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.
I don’t consider myself a collector. I will, however, buy things from time to time that I like. One of my main vacation souvenirs is T-shirts since they are at least somewhat practical and useful outside of the vacation.
Over the years, I’ve filled a closet or two with T-shirts from theme parks, Hard Rock Cafes, and other touristy type places.
I have a number of Disney park shirts that were special or limited that I never got around to wearing — which is not somewhat practical.
Remember Epcot’s 25th anniversary?
I even have two of the Figment stuffed animals. I think they only sold 1982 of those.
Some shirts are also a snapshot in time, like when Disneyland closed down their 1959 classic Submarine Voyage. That was sad, because it was one of the attractions that Walt Disney himself greenlit for the park.
In the future, I think I’ll take you on a thrilling tour of my “collection.” Though I should probably get rid of the shirts I’m never going to actually wear.
JUST ANNOUNCED: #StarWars: #GalaxysEdge will open May 31 at the @Disneyland Resort and August 29 at @WaltDisneyWorld Resort: bit.ly/2H6Pipz
Having experienced first hand the media frenzy of Disneyland’s New Tomorrowland opening, as well as the even grander 50th Anniversary event, I will have some fun photos and comments to share which might explain what we can expect from this…
In an earlier article, I speculated a bit on when EPCOT Center became the Epcot we know today. Today I’ll dive a bit deeper and include some comments from others.
Derek Mullins on Twitter commented:
From my observation, it was most likely the beginning of the sponsor losses, and the changes to be more thrilling (Test Track) and ‘hipper’ (Ellen’s Energy Adventure) in the mid-90’s. Of course, it’s all subjective, so I’m curious what answers you get.
Derek Mullins, @mewhunter67
Sponsor losses. That’s interesting, because sponsors go both ways. An existing ride could get a new sponsor which causes big changes… Or a ride could become sponsor less, and stay frozen as-is.
The comedic additions of Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy to Universe of Energy were certainly a change in feeling. That began in 1996.
World of Motion had closed and was to become Test Track in 1997.
The times they were a changing…
Howard Bowers on Twitter commented:
1999. Horizons is closed for the second time. Journey into Imagination is closed. Test Track is finally operational, having replaced World of Motion. And the 2000 wand is up next to Spaceship Earth.
Four notable changes certainly is a good percentage of the original attraction lineup. Howard also added…
Original Epcot took some hits in 1994 with the closing of Kitchen Kabaret and the addition of Food Rocks and the switch to Ellen’s Energy Adventure, along with Innoventions, but all of that still felt like Epcot, just the next generation. / Taking out Journey into Imagination and Horizons basically removed the Heart and Soul of Future World.
Ah, Kitchen Kabaret! Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit was the “it’s a small world” song of EPCOT Center… During my first visit with a digital camera, Food Rocks had already taken over:
That was part of the sponsorship change from Kraft to Nestle.
I recall many of “us” joked at the time that having a chocolate company take over the “healthy” pavilion made little sense. But it’s not about finding a sponsor that fits — it’s about finding a sponsor that will spend the money. At least Listen to the Land didn’t become a chocolate boat ride ala Willy Wonka! (Hmmm, that would have made great sense and fit the sponsor… It just would have not fit at Epcot…)
The loss of Imagination was sad, since no other attraction ever embodied just what “imagination” really was like better than that original dark ride. Still, the two updates (Journey into YOUR Imagination, and Journey into Imagination with Figment) at least tried to keep the theme rather than becoming, say, a Wreck It Ralph ride through.
But Horizons, well, that was just a total loss. Nothing put the “future” in Future World better than Horizons. And, unlike updates done to Tomorrowland, or the final scene of Carousel of Progress, the futures presented in Horizons would still be as futuristic today as they were in the 1980s. I think it had much more life left… Pity the crowds disagreed, and it was almost always a walk on when I visited.
The closed building made a nice backdrop for Cast in Bronze, at least.
According to the always accurate Wikipedia, the Indiana Jones Adventure opened in Disneyland on March 4, 1995. This ride is the reason I wanted to return to Disneyland after not visiting there since the 1970s. I had been reading about its construction in the Disneyland section of the Destination Florida RoundTable on GEnie. (That was the General Electric text-based dial-up service I was on, years before there was such a thing as the “world wide web.”)
