Retro Disney World

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Friday, 01 June 2012 12:19

Win a prize, join in our Photo Search!

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Join in the fun and win prizes with our Photo Search! We are looking for retro photos of your visits to Walt Disney World.

  • 1. Each month we will pick a different theme for the photos we want you to search for.
  • 2. You may upload and enter as many photos as you wish, as long as they pertain to the category for that month.
  • 3. After 3 months, our staff will pick the top 3 best photos, one from each month.
  • 4. Users will then vote on the best of those photos, and the winner will receive a prize!
  • 5. Remember: Photos should be from Pre-Opening to 1989 ONLY

Click here for details!

This month's Topic:
Empress Lilly

Summer 2012 Prize:
The Story of Walt Disney World - Commemorative Edition 1971


Well it was early December, 1973, and my dad came home from work and said, "get your stuff packed....we're taking a trip to Florida".  Can a 12 year old get much more excited when hearing those words?  Six of us (my parents, my grandparents on my dad's side, and my sister, piled into our brown Chrysler New Yorker and made the trip from Maine to Florida.  After two full days of driving (this was the beginning of the Arab oil embargo), we settled into a hotel in Jacksonville, FL (our first night was spent in Richmond VA).  Next day we'd be a Disney, but first we made a side trip to Marineland in St Augustine.  By 4pm the next day, we were driving onto Disney property.  At the time, all of Walt Disney World sat at the end of World Drive and there was absolutely nothing between 192 and the MK toll booths.  It seemed to take forever to get there.  By the time we reached the toll booth, we were met by the very first castmember we would ever encounter....I seem to remember his name as Jack.  Anyway, my dad asked if there were any rooms available for the night, to which he replied yes!  With that, he gave us directions to the Contemporary.  Couldn't get any better than that!  We checked in (as quick as we could) into our room in the South Garden Wing, then headed off to the Magic monorail of course! 

Stationed Monorail '72The resort monorail travelled in the same direction as it does now, so the anticipation was really getting thick as we pulled out of the Polynesian station.  We couldn't get out of the monorail fast enough, once we reached the MK.  We had bought our tickets books at the Contemporary, so all that was needed at the turnstile was the admission ticket out of the book, and we were in.  I'll never forget seeing Town Square for the first time as we emerged from the tunnel under the Main Street Train Station.  And as a bonus, everything was decorated for Christmas!  It was beautiful.  The other "first" memory I have, is that as we walked down Main Street, there seemed to be no one in the park.  Looking back, it was due to the oil crisis and also an extremely cold stretch in Florida.  I remember heading directly to Fantasyland (as my grandmother wanted to go on It's a Small World-her favorite attraction from their trip in March of that year), but we decided to ride Snow White first.  Since the park was closing at 7pm that night, we only ended up having 2 full hours in the MK that first day, but without any crowds, besides Snow White, we rode Toad, Peter Pan, It's a Small World, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Mickey Mouse Revue and the Skyway, which at the time was a round trip ride, since Space Mountain and the rest of the Tomorrowland expansion was going on, leaving the TL Skyway Station in the middle of a construction zone.  I remember seeing the Mad Tea Party, but 7pm rolled around and it had closed for the night.  We took a leisurely stroll out of the park, stopping at the Magic Shop on Main Street where my dad bought my sister a Charlie McCarthy puppet, and then rode the monorail back to the Contemporary, where we had dinner at the Gulf Coast Room. 

The next day we were up bright and early.  We had a quick breakfast at a restaurant in the Grand Canyon Concourse (it could have been the Concourse Steakhouse...) and then we were off again, to the MK.  The day was spent visiting every attraction we could find.  While waiting for the Tropical Serenade pre-show to start, we could see Caribbean Plaza being readied for its opening just 10 days away.  Once again, the crowds in the Kingdom were almost non-existant, and we saw very few kids.  In fact, we had 5 of the Seven Drawfs, and the Big Bad Wolf with us for almost 1/2 an hour.  I think the fact that there were so few kids in the park worked to our advantage.  They followed us around and actually accompanied us to lunch at the old Tomorrowland Terrace.  We have pictures (somewhere) of us sitting at tables with the characters around us.  Sadly, the days of encounters like that are long gone.  We ate at the Crystal Palace for dinner that second evening and finished our day with a trip on "if you had wings" was a complimentary (free) attraction, and we were out of tickets for that day.  Our well worn feet appreciated the monorail ride (albeit short) back to the Contemporary for the evening.

