Tuesday, March 28, 2017

WDW Guide, 1979 Part 1

1979. The "Happy Meal" was introduced. The Sony Walkman was for sale in Japan for the first time. Jimmy Carter was President. "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "The Muppet Movie" premiered. In other words, it was the greatest year ever!

Today I have an original, never previously posted (!) article, courtesy of Ken Martinez, featuring a guide to Walt Disney World from 1979. I'm going to "copy/paste" his article to avoid any screwups on my part. Here's Ken:

Walt Disney World Guide – The Magic Kingdom 1979 (Part 1)

Here’s a guide from my second trip to Walt Disney World.  My first visit was in 1978. I visited again in 1979, 1983 and 1984.  I haven’t been back since.  In this particular post I’ll just give my impressions of those early trips I took to Walt Disney World.

Here’s the cover to “Your complete guide to the Walt Disney World Vacation Kingdom” booklet which primarily covered the Magic Kingdom in detail.  These were handed out to visitors of the Magic Kingdom.  At least that’s how I got mine.

Here’s the table of contents and transportation schedule.  I was well aware of what Walt Disney World had to offer before my first trip.  It was an obsession of mine to visit the place since I was 11 years old when it opened in 1971.  I knew from various articles and magazines that I wanted to see such attractions as ‘Mickey Mouse Revue” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “If You Had Wings”.  I read everything I could get my hands on at the local library before taking my first trip in 1978.

As with most Disney park guides there’s always a section on helpful information and contacts.  These early guide booklets were more elaborate than what is given out today at the parks.  Now it’s just a multi-folded single sheet.

One of the strange things about hearing that Magic Kingdom was larger than Disneyland is that when I first visited I was surprised that it really wasn’t that much bigger than Disneyland.  The buildings were taller, but Main Street for the most part felt about the same size as Disneyland’s.  At least the streets themselves didn’t feel that much larger.  It was the Plaza itself that felt absolutely huge and spread out.  I rode the Walt Disney World Railroad and saw The Walt Disney Story.  While the steam locomotives were cool, the actual grand circle tour wasn’t all that interesting to me back at the time.  I do remember a few fake alligators along the route though. I was totally impressed with the Main Street Station, but had a ham & cheese sandwich from the ‘Station Break” snack bar under the Station that was awful.

Adventureland was my favorite land in the Magic Kingdom.  I went on every attraction there and dined at both the Adventureland Veranda and Sunshine Tree Terrace.  I think Adventureland Veranda was my favorite place to eat and a favorite for atmosphere.  I really liked Swiss Family Treehouse and Jungle Cruise, but found Pirates of the Caribbean disappointing.  I remember being really disappointed when I had to get out of the boat before it went up the hill.  That and the ride seemed much shorter than the original.  Caribbean Plaza was really cool though and I remember all the fountains working because I looked for them knowing they existed from reading about it before hand.  Adventureland was truly my favorite.

I don’t remember much about Frontierland except mostly the construction of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with the steel skeletal structure rising and on a later visit seeing partially completed rock formations and lots of scaffolding.  I only did Country Bear Jamboree and Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland, but rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on later visits.  It was my favorite roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom and much better than Disneyland’s in my opinion.  It just seemed more intense.

In Liberty Square I went on the Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents and one of the Liberty Square Riverboats in Liberty Square. I don’t remember which riverboat I went on though.  I skipped the Keel Boats because it covered the same scenery as the Riverboats.  I actually enjoyed Disney World’s Haunted Mansion more than Disneyland’s.  As for the Hall of Presidents, the preshow really tried my patience.  I already knew a lot of the history they were presenting and I just wanted to get onto the presidents themselves in all their Audio-Animatronic glory.  That part did impress me.

I went on every ride here except Snow White’s Scary Adventures and the spinner rides.  I’m sorry I missed the Snow White ride, but figured the Carrousel, Tea Cups and Dumbo were the same at both parks so I skipped those.  I mainly focused on rides that took me to me from point A to point B or were unique to the Magic Kingdom.  Strong memories here for me were descending into the interior load area of It’s  Small World and floating by the windows of the Pinocchio Village Haus restaurant with diners overlooking the boats floating by.  I thought that was cool.  Another strong memory is the queue structure for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which I thought was pretty cool.  From the Mickey Mouse Revue, I mostly remember the silhouette of Cinderella and prince Charming projected onto the curtain/screen.  It’s funny what sticks with us from long ago memories.

I remember the entrance to Tomorrowland being really cool, but that the rest of the land was lots and lots of concrete.  If You Had Wings was my favorite ride here and I was well aware of its existence before my first trip to WDW so it was a must do for me.  I really liked Space Mountain here, especially the queue load area where you could look up and see the entire coaster structure with “rocket” vehicles whizzing by in the darkness.  From what I understand, it’s now covered up.  Now Carousel of Progress contains a bit of irony for me because I’m a west coaster.  In all the years I visited Disneyland it’s one of the few rides I didn’t go on.    I finally decided to go on it when visiting Disney World.  Now most GDB readers have a strong connection to the song “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” when talking about Carousel of Progress, but for me “The Best Time of You Life” is the song that I associate with Carousel of Progress.  I didn’t bother with Mission to Mars or America the Beautiful because I figured they were the same as Disneyland.  Everything else I went on.  I remember returning in 1983 and being disappointed that the pylon waterfalls were removed.

