I frequently bemoan the fact that early Walt Disney World is not very well documented. Unlike her older sister, Disneyland, the cultural phenomenon of Walt Disney World seemed to be born old hat and always attracted a larger group of tourists that received more of an assembly-line vacation. It’s more to the point that Walt Disney World has always been a ritual more than an experience for most. Over the past 20 years, Walt Disney World has morphed into a rite of passage for most families with young children, and hence, the idea of a Walt Disney World vacation has changed.
I’ve discussed this with other Disney historians and we’ve come up with a few theories about the lack of documentation. For one thing, the camera equipment and film stock of the 1970s weren’t as high quality as previous generations (thanks, Polaroid). So a lot of the photographs haven’t stood the test of time. Also, a different clientele was attracted to Walt Disney World. Disneyland had a huge metropolitan base to pull from that was made up of every different social milieu—people that had the time and money to document their trips. A lot more ephemeral material exists for Disneyland and it was much more heavily documented by visitors and Disney itself.
So, this brings me to a lot of the posts that I do at ImagiNERDing about the history of Walt Disney World. A lot of my research is from primary sources, like employee newsletters, brochures, magazines and public relations material. This leads me to charge the readers with looking through their personal collections to share photos, travel documents and anything else related to their Walt Disney World vacations.
Let’s take a look at another section from a 1983 Walt Disney World Vacation Guide. This time it’s how Disney presented dining around the world, which included 16 percent of the guide.
Dining adventures are as diverse as the Vacation Kingdom itself. In every area of Walt Disney World – from the hotels, Fort Wilderness and Walt Disney World Village to Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom – you’ll find restaurants that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and menus that include everything from cheeseburgers to bouillabaisse and Steak Diane Flambé.
If you’d like a healthy portion of entertainment along with your entree, then you’re sure to savor any number of dinner shows. Every evening, the Polynesian Village Resort serves up an island-style luau, along with performances of the colorful “Polynesian Revue.” Meanwhile, at Fort Wilderness Resort, the high-kickin’, hand-clappin‘ “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue” raises the rafters of Pioneer Hall as hungry families chow down on home-cooked vittles like fried chicken and barbecued ribs. Or, if you’d prefer evening of fine dining, dancing and the sensational sounds of Broadway, the Top of the World supper club at the Contemporary Resort Hotel presents “Broadway at the Top,” a rousing salute to the American musical theatre.
Walt Disney World Village poses many delectable dining decisions as well. A prime choice of afternoon and evening shoppers is the Village Restaurant. While lunchtime diners are tempted by such unusual entrees as Crab and Artichoke Omelettes, evening guests are drawn to the sumptuous fragrance of New Orleans Bouillabaisse and the sizzle of steaks cooked on an open hearth. No evening at the Village would be complete without taking in one of the nationally-known jazz acts in the adjacent Village Lounge.
The Empress Lilly riverboat offers the most elegant dining in the Village. An authentic recreation of an 1880′s Mississippi stern-wheeler, the Empress Lilly house two family restaurants, small Victorian lounges and the Empress Room, where you can dine amidst Louis XV splendor. After dinner, enjoy the lilting sounds of a harp or classical guitar in the exquisite Empress Lounge or the rhythmic good time tunes of the entertainment in the Baton Rouge Lounge.
Not far from the Empress Lilly and Walt Disney World Village is a gourmet adventure set within a splendid country club. It’s the Lake Buena Vista Club, where you’re already a member.
Here, dinner means fine wines, French-Continental entrees like Carnard a l’Orange or Chateaubriand Bouquetiere, and, of course, an intimate candlelit atmosphere.
With the opening of Epcot Center comes a veritable United Nations of dining experiences. Dine at Les Chefs de France in World Showcase and savor such gastronomic masterpieces as Filet de “Snapper” Champs Elysees or Boeuf au vin de Bourgogne by superstar chefs Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge and Gaston Lenotre. Or dine as the Romans do – at L’Orignale Alfredo Di Roma, where singing waiters serve such epicurean delights as the Maestro’s own Fettucine All’Alfredo
In Mexico you’ll enjoy the famed cuisine of Mexico City’s incomparable San Angel Inn, including such intriguing “Especialidades” as a festive chicken dish simmered with more than 20 Mexican spices (amid a hint of chocolate). In Japan’s Mitsukoshi Restaurant, you’ll watch Japanese master chefs prepare shrimp, steak or chicken entrees in the traditional teppan style. And at the rotating Good Turn restaurant in the Future World Land pavilion, you’ll feast on such regional American dishes as New England scallops, Alaska salmon or Mid-western prime rib. These are just five of the more than a dozen outstanding restaurants that Epcot Center adds to your Walt Disney World vacation.
Looking at the article from the magazine gives us a better idea about how Disney marketed a Walt Disney World vacation in 1984. Almost 20 years after Disneyland’s opening and a year after Epcot Center opened, with a large number of restaurants, we see Disney trying to polish the image of Walt Disney World and present a more grown-up look at the Vacation Kingdom of the World.
Do you have any images or ephemera from the early years of Walt Disney World? Any great stories? Do you know anything about the Gulf Coast or Pueblo Rooms at the Contemporary Resort?
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ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor
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