Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Disneyworld 1978

My family just got back from a weeklong trip to Florida which included a visit to Disneyworld and The Magic Kingdom specifically.  It has changed since I visited in 1978 with my parents and sister. My dad worked for an asphalt manufacturer so he could only take vacations during the "off-season", so we went in February.  On the one hand, it was pretty empty, on the other, it was cold and rainy. Back then, "Disneyworld" and "Magic Kindgdom" were synonymous as that's all that was there. I remember being fairly disappointed. Cinderella's castle wasn't a castle at all, but simply a walk-through tunnel. You had to have tickets to ride the rides and each ticket booklet (a vague recollection places the price at $7) had a limited number of "E" tickets which were for the better rides along with the "A" through "D" tickets which didn't offer much of any interest to me. Plus, the one ride (besides "Haunted Mansion") I wanted to ride with my "E" ticket, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", broke down while I was in line. I was forced to use the ticket instead on "Space Mountain" which I was deathly afraid of.  Riding it on this visit, I realized how tame it is and how much of it is really an illusion of lights and sound.

I found this Guide to Walt Disney World from 1978 at a recent sale.  It shows what was offered to my 11-year-old self back then.

One of my favorite memories of my trip in 1978 was a visit to the "Main Street Cinema" which showed early Disney cartoons such as "Steamboat Willie" around the clock.  Sadly, it's been turned into a gift shop.  Up until a few years ago, "Casey's Corner", a turn-of-the-century baseball themed restaurant did the same, but the screen has been removed to allow for additional seating.  There used to be a lot more vintage vehicles that would drive around Main Street, but due to the large crowds, I think those have mostly been eliminated. Now they have a parade (it seemed like every couple hours) that closes off the street and makes it almost impossible to navigate the park.

I was pleasantly surprised to find "The Enchanted Tiki Room" is still there, along with some dated material and depiction of native South Pacific islanders.  "Jungle Cruise" is also still there, but the "tour guides" portray it with mock enthusiasm and terror: "Oh look, a charging hippopotamus. Watch out folks." "Pirates of the Caribbean" is still there, but has been modified slightly to more reflect the Johnny Depp movies.

I tried to hit some of the classics including "Country Bear Jamboree" and "Tom Sawyer Island". "Country Bear" was pretty dated as well with fat jokes and a more than disturbing display of one bear singing and later screaming about 'blood on the ground'" over and over. Of course, I had to go through "Haunted Mansion".  I also got my kids to sit through "The Hall of Presidents" which has been slightly updated since the last time I saw it and now features a movie narrated by Morgan Freeman.  It was actually quite impressive.

Fantasyland appears to have suffered the most losses with the aforementioned "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", "The Mickey Mouse Revue", "Skyway", "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" and "Snow White's Scary Adventures" having been retired.

Tomorrowland has changed quite a bit as well, although some old favorites like "Space Mountain", "Star Jets", "People Mover",  "Grand Prix Raceway", and "Carousel of Progress" are still essentially unchanged. "Carousel of Progress" was another pleasant surprise.  I've been to Disney 4 or 5 times in the past 20 years and this was the first time I even noticed it.  It's easy to mistake it as a maintenance building, but inside is a revolving theater that takes you through 4 vignettes (and seasons) in time with the same (animatronic) family: the Spring in the 1900's, Summer (July 4th) in the 1920's, Fall (Halloween) 1950's and Winter (Christmas) in the far-off future of the 1990's. I'm not sure why the family didn't age more or how their dog was still alive, but "suspension of belief", okay? It took me less than 10 seconds to place the recognizable voice of Jean "A Christmas Story" Shepherd as the narrator and voice of the father.

In case you care to watch.

Compare and contrast the map from the guide and today's Magic Kindgom.

And finally, the back cover included some of the new and re-issued movies for Summer of 1978.  I believe "Hot Lead and Cold Feet" and "Superman the Movie" were the only movies I saw that year.


  1. i have a copy of the vintage soundtrack to Disneyworld attractions, and man, the TIki Room makes me CRINGE. i've never been to any disney attraction, so all i know is from absorption through the cultural eye, and that's so prevalent i feel like i know the place. it sort of seems like they let the physical properties coast after awhile, and stopped updating them -- maybe when their movie arm took off in the 80s and 90s?

    and you didn't go to Hogwarts? where are your priorities, man??

    1. >it sort of seems like they let the physical properties coast after
      They did, but they did add a new section to Fantasyland this past year.
      >and you didn't go to Hogwarts?
      The older kids wanted to do Universal Studios, but I wanted to do one last hurrah at Disney for the younger 2 and money was limited so...

    2. i hear that place costs a fortune, so i hear ya. that's why i've never been, lol. we go down to LA once or twice a year, and i've never even SEEN the place with my own eyes. too many better things to spend money on.


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