1979 was probably my favorite year at Walt Disney World because by then, Tom Sawyer Island, Caribbean Plaza and much of Tomorrowland was added.  In addition, most everything from the beginning was still there including the Mickey Mouse Revue, Plaza Swan Boats, Explorer Canoes, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and If You Had Wings as well as the waterfall pylons of the Tomorrowland Entrance.  After that, things started disappearing here and there.  My last trip to the Magic Kingdom was in 1984.  Notice that Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes and Plaza Swan Boats are shown here on the map, but not on the individual attractions list.

Since I haven’t been back in over 30 years, lots of these memories have faded, but I what I shared are key memories that have stayed with me from those trips.  Hope you enjoyed.  Coming next: Part 2 covering The “Vacation Kingdom.”

Thank you very much to Ken Martinez! As he said, part 2 is coming right up.


Nanook said...


Once again, seeing this brochure and hearing your telling of the times spent at WDW brings back a flood of my own memories from my many visits there. I too, agree that Adventureland may be my favorite land at WDW, with a special nod to Caribbean Plaza. Thanks to a friend who worked there beginning in the early 1980's, I was able to lead myself on an after-hours, self-guided walk-thru of the entire park, and Adventureland stands out as the most impressive of all the lands - especially after dark, with all its interesting walkways, narrow passages, water features, and impressive lighting all in full operation. Truly wonderful.

Thanks, Ken, for the memories.

TokyoMagic! said...

Well, that's a cool little item! Yeah, Pirates of the Caribbean is terribly disappointing at WDW. I guess they were trying to save a few bucks?

I was also obsessed with Walt Disney World, once I found out that it existed. It just took me longer to get there to see it and unfortunately by the time I did, so much of the damage had already been done.

Thanks for sharing more of your collection with us, Ken!

DrGoat said...

I've never been to WDW. A friend tells me I should go at least once but I don't think that's going to happen. He thinks I'm an Anaheim Disneyland snob. Maybe he's right. In any event, 1979 was a pretty good year. I got to Disneyland twice that year, I think and a decent guy for president, imagine that.

Pegleg Pete said...

Yes, 1979 was probably WDW's Magic Kingdom at its peak: all the classics were in situ and they hadn't yet started removing things. Adventureland was always my favourite land too – it's a shame they've made it so cluttered in recent years with the Flying Carpets. As for WDW's Pirates, you probably know already that it was something of an afterthought, as the Disney execs originally thought that a Caribbean-themed attraction wouldn't be exotic enough for Florida. Its success in CA, however, meant that people expected it at WDW as well. Given its rushed planning, it is impressive indeed how well Caribbean Plaza turned out. Without the bayou introduction, however, the attraction itself can't help but lack so much of the atmosphere which renders the Disneyland original so potent. Thanks for the post, Major. And thanks, Ken, for the comments.

Anonymous said...

Ken, thank you very much for sharing your memories. I hope we had as much fun reading them as you must have had living and re-living them.

I've never visited WDW, but my memories of Disneyland are some of my most treasured experiences.

It's good to hear your take on the differences between the parks. I have an opportunity to travel for business to Orlando in a few months, I've been wondering if a WDW side trip would be worth it. Now I'm considering it a little more seriously.

While at Disneyland last week (I squeezed a day into that business trip), I heard people in the POC queue saying how awesome the Disneyland version was compared to the WDW one they "have at home". I rode POC 3x that day. I'd much rather do that than ride "Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Broken Ride Mechanisms".

Pegleg Peter, I did not know the POC was such an afterthought at WDW, thanks for the insight! Have they added IJ to WDW yet? Maybe it would work better there.

As always, Major and the commenters, thanks for the post and the comments. Often the best part of my day is spent here remembering stuff with all of you.


K. Martinez said...

Nanook, While all the other "lands" of the Magic Kingdom seem to echo the feel of those found in Disneyland for the most part, it was Adventureland that felt completely different than it's California counterpart. It is right up there with Tomorrowland 1967 as one of my favorite themed areas created for a Disney park and Caribbean Plaza is definitely a part of what made it great.

TokyoMagic!, I always thought of WDW's Pirates as a sort of Reader's Digest condensed version. I will say that it has a cool queue and building though. I read somewhere that Marc Davis didn't want guests going up the waterfall for reasons of "show" so that is why guests unload at the bottom. I don't understand that, because going "up the waterfall" as Julie Reihm would say was one of the highlights of Disneyland's POTC for me.

DrGoat, I'm sure your life will be just as satisfactory if you don't ever make it to WDW. And for the reasons you said, 1979 was a pretty good year.

