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There is so much to say about this film that we made it the main topic of Podcast Episode 13 and @MKPony wrote an entire article annotating all the special views and historical aspects of the film. What you are about to watch is the cleanest most pristine copy available anywhere. You will see things you never noticed before, you will laugh, you will feel nostaglic and you will yearn to go back to 1972.

Sit back, relax and take one of the most fantastic journies to Walt Disney World ever produced...

Monday, 23 November 2015 20:57

The Magic of Walt Disney World Annotated

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As a companion to Podcast Episode 13 and the release of our restored version of The Magic of Walt Disney World we present a special guest author this month, Foxxy (@MKPony). She has put together a fantastic annotation of the film as well as some interesting back stories, new findings and some surprises along the way!

When I was younger, the Disney Channel offered a fairly steady stream of vintage Disney programming: old episodes of Disneyland, especially any that showed the park, were rare treats for me. Years before I would ever step foot near Sleeping Beauty Castle, I knew it through episodes of Wonderful World of Color, and contemporary Disney Channel programming like Inside Out. This instilled in me a healthy respect for Walt’s vision for Disneyland - Walt’s marketing is as savvy now as it was then - yet I was not wholly satisfied. Where were my parks, the ones I grew up with?

It wasn’t until college that I was passed a bootleg VHS of a handful of promotional obscurities taped off the Disney Channel that I found my valhalla, my perfect, ideal park film. I had no idea what to expect, but from the moment the Walt Disney World “globe D” rushed towards the screen and Buddy Baker’s Vacation Kingdom theme welled on the soundtrack, I knew I had found it. I’ve seen it hundreds of times since then, but nothing makes me happier than The Magic of Walt Disney World. Between it and the excellent VHS souvenir tape A Dream Called Walt Disney World, it’s possible to capture some of the feel of a special time at Walt Disney World. Disneyland’s peak years were somewhat after Walt Disney had died, and as such didn’t quite get the through documentation Walt Disney World was afforded. As a visual keepsake, as a piece of promotion, and as just plain a pleasureful film, The Magic of Walt Disney World is marvelous.

As such it was a delight to be involved in any small way with Retro Disney World’s restoration of this film. Even allowing for the limitations of an old 16mm source and a damage line on the left of the screen, you’ll find that this copy of The Magic of Walt Disney World is sharper and clearer than any that has been previously available. It’s also presented in its original 24 frames per second projection speed, which makes the film look a great deal more dynamic and cinematic in motion than the old TV-broadcast 29.97 frames per second versions did.

I’m not sure how many readers of this article have yet to be charmed by this film and how many have seen it before, but when I was a asked to write something about the restored film, I was so staggered by the sharpness of the restoration that I found myself seeing new things in the film I had never seen before, and I thought it could be fun to point out some details, offer some commentary, and put together some annotations for The Magic of Walt Disney World, so no matter if this was your first time or your hundred-and-first, we could find some new details together.

I won’t spoil all of the surprises, I promise, because there’s a lot to see in this film, but think of this as a primer, a brief overview of this overstuffed cave of wonders.

00:00 - the film starts, as we must too, with the voice of Steve Forrest. An actor not especially associated with the Walt Disney Company, Forrest was a television actor in westerns through the 60s before he made a few films with Disney, and his distinctive voice lends an unusual tone to this film. Admirers of his voice work here should go directly to the 1969 Disney production Rascal, where Forrest gives a very good performance as an absent father in an essentially serious coming of age drama. There’s also a raccoon. It’s worth your time.

01:00 - The Magic of Walt Disney World kicks off with some remarkable aerial photography probably taken in early 1972, allowing us to see, directly to the left of the castle in this first shot, a rare view of the spot which would one day house a structure variously known as the Plaza Pavilion, Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station, or Tomorrowland Terrace. Back then the path from Main Street to Tomorrowland was alongside a plain wall with a landscaped lawn sloping away towards the moat. This lasted for such a brief period of time that it’s noteworthy by itself simply to have a clear view of it.

