We are live! – Podcast Preview Episode: “Pre-Opening Dreams”

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Welcome to the Preview Episode of the Retro Walt Disney World Podcast.  This is the very first, but not officially the first episode (get all that?) of a monthly podcast by your friends here at Retro Disney World.  We are going to maintain a consistent format that will last around an hour and you can look forward to new topics each month.


Learn who we are and get a taste for how the show will be structured.

Todd McCartney

  • first Disney experience 1980- 1981
  • Crowd flow
  • Feeling that Disney gave you
  • Book – Very Unofficial Guide to WDW
  • Disney corner.com – early forum sites
  • Monthly journey back into the annals of Disney World predawn to 1989
  • Rekindled interest when took his son
  • Collecting
  • Imageworks which was the movie restoration

How Bowers

  • Master of mixology & all things tiki
  • Enchanted Tiki Room was his
  • First trip April 1971- missed opening
  • Cousin & BIL worked construction – BIL crane operator who laid the rails on the grand prix
  • Got to go to the preview center & bus trip to main street while it was under construction
  • Went every year in April
  • Moved to Orlando to 1979
  • 72-88 consistent park visitor
  • Mid 90s went steadily again

Brian Miles

  • First Trip January 1988
  • 6 months later Norway opened
  • Christmas gift
  • Spaceship Earth & Tiki Room were important
  • 1995 returned
  • 1998 started going on a regular basis
  • 1999 Disneyland Paris visitor
  • 2006 & 2011 Disneyland
  • Bit by noticing the things that weren’t there any longer
  • Interest in 8 mm films, 35mm slides – digitized
  • Found the 1971 pristine film – Disney was 6 weeks old

JT Kuzior

  • Writing on retro Disney World since it opened- 2 years
  • First visit 1985 – does not remember much
  • Studios the first year it opened
  • Interested in things that look old and wondering if they’ve been there since opening
  • Finding things on eBay
  • Key to the show if you haven’t been a long-ago visitor Can spark the conversation asking what things used to look like

Packages of special WDW tobacco for pipe smoking

Disney Village tobacco shop- special blends of Disney Tobacco

Format of the show

  • Main topic will vary from week to week. Going to stay Pre opening – 1989. May start MGM studios
  • Viewer Mail
  • Audio puzzler chance for the listeners to win a prize- maybe yearly prize
  • Discuss film restoration
  • Close out – little under an hour.

Main Topic

We quickly discuss the concept plans for WDW, including the original layouts, maps, land purchasing, resorts, Tomorrowland and more. Don’t worry we will come back to all of this in a future episode!

Discussed that How was at the Preview Center and some of the books that were produced .  Complete Edition About WDW sent to corporate sponsors note from Pete Smith included.  Preview Edition– souvenir book.

Discussed “The Master Plan’ and how it was interesting to compare what was showed and what came to light. 

  • Progress City model on top of the Carousel Of Progress in DL
    • imagining what WDW could be eventually becoming
    • Reedy Creek Improvement District- Nuclear power Plant.
  • What’s left of that model can be seen on the People Mover. It’s smaller than the full model- maybe 1/3.  The rest is probably gone. 
  • Film with a carnival area, great film that goes with it- the EPCOT film that Walt was talking about – wonderful animation. Park was just the beginning.  It included an airport of the future – STO part & plans- south of the property- EPCOT- resort, industrial area which is now future world- see how Am ingenuity gets things done.  Industrial park – 100K visitors at 20 year mark 2K employee , motel units.
  • The model of the 7 seas lagoon & Bay Lake differ from the pictures. The area was in flux for so long.  It initially included the Polynesian and the Contemporary, the Asian-which was planned for where the Grand Floridian is now.  The Persian which was planned for North of the Contemporary where facility way is now.  It was supposed to be a monorail hotel, and reconfigured to be on the spur line, which would have been a huge undertaking as taking a monorail on and off the track takes a while.  The plan also included the Venetian Hotel, planned for land which  is rumored to be sinking.  It was not a monorail hotel. 
  • The Map from A complete Edition- shows monorail splitting and going to the
  • 71 Fun Map- Paul Hartley one – doesn’t show the Venetian was not connected to the monorail
  • Tomorrowland was also a mess. Early pictures look like a giant circus tents held up by rockets.
  • Another early map showing a larger piece of property SW of where the Polynesian is today- pentagon looking building with an open round area globe in the middle- Early plans for the golf resort. Ball is probably giant golf ball

Preopening – Disney bought all this land quietly.  Was flying out buying parcels of land – Didn’t like what happened in Disneyland with the hotels

  • Roy’s cabin – on the property when they purchased one of the parcels – Roy stayed there – meetings were held there. Still on property – believe it located up in the far south east quadrant of Bay Lake as the lake turns North there are inlets & outcroppings- podcast
  • That area was a massive swamp- It was a rough patch of land. The most expensive private construction of the time.  The very cartoony maps get an idea of the concepts –Thunder mesa , 2000 Leagues,  swan boats.  Indication of what they were looking for.

Disney was  a small company to accomplish such gigantic things, and they did it twice – Magic Kingdom & then EPCOT. 

