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A Secret Showcase

I was pointed towards this video by Foxx at Passport to Dreams Old & New; it shows a still-pristine Walt Disney World in the flower of its first decade, and also features an unexpected surprise. According to whoever posted the video, it’s from 1977; I have no idea what this could have been for, as it’s obviously a part of a larger presentation, but doesn’t appear to be from a Disney production. That being said, it shows a lot of “behind the scenes” things that must have come direct from Disney.

Take a look and we’ll discuss; please try and ignore the incredibly irritating watermark and timecodes that the poster has embedded. The real craziness kicks in around the three minute mark:

Crazy, eh?

What’s funny is that while the narration talks about “World Showcase”, that model we see as the camera pans down is actually EPCOT Center. The sign even says so! This is the first version of EPCOT Center to bear that name, after the Future World Theme Center and World Showcase concepts were merged into a single location at some point in 1976. What you can’t tell from the film is that the park’s layout was flipped from its final orientation; the north-facing entrance would have led guests through World Showcase before they crossed a bridge into Future World. This World Showcase, as you can see in the film, retained the idea from an earlier concept of keeping all the international pavilions in a large, “modern”, semi-circular building.

Surrounding the EPCOT Center model in 1976 are Marty Sklar, John Hench, and John DeCuir Jr. Note World Showcase towards the bottom of the model, where guests were originally intended to enter the park; by this point, it’s possible that Future World has been changed to serve as the entrance. Also notice how enormous the Lake Buena Vista development is on the map between Hench and DeCuir; also notice Marty’s pants.

At around 3:20 in the film, you can even make out the load area for the Japanese omnimover attraction, which files off over a hill into the distance.

How much do I want this to be an actual thing? More than you can know.

One wonders why the entire EPCOT concept isn’t mentioned; it’s amusing to think that the concept for the attraction changed so much between the time the narration was written and recorded and the film was shot, that the narration was totally outdated. But such was the nature of EPCOT development in the 1970s.

Other things of note in the film: First, how incredibly nice and pristine the entire resort looks. White sand beaches on every beach, and around every island. Discovery Island and River Country in perfect condition, neither of them overgrown, moldy and desolate. At the 25 second mark we even get a great shot of the lovely Fort Wilderness Railroad in action. Osceola-class steamers ply the lagoon, and down at the Village everything is immaculate, unified in design, and inviting. Even the Contemporary is sleek and iconic, unburdened by the circus tent convention center or the unfortunate DVC tower.

In the parks we see a number of lost treasures, from the Skyway to the spotless and streamlined Tomorrowland to the always-impressive 20,000 Leagues lagoon. We even get a shot of Center Street, before it was assimilated by the Main Street Mall. Behind the scenes we get a rare shot of the character zoo, some great “making of” footage (no one could paint a fish like WED Enterprises!) and some really cool shots of a Nautilus being assembled. Too bad there couldn’t have been more insight into the fantastic laser beam holographs.

The concrete bunker used for “CASTING” really cracked me up; I guess with Walt Disney World’s ties to the Nixon administration they had to be prepared for first-strike capability. There’s also a rare shot of the building where all the trash sent rocketing through the AVAC wound up.

Now, to go get in line for that Japan omnimover…

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21 comments to A Secret Showcase

  • Not sure I agree that the Bay Lake Tower was “unfortunate” … but I really enjoyed the concrete casting bunker :) That was great!

  • Mark

    I liked the “computer animated” characters.

  • Bill

    Sorry, HockeyPlayerX, I have to agree that Bay Lake Tower is unfortunate. BLT weakens the Contemporary’s heroic look out towards the future, blocking and disorienting the once wide-pan sight lines with a hulking structure of an everyday high-rise condo complex. I would say it is more than unfortunate, to me it’s symbolic of the current company’s vision and therefore heartbreaking.

  • @ Bill:

    I understand the objections, and in some ways I actually do prefer the look of the area sans BLT and sans convention hall, but…

    …DVC is a huge part of Disney’s business, and as a DVC owner, I think it would be rather hypocritical of me to lement them building new DVC properties. Eventually, things do change, and in the case of Disney’s resorts, you can bet that all of them (except the value resorts) will eventually have some sort of DVC component, be it a floor of rooms like AKL Jambo House, or a new building, like the Contemporary and Grand Floridian.

    You say it is symbolic of the company’s current vision…and you are right…that vision is as it ever was: to make a profit. DVC does make a profit, a large one. Sure, they could abandon the for profit model, but I really don’t see that happening, ever.

