Showing posts with label Contemporary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Contemporary. Show all posts

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Echoes from October 1971

Disney historians are treasure hunters. When I was young, I had the idea that being a historian or expert on anything would be ninety-percent tedium; locked out of the official Disney record halls and vaults, most of the major history-interested folk are left to rummage through bins, binders, and stacks of old paper, furtively hoping to find some previously unheralded treasure: a strange photo, new factoid, some new piece of the puzzle. Sometimes we luck out.

What follows is a stack of 35mm slides I recently acquired. As luck would have it, they are stamped "November 1971", which could indicate that they are from October 71, if the photographers waited a bit before sending them off for development, but in any case they are a rare candid view into a Walt Disney World just starting to burst onto the cultural scene.

These folks stayed at the Polynesian Village! This is the original pool area. See all the torches? I've seen it reported online that the torches are a later addition to the Village, but here they are, scarcely a month after opening.  Way to put the lie to that. See that white blob way in the back off to the left? That is one of the original luxury Yachts parked in the Papette Bay Marina at the Polynesian. From an April 1972 Walt Disney World News we learn:
"COCKTAIL CRUISES depart nightly at 7:30 pm from the Polynesian Village marina. For an hour and a half complimentary cocktails are served on one of the Chris Craft yachts or Aqua Homes. The cost is $10 per person including drinks.

DINNER CRUISES leave from either resort-hotel marina at 7:30 pm nightly. Hostesses serve complimentary cocktails and a steak or shish kebab dinner during the 2 1/2 hour cruise. The cost is $30 per person, payable in advance at either hotel marina.

All the boats, yachts, and Aqua Homes are available for private charter. Touch "1" about hosting your own dinner cruise....treasure hunt....cocktail party....or family outing."
The Cocktail Cruise and Dinner Cruise would each respectively cost $51 and $154 today, by the way.
Those yachts were big ticket items.

Hey, Bob-A-Round Boats!

You can learn more about the Bob-a-Round boats here and here. An October 1971 Walt Disney World News, contemporary with the visit depicted here, has an impressive rundown on the watercraft available at Walt Disney World, including: Capri (14'), Sunfish, Sailing Outrigger, Bob-A-Round, Paddle Boat (2 seats), Paddle Wheeler (5 seats), Outrigger Excursion (Polynesian War Canoe), Trapper Canoe Excursion, High Speed Boat, Hobie Catamaran, Ski Boat, Aqua Cat, Super Dingies (!!!), and Sail Boats.

Here's a true obscurity. This view from the monorail shows the Polynesian Village putting green. This was later replaced with a picnic pavilion, and later a large, shield-shaped pool. The Polynesian Village would expand nearly continuously throughout the 70s and 80s, today this is the lush grounds surrounding the Tangaroa Terrace east of the Great Ceremonial House.

Disembarking at the Magic Kingdom; hey, see those cranes at the Contemporary? Construction would not halt at the Contemporary until November 1971, another hint that these photos could've been taken in October.

Dead ahead, by the way, past the Steamboat Dock, is a stretch of grass where the Ferryboat Landing would appear six months later.

Yikes, there's two of them!

If you look way in the back you can see a "America the Beautiful" poster hanging just to the left of the entrance tunnel. The attraction itself would not be ready for another month.

And just inside the tunnel to the right, an original "Tropical Serenade" poster. Also note the lack of a "Here you leave today..." plaque, Magic Kingdom went for over thirty years without one. I guess after making you drive through the entire property to get to the park, WED figured you had already gotten the hint.

Obligatory group photo! It's nice to know that that goofy Popcorn wagon inside the entrance on the left has been exactly the same for four decades now, isn't it?

Notice that the twin on the left is holding one of those huge fold-out "official maps of the Magic Kingdom". As I've previously established, there was no official GAF guide park map until mid 1972.

The Sunshine Pavilion, with Clyde and Claude. Notice the two resident goddesses, Pele and Hina, staged up on the outer wall of the Tiki Room. This is also how they are staged at Tokyo Disneyland and I had always suspected that Florida once arranged their preshow in this way but had been unable to prove it. Due to plant grown Hina moved down into the terraced pond in the 80s and Pele was finally repositioned for the new Tiki Birds show in 1998, the staging which reigns to this day.

Now that the Orange Bird, Citrus Swirl, and orange grove references have returned to the show, it'd be nice to see those plastic oranges return to the central planter below Clyde and Claude there; I'll wade out there myself if Imagineering doesn't want to.

Now this one is a fantastic view, showing the original arrangement of the Liberty Square bridge. It can be seen both how high this particular feature was in 1971, when it actually did look something like the Old North Bridge at Concord on which it was based, and corresponds closely to the Herb Ryman concept art for this area. It was rebuilt sometime in the first decade to accommodate either America on Parade or the Electrical Parade which decreased the hump you see here, and it was flattened totally a few years ago.

The original entrance was through a court of 13 flags which were eventually moved to surround the Liberty Bell replica at the back of thew land, itself installed in 1987. The entire area was rebuilt in the early 90s with brick walls and props, complete with a guardhouse. Silly People will tell you that the guardhouse used to be a ticket booth. This is why you don't believe things Silly People say.

Liberty Square again, from the interior of a Keelboat. If you enlarge this picture you'll see a huge throng of people swarming around the front of the Hall of Presidents. This is the line. From opening until essentially the late 70s this show was packed with people at all times of the day.

Continuing the Keelboat ride we pass the weirdly depopulated Indian Village. Dick Nunis absolutely hated the Florida train ride, which then and still does pass a lot of Florida nothing. By December 1972 figures began popping up in this scene, which actually required a good deal of shuffling about of scenic elements and the removal of live-flame gas campfires. In 1973, further embellishments were added alongside both the River and Railroad, although the cancellation of Western River Expedition put the kibosh on an Eastside version of the Grand Canyon Diorama. The problem never was and still is not fully solved.

The Contemporary Resort as seen from the Walt Disney World Railroad and another view of those cranes. Disney actually ended up buying out US Steel in 1971 to finish the work themselves. Also seen here: an original red parking tram, one of those ones that would famously overheat on their way under the water bridge.

The water retention pond in the foreground (it's a Florida thing...) would be totally reworked in 1974 to allow the construction of Space Mountain.

Okay, this one was a biggest find in the collection. On the right you can see the original location of the Fantasyland Portrait Artists, as well as a wooden shade structure on the front of their space which was shortly demolished. This is the only photo that I've seen of the artists in their original location, and I had to do a good deal of digital fiddling with this slide to make the artists totally clear.

This space was later used as the furthest reaches of the Peter Pan queue, at which point the artists got a dedicated new building on the other side of Fantasyland, across from the Mad Tea Party. That space became the Enchanted Grove juice bar in 1980 when Florida Citrus Growers renewed their sponsorship.

A lovely view of the Small World / Village Haus complex with those famous Skyway buckets overhead. Also in this photo: a great early view of our friend, the rooster-headed lamp, who I profiled not just a few months earlier in this article.

We end our spin around the Magic Kingdom in Fantasyland with a view of the attractive Royal Candy Shoppe facade, the Round Table soft-serve ice cream spot in the very back, and the small covered porch area between them which would shortly be converted into the Lancer Inn pizza window. I think these Tudor-style facades in their original colors and textures are quite charming, although later creative regimes have been less than kind. This sort of Fantasyland architectural treatment would provide the basis for the 1983 reboot at Disneyland.

What's maybe most remarkable in this set of slides is that there is not a single typical view anywhere in them. Generally, we can expect to find the same old photos people have been taking at Disney World for decades now, but this particular photographer saved his film, probably investing instead in the Disney-provided GAF Pana-Vue souvenir slides sold around property. His enormous good sense then has really paid off now: although Magic Kingdom has been, from its opening to now, perhaps a far more conservative institution that Disneyland, of which far less from its opening day is now recognizable, this odd little group of twin ladies and their friends captured some truly unique and invaluable, fleeting things on film on their vacation over forty years ago.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snapshot: Mysteries of the Second Floor

So we can all agree that the Contemporary is/was pretty awesome, right? From the bizzare Mary Blair mural to the strange original Southwest theme to the fact that once upon a time the Contemporary housed a liquor store called The Spirit World with a monorail running over it, the Contemporary exerts a fascinating tidal pull of history, aesthetics, and the taste of an era gone by. As hard as Disney may try to update the place or shellac layer upon layer of changes or "improvements" upon the basic original, history haunts the Contemporary hotel like a ghost, always present, peeking out from behind the dayglo neon or turquoise-blue carpet, a stowaway from out of time.

But we're all guilty of a grave oversight in overlooking an area of prime Contemporary Resort awesomeness, in fact perhaps the least changed of all the resort's haunted halls and strange passages. We've all rushed past it on our way to the Grand Canyon Concourse - the cheerfully badly named Level of the Americas, or: that place where you have to go from one escalator to another on the way to your Chef Mickey's reservation.

Buddy Greco performs tonite at the Top of the World Supper Club.
This was serious business, once.

Today the Level of the Americas mostly houses a reception area for the California Grill restaurant which supplanted the original Top of the World supper club in 1994. Neo-modern furnishings scatter the handsome wide hallways randomly, sometimes housing guests, slumped in couches like vagrants waiting to be evicted from a train station in a snowstorm. Other times, guests wander aimlessly down those lifeless wide hallways, looking furtively for someone or something that's never there. Since the addition of the new Fantasia-themed convention center wing in the early 1990s designed by Michael Graves, those original Contemporary meeting rooms and banquet spaces seem desolate, remote, and unloved. Very few places in all of Walt Disney World exude the same sense of not belonging as the Level of the Americas. "Is this supposed to be here??"

It wasn't always this way. Convention going was a big part of Walt Disney World's bottom line all through the 70's and 80's, and continues to be so today. All through the first twenty years of the resort, the absolute top spot for Conventions in all of Walt Disney World was the Contemporary, and the cutting-edge Ballroom of the Americas featured a hydraulic stage which could raise or lower and even closed-circuit television linking one ballroom to another. All drenched in 1970's earth tones, full of hustle and bustle and strange geometric patterns. Because nothing says "here and now" like geometry.
"Whoever said work and play don't mix obviously had never enjoyed the paradoxical magic of a Walt Disney World convention or conference. You can conduct successful business meetings and still experience all the excitement, adventure and magic that makes Walt Disney World the vacation kingdom of the world. As you would expect, a Walt Disney World convention makes a marvelous family vacation, too!

At the Contemporary Resort Hotel, the headquarters for all major conventions, you will find 30,000 square feet of meeting and banquet rooms and 1,046 spacious rooms. Or, choose from 636 additional rooms at the Polynesian Village Resort Hotel or 151 rooms at the Golf Resort Hotel, all connected by the Walt Disney World transportation system.

When it comes to entertainment, at the Walt Disney World Vacation Kingdom, your convention and banquet entertainment is only as limited as your imagination. You can choose from a Caribbean carnival, a Bourbon Street fling or a country-western hoe-down. Or, if you wish, the talented staff will prepare a custom-designed party especially for your group - right down to the sets, costumes, entertainment, and food." - World Magazine, 1979

Nearby all the "Convention Excitement", the sedate Gulf Coast Room was largely mysterious. Operating out of the exact same service counter which is now used for the California Grill and built apparently hastily in the adjacent conference room, the Gulf Coast Room was a quick and simple solution for Disney, looking as they were for an extra high end restaurant and which involved nothing more than a few rolls of wallpaper, high backed chairs and linen draped tables. Lighting was dim and simple and there were no windows or even much in the way of decor. The focal-point was on fresh food and continental service. Described in Walt Disney World News April 1976: "second floor. Gracious evening dining, with atmosphere entertainment. Reservations requested, with coats for gentlemen, please. Seatings 6:30 - 10 pm, $7.95 - $12.50."

Does anybody even bring an evening coat to Walt Disney World anymore? To put those prices in perspective, $7.95 is equal to almost $30 in 2009, and the highest priced menu item would today fetch almost $46.50. This was not dining for children.

A Spring 1977 Vacationland goes into more detail:

"The elegant Gulf Coast Room, inside Walt Disney World's monolithic Contemporary Resort Hotel, provides the essence of luxurious Old World dining. Here, in a setting aglow with the warm light from dozens of tall tapers, the soft music of a string ensamble fills the air. Each table is serenaded individually with songs of the diner's requests. Dining here can become an evening-long celebration for those who wish to savor the experience.

Begin with an apertif, carefully blended for you by a skilled cocktail hostess. To further whet your appetite, follow with an appetizer - cracked Alaskan crab warmed in butter over a chafing dish at the table, or perhaps Oysters Rockefeller*, served in the half shell atop a bed of hot rock salt.

After this, you will be in the capable hands of your carefully-trained waiter. If you wish, he will prepare a Caesar Salad for you at the tableside, finally serving the crisp, tasty greens with a chilled fork to make the experience perfect**. Entrees are also prepared at the table - dishes like Pampano en Papillote - a succulent ocean fish stuffed with tiny Gulf of Mexico shrimp, breaded, and then broiled to a juicy golden turn inside an air-tight cooking bag. Many other delicious entrees are also given the final, flaming touches at the table, over flickering braziers***.

Many guests enjoy a bottle of fine wine from the Gulf Coast Room's excellent stock. Knowledgeable wine stewards are on hand to suggest the perfect vintage to accompany any dinner. Dessert is often followed by deep mugs of Spanish coffee, again flamed at the table, to bring to an end a perfect evening of dining."
* You don't see Oysters Rockefeller much anymore either, but they're basically coated in a rich butter herb sauce spiked with - in the very original recipes - absinthe.
**The chilled fork may be excessive, but it's details like this that Disney used to be all about that made the difference.
*** There's a word that's ready for a comeback - BRAZIER!

All of that awesomeness, packed into a lonely and desolate floor of a hotel that you've rushed past a thousand times. Next time on your way to the new arcade to play an emulated version of Pac-Man, stop by the Level of the Americas and wander around a bit. See if you can guess where those rows and rows of 70's businessmen sat along tables draped in outrageous sunset yellow linens. See if you can guess which inauspicious door the Gulf Coast Room was located behind. Find the lonely grand piano and tucked-away, disused corners and try to imagine what this was like in better days. The Southwestern decor may be gone and the Gulf Coast Room's string quartets played their last note long ago, and the Gulf Coast Room's vertical striped and tree-laced wallpaper may be torn down, but a strange and sad atmosphere still persists, history tucked behind rows of plain beige doors - just another pocket of Walt Disney World fading slowly to black.

Before Michael Graves, before Vacation Club, a real view to remember.

Buena Vista Obscura:
Captain Cook's Hideaway (plus followup)
The Lake Buena Vista Story: Part One
The Lake Buena Vista Story: Part Two
The Lake Buena Vista Story: Part Three
The Lake Buena Vista Story: Part Four
The Golf Resort

History and Esoterica:
Snapshot: The Great Southern Craft Company
Snapshot: Olde World Antiques
Snapshot: Mysteries of the Second Floor

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Good News from the Vacation Kingdom

It all started with... Marty Sklar, believe it or not.

No, not the Walt Disney Company, and no, Marty has not regressed through time to usurp Mickey Mouse as Walt Disney's greatest creation. But anybody who knows Sklar and especially vintage Disneyland promotional publications knows the strong hand Sklar had in shaping the public "voice" of Disneyland and, later, Walt Disney himself. As relayed in issue 30 of the late, great E-Ticket Magazine, Sklar's very first job for Disney was in creating the "Disneyland News" paper souvenir sold on Main Street, USA for the first few years of the operation of the park. As Sklar says in his interview,

"The original summer, we sold 75,000 copies of the Disneyland News at ten cents. That was what Walt wanted. He wanted people to have it, and to get the world out about Disneyland, so ten cents was the price. [...] The newspaper was initially used and distributed to motel and hotel operators in the Southern California area, and then we decided we needed something a little slicker than that. That's how the Disneyland Holiday magazine came about, and we broadened that out and distributed it to Arizona... to anyplace that was within a day's drive of Disneyland. We started the Disneyland Holiday magazine, and then when Holiday Magazine threatened to sue us, we changed the name to Vacationland Magazine."

Our article today does not focus on Disneyland publicity, but in this story we can see the seeds of the Walt Disney World publicity machine coming into being. Walt Disney World did indeed open with editions of Walt Disney World Vacationland magazine, and it was distributed throughout the southeast -- I have one stamped "ST. PETERSBURG KOA" and each issue featured advertisements from local area attractions such as Busch Gardens and a Disney-penned article about places and things to see in the Florida area, such as Tampa Bay's Gasparilla festivities or Old Key West. The back page of every issue was a full page ad for Cypress Gardens, an attraction Disney would help put out of business 35 years later. So Walt Disney World Vacationland was directly descended from Disneyland News, but perhaps surprisingly, Disney would also print a promotional newspaper - not for external circulation, but internal - and this time, it would stick around for some twenty years.

Walt Disney World News, as it was initially called, was a basic but richly detailed four or eight page "periodical" published once a month, detailing what to do and what to see around Walt Disney World. It was distributed to hotel guests in their check-in folder and also to Magic Kingdom visitors at City Hall and the Gulf Hospitality House, and may have in fact been the first ever Magic Kingdom guide map, as the familiar GAF guides did not begin publication until 1972. The center of Walt Disney World News issues featured a luxurious two-page spread on the Magic Kingdom, her attractions and facilities, and a very large map.

In a way this was a smart idea because one cannot go anywhere near a Walt Disney World News without absorbing an enriching wealth of detail, and being forced to leaf through a newspaper to find your way around a theme parks means you're going to be thumbing past pictures and text about recreation, golf, the Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian Village, and in those early days Disney was especially concerned about getting the world out about all the other great things in Walt Disney World beside the Magic Kingdom. One of the great treasures of these publications are the faux ads, comic strips and assorted silliness they featured on a regular basis for the first ten years, either as "ads" or just strange asides to the reader.

So let's turn back the pages of history and flip through some of Walt Disney World News' highlights. And of course no look at the first ten years of the publication would be complete without an opening look at the headline itself.

This classy, original logo was the very first (you can see this comes from Vol. 1 No. 1 in the lower left there) and persisted until at least late 1975. Long before color invaded the newspaper in the mid 80's, Walt Disney World News was printed in a restrained dual-color system, black and white text and grey scale photos with a bold splash of colored headlines, the color changing each month. February 1972 was light blue, for example, and July 1972, shocking florescent green. It was tasteful, restrained, attention getting and pleasing.

This strange interim version lasted only one year - 1976 - but the new name, "World News", would be resuscitated for use in the mid and late 80's.

This logo closed out the first decade, from 1977 to 1981.

...before becoming this, for the resort's "year-long, smile-wide" (ugh) promotion. The Walt Disney World Tencennial, by the way, is probably Disney's best ever Disney World promotion, because it lasted an actual 12 months and ended with the opening of EPCOT Center.

Early issues of Walt Disney World News featured some strange oddities, including these memorable ads for obscure facets of the Vacation Kingdom:

This was back when the Pro Shop was stranded way out all by herself with the Palm Lounge and Magnolia Room in the Golf Clubhouse, years before it was expanded into a hotel, and so may have needed all the advertising she could get! And don't forget to buy your daily Fruit Basket at the Polynesian Village. Mahalo!

...and an opening day television listing and advertisement brings the 1971 WDW News home. I love that that Wonderful World of Disney gets her own section of the television listing. The idea of watching that splashy, bizarre 70's intro to Wonderful World of Disney in the comfort of your brand new Polynesian Village room, Cinderella Castle glittering across the Seven Seas Lagoon, is my idea of paradise. Maybe in a former life.

These glorious and exciting advertisements come to us from a June 1975 Walt Disney World News. The color that month was a pleasant pine green, as can be seen. I can't think of a single better sell for the Hoop-Dee-Doo than we have here. In fact, it makes me want to go see it right now.

It's 1976 and things are aqua blue as the cool guy with the sunglasses attacks us because we haven't yet been to the Contemporary Racket Club! I don't know who those "Pros" are we see above us in the Golf Resort ad, but I do love the tag line "And challenging golf. For you and the pros. At the Golf Resort." Since we learn in this issue that the Trophy Room now features fondue there's a double incentive to go.

This is the byline for an "article" about the Palm, Magnolia, and Lake Buena Vista golf courses, and it simply cracks me up. Who is "Murph" and how do we known we can we trust his advice?? Certainly his name conjures up images of some old guy in a floppy white bucket hat clenching a pipe between his teeth as he sinks that perfect Birdie on hole 12, but again, why just that enigmatic name... Murph? Not Murphy. Just... Murph. Whoever he was, Murph breathlessly advises: (you should read this aloud with great importance)
"But the Magnolia's most awesome 'monster' is number 17, probably the toughest hole of all of the Walt Disney World courses. This par four beauty has frustrated scores of pros and ameaturs alike. The tee shot, past water on the left and a virtual jungle on the right, must be a long straight ball."
Murph: Walt Disney World's greatest forgotten character.

Below is the byline for "Talk from the Top", a monthly article detailing who will be performing at the Top of the World supper club and when. This makes for strange reading for those of us 35 years later who are not primed to recognize names like Marilyn McCoo or Buddy Greco. This feature had been running in WDW News since the very start, but for some reason in 1976, and only in 1976, is it a "column" complete with a byline. It's anybody's guess if Barbara Stuart really existed!

April 1978 brings the handsome 70's-looking-guy at the Racquet Club, the soon-to-be-ubiquitous "Like To Extend Your Vacation" ad, and a very nice look at the "Sun Banks" logo, now Sun Trust. Sun Banks' building across from the Walt Disney World Village was brand new back then and today survives as a rare unchanged pocket of 1970's Disney goodness.

I've always found this drawing of Jose to be fascinating, perhaps because he doesn't seem to actually be speaking into the phone. This ad is reprinted in French and Spanish directly below the English text I've scanned here, by the way. In 1982, Disney put the French text above the Spanish.

And the 1982 WDW Information Channel listing brings home our brief tour of the first ten years of Walt Disney World News. Of course it's only the smallest taste, not representative of the wealth of detail, information and evocative writing these wonderful time capsules possess. Still, I hope it whets your appetite for more or just provides a look into the distant past of Walt Disney World, an echo of an era that seems more remote with each passing day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Upon arrival in 1971, Walt Disney World had many design brilliancies. The US Steel manufactured rooms in the Polynesian and Contemporary; the Utilidor; the Magic Kingdom itself. But overriding many other interests in the 1970's Walt Disney World, for me, is the graphic design of the era. In the Resort's fleeting first ten years, the company consistently turned out amazing graphic design, tastefully realized and stripped down in simplicity. The overall logo for the resort is one example: its' stylized montage of castle, Contemporary tower, monorail and sailboat effectively realizing all of the spheres the Resort was intended to offer (in early 1970's souvenir books these were even named things like The Lands of Magic, The Land of Hospitality, The Land of Recreation, etc...). Yet many components of the overall experiences each had their individual little icons.

As anybody who's been paying close attention to the nonsense which is the rotating banner at the top of this page will notice, I'm not only fascinated with WDW 70's graphic design, but I love to recreate the graphic art digitally. This allows me to "get inside" the design in a way that merely looking at the design simply cannot allow - seeing the curving line is one thing, but constructing it is another, and it's often the difference between merely liking the design and actually understanding it. So yes, everything you're about to see is a digital reproduction I have created using vectors.

Here's just one example I'd like to elucidate upon:
This cheerful little fellow is thankfully still familiar to 21st century Disney-goers; since 1971 he has been the "icon" of the Polynesian Village. At first glance the figure is somewhat basic: slightly uneven but still symmetrical, his body extending downward into a point, traditional headdress mirroring the shape of his head outwards, an abstraction of the "spirit of aloha". The circle-within-a-teardrop pattern on his tummy points away from the diminishing body, and the circle reinforces the circles of the eyes as well as the circle which makes up the "teardrop".

Look at his hand. Although it would've been easy to end his extended arm in a rounded sphere, a simple two-pronged triangular point, the designer here opted for a complex rounded point, which curves down and then back up into a sharp point. The "hand" is furthermore given further visual interest as it is "broken off" from the arm by a band of negative space; imagine how less interesting this part of the figure would've been without these two distinctive features.

Get in close to the eye; look at how what appears to be a simple circular band inside a patch of negative space is actually three concentric circles of alternating colors; note also how the boldly designed brow/nose shape does not actually trace the exact same arch as the eye does, but is vertically stretched upwards to not conform to the circle the eye inscribes but to with the overall shape of the head.

What you see above was actually the resort's "logo" for many years, it can be found on paper ephemera, drink glasses, and any number of other Polynesian Village stuffs. This is also, to my mind, where the true brilliance and versatility of the design becomes apparent. Look at how the arms mirror each other to create lines extending horizontally and vertically at 0 and 90 degrees; how the receding bodies all point towards center; how the entire pattern becomes like an abstraction of a tropical flower. Look, particularly, at the fascinating shapes created by the negative space between and among the figures. If the whole shape is basically an embellished triangle, here's the next logical step:

This eye-popping design is taken from a 1972 Polynesian Village check-in folder; the way the figures fit together here is just brilliant to me.

I think the reason this figure has remained with us while the other icons (which I will discuss in a moment) are things of the past is because this jolly, abstract little guy represents wholly visually the Polynesian's fascinating perch between traditional and modern; an outgrowth of the American mid-century fascination with the "primitive" while simultaneously representing the resort's impeccably modern construction and conveniences.
Nearly totally forgotten today is this 1971 logo for the Contemporary. Although it is indeed perhaps a little too literal minded for that Resort, I find this just as exciting as the Polynesian logo. The hotel's signature A-frame concourse is inscribed with an abstract T, which to my eye implies that this logo was designed before Roy O. Disney's last-minute name change from Tempo Bay to the Contemporary. Even better is the bold red chosen for the hotel, which reminds of the warm autumnal tones of the original arrangement of the Grand Canyon Concourse and is a strong contrast to the muted tropical green of the Polynesian's "icon".

Often printed in regal purple, the Magic Kingdom's abstract castle (right) significantly upgrades the Disneyland castle icon (left), which bears traces of a Googie/Mid-Century Modern design aesthetic. The Cinderella Castle icon not only visually upgrades the castle to the splendor of the Florida model, but actually better represents the structure than the Disneyland version, even including the castle's forecourt stage and sweeping steps in the form of abstract triangles below the spires. The use of both positive and negative space here is especially effective in contrast to the 1955 design. This icon was used most often on Magic Kingdom ticket books.

Possibly the most obscure is this wonderful design for the Golf Resort, which places a golf club and ball inside the exaggerated D of "Walt Disney World". The placement of the circle to represent the ball is perfect, just barely touching the outside edge of the golf club enough to remain a "negative space" embellishment of the figure of the club inside the D. The version to the left of it is as it appeared on the Resort's sign, in subtle shades of brown - not the tropical green of the Polynesian, in keeping with the clubhouse's more subdued atmosphere. The font is a subtle modification of Arial, in plain, sans-serif text, carefully blocked to create the very image of a relaxed retreat.

Here is a digital reproduction of the sign that once stood by the entrance, and there may be no more complete single representation of another era at Walt Disney World than this, with it's tastefully subdued aesthetic.

There is, strangely, no "icon" for Fort Wilderness, nor for Treasure/Discovery Island, was ever made, although I have included Lake Buena Vista's iconic "white bird" (which is still used today, by the way). EPCOT Center, of course, famously continued the trend of having strongly visual icons for each location in EPCOT, and even the Reedy Creek Improvement District had and still uses it's own classy little icon. These are leftovers from a brilliant era of design at Disney, and these 1970's era Disney iconography are near the top of my list of things I would love to see Disney return to in spirit.