... in the 1970’s

WDW Magazine - - Content - BY STEPHANIE SHUSTER

The 1970s were a time of progress and ex­cite­ment over new tech­nolo­gies that were emerg­ing and in­flu­enc­ing art, cul­ture, science, and travel. It was a per­fect time for Dis­ney’s flag­ship re­sort to hit the scene, and on Oc­to­ber 1, 1971, Walt Dis­ney World opened to the pub­lic.

Be­fore we dive into WDW in the 70’s, let’s take a quick look at how Dis­ney came to Or­lando in the first place.

Dis­ney searches for the bless­ing of space

Dis­ney­land opened in 1955 in Ana­heim, Cal­i­for­nia. By 1959 Walt was itch­ing to open a sec­ond re­sort to build upon the legacy of the first, im­prove many as­pects of op­er­a­tion, and afford Dis­ney more con­trol over the area sur­round­ing the re­sort. The hunt was on for the per­fect space, and in 1963 Walt Dis­ney first set his sights on the grounds we now know as Walt Dis­ney World.

Af­ter sev­eral years of buy­ing up plots of land un­der the radar via dummy cor­po­ra­tions, on Novem­ber 15, 1965 the of­fi­cial re­veal was made by Walt Dis­ney and Florida Gover­nor Hay­don Burns – a big­ger, bet­ter Dis­ney theme park was com­ing to Or­lando – Dis­ney World.

At this point in his­tory things were de­layed by Walt’s un­timely death in 1966, but his brother Roy Dis­ney forged ahead to build the start of the great­est theme park re­sort on the planet. In mem­ory of the man who started it all, the re­sort was re­named to Walt Dis­ney World.

Open­ing Day

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s fast-for­ward to open­ing day. On Oc­to­ber 1, 1971, the Walt Dis­ney World re­sort was very dif­fer­ent from to­day, al­though much has stayed the same. On open­ing day guests saw the de­but of Magic Kingdom, Dis­ney’s Con­tem­po­rary Re­sort, Dis­ney’s Poly­ne­sian Vil­lage Re­sort, and the Walt Dis­ney World Mono­rail. Over the decade a few more things would be added, and while that’s a very small glimpse of the WDW we know

now, it was in­deed a “world” com­pared to the Dis­ney­land Re­sort.

Magic Kingdom was first and fore­most on peo­ple’s minds – how would it stack up to Dis­ney­land? Of course, it was a hit and many of the most pop­u­lar at­trac­tions still run to­day. But, a num­ber of 1970’s at­trac­tions are now gone, but not for­got­ten.

The Magic Kingdom

These in­clude eleven Magic Kingdom at­trac­tions that were beloved by fans over the years. Head­ing up Main Street USA, guests could board one of twelve Swan Boats for a tran­quil ride around the wa­ter­ways the con­nected the cen­tral hub and the Swiss Fam­ily Tree House. The boats were re­tired in 1983.

Work­ing clock­wise around Magic Kingdom, we come to Fron­tier­land, where the Di­a­mond Horse­shoe Re­vue ran a western sa­loon show daily. Over the years, en­ter­tain­ment was re­moved from the venue and it has func­tions as a quick ser­vice and ta­ble ser­vice restau­rant at dif­fer­ent times ever since.

Also in Fron­tier­land were Davy Crock­ett’s Ex­plorer Ca­noes (ac­tual ca­noes pow­ered by guests, guided by a Cast Mem­ber) and Mike Fink Keel Boats, which both opened in 1971 and closed in 1994 and 1997 re­spec­tively. These boats roamed freely on the Rivers of Amer­ica, with­out tracks.

Over in Fan­ta­sy­land, guests in the 1970’s could take a spin on dark rides like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (which closed in 1998) and Snow White’s Scary ad­ven­tures (re­cently closed in 2012). These fan fa­vorites are fondly re­mem­bered, along­side 20,000 Leagues Un­der the Sea – a sub­ma­rine ride right in the heart of the Magic Kingdom! Sadly, the last voy­age for the subs was in 1994.

The skies of Magic Kingdom were cer­tainly busier in the 70’s as the Sky­way ran gon­do­las from 1971-1999 be­tween Fan­ta­sy­land and To­mor­row­land.

Once ar­riv­ing in To­mor­row­land, guest could board a Flight to the Moon from 1971-1975 and then a Mis­sion to Mars from 1975-1983. Both at­trac­tions shared the same space and a sim­u­la­tor style of ex­pe­ri­ence. At this time in his­tory, Cir­cle-vi­sion 360 films were ex­tremely pop­u­lar, and To­mor­row­land hosted a pre­sen­ta­tion of Amer­ica the Beau­ti­ful.

Tick­ets

Prob­a­bly the big­gest thing that’s gone but not for­got­ten from the Magic Kingdom in the 1970s are the tick­ets! Nowa­days, guests are used to pay­ing a flat ad­mis­sion fee for en­trance to the park and all of it’s rides and shows. In the 1970s, tick­ets were very dif­fer­ent! You would pur­chase an “Ad­ven­ture Book” con­tain­ing tick­ets for 7, 9, or 11 at­trac­tions (ad­di­tional ride tick­ets could also be pur­chased). Each ticket was coded A, B, C, D, or E and has a dif­fer­ent value as­signed to it. For ex­am­ple, you would have the choice to ride any one at­trac­tion listed on a B ticket by us­ing that ticket at the en­trance to the ride.

This for­mat of tick­et­ing lasted through the decade, but is still re­mem­bered to­day as we of­ten hear the big­gest, most pop­u­lar at­trac­tions be­ing re­ferred to as “E-ticket Rides” – hear­ken­ing back to those cov­eted, most ex­pen­sive, e-tick­ets.

The Mono­rail and Re­sorts

Leav­ing the Magic Kingdom, guests in the 1970’s could hop aboard the Mono­rail on the Re­sort or Ex­press loops. Mark IV trains were used at that time.

Hop­ping off the mono­rail at Dis­ney’s Poly­ne­sian Re­sort, guests en­coun­tered fewer long­houses than we have to­day, and there was only one re­sort pool un­til 1978. The long­houses also had dif­fer­ent names than to­day – do you re­mem­ber Bali, Hai, Hawaii, Maui, Tahiti, or Oahu?

Some­thing most folks don’t know about the Poly­ne­sian Vil­lage Re­sort – on De­cem­ber 29, 1974, John Len­non signed the pa­per­work to dis­band The Bea­tles there.

Mov­ing along to Dis­ney’s Con­tem­po­rary Re­sort, guests in the 1970’s had fewer rooms to choose from as only the main A-frame build­ing and gar­den wings were in ex­is­tence.

Both re­sorts were con­structed us­ing the (then) very mod­ern method of uni­tized mod­u­lar con­struc­tion, which al­lowed rooms to be as­sem­bled off site and then slid or stacked into place. The nightly rate dur­ing the 70’s av­er­aged $30-70.

A few more re­sorts were planned – the Asian, Vene­tian, and Per­sian re­sorts – but those are all but a dis­tant mem­ory to­day as more than 20 other re­sorts have sprung up on WDW prop­erty.

Dis­ney’s Fort Wilder­ness was the only other re­sort to open dur­ing this decade and be­side it is one of the most sorely missed at­trac­tions in WDW his­tory: River Coun­try.

River Coun­try and Bay Lake

As the orig­i­nal Dis­ney wa­ter­park, River Coun­try was open from 1976 to 2001 when it was fi­nally closed. It had 2 pools, 5 water slides, ar­eas for kids, and lots of fun ex­tras like rope

swings. Guests at Fort Wilder­ness could lit­er­ally walk right over. It was themed like an old fash­ioned swim­ming hole, over­look­ing Bay Lake (where it drew it’s water from). It has been left aban­doned and de­crepit, but ru­mors swirl that Dis­ney may be de­mol­ish­ing the park to make way for some­thing new in the com­ing years.

Across Bay Lake, Trea­sure Is­land (later Dis­cov­ery Is­land) was an­other at­trac­tion that has been left to be re­claimed by na­ture. From 1974-1999 it func­tioned as a wildlife ob­ser­va­tory, pri­mar­ily for birds and tor­toises.

Look­ing to the fu­ture

As the 1970’s came to a close, the hori­zon for Walt Dis­ney World was bright – Ep­cot con­struc­tion was well un­der­way, and the pub­lic couldn’t wait to see what WDW has in store for them dur­ing the next decade.

Photo by Kath­leen Lo­gan Wolfe

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