Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fireworks of the Universe

You know, I love vintage Walt Disney World ad publicity. It's nearly always well written, terse, and evocative. The Lake Buena Vista Club isn't just a golf clubhouse, it "features 14-ft. vaulted ceilings with exposed beams, rough-sawn cedar planks, plush carpeting and wide-view windows overlooking the fairway." Really, who wouldn't want to go there after a description like that? And the Polynesian luau isn't just dancing, it features "the delightful Samoan slap-dance, [and the] romantic Hawaiian Wedding Song."

The delightful Samoan slap-dance. Try saying that to somebody out of the blue. Spectacularly strange language.

But sometimes they just hit it clear out of the park and into a low-hanging orbit, such as the cover story for this January 1975 edition of Walt Disney World News:

Take that, Arthur C. Clarke! We got there 26 years early!

Amongst a front page featuring such curiosities as "World Swings into P.G.A. Winter Activities" and "Hall of Presidents Adds No. 37" is a pretty picture of Space Mountain (with topiaries!) and the subject of our article today. We all can agree that Space Mountain is a pretty big deal, right? I mean, Magic Kingdom would not be Magic Kingdom without it. It's been rebuilt in every Disney "castle park" around the globe. But you just don't get it, man. Space Mountain isn't just a big deal - it's going to CHANGE THE WORLD. The article is so full of astonishing hyperbole and bizarre turns of phrase that I have no idea what to say about it besides..... it may be the apex of all Walt Disney World promotional material.

"THE FUTURE BEGINS TODAY IN ALL-NEW TOMORROWLAND

As the rest of the world steps nimbly into 1975 with the hopes of better times in a better year - Walt Disney World steps boldly beyond the limits of time and space into the 21st century!

At 2:00 pm, Wednesday, January 15, the Grand Opening Ceremonies of Space Mountain, the monolithic white "mountain" towering over Tomorrowland, will mark the beginning of a new era in space adventure! Visiting dignitaries (including U.S. astronauts), the musical pageantry of over a thousand band members, plus a spectacular display of daytime fireworks will celebrate the end of the "armchair astronaut."

For in Space Mountain, presented by RCA, you, without any previous aeronautical acquaintance, can experience the incredible adventure of outer space!

You'll board the eight passenger space capsule, buckle your seat belt and be whisked away into the most enthralling, free-falling flight through brilliant stars, whirling spheres and unearthly forces ever imagineered!

Disney imagineered, of course (see related story, p. 8).

After a spinning re-entry into earth's atmosphere, you'll disembark and tour the technological wonders of life in the twenty-first century in the RCA "Home of Future Living."

Then, be off to visit the second exciting addition to Tomorrowland - the G. E. Carousel of Progress. A unique unveiling of the American Family's advancement from the wood-burning stove of the 1890's to the micro-wave wonders of the 1970's, each of four eras is portrayed by audio-animatronic actors as the audience rotates around them, carousel-style.

This unique theater is similar to the original "Carousel of Progress" which entertained more than 45 million guests at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair and later joined Disneyland in 1967.

And, for another high-speed adventure, board the air-bound gantry elevators to the launching pad of Tomorrowland's centerpiece, Star Jets. Here, you'll pilot your own space ship up, down, and around the atmosphere of your very own mother ship.

Adding still another futuristic look to Tomorrowland will be the People-Mover, scheduled for operation later this year. An elevated transportation system, which winds its way around the entire complex, the People-Mover will be comprised of 30 "trains" with five cars each. Operating under a covered guide way 14 feet above the Tomorrowland mall area, the People-Mover will transport over 3,500 guests an hour.

The most highly appreciated aspect of the People-Mover, however, is that it operates via a magnetic field of force without moving parts and, consequently, free of any pollution whatsoever.

Space Mountain, Carousel of Progress, Star-Jets, People-Mover. All part of an all-new Tomorrowland which will allow you, our guests, to touch tomorrow today - at Walt Disney World."

Wow. Where to begin. That's a heck of a way to begin an article, isn't it? All this time you knew that your method of entering the new year was inadequate compared to Walt Disney World's ability to bend time and space. And let's not forget that we take for granted that back in 1975 humankind forever vanquished the age of the "armchair astronaut." Somebody behind the typewriter had a previously unforeseen gift for the Amazing Ongoing Alliteration. And of course it's always amusing to see a description of the plastic red re-entry tunnel as "spinning", which popped up both in Disneyland and Walt Disney World promotional materials and which seems as inappropriate as ever. Really, spinning? Did that red plastic ever spin?

