10 February 2012

W. D. Story

Guests who were waiting to meet with Mickey Mouse backstage at the Town Square Theater used to find themselves spending some time in a rather blank empty room. In mid-December a number of new furnishings appeared in this space, from reels of theater tickets to a McDuck safe. The really interesting stuff, however, came in the form of a 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 this location, known as The Walt Disney Story. A twenty-three 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 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 took over the chronicle of his life. With Walt recounting his life, 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 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, but that’s a story for another day. 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, with the arrival of the Town Square Theater and these latest additions to the space, The Walt Disney Story once again occupies a small corner of its original home.

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