Mapping Out the Magic Kingdom

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Features, Imaginerding, Walt Disney World

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Published on August 26, 2012 at 11:08 pm with 16 Comments

Disney has always struggled with promoting Walt Disney World. With Disneyland, the country was ripe for Walt’s vision of a family-inspired theme park. The nascent television industry was a perfect way to broadcast the ideas behind Disneyland into millions of homes. By the time July 17, 1955 rolled around, pretty much everyone in America (and a lot of the rest of the world) knew what to expect with Walt’s Magical Kingdom.

Walt Disney World was a different idea altogether. Marketed as the Vacation Kingdom of the World, Disney  spent time trying to show people the scope and size of the resort, while still making it feel like a family destination. Most of the early PR focused as much on the recreational activities, like tennis, boating and horseback, as the Magic Kingdom itself. Let’s take a look at how Disney presented the Magic Kingdom to guests through various maps over the years.

The Complete Edition About Walt Disney World

This is from the cover of The Complete Edition About Walt Disney World, a magazine-style report released in 1969 and includes an illustration of one of the early models of the Magic Kingdom. You can see a lot of familiar landmarks in the drawing. It’s not really a map but it is one of the first images released with  the park layout.

The Preview Edition

This map is from the Preview Edition that was sold in the Preview Center. It was one of the first published views of what could be expected in October, 1971. The full map only shows the Magic Kingdom, the two hotels and a plethora of recreational activities. It’s pretty accurate, sort of.

The Story of Walt Disney World (1971 – 1975)

A closeup of the Magic Kingdom section of the map from the 1971 Story of Walt Disney World. This was also the map that appeared in the guest rooms of the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts. It’s looking more like the Magic Kingdom, but there are still some differences. You can see the show building for the proposed Western River Expedition in Frontierland. Did you know that the yellow building in the bottom right corner of Main St was supposed to be a hotel?

GAF Guide to Walt Disney World

The next three scans are all from a 1971 GAF Guide to Walt Disney World.

This is one of the first images in the guidebook that refers to the entire property. Notice the STOLPort? The Magic Kingdom is oversized and references only the major divisions of the park.

The above image is an overview of the Magic Kingdom. Is the dashed line simply to delineate the two sections dedicated to America? Any other thoughts?

The closeup of the Magic Kingdom is one of the first detailed and semi-accurate maps released. It’s not perfect, but it is pretty close to watch you will find. All of the blue dots? Those are GAF sponsored Picture Spots.

Your Guide to Walt Disney World (1974)

This map is from the 1974 Your Guide to Walt Disney World, a small, fold-out one sheet. What is really unique about the map is how the show buildings, shops and eateries are presented. It is a fairly accurate scale drawing. You get a feel for how the building connects and how much space they actually encompass. There is also a very small arrow that shows you where the attraction entrance is.

The Story of Walt Disney World (1976 and up)

The 1976 edition of the Story of Walt Disney World updates the map and we see more of a cartoon version  of the Magic Kingdom. The entire map is more iconic and the biggest attractions are promoted.

Your Guide to Walt Disney World (1978)

The 1978 Your Guide to Walt Disney World (below) offers two views that are as different as any other set of maps with each other. The first one is a very stylized view of the entire resort with a single icon to represent the individual areas. Notice how large the parking lot is and that it is centrally located?

The second map from the 1978 guide is similar to the one from 1974 but with a few additions.

Walt Disney World Magazine (1978)

The map above is from a 1978 magazine-style PR piece. It follows the same caricatured style that we have seen in the later part of the 1970s and we can see the Village Marketplace, Village Resort and the Lake Buena Vista Hotels. I have to admit that I love the purple Haunted Mansion and the giraffe peaking out from the Jungle Cruise.

GAF Guide (1979)

The GAF Guide was another publication presented to guide you in the Magic Kingdom and to help you take better pictures. It is interesting to see the map of the Magic Kingdom to go back to the different colored segments of the park based on the land.

So, it’s all rainbows over the Magic Kingdom? We still see most of the same ideas presented, but just in a smaller size.

Birnbaum’s Official Guide to Walt Disney World (1984)

This is from the second Official Guidebook. It still uses the color codes for the lands, but only the attractions are highlighted. You still get an idea for the physical size of the buildings. It is still pretty boring but gets the job done.

Kodak Guidemap 1985

This map from Kodak takes us back to the 1971 GAF and Story of Walt Disney World maps. Stylistically, it is very similar and we start to lose the footprint of the building in favor of the architectural flavor of the land. And we get more of the Kodak Photo Spots!

Kodak Guidemap 1993

This is a larger fold-out map that is larger than 11X17. More detail is offered, including a majority of the actual show building facades. It still looks like the 1985 and 1971 maps.

Kodak Guidemap 2006

Around 1999, we started seeing the map that we use today. The same map appeared in the Official Guidebook and on the Internet. It’s closer to an aerial view of the Magic Kingdom with fairly accurate representations of the buildings and the lands. A lot of the cast member and behind-the-scenes areas are covered with trees.

Kodak Guidemap (2011)

Not much of a change in the the 2011 map. We’ve lost Toontown, of course, and it just gets covered up with trees. What is interesting is what was on the back of this special map from October 1, 2011.

40th Anniversary Map

This reproduction was on the back of the guidemap that was handed out on the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World. It’s a closer mix between the Preview Edition map and the one from the 1971 Story of Walt Disney World map. Of course, it was fun to use the map to ride the opening day attractions.

So, what do you think about the different ways that Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom were marketed and promoted? Which map is your favorite?



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George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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Comments for Mapping Out the Magic Kingdom are now closed.

  1. This is great because I collect theme park maps

    • Thanks!

      I do too. I actually collect anything, including napkins…

  2. Thanks, George! That was great!
    The maps really took me back. When I was a kid in the 1970s, those maps were magical to me. I miss uncluttered Walt Disney World.

    • You’re welcome! ;)

      I have always been obsessed with the changes and differences and nothing says it better than early 1970s park maps.

  3. I’m surprised that Disney has not published a book of park maps, akin to the new Poster Art book.

    • That’s a very interesting idea! Especially if they did all of the parks. Some of the super fun maps (the gigantic ones) are amazing and would be ideal for a large coffee table-style book.

  4. That 2nd map, The Preview Edition, really looks like a SHAG painting!

    • I wonder if he drew his inspiration from that one? I swear I remember reading something online that said he did.

      Good catch!

  5. Love this article George! Thanks so much.

    What strikes me, especially after looking at the ’74 map, is how Peter Pan, Harbor House, Presidents, and Mickey Review all share the same show building. Somehow I never realized that before. That is one huge building! Very cool.

    The other thing that strikes me is how much space they have for a new attraction if they take the Noodle Station and merge it with the space for Monsters or Buzz. Right now the back of Tomorrowland really needs some love, but taking out that kitchen and dining area and merging with Monsters could create the space for something amazing there! They could use the space for the Adventureland Veranda (RIP) as overflow dining during Holiday/Summer crowds instead of the Noodle Station.

    Anyway, thanks again for the article. Great way to start the week!

  6. I love all those kitschy maps right up through the 1994 Kodak map. They they gave it the same look at the Disneyland Map. However, that 40th anniversary map is fantastic and a great compromise of all those previous maps!

    Fun article George!

  7. Very Nice, Did Disneyland get a similar double map treatment during it’s 50th Anniversary?


  8. [...] Mice Chat, George Taylor displayed the history of WDW maps. Fascinating [...]

  9. In the mid-90s, when I visited for the first time, they sent out very nice maps of the entire resort, with a transportation map on the backside where you could look up on how the get from one place to another.

  10. Nice article, George! I enjoy looking at park maps to see how things have changed and continue to change in the parks. I’m a little surprised that the article didn’t include more about the souvenir park maps that were sold by Disney; the 1971 map featured on the back of the 10/1/11 guidemap was a reproduction of a souvenir map of the MK sold in the park in the opening year.
    Hope you can cover that topic sometime soon…

    Timekeeper, Disneyland’s guidemap for July 17th 2005 did in fact include a map of the Park as it was on opening day. That special guidemap was available only on the day of the anniversary, but Disney made so many of them that it’s not too hard to find one up for auction on eBay.

    Brandis, Disney put out several versions of the WDW map you mentioned; early on, it was just a roadmap of the property, but later it included a grid so that you could figure out how to get from anywhere on property to anywhere else using only Disney transportation. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since Disney’s produced one of these maps.

  11. Great Report. I had a Disneyland map stapled to my wall as a kid. I still have the maps, and several new maps of Disneyland and DCA. With my one track thinking, you can see the progression at Knott’s the same way.

    I still enjoy seeing new vistors to Disneyland use their maps/brochures….

    Sometimes I jump in and act as an informal tour guide.

    Disneyland is so small, but for new visitors it is huge.

    You have to love that…….

  12. [...] of lately, I have been obsessed with maps and illustration so when I saw this post on Miceage, my jaw dropped in awe of the beauty of this little baby! This gem was shown just a preview of the [...]