    I can’t find the link to it, but several years ago, around 2002 or so, a high level Disney exec was quoted as saying that Disney will not build new resorts going forward, but rather they will add on to pre-existing resorts. The reason for this is that it is less expensive to add on to already developed land rather than creating completely new infrastructure. The good thing about it being DVC is that the company doesn’t have to take resources that would ordinarily go towards park improvements to create resorts.

    So yes, in a pefect world, it would have been preferable if the Bay Lake Tower had been built elsewhere along the lake, and possibly themed in a different manner, but…that would have possibly meant an even longer period of time before Fantasy Land could have been expanded, or other projects might have had to have been shelved. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and while some may not choose to embrace the DVC model, many others have…and that adds a healthy boost to the bottom line for Disney, which really is what it is all about.

    • Bill

      Thank you for your reply. I definitely agree with you and understand that the company is there to make a profit. And I am not knocking DVC as a whole (really my biggest gripe besides BLT is that I feel they spend more money and time on the design of DVC sales posts than they do for actual attractions). I understand that guests who buy into time shares are very happy and the company is happy to be able to build capacity without worrying about finding day-to-day paying guests to fill them every season. And at most of the resorts they do blend DVC into the property very seamlessly. I think it is a win, win … mostly.

      But I suppose to clarify BLT as “symbolic of the company’s vision”: in the past I feel the company had a higher respect for standing for something bigger than itself, aesthetic, artistry, what things mean by their design and placement, etc. There was more of a balance between the art side and finance side within the company. And I interpreted the Contemporary standing heroically by itself as a testament to the reassurance of a future based on ideals.

      But with BLT there, I feel it’s saying, forget about ideals lets talk about today, let’s talk about money. Now, I definitely am all for a DVC at Contemporary based on the points you made. It’s just that I feel if the company’s vision was more balanced as it was in the past, it would have been engrained in top management and the culture to have a design team comprised of people who understood the art side of it more, so as to maintain what that massively prominent sight line really represented.

      • Mark W

        “ the past I feel the company had a higher respect for standing for something bigger than itself, aesthetic, artistry, what things mean by their design and placement, etc. There was more of a balance between the art side and finance side within the company. And I interpreted the Contemporary standing heroically by itself as a testament to the reassurance of a future based on ideals. But with BLT there, I feel it’s saying, forget about ideals lets talk about today, let’s talk about money.”

        This. 100% this.

        I grow tired of the false dichotomy presented endlessly in Disney-related discussions of quality and good taste vs. profits. Those of us who remember and long for the quality levels we could once regularly expect from Disney pre-1994 are not arguing for a company that has no regard for the bottom line and bankrupts itself because it views itself as some sort of artistic charity. There is a balance, and many of us are concerned that short-sighted actions and strategies are affecting not only the company’s artistic integrity, but its long term earnings potential. (Consider, for instance, whether it would have been more profitable to spend the additional $1 billion on getting DCA right the first time as opposed to a re-do.)

        Of course, one can argue the particulars of certain decisions, and BLT is one of them. But even as a happy DVC owner, I wish it had been built elsewhere.

        • There is no “false dichotomy” here. The company has a finite amount of resources, funds…and how they choose to spend those resources directly affects other aspects of the company. If they spend x developing a DVC resort on already perked land (pre existing electrical and plumbing they can tie into, pre existing roads and parking they can use, pre existing recreation, lakes, etc.) then the cost is considerably lower than if they pick a parcel of undeveloped land and build there. So consider this basic equation: (f = total funds for development, x = cost of developing DVC resort, n = amount remaining for other expenditures.) If, f-x=n (and it does, always) then consider what n would equal if the equation was f-2x, or f-3x. The point is that by “doing it on the cheap” (as some would say) it leaves the company with more resources to allocate towards other projects. Granted, that money does not alway go where we (WDW fans) would like to see it go, but in the end, the money is still there. Sadly, the cost to add on to an existing resort is lower than building a new one. It is just a fact. So there is not false dichotomy, just simple math.

          In addition, adding DVC properties to existing resorts serves another purpose…it creates highly desirable DVC properties that sell quicky, for a premium price. I, for one, love the fact that I can use my DVC points to stay at the Contemporary Resort now. Sure, it is not in the original A frame tower, but the BLT is entirely preferable to the old garden wings. I’d honestly love to see them doze the other garden wing and build another BLT just like the one that is there.

          Take a look at how quickly BLT sold. It was a premium location, and it is a premium property…due entirely to the fact that it is a part of one of Disney’s signature resorts. Just watch how fast the Grand Floridian DVC sells. Meanwhile, they just sold all of SSR in the last couple of years…because no one really cares about staying way out there at SSR. Take a look at the resell market.

          Bringing things like DCA into it is simply a straw man argument. DVC resorts (which actually pay for themselves before they are even built) and new gates are TOTALLY different models of investment. Lumping BLT in with the failures of the end of the Eisner era is simply illogical. The two have nothing to do with one another.

          Now, if you want to discuss the architectural appeal of BLT…that is another matter entirely. Personally, I don’t hate it, but I would have rather have seen something that “fit” a little better than what they built. I do believe that a second tower identical to it would balance things more, but I understand that adding *anything* to that area is going to be objectionable to some. Some people like cars from the 1950’s, and they do not care for modern cars…it is just a difference in taste. There is nothing Disney could do to appease people like that beyond reverting everything to 1982, or 1977, or 1971, depending on who you ask. Problem is, reverting everything, or freezing things in time, means no future developement whatsoever for fear of offending regressionists. And that is just not going to happen.

          • One of my favorite quotes of all time: “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

  • John

    Is it my imagination, or is the film narrated by (former AMC host) Bob Dorian?

  • Jeanine

    Is the omnimover actually going upwards? Or just vanishing into the distance, down a hallway of infinite tori gates?

  • Looks like it is running into a wall with a picture of a hallway on it to me :) I guess it always fooled the Coyote…

  • philphoggs

    Reminds me of the old “Earthquake” ride where the timbers are shaking.
    On another note sooner or later we will be discussing the results of DVC at the Polynesian. I really hope it won’t be some over imposing status symbol. Of course, the original non-built Polynesian drawing looks like exactly that so there you go.

  • My prediction…one or two towers similar, if not identical, to what they build at Aulani.

    I’d rather see something more akin to the original design, but … they already paid for the design once, and no one can say Aulani-esque buildings are not “authentic” now.

    Hey, consider the fact that they could have great big giant Stitches and huge plastic surf boards everywhere ala Art of Animation/Pop Century…and suddenly it doesn’t sound quite as awful.

  • Melissa

    Good grief, saying that BLT is poorly designed and not well-matched with its surroundings has nothing to do with whether or not it should even exist! The two arguments are completely unrelated!

    Also, they grossly underestimated people’s tendency to abbreviate when they chose the name. ;)

  • @ Melissa:

    Calling the Bay Lake Tower “unfortunate” implies that it is unfortunate that it exists, at least to me. Perhaps I mistook what Michael was originally saying…but that is what I took from the comment.

    Could it look better than it does? Sure. Could it look a lot worse…absolutely! My only point was that as a DVC owner, I do not consider it “unfortunate” that Disney chose to build it. And, I think it is a matter of personal preference as to who does or does not appreciate the styling of it. Personally, given the amount of space they had to work with, and constraints of working with existing architecture that is over 40 years old, I think they did about as well as they could. Now, I can see how some people would say they disagree, and that a better design could have been used…but that is not really what is at issue here, is it?

    In order to build a building large enough to have any meaningful impact in regards to the number of DVC villas available in it, it could not be a small structure, like the previous garden wing, and most of the objections I see surrounding it revolve around the fact that is large and imposing, thereby taking away from the magnitude of the pre-existing A-frame…which was/is very iconic. So, to call it “unfortunate” implies that it should not exist at all, or that it should have been very small, like the garden wing…and that would not serve the purpose that it was built for. And that goes right back to should not exist at all, at least where it is, which is why I was discussing adding on to existing resorts, etc.

    Not everyone shares the same opinion on BLT (and wow, they really should have put a little more thought into that one!), and I find that it is mostly folks that would have prefered that the sum of Walt Disney World remained unchanged, even one iota, from a specific time period…be it 1982, 1971, 1977, etc. There really is no way to please people like that, because if Disney World had remained totally unchanged, it would probably no longer exist.

    • Mark W

      I think there’s been a quite a bit of “talking past each other” rather than talking with each other on this topic so I’ll try to clarify what I was saying.

      Obviously, whether the BLT should exist as is, not exist, exist in a different form, etc. is a matter of aesthetics and opinion. That wasn’t the main point of what I was saying (or of what Melissa was saying, I believe). What frustrates me is when someone has an opinion regarding something Disney should have done differently (or maybe not have done at all), you’ll often find that people will respond with one of two strawman arguments (or in some cases both of them):
      1) Disney is a corporation! They’re a business, not a charity! They have to make money!
      2) The parks are not a museum! Times change and Disney needs to be innovating! Walt was an innovator! He said Disneyland would never be completed!
      etc. etc. etc.