Pegleg Pete, What's even more disappointing about WDW's Pirates is that it seemed to be the replacement for the "Western River Expedition" and Big Thunder Mountain the nail in the coffin. It would've been awesome to have something unique for the East Coast. I do agree with you about the Aladdin/Flying Carpets overlay of downtown Adventureland. It does detract from what otherwise was a perfect theme area.

K. Martinez said...

JG, If you are on a business trip in Orlando, you should definitely check it out. I mean that's as close as your going to get to the place. Keep in mind that WDW is huge and has four theme parks. I do recommend reading up on it before going so you know what you want to do with your limited time. It's definitely a more complex place to visit than Disneyland.

Anonymous said...

Sadly nearly all (if not all) the exterior Caribbean Plaza fountains are now planters...really takes away from the atmosphere.

Chuck said...

1979 marked my first WDW experience as well, and probably the zenith of my experiences in the MK (although all of the TVs we saw were made by RCA). I probably still have this guidebook in storage somewhere; I know I spent hours looking at it and comparing it to the Disneyland INA guides.

As you guys have commented, in 1979 pretty much everything that speaks "classic" WDW was still in place. About the only thing that cosmetically marred my visit that year was the big construction site on the far side of the Rivers of America; operationally, the only hiccup was that the Jungle Cruise was down for annual rehab.

Ken, I remember those animatronic 'gators along the tracks behind the Haunted Mansion. I also remember being disappointed at the lack of stuff to see along the WDW RR - no Grand Canyon, no Primeval World, no trestle, no Painted Desert, no ever-present berm. I don't even remember seeing a telephone pole.

I also recall the half-skinned animatronic owl at the exit to the Walt Disney Story that was talking about being the star of an upcoming attraction. Knowing what I know now, I find it odd that he was still advertising the aborted Western River Expedition as Big Thunder Mountain was under construction.

I think the MK really is considerably bigger than Disneyland, but because it maintains the same proportions, it's not as noticeable unless you're really paying attention or visit the two in close proximity. I can recall walking down Main Street at the MK on my first visit and my dad commenting "wow - everything's bigger!"

I didn't get back to Disneyland for another 14 years, with a couple of intervening WDW trips along the way, and by the time I did, I was shocked at just how much smaller everything seemed at the California Park (which is just fine with me). Then, after a couple of years of regular Disneyland visits, I got back to WDW and felt what can only be described as mild agoraphobia. Things seemed too big along Main Street and the Plaza, and I could actually pick out the atmospheric haze looking across the hub.

(Brief aside...when I came back to Disneyland as a 25-year-old after my last previous visit as a 7-year-old, everything looked familiar but smaller. Then I tried a trick Walt is reported as using - stooping down to see the Park as a child would see it. Suddenly, everything was the right height again. Regular Park-goers - give it a try and see if you have a similar experience).

I believe I've commented on it before, but my wife and I refer to the WDW version of POTC as "Highlights From 'Pirates of the Caribbean.'"

JG, WDW's truncated POTC was a victim of rushed implementation and a tight budget forced partly by revenue lost due to the 1973 oil crisis. Construction of POTC East and Space Mountain coupled with the oil crisis losses ate the budget for that now-legendary, lost Marc Davis E-ticket attraction, the Western River Expedition.

Please give a WDW side trip serious thought. It can be crowded as heck, a lot of what was built in the '70s has been remuddled out of all recognizability, and EPCOT, er, I mean "Epcot" has lost its thematic focus, but I think you'll find the trip worthwhile.

It's interesting to see the different interpretations of the same concepts that you're so familiar with in Disneyland. It's also fun to see ride design elements that were a necessity in CA (waterfall flumes and stretching rooms) that were so cleverly worked into the storyline that they were carried into their FL counterparts even though they weren't needed there.

Thanks again, Ken, for another great memory-jogger!

Nanook said...

@ JG-

What Ken and Chuck said: You should really try to map-out some time for a visit. Depending on the time of year - just be aware of the potential for crowds. But then again if you've been to Disneyland, you know all about that-!

@ Chuck-

At the beginning, at least, the proper way(s) to identify WDW's second park was either EPCOT or Epcot Center. God only knows what passes for "correctness", these days. I presume your use of quotes was directed at the lack of a real 'community of tomorrow'...

K. Martinez said...

Anonymous, you're right. It is a shame they filled in those fountains. I was bummed when I learned they did that.

Chuck, AWESOME! You've confirmed my memories of those AA gators along the WDW-RR. I always wondered if it was a false memory of mine or they really existed. And I do remember them being near the back of Rivers of America, so the Haunted Mansion location sounds about right. And yeah, no telephone poles might've been the reason for my less than enamored view of the RR. ;) Again, you add so much to these posts by sharing your personal memories in detail with us. I always enjoy reading them. Thank you, Chuck!

Dean Finder said...

There's no Indiana Jones ride at WDW, but the Dinosaur (formerly Countdown to Extinction) ride at Animal Kingdom is the same track plan and very similar vehicles, just with a very different storyline.

Nancy said...

1979 was the year of my first visit. it was only for the afternoon, but I have such great memories of that first vacation! :)

Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Ken.