Theme Parkeology with Vintage Walt Disney World Photos

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

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Published on January 07, 2013 at 4:01 am with 13 Comments

I was glancing through the 1974 A pictorial souvenir of Walt Disney World, looking for some inspiration, when I ran across a specific photo that helped confirm a detail I’d been trying to corroborate for years. I was touring the Magic Kingdom with Foxfurr from Passport to Dreams Old & New one balmy Saturday afternoon in 2009. We headed into Liberty Square and she was excited to find two benches. Yeah, Disney historians get excited over the strangest things. More about those benches in a moment.

As I opened the paperback souvenir guide, I was drawn to this tiny photo that started a paragraph about the Vacation Kingdom of the World. You’re supposed to pay attention to the little girl with Mickey Ears and a Mickey shirt sitting on the bench. I think she’s eating something. (I also think the ears were added later.)

My eyes went to the top of the small photo when I noticed the garbage can next to the white structure that looks like a fence. I need to enhance this photo…

Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance, stop. Move in, stop. Pull out, track right, stop. Center in, pull back. Stop. Track 45 right. Stop. Center and stop. Enhance 34 to 36. Pan right and pull back. Stop. Enhance 34 to 46. Pull back. Wait a minute, go right, stop. Enhance 57 to 19. Track 45 left. Stop. Enhance 15 to 23. Give me a hard copy right there.

Is that the bench that we ran into in Liberty Square?

Two benches from 2009.

Foxxfur claimed to have a video from the first year of the park that showed the benches. I’ve been keeping an eye out for them ever since. The following two pictures are from January, 2013.

The benches are in the area by the Princess Tiana Meet and Greet and the Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom area by the Christmas Shoppe.

So, take a moment to pay your respects to one of the few, original Magic Kingdom benches before they’re taken away or made part of the new FastPass+ system. Feel free to take your own pictures of the benches and email them to [email protected].

More Theme Parkeology

Here are some random shots of interest from the first few pages of the souvenir pictorial.

This aerial shot graces one of the first pages. You can see how small the Polynesian Village was and how symmetrical the original layout was. Notice the putting green on the left hand side of the resort. The bump out of land in between the Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian Village was where the Venetian Resort was going to be. Apparently, there is a large sinkhole there. On the right side, where the Grand Floridian resides, is where the Asian Resort would have been. If you notice the island in the middle, you can see a structure that looks like a pier. It’s actually Dick Nunis’ wave machine.

Wait, you didn’t know about the wave machine on Seven Seas Lagoon?

Before opening, Dick Nunis fought for a $400,000 wave machine for the Seven Seas Lagoon that would lap waves on the shore of the beach at the Polynesian. Dick hoped that professional surfers would be able to put on shows and that children and body surfers would be able to enjoy the inland ocean experience. The wave machine worked, although it mostly eroded the Polynesian’s beach. As a side note, Dick Nunis would ride the first wave at the opening of Typhoon Lagoon, almost 17 years later.

Not much else to say about this photo except, “Sombreros are cool. I wear sombreros now.” Obviously, the young woman forgot her sunscreen and her fashion sense.

The best thing about this photo is the amazing 1970s shopping bag. Oh, and Mickey’s collar. Is that Count Mickey?

I think the looks on the guests’ faces are quite telling. I’m not sure what Mickey is doing. Besides, what’s the purpose of this image in a souvenir guide? That’s a massive camera, by the way.

Top of the World Lounge–a night spent in burnt umber. All you need to know about the Top of the World you can read here.

What a great photo. Especially one in a guide about Walt Disney World. This could be any 1970s photo of camping, but we all know it’s Ft. Wilderness.

I’m pretty sure this amazing photo is from the Polynesian Princess. The carpet and the wall covering just kind of confuse me.

A majority of the photos from the souvenir pictorial show a much older clientele enjoying the Magic Kingdom. For some reason, when the early guides show any beach scenes, there is a plethora of bikini-clad younger women in the shot. What’s even more interesting is trying to figure out where this photo was staged. We’re somewhere on the shores of Bay Lake. Since we can see the Garden Wing of the Contemporary, I’m assuming we’re on the shore of Ft. Wilderness. Although, we could be on the beach at Discovery Island. Maybe…any thoughts?

Our final shot leads us to the Magic Kingdom. Besides the great view of the Magic Kingdom’s skyline, we have a great shot of the Southern Seas. I love that you can see the Tomorrowland towers and the Skybuckets traveling over Fantasyland.

What do you think about the way that Disney promoted the Vacation Kingdom of the World?


ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

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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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  • Jeff Heimbuch

    I love all these old, vintage photos. Great stuff from the Vacation Kingdom of the World of yesteryear!

  • Dusty Sage

    George, you are a true nerd. I mean that in the nicest way. Who else could spend years looking for two benches and be so excited to find them?! :-)

  • tonecapo

    The benches are very cool, but that shopping bag spoke to me. I am pretty sure my mom had saved one from our earlier trips to the World. She doesn’t have it now, but that bag is definitely nagging on some good forgotten memories. Maybe the Polynesian Princess is in the “green room”? Thanks George for taking the time to post these pictures!

  • cal1972

    Love the old WDW Photos!!

    I’m intrigued by the beach shot. Which Garden Wing is that? North or South? I was thinking South but then the print would be reversed if this was Ft. Wilderness. The trees in the back ground look fake. I wonder if this is a composite.

  • daveyk

    Hey George, I believe that the image of the people having fun on the beach was taken from the beach at Ft. Wilderness. BUT. I believe the image has been reversed in printing, so that the trees are on the left side of the picture, rather than the right (where they should be, they would be discovery island). This was a fairly common technique in the old days, to improve the aesthetics of the picture, since you had to wait for it to be developed before you knew what you had, exactly.

    Okay, so I’m a geek, too.

  • daveyk

    small correction after thinking about it: the trees wouldn’t be discovery island, but rather the “other” island you see in the photo of the property.

    • George Taylor

      I was even wondering if the shot was taken on the beach area next to the Space Mountain side of the Bay Lake.

  • kat3010

    Very cool

  • michael darling

    “Not sure what Mickey is up to.”. Actually, (nerd alert) that’s Minnie. She wore a large red bow slightly to the right (her right). You can see it in opening day and early year photos. She was just as hairy as Mickey.

    More articles like this! The bench thing is COOL!!!

    BIG fan of sparse WDW photos.

    Thank you!

  • waymire01

    Ok am I seeing things or what? In the “Polynesian Princess” photo the girl standing in front of the mirror has her arms down at her sides, but in the reflection they are folded up against her chest…. right?

    • michael darling

      Good eye. But, she’s really holding up a dress over the one she’s wearing, with her right arm, to see how the color/design looks. She’s got some biceps!

  • Erik Olson

    “What’s even more interesting is trying to figure out where this photo was staged. We’re somewhere on the shores of Bay Lake.”

    The only thing I can take from these images is that nothing was staged at all. What a mess. I mean, the woman with her legs open on the beach? Nice! Maybe all marketing material was like this in 70s. Cool stuff!

  • Atomobile

    I wanna know where you scored the cool Voight/Kampft machine…