19 September 2021

Walt Disney World 50 for 50: Preview Boulevard

 On November 15, 1965 Walt and Roy Disney, along with Florida Governor Haydon Burns, held a press conference to announce the construction of Disney World. Walt Disney would pass away before the groundbreaking began took place on May 30, 1967, by which time Roy had renamed the project Walt Disney World in honor of the man who had dreamed the venture up. While it would take over four years before the Vacation Kingdom welcomed its first guests, the Walt Disney World Preview Center opened almost two years before the rest of the development.
The Walt Disney World Preview Center began welcoming invited business and political guests on January 10, 1970 and opened to the general public on the 16th of the same month. Seen here under construction, it was built just off of Interstate 4. Can you see it there in the background? That rinky-dink two-lanes each way road with precisely three cars on it? Yep, that was the main thoroughfare which cut through across the state of Florida. It definitely doesn't look that small, or have that light of traffic, these days.

Once inside the facility, guests were greeted by a hand-selected group of fourteen hostesses, who were more than happy to answer any questions potential visitors had. From models and construction footage, to the 21 minute Project Florida film, the Walt Disney World Preview Center showcased what the first five years had in store for the swamplands of central Florida. In addition to just seeing what was coming, guest could go ahead and make reservations for the two resorts scheduled to open, the Contemporary and Polynesian Village, and pick up preview postcards and other souvenirs.

The building still stands today, situated along Hotel Plaza Boulevard, but has not been utilized as a Preview Center in 1971.

18 September 2021

Walt Disney World 50 for 50: Total Camping Comfort and Convenience

I’ve said this before, but back when film was the only way to capture memories at Walt Disney World, I would be very selective in what I chose to photograph with my little 110 camera. Postcards weren't high on my list of souvenirs, but there were a few that I would purchase here and there. I must have owned about a dozen of the same Hoop-Dee-Doo cast photo postcard over the years. These weren't to send to anyone in particular, though I would occasionally scribble a note to myself on the back before I put them away in their box at home, just to have the memories to hold on to.

Early on, Walt Disney World saw that postcards weren’t just for sending to family and friends about your adventures, they were a way to remember your trip as well. Thus was born the postcard booklets. Booklets, such as the 8-postcard version from the early years of Fort Wilderness and River Country that we’re looking at today, included perforated postcards that you could tear out and send to whomever you wished. However, the tab the postcards came off of also included a copy of the picture and a section for ‘REMARKS’ so you had something to hold onto for yourself. The only postcard that didn’t have a reproduction inside was the postcard on the cover, whose tab identified what the booklet’s subject matter was.

The postcards included in the booklets would change over the years, but at their heart they were a visual almanac to what a specific place and time in Walt Disney World had to offer. Let’s go ahead and venture back to 1973 and see what Fort Wilderness had to offer!

Goofy helps water a thirsty locomotive at the Ft. Wilderness water tank. The Ft. Wilderness trains, like the ones used in the Theme Park, are powered by authentic steam locomotives.

As the narrow guage steam train passes in the background, two Ft. Wilderness campers enjoy one of the more popular sports in the Vacation Kingdom Campground. With many miles of trails and bridle paths horseback riding is an excellent way to see the beautiful Ft. Wilderness area.

Fort Wilderness campers enjoy total camping comfort and convenience. Recreation includes canoeing, fishing and horseback trail riding.

A convenient store-on-wheels lets Ft. Wilderness guests purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items right at their campsite. Ft. Wilderness offers over 700 campsites with more planned for the future.

In the heart of Walt Disney World, at Fort Wilderness, vacationing guests relax in wooded campsites and take part in a wide variety of outdoor recreation.

Here, Fort Wilderness campers can select from hundreds of outdoor items. Of course, there’s always time for a game of checkers, too!

Campfire time at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness is a perfect end to a fun-filled day in the Magic Kingdom. Held every day at dusk, the traditional evening campfire features songs, games and special surprise entertainment.

Located within Fort Wilderness, the Tri-Circle-D Ranch features horseback trail riding, a pony ride and a petting zoo for the children.

Switching gears, and with summer winding down, let's head over to Walt Disney World's first water park, River Country. Even if it is extinct and in postcard booklet form!

Shooting the White Water Rapids at River Country begins slowly. But soon, guests are caught up in a slippery race with a splashy ending in the Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole.

A daring leap into the Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole from a good old-fashioned tire swing. It’s just one of a wealth of childhood dreams that come true in River Country.

Whoop-‘N-Holler Hollow in River Country certainly lives up to its name. Packed with slippery twists and turns, it keeps guests whoopin’ and hollerin’ with glee.

Guests prepare to make a big splash at the climax of their slippery race down the White Water Rapids in River Country… a grand plunge into the Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole.

River Country’s quiet beaches are havens for sun worshipping and picnics. Nearby, Cypress Point Trail showcases Florida’s natural splendor.

The Play Pond is a favorite aquatic playground for little splashers. An entire section of River Country overflows with child-size slides and wading pools.

Shooting the White Water Rapids in River Country makes hearts race, as guests whoosh through a waterfall and plunge into the Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole.

Huck Finn’s spirit lives on at the Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole in River Country. Tire swings, white water rapids, twisting-turning slides, and spacious beaches abound.

17 September 2021

Walt Disney World 50 for 50: W. D. Story

Guests who are waiting to meet with Mickey Mouse backstage at the Town Square Theater find themselves with time to explore the well-appointed furnishings in the queue, including reels of theater tickets right on down to a McDuck safe. The really interesting stuff, however, comes to those who explore the set of mailboxes. While each has a tale to tell, the one that struck me the most is labeled W.D. Story.
This is a clear nod to the attraction that originally resided in what is now known as Exposition Hall, The Walt Disney Story, a 23-minute film dedicated to the life and achievements Walt Disney. While the groundwork was being prepared for Walt Disney World in 1969, a staff of around 200 people at Walt Disney Productions began culling through thousands of hours of Walt Disney interviews in order to compose a narrative of his life, as told through his own words. There was an opening narration provided by Pete Renoudet, the voice of Henry from the Country Bear Jamboree and Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage, before Walt Disney takes over the chronicle of his life. With Walt recounting his youth through Disneyland’s formative years, there was an obvious void at the tail end of the film documenting Walt’s passing.
The attraction was housed in the Gulf Hospitality House, but was not ready for the Magic Kingdom’s opening day. Instead, it opened in the spring of 1973 and featured a queue filled with props and exhibits highlighting Walt Disney’s career, think One Man’s Dream or Walt Disney Presents but on a smaller scale. Just before entering one of the two 300 seat theaters stood a mural, designed by Bill Justice, depicting over 170 Disney characters. At the exit to The Walt Disney Story was the Audio-Animatronics figure of an owl named Hoot Gibson, who previewed the coming attractions of Walt Disney World.
The Walt Disney Story closed its doors in 1992 and was eventually folded into the Kodak inspired exhibits of the Exposition Hall. One of the theaters was converted into a showcase for vintage Mickey Mouse cartoons and photo-op cutouts, such as the television from 101 Dalmatians where guests could pretend they were in the cartoon. Today, while the Town Square Theater and its characters occupy the space, The Walt Disney Story once again occupies a small corner of its original home.

16 September 2021

Walt Disney World 50 for 50: You Can Build It

As we look to the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, there is a focus, and rightfully so, on the Magic Kingdom and first resorts that are celebrating their 50 years of recreation. With that, however, is also everything that came after that opening. Some brand new pieces will be added to the Disney history books this year, to go along those pieces that are 10, 15, 20, 30, or 45 years old and everything in between. Looking back at the entirety of the resort's history wouldn't be complete without talking about EPCOT Center. The park which will be celebrating its 39th anniversary as Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th.