When my new job scheduled me to be in Irvine, California in December 1995, the first thing I did was call my hotel and ask how far they were from Disneyland. (Remember, this was before online maps — even before the things that were before Google Maps, like MapQuest.) They told me it was about 15 miles away. I was ecstatic, though I would soon learn that 15 minutes could mean an hour or more in Southern California traffic.
In the early days of this attraction, the line would often start on Main Street U.S.A. and wind through Adventureland. They’d have cast members hold the line to let traffic cross from time to time. In 2017, the same thing was being done for Disney California Adventure’s Guardians of the Galaxy when the line would extend into A Bug’s Land.
After going in to Adventureland, the line would use the second level of the Jungle Cruise building and then finally enter the actual Indiana Jones queue. At the time, the GEnie rumors were that the queue was built to hold a three hour line. Today, that massive indoor queue is just a walkway since they hold everyone outside and merge in FastPass/MaxPass visitors at the entrance. It dawns on me that, since FastPass, there are folks who have never really experience this amazing queue the way it was intended.
Do you remember the original ride sponsor? Here’s a photo of the sign at the exit, taken during my first trip with a digital camera. Ah, the glory of low resolution 320×240 digital pictures!
Yep, it was AT&T. They also sponsored Spaceship Earth at EPCOT Center. The EPCOT sponsorship made sense to me since their logo already looked like Spaceship Earth. But Indy? The only link was this sign at the end.
According to the story of the ride, tourists were going in to choose one of those three doors to give them either youth, riches, or visions of the future. The ride used to have an elaborate mechanism that made it appear like each car was “randomly” going through one of three entrance doors. A wall of haphazardly arranged mirrors would tilt so you could watch the car in front of you as it turned the corner and went through a door. Then, the mirror would move back, and your car would go and you would see that you got a different door. Very cool!
And what is the connection to the sponsor? At the time, AT&T was running a similar “choose wisely” ad campaign about selecting them for your long distance* service.
Old Guy Note: In olden days, “long distance” was a term used to mean calling someone who wasn’t in your local town. You paid extra for each minute of the long distance call. During the 1980s, a large telephone monopoly was disrupted and a bunch of competing phone services started up. You could then choose another company to provide you long distance service at lower rates.
You also got a bit of AT&T ad material every time you rode. Throughout the temple, there were writings that you could decode with an AT&T-sponsored translation card they gave you. I suppose the idea was that you would have something to kill the time during your three hour+ wait 😉 I have a bunch of these cards. The writing was just a special font. I had a friend who could just read them (it’s easy once you realize that the symbols look quite a bit like the letters they represent). Years later, a special font was used in Guardians of the Galaxy with similar things for you to translate. It seems we have another connection to Guardians! (And, maybe as an indication of the changing times, many of the Guardians signs also have English translations already on them — no need to make you think while on vacation, I guess.)
In the early years, everything in the temple queue was shiny and new, yet it looked like it had been there for hundreds of years. The only thing that looked fresh was the bat guano in the bat cave. The in-queue effects (the first time Disney had ever done that, I believe?) all worked. In the last several trips I made, none seemed to be working. Do they ever work?
In case you haven’t even seen them, in the “spike room” you could push on the bamboo pole to trigger an effect that would make the ceiling (slowly… very slowly…) move down with a thunderous rumble.
There was also the rope you could pull on to annoy the archeologist that was hanging on to it below. Keep pulling and he’d drop something. Pull more, and he’d plummet to his … nap. (I mean, no one would die in a Disney queue, would they?) Good times.
A few years later, a similar rope was added at Disney/MGM Studios near the Indiana Jones Stunt show, though their sign makes it much more obvious you can pull the rope. Here’s their version from 1999:
But I digress. Back to Disneyland’s Indy…
The ride itself was amazing, and still is, but today’s version pales compared to the original 1995-1996 version. Here’s a few highlights:
The ride used to be so “rough” there was no way to ride it without holding on for dear life. Someone managed to shoot video of it in 1995 (you can see how bumpy it is) and I commend them on that accomplishment. I guess I can see why they tamed it down, but it was far more of a thrill ride in the early years.
There was also a windy cavern that was REALLY windy. It, supposedly, blew off too many caps and caused issues from having to stop the ride to clear the track that they toned that down.
There was also the debris that would fall from the ceiling. Just as you’d turn a corner and be facing the main ride chamber, the music would swell, and a green light blast would shine and there’d be a fire burst nearby. Debris would fall from the ceiling. It was ice that would drop, where it could just melt away at the bottom. (Someone finally posted a clip of this effect happening ,so even if you’ve never seen it yourself, now you have “proof” it existed.)
But my all-time favorite part was the different “random” profiles for the vehicles. They would stall in different places, speed through a scene or drive slowly through it, and do so differently each time you rode them. I’m sure there was a finite set of “random” variations, but it was so nicely done it never felt repetitive. My favorite was the one where the car kept grinding the shift gears, and you could feel the gears grind under the floor board! Impressive!
Here’s a YouTube video summarizing some of the missing effects from the original Indy ride (though it is incorrect about one, and doesn’t comment on the random ride profiles that were bragged about during the early promotional material):
There were also a few secrets that users of GEnie and the newsgroups (there were no fan websites yet, really) had discovered.
There was a LIFE magazine with Mickey on the cover.
There was a reference to Star Wars’ Obi Wan Kenobe (which was also in the Indiana Jones movie).
And Disney had told us about the ID numbers of the vehicles being Imagineer birthdates.
Another detail that changed was the sign just before going up the stairs. The original version looked much more authentic, but it was replaced with a warning-heavy version that looked far more modern and out-of-place.
Speaking of signs, have you ever noticed the “nails” used throughout? They are historically-correct representations of what was used before we had modern nails. Nice details.
And speaking of details, in the original days, all the light bulbs were unlabeled and looked like old bulbs. Today, you will find modern bulbs scattered around (with modern writing on them showing the wattage, etc.).
Also, the “generator” in the outdoor queue is supposed to be powering all the lights in the temple. You can trace the wiring running from it all the way into the load area. As the generator spits and sputters, the lights will flicker and dim. It was a very cool effect that I don’t know if many notice these days.
Indiana Jones Adventure was one of the greatest things Imagineering has ever done. What we have today is still a great ride, but it’s just a shadow of the ride as originally intended back in 1995. I’m glad I got to see it during those early years.
2018-02-25: Added “new” Tomorrowland history notes from Werner Weiss of Yesterland.com.
The Tomorrowland of 1996 was probably the “new” Tomorrowland, not to be confused with the new “new” Tomorrowland that would open two years later. After speaking with Werner of Yesterland.com, I found that there were several other “new” new Tomorrowlands along the way. (See his notes at the end of this article.)
I’ll just call this one Tomorrowland ’96, in tribute to the recently renamed Epcot ’94.
First, the Rocket Jets were still in their original spot:
By having them up on the second story (you took an elevator to get to them), it make them seem much more frightening. To prove that, here’s a non-public photo I vowed I would never share publicly:
Today a new version sits on the ground at the front of Tomorrowland, and the skeleton of the old Rocket Jets is a kinetic sculpture that may or more not kinet any more.
In 1996, you could also catch the original run of Captain EO, which I did, because I don’t think I ever caught it when it was at Epcot. (Recall, I visited Disneyland a few times in the 1970s, then my 1980s and early 1990s were only trips to Walt Disney World):
A short time later and that theater would be redone for Honey I Shrunk the Audience. Then, years later, it would be repurposed to become Captain EO Tribute after the passing of the film’s star, Michael Jackson. I wonder what will happen if Rick Moranis or Eric Idle passes away?
There was also this long-closed Carousel of Progress / America Sings Building that was being worked on for Tomorrowland ’98:
The PeopleMover had been closed since shortly before I got back to visit in 1995, darnit. “Missed it by that much!”
Hey! That’s Esmarelda (bottom left, above) walking out of Tomorrowland! This, my friends, was one of the reasons why Walt Disney wanted so much land for his Florida Project. He said he didn’t want to see a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland on his way to Frontierland, and I’m guessing seeing Esmeralda do the same also counts.
And taking a peek at the People Mover tracks showed work being done for the upcoming Rocket Rods ride:
Speaking of Walt Disney World… Did you ever see the Disney virtual reality demonstration at Epcot ’95? (Yes, Virginia. There was virtual reality in the early 1990s.) It was in one of the buildings near Spaceship Earth, and I saw it with my dad during the summer of 1995. They selected a few guests to demonstrate the system on a stage while we all watched overhead monitors showing what they were seeing. It was an Aladdin magic carpet ride game. During my 1996 Disneyland trip, I got to play it at the Starcade. It was very cool.
V.R. is the future, I tell you!
I guess I should also point out the Circle-Vision was still showing movies:
That movie was interesting because Walt Disney was involved in it, and he could be seen over and over in various scenes. It’s hard to hide from a 360 camera. (Yes, Virginia, Disney was doing 360 movies back in the 1960s.)
This location later became the queue for Rocket Rods (the theater still intact and showing a new Rocket Rod film sequence), then later Buzz Lightyear.
Space Mountain was presented by FedEx and had the “speed ramp” up to the top:
And the ride itself had recently gotten onboard sound via add-on speakers they put on the existing cars:
During a later redo, they would get all-new cars with the speakers integrated into them.
The Submarine Voyage was still running:
Besides the subs being yellow instead of grey, it was very close to the original version that opened in 1959. A few years later, it would close and the lagoon would sit, abandoned, for what seemed like “forever” until Nemo saved it. Florida’s version, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, was not so fortunate. It just sat there for what seemed like “forever” and then got replaced with a Winnie the Pooh playground for toddlers.
And, who can forget the Toy Story Funhouse, showing that Disney began putting things in the Tomorrowlands long before Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor. If I recall correctly, this was an exhibit that was used at a movie theater during the promotion of Toy Story, then moved to this area in Tomorrowland as an attraction.
I only took a few photos, so this one must have really stood out. It was the first time I ever saw a human Green Army Man.
It’s worth noting that the original versions had their feet connected on a platform just like the toys. They would wobble around just like the toy versions did in the movie. Cute.
It’s also worth notice that orange floor. Back in the 1970s, Radio Shack stores were also orange and brown. I guess those were good colors for the future, in the past.
I guess that about covers Tomorrowland. I took a few photos of Star Tours, but that remained mostly unchanged until the updates for the new movies so nothing interesting to share there.
Notes from Yesterland.com:
Werner Weiss contributed some more details about the various “new” Tomorrowlands:
1959 – Significant additions to Tomorrowland at Disneyland, but not called “New Tomorrowland.” Included Disneyland Alweg Monorail, Submarine Voyage, and Matterhorn Bobsleds (Matterhorn is now classified as part of Fantasyland).
1967 – “New Tomorrowland” at Disneyland. Included G.E. Carousel of Progress, Goodyear PeopleMover, Monsanto Adventure Thru Inner Space, AT&T Bell System Circle-Vision 360 (replacing the 11-screen 16mm version), Flight to the Moon (replacing Rocket to the Moon), Coca-Cola Tomorrowland Terrace, Space Stage, and the tile murals by Mary Blair.
1994 – “New Tomorrowland” at Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World.
1998 – “New Tomorrowland” at Disneyland. Included Rocket Rods, “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” Innoventions, and Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port.
I am in the process of generating a new version of my Walt Disney World photo gallery. It will contain over 32,000 photos when this is complete.
An update to my Universal Studios Orlando resort photos will follow. Because of the Harry Potter expansion, I’ve now spent more time in those parks my last visit than I have since the parks opened. Good stuff over there.
I’ll post another update here when the new gallery is online. In the meantime, you can explore the one from September 2018:
I’ve already touched on Disneyland’s New Orleans Square a bit when I discussed entertainment offerings in 1996, but let’s look a bit closer at some other things in the area.
Learning about Club 33 on the early Internet (long, long before Facebook, in the early stone ages of dial-up and text-based newsgroups) felt like being let in on a big secret. So of course I took a picture of the door!
As Club 33 became less of a secret, you’d see more and more people doing the same, or posing by it. I still kick myself for not going in when I had a chance. And kicking myself again for turning down the second and third chance, too. I think I was just too focused on rides back then.
And before the Year of a Million Dreams turned it into an apartment, upstairs above Pirates of the Caribbean was the Disney Gallery where you could see great things like this K7 spaceman outfit from the early years of Disneyland:
And, if you knew the right people (sigh, like those who invited you to Club 33 and you turned them down), they might even show you some other secrets, like this “hidden” cast member elevator:
I also got to visit a cast member store (which I think was located in a trailer backstage somewhere). I bought a strange black ball with Mickey ears on it that you could stick on a car antenna. Who would have known that, in a few years, those antenna balls would be a massive craze with hundreds of styles! (The one I bought was before this, and doesn’t even say “Disneyland” on it — just a discreet black ball with mouse ears. I’m not even sure if it had (C)Disney anywhere. I wonder if I still have it.)
