EPCOT Construction Cavalcade: 1979-1981

By EPCOT Explorer

Sometimes, when writing and researching you come upon a group of interesting things and have no idea what to do with them, as they are just implicit pieces of a whole body of study. Although that sounds frightfully academic, this even happens in researching something fun, like EPCOT Center and Walt Disney Productions. So… in that spirit, let’s take a look at some wonderful, early EPCOT Center photos from it’s formative years. You’re not going to want to miss these…

Our first two shots come from 1979 and show the finalized model of EPCOT Center. Spaceship Earth is finally a full sphere, and most of the pavilion models have coalesced into the versions we know today. A notable difference? FutureProbe in place of Horizons. More on that later.

Above is the groundbreaking ceremony for EPCOT Center. Former Florida Governors Claude Kirk and Reuben Askew, Card Walker; the current Disney Chief Executive during this time, Robert Graham and former Governor Haydon Burns all pose with shovels and before a massive plywood mock-up of Spaceship Earth.

These next three pictures are a fun look into WED Enterprises’ model shop in Glendale, California. John Hench is posing with the model of World Showcase, probably for a press event, and Marty Sklar is candidly (hah) observing the completion of the Spaceship Earth model. Notice the artisan applying the geometric skin to one side, you can see the differences in shape and texture on the model. The Universe of Energy makes an appearance, too, in the form of its massive mural that would later be installed in the diorama. This mural was developed and billed as “the largest backdrop built for a show feature in history”. Considering the scope of the Universe of Energy, this is certainly no stretch of the imagination.  All photos are from 1980.

Speaking of large murals, Jack Lindquist stands in front of a small mock up of the Mexico pavilion’s tableaux. The pyramid and backdrop planned for World Showcase would eventually grow to be 220 feet long, complete with an erupting volcano, towering above the Yucatan wilderness. Jack Lindquist, though the Senior Vice President of Marketing was formally in charge of World Showcase Promotion and can be attributed with finalizing many of the agreements between Disney and the respective nations to be exhibited in EPCOT.

Mid 1980, and the ride system for Horizons is being tinkered with…. though Horizons isn’t called Horizons, yet. This is FutureProbe, and although it bears a different name, the intent and experience matches the one to come to EPCOT in 1983. What you see here is a model of the Omnimax domes that the ride boasted and that surrounded guests with imagery. Also visible is the train of modified and hanging Omnimover vehicles that transported visitors from the FuturePort to under the sea, over the land, and even to out in space. The final version of Horizons would not have 3 levels of trains, however, just one.

1981 takes us into the realm of construction photos… The Universe of Energy’s dinosaurs are making their way from Asian Way to be installed in their pavilion, and the Journey into Imagination is merely a flat warehouse. The iconic glass pyramids will be installed much later, using a unconventional space frame construction method. Meanwhile, the warehouse containing the ride was been water sealed and installation of the ride began. Fatefully, though, Journey into Imagination proved to be problematic and would not open until March of 1983, five months into EPCOT Center’s operations. Also pictured is the “laser ballet” scene, part of the “Arts and Literature” scene. Although this picture shows off the lasers formulating an image of Figment out of thin air, this effect didn’t make the cut, and instead the lasers projected more simple images in the final version of the ride. Most notable were music notes and the theatrical masks of comedy and tragedy.

And to cap off this batch of photos, the groundbreaking ceremony for Journey into Imagination. Interesting to note is the artwork featured on the sign that Dick Nunis is standing next to: It’s much more homespun and less futuristic and grand, perhaps to better tackle the earlier concept of Dreamfinder as a magical professor who toured the world, with his pet dragon, Figment.

What really makes all these photos remarkable is the amount of detail and care that went into crafting, creating, and molding each part of EPCOT Center into the park that finally emerged in 1982. Each detail has a story, design process, and reason for being there. EPCOT Center delights in these details and was a work of art, the culmination of vision and talent for a large group of very dedicated artisans, engineers, and planners.

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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM

You can find all of EPCOT Explorer’s articles here.

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9 EPCOT Attractions We Miss The Most

By Keith Mahne

As we all know, Epcot was created from one man’s dream. A dream of building a utopian town called the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Sadly, Walt died without his dream realized, and his successors decided to instead build a theme park that focused on Disney’s ideas of celebrating human innovation and promoting a promising vision of the future. Of course, our ideas of what the future will look like have changed since 1982. The future we’re living in now doesn’t necessarily match what forward-thinking optimists envisioned back during the construction of EPCOT Center. As the decades passed by, some of Epcot’s most beloved attractions were removed as they became obsolete or lost their corporate sponsors. Many of the rides we fondly remember from our childhood vacations to Epcot are now nothing more than fond, distance memories. Although it can be a little depressing looking back on these things, it’s extremely important to remember where Epcot came from and what we hope it will one day be again. This is our list of the 9 Epcot attractions we miss the most…

9) Millennium Village

The Millennium Village was located in Epcot and was the centerpiece of Disney’s Millennium Celebration. The 60,000-square-foot pavilion opened up its doors to the public on October 1, 1999 and was closed down on January 1, 2001. It is, however, used on occasion. Along with the Odyssey Restaurant, the Millennium Village (now named “World Showplace”) is utilized during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

8) The Living Seas

Inside the Living Seas pavilion, guests once saw a movie, took a Hydrolator ride down to Seabase Alpha, and rode Seacabs through the coral reef. Diver, fish, manatee, submarine and dolphin exhibits were at Seabase Alpha. The movie, entitled The Seas, showed how the Earth went from volcanic planet to a world of oceans. The movie will forever be remembered with the narrator’s famous line, “And they rained… and rained… and rained…” The Hydrolators supposedly dove down beneath the surface to Seabase Alpha. However, the Hydrolators didn’t actually go anywhere. The rock walls seen outside the windows of each Hydrolator are propelled upward to create the illusion that your Hydrolator is indeed traveling downward. The floor also shook to add to the illusion. The Seacabs would transport guests from their exited Hydrolators to Seabase Alpha. Along the way, the Omnimover ride would see views of the coral reef.