From this view it’s also possible to see that the show building for The Walt Disney Story, today the Meet Mickey attraction in Town Square, had not yet been constructed. The building it was added to was originally intended to be a functioning hotel, and the lobby was actually designed by Dorthea Redmond. It opened as the Gulf Hospitality House before the Walt Disney Story theaters were built behind the original Hospitality House foyer in 1972.

03:11 - a Mariachi band may seem to be hilariously unexpected at the Contemporary, but the hotel had a Southwest theme until the early 1990s and the mariachi band was a fixture, serenading diners in the Grand Canyon Terrace gourmet restaurant below.

03:44 - pause this frame, please, to enjoy not only the Contemporary’s brilliantly named liquor store - The Spirit World - but the fact that this transfer is clear enough to see into the Spirit World and actually make out boxes of Citrus stacked inside, each branded with the 1971 “Vacation Kingdom” logo. Disney actually did sell and ship boxes of citrus from this shop, just one more service that guests would never have leave Disney to perform. This is the same reason white sand beaches and palm trees are planted liberally around the Seven Seas Lagoon - one less reason to take the trip to Daytona Beach, or Cocoa Beach.

Here’s a flier from 1972 for Disney’s “Citrus Gifts” program, provided by Disney Worldian extraordinare Jerry Klatt.

05:07 - a view of West Center Street probably taken in September 1971 during the park’s personnel preview. Many early postcards, promotional photographs, and film clips were shot during this first month before the park was technically finished. The easy way to spot these is to look for photos with a bunch of people in the foreground and nobody in the background, or for shops without installed signage. Here, notice that the famous Center Street Flower Market has not yet been installed.

05:18 - another detail I’d never seen on the VHS transfer of this film - the permanent railing alongside the Refreshment Corner patio has not yet been installed, and the planter here is protected only by a temporary rope and garden stakes! I’m fairly sure this is another September 71 shot.

06:55 - notice here what appears to be two parrarel lines of floats in the castle moat leading towards a dock and boat on the Tomorrowland side of the Hub, outside the Ice Cream Parlor. This dock, and the shade structure over it, was intended to be the
loading point for the Plaza Swan Boats, which operated here temporarily before being moved north to the Hub Rose Garden area in 1973. I’ve written extensively about the mysterious early days of the Plaza Swan Boats here. [LINK TO:]

Which still doesn’t explain what these floats are. An early attempt at a guidance system? A planning visual aid? We’ll probably never know.

07:20 - this group was called Dallas Sound Track, and they’re something of Disney’s in-house idea of what a rock band was like.

08:10 - at the top of this frame is the clearest view I know of showing Tomorrowland’s original outdoor snack bar. Before the rest of the land was built, the entire stretch from If You Had Wings to the Skyway Station was one long open walk alongside a brightly painted construction wall. By 1972, Disney had added a temporary stage and bleacher seating, to the far right of this shot, and the distinctive blue snack bar, top center. So far as I know it dispensed individual slices of pizza.

10:36 - recent Magic Kingdom visitors may be shocked to learn that sleepy Liberty Square was once the park’s most popular land, and that the central Hall of Presidents attraction commanded wait times of an hour or more. This busy street scene may not be proof, exactly, but it is a symptom of America’s “Bicentennial Fever”. It was a different time. People made Bicentennial window curtains.

10:50 - the popular “Colonial Stockade” photo opportunity did not open with the park - if you check out The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World television special from 1971 (you have to be brave to do so), you’ll see Glen Campbell standing right at this spot and the holes in the stockade are not large enough to pass hands or head through. Since this footage seems to have been shot in Summer 1972, then the “stockade” holes were widened to accommodate vacationers sometime in the park’s first few months of operation. I bet there’s a story there.

15:21 - while enjoying the “lusty atmosphere” of Frontierland, notice not just the lack of a boardwalk along the river, but the absence of any fence at all. Frontierland’s pathways were originally outlined in simple stones, with nary a split rail fence between you and a dip in the Rivers of America.

Also notice, again, that this transfer is so clear that you can see the track for the Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat below the surface of the water.

18:35 - notice not only this terrific view of the extended queue in front of Country Bear Jamboree, which was wildly popular through the 70s, and the empty expanse of Frontierland beyond, but a rare view of the original pass-through between Frontierland and Adventureland. As you can see, it was just a big old open space.

In late 1973, traffic was routed through the new Caribbean Plaza and past Pirates of the Caribbean, and this space was walled up and became expanded covered queuing for Country Bear Jamboree. The walls were not removed and the current ramp installed until the early 90s, as part of the general sprucing-up of Magic Kingdom crowd flow patterns ahead of the opening of Splash Mountain.

22:48 - I’ve always suspected that this fellow here was Park Operations President Dick Nunis, and this clearer copy has done nothing to abate my suspicion. Nunis was a former football player and surf enthusiast, and this is the sort of thing he’d probably do for the camera.

23:45 - this is an unusually clear view of what was then officially known as Blackbeard’s Island, but which more or less was still Riles Island, in the middle of Bay Lake. By late 1972 Disney had stripped nearly the entire original island bare, to re-sculpt the land and rebuild it into tropical lagoons for Treasure Island, which opened in 1973. Since it’s basically abandoned these days, it’s pretty much gone back to being Riles Island, although a house (with the original dock seen here) was present on Riles Island when Disney bought it.

25:56 - here begins what is probably my favorite segment of this restoration. Video copies blurred and crunched the “twilight” shots into a muddy mess. Every one of these shots could be hung on your wall.

26:45 - these three natural cypress trees were planted - probably by Bill Evans - expressly to provide some compositional balance to the view of the Magic Kingdom from the boat dock at the Transportation and Ticket Center. They didn’t survive into the 1990s, although you may still observe their stumps poking above the water line from the Magic Kingdom Ferry. They were just off the east side of the largest island in the Seven Seas Lagoon.

27:42 - when the elevator doors open into the Top of the World, the seats we can see directly facing the elevators on the Magic Kingdom side are actually the adjoining Lounge, sometimes called the Mesa Grande Lounge. The camera then exits the elevator, still facing the lounge. The stage seen in the next shot would be off to the left of this shot, on the side of the Top of the World facing the Ticket Center.

The group seen here, by the way, seems to be a Disney fabrication. Top of the World hosted name performers in a “Supper Club” pay-one-price jacket-required dinner. Presumably these folks stepped in for the promotional film shoot.

The Magic of Walt Disney World was released in theaters in December 1972 as a double feature with Snowball Express, Disney’s Dean Jones comedy for 1972. They make a good double feature, one you can enjoy yourself with Snowball Express on DVD. In 1974, The Magic of Walt Disney World was refurbished and expanded, with a new narration, extended coverage of The Haunted Mansion, and footage of Pirates of the Caribbean, Tom Sawyer Island, Treasure Island, and more. I have only an audio recording of this version, taped off TV by Jerry Klatt in the days before VHS, and as far as I know has never been shown anywhere since.

And then, the film vanished. It wasn’t until late night television broadcasts of the 1972 version brought it back onto the radars of fans, thanks to attentive archivists like Mike Lee at Widen Your World. Thanks to this new restoration, crowdfunded by readers of this website, it’s been returned to us all, and in better quality than ever. At the distance of 43 years, it’s easier to see this as more than just a blip in Disney’s promotional machine - like Disney Goes to the World’s Fair, like Disneyland Showtime, like Dateline Disneyland, it’s a top rank classic of its kind, an enduring record of a place long gone.

I love it, and I’m glad it’s here, to be seen more more fans than ever before. Savor it.


We continue with our series of EPCOT Center B-Roll footage from a 1987 3/4 videotape issued by Disney to media outlets for their use.

EPCOT Center B-Roll Restoration Series

Our counterclockwise walk around World Showcase continues taking us to Morocco and France.

In France we open with a magnificent view of the pavilion as viewed from one of Paris's iconic bridges. Then scenes of the area viewed from the iconic fountain follow. It's a refreshing reminder that the France pavilion today looks virtually unchanged from opening day when viewed from the World Showcase concourse (with the exception of the covered/enclosed seating added to Les Chefs de France restaurant in the mid-80's.).

A juggling mime adds to the atmosphere (the man in sunglasses is clearly not amused). A portrait artists draws a guest with France's scale version of the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. After a brief visit inside the pavilion's shops, we enter the still stunning Impressions de France film. This film has run uninterrupted since opening day in 1982 with only two frames ever having been changed (to delete a former corporate sponsor's logo). We make a stop in the pavilion's two restaurants: Les Chefs de France and Bistro de Paris (now Monsieur Paul's) before closing out our visit to France with a panorama from World Showcase Lagoon.

Next we move on to Morocco. This pavilion opened in 1984, two years after the rest of World Showcase and was built by artisans sent by the King of Morocco. The beauty of the pavilion is revealed in the opening scene shot upwards from a garden setting. A view from World Showcase Lagoon of the rock wall that fronts the lagoon then brings you into the streets of the pavilion and it's exotic entry and exit points. A market scene puts you right in the middle of Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

The crowded feel of the market is captured exceptionally well. Moroccan entertainment is depicted along with belly dancers before we head into Restaurant Marrakesh for lunch (boy does it look tasty).  The restaurant looks very plain as the walls are bare (as they are today). The color in the room then and today comes from the dark red carpets which you can't see in the video. As with the other pavilions we close out with a panoramic view from World Showcase of Morocco.

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We continue with our series of EPCOT Center B-Roll footage from a 1987 3/4 videotape issued by Disney to media outlets for their use.

EPCOT Center B-Roll Restoration Series

Today we start our counterclockwise walk around World Showcase visiting our neighbors to the north: Canada and the country with which we have a special relationship, The United Kingdom.

In Canada we start with a panoramic view of the pavilion as watercraft and ground transport pass in front of it. Obligatory shots of the buildings/rooflines and totem poles give way to the entrance to O' Canada, the circle vision 360 film that has anchored the pavilion since it opened.

Several scenes from inside the theater are included and its infectious song is heard in its original version. Canada's impressive rock work and waterfalls, the faux Victoria Gardens and the waterways of the pavilion are all captured before we head inside Le Cellier in its days as a buffet before it became a high end steak house.

Footage of Canadian Mountie Mickey, a peek inside the merchandise shop and a final shot of the pavilion from the water close out our visit to the Great White North.

Chip Chip Cheerio! Welcome to the United Kingdom where we start with 1980s citizens strolling it's charming streets (with a low rider metal stroller to entertain you) and exploring it's sculptured gardens. The obligatory red phone box photos and a Robin Hood and Little John character greeting are upstaged by a tartan kilt wearing Goofy.

Wonderful footage inside the Toy Soldier gift shop gives you a glimpse into how high end some merchandise was in 1980's EPCOT. Interior details are captured before heading across the way to the Twinings Tea Shop which is virtually unchanged today. Thirsty? Follow us across the way to the Rose & Crown Pub both indoors and outdoors.

A view of the pavilion from World Showcase Lagoon closes out our visit to Her Majesty's finest international outpost.


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Wednesday, 30 September 2015 17:07

Rare EPCOT Center B-Roll Video - Part 1 of 11

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EPCOT Center opened to the public on this first day of October in 1982.  Thirty three years later the park’s original “permanent World’s Fair” theme has suffered a bad case of mission creep.  But for RetroDisneyWorld fans the chance to step into EPCOT’s first decade is one we relish.  Just such an opportunity presented itself to us when we acquired a ¾” videotape (commercially known as U-Matic) containing footage of EPCOT Center’s World Showcase. U-Matic tapes are larger than VHS (which was 1/2” tape) and were the standard video used in commercial broadcast television stations until they gave way to digital media.

