Monday, June 21, 2021

The Magic Kingdom, December 1978

Let's take a trip to Florida! Walt Disney World, to be precise. 1978. 

This first one was kind of a mystery to me, I confess. I did not know of a riverboat named the "Empress Lilly" (the name is just visible on the sign at the stern), so I had to do a little research. Wikipedia says: The structure originally known as the Empress Lilly is a static full-size replica of a paddle steamer riverboat on Village Lake. It is 220 feet long and 62 feet wide. Though it resembles a paddle steamer boat, it is actually a boat-shaped building on a submerged concrete foundation.

It opened on May 1, 1977 (thanks for the correction, TokyoMagic!), when it was christened by Walt Disney's widow, Lillian Disney, for whom it was named. It originally housed four separate entertainment and dining areas.

The Empress Lilly closed in 1995, and has undergone several major overhauls, and is now a restaurant called "Paddlefish". 

Here's a familiar view looking north on Main Street. I wonder why that enormous crane is looming over Cinderella Castle? If anybody has an idea, please chime in. Many guests near us are facing to the right, leading me to believe that one or more Disney characters are just out of frame. 

Next is this photo of the massive Haunted Mansion. I might ordinarily assume that the doorway in this photo is the front door, but my understanding is that guest do not enter there - or exit from there, for that matter. At first I thought I could see a light fixture inside the darkened doorway, but realized that it is just a few yellow leaves. 

Next is this nice photo of some lovely totem poles - old friends that used to be on display at the Indian Village at Disneyland until that closed in 1971. 

Some of you may be familiar with this wonderful backstage photo that appeared in a 1963 issue of "National Geographic". Match some of the totems from the previous photo to the picture below!

And this last one might be my favorite, a beautiful look along the Rivers of America, with a single raft (only two people on board??) to Tom Sawyer Island. All of the trees make for a lovely scene, and of course the Spooky mansion peeks up in the distance. I'm not sure what the structure is in the foreground, does anybody know?

I hope you've enjoyed your visit to Walt Disney World!


Nanook said...

I think those are two CM's on that raft.

Thanks, Major.


The Empress Lilly Riverboat was such an icon of Walt Disney World. It’s location was key as there were plans for that side of the lake for a resort hotel called NEW ORLEANS SQUARE . The Empress Lilly would have been part of the complex. The NEW ORLEANS SQUARE resort used facades directly lifted from Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. You can probably find images from the proposal packet for this inbuilt resort on line as copies of it show up for sale now and then.

This totem poles are also used over at Fort Wilderness Campground and can be seen along the canoe waterways.

Walt Disney World’s Tom Sawyer Island was much more elaborate than the Disneyland predecessor - and because of the weather it features covered loading and unloading docks for the raft passengers.

I liked when WDW’s Haunted Mansion was painted as it appears in these images . It looked realistic like a real structure that maybe was vacant for a decade or two ... or is it? Now it’s overly painted and weathered making it appear too “ amusement park spooky house”. Too many current designers and imagineers never learned the WED art of restraint and refinement and go strait for the low-brow, in your face way theming.
.............”they ruin everything ......”

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I listed that exact same opening date (for the Empress Lily), on my current blog post. And I had also gotten that date from Wikipedia, which we all know is NEVER wrong. ;-) Anyway, someone corrected me in the comments, and then I double checked the opening date with the Disney Wiki site. The opening date for the Empress Lilly was one year later, in 1977. That darn Wikipedia!

As Mike stated, the loading dock for the TSI Rafts at WDW are covered. That cover/structure is what we are seeing in the last photo:

I love early WDW photos! Thanks for sharing these with us, Major!

Chuck said...

Note the wreath on the Empress Lily. Man, I hate it when they overdo Christmas decorations like that.

Note the scaffolding on the west side of Main Street. The crowd might also be watching the barbershop quartet or a musical ensemble performing. That crane was also visible during Lou’s December 1978 visit, too.

Note the black wreath hiding in the shadows on the front door to the Haunted Mansion.

Are those totem poles actually Disneyland refugees or just cast from the same molds?

Odd that they had a headstone for Huck Finn’s dad right there at the raft landing.

Mike, I vaguely remember the totem poles at the Fort Wilderness campground. Were they over by the Meadow Trading Post, where the pool is and canoe rental? I rented a canoe in 1998 and tried to paddle a loop through the back country canals, but one section about 4/5 of the way around counterclockwise was so badly silted up and had a few fallen logs across the canal that I gave up and paddled back the way I had come. Despite my inability to make complete loop, I was rewarded with agreat view of a couple of the abandoned Fort Wilderness RR bridges, though, which is what I was looking for anyway.

Pegleg Pete said...

Great photographs today, Major – thanks! It would make sense that the Totem Poles were relocated to WDW from Anaheim as the Magic Kingdom opened around the time Disneyland's Indian Village was replaced by Bear Country. As the poles were sited where Big Thunder Mountain would rise later in the decade, does anyone know if that was when they were moved to Fort Wilderness or were some of them there from the beginning?

Andrew said...

I just fixed the Wikipedia date for the Empress Lilly, TM!

I think I see a Skyway tower in Fantasyland beyond the castle.

The totem pole picture captures the WDW atmosphere well - wide open areas... and no people. ;-) Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Wow, Andrew...I'm impressed! I've never known anyone that was registered (or whatever it is you have to do) to be able to make changes on Wikipedia. (By the way, there are a LOT of errors on the Knott's Berry Farm Wikipedia pages!)

Pegleg Pete, the last time I was at WDW, there were still some totem poles in Frontierland. They were in a planter, near the edge of the Rivers of America across from the former Canoe landing. They are easy to miss, because the trees have really grown up around them. I'm assuming when Big Thunder was built, some or all of the totem poles were moved to this current site in Frontierland?

TokyoMagic! said...

I sometimes forget that we have Google "street view" for reference. Here is the view of the remaining totem poles at the park. I'll have to look through the photos from my last trip, because I seem to remember them being hidden by trees and/or shrubbery. Of course, it's very possible that Disney whacked down all of the growth. They do like killing trees, ya know.,-81.5841402,3a,75y,346.15h,109.41t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sXK2zSHwy-o_wrGTs5khJYg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Chuck said...

Andrew, good work! Let's see how long it stays correct...

TM!, anybody cam correct a Wikipedia entry, even if you haven't registered an account with them. I've done it a few times myself. Unfortunately, sometimes "helpful" people like to "fix" your corrections, and you will often times find your correction switched back to the incorrect info. As we often find with Disney "facts," urban legends (sometimes concocted by the publicity department) spread like weeds and are nearly impossible to kill. To quote the newspaper reporter in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

Chuck said...

Ha! I have a typo in a paragraph about editing and making corrections. "...anybody can correct a Wikipedia entry..."

Anonymous said...

Well crud. I had written a long comment only to have it vanish when I clicked on a picture to double check myself. And it was the most wonderful comment ever in the history of all comments! Oh well...I shall try to replicate...
The Empress Lilly had a wonderful character breakfast! I have some pictures of my daughter there when she was five (she's 31 now). I also have a button they gave out at the meal.
I agree with Chuck on the second one. Its much more likely that the folks are watching performers rather than a character. In fact, I can't remember characters ever being on Main Street (although I'm sure they had to be).
That is indeed the front door of rhe Haunted Mansion. Guests gain access through doors on the left side of the structure, about at basement level. The MK mansion is a bit longer than the DL version. Interesting fact, in just about all the pictures of Imagineers messing about with Haunted Mansion props (and the behind the scenes footage from the Osmonds episode of WWD) actually shows the MK props, which were made along side of the DL props.
I've never been to Fort Wilderness, so I know nothing of the poles. Sorry!
The last shot indeed shows the covered dock in the forground, a raft heading towards it, and another covered dock on the island. I love the MK island and I made sure my grandson experienced it too! (He loved it as well). It is rather large and, in fact, you can get a bit disoriented at times. The fort is still open, although Aunt Polly's usually isn't (WDW folks know what I'm talking about)
Great pics of my "home park" today, Major! Thanks!

Bu said...