In 1998, United Technologies pulled out of sponsorship leaving The Living Seas an orphan. The Seacabs were taken away around the year 2001. Around that same time, guests were also given a new option: to view the movie then go into the Hydrolators, or just go into the Hydrolators. After the sponsorship pullout, attendance began dropping at The Living Seas. Nothing new would be added until 2004 with the Nemo attractions, as diver and submarine exhibits were lessened. This declining period earned The Living Seas the nickname “The Dead Seas.”

Soon after the film “Finding Nemo” came out, The Living Seas got invaded by the little fish and his friends. Exhibits got a new paint job featuring Nemo characters. A Nemo and friends sculpture was added just outside the entrance. Most of the old Living Seas and Seabase Alpha merchandise got replaced by Nemo items. As Nemo’s popularity grew, two more special exhibits were added: Bruce the shark’s playground and Turtle Talk with Crush. The Hydrolators were shut down for the year 2006 making way for the new “Finding Nemo” ride. The movie (a.k.a. the briefing room) was also shut down. In late 2006, the pavilion was rechristened The Seas with Nemo and Friends. The Living Seas was no more.

7) CommuniCore

CommuniCore was a pavilion dedicated to technological advance that occupied two semi-circular buildings behind Spaceship Earth at the center of Future World. The two buildings were known as CommuniCore East and West and housed rotating exhibits. Closed and redesigned in 1994, the former CommuniCore buildings are now the home of Innoventions. CommuniCore was the hub of EPCOT Center, both geographically and conceptually, as it brought together nearly all of the ideas and concepts explored in Future World and complemented the experiences offered by other pavilions.

Having debuted at the dawn of the modern computer era, the emphasis throughout CommuniCore was primarily on educating the public about computers. The feature exhibit was a tour through EPCOT Computer Central, the computer hub of EPCOT Center that ran nearly everything throughout the park. In the southern quadrant of CommuniCore East one could shop at the Centorium, the largest merchandise location in EPCOT Center. The Stargate Restaurant in the northern quadrant of CommuniCore East and the Sunrise Terrace in the southern quadrant of CommuniCore West were open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Other exhibits inside CommuniCore East included Compute-A-Coaster, the Great American Census Quiz, Get Set Jet and the Flag Games, all featuring brand new touch-screen technology. Also featured were the TravelPort, and the Electronic Forum, where one could take the EPCOT Poll, an interactive census on popular issues. One could also take a look at the Population Clock, a device that displayed the rough population of the United States and changed accordingly with every passing second. CommuniCore East was also the residence of SMRT-1, a friendly robot who used the latest in voice recognition technology to interact with Guests. At CommuniCore West was FutureCom, an exhibit sponsored by AT&T that forecast the advent of things like electronic commerce, Expo Robotics, and an educational resource center called, at various times, EPCOT Outreach, Ask Epcot, and the Epcot Discovery Center.

Planned exhibits incorporated into the design of the buildings included a second floor, intended to house a PeopleMover system which would allow riders to preview the features and attractions within CommuniCore. The buildings were also designed so that they could easily be expanded outwards, facilitating easy additions to expand the exhibit capacity of the attraction as a whole. In an effort to keep EPCOT updated and vital, CommuniCore was closed in January 1994 to be redesigned into Innoventions, a more eclectic, wild, and corporate-driven take on a Science and Technology pavilion.

6) Wonders of Life

Wonders of Life was perhaps the most interactive of EPCOT attractions, offering several stations like bicycle simulators, a personal health quiz and a sensory-bending crooked room that taught you more about how your body and mind work. Sadly, at first no corporate sponsor could be found to cover the costs of the pavilion. It was not until MetLife signed on that the pavilion was finally constructed, and it featured two main attractions: Cranium Command and Body Wars, the first thrill ride located in EPCOT. Also featured was a theater (home to The Making of Me), restaurant and interactive attractions that evolved around the idea of health and wellness. MetLife ended its sponsorship of Wonders of Life in 2001, which led to the slow decline of the pavilion.

On January 4, 2004, Disney made the decision to make the pavilion seasonal operation only. It reopened when the park was projected to hit near capacity during the high spring months and Christmas season. The pavilion’s most recent operational phase was November 26, 2006, through January 1, 2007. In 2007, the pavilion closed permanently, with no official reason given for the closure. While the pavilion is not operational to the public, it is still commonly used for private and corporate events.

5) Universe of Energy

The original Universe of Energy pavilion itself was an innovation in energy technology, as the entire roof was covered in 80,000 photovoltaic solar cells that partially powered the ride vehicles. Visitors were transported through the pavilion in large battery-powered “traveling theatre cars” that followed guide-wires embedded in the floor as opposed to riding along conventional ride tracks. The original attraction featured numerous films that presented information on the subject of energy in a serious fashion as well as a ride through a primeval diorama complete with audio-animatronic dinosaurs.

What has been lost in the current attraction today (Ellen’s Energy Adventure) is the original attraction’s atmosphere and mood. It used to have loud, awe-inspiring movies about energy that surrounded you on shifting, giant wraparound screens. The journey into the past to see the dinosaurs was both exciting and frightening; it really felt like you had traveled back in time. Sure, it’s probably more entertaining now to some, but the epic nature the ride once possessed is gone.

4) The World of Motion

World of Motion, sponsored by General Motors, was the former tenant of the Transportation pavilion at Epcot. Described as “a road trip through the evolution of transportation,” the premise of the ride was to be a humorous look into the history of transportation, from the ancient days of foot power, through time into the future.

It was an opening day attraction at EPCOT Center in 1982 and it closed in 1996 to make way for Test Track, a new thrill ride through a GM testing facility. Visitors would board moving Omnimover vehicles, and would be taken through scenes that were populated with Audio-Animatronic figures and also projection effects. It was a whimsical look at the history and achievements in transportation, showing scenes from the invention of the wheel right up to the present day and beyond.

