Pleasure Island’s Comedy Warehouse in 1997.

I don’t want to leave Walt Disney World out, but I haven’t had time to go through and resort/rename them yet. The filename format of my earlier digital camera was MMDD_XXX.JPG, so I can only tell the month and date unless I open the image in special software. (It takes special software because this was before the Exif standard used by modern images. In those early years of digital cameras, there was no standard. My Epson PhotoPC uses a JFIF header to store date code, and since no graphics programs knew how to handle this, any image I rotated or edited completely lost this information. But I digress…)

In 1989, Walt Disney World opened a bunch of nightclubs and called it Pleasure Island. It stills seems like an idea that didn’t belong with the family image of Disney, but for those who did drink, it was a real fun place.

Pleasure Island in 1997.

One of the bars was called the Comedy Warehouse. You could see a group of comedians perform an improv comedy show multiple times a night. I remember visiting Pleasure Island during a family vacation. There weren’t many places a minor could go, but the Comedy Warehouse was one of them…

When I started visiting Walt Disney World on my own in the 1990s, I wanted to see how different a visit to Pleasure Island would be for someone older than 21.

Staff, not cast member, at the Comedy Warehouse.

The comedy show was hit or miss, like most improv. Suggestions were taken from the audience and skits were performed. There was a phone in the audience they could call and get suggestions, too. I recall noticing that the show I saw in 1997 was very similar to the one I’d seen years earlier with my family. It seems tourists are fairly predictable when it comes to audience suggestions.

Comedy Warehouse in 1997.

The thing I liked the best about this place was all the Disney tributes in the building. By 1997, Epcot had already started to change from the E.P.C.O.T. I loved as a kid in 1983. This former Imagination pavilion sign caught my attention:

Magic Journeys sign at Comedy Warehouse in 1997.

Magic Journeys was the original 3-D film at E.P.C.O.T.’s Future World. I learned later that it also ran at Disneyland in their Tomorrowland. Ah, look at those glorious 1982 colors!

Captain Hook’s Galley sign at Comedy Warehouse in 1997.

I do not know where the Captain Hook’s Galley sign was from, unless it was from the famous Disneyland Chicken of the Sea restaurant. If you follow that link, you can read all about it on Yesterland. Perhaps there was a similar eatery at Magic Kingdom in Florida? Or perhaps this was just a replica sign made for the club? If you know, please leave a comment. For now, I need to get back to going through all these old digital photos.

Until next time…

Circa 2000 retro/VR Magic Kingdom theater rumors?

Recently, I’ve been trying to find the source of an old rumor about Disney doing a retro (though we didn’t use that word then) attraction theater at Magic Kingdom. On July 28, 2000, I wrote the following in an old Yahoo! group (yes, Virginia, there was a day before Google)…

Now, it is known Disney has taken film of all their major parks being built (except, perhaps, Disney’s California Adventure?)… Disney also used to really document early animatronics (there is archived footage of the original C. of Progress somewhere)… Does anyone know if Disney bothered to film each segment of World of Motion, Horizons, etc., before closing them down “for the future”?

Someone has a site suggesting putting up a “VR lost attractions” area at the photo expo at WDW’s TMK. It’s a great idea, and shows like CoP could be done great by simply filming it from the audience in 3-D. Other attractions could be done using Cave technology or whatever. Has anyone seen the site I talk about? If so, where is it? I’ve not been able to find it 🙂

— Al

Here we are, almost 20 years later, and I guess the odds of me finding that site are long gone. Most sites from back then are only available thanks to archive.org copies.

Does this ring any bells to anyone?

Happy new year!

Welcome to 2019!

Aren’t you glad Disney didn’t do this every year?

November 8, 1999.
November 7, 1999.
November 8, 1999.

Man, that thing was huge. It actually made Spaceship Earth look small!

November 8, 1999.

It was a massive structure.

November 8, 1999.

…which looked pretty nasty from the side.

November 8, 1999.
November 8, 1999.

But hey, it says “2000” on it, so it’s only going to hang around until the end of the next year. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Until next time…

EPCOT turning points.

At what point did EPCOT Center become Epcot? By this, I mean, at which point did the original vision change to what we have today? The proverbial “straw that broke the theme park’s back,” if you will.