I don’t have any solid memories of WDW- my first visit was in ‘82 for the opening of EPCOT and then there were a couple of employee trips after that- not working- but something that Cast Activities arranged every year. $400 for plane, hotel, tickets, backstage tour, ground transportation etc. for 7 days. Sounds crazy now, and back then it was kind of crazy too! That crane and the scaffolding…hmmm…looks like filming crazy to me…but who knows. There was a very distinct rivalry between DL and WDW. WDW was known to not be so “show” conscious- so you would see crumbling paint, scaffolding, maintenance people working during open hours, etc. employees would visit WDW, and bring back horror photos to fuel the “we are better” rivalry. I honestly think after spending loads of time in FL that things crumbled exponentially faster than in the OC. So makes sense they would have to be “on it” more. I do remember when Lilly Belle opened, and when I visited I ate on board…I don’t remember anything about it except perhaps mahogany paneling. I saw the “re-do”. Wow…they DO ruin everything. The only fine cuisine memory I have was a dinner at the Golf Resort- the Gold Coast Room (?) someone correct me here. I had one of the best steaks of my life, paired with great wine, great service at at that time in my life, probably the most “fancy” dining experience. The Golf Resort wasn’t linked by any transport that I remember…I think we had to get a cab or something else to get us there. For any other memories, I will have to consult my past life regression therapist.

DrGoat said...

I'm just happy the totem poles made it and are still on display. Don't know if they were cast from the same molds or if they are the original. I'm going with the original, just 'cause. Looks like there are one or two that I don't recognize from the ones from Anaheim, but I could be wrong.
Andrew, good work. We all benefit from that youthful energy to do stuff, that you exercise very well.
Thanks Major.

JG said...

I do remember that Nat Geo pic, we had the original magazine for a while. Lost now of course.

I have a fine PDF copy if anyone wants it, LMK.

I like that Haunted Mansion, but the Shipley-Lydecker model is still my favorite.

Thanks Major!


Nanook said...

I feel your pain-! More than once for one reason or another, "brilliantly-written" commentary vanished into the great ether. Would strongly-suggest either copying all your text before 'clicking-away', or simply compose it all in Word, or the like. Having to re-compose long [lost] thoughts in the past caused this author to 'curse like a sailor'-!

Anonymous said...

Aye, cursing is appropriate, says I.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, yes, that was my guess too!

Mike Cozart, interesting that there was going to be a sort of “New Orleans Square” in Walt Disney World, even if it was a resort hotel. I can’t imagine that they would have managed to evoke the real New Orleans the way Disneyland’s version does, but who knows. I’m glad that those totem poles are still there - do you know if they are actually carved wood? Or fiberglass? Maybe they started out as carved and now fiberglass copies are on display (40+ years is a long time for wooden things to survive in that Florida climate). I didn’t know they’d changed the exterior of the WDW Haunted Mansion to make it spookier. SO DUMB! They really don’t get it.

TokyoMagic!, believe it or not, I probably wrote this blog post three months ago (if not more), so I had not seen your own blog post with the Empress Lily yet! And as usual, even if I research something, I usually forget the info within a short time because then I am researching 10 other posts in the mean time. Thanks for the correction on the date! And thanks for the info on the TWI Raft docks!

Chuck, good eye on those Christmas decorations, especially the wreath on the Mansion’s door (hard to see on my monitor). As for the crowd, I was thinking it was possible that they could be listening to a tour guide too. Hard to say of course. The totem poles are the same ones, I believe, since they’d been removed from the closed Indian Village. They were also repainted in much more muted colors, as you can see. “Was Pap”, ha ha! I’m fascinated by the idea that a guest could take a canoe around those canals - it would really feel like exploring. My friend likes to go running early in the mornings along the edges of the golf courses and wooded glades, he says he always sees lots of deer.

Pegleg Pete, yes, that is my theory about the totem poles as well. I did not know that they were formerly on the “Big Thunder” site, and will have to rely on somebody who is better-informed that I am as to when they were moved to Fort Wilderness.

Andrew, wow, I am impressed! How can you resist the urge to put in your own crazy information? I’d love it if I went to WDW to find wide open areas and no people.

TokyoMagic!, I think YOU need to go in and correct those Knott’s Berry Farm mistakes! After all, you are practically a “walking Wikipedia” when it comes to Knott’s history.

TokyoMagic!, there were so many totem poles originally - it’s nice to see those examples on Google “street view”, but what happened to the rest?

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, I have stopped reading most of the Disneyland-related sites that I used to visit, but the amount of bad information that was written was often astonishing. I’ve mentioned before that people insisted that the Viewliner was “not Disneyland”. I’m sure that as time goes by, the trend will not improve!

Chuck, I never make mistakes, I wonder what it feels like? (If you’d seen today’s post early in the morning, I found that I’d accidentally called the totem poles “tikis” in one paragraph).

Stu, even I have had my own comments vanish, although in my case I think it’s because I sometimes exceed the 4000-word limit (like today, when I have to split it up into two sections), and think it will publish, when in fact it says that it WON’T publish it. It definitely is a good idea to type your comment in a “text edit” kind of program, though I sometimes break my own rule. You could be right about the guests watching performers, especially since it is Main Street, where I would expect more street entertainment. A friend of mine complains that there are fewer bands performing around the Magic Kingdom compared to Disneyland, but I have no idea, personally. I wonder why so many of the photos of Imagineers fiddling with HM props show them with the Florida versions? And how can they tell? I love the idea of a Tom Sawyer Island that is so large that you can actually get disoriented! That sounds like fun!

Bu, I wonder now… that scaffolding might have been somehow involved in filming for a Christmas parade special, if they did those back then. Interesting idea, anyway. I’m sure the frequent Florida rain makes it harder to maintain the park, though I’ve heard that much of what looks like wood is not wood at all. Amazing that you had one of the best steaks of your life at a Disney park! I’ve had some OK meals at Disneyland, but nothing to write home about.

DrGoat, I was hoping Mike Cozart would chime in about the totem poles (whether they were original, or even if they were actually carved wood!), since he knows about such things. For now I’m with you, I’m going to assume that they are carved, and that they are the same ones from Disneyland.

JG, that National Geographic is pretty easy to find on eBay, and it is pretty wonderful. Worth buying if you are interested in such things! I also prefer the Disneyland Mansion, though I know I am very biased.

Nanook, I actually have a dedicated document for comments, and I just change it every day. That doesn’t 100% guarantee that there will be no gremlins, but it helps a lot.

Stu29573, I approve of cursing in almost all situations.

Melissa said...

My guess is that the scaffolding and crane might be for putting up holiday decorations? Only The Shadow knows.

Entering through the front door is one of several ways in which the DL HM has it all over the WDW version. Those trees are so big now it’s hard to even see much of that part of the house anymore.

Melissa said...

And I’ve only ever been toFort Wilderness at night, so I don’t know if I would have seen the totems or not.

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, that is a good guess too! I think it's a little odd that they don't let guests enter the Florida Haunted Mansion through the front door - I'm sure there are all kinds of logical reasons (high water table, etc) that affect it. But still!

Melissa, Fort Wilderness at night sounds pretty great. I sure miss ours, even though the island and rafts closed at dusk.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I think the black wreath is always on the door...athough I could be completely wrong...


MAJOR: those Totem poles are Fiberglas. In fact they are sectional pieces that can be stacked once molded and you you look very closely you will see the poles are comprised of duplicate sections just painted differently.I do not know if the original masters used to make the molds were carved wood or sculpted .... but most likely sculpted. Incidentally the famous National Geographic picture shows the Totems freshly completed awaited outside the staff shop - were Fiberglas and other types of casting and molding are done.

The recent Disneyland book features the full unedited image of that national geo image as well as a reproduction of the painters guide for the Disneyland totems.

I don’t have access to them at present but I have slides that are from the same few days that show the Walt Disney World Frontierland Totems standing during the same time frame as the totems over at Fort Wilderness ..... this would be about 1973. I think both WDW sets were made specifically for Florida and are not from Disneyland .... but it’s possible. The WDW Frontierland totems were a bs I drop for the original location of the Canoe docks . In the early days that part of Frontierland came to a butt dead end with the land north of it cleared for the massive Thunder Mesa complex.

Tokyo Magic : that’s great some of the original Totems still stand in Frontierland .... I got some pictures of them in 2011 but didn’t think they still stood.


“Bs I drop” should be BACKDROP. “A backdrop detail for the original canoe landing location”

Chuck said...

Major, if I recall correctly, when they were taking those photos of the Imagineers with the HM props & figures, the DL version was already open and the yet-to-be installed WDW copies were what were available at WED for the photo shoots.

FoxxFur over at Passport to Dreams did an article a few years back on how the design of the Florida HM changed over time from conception to actual construction. An earlier design with a different facade but essentially the same innards did have guests entering through a door on the front of the house (although off to one side).

Stu, I’m pretty sure that black wreath is always there, too. I remember it from several visits, and I have never been there at Christmas.