3) Kitchen Kabaret

Kitchen Kabaret was a 13-minute audio-animatronic show located in The Land pavilion. The show was another original of EPCOT Center and if you never saw Kitchen Kabaret, the first thing you have to know is that it was pretty ridiculous. For the uninitiated EPCOT Center guests who approached the show from The Land pavilion’s ground floor concourse, this expectation would sink in quickly.  Walking beneath the neon marquee, with its cutesy alliterative name,  they entered the lobby and discovered via promotional posters that the production really was about food performing onstage.

For those who braved past the atrocious signs of cheesiness into the theater would be rewarded by an engaging experience that took absurd concepts to a glorious three-dimensional show. It was proof to the show’s designers that such a bright, cheerful and properly executed production could be pulled off from such a nonsensical situation. Only true creative geniuses could have done it, and in this case everything converged magically. The Kitchen Kabaret was a triumph of art direction, character design and songwriting that left guests singing “veggie veggie fruit fruit” in their heads as they exited an attraction that promised misery but delivered glee.  

 
 
 
 
2) Journey Into Imagination
 
 
 
 
 
 
Journey Into Imagination has been through three incarnations over the years, being replaced by Journey Into Your Imagination in 1999 and the current Journey Into Imagination With Figment in 2002, though the original is considered the best of them. On March 5, 1983, the original Journey Into Imagination attraction debuted in FutureWorld at Epcot, introducing guests to Dreamfinder, Figment and a lovely little song titled “One Little Spark.” The original attraction’s storyline began with Dreamfinder gathering up materials to inspire new ideas. With the help of his imagination he creates a companion named Figment, who is described as having: “Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow. Horns of a steer – but a loveable fellow. From head to tail, he’s royal purple pigment and there, voila, you’ve got a Figment – a Figment of imagination!”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The attraction’s Image Works post-show offered guests a chance to experiment with creativity hands-on in different activity stations, including Magic Palette (digital drawing), Lightwriter (laser writing/drawing technology), Bubble Music (image projection combined with sound), and other interactive fun. Here is the original Journey Into Imagination attraction taken in 1995 and in 1998. You’ll also see the Rainbow Corridor…
 
 
 
 



1) Horizons

No countdown of Epcot attractions we miss the most would be complete without Horizons! Although it’s now a thing of the past, Horizons, the attraction that took guests on “an exciting exploration of options for living and working in the 21st century,” continues to live in the hearts of all die-hard vintage Epcot fans.

Designed over a three-year period at Walt Disney Imagineering in California, one memorable part about Horizons was the choose-your-own ending to the journey via personal spacecraft, desert hovercraft or mini-submarine.

The thing that’s really upsetting about Horizons’ absence in Epcot is that the attraction really wasn’t obsolete. The vision of humanity’s future it presented, complete with all the sights, sounds and smells (ahhh, just remember those orange groves), was so full of hope it was exhilarating. That’s what the original Epcot was all about. If you’ve been lucky enough to experience this attraction, odds are you came out wishing you lived in that world…I know I sure did! That’s something kids should still be able to see, especially in a time when the world around them isn’t as promising. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, say for EPCOT’s 50th anniversary in 2032, Disney could open a new version of Horizons? It’s fun to dream…

What Epcot attraction do you miss the most? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

 
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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

 



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Epcot’s SMRT-1 and Computer Central Exhibit

By Keith Mahne

Back in the early days of EPCOT Center when CommuniCore was still a pavilion dedicated to technological advances, there was a couple of really wonderful attractions that have always mesmerized me. SMRT-1 and the Computer Central Exhibit located in the northeast quadrant of the area continue to live in old EPCOT Center admires memories. Let’s take a look back at these two CommuniCore favorites in today’s new article…

EPCOT Computer Central, sponsored by Sperry Univac, was an attraction that could only have existed at EPCOT in its prime. It was, essentially, the computerized nerve center of the entire park. Guests could look down upon the mainframes from above, while a brief show (using the same Pepper’s Ghost effect as the Haunted Mansion’s ballroom) explained how the operation worked. “Earlie the Pearlie,” played by Broadway actor Ken Jennings, was the Cockney song-and-dance man who hosted the show and performed the Sherman Brothers’ cult classic, The Computer Song, that you can listen to below…

 
(Please pause the Disney Avenue Music Player above prior to playing the song below if you are on a desktop computer.)
 
 
 


 

Take a look at this wonderful illustrated pamphlet from Sperry that provides a conceptual overview of EPCOT Computer Central…

Having debuted at the dawn of the modern computer era, the emphasis throughout CommuniCore was primarily on educating the public about computers. The feature exhibit was a tour through EPCOT Computer Central, the computer hub of EPCOT Center that ran nearly everything throughout the park.

The original version was named the Astuter Computer Revue (featuring the song heard above by the Sherman Brothers, “The Computer Song”). Listen to this rare recording of the complete Astuter Computer Revue below…

 


If guests walked away from the original show learning anything, it was that one viewing of this show was more than enough. Disney recognized that guests weren’t really connecting with the show and quickly closed it in January 1984. Only a month later it was replaced by Backstage Magic, a show that booted out the Englishman in favor of Julie, a girl-next-door-type hostess and her electronic sidekick I/O. They presented a more intelligent and less grating take on the computer story that ran for nearly ten years before closing in October 1993.

You can see a few more important photos of the Computer Central exhibit below…

Computer Central under construction.

EPCOT’s sole Utilidor, under construction

Elsewhere in Computer Central were interactive displays that were popular with guests. SMRT-1, a purple and chrome robot set on a rotating pedestal surrounded by telephones, involved a never-ending stream of guests in trivia and guessing games.  When your turn came up, SMRT-1 asked you (in its synthesized voice) to speak your answer loud and clear through the phone.  It also spent some time ad-libbing and singing between games: “If I keep this up I might graduate from Solid State.”

 
 
 
 
 
SMRT-1 seemed to be related to other robots such as BIT from the WorldKey Information System and ORAC-1 of the Magic Kingdom’s WEDway Peoplemover, that all oozed cuteness and lovability.  Of the three, SMRT-1 was definitely the least sugary and accordingly the most enjoyable.  Sadly, SMRT-1’s shell could be seen for several years in the Contemporary Resort Hotel’s Grand Canyon Concourse as a piece of restaurant décor.
 