For my part, the construction of EPCOT Center has always fascinated me, and sent me in search of construction photos continuously. Whether from publications, professional shots, or those photos taken by construction workers inconspicuously. Presented today are two sets, one one the more professional side and the other with a more personal camera lens, of EPCOT Center construction photos for us to look back on and enjoy.

The gate to the China pavilion and the replica of the Temple of Heaven in their early stages.

The exterior to Chefs de France.

The Hotel du Canada, based upon Ontario’s Chateau Laurier, is beginning to take shape with rockwork beginning to be framed.

Canada's trees, with branches to be added in later.

Moving on the the personal collection of photos I acquired a few years back. There are hints at a lot of projects, The Land and Spaceship Earth chief amongst them, but the majority continue with World Showcase, particularly Canada and the United Kingdom.

Listed as Roof U.K., you can spot the well-known dome of The Land’s greenhouses in the background behind the temporary power lines and framing of the United Kingdom pavilion.

Here we stand at the crossroads of the United Kingdom pavilion. To the right we see the construction of the Rose and Crown, and the shops across the road. Down the lane is the chateau in Canada with Spaceship Earth further off in the distance.

While the framing is taking place for the United Kingdom pavilion here, the real draw is obviously the chateau and Spaceship Earth once again.

Freshly installed chimneys. These would gain paint and a fresh coat of soot, or textured paint that appears to be soot, to give life to the pavilion.

The construction of gabled 1800s structure by the garden square.

An almost finished version of the shop exterior seen above. The pedimented gable is much more prevalent here.

The small cottage modeled after Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. 

The backside of the cottage area, much of the theme of this corner was inspired by set drawings for Mary Poppins.

A close up, if somewhat blurry, look at the exterior of The Land’s greenhouse dome.

Another view of The Land’s domed greenhouse, this time we can also catch a glimpse of the red aquaculture facility.

A shot of World of Motion off in the distance, notice how it is already glimmering even at this stage in the construction process. Also, the lagoon sits empty during this period.

The lagoon begins to take on water, and is met by a sea wall. World of Motion in the distance, and even beams of the monorail have begun being installed.

A set of rockwork closest to the ground, with another structure taking place beneath a tarp. Also the stairway through the mountain can be seen along the bottom right of the photograph.

For a look at the scale of this mountain section, there is a set of crew members looking over plans.

A look back at the same section, but with fabrication happening throughout the landscape.

While forced perspective may have been utilized to make the mountain appear larger than it actually was, this photo makes sure that we understand it is still a massive and impressive structure.

The Hotel du Canada, with scaffolding and the beginnings of rockwork formations.

Details meant to be perceived as limestone brickwork on the Hotel du Canada start to appear.

Here we step backstage to see Friendship I and Friendship II docked.

Friendship I makes its way out to World Showcase Lagoon, passing by China along the way.

Friendship II makes its way by the raised bridge near China.

Here we see one of the double decker buses from World Showcase Transportation parked backstage.

A row of projection, fountain, and firework barges for World Showcase Lagoon's first nighttime show, Carnival de Lumiere.

A close up view of one of the barge’s inner workings.

Getting up close and personal with a pair of barges and their set-ups.

You can make out the sea walls that were constructed to create the islands of World Showcase Lagoon. Also, the irony of what was considered a dry lagoon was not lost on our photographer.

The girders for Japan are being hoisted into place.

China is further along in its assembly than some of the other pavilions.

While the two pavilions are clear to those of us who have seen the finished product, it is easy to see how St. Mark’s Campanile in Italy could have been confused with England’s Big Ben. The silhouette of The American Adventure, however, is unmistakable.

There are sites around Walt Disney World that tug at our heartstrings, make us wonder how they were created, and move us to capture them for all eternity in a photograph. Yet, the argument can be made that Spaceship Earth is the most awe-inspiring vista in all of the resort.

The idea for a geodesic dome came from R. Buckminster Fuller, but his influence goes even beyond the structure itself as the EPCOT Center icon was given named after a phrase Fuller coined, Spaceship Earth. I don’t think you’ll need my guided tour today, just enjoy these construction photos of Spaceship Earth in your own time.