Contribute to Our Research

Serendipity – Disney Dining, 1984

It’s hard for “the kids today” to understand what it was like to be a Disney fan in the days before the internet. For those of us outside the Disneyana hotbed of southern California, pretty much all we knew about the parks came from what Disney deigned to tell us in its official publications. This meant a new picture book about the parks every five years or so, and, of course, the much-anticipated quarterly arrival of Disney News.

For those of us on the east coast, who were unlikely to even know anyone who had ever been to Disneyland, any real impression of that park whatsoever had to come from one of two sources. First, there were the re-runs of Walt’s old Wonderful World of Color shows that aired on the Disney Channel and every afternoon on the local syndicated station. Every once in a blue moon, if you were lucky, you’d catch something like From Pirates of the Caribbean to Tomorrowland, and that would give you a hint of what the park had been like in Walt’s day. Most then-current news of what was going on at Disneyland, however, came from Disney News. With only a couple of articles a year focusing on some aspect of the park, though, any picture or bit of information had to be picked apart obsessively to try and get a feel for the park as a whole. And with so little information to go on, it’s bizarre what little details would stick in one’s mind.

That brings us to today’s post. “Disney Serendipity” was the name of a feature that ran in Disney News during the early to mid-1980s. Photographed and (presumably) written by the mysterious Dawn and Max Navarro, these two-page spreads covered, in the words of the column, “Serendipity – that wonderfully rare word used to describe the finding of valuable or agreeable things that you really weren’t looking for, but were happy to have found.”

These features focused on the more obscure aspects of the Disney park-going experience, typically involving shopping or dining (and never failing to mention the corporate sponsors of each shop or restaurant). When most news tended to focus on major new attractions or park entertainment, these “slice of life” pieces were a real window into what the real Disneyland and Walt Disney World experience was like for visitors. Maybe that’s why they made such an impression on young readers, who thought “Wow – the restaurants in Disneyland are different than they are in Walt Disney World!”

Here’s a column from the Fall, 1984 issue of Disney News.

Disney News continues its series on Serendipity – that wonderfully rare word used to describe the finding of valuable or agreeable things that you really weren’t looking for, but were happy to have found. This issue concentrates on tasty treats, unique in their Disney presentation in a Disney theme park; presented to park visitors in association with noted corporate participants.

Let Your Nose Be Your Guide

That irresistible buttery aroma can only be coming from one of the brightly painted popcorn wagons serving Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn. Golden fresh corn … popping, popping, continuously! In convenient locations throughout the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Magic Kingdoms.

The Bear Necessities

When you’re hungry as a bear and looking for the bear necessities, scout out the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Frontierland at Disneyland Park. Snuggled away amongst the trees of Bear Country, this outdoor eating place offers lunches and dinners in the log cabin-like atmosphere of a wilderness setting overlooking the Rivers of America, where the Mark Twain glides silently by. Before or after enjoying that foot-stompin’, country-western revue called Country Bear Jamboree, yer gonna welcome somepin tasty in yer tummy! How about a Paul Bunyan burger, crispy Gold Rush chicken, corn dogs, Huskie Pups, Forty-Niner charbroiled chicken, turnovers, Log Jam Taters (French fries), Golden Nugget fried onion rings, iced tea, soft drinks, or a chef, tuna or fruit salad? Steaks in the later afternoon (seasonal). Fresh bread and buns are from Wonder Bread. And it’s all “paw-lickin'” good.

Deli Delights

A spontaneous decision may be to lunch at the Heidelberger’s Deli (hosted by Hormel) while shopping in Walt Disney World Village. But choosing what you want in the way of a sandwich isn’t that easy. The wow selection of sandwiches starts with four different kinds of breads and five types of rolls, and a wild assortment of meats and cheeses will provide any sandwich combination you may desire. Each comes with one more decision: potato salad, cole slaw, sauerkraut, or dieters’ applesauce, cottage cheese or special cucumber salad. Domestic beers and soft drinks will quench your Florida thirst. Eat indoors, or on the outdoor terrace framed in blossomed crepe myrtle tree foliage. And save room for the final selection; marble cheese cake, fresh pie, brownies or fruit. Decisions. Decisions.

Sara Lee’s Wonderful Kitchen Surprises

No visit to Main Street, USA in the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World is complete without sampling the old-fashioned flavor and atmosphere of the Sara Lee bakery. A delightful little tearoom with cozy round tables and cane chairs sets the mood for a light breakfast or a well-deserved coffee break. Try a Danish, pastry, brownie, coffee cake, or a slice of scrumptious whipped cream cake. There’s a Sara Lee bakery in the Walt Disney World Village too.

Did You Say Mickey Mouse Pancakes?