This particular U-Matic tape was issued by Walt Disney World for use by the media as “B-Roll” footage.  B-Roll is the footage that is used during voiceovers to illustrate a story.  Picture the newscaster saying “Ticket prices will be rising next week at EPCOT Center” while footage of people entering the park under Spaceship Earth plays on the screen. 

Today we share the “General” footage including aerial shots of the whole park, terrific footage of the original parking lot entrance signage, people pulling into parking spaces, waiting for the tram (check out the original EPCOT color scheme on the trams!) while monorail lime passes overhead.

People pass through the turnstiles (while you hear the original entrance soundtrack). Footage of Laserphonic Fantasy set the stage for a ride on the Friendships of World Showcase Lagoon. A double decker jitney meanders around World Showcase before the Mickey Express brings the characters on stage.  And for you character hunters don’t miss the footage of country-specific characters like Canadian Mountie Mickey and German Goofy!

The EPCOT Center World Dancers take the stage to entertain you and the video closes out with Future World’s band playing swing music. This footage was shot between 1985 and 1987 and includes ambient sound.  While the ability to restore videotape is limited we really like how this turned out. Some of this footage was used in EPCOT souvenir travel videos of the 80s and early 90s but we’re betting a lot of it will be footage you’ve never seen before (and never seen this clear).  We’ll be releasing more footage from the individual pavilions in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned and Happy Birthday EPCOT Center!

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Over the past year of so we've been restoring many Magic Kingdom films...each of which lends to some amazing discovery that we haven't seen before. However, when you discover a film that includes footage from MK and River Country you tend to get very excited, and then when you realize there is more RC footage than MK you really get pumped...and realize some took an expensive (for the time) camera into a water park, positioned themselves above rides, on the beach and possibly in the water to capture some amazing footage. While portions of the film are over exposed, we left them in as footage of River Country is so rare!

Ok so what is in this film? First we start off with a slow pan from the tower windows at the Royal Inn (it became the Hotel Royal Plaza and is now The B Resort). The footage starts at Empress Lilly and pans over past the preview center building and then a quick zoom over a hazy horizon to the Magic Kingdom where you can barely make out the Contemporary and Space Mountain (Thanks to @BrianPMiles for figuring out the MK and the hotel.). We then stand on the beach (or possibly in the water) looking towards the Rope Climb, panning to the left past the Cable Ride and ending at the Boom Swing with the finale to White Water Rapids in the background. Next up is great footage of the Upstream Plunge and then back to the terminus of White Water Rapids. Next up has got be one of the best amateur shots of Whoop 'n Holler we've seen, this positioning is key and you can clearly see the slide in action. More Upstream Plunge action is followed by an up close and personal look at the Cable Ride and then our day ends at the White Water Rapids.

Before we go, recently we were able to procure two very special 16mm WDW films; these are not home movies, but professional productions that we would like to restore and share with the world. Together they have a runtime of over one hour, include sound and from our research there are no existing High-Definition digital prints of either of these films anywhere. We have seen a few horrid grainy VHS transfers, but they are just that, abysmal and nearly unwatchable. Because we want to have these films scanned and digitally transferred with the best possible technology the cost of this process is beyond our current budget - this is where we need your help. We've setup a support us page at Patreon, while similar to Kickstarter or Indigoog, Patreon is crowdfunding that is geared towards those producing media. Your support will not be left un-noticed, not only will you get to view the restored films before the general public but we've got some additional rewards for helping us out. We respect the fact that not everyone can support this endeavor, but we thank all for their continued support. If you can, please support us at

And now, lets go back to River Country in 1978...

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