Pirates of the Caribbean had already been added by the time I saw Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for the first time. (Yes, Virginia, there was a time when Pirates was not yet there. Although the Wikipedia states it opened in 1973, it wasn’t yet listed in the park guides for the Spring/Summer season.)
One of my favorite memories from the ride was the animatronic pirate parrot outside the ride’s entrance. Animatronics were still brand new technology at the time. The first animated Tiki Birds showed up at Disneyland in 1963 followed by the first human characters at Disney’s exhibits at the 1964 Worlds Fair (specifically Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Carousel of Progress). As a child in the 70s, I was mesmerized by these robotic creatures, and this parrot was a great way to watch one up close.
But I digress.
Getting back to the parrot, it dawns on me that, soon, it will have been long enough since he was removed that a whole new generation will exist that has no idea this parrot ever existed… (Thank goodness for YouTube videos, I suppose.)
Between my 1999 WDW visit and my return in 2006, the parrot was gone.
During the “update” they added all kinds of banners, more painted signs, and a huge ship mast with sails outside. I guess folks were having trouble locating this attraction.
And, to remind everyone that the ride now was linked to the still-new Johnny Depp movies, the movie logo appeared in various places.
As far as the pirate parrot, at some point after his removal, I believe he (was it the original figure?) was on display in Downtown Disney at the big Disney Store, but I can’t find a photo of it. Did I imagine that? Or did I just see someone else’s photo of it?
Well, wherever he is, he is missed, at least by this one guest.
The first “new land” added to Magic Kingdom since it opened was Mickey’s Birthdayland in 1988 (or so says the Wikipedia). It was renamed to Mickey’s Starland in 1990. Something I had never read was that it supposedly was briefly known as Mickey’s Toyland in 1995 (again, from the Wikipedia — this is the first time I’ve read that). I think I only saw it as Starland during my family trips in the summer of ’94 and ’95.
It began a large refurbishment to become Mickey’s Toontown Fair in 1996. I remember a promotional photo that was released showing Mickey, Goofy and Donald hard at work:
This version made the land a bit more similar to Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland, though it was missing the Roger Rabbit references and most of the “town” part. It did, at least, add Mickey’s house, Donald’s boat, and a few others elements.
According to this sign, the grand opening was expected October 1996:
Because of this sign, I believe all the photos I have from this August 1996 visit should be considered Mickey’s Starland. I suppose this means some of the buildings were already there, or they were opened before the grand opening. I’m too lazy to go look anything up.
Here’s a map:
Going with the “fair” theme, there was the big tent with character meet and greets:
You can see how they were able to keep the tent when this area became Storybook Circus.
Some of the nicer elements at the time where the buildings that were, more or less, brought over from the other Toontown(s). Pete has his garage:
Donald had his boat, the Miss Daisy:
Minnie had her house:
And there was even a simple version of the Toontown Park:
The train station depot was rather bland, though.
Compare that to what Disneyland’s Toontown looked like, the Florida version was sparse and barren. But, at least it was a step up from the earlier encarnations.
And you could meet characters…
I’m, uh, not sure what “Practice your hugs” was all about.
When I visited in 1997, the rest of the land was ready, including the Barnstormer roller coaster. But it’s nice to have an in-progress look at one of the lesser lands ever built in a castle park.
Let’s take a trip back to 1996 and see what was going on at the Magic Kingdom. Who remembers the Tropical Serenade? It was the East Coast version of the 1964 Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland.
I believe they still had the “barker bird” out front, letting us know what wonders await inside. Pirates of the Caribbean had their own barker bird back then, too.
I recall we usually just called it the Tiki Birds, and indeed, that’s what the sign said at the top. This later changed to the Under New Management version, then finally returned to a version of the original, but using the Disneyland name. Full circle!
One of my strongest memories from family vacations in the 1970s where these carvings that played drum music. They later became water sprayers, but they were just drumming away in 1996:
Over in Fantasyland, the Cinderella Castle was … a cake! Happy 25th Anniversary, Walt Disney World! Here’s a few photos from my collection (click on them to see larger versions):
Folks where riding the Skyway rather than wishing it would be restrooms:
And my beloved 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea had recently closed, and was being used as a character meet area.
Well, at least Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was still there. I always thought it was the best and most popular dark ride.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t find the Mickey Mouse Revue that I remember seeing, but there was this relatively new Legend of the Lion King puppet show:
Over in Frontierland, the Diamond Horseshoe was NOT a restaurant.
Meanwhile, in Liberty Square you could hop aboard a Keel Boat for a really unique ride around the Rivers of America:
This painting had also been recently added inside the attic of the Haunted Mansion. Few had digital cameras back then, so I left a long gap of Doombuggies before I boarded (with no one behind me) and broke the rules so I could take a flash picture of this to share:
I do not recall the story behind it, but I think it might have been a painting from Phantom Manor at EuroDisney.