 
 
 


Now, let’s watch the 1982 opening of the Epcot Computer Central exhibit that is pure early 80s goodness. With that comes jumpsuits, bland colors with the occasional use of sequins, and some funky dance moves. I really enjoy the flag bearers holding the Communicore logo. This is vintage 1980s Epcot at its finest…

As E. Card Walker, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said at the opening of Epcot on October 24, 1982…

To all who come to this Place of Joy, Hope and Friendship
WELCOME


Epcot is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative vision. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.

May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.

My hope is that Epcot can find it’s way once again and return to a time when it really did entertain, inform and inspire as these classic attractions once did for so many.

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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

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Motion Monday: Golden Horseshoe Revue

By Keith Mahne

Welcome to another Motion Monday article here on Disney Avenue where we take a look at some special moving GIFs of Disney’s past. This time around, let’s travel to The Golden Horseshoe Saloon which opened in 1955 with several other original attractions at Disneyland. Over the years the venue has housed multiple stage shows, but none as special as the original Golden Horseshoe Revue that was the longest running show at the saloon, playing from July 17, 1955 until October 12, 1986. Today, we’ll see some scenes from the show, along with a personal introduction by Walt Disney. Continue after the page break and have a look…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

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The Date Nite at Disneyland Experience

By Keith Mahne

In the ’50s and ’60s, Disneyland promoted special “Date Nites” which ran on Friday and Saturday evenings, featured live music, dancing, and even tickets to “romantic rides.” As many of you know, music plays a huge part of DisneyAvenue.com. With that in mind, today I’ve created a Date Nite at Disneyland experience just for you. You’ll see and hear photos and music of past Date Nites at Disneyland which will really transport you to a time when Walt Disney himself was walking the parks and enjoying the festivities. Friends, Disney Avenue is excited to present the Date Nite at Disneyland Experience

(Before we begin, I highly suggest putting on a pair of headphones and pausing the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top left-hand corner if you are on a desktop computer.)

Above is your ticket book to our Date Nite at Disneyland Experience. As you can see, $6.50 was the price of admission for two. Today, that’d be equivalent to about $50 or $60. Don’t worry though, this experience is free.

Date Nite kicked off after the “Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks at 9 pm, and ran until midnight. Let’s join the rest of the gang and follow the music up Main Street and have a little fun…

I hope you’re ready to dance the night away because I hear The Elliott Brothers playing right now over at Plaza Gardens. Can you hear it…

 
(Please click play below to start the show.)

 
 
 
 
The theme song for Date Nite was “Let’s Dance at Disneyland” and was performed by The Elliott Brothers Orchestra. The live music you’re hearing was also by the Elliott Bros. and recorded at Disneyland. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As you listen to the magical music of Date Nite, let’s take a look around the park at all the love birds…
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
You never know who you might see at Date Nite dancing and having a grand ol’ time…
 
 
 
 
Annette Funicello dances at Disneyland
 
 
 

 Even Walt couldn’t resist joining in the fun…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If you’ve been cutting a rug a little to long and need a break, there is a wonderful little spot right over here…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The time flies by when you’re having fun. Date Nite is almost over and it’s time to start heading to the front gate…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This looks like the perfect place to wait for our ride under the starlight of Disneyland…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Spending a magical Friday or Saturday night under the stars at Disneyland with your love was really special. I can’t think of a more magical place I’d rather be with mine. I love seeing how people use to dress. It was an innocent time and one I wish I could travel back to. Until that technology becomes available, we’ll just have to settle on this wonderful music by Lloyd and Bill Elliott, and of course, the Disneyland “Date-Niters”…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This Date Nite at Disneyland Experience has now been added to the Disney Avenue Music Player above. Feel free to enjoy it by clicking the playlist button at the top right whenever you’d like and enjoy a relaxing evening under the stars at Disneyland with your love.
 
 
 


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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.
 


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Walt’s EPCOT

By Keith Mahne

The name EPCOT derives from the acronym “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”, a Utopian city of the future planned by Walt Disney. In Walt Disney’s words: “EPCOT… will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.” Continue after the page break and let’s see for ourselves what Walt’s EPCOT might have been like…

Gosh, I love those videos!! As a recap, Walt Disney’s original vision of EPCOT was for a model community, home to twenty thousand residents, which would be a test bed for city planning and organization. The community was to have been built in the shape of a circle, with businesses and commercial areas at its center, community buildings and schools and recreational complexes around it, and residential neighborhoods along the perimeter. Transportation would have been provided by monorails and PeopleMovers (like the one in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland). Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above-ground.

Walt Disney said, “It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities. In EPCOT, there will be no slum areas because we won’t let them develop. There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed.” The original model of this original vision of EPCOT can still be seen by passengers riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction in the Magic Kingdom park; when the PeopleMover enters the show house for Stitch’s Great Escape!, the model is visible on the left (when facing forward) behind glass.

What if Walt would have made it long enough to build his original plains for EPCOT? Would it have succeeded back then or even in today’s world? If Walt’s EPCOT would have been built the way he originally intended, I like to believe, just like he did for the theme park business, it would have paved the way for American communities and how they are designed today. Walt had an incredible talent to see things with one foot in the past and another in the future. Unfortunately, Walt never lived to see what could have been his best creation come to life. Just like when he decided to create Disneyland, people doubted it would work. Walt has shown that he certainly wasn’t afraid of the unknown and proved that time and time again. Sadly, we will never know for sure if it would have made it as an actual city. If there is one thing we do know for sure it’s that usually whatever Walt Disney dreamed up… eventually succeeded and the world came away better for it! We sure could use you now Uncle Walt.

For an INCREDIBLE look into Walt’s EPCOT and its possibility of success, I highly suggest you check out Sam Gennawey’s amazing book Walt and the Promise of Progress City. It’s a great read for any Disney fan and especially the EPCOT lovers! Check it out below…

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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.

