helm.

TokyoMagic! said...

In that first pic....what are those women (on either side of the lady in green) wearing on their heads? I still have my squeaky Donald Duck hat like the one in the bottom left hand corner of the pic!

Is the cast member piloting the Swan Boat wearing a clear raincoat or was she stuck in some heavy-duty spider webbing?

Leonard Bast said...

Great pictures of WDW at its start, which is when I knew it best. The Swan Boats actually didn't go into Fantasyland. The ride began at a small pavilion opposite Tomorrowland, with the boats going on a clockwise direction along the canal that circled the hub. After passing Main Street, the boats looped into Adventureland and circled the Swiss Family Island Tree House before returning to the hub and then around under the castle "drawbridge" and back to the start. It was an uneventful journey, but afforded pleasant views and was restful for the exhausted. The views from under the castle (you were literally at its base in the "moat") were more than pleasant. With the massive castle looming over you from that angle, those views were truly amazing. Whatever the reason for closing the ride, I have to doubt the "mechanical issues" and/or "difficult maintenance" explanations that were no doubt given by the company at the time. I could be mistaken, but I have a hard time imagining that they were any more difficult to maintain than the Jungle Cruise boats, since they were essentially the same.

K. Martinez said...

Happy 45th Anniversary, Walt Disney World!

There's the Tomorrowland I remember with it's beautiful pylon water falls.

I love "The Three Caballeros" in Frontierland photo. It's a classic image like "The Aristocats" in Fantasyland photos from the 1970's.

I always loved how the Plaza Swan Boats circled around the Swiss Family Island Treehouse before continuing along the Hub Waterway.

Wonderful images today. All of them! Thanks, Major.

Pegleg Pete said...

Great images of WDW at its best – thanks, Major! Tomorrowland looks so inviting in that first picture. I also still have my squeaky Donald hat that I got on my first visit to the Magic Kingdom in the summer of '73. Unfortunately it doesn't fit me anymore, but the bill still squeaks!

Chuck said...

Holy smokes! Totally forgot today was the MK's 45th. That means that I must be...older than that.

Just got word that my brother-in-law and his wife are there right now. According to his Facebook post, "it's a zoo." I told him he must have gone to Animal Kingdom by mistake.

Brings back memories of my wife and I driving down from South Carolina for the 25th birthday celebration. That was the year they made Cinderella Castle look like a giant, Pepto-Bismol pink birthday cake.

I remember being packed into the backstage area between Town Square and Tomorrowland and watching Mike Eisner and Hillary Clinton speak from in front of the castle via a giant screen set up on temporary scaffolding. One of Eisner's comments stands out in particular to me, when he looked up at the sky and addressed Herb Ryman, saying "Don't worry, Herb - the castle isn't going to stay that way." Then they set off some dayworks (which where pretty underwhelming on that gray, cloudy day) and the Blue Angels did a fly-by. Then the mobs were released into the rest of the Park. I think we left early.

E Michael Gannon said...

Thank you so much for that picture of the old Tomorrowland entrance. That is the way I remember it from my first visit in 1976 and as far as I am concerned that will ALWAYS be the ideal Tomorrowland for me. I loved the “The Jetsons” / “FutureWorld” (as in the 1976 movie) look of the original classic Tomorrowland and was VERY unhappy with the black-and-gold makeover in the 90’s.

Major Pepperidge said...

walterworld, you’re welcome!

Patrick Devlin, the old Tomorrowland entrance is so clean and simple. I’ve looked at some recent photos, and they’ve added lots of ugly gewgaws that destroy the effect completely. If you could see the helms-woman’s head beneath that hat, you’d see that her cranium is 2 times the size of a normal person. She’s controlling that boat with her brain!

TokyoMagic! they are wearing mops on their heads, silly. I have my squeaky Donald hat too. Boat girl is wearing a transparent rain pancho, I believe.

Leonard Bast, ha ha, so much for me making assumptions. I agree with you, the “mechanical issues” thing sounds like baloney. “What lie can we tell the public so that they won’t come after us with torches and pitchforks?”. “Uh, how about ‘mechanical issues’ with the boats?”. “Brilliant!”.