But I digress…
I’ll share a few more. Somehow I learned about a “hidden pet cemetery,” and a cast member gave me a little tour. Today, it’s well documented (it was the original cemetery, and then a clone was made and moved out front when they expanded the Haunted Mansion queue), but back then, it seemed really special to get to see it. Funny how giving everyone a digital camera (on their phone) at all times makes having photos of things far less rare.
And over at Pirate’s of the Caribbean, I snapped a photo of one of the pirates unique to the Disneyland version. I believe he sat at the left of the “waterfall” up ramp at the end of the ride, just before where Jack Sparrow is today.
He disappeared a few years later during an update, and has been gone ever since. I think. I really need to check my later photos. I could be completely wrong (and I’m sure you’ll let me know if I am).
There was also some kind of big deal about turnstiles being moved to the exit of Pirates. I don’t recall why, but I took a photo:
Oh, and for what it’s worth, back then this pirate was still looking for the woman that the clothing he was holding belonged to 😉
“I be willing to share, I be!” he would say, as an (apparently) nude woman popped up slightly out of the barrel behind him.
Ah, fun times.
I guess that’s all for now. In writing this article, I did learn that the problem with strollers isn’t really a new one. It just seems today there are more of them, and more people bring their own, and they are larger. But even in 1996, I thought the mess of “parked” strollers was awful enough that I wasted one of my dozen or so photos on it.
Actually, maybe “parked” is too strong a word for that photo. How about “left in a clump, seemingly at random” instead?
Howdy, folks! In a previous article I mentioned thinking the photos of Fantasyland I took in 1996 looked pretty much like ones I would take in 2018. Now that I get to my Frontierland photos, I think the same can be said about them, too. For instance, new teepees had been recently added to the entrance:
And over on the shore of Tom Sawyer Island, Cascade Peak was pouring water down beside the long-abandoned tracks of Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. (Be sure to visit that link above for a great article about this on Yesterland.)
And the Keel Boats (look in the top left of this next photo) were still taking guests around the River’s of America:
Remember how they’d tell everyone to not stand at the same time, else the boat would “keel over”? That was a joke, wasn’t it?
And over on Tom Sawyer Island, you could still climb up some very high rock formations to look around. I took this photo from up top of one, and I recall being stunned they let guests climb that high. There weren’t any guard rails or anything, yet I didn’t see guests falling down left and right and hurting themselves. They still had the “playground” equipment (like teeter totter rock and such) still in operation back then, too…
As you can see, things in the old west really don’t change that much.
I think I will make this the final part (at least for now) since it has become clear I could spend a month just writing about what was going on during the construction years of Disney’s California Adventure. And I get bored easily.
There is one other significant preview item from 2000 – the other DCA preview center that was open inside Disneyland at the Opera House exit:
Unlike the original preview center in the esplanade, this one allowed photos. It also had far, far less on display than the other one.
Unfortunately, the low resolution of my digital photos makes this sign hard to read, but I found it interesting that it says “Beginning early in 2001” rather than a specific opening date. And look! There’s that Walt Disney quote about “Disneyland will never be completed” too.
Inside were some concept photos around a large map of the new resort area. Disneyland (blue/purple blob) was at the top, and the “districts” of Disney’s California Adventure were shown below it. Instead of “lands” like other Disney parks, DCA was going to have areas that groups together sub-areas in a way that certainly made sense to someone.
In this map, I think the red was the Grand Californian hotel, and yellow/orange represents Downtown Disney.
I have the very first press package for Disney’s California Adventure, and what was eventually built was a bit different. These concept drawings, however, were much closer to reality since this was just a year from opening.
There is so much “Yester-DCA” in this photo. You can see the original Paradise Pier with the Mickey ears on the roller coaster loop. The Orange Stinger is shown, as well as the Maliboomer space shot ride. The Sun Wheel has its original face.
Basically, nothing in that drawing still exists, at least not in that form.
Do you remember this preview center?
At some point, I need to dig out my original press packet and go through it and do a series on “what was planned” versus “what we got.” If you know of a site that already did this work, please let me know and I’ll just link to that instead.
Unless I come up with a part 5, this concludes this series. For now.