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A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 6: Merchandise (Mickey’s of Hollywood)

By Sam Vlas

Dear Disney Avenue pedestrians, it’s my honor to present the sixth installment of “A Dutchman in Orlando” to you today. This time around, we are going to delve into the exciting world of Merchandise, to be exact, we’ll take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and stop by Mickey’s of Hollywood to meet and tell a few, fun stories. I hope you’re ready! Lights… Camera… Action…

(If you haven’t had the chance to do so, be sure to check out Part 1 – 5 of Sam’s adventures in the Disney International College Program here.)

After four weeks of working at the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, it was time for the ICP’s (International College Program) to switch my roles. The “HUB” informed me that I would be working in the Left Block Merchandise, and for those of you who don’t know, Left Block is basically everything on the left side of Hollywood Boulevard. That includes (the largest store in Disney’s Hollywood Studios) Mickey’s of Hollywood, the clothing and jewelry store Keystone Clothiers, and the little carts by the (now gone) Sorcerer’s Hat and Main Entrance. That’s quite a large area to cover, but completely up my alley, since I LOVE the Boulevard.

My costume at Mickey’s of Hollywood modeled after Walt Disney’s own clothing.

Special mention is deserved for my costume at Mickey’s of Hollywood, which I really liked. To the untrained eye, it just seems like a regular 1920’s outfit. But I learned during my training, that this particular costume is modeled after Walt Disney’s own clothing! The women costumes was modeled after Lily’s clothing. I was really impressed by that. It felt like I was wearing a piece of Disney history, and for a fan like myself, that’s kind of a big deal.

Mickey’s of Hollywood

I got into Merchandise around Halloween time, which Disney starts to celebrate in the beginning of October. Therefore the store was busy with people trying to get the latest Halloween merchandise, which often accumulated to calling the central Disney Hotline to call other stores and see if they had the items requested. Halloween was a mystery to a European like myself, we don’t really celebrate that over there. However, it immediately became one of my favorite Holidays.

There are a couple of different assignments you can get when working in Merchandise. You can be on Register, that’s pretty straightforward. You can be a Door Greeter, where you greet the guests walking in the stores (my favorite). You can be “Merchantaining”, which basically means: take something from the store and play with it. It’s awesome! Especially with the “Glow with the Show” items. You can be a Floor Stocker, where you make sure the store looks neat and is well stocked. And lastly is the function everyone dreaded… Area Stocker. This basically means you make sure the Main Entrance is well stocked. That doesn’t sound too bad, but get this… the supply shed is out of the way, EVERYONE passes the Main Entrance and you have to be working fast to keep everything in stock, mainly water (because, you know… Florida heat). You are running back and forth between the two Main Entrance merchandise locations and the supply shed. Believe me when I tell you, it’s a very tiring shift.

Citizens of Hollywood

I liked being a Door Greeter the best because I would always have fun with it and mess with the guests any chance I could. I created a little barker persona for myself who would, in 1920’s style, inform what was happening in the store and, of course, shake the hand of EVERY guest walking in the store. I would often put some kind of apparel on and interact with it, whether it was a princess hat (don’t ask), a tail or Mickey ears. We have Mickey gloves to put on, so I would often combine the ears and gloves and do my best Sorcerer Mickey impersonation. Sometimes I would take a giant Mickey or Stitch plush and do a little puppet show, which was a great hit with all the kids. I loved doing those things, and they were even encouraged by management too!

One of the greatest things about working in the store, especially when I was a Greeter, was seeing the Citizens of Hollywood perform. Any regular of Walt Disney World will be familiar with this troop of people. They are movie stars, directors, talent agents, police officers and other people roaming the streets of Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, doing exceptional improv comedy for and with the guests. One time they were “filming” a commercial in front of the store and certain guests were assigned to help the stars get ready. One called Mimi Kaboom walked into the store and demanded a shoulder massage. Guess who was up to the task… this guy!

Other than working inside the store, one could also work at the Main Entrance. Now there are too locations where they sell merchandise by the Main Entrance: the little stand by bag control and a place called Movieland. I know what you’re thinking: “Sam, I never heard of that!” You’re not the only one! It’s tucked all the way to the left in the Main Entrance area and not really visible. It mostly sells plushies, but it’s the only place in the Studio’s to get baby supplies. People don’t know this. I quickly found this out on my first shift there. I had three guests in two hours and I thought to myself: “I need to do something or else I’m gonna lose my mind.” I took one of the bubble shooting guns, unpacked them and started playing with them. After a while the whole working place was covered in bubbles and they flew right into Guest Relations to the delight of the many people standing in line. BUBBLE PARTY!!!

It’s these kind of things that keep you motivated and fun as a cast member, even if guests come up with the most ridiculous questions. Speaking of that…

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Christmas came around and we all know what that means… Christmas merchandise and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (OFSoDL). On opening day of the OFSoDL, I was stationed at one of the Hub carts (the little Merch stands near the Sorcerer’s Hat, well… not anymore), which mostly sells, you guessed it, Frozen merchandise. I don’t hate Frozen, I really don’t, but working in Hollywood Studio’s made me HATE Olaf with a passion. And I worked at a stand full of Olafs and I had to pretend I had fun. Awesome.

These stands are generally not busy at all, and since you’re in the middle of the park you’re almost always answering questions for guests. Mostly where the toilets are (“right behind you, madam”) or where the Frozen Sing-Along is ( “right down this way…”), but this day was different. The OFSoDL had opened and there were dozens of signs pointing to the Streets of America. Because the layout of Hollywood Studios is incredibly confusing people couldn’t find it, so by the end of the day I was able to direct people to the Streets of America in almost five languages. Once again, I had to find a way to entertain myself, so I started to play with the “Made with Magic” wands, you know, the ones that can change colors on a Mickey hat. I would sneak up to people and change colors without them even noticing, to the delight of their company.

The OFSoDL is truly marvelous and a must-see when you are at the Studio’s during Christmas time. The same can be said with Mickey’s of Hollywood apparently since it was ALWAYS busy during the Holidays. And when I say busy, I mean BUSY! How busy? Well, we stayed open for 13 hours and my register alone made almost $17,000(!) in one day. That’s one register, in one store, in all of Walt Disney World. That just blew my mind. People in the US are all into Christmas. I can’t say I blame them though; it’s truly a nice time with good spirits and plenty of nice food to go around. It is also the time to look out for other people. That’s what some guests did too. I was working outside on Christmas Day and we have just opened. A little girl comes up to me with a little candy cane, wishes me Merry Christmas and walks off again. Disney guests can be so awesome sometimes…

January 5th was my last day of work. It was a normal shift, yet so different. A sad atmosphere hung in the store. This was our last day working for the Mouse, the last day making magic for guests, the last day cracking jokes with each other, the last day cleaning up the store for the next day… We didn’t want it to end, but we all knew we had to move on. After the last cleaning, the manager gathered us all in the middle of the store and thanked each of us for our contributions. Many people shed a tear, including me.

Disney has a way of nestling itself into your heart, never to leave again. At that time, I remembered the journey I had made, all of the people I encountered, and all the magical places I had seen. From my very first step into Walt Disney World to my very last. It was a very emotional moment. I would like to take this time to thank everybody I encountered during my time in the Program. You all made a huge difference in my life and I still miss you, and Walt Disney World, every day. It was my pleasure and always remember…

“It’s not farewell, it’s see ya real soon!”


Friends, my journey may have ended here, but we’re not done yet. There’s much more to cover, like the other theme parks I went too, the Disney Cruise I took, and all the other shenanigans in Disney I still have to tell you about. So tune in next time as we delve deeper into the things CP’s do on their days off 😉

Until then: stop, look and listen, then safely cross the Disney Avenue. I hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to see you next time!

– Sam

 
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Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam will be participating in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he will be working in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!

You can find Sam’s articles here.


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The Rhine River Cruise

 
by Keith Mahne

There were once extravagant concept designs and plans for a Rhine River Cruise that was to be inside Epcot’s Germany Pavilion. Unfortunately, those plans were thrown out immediately following the parks opening in 1982. There are only a few details that exist about the ride today, but one can still get a good idea what the attraction may have looked like using the blueprints and concept art available. Let’s take a look at what we know about the never built Rhine River Cruise in today’s new article…





Notice the boat in this close up of the concept art

The 1982 book Walt Disney’s EPCOT provides this brief description of the proposed Rhine River Cruise attraction that was suppose to be inside Germany’s Pavilion:

“The future River Ride promises to be as enjoyable as it is informative. An early concept has visitors boarding a “cruise boat” for a simulated ride down the Rhine and other rivers, the trip affording a visual impression in miniature of the cultural heritage of Germany’s past and the highlights of its present. Among the detailed models envisioned are scenes in the Black Forest, the Oktoberfest, Heidelberg, the industrial Ruhr Valley . . . the possibilities are limited only by the planners’ imaginations.”

This arrow shows the planed entrance to the attraction.

The arrow above shows were the entrance to the attraction’s queue would have been. Wooden doors would have greeted guests as they entered. Today, the wooden doors have been replaced with a large mural that you can see below. 

 
 
 
 
 

Upon entering through the wooden doors, guests would enter a grand foyer, similar to what you use to see inside Maelstrom, that would serve as the queue and loading area. A concept photo below gives us an idea what this might have looked like.

 
 

According to Walt Disney Productions’ 1976 annual report, the World Showcase attraction was to have featured:

” … a cruise down Germany’s most famous rivers — the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr and the Isar. Detailed miniatures of famous landmarks will also be seen, including one of the Cologne Cathedral.”



A close up of the ride vehicles and boarding area.



Passengers would all be facing one way, towards the right, and be seated on the same side of the ride vehicle. The show scenery would all take place on one side of the attraction and all show scenes would take place directly to the front of the guests leaving nothing besides lighting and dark walls behind them. By doing this, Imagineers ensure that passengers will see exactly what they intend for them to see. Also, this would allow the designers to keep costs down and save on space.

 
 
 
 
Notice in the blueprints above, the area between the unload and the exit. This area would have featured a view of the restaurant and live entertainment on the Biergarten stage which riders would see upon exiting. Imagine the fantastic views and delicious smells of German food that would have greeted you as you exited your cruise down the Rhine river. The concept art below will give you a good idea.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rumors have been swirling around for years that the show building for the river cruise had already been built along with the pavilion. I’ve read on a few forums and blogs that the full show building and trenches for the attraction were built into the foundation in preparation for the attraction. This is absolutely NOT true. If we look back at the EPCOT Center construction photos, we can see that the show building was never built. Have a look:
 

The area in red represents where the show building would have been if built along with the pavilion.

Although the Rhine River Cruise never made it past the drawing board, one can still imagine the memories that could have been using what we know now. I would be willing to bet that this attraction would have fit perfectly within our thoughts of similar nostalgic rides like Maelstrom or Mexico’s boat ride, El Río del Tiempo (The River of Time). I still have hope that with Tom Fitzgerald being the new Creative Director of Epcot, he may get sick of Frozen attractions and decide to dust off the blueprints that are hiding somewhere inside a file cabinet at 1401 Flower St, and give the Germany Pavilion the boat ride it truly deserves…

I hope you enjoyed today’s article. For more concept drawings, info and fantastic photos of early EPCOT Center history, I highly suggest you immediately get yourself a copy of the amazingly detailed book titled Walt Disney’s EPCOT…Creating the New World of Tomorrow by Richard Beard in the Amazon link below…



 

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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.
 

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.




A Bevy of Baxter – Disneyland Expansion during the Bicentennial

By EPCOT Explorer

At WED Enterprises, the 1970s were marked with an unmistakable drive of creativity that produced some of the most well known and iconic Disney experiences that still are held dear, today. This was the decade of Walt Disney World’s opening and all of the efforts to bring the fledgling resort up to operational and thematic speed. This is also the heady decade in which Walt Disney Productions would finally act upon Walt Disney’s idea for an urban community of tomorrow and produce a theme park, EPCOT Center, out of those ideas and plans. Additionally, this is also the decade when Disney looked beyond America and saw potential in building magic kingdoms around the world. Tokyo Disneyland’s creative nexus came about during EPCOT’s formal creation as a unified theme park and would go on to be a thematic entity based in the best parts of her Floridian and Californian sisters. But what of Disneyland, the original Magic Kingdom? Disneyland, too, was also the product of the driving spirit of WED’s enterprise during the mid 1970s and although what was built was slightly less than all of the plans and ideas fostered for the park, the process is astounding and a hallmark of the breadth of WED’s vision and skill. Under closer observation, Tony Baxter was instrumental in the creation of Disneyland’s efforts to expand. Join us today as we look back at Tony Baxter’s development and influence on Imagineering’s way forward in perfecting the art of the theme park experience…

Tony Baxter can be considered a product of WED’s first generation of Imagineers. Beginning his career at Disneyland as a front line cast member and working his way into Imagineering, Tony Baxter was lucky enough to be under the tutelage of Claude Coats, Marc Davis, and John Hench and absorbed their pioneering spirit into his own outlook and work for WED Enterprises. This philosophy of early WED’s character is easily seen in Baxter’s ideas for how to expand Disneyland and served as a standard of quality for how he exacted and executed his craft in all his projects. But, for the purpose of today’s article, I would like to delve into three projects. Two that never left the drawing board and one that has been build, cherished, and absorbed into the pantheon of Disney’s brand of experiences and attractions: Discovery Bay, Dumbo’s Circusland, and finally, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Discovery Bay was conceptualized to be an extension of Frontierland and to be evocative of San Francisco during the age of the gold rush. Rooted in the spirit and idea of manifest destiny and spurned on by the scientific progress made in the mid 19th century, Baxter’s version of San Francisco would have had a heavy dose of fantasy injected into it so as to feel connected to Disneyland’s other realms. As it always is with settings in a magic kingdom setting, realism gives way to idealism and fantasy lurking behind façades and just out of sight. As discussed here before, I am of the thought that Marc Davis, a senior colleague of Baxter’s, was a great proponent of this Imagineering method. Though intended to be the modus operandi of Discovery Bay, especially with its both physical and philosophical links to Frontierland, Baxter’s plans for the bay were interspersed with fantastical, yet scientifically believable, structures and environments. Realism was to be blended with fantasy to create the illusion of a working scientific vision of the 1800’s. In retrospect, the style of Discovery Bay might have been or might even be considered by our standards to be “steampunk”. Discovery Bay was, after all, to include references to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Harper Goff’s brilliantly designed Nautilus. Guests would even be given the opportunity to dine in Captain Nemo’s Grand Salon on the submarine, beneath the waves and surrounded by the plush aesthetic of wrought iron, velvet, and rivets and iron works. In addition to this, the dirigible from “Island At The Top Of The World” would be given a home in Discovery Bay and serve as one of the other visual standpoints in the area.

Further attractions in Discovery Bay would have been original and drawn from genres instead of films previously released by Disney. One with the deepest and richest conceptual past is Professor Marvel and his Gallery. Modeled after Rolly Crump’s Museum of the Weird, the eccentric and dragon breeding Professor Marvel would have hosted a revolving theater show (not unlike the Carousel of Progress) that showed off curios and antiquities and oddities from around the world over in a typical Victorian “fair and exhibition” setting. Concept art shows that the façade would have boasted an idealized seaside amusement park aesthetic…. But later concepts for the same show illustrate that the attraction was given a towering and crystalline shape. In a grand working of irony, these plans for Discovery Bay, while the most detailed out of any in the previous line of succeeding concepts and ideas for the expansion, were mothballed when Kodak signed on to sponsor EPCOT Center’s Journey into Imagination pavilion in 1977. So, not wanting to lose any of their characters or ideas, Baxter and Steve Kirk, another member of the WED team tasked with Discovery Bay, reused their rudimentary ideas for the Imagination pavilion. Professor Marvel became Dreamfinder, his roving show became a romp through the realms of abstract thought, and the score of dragons he bred coalesced around Figment, the impish and reptilian spirit of imagination. The architectural ideas for the land weren’t lost either. At this point in EPCOT Center’s development, a ecology pavilion was planned to be built of glass and steel, much in the same vein as Disocovery Bay’s crystalline tower. These ideas evolved into the design for both The Land and Journey into Imagination, along with the other idealist remnants of Discovery Bay. Though separated by space age aesthetics and EPCOT Center’s driving intent to illustrate and exhibit, the experience of Dreamfinder and Figment can be tied to the conceptual history of Disneyland’s attempt to expand Frontierland with the whimsy of fantastical place making.

 
 
 
Discovery Bay’s ancillary attractions would have contributed to the breadth of this land mixed with both fantasy and steampunk “realism”.  A shooting gallery themed to a pyrotechnic market would have aptly been named “The Fireworks Factory”.  A traditional Chinatown, as found in San Francisco, would have been situated along the Rivers of America. And a roller coaster, “The Spark Gap Electric Loop”, would have rounded out the land’s thematic attractions. A lighthouse would have been located at the entrance to Discovery Bay, heralding the spirit of discovery to grace the land and to mark serve as a visual “weenie” to draw guests into the northeastern half of Disneyland.
 
 
 


Although extravagant enough to warrant a lone position in Disneyland’s plans to expand in the 1970s, Discovery Island was paired with Dumbo’s Circusland to help flesh out the original Magic Kingdom on the eve of her 25th anniversary. Another thematic venture lead by the creative efforts of Tony Baxter, this land would serve as a bridge from Fantasyland and to the northwest portion of the Rivers of America…. Right where Discovery Bay was to turn up. An extension, but almost “subland” of Fantasyland, Circusland would have a recreation of a turn of the century circus, based on Dumbo’s adventures in the film of the same name.  Moving the Dumbo spinner out of its home in Fantasyland to be the focal point of this new land, Circusland would have recreated the excitement and attractions of the circus come to town. The Dumbo spinner itself would have been set on an elevated platform and given prominence, while a Pinocchio dark ride and Stromboli puppet show graced the plot behind the iconic spinning sky ride. Out of all these plans, the Pinocchio ride would be the only thematic entity come to pass, and would be built in Disneyland’s New Fantasyland in 1983. This part of the Circusland complex would have also been serviced by the “clown restaurant”, serving up carnival faire and offering a energetic and banner strewn experience.

