All Aboard the Walt Disney World Time Machine
Since the start of the pandemic, MickeyBlog has done what it can to remind you of the parks, even when you cannot visit them.
We’ve taken you on an international park tour, showing highlights from global attractions like Mystic Manor and Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure.
Today, we’ll take a different approach. Thanks to our friends Bill, Ted, and The Doctor, we have access to a time machine.
That’s right! We’re going back in time to remind you of the Walt Disney World of yesteryear.
All aboard the Walt Disney World time machine! Our destinations are the grand openings of various Disney parks and rides!
Perhaps I’m feeling nostalgic because Walt Disney World turns 50 this year. Whatever the reason, I’ve recently re-watched the opening day ceremonies. Here’s the official video:
Something that jumps out from these old videos is how often Disney started its broadcasts with music. Also, the company was forward-thinking about having male and female co-hosts.
A running theme from early Walt Disney World broadcasts is how the hosts would start in different places before finding one another on Main Street, U.S.A.
Dance sequences in front of Cinderella Castle were also perennial favorites. You’ll find one at the 11-minute mark of that video.
Of course, the aspect that receives the most attention today is Bob Hope’s opening day speech.
The entertainer stood 10 feet away from a monorail station at Disney’s Contemporary Resort as he cracked golf jokes.
Something else I adore from these old clips are the cast member costumes. The ones standing beside hope look like they’re moonlighting as horse jockeys.
Of course, some third-party perspectives provide fascinating insights into the opening day festivities. Here’s British Movietone showing the event from an international point-of-view:
On the one hand, I laugh at the comically dated fashions on display. On the other, I’m in awe of how little some Disney landmarks have changed over the past half-century.
Also, everything sounds more prestigious when spoken by a British journalist.
The 1970s at Walt Disney World
Park officials sponsored tourism videos to enhance Walt Disney World’s profile. It was a marketing staple at the time.
Honestly, some of them are better than others. For instance, I quite like this one:
A glorified commercial, it establishes all the reasons why the park is remarkable and also sells parents on why children will love the place. Plus, it’s hilarious to watch a Crystal Palace ad from 1973.
Fans of old ride videos will love this footage, although most of the shots are brief:
For a longer view, you must watch Wonderful World of Disney episodes. Disney regularly did them for E-ticket attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean:
That clip is from Disneyland, but I thought you might enjoy watching the early vision for the attraction. At Walt Disney World, the most significant new attraction, a show-worthy one, was Space Mountain:
First of all, The Rhodes Family broke up within two years of this video. I presume that’s when the kid who was the lead singer hit puberty.
Also, Tommy Tune’s legs look like stilts, and he’s not someone who should ever wear chaps. Seriously, those people terrify me.
Otherwise, the show employs the same methods I’d mentioned with the hosts checking at different hotels before meeting on Main Street, U.S.A. Also, there’s a Cinderella Castle dance sequence.
Finally, at the 45-minute mark, the co-hosts finally get to ride Space Mountain. Some aspects remain the same today, but it’s definitely evolved over the years.
Also, the post-ride experience used to feature an RCA Home of the Future that looked like this:
For younger readers, I should mention that RCA sold televisions. Technically, they still do, but I doubt you know that.
The 1980s at Walt Disney World
Much of what happened at Walt Disney World during the 1970s led to a seminal event in 1982. EPCOT Center finally opened, 16 years after Walt Disney had promised the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
Frankly, Disney officials had watched too much Blade Runner and Logan’s Run before this show:
Lisa Simpson would describe it as “what people in 1965 imagined what life would be like in 1987.”
The official presentation includes a Lifetime Pass for the first family to enter the park.
Hilariously, the kids were playing hooky and are worried that they’re totally busted.
The broadcast version of the grand opening featured a bit more polish:
Danny Kaye was a pro. The weather wasn’t his friend that night, as rain and wind made a live broadcast particularly challenging.
I also love when Kaye states, “Just so there’s no confusion, EPCOT Center is located in the center of EPCOT. And EPCOT Center is made up of two parts, which is Future World and the World Showcase.
Even then, park officials understood that the “two parks in one” premise may confuse some.
This video also shows a time-lapse video of Spaceship Earth‘s construction. You should watch it for that, if nothing else.
The Other Two Walt Disney World Parks
For a time, Walt Disney entered a massive expansion phase. Only 11 years separate the openings of Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center.
Then, eight years later, Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park joined the lineup.
Nine years after that, Disney’s Animal Kingdom became the most recent park. Now, 23 years later, we’re still awaiting the fifth gate.
So, the grand openings of Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom seem symbolic inasmuch as significant.
Disney pulled out all the stops for its Hollywood park. Here’s a two-hour presentation celebrating the big event:
Yes, that’s Smokey Robinson performing on top of Crossroads of the World, a shopping kiosk that’s still open today!
By the way, the end of this show includes words from John Ritter.
As a Gravity Falls superfan, I’m pleased that his son, Jason, remains connected to Disney.
A few years later, the Animal Kingdom introduction seemed more measured in tone.
That Lion King performance at the start is a showstopper, though!
In between, Disney outdid itself with one grand opening video. Have you ever watched the introduction to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?
That’s legitimately the best job Disney had ever done in demonstrating why an attraction would excel.
There’s a made-for-tv movie about it called Disney’s Tower of Terror, too. Here are the first few minutes:
I’m disappointed this one isn’t available on Disney+ yet.
Feature Image: Disney