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Times Have Changed…

As you can no doubt tell, I’ve been digging through my old issues of Eyes and Ears lately trying to do some research. The perilous part of this is that any given issue from the 1970s can be full of distractions, from interesting historical tidbits that need sharing to things that are simply strange. Or, occasionally, borderline deranged.

Another running theme is simply the fact that Walt Disney World and the Disney company itself has changed a lot in ensuing years. Walt Disney World in the 1970s was a goofy organization with this weird sense of humor. From endless cast softball games to Cast Activities collecting lists of everyone’s CB handles to warnings to look out for all these “big city hucksters” coming to Orlando selling fake watches, the overall feel conveyed evokes some provincial mom-and-pop operation.

But another big difference appears in the snapshots we get of resort operations at the time. From swanky nightlife to cocktail cruises, things had a different vibe. We’ve lamented in the past the decline of resort merchandise; whereas Liberty Square used to offer a silversmith and antique store, today every inch of retail space seems packed with pirates, princesses and pixies. The heavy focus on “princesses” in the last decade made the following story all the more shocking when I happened upon it. From April 12, 1975, it describes a Magic Kingdom without… Cinderella?

"He's still looking at me, isn't he? I feel like he's still looking at me. Is he still looking at me?"

Bob Colburn, Assistant Supervisor of the Crystal Palace, wrote EYES & EARS and said … “Many times a little girl has come up to me and asked where Cinderella is at. They are usually confused because they see Cinderella castle, but no Cinderella. I wonder how many little girls come to Walt Disney World excited about the idea of meeting their fantasy idol, Cinderella, and are disappointed when she is not here.”

A spokesman for the Entertainment Division told us that there is quite a history behind the use of Cinderella in the Magic Kingdom. Actually, there are two different Cinderellas … one in rags and one in her ball gown. Her formal gown is made of satin to give it an elegant look. From past experience, they found that her gown does not wear well when used everyday in the Theme Park. And synthetic materials do not give it that real “look of elegance” that her character needs. So Entertainment Division saves Cinderella in her formal gown for special events, parades and grand openings.

But what about putting the Cinder Girl in Rags into the Magic Kingdom? They tried it and none of the guests recognized her, even when she was with Gus Gus and Jacques. However, the Entertainment Division experimented using Cinderella in the Magic Kingdom over the Easter Holidays and found a place on the Fantasyland side of the castle where she could meet our guests and still have her gown protected. The spokesman told EYES & EARS that presently plans call for Cinderella to be there daily starting this summer.

Not having a walkaround Cinderella because a synthetic gown just wouldn’t look fancy enough? Wow. Also, I totally wish they still used hobo Cinderella in the park. That would be fantastic.

If all that wasn’t jarring enough, the next story was about how Walt Disney World used to refuse to allow weddings on-property. That’s right, Walt Disney World was once free of the yoke of the wedding-industrial complex.

Walt Disney World receives many unusual requests each year. And a good number of them read something like this letter we received recently:

Dear Sir:

We wish to tell you how much we enjoy Disney World. We have been there a dozen times since it has opened, and we enjoy it more each time we return.

We have an unusual request to make. We enjoy Disney World so much, we would like your permission to be married there.

If possible, we would like the ceremony performed in Liberty Square. Only a few people are in the party. We would also like to make a reservation for two at the Polynesian Hotel.

We would like to hear from you as soon as possible so we can make our arrangements.

By the way, EYES & EARS looked into this request and found that we have a policy of not allowing weddings here on Walt Disney World property. However, we do have facilities for wedding receptions at our resort hotels.

I love the implication that this was such a kooky request that they had to look into it. Getting married at Disney World? Whaa? Whoever heard of such a thing!

I also like the window into a past world provided by the fact that this transaction took place through a letter. It’s hard to imagine booking a reservation by writing “Hey, I’d like a room for two at the Poly. Take care of that.” and dropping it into the mail.

But a wedding at Disney World? That’s just craaaaaaazy!

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1 comment to Times Have Changed…

  • Gary

    Two things: First, the idea of a wedding in Liberty Square actually sounds kind of cool. Many spots throughout various parks would make for unique, memorable wedding experiences–not to mention all the other areas around the ‘World’. I wonder if they allow that sort of thing, or it they force couples to marry in that gaudy wedding pavilion of theirs.

    And second, you mention how retail space is devoted to pirates, princesses, and pixies; but you forgot the worst glut of stomach-turning dreck to dominate the (lately) homogenous retail landscape of ‘Disney Parks’, the Vinylmation. These ubiquitous little bastards seem to follow you around. From the wilds of Adventureland to turn of the century Main Street, from Fort Wilderness to Port Orleans, from Hollywood Boulevard to Future World, they’re always there, destroying the authenticity of the surroundings.

    Sorry. Didn’t mean to rant like that, but boy are they ugly.

    Anyway, great post. And I love the 70s glamour couple, too. Like the Justin and Selena of days gone by.

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