First, some ground rules for this discussion. Let’s consider “original” EPCOT Center to be the theme park that opened in 1982, as opposed to Walt Disney’s dream for the E.P.C.O.T. that would have been an actual city that people lived and worked in.

EPCOT Center

In 1982, the name of the park was EPCOT Center. Here’s a look at the first park map, taken from the museum display on October 1, 1007 (the day the park celebrated its 25th anniversary):

Photo by Allen Huffman of DisneyFans.com (Taken on October 1, 2007)

I have one of these maps, though it’s not preserved as well. Mine was on my wall as a child, and has been folded and unfolded many times, and kept in storage since then.

We will extend this “original Epcot” to include items that were not quite ready yet, but were added during the park’s first decade.

First, we have to ignore the Equatorial Africa (Future) as shown on this map since it was never built. We can include Morocco (also listed as Future) and Horizons (listed with a specific opening month). We will also include items this map didn’t even tease us with: Norway and Wonders of Life.

Future World

The original vision of the Future World side of the park was based around concepts such as Imagination, Energy, Motion and Communication. Then we had things like The Seas and The Land. Even at the start, the theme of Future World wasn’t fully cohesive, but each area had an icon, and it somehow all linked together quite nicely — at least through the eyes of a thirteen year old boy.

I visited EPCOT Center the first summer it was open (1983). Because of Future World, it immediately became my favorite park. A few years later, though, I went back to liking Magic Kingdom the best. I wonder why? Was it after changes started being made, or did I just grow bored with the limited offerings compared to the castle park?

Finding Future World turning points are probably the easy.

World of Motion was an elaborate omnimover dark ride through animatronic scenes. It closed in 1996 (sadly, before I visited with my digital camera). In 1998, it  became Test Track, a high speed thrill ride…

November 8, 1999.

The theme of being in a General Motors auto testing facility didn’t quite fit with the surrounding pavilion concepts. This was definitely a turning point.

And then there was Horizons, which represented the vision of EPCOT better than anything else in the park:

May 22, 1997.

It was closed in 1999. It reopened in 2003 as Mission: Space, a high speed thrill ride:

Photo by Allen Huffman of DisneyFans.com. October 2, 2007.

Mission Space is one of the few Disney attractions I will probably never ride. I can’t do spinny rides and, apparently, I’m not alone. Not too long after it opened, they halted one of the centrifuges and created a tame version of the ride that lets you watch the video without the spinning. I’ve at least gotten to ride that one, but why did Disney even build such an extreme ride for any of their parks, let alone Epcot?

Many other Future World attractions were updated, but they mostly retained the original concept or theme. Kitchen Cabaret became Food Rocks, Listen to the Land became Living With the Land, and Journey into Imagination changed, removing all the elaborate sets and animatronics and becoming a much shorter ride … then adding some of the animatronics back in a second update.

There were also changes to Communicore with the introduction of Innoventions, but I still think the concept of “real tech of literal tomorrow” made sense and could fit in fine if constantly updated. (I saw a “digital versatile disc” player for the first time there, and also a glasses-free 3-D display. One of these items became very popular, and the other I am still waiting on…)

Let’s move to the other side of the pond now…

World Showcase

World Showcase has remained fundamentally the same. Beyond the expansion of restaurants and more bars, the biggest change has been the insertion of Disney characters. Mexico’s El Rio del Tiemo (River of Time) became Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros…

December 7, 2006.
Photo by Allen Huffman of DisneyFans.com.  October 1, 2007.

Norway’s Maelstrom became Frozen Ever After:

January 25, 1998. Before Fastpass!
September 15, 2018.

There weren’t many other attractions on this side of the park, else maybe there would be more updates like these two. But now that the park has changed, a Ratatouille ride coming to France seems to fit right in with this “new” Epcot. Probably.

So what was “patient zero” of this transformation from EPCOT Center to Epcot? The name officially became Epcot ’94 in 1994, and then Epcot ’95 a year later, then just Epcot. At some point the logo changed into a more whimsical one than the sleek 1980s futuristic one it opened with.

But surely this started happening before 1994. All I know is, the EPCOT Center I fell in love with is long gone. I like what is there, but mostly for the food and drinks. I wonder how popular the park would be without all the alcohol…

Maybe I can revisit this topic in the future.

Until next time…