Disney Village Marketplace 1991: The Whatchamacallit and More

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

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Published on February 03, 2014 at 2:00 am with 14 Comments

As I’ve often bemoaned, documenting early Walt Disney World history can be difficult. Unlike today’s digital cameras, taking photographs during the first 30 years of Walt Disney World was either an expensive process or one that’s very ephemeral. In the 1970s, many people owned Polaroid instant cameras and while it made taking photographs easier and more convenient, the nature of the film stock often left photos that weren’t clear and weren’t set up for archival purposes. Even with simpler point and shoot cameras (with 110 film or disc based), the film was still expensive enough that people were careful with the subjects they shot. Most Disney vacation photos feature oft-photographed landmarks with family members squinting towards the sun.

I ran across a great video from 1991 (It’s embedded at the end of the article) that features a tour of the Disney Village Marketplace. I love scanning older videos for long-gone attractions and changes in the theme park geography. Right from the get-go, I was blown away by the video. The person operating the camcorder had the foresight to actually videotape the signage from the stores at the Disney Village Marketplace.


The Empress Lilly was the end of the Disney Village until the opening of Pleasure Island. In 1991, the paddle wheel still rotated and the Empress Lilly was still a premier dining establishment.


I pulled this shot from the video because you can see the flote dock. It’s where silent flote boats would dock from the Lake Buena Vista Club. It was a private dock used only by the flote boats from the club. Other boats would dock at Cruise Dock West and guests would have to walk from Chef Mickeys (former Village Restaurant and now the Rainforest Cafe) to the Empress Lily.

All descriptions in italics are from the 1991 Steve Birnbaum Brings You the Best of Walt Disney World.


Minnie Mia’s Italian Eatery (also called Minnie Mia’s Pizzeria): Deep dish pizza by the slice, or the entire pie, is available at this window-service establishment. Beer and soft drinks are also offered. Serves lunch, dinner and snacks.


Team Mickey’s Athletic Club: The locker room decor is the perfect setting for sports clothing, activewear, and sports equipment for the whole family. This is the place to find T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other items with Disney University logos, as well as Mickey and Goofy emblazoned on shirts from the nation’s top colleges and universities.


Chef Mickey’s Village Restaurant: This unassuming dining room is one of the most pleasant restaurants in Walt Disney World–and there’s no waiting since reservations are accepted. There are fine views of Buena Vista Lagoon, and the sunshine that streams through the windows keeps a whole garden’s worth of house plants robust and green all year. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, and offers fresh Florida seafood and a variety of pasta dishes. Mickey Mouse strolls through the dining room every evening. Adjoining the restaurant is the living room-like Village Lounge. Fitted out with comfortable club chairs, it’s a great spot for after-diner drinks.


Mickey’s Character Shop: This is the largest Disney merchandise shop in the world. As you enter, be sure to take a look up at Mickey, Minnie, and Donald flying high in a 20-foot-tall hot-air balloon. Dumbo, Jiminy Cricket, Minnie and Mickey, Chip and Dale, Tigger and Eeyore, and Tramp and his Lady are all here too—stuffed, in porcelain, and emblazoned on everything from T-shirts and back scratchers to pencils and carry-all bags. New this year is merchandise bearing the likeness of a variety of Muppet characters including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear, and Gonzo. There is an enormous assortment of clothing items , plus toys, games, hats, and visors. Be sure to check out the larger-than-life stuffed Mickey.


A screen capture of the hot-air balloon!


The T-shirt decorator might have been new. It was a computer-controlled arm that airbrushed a design onto your shirt.


Finally, we have a shot of the Village Whatchamacallit. It was a slide/playground area near the current World of Disney Store (for a while Disney replaced the Whatchamacallit with a giant kaleidoscope).

Make sure to check out the video and leave a comment letting the owner know you appreciate it!


Did you get to visit the Disney Village Marketplace? Any favorite shops or restaurants? If you have any photos or video to share, send me an email (address is in the footer).

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ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

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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  • bigbrian-nc.com

    Quite an enjoyable post George, thanks for sharing!

    • George Taylor

      Thanks, Brian!

      I really appreciate the comment.

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    I remember that hot air balloon with the platform filled with Disney plush.

    The Marketplace was much simpler in those days.

    • George Taylor

      Everything was simpler in those days.

      Except blogging. Blogging was really tough to code by hand. ;)

  • tonecapo

    You’re killin’ me George! I remember all of this, the hot air balloon, the robotic t-shirt airbrushing arms, and Chef Mickey’s. Is Wolfgang Puck’s on the former Minnie Mia’s site? My family was fortunate enough to dine at Chef Mickey’s, It seemed very formal at the time. Mickey visited each table while we dined.

    • George Taylor

      Mr. C! Thanks for the comment.

      The Lego Store is on the former Minnie Mia’s site!

  • Jeff Heimbuch

    I remember the Whatchamacallit AND the giant kaleidoscope fondly. I even have video of me playing among them from different years.

    Man, it used to be so awesome there.

    • George Taylor

      The giant kaleidoscope was fascinating, as was most everything at Walt Disney World in the early- and mid-1990s.

  • WorldLover71

    Thanks for this fun, nostalgic post. The video, however, seems to be of Pleasure Island from that same time period. I think this is the one that you are referring to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7tZm81HeqM

    • George Taylor

      Thanks! I changed it. :)

  • airick75

    Pleasure Island was a highlight of our family trips to WDW in the 90′s. We had as much fun there at the shows as any of the parks. I think now, you just shop and eat there. Thanks for posting this video. I’ll take a look for some pictures, I know the band celebrating New Year’s had my brother help them out and we have pictures.

    Is the current Lego store the original main gift shop? I have some memory of it being so, but I can’t be sure.

  • airick75

    Pleasure Island was a highlight of our family trips to WDW in the 90′s. We had as much fun there at the shows as any of the parks. I think now, you just shop and eat there. Thanks for posting this video. I’ll take a look for some pictures, I know the band celebrating New Year’s had my brother help them out and we have pictures.

    Is the current Lego store the original main gift shop? I have some memory of it being so, but I can’t be sure.

    • George Taylor

      The current Lego shop was Village Ice Cream, Minnie Mia’s and Artespana.

      The current World of Disney Store took over the spot occupied by the Christmas Chalet (which looked like an A-Frame Chalet), the Pottery Chalet and Toys Fantastique.

  • Awe_inspired

    Thanks George, for those shots and the descriptions. Very cool. I appreciate it.