      The reason this is frustrating is because oftentimes, those who are expressing an opinion regarding a certain decision are not arguing that Disney is (or should be) a not-for-profit organization and/or operating “theme park museums.” It’s ironic that in repudiating my concern regarding a “false dichotomy,” you not only confirmed that that was the argument you were perpetuating, but also threw in the second false dichotomy for good measure.

      Disney is a corporation that exists to make money and won’t exist without it. We’re all (I hope) adults who understand that. One can argue that BLT should have been built in a different form (or maybe not even been built at all) without contradicting that point. BLT is not the only way that Disney makes money, and Disney can make money in an infinite number of ways that they’re currently not pursuing. In fact, I could think of quite a few good ideas TWDC could pursue for profit, like, for instance, selling boxed sets of the old Disneyland/Wide World of Color shows, charging for daily tours of the archives, and/or operating their own streaming video on demand service featuring their entire film/tv library. (And if you disagree with me on any of the above, that obviously doesn’t mean that you think Disney doesn’t need to make money.)

      Let’s please be allowed to discuss opinions on aesthetics and the direction of the company without having unnecessary and off-topic arguments regarding whether or not Disney operates for profit or is operating a museum. That’s all I’m asking :)

      • I understand your point of view, however, I do feel that Disney purists, or regressionist as I sometimes call them, tend to focus so much on how things once were, that they lose sight of the fact that there is no way that things could stay that way forever. In the case of the BLT, a decision was made to add DVC to the existing resorts rather than building new DVC resorts. Is that the best approach? From a stand point of what Disney offers, as a whole, I’d say no. I’d much rather see new resorts opened rather than see them add on to existing ones, even when those additions don’t really have the impact that BLT had, such as AKLV, WLV, BCV. But on the other hand, I recognize that economics are a factor in Disney’s decisions. My only point was that calling the BLT “unfortunate”, to me, implies that it should not have been built. Period. Perhaps that is not what Michael meant, but it is what I took from it. That is the position I disagree with, for all of the reasons I stated above. I do not disagree that more could have been to preserve the (somewhate dated) look of the Contemporary. Now, allow me to explain something, I have loved the Contemporary since the first time I can remember going through it on the MK monorail (1973). I loved the look of it, and I still do. However, what you are calling a “false” dichotomy, in reality, is an actual conundum for Disney. If they change things, they upset purists/regressionist…people wrapped up in nostalgia. That’s not a bad thing to be mind you, ask Michael…I am often one of those people. If they don’t change things, it costs them more to expand. Building something new, from scratch, is usually more expensive than just adding on to what is already there (cost of running new electrical, new plumbing, new roads, new parking, etc.)

        Don’t get me wrong, I understand your perspective on this, and everyone else’s that consider the BLT to be “unfortuate”…but I do wonder if you understand mine, or Disney’s. Regardless, we can agree to disagree rather than hashing and rehashing the same points over and over, but that seems pointless. The BLT is there, and it is probably more likely that the original A-frame would be replaced before it will, given their respective ages. So the issue is moot.

        The last thing I will say on the matter however, is this: Be prepared to be upset, because it is all but certain Disney will add DVC to the Polynesian Resort, and it will not be some small long house like the ones that exist there now. I’d bet my DVC contract on it.

  • Omnispace

    I’ve never seen those red Japanese Omnimovers!! Does anyone have insights into what this ride was about? Was it an “If You Had Wings” -type travelogue for Japan??

    Marketing plays as much a part in the DVC resorts as costs and profit. The BLT could have deferred to the iconic Contemporary Resort tower by being lower in height and spread out along the lake but that would not appeal as much to DVC members who want to feel they are getting exclusive accommodations. Now they can stay in a tower just as tall as the Contemporary, that sits further out onto the lake. It’s definitely a privileged position.

  • It’s unbelievably unfortunate to see the “Historic Films” watermark, plus the timestamps, on the video. How the heck does “Historic Films” think they have a claim to this footage, when it’s so obviously owned by Disney?

  • Since this has morphed into a DVC discussion, I’ll just say this: nothing good comes from people thinking they’re “owners” of a Disney property. And nothing good comes from Disney knowing guests will show up year after year automatically.

    It might be a moneymaker, but it’s been unhealthy for the company and its products.

  • Without getting into further debate over DVC, I will just add this to your comment Greg Maletic: DVC owners do not own a Disney property. They do however own their contracts. You can buy and sell them, and they are considered a secondary property. Do you actually own 1/1,890,345th of the Boardwalk Resort…no, of course not. I don’t think anyone here has implied otherwise.

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