Adjacent to this portion of Circusland, Mickey’s Madhouse, another dark ride, would have dominated the attraction roster. Themed to the heady days of the Disney Bros. Studio in the 1930s, this ride would have been madcap in nature and featured the 1930’s black-and-white aesthetic of Mickey Mouse shorts and been underscored by raucous ragtime melodies.

The entirety of Circusland would have been anchored by “Circus Disney” a massive E Ticket ride through of a myriad of Disney characters, music, and stories, all brought to exacting and detail driven life through advanced Audio Animatronics. Not dissimilar to the Mickey Mouse Revue in Florida’s Magic Kingdom, this musical journey would have only been enhanced by augmenting the show to progress along a track and have thrilling encounters with the characters. Press material released in the 1970s seems to indicate that the ride would have featured a new system of motion for guests. While details of this are murky, specifics about the ride are not. Guests would have been whisked through the wild animal menagerie, with the cast of the Jungle Book and then flown down the circus midway with Dumbo himself. Here, in the big top, we would have found ourselves part of the three-ring show and subject to the madcap acts and daredevil antics of The Flying Goofys.

As mentioned before, the Circusland concept was never built in Disneyland, save for the lone Pinocchio ride in 1983. However, Walt Disney World opened Storybook Circus in 2013, using much of the same thematic drive to guide the aesthetic choices made in the land. While not featuring any of the zany thematic dark rides planned for Circusland, Storybook Circus does give prominence to Dumbo, and doubles the spinning, iconic ride, while providing for the environment of the carnival in a thematic waiting area. Located where the Magic Kingdom’s Toontown used to reside, Storybook Circus repurposed “The Barnstormer”, a small kiddie coaster themed to Goofy’s farm, to a rollicking stunt show with “The Great Goofini”. While not totally echoing the spirit of Circus Disney, at least the thematic and genre sensibilities are echoed.

And finally, that brings us to the wild west and the only Baxter lead expansion initiative that was conceptualized and built during the bicentennial decade: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Born of Walt Disney World’s need to flesh out her thematic attractions during her heady first decade, and spurned on by the totally separate efforts of Marc Davis, Big Thunder’s creative history is a convoluted myriad of situations and executive decisions. Originally planned to be built in Florida, first, Tony Baxter’s wild mountain thrill ride was thematically tied to an attraction that  Marc Davis dreamed up: Thunder Mesa and the Western River Expedition. Davis’ plan was to construct a massive rock plateau and weave attractions through the scenery. Primarily, two rides were developed for this concept: a slow Audio Animatronic heavy show attraction and a thrilling mine train idea.  Davis, one of the key Imagineers behind Pirates of the Caribbean and the “characters as scenery” driven second act of the Haunted Mansion, planned to bring his brand of memorable characters and sight gags west, to Frontierland. The Western River Expedition was planned to be a meandering river voyage through the American southwest and would have played upon the western genre with a cast of Audio Animatronic cowboys, Native Americans, animals, and even cacti. But this wasn’t to come to pass. Disney World, intent on diversifying her thematic experiences quickly green lit a Space Mountain to attract thrill seekers, and also approved of a plan to bring over a version of Davis’ Pirates of the Caribbean to waylay guest complaints surrounding the fact that The Magic Kingdom lacked the highly popular and publicized Pirates ride upon opening.

With funds diverted to the Space Mountain project in Florida (and soon to be so, too, in California) and an altered facsimile of Pirates of the Caribbean,  Davis’ plan for his western river attraction faltered. However, the plans for Thunder Mesa and a runway mine train stayed in the mind of his fellow Imagineer, Tony Baxter.  While given the go ahead to develop the mine train ride for Florida, California was desperate to expand and bolster their own attraction roster. Compounding this, Frontierland’s Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland was aging and forcing a extremely high cost of maintenance. To help bring this cost down and in an attempt to keep Disneyland fresh and new, management had no trouble in persuading Tony Baxter to design Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for both coasts. Disneyland opened her version in 1979 with rockwork based off of Brice Canyon in Colorado, while Walt Disney World debuted a taller and wider rock formation in 1980. Both mountains share the same track, though aesthetic differences populate each version. For example, Tony Baxter ensured that Disneyland’s Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland would have a lasting tribute in Big Thunder with the preservation of Rainbow Ridge,  the original mining town from the 1956 attraction. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has since gone on to have been added to Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris where the Thunder Mesa concept was reevaluated to fit the whole of Frontierland and give the area a unifying backstory and aesthetic.

By dint of the creative organization that they are, Imagineering will always produce more concepts than physical products and more physical products that combine and interact and are influenced by all of the concepts that have come before them. Although an article like this can read as a winsome and wishful litany of “things we wished happened”, the importance and relevance of conceptual history lies in the details and trajectory of the ideas discussed here. Though not fully built to potential, each of Disneyland’s attempts to expand in the 1970s were all harbingers of other iconic and beloved attractions. Tony Baxter’s influence on these thematic entities is also vital as his tenure as an Imagineer was just beginning and would prove crucial to his own development and Imagineering’s way forward in perfecting the art of the theme park and thematic experience. Therefore, it can be seen that this decade was a watershed moment for all of Disney as their best ideas, both built and unbuilt, would continue to influence Disney’s products and artful creations for years to come.

 
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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer’s first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM

You can find all of EPCOT Explorer’s articles here.


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Motion Mondays: Disneyland Around the Seasons 1966

 
By Keith Mahne

This week’s Motion Monday segment features Walt Disney proudly recapping where Disneyland was in 1966. Check out the amazing working “it’s a small world” scale model clock, too! This is from Disneyland Around the Seasons (1966). Continue after the page break and have a look…

 
 
 
 
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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith’s articles here.