It's amusing and fun to see the term "imagineered" half explained and not capitalized as it would be today. It was not yet a marketing term!

And I personally am very enthusiastic about calling the cavernous Tomorrowland pedestrian space the "Tomorrowland Mall Area." Thank you, anonymous Walt Disney World ad-pub writer of two generations ago!

Let's not overlook the brilliant use of boldface!

The hilarity continues in the article mentioned on page eight, "The Mountain That Imagineering Built", although with less concentrated interest and lunacy. I'll not transcribe it here, but I'll have you know that it features the phrase "Fireworks of the Universe", which is either Byronian opium-induced poetic verse, of just another example of early Walt Disney World's astonishing fever dreams of promotional prose.


I only wish we had nonsense like this today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Palate Cleanser

My goodness, it's been a long time, hasn't it? It has... in the meantime I've gone to Disneyland and come back with a head full of ideas and not much desire to write them. A lot of stuff has happened to Disney and to the rest of the world too, and not all of it has been great.

What we need is a palate cleanser, hopefully to kick my butt back into gear and to give us all a little relief from drudgery. And since this is Passport to Dreams Old & New, that likely means... seventies stuff. Bright, beautiful, early Walt Disney World goodness to keep us mindful of our priorities.

Shall we?


This early Walt Disney World couple, taken for a 1976 merchandise catalog, may be showing off their spiffy "Collegiate" tees but they're also standing in a spot where taking this photo is today impossible. In the background where the white rail and benches are was the original proposed location for the Tomorrowland Railroad Station; it's also the original exit to the Space Mountain attraction. Today, a massive half round salmon colored arcade blocks this fantastic view.


Wow, look at the line for the Peoplemover!! All those people are going to be happy to have spent their E ticket (yes, it was an E ticket in 1975) on what is arguably still one of the greatest experiences at Walt Disney World. Who remembers the little dioramas in the tiny hexagonal boxes on your way up and down the speedramps (visible in the background here)? Tomorrowland was so awesome.


Look how clean the track is. Tomorrowland hasn't looked this good in years.

Hopping across the Seven Seas Lagoon, we come across this group, also modeling Walt Disney World "Ready To Wear" tees at the Polynesian Village:


Besides Bob-A-Round boats and the Asian Resort expansion pad, let's take time to apprechiate the rich wood grained sides of the Polynesian longhouses long before they were painted cartoonish yellow and the lovely effect of the decorative wood tucked into the peak of that roof before it was alternating shades of yellow, orange and white. The roofs of each longhouse were intentionally rusted to an orange patina instead of being painted that way.


Here's a Rarity I've been looking for for some time: this is the sign for the short lived Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village tobacconist, which as you can see did not lack for seventies "groove". All of the original Shopping Village signs were brilliantly executed craftwork pieces; the sign for "Von Otto's Antiques" was emblazoned on an antique coffee grinder and anybody who stared in fascination at the sign for "Lite Bite" will likely never forget it. This one can't quite compare but it lasted less than two years, so what it lacks in interest it makes up in obscurity!

The following pictures were taken to celebrate the second anniversary of the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village in Eyes and Ears of Walt Disney World, and although they focus on goofy-looking Cast Members, the photos, like most, reveal interesting details at the margins that the photographer did not intend.


It's fun to see the proper scale of this sign which featured an actual spout! It's also fun to see the rather uninspired costumes worn by cast outside of the "Vacation Kingdom"... that blazer with the Lake Buena Vista emblem looks pretty dorky today. The caption for this one is too cheerfully lame not to reprint:
"Modern as well as 'vintage' spirits are the specialty of the Vintage Cellar. Jo Tisdale and Jerry Robinson compare their job with the Haunted Mansion... both deal with the spirit world!"
Well... not everyone got to wear the Mansion green and white, so we'll go easy on them.

This rather assertive mugshot is chiefly interesting for capturing, even if in passing, the interior of Shoe Time. The ladies pictured therein are Jeannie Clarke and Kaye Frampton.


...and we'll go out with this page from the merchandise catalog we've been skirting this whole time. I don' know if these kids are actually in a room at the Contemporary or on a set somewhere, but I suspect that this will bring a smile to even the most hardened heart: