Tuesday, July 22, 2008

10 Things I Miss About Walt Disney World

Time for another one of my world famous (in my mind) lists! This time it's Ten Things I Miss About Walt Disney World. This isn't necessarily a list of attractions, because I think we'd all have pretty much the same list. These are things, big or small, that have changed or disappeared over the years. Of course, we encourage you to leave your own list in the comment box or post your list on your own blog. We had some great lists posted in the comment section last time. So now, keep your arms and feet inside the blog and let's take a look at some things I miss from Walt Disney World..

10) AM Information Radio - If you were driving on WDW property you would see road signs informing you to tune your car AM radio dial to a certain station and you'd hear a continuously running loop of information about everything Walt Disney World has to offer, including park times and entertainment offerings. This kind of thing used to be standard fare at most theme parks but this being Disney, it was a well produced recording often featuring character voices and theme park music. This station operated somewhere into the 1990's. On an average weeklong trip I'd probably listen to the entire loop two or three dozen times.

9) Original Monster Sound Show Pre-show The old Monster Sound Show at Disney-MGM Studios was great, with the Haunted House movie staring Chevy Chase and Martin Short. Back in the early days, while you were waiting in line there was a video playing of Disney sound effects artist Jimmy Macdonald showing David Letterman how sounds form different animated classics were created. The clip was just a segment from Letterman's old NBC show "Late Night" but it was bookended with new footage of David Letterman. Back in the 80's, before Dave was the household name his is today - I was a HUGE Letterman fan and was totally blown away that he was included in this new theme park. I still remember at the end of the video Dave said something along the lines of: "When the automatic doors open please move into the theatre in an orderly fashion or else men in mouse suits will drag you and your family out of the park!" I don't remember it word-for-word but it's classic Dave!

8) Previous Gift Shops on Concourse Level of Contemporary Resort I know they recently gave this area of the resort a makeover, and I was only able to see it passing by on the monorail on my last trip. I see they've made quite a few changes but I've always loved the quiet shopping in the Contemporary. In contrast to the noisy and exciting Chef Mickey's, the gift shops on the same floor have always offered a quiet and relaxed shopping atmosphere. In the Fantastia gift shop there used to be an animated figure of Sorcerer Mickey with fiber optic fireworks in the background. I Cherish the home video I took of the setup in 1990. Next to Fantasia was Concourse Sundries & Spirits where I used to always pick up a couple of packs of Mickey shaped fruit jelly candy. On the other side of the concourse was BVG which was one of the last remaining spots where you could find a few unique items. Smack in the middle was the Pin Trading stand where I've had many enjoyable conversations with the cast members.

7) "The Best Time of Your Life" I realize that "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" is a Sherman Brothers classic, not to mention the original tune that held together the General Electric Carousel of Progress. But for the bulk of my childhood visits to WDW the catchy little number that played everytime that theatre began to spin was "The Best Time of Your Life" and that song would be stuck in my head for months after every trip. This song was part of the show from the time Carousel debuted in Florida in 1975 until 1993 when they brought back the original song. I also prefer the "future" scene with the family watching the New Year's Eve fireworks from Disney World on their big screen TV...but that's another story!

6) Main Street Cinema - Still kicking in Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland, Walt Disney World's Cinema slowly faded away over the course of time. I've always loved going to the movies, and I've always had a love for old black and white slapstick films. When I was a kid, I was lucky if we got to the movies once a year so stepping into this dark old time Cinema was just as good as going to the Multiplex for me. Plus you got to see Mickey Mouse on the (somewhat) big screen! That was the greatest! In the late 90's they turned up the lights and started adding merchandise inside the theatre and had one film playing on one screen. Eventually they filled the whole spot with stuff to sell and the last remaining screen is used to promote parks around the world. Obviously, it's just not the same effect.

5) Fiesta Fun Center - Arcades are a dime-a-dozen these days, but old school Disney World had one of the greatest arcades I ever encountered. Located in the bottom of the Contemporary, this space (now known as the Food and Fun Center) was one of the earliest offerings for evening entertainment. Going way back, there used to be a huge shooting gallery in there, plus a gigantic assortment of coin-op games. There was also a small theatre in one corner that showed classic Disney animated films. I only made into that theatre once and saw The Little Mermaid on a 1993 visit but seeing a Disney film on Disney property is extra magical!

4) Original Voice on the Monorail - I know I'm not the only one who misses Jack Wagner, the original announcer on the monorail system and also the "voice of Disneyland". His authoritative yet friendly voice was such a part of any Disney trip that if you heard him on a TV special at home you'd have an instant flashback to your most recent trip to WDW (or Disneyland, I guess!)

3) When Gift Shops Were Gift Shops - Shopping at Walt Disney World used to be as much of the experience as any ride or show. But as we've all noticed in the last decade or so, most of the shops in the parks and resorts now pretty much sell all the same stuff. Remember all the cool shops in the Magic Kingdom that sold stuff that had nothing at all to do with Disney or all the random movie and television related merchandise you could pick up at Disney-MGM Studios? That little merchandise spot near the exit to Sounds Dangerous used to sell all kinds of cool movie and tv show hats, shirts and mugs. Now it's just another spot for plush characters and High School Musical stuff!

2) Actual Television and Movie Production - In the early days of Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park there was so much real honest-to-goodness film production going on that it really was like visiting a real Hollywood Studio. I've been obsessed with film production since I was a child, when STUDIOS opened I was 15 - it was like heaven! Just seeing real movie cameras was enough for me, yet alone seeing actual shows and movies in production! I can remember looking down from the catwalk of the Backlot Studio tour as they were working on scenes for DICK TRACY and seeing them at work on HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KIDS. And I must have spent at least a half hour staring at people working on the editing of a Little Mermaid Happy Meal Commercial in the old Animation Tour. Another time, I couldn't have been more excited to see two of the female Mouseketeers recording a song for the Mickey Mouse Club. I also sat in the audience for a taping of some Animal Planet talk show...but that wasn't as exciting. It's a shame that most of the filmed entertainment industry has died off in Orlando.

1) Penny Arcade - Of all my favorite things to do at WDW, nothing ever ranked higher than spending some quality time at the Main Street Penny Arcade. Sure they had a bunch of antique coin-op games on hand, and I gave them a play every once in a while but the real attraction for me was the turn of the century Mute-o-scopes which cost one penny. These machines had a huge Roladex inside them filled with hundreds of photographs. When you inserted your money the inside of the machine would light up. Then you would look through a viewfinder and turn a crank which would flip the cards and in turn animate a story before your eyes. Most of the stories at the Penny Arcade were comedies (slapstick and cartoon) but there were also sporting events and even dramas. As for the comedies, I must have watched each one of them 50 or 60 times each. I wonder what my parents were doing all that time!? Some of the machines from the Penny Arcade have found homes at other spots in WDW, but it still - to this day - doesn't feel right walking down Main Street U.S.A. and not hoping into the Penny Arcade for a couple of flicks with my pocket change!


Disneyana World said...

10. Always a delight when I was young. It felt like WDW was right around the corner.

9. I had forgotten about this until now! I loved that entire attraction

8. Never been, but it looked great.

7. I too loved this song.

6. People don't know what they're missing.

5. WDW arcades were a big deal to me when I was young. I have great memories there.

4. Never heard it, but I'll take your word for it.

3. This bothers me every time I go to WDW. I've always thought attractions and theme park specific merchandise would be much more profitable.

2. The Back lot Tour was special to me. It made me feel as if Hollywood was right in front of me.

1. There is a place near me that is filled with games like these. It's a delight for me to see because they are so odd and crude.

Great post.

Joey V said...

Remembering the Fiesta Fun Center, I always loved the mini-bowling alley they had back there, next door to the movie theater. That was pretty cool, and loud!

I also remember the two shops my mother always visited on the concourse level, the Contemporary Man and the Contemporary Woman, which were 70s and early 80s era clothing shops. She would spend time there while I was on the first floor in the Fiesta Fun Center.

Anyone ever get a characture done in the Fun Center? I think we still have ours....


-- Ryan P. Wilson said...

The AM radio station is one of my most vivid memories as a child. I have spent many an hour in search of old broadcasts that someone recorded, to no avail. Ah well, it was a fantastic marker to let you know that you were getting close to Walt Disney World, and at least I have my memories!

Joey V said...

ryan -

Try MouseWorldRadio on live365. Every morning at around 8:00 AM they play a 2 minute version of the Jack Wagner entrance spiel, back during the World Passport days (sounds like around 83-84).

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything on this list. BVG Contemporary was once 4 distinct shops: Contemporary Man, Contemporary Woman, Kingdom Jewels, and Bay View Gifts.

Hate to let you know that the Cinema has been gone in Tokyo for several years...it was subsumed by the Emporium there and even the facade is gone. Their Penny Arcade though is still going strong...though it was always much smaller than the stateside arcades.

Anonymous said...

Hi... just happen to cross your site...

Im planning to go to Tokyo or Hong Kong Disney this Christmas. Hoho and I found some stuffs from Hong Kong Disneyland here as well:

I will definitely take tones of photos there!!!

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