In the early days of Walt Disney World, watercraft were a fundamental element of new parks. When the Magic Kingdom opened alongside the rest of the resort in 1971, any number of rafts, launches, steamships, and ferries took to the waters of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon for shakedown cruises. The Rivers of America weren’t filled until soon before opening day, so the ships which plied its backwoods route had to be tested outside the park. Even after opening, the massive influx of guests, along with the delayed arrival of the large ferries, forced Disney to press into service anything that would float to bring guests over from the Transportation and Ticket Center. Years later, when Epcot Center was nearing completion, the FriendShip launches debuted miles away on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon.
While perusing old photos on Flikr, I came across a number of wonderful photos by user Gary G. Gary was an early Walt Disney World cast member, hired before opening in the summer of 1971, and he has several pictures posted from a cast member preview of the new park which took place in September of 1971. Needless to say, the park was hardly ready, but it did give cast members an idea of what they were creating, and allowed Disney to work out some early operational kinks.
Of the pictures Gary posted, these stood out:
This is the Bertha Mae, one of Mike Fink’s Keelboats. Veteran Walt Disney World visitors will remember the Keelboats, which provided scenic tours of the Rivers of America in Frontierland until they joined a wave of closures in 2001. Here we see the ship outside the berm, however, ferrying guests from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, it had become stranded on a sandbar and cast members with long poles were trying to dislodge it – ironically, much like how the old keel boats operated on the Mississippi River! The picture was taken from Bertha Mae‘s sister ship, the Gullywhumper.
For more information, and for more great vintage pictures, head on over to Flickr. Here’s one more – a shot of the still-unfinished 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lagoon only a month before opening day!
Last week we took a look at the first episode of Walt Disney World Inside Out, the monthly program which ran on the old Disney Channel from 1994-97. Gird yourself for some abrasive 90s video techniques, because we’re going back to July of 1994 – this time with a vague outdoorsy theme to match the then-newly-opened Wilderness Lodge. There’s some requisite awkward forced wackiness, trips to Fort Wilderness and the old Magic of Disney Animation attraction, and a look at the also newly-opened Innoventions courtesy of perennial media presence Bill Nye. Animator Aaron Blaise even drops in to promote The Lion King. And there’s Nancy Kerrigan for some reason, before everyone kind of decided they didn’t really like Nancy Kerrigan. Enjoy!
This year, the Tokyo Disney Resort observed its 30th anniversary. Since its opening on April 15, 1983, millions upon millions have streamed through the gates of Tokyo Disneyland and its sister park, Tokyo DisneySea, which opened in 2001. Today, the two parks are known as paragons of Disney quality, maintained to the highest standard and offering an array of entertainment, merchandise, and even food items unmatched by the other Disney resorts.
Ironically, Tokyo Disneyland is the one outpost of the Disney empire not owned, at least in part, by the Walt Disney Company itself. It is instead operated by the Oriental Land Co., formed in 1960 by a collaboration of Japanese corporations to enhance recreational opportunities in the Tokyo area. When Disney was approached in the 1970s to bring an “Oriental Disneyland” to Tokyo, they were deep into the expansion of Walt Disney World and the creation of Epcot Center, and opted not to build the Tokyo park themselves. Instead they licensed the Disney name and characters to OLC, all the while maintaining strict control over the quality and operation of the park. While Disney does not own the park, they have a say in what happens there, and all new attractions and shows are created by Walt Disney Imagineering.
In 2008 the park celebrated its 25th anniversary in gala style – then again, Tokyo Disneyland celebrates everything in gala style. A hallmark of the Tokyo parks is that they release a constant stream of new music releases, DVDs, books, and magazines for fans; the 25th anniversary was no exception. Here is a video that Tokyo Disneyland produced giving a year-by-year look at the resort’s new attractions. You’ll see the parks’ heavy focus on spectacular live shows and parades, with a seemingly constant rotation of new festivals and celebrations, and all produced at the highest degree of quality.
Oddly, this video leaves out some major attractions added over the years, but it gives you a fairly good idea of how the resort evolved between 1983 and 2008.
Today we observe the 112th anniversary of Walt Disney’s birth. Interestingly, the day has brought a couple of new venues which seek to explore the life of the filmmaker.
First, the always-excellent Walt Disney Family Museum has announced a new podcast, focusing on all things Walt. Its first episode was released today, and can be streamed from the Family Museum website (iTunes support will arrive soon). This premiere podcast features what will sadly be the last interview with Diane Disney Miller, as well as a conversation with producer Don Hahn about Christmas with Walt, a film he produced and directed exclusively for the Museum.
In somewhat more surprising news, a Kickstarter campaign was announced today by the individuals who had previously purchased Walt’s birthplace in Chicago, Illinois. Long neglected, with residents who had previously sought to avoid historical landmark status, the house had even been put up for sale on eBay with no buyers. Now in the hands of Dina Benadon and Brent Young, the house is slated for a complete restoration and renovation, although plans remain vague about the residence’s future usage.
The simple two-story house was designed and built by Walt’s parents, Elias and Flora, between 1892-93. Roy, Walt, and Ruth Disney were all born there, before Elias sold the house and the Disneys moved to Marceline, Missouri, in 1906.
You can learn more and donate to the project via Kickstarter, where there is also a lengthy list of rewards for those who donate.
You know, I was thinking of what I should write about this, but… what can I say that will top just watching it?
The grand opening of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park…
Just a note – I had to edit out three brief movie clips (from where Reagan, Fonda, and Rooney reminisce) to avoid copyright holds on the video. The entirety of the show’s original content is in there, though. I also made the call to keep the commercials in… well, just because.