20k Leagues under the SeaPlanning on just two nights at WDW, we realized that the next day would be our last, and that we'd be leaving mid-afternoon.  Once again, we armed ourselves with new ticket books (with admission included) and decided on which attractions deserved one more visit.  I remember that the Haunted Mansion and 20,000 Leagues would be repeated, and so would Pan and Small World.  We also took another trip on the Skyway to look at Tomorrowland one more time.  As mid afternoon approached we knew the end was near.  Sadly, we said goodbye to the MK, but vowed to return again someday.  Little did I realize that this trip would begin a life-long obsession with Walt Disney World.  Now I'm a DVC Member, I'm married with two grown daughters, and we've spent literally hundreds of days at the Vacation Kingdom of the World.  Not bad, considering we live in Maine.  It's funny, but some of my strongest memories of the early Magic Kingdom are of things and places that don't exist there anymore....the Main Street Magic Shop, the flower market on West Center Street and the weird food at the Adventureland Veranda.  I also fondly remember the Three Caballeros in the Mickey Mouse Revue, and how amazing the Country Bears and the Hall of Presidents were.  By far, my favorite place was the Walt Disney Story, on Main Street, and the large model of the Magic Kingdom in the exit lobby.  It is my hope that Retro Disney World helps ignite more of these memories on a daily basis.  I plan to visit frequently!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 12:28

My First Disney memory

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 It all began on that spring of 1981….As I was promised with “that” trip if I was successful at the end of my school year. Everyone was talking about this place, recently built out of nothing in Florida, and that was the promised trip. Then…the summer arrived, the end of the school year come and that promised trip become a reality!!

It was my first encounter with Disney….everything that was said to me didn’t do justice to what I was looking and feeling, this was really a magical place. As so many of you, my first Disney experience occurred within the first years of the new park. A park that had floating swans, a fleet of subs, a trip to mars….and lot of memories to be discovered.

Jungle CruiseI clearly remember that my first ride was The Jungle Cruise…as my parents and I were boarding this little boat, I was really excited for what I was looking, but, at the age of six, and as the boat traveled by those rivers….my excitement gave place to fear. My dad kept saying, “c’mon…get up!...enjoy the ride..look at these elephants, and the gorillas! that wonderful fall!!!”. To me, that ride was really scary. Silly me!

But, by far for a six year old boy, the highlight of that trip was a close encounter with his favorite characters….Mickey, Donald and Goofy!!! was my moment of real magic. That was the time when the characters roamed free at the park, and greet them at Main Street, almost in front of Cinderella Castle, was a very magical touch.

That trip is recorded very deep in my mind….and I always wonder if that one was the one that converted me in a Disney fan, I sincerely think after much inside deliberation, that it wasn’t, but it sure built a very solid basement for it. So, what memory made me a Disney fan???....It is going to be discovered in another Shared memory.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 11:57

Share your memories!

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Grand Prix Raceway '71We want to hear from you, our readers just what your fondest memories of WDW are!  Did you slide down the Whatchamacallit as a kid? How about eating at the electric umbrella, or maybe you bought that EPCOT Center album back in '86.

Just click the "Share a Memory" link on the left side of our home page and write a quick story. Remember, RDW is community driven, we all write a bit and share together!


Friday, 25 May 2012 00:00

Retro Disney World Opens!

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 We did it! After months of hard work, debugging and hours and hours of naming photos, we are officially open! We still have lots to do, so bear with us. But we wanted the world to see what we have to offer.

We recommend your read "How it all Started" and our "About Us" page, this will help you understand our mission. After than introduce yourself in the "Welcome Center"

Special thanks to Steff, Steve, Scott, and Irving for their testing patience and time!

Friday, 25 May 2012 00:00

How it all started...

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Before we get started I would like to first offer you a little background about the origins of this website, which surprisingly dates back to 1980...

An Eastern Airlines Boeing 727 left a trail of dirty exhaust as it climbed skyward over Newark NJ...we were on our way, and I had no idea that that my first airplane ride, let alone first trip to Walt Disney World would open a door of memories and opportunities that continue with me to this day. It was October, and oddly enough Florida was in the middle of a heat wave. Six of us, my parents, grandparents, my brother and myself all packed into a yellow Chevrolet Chevelle. Probably didn't have A/C, its a good thing we don't remember pain. I can't say I remember much from that trip, granted I was only 6 years old but turn the clocks forward to 1986 and on our next visit my eyes were opened and I was recording memories.

EPCOT Center was the focus of our next trip, I mean after all this was the latest and greatest technology being displayed right before our eyes. My head was in a state of awe...I knew others thought the park was "too educational", but this place struck a chord with me, as it did with many others. My grandparents often visited WDW over the next decade taking myself and/or my brother with them. I began to absorb more and more about this magical land.

Now in high school, and bored stiff with the regular daily grind, I found a project that gave me something to do and would ultimately help me get some spending money during my college years. We received a letter from some friends of the family who lived England. They had informed us of their plans to visit Disney World on their tour of the United States and asked that I send them some information, being that by this time, everyone who knew my family knew that I had this knack for WDW info. I suspect they were expecting travel brochures or something, but one Saturday in 1990 I typed out a long description of every aspect of Walt Disney World that I thought would be relative for a first time visitor. Due to a combination of postal delay and a misunderstanding of their departure date, my letter was sadly waiting for them when they arrived home from their tour.

Rather than put my hard work aside, the decision was made to expand and share it with anyone else who needed the information. I updated and expanded what had now become a book and released it on computer bulletin board systems around the country...this mind you was pre-internet days...reaching people via bits and bytes was a bit more challenging. I rapidly amassed quite a following and began to distribute the book free of charge via e-mail but by spring of 1994 I decided to discontinue the electronic distribution and I began working on a bound version. I released the first real “book” in November 1994 and it was met with an overwhelming response; every book printed was sold. Over the next seven years I continued to print more copies to meet the growing demand. While doing research over the years I continued to purchase "vintage" and "retro" Disney books and memorabilia...The pictorial souvenirs and pre-opening guides became an instant fascination and I used everything I purchased as research for my book as well as to satisfy my own curiosity of the how/why of WDW. No plush toys or ash trays here, 90% of my collection was paper.

My personal interest in Walt Disney World has grown throughout my life. I’m not one who eats, sleeps and breathes everything Disney, I have more of an interest in the philosophy and design behind the resort and its deep rich history. It was in 2001 when, not for lack of interest, but lack of time I discontinued the updates stop publication of the book. Since that time I’ve continued to visit Disney World, but I am now married and we have a son. Experiencing the parks through the eyes of a family shed new light on my interest and after a bit of deliberation I decided to start updating the book again...and with this, ironically going back to electronic distribution. This time however, with devices like the iPad and Kindle, the world is a different place. I anticipate a Mid 2012 re-launch of Walt Disney World Made Simple.

Magic Kingdom '73While reworking the book I re-kindled my interest in my old collection...I saw all these internet movie film...and then it hit me...Why doesn't someone make a place just for Retro Disney World? I want to see photos of the now-viewed-as-cheesy orange rug walls of the Contemporary; lets share stories of the wave machine on the Seven Seas Lagoon; what ever happened to the Oscar Meyer Wiener man at the Hospitality House? The answer was simple...create it. Yes I know what you are thinking...there are so many "fan sites" and forums out there and you are absolutely correct. However they are mostly tuned towards the latest news and attractions. There are mentions of retro-news and a few forum threads with old photos, but there isn't one place where we can all come together with the past in mind. I'm also working to make this a prototype community if you will, where everyone writes, shares and blogs together.

What has made Disney World magical for us all is the core reason for this site. Those that get a warm feeling when thy think of Mission to Mars, Horizons, Tangarooa Terrace, EPCOT Center and Dreamfinder know exactly what I'm talking about. Now as a father, I experience the fun of Disney alongside my son and watching the amazement in his eyes; longing to be a kid again and go back and experience what I remember is what Retro Disney World is all about.


Retro Disney World...the way it was, the way you remember it...


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