Have breakfast with Mickey… Mickey Mouse pancakes that is (although Mickey himself may surprise you with a visit here). These big-eared treats are the main attraction of the buffeteria at River Belle Terrace, hosted by Hormel, in Disneyland Park. The Terrace serves other breakfast specials too, overlooking the water’s edge between Frontierland and New Orleans Square. You can watch the Mark Twain puffing its way past Tom Sawyer’s Island. Also enjoy lunch or dinner – outside under bright umbrellas or indoors in a pleasant solarium with white lace iron work and garden motif. Join writer Mark Twain in spirit with a Tom Sawyer sandwich or, a Becky Thatcher serving of Spaghetti with Smoked Sausage. For the youngsters, there are River Captain specials. Since breakfast is served all day, with a delicious array of morning delights, you may want to start your day all over again.

Carnation Ice Cream Parlor

Imagine the Matterhorn attraction covered with whipped cream instead of snow. Then order a giant Matterhorn Sundae at the Disneyland Carnation Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street, USA, and introduce your fantasy to reality. Other super creamy delights are the Victorian Banana Split, Town Square Soda and Black Cow. All served in old-fashioned ice cream parlor glass containers on lacy paper doilies. Tasty pita bread and hearty sandwiches are served here too, just in case you don’t want to begin your meal with an ice cream aperitif. Relax outside beneath giant red and white umbrellas, or turn back the calendar seated at the turn-of-the-century soda fountain. The cool atmosphere is as delicious as the ice cream, hot fudge, nuts and cherries. Mmmmmmm! Mmmmmmm! Carnation!

Coke Is It!

Coca-Cola, created by J. S. Pemberton in 1886, is right at home in the nostalgia of the Disneyland Park’s Main Street, USA Coke Corner (and also at the Refreshment Corner of Walt Disney World). This popular refreshment is served in a stylish turn-of-the-century parlor with Coke memorabilia and white wrought iron soda fountain chairs. A pianist plunks out familiar tunes on a white upright piano. Try a Coke with a traditional hot dog and chips. In contrast, Coke is served as the drink of the future at the Tomorrowland Terrace where you may enjoy this contemporary favorite while listening to live musical entertainment. Coke is it… a timeless refreshment.


Related Posts...

7 comments to Serendipity – Disney Dining, 1984

  • RO93461

    They obviously did not hire anyone to “display” the food properly for photography. Or even use a photographer that has any training. Grease soaking through the Burger wrapper and the salad shoved underneath! Melted Sundaes! the kid fighting with the pancake? Unbelievable! When was the last time you saw a Hot Dog in an ad that looked that bad or dry? The chips are the last of the bag too! They look like they were in a slasher movie with all that smeared Catsup and on the edges of the bun! The buns are broken and a another huge sin, no ice in the Coke with a huge straw. You never see Coke without ice and condensation. It looks warm.

    If this was in a company publication, it is hysterical! I get the “reality” of the stuff being “found” and not too staged, but they are trying to show it off as a promo and you’d think they’d take time to make the food look good.

  • I love it! What’s funny is that not only was this in the official Disney publication, but also presented as a kind of photo essay! I have *always*, ever since I was a kid, thought those hot dogs were insane. I thought maybe it was some crazy west coast thing to drown your hot dog in ketchup haha… it is pretty disturbing. I also have always loved the melting sundae. That picture always made me vaguely panic as a kid because it was so messy.

    It’s so funny you pointed all that out because I noticed a few of those things in the past but never really put it all together. It was just a weird window into this crazy, far-off place called Disneyland!

  • I went back and posted the original scans from the mag if anyone is interested in the layout.

    Other things I noted in this:

    – Popcorn: 60 cents! I WISH.
    – Actual restaurant-specific cups, plates, and napkins. I approve.
    – *Everything* at the Carnation Ice Cream parlor sounds awesome.
    – I really, really wish “Heidelbergers” was still there.
    – What’s up with that Bear Country picture?

  • That Bear Country sign is the lamest theming I have ever seen!

    Holy crap, that Matterhorn Sundae is HUGE. I feel like that girl is going to have a diabetic coma if she tries to eat all that before it completely melts.

  • Gary

    I, too, love the restaurant specific paper products. These days, I would give anything for just park specific stuff.

    And can you even imagine a menu board like the Hungry Bear’s existing today? Would they dare call fries “Log Jam Taters” in the new world?

  • RO93461

    I too miss the site specific products. The leasees started that as it was part of their advertising. I loved the Frito bags with the little Castles on them. At Sunkist we had all custom paper goods with our logo. My favorite paper food item was the Popcorn boxes and they still got em…

  • […] City, U.S.A. takes a look at Disney dining news circa […]

Leave a Reply