  • French gates to control the drainage- cutting edge at the time- new systems everywhere.
  • Utilidor
  • AVAC system for garbage collection.
  • Started their own telephone company- first to run fiber optic cable. Doing everything to the best that it could be done
  • Architect and respected people went to tour to see how it was done.


Sponsorship was huge when they built WDW

  • US steel helped build the contemporary and sent out promotional material to promote their business structure “Like a chest of drawers sliding in” US Steel film. Polynesian was also a modular building.
  • Pepsi was the magic kingdom, but you could get Coke & Pepsi at the parks until the
  • Frito was in the Diamond Horseshoe
  • Oscar Meyer, Borden to Sealtest – Edy’s today

Talking about when x ride changed to y ride – not going to be discussed.  We can bring the historical attraction to the process.  Willard Scott opening – what were they like back them.

Listener Mail

From Andrew, we answer the question “Is Disney now creating life long Fans? Send your questions to podcast@retrowdw.com.

Todd – WDW is creating new fans for different reasons.  We are fans for personal reasons, history, fan because of memories.

Now, WDW is making fans of memories off franchises.  It is a bigger fan base for different reasons- no longer experience something you can’t experience anywhere else.

Is Disney preserving the memory that we have.

They are – they did abandon it for awhile , but they are changing that. 

Big thing that changed there was 1 or 2 guys making decisions- Things don’t happen like that any longer.  WDW is a big corporation, there are divisions.  The merchandising people recognize the vintage stuff.  Don’t see the resurgence of history in the attractions. 

In terms of vacation – the only place they went away somewhere with their families – vivid memories of family.  That will be there for kids of today, but it is a different experience.

Locals – There was a lifetime pass that was offered in the early days.

The Florida Project – book discusses the legislative battles that occurred in the development of WDW.   There had to be discounts for FL residents.  They also didn’t want the people to be able to vote on anything.  They organized the real estate using a holding company leased to the residents. 

There was no lifestyle or community to be in proximity of the parks.  There was nothing in central Florida. Disney built the business first and it brought the people.  Initially it was trying to cater corporate executives coming to the area.  The tobacco shop, the wine store in LBV was opened for wine connoisseur, travelling or coming to central Florida.  LBV was integral in economic development.  LBV had parades, jazz festivals, artist showcasing paintings.  They had the housing which eventually became  Saratoga Springs but was once the Disney Institute.  There were plans for the corporate buildings – with a people mover connecting the offices. 

Audio Puzzler

If you think you know the answer to the audio puzzler, email us! podcast@retrowdw.com.  We will enter all correct answers into a drawing for retro prizes!

The idea comes from Car Talk 1977- 2012.  They are in Cars.  They call their segment Puzzler. 

Play a 15-30 sec audio clip – from past attractions. There are no hints. Music may not line up.

Film Restoration

Todd goes over the film restoration process at a high level, video, Kodak prices, and inside the psyche of visitors with cameras.

Can only get so much out of video.  Film is preferred because each individual frame can be scanned in high resolution Now the technology can scan then take them to high def.  It can add frames to it make up the frames. Start off with the digital scanning – uncompressed files- every single frame & audio track scanned into its software compares every frame to the frames around it to identify and remove dirt, to sharpen it, enhance the colors.  3 minute film –1st pass  20 minutes –2nd pass  20minutes –final  5 minutes.

Films taken then used an expensive camera, expensive cartridge – translates to 3-9 minutes to capture the entire day. 

There are a few films that the team is currently working on:

  • The 71 film used top quality material – none about family – all about WDW took panoramic views that you’ve never seen before
  • Another got the entire day in 9 minutes
  • City of Future Living- goodyear speed ramp after space mountain
  • Other 2 1975 press film – 16 mm with sound
  • 6- 10 minutes – EPCOT October 1982 – 13 days after opening


Asked for any films that We’d like restored.

  • Looking for – surfing – functioning wave machine at Polynesian
  • Giant orange posing with kids in Adventure Land
  • Orange tree in the juice bar – sunshine tree- 2 different orange birds
  • Bob around boat
  • Anything of the early resorts
  • Grounds around Lake Buena Vista – climbing structure “Whatchamacallit”
  • Anything uncovered
  • Tom Sawyer Island construction

We hope you enjoyed this preview episode! If you have any questions, suggestions or find errors please email us podcast@retrowdw.com.

Next Month

Be sure to check back with us on November 24th for the official Episode #1!

Until then, “Please stand clear of the doors…”

Notes: A reader wanted to know the books we referenced in this episode. “A Complete Edition of Walt Disney World”, WDW Preview Edition, and the Master plan. Images of some can be found here: https://www.retrodisneyworld.com/pictorial-souvenir/pre-opening.html

Enhanced show notes courtesy of volunteer Donna Watts – April 2021

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B.J. Major
March 7, 2021 5:33 am

I think that Disney as a company really doesn’t care about the historical aspect of the property nowadays, especially with the acquisition of all the IP done in recent years (Muppets, Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, Fox, et al). Also evidenced with all the original attractions they have completely done away with – which were terrific – and now are occupied with roller coasters instead. Not to mention entire pieces of the property which are no longer the way they once were. They are trying to stay so relevant to “today’s” visitors to keep them interested, that the Disney brand is… Read more »

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