I am told that these hands in the “corridors of doors” have been removed, so here they are in 1996:
And back then, we didn’t have much for Haunted Mansion merchandising, but at least we had a cart:
I’ve already shared some things from Main Street USA, so I’ll just include a photo of the old “wait time” signs:
And here is the wonderful side street that has since been filled in and turned in to more retail space:
Look how lovely that little area was! Such a shame it’s gone. At the end was the barber shop, I believe, and I even got my hair cut there around this time.
Over in Tomorrowland, the still-new Alien Encounter was there:
…and the Skyway station was also not restrooms yet:
And the GoodyearGrand Prix Raceway was still quite retro:
There is a bit more still to share, but I think I’ll save Mickey’s Toontown Fair for a posting of it’s own since it’s completely gone today.
Previously, I shared a photo of the original FastPass tickets that were give out at Magic Kingdom‘s Space Mountain in 1999. I thought I’d share a few more photos from the ride that started it all…
…or did I?
My memory says Space Mountain was the first, and I had assumed it did so in “late 1999” because the Wikipedia also said that, but I have since been reminded (via a well-researched Yesterland.com article) that it was announced to be starting in July 1999.
Amazingly, the Wikipedia was wrong about something. Let’s digress for a quick moment.
Doing some poking around the ancient archives of the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup, I found a post on February 18, 1999 by someone who got to try out a new “virtual queue system” on Countdown to Extinction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I then find a post from Al Lutz on May 31, 1999 referencing an Orange County Register newspaper article about the system being tested with plans for it to come to Disneyland. Then, on April 16, 1999, someone asked if the virtual queue was still being used and someone replied that it was not working on Space Mountain or CTX “this past Friday.”
Based on what I can find so far, the original testing seems to have been done on one (or both) of those two attractions sometime before February 18 and had ended by mid-April. But which was was first, and when? I shall continue to dig…
UPDATE: I found a reference from January 19, 1999 talking about the system being used on Space Mountain “last Christmas.” It seems December 1998 and Space Mountain?
But I digressed. Let’s get back to my November 1999 visit to Walt Disney World.
At that time, Space Mountain was sponsored by Federal Express:
I grew up with the ride being sponsored by RCA, so this was quite different than the old entrance sign I was used to with the “rocket” with astronauts in it. Inside was also different… The RCA dog listening to the record player had been replaced with a galactic mural.
When I visited next in 2006 and 2007, FedEx was no longer the sponsor. The signage and theming was still the same, but direct references to FedEx had been removed. I thought it was interesting they didn’t change this mural since “FX-1” in white and red colors was a referenced to FedEx.
Here’s a better look from 2007:
When I visited next in 2018, I saw that the FedEx references had been removed and the mural had been updated to be Starport Seven-Five… Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain opened in 1975. A similar update had been done at Disneyland with Starport ’77 (I bet you can guess which year their’s opened).
But I digress. Let’s get back to 1999.
This was the year FastPass went into public testing and was installed on Space Moutain. This meant new entrance markers for FastPass and for the normal line, which would be called Stand-By.
You now had the Stand-By line if you wanted to line up for the ride the way you always did, and a “Disney’s FASTPASS Return” line if you had the magic FastPass ticket…
Notice how the “Disney’s” looked like it was added to the sign after it was made. Maybe this was just in the era where “Disney’s” got added in front of anything the company made, yet somehow it wasn’t originally planned to be on this sign.
There was also a place to go to get those magic tickets. “Disney’s FASTPASS Distribution”:
Although my camera could not capture the specific time, the return time was the one-hour window where the ticket you received would allow you to return and use the FastPass Return entrance. (I guess we all understand this today, but back in 1999, it was a completely new concept.)
Let’s take a look at the machines…
Let’s take a closer look…
Insert park ticket here, receive your FastPass there… Simple enough (assuming that’s what it actually says; my ancient digital camera only took 640×480 pictures).
The machines were new, and often had issues.
I wasn’t bold enough to get closer, and the digital camera I had did not have a zoom (or a screen, or removable memory, or anything but a button for that matter). You can really tell this was more of a prototype than production system. Just look at all the wires and pieces of equipment all mounted inside there!
The end result was a nice FastPass ticket that could save you an hour or more waiting in line…
I’ll leave you with one more view, taken at night…
There is so much more to be said on the topic of FastPass, especially during the early years, so I look forward to writing more articles like this one, covering the other “first” attractions to have FastPass. (Or, FASTPASS as it was known at the time.)
2019-04-13: In a comment on Facebook, Werner from Yestlerland. com pointed me to his detailed article on the history of Paper FASTPASS tickets. He references an Orlando Sentinel newspaper article from July 9, 1999 stating FASTPASS (all uppercase back then) would go into effect “within the next week” on three attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Kilimanjaro Safaris, Countdown to Extinction and Kali River Rapids). I did not recall this, but I have photos of FASTPASS (all uppercase at that time) at those three attractions taken two days before I took the Space Mountain one. While it’s nothing unusual for the Wikipedia to be incorrect (it just says “late 1999” for when FASTPASS started), I now want to find a source to why I believed Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom was the first attraction to test it. The article mentions Splash Mountain would be coming, but I took no photos of that this trip, so I can’t confirm it happened by then. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was also mentioned, and I have photos of FASTPASS there as well. With that in mind, I am revising some of my writings below until I can figure out why I think Space Mountain was the first.
I seem to recall that the first attraction to test FASTPASS was Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. However, in an article over at Yesterland about Paper FASTPASS, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper announced on July 9, 1999 that FASTPASS would be launching “within he next week” at three Disney’s Animal Kingdom attractions — Kilimanjaro Safaris, Countdown to Extinction and Kali River Rapids — with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Splash Mountain to follow. Since I have photos of all but Splash Mountain having FASTPASS by my visit in November, my photos agree with history. It appears in this case, my memory and Wikipedia are incorrect. I’ll have a few follow-up articles about FASTPASS shortly and try to figure out why my memory and Wikipedia are incorrect.
But I digress.
Here is what the original FASTPASS looked like:
It was a very humble beginning to something that has evolved into a system that can be scheduled months in advance.
I suspect Space Mountain was chosen because their queue already had two sides. Originally, the wider side was where guest went, and the other side was … well, I’m not sure. I would see cast members using it, so perhaps it was just their way to walk the queue and get to the entrance when needed. It was probably just an obvious choice to use that other side for FASTPASS.
Side Note: I accidentally used that right side with a wheelchair guest and found it was a very tight fit. I was informed at the top that wheelchairs were supposed to use the normal queue (which is really how it should be – equal access – and allow those guests to also experience the same queue and preshows and such). But I digress…
I thought thought I’d take a moment to share this FASTPASS origin tidbit. If you want to know more, I have a few more articles about FASTPASS on Space Mountain and several other attractions in 1999 coming up.
Yes, Virginia, there was a time when Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom had buildings that were not used for retail space.
The Main Street Cinema used to be a small cinema that played classic Mickey Mouse cartoons. It was still doing this in 1996:
That is the only photo of it from 1996 I have, but here is is in January 1998:
Later that year, it was being used to show previews for the new animated film Mulan:
In 1999, Tarzan had replaced Mulan:
…and Toys Story 2 soon followed (they changed it out during my visit):
I do have a photo of the cinema ticket booth from 1999:
I wonder what her name tag said. At Disneyland, it has her hometown listed as Marceline, Missouri (where Walt Disney grew up).
After my 1999 visit, I turned my focus to Disneyland trips and did not return to Walt Disney World until 2006. By that time, the Main Street Cinema had been turned into another shop. During this visit, it was also being used as the in-park headquarters for the Virtual Magic Kingdom online game:
They at least kept a projection screen at the back in tribute to the sign outside:
Meanwhile, at Walt Disney’s original Disneyland, the Main Street Cinema is still a cinema, with multiple screens inside showing various Mickey Mouse cartoons. I guess California didn’t need another spot to sell T-shirts.
I have begun the process of reorganizing all my Walt Disney World photos. When I started taking digital pictures in 1996, I was just grouping things together by park and land. I mean, no one has hundreds of photos from the same place, do they? Back then, one visit to Magic Kingdom may have only resulted in a few photos from Adventureland — hardly enough for a gallery, right? Thus, my photos from 1996 to 1998 were all grouped together. By 1999, I had started bringing my laptop into the park with me so I could go back to the lockers and then download photos during the day so I could take more. Here’s me at the front of Disney/MGM Studios in 1999:
Since there were no web galleries yet, I even went as far as renaming photos to things like “tmk_1.jpg” or “dmgm_15.jpg” so folks who downloaded them by filename at least had an indication of which park the photo was from. (Microsoft Windows at the time only allowed for 8-letters for a filename, so it was impossible to have a photo called “CinderellaCastleSideView.jpg”.) I wish I had NOT done that, since some of the photos lost their embedded date code leaving me with no easy way to tell what year they were taken.
I am now trying to split them out by year, even though that means some areas will only have one or two photos. Ah, the early days of digital cameras with 1 megabyte of memory! I did this last year with my Disneyland and Iowa Adventureland Park photos, so it’s going much faster this third time around.
During my sorting, I’ve found interesting patterns to my photo taking. Sometimes I’d only have one picture (Epcot World Showcase pavilions) as if I just took a token photo to represent the area. Other times, I’d have a dozen or more (favorite attractions like Haunted Mansion, or something that was brand new like the opening of Buzz Lightyear).
Sometimes I took things like this:
Notice they are posing for the photo. Folks generally just didn’t “waste” film on taking pictures of cast members back then unless the cast member had a princess dress on or was a giant mouse. I suspect they must have asked me about my weird camera, and after explaining what a digital camera was, I took their photo. I can’t think of any other reason I’d have used one of my limited photos on a parasol cart.
These two girls are now twenty two years older than they were when I took this photo of them in 1996. I wonder how long they worked for Disney World. Maybe they are long gone, or maybe Vice Presidents somewhere out there.
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 Progresssomewhere)… 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 🙂
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.