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.

No comments: