Vintage Walt Disney World Photos from 1972 and 1973

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Contests and Events, Disney History, Disney Parks, Features, Fun, Imaginerding, Walt Disney World

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Published on December 10, 2012 at 5:01 am with 20 Comments

If you’ve looked online for vintage photos (who can define vintage anyway) of Walt Disney World, you’ll find the interwebs sorely lacking. There are numerous sites dedicated to Disneyland photos and there isn’t much about Disneyland that isn’t documented with photographs. I’ve talked about this with other Disney historians and the best theories we can bring forward deal with generational differences and camera equipment.

In the 1950s, the growth of the Federal Highway system made inter-state travel much easier and desirable. Home movies and photographs were a way of displaying your conspicuous consumption to your friends and neighbors. Unintentionally, guests photographed every square inch of Disneyland while recording their own family vacations. So, what is different about Walt Disney World? Obviously, the country suffered an energy crisis that stunted both the travel to Walt Disney World and the planned growth. But the more intriguing theories surround the less than high quality camera equipment (like Polaroid-style cameras and cheaper film stock) and photographs that are still stored in basements, attics and closets waiting to be discovered and shared.

A few weeks ago, Instagram user DRASABREED (Trevor) tagged me in a vintage Walt Disney World photo. I contacted him and asked if he had more and if I could use them. He quickly responded with 30 photos from several trips that his grandparents took in 1972 and 1973. Thanks to Trevor Clor for sharing these photos taken by Robert and Corliss Marowske.

January 1972

What a great shot to start our photographic tour! The Walt Disney World band decked out in red catches our eye first. There’s also a security officer on the left with some sort of patriotic bunting near the train station stairs. Was this taken during the Flag Retreat? You can also see someone selling balloons and a great garbage can. The guests also seem to be pretty well-dressed!

This is a great vantage point of Cinderella’s Castle.

We’re on the Grand Circle Tour! No space Mountain but a great view of a retention pond, the Contemporary Resort and the monorail beam. It looks like there is a parking lot tram above the person’s shoulder.

A shot of Tomorrowland from the Hub. On the left is the outdoor seating for the Tomorrowland Terrace. You can see the tracks for the Peoplemover (which wouldn’t open until 1975) and the amazing color scheme of the future with yellows and oranges (like the 1970s Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary). Is that a dragon?

Welcome, foolish mortals! A close-up view of the Spooky House before the covered queue. It’s the way the Mansion was meant to be seen.

The Admiral Joe Fowler is packed! I’m not sure if the line is for the Mansion or the riverboat, but I assume it’s for the Mansion.

Here’s the queue for the Skyway to Tomorrowland. The Skyway closed in 1999 and the Fantasyland Station area is being turned into an exit queue for the Haunted Mansion and modern Fantasyland bathrooms. Look at that crowd!

This is an amazing shot of Fantasyland. Looking at the top of the photo, you can see the Mansion by itself with no buildout of Tom Sawyer’s Island (TSI didn’t open until 1973) or the space for Big Thunder Mountain. It was just a large field-like area. There’s the Fantasyland Ticket Booth near the left tower of Peter Pan. Also, can you see the wall around the outdoor dining area of Pinocchio’s Village Haus where the red umbrellas are.

A great shot of the 20,000 Leagues lagoon. Notice the railroad tracks in the background.

Who doesn’t love the Walt Disney World Railroad? The engine pictured is the Walter E. Disney (check out my article on the Walt Disney World Railroad for more information).

I’m not sure what the building in the upper-left corner is. It’s not the Grand Prix Raceway building. Any thoughts on the road in the back? Is it World Dr. or Center Dr?

You can also see the construction and storage area that is now Pluto Park Ln. The paint jobs on the cars are fantastic!

January 1973

Trevor’s grandparents took another trip a year later and we have a few more photos to share.

Waiting in the queue for the Skyway to Tomorrowland is Robert Marowske. I wonder if that’s one of the GAF Walt Disney World Information Guides he’s got folded in his hand? I do love the shot of the lamppost and the facade of the it’s a small world building.

Here’s Corliss Marowske and I’m pretty sure she’s standing in the queue for the Swiss Family Treehouse. I love the bag she’s got. Any ideas on the background buildings? I think the buildings are to the left of the Frontierland Breezeway. (The shops in 1973 for Adventureland: Adventureland Bazaar, Tiki Tropic Shop, The Magic Carpet, Oriental Imports, Ltd., Tropic Toppers and Traders of Timbuktu—but the Traders of Timbuktu had a different facade.)

Even blurry images of Walt Disney World from the 1970s are fantastic. We’re standing near the Liberty Tree with the Liberty Tree Inn standing proudly in the background.

Our last shot is from the Contemporary Resort! It’s a one of the sleek and futuristic Mark IV Monorails. She’s a real beauty.

Again, a special thanks to Trevor Clor for submitting these fantastic photos from his grandparents, Robert and Corliss Marowske.

Do you have any older Walt Disney World photos you’d like to share? If so, please email [email protected] and I’ll be happy to feature them in a future article.

Do you have a favorite image from this set?

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About George Taylor

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 Vintage Walt Disney World Photos from 1972 and 1973 are now closed.

  1. Wonderful Pictures! I’m going to have to dig mine out. I have a bunch from the same time frame.

    • Besides Disney books, vintage Walt Disney World photos and maps are my favorites!

      Please feel free to email me any photos you’d like to share; I’d love to see them!

  2. Fantastic look into the past…without having to jump in the TARDIS!

    I really hope other folks send in their photos of vintage WDW!

  3. The building in the background of the Racceway pic is actually a support structure for the Skyway.

    • Thanks! That makes sense. I wasn’t even thinking about the turn the Skyway made.

  4. There is a certain magic to vintage Magic Kingdom. Is anyone else nostalgic about the Skyway?

  5. Yes Dusty bring back the Skyway and People Movers. If you look at vintage postcards, most amusement parks had Skyways. I remember the Contemporary Hotel Model at WED and the planned compartments that would slide in and out of it and in reality when it was built. The Contemporary Wings came later, as they were added on after opening. Love my View Finder slides of the early Disney parks.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I have a vintage photo problem…is there a support group?

  6. The buildling in the background of the raceway picture is where the skyway made a sharp turn. The skyway in Orlando did not go straight from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland. If it did, it would have hit the castle. It actually landed in the middle of the raceway track and made a sharp right turn (from Fantasyland). This always made it unique to all of the other skyway rides out there.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      One big difference between Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom–Walt built a mountain to hide the Skyway tower at DL! ;)

  7. Great pictures!

    The only point of contention I have is that I doubt these were taken in January or February of ’72 and ’73, as you are surmising from the date on the frames.

    I don’t think many January days in Orlando would result in a park packed full of people wearing short sleeves. I don’t see a single jacket in sight. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d think the day must have started out quite cold if it were winter and yet people were clearly dressed for warm weather.

    My guess is these photos were taken the previous summer and developed early the following year.

    • Brian–that is a really good point! They had three different sets of photos (the February 1972 ones are coming).

      I assumed that the dates would be accurate, but the people might have waited to get them developed. When I spoke to the grandson, he remembers them talking about the specific dates, but maybe they were remembering the dates on the pictures.

      Thanks for the comment!

  8. Thanks, George!

    • You’re welcome!

      Thank you for leaving a comment! :)

  9. These are fantastic! I love old Disneyland pictures, but they’re pretty common. There aren’t nearly enough MK ones out there!

    • I agree…we need to start the research on a time machine right now!

      Thanks for the comment. :)

  10. Wow, look at all that open space! Even on a not-crowded day, the MK feels a little more claustrophobic these days! Almost makes me wish they could pull some stuff out of the modern MK and transplant it to the other parks, like you’d do if your tulips got overgrown.

  11. The road behind the speedway is World Drive. Its been re-routed slightly over the years.

    Corliss Marowske is (as you note) standing on the Swiss Family Treehouse entrance. The building behind her I think would be the restaurant that was presented by Kikkoman…. Although its possible this is where you can currently purchase Dole Whips. (the taller building behind that is the back of the large facade in Frontierland, next to the Country Bears; you can’t see it any longer because of some other foliage, parts of buildings, etc)

  12. Great Article George

    I can’t believe how far the Magic Kingdom has come since opening.

    It is up to debate if it is good or bad

    Thanks Agian George


  13. Did anyone notice how much longer the Speedway track was back then? We went to Disney World for the first time this past year and I couldn’t help but notice how short the track was compared to Autopia at Disneyland. Having the extra track back would help.