Pegleg Pete, there was a time when I thought my squeaky hat might be worth some bucks. But they don’t seem to fetch hardly anything! Oh well.

Chuck, I hope those people are enjoying themselves; I would avoid going there on a big anniversary day! Oh boy, that birthday cake overlay, so awful. It’s nice that Herb Ryman was acknowledged by Eisner - and kind of surprising. I wonder how many people in the audience thought, “Walt Disney’s name was HERB?”.

E. Michael Gannon, while I never saw the Magic Kingdom’s “Tomorrowland” overlay, I remember thinking that a Jules Verne overlay sounded potentially cool. The problem was that it was poorly done, and those dark colors turned out to be kind of oppressive. Glad you liked that photo.

Mark H. Besotted said...

Gorgeous stuff today, Major!

I'll always keep WDW in my heart, especially the early years. So nice to see a Swanboat in action.

Nanook said...


I was gonna say - gee, I can't believe it's been 45 years. But it really has seen many changes in the ensuing years - many, not for the best - as these images clearly lay bare.

Thanks, Major for remembering the date, and sharing these early images of Disney's 'east coast' park.

Melissa said...

The original Tomorrowland entrance is one of my favorite pieces of architecture in the world. I can remember walking between those two giant pylons and feeling like I really was stepping into the future. And then once inside the land, all the architecture tied in beautifully together, all white and blue like a city in the sky. Seeing pictures of it makes my heart hurt just a little bit kmowing that it was replaced with something so ugly, tacky, and cheap looking.

Major, Donald still wears his sombrero and serape to meet and greet outside the Mexico Pavilion in EPCOT. In fact, last time I checked, there's no place to see Donald in his basic sailor costume except during shows and parades.

steve2wdw said...

The original Tomorrowland entrance was spectacular....when the fountains were running. The trouble with the pylon fountains was the wind would whip the spray across the entrance walkway, soaking the walkway and guests alike. During those early years, I remember seeing the fountains off more than on, which was a shame. Without the water running, in my opinion, the pylons were rather ugly. After the fountains were permanently shut off, a new tile pattern was introduced, but they never looked as good without the water. Once they were removed, the view of the hub was dramatically improved from the PeopleMover. Instead of a quick glimpse, you can now see the hub, unobstructed, as the PeopleMover leaves the main concourse on the northern side, near Stitch, and when it reenters the concourse on the south side, near the Laugh Floor.

And just a quick snippet about the Swan Boats.....they originally operated on an electrical guidance system, which from what I've been told, was not reliable. In the end, the CM's guided the boats through the channel using a jet/water propelled system utilizing two steering wheels. The Swan Boats also had two different loading positions....the first being a dock in front of the Plaza Restaurant. There were two topiary swans, one on each side of the pathway to the attraction, directly off Main Street before the bridge to the hub, which signaled the attraction entrance. When the attraction dock moved to a more permanent structure in the rose garden, the original topiaries remained for a long time....maybe until just recently when the hub was renovated and expanded. That original dock had yellow umbrellas and was used as a smoking area until it was demolished.

As for the Swan Boats closure....I believe it was the same disease which closed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. "Bottom-line-itis". Hourly capacity was very low, compared to the high labor to run the attraction, along with the combined maintenance attributed to a water based attraction. I truly miss those graceful boats plying the waterways around the hub, although they were a bit jarring to see while traveling the leg into Adventureland. They didn't quite mesh with the Swiss Family Island Treehouse.

Nancy said...

The original entrance to Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom....It is without a doubt my single favorite image of this park.

Happy Birthday Magic Kingdom AND also to my absolutely favorite place on Earth....EPCOT CENTER, which opened 34 years ago today! :D

Anonymous said...

These are cool, Major. Thank you. I've never been there and probably won't go now, but the pics are interesting to see, especially to compare to Disneyland.

I've seen a lot of architectural fountains (on, in or related to buildings, as opposed to landscape items) in my career, designers never consider effects of wind, splashing, or added humidity on finishes, which are problems even indoors.

Most architectural fountains in projects I've worked on have been shut down or converted into planters in a very short time. It's sad when the effect is essential to the design because then they look like missing teeth.