According to The Walt Disney Archives, the Magic Kingdom’s first map wasn’t a guide map as we know it today, but a multi-page newspaper called The Walt Disney World News. The first edition, with a huge headline “Vacation Kingdom Opens,” celebrated the opening of the park with photos of company founder Walt Disney, Walt Disney World Ambassador Debby Dane, and the Windsor family, the first visitors to enter the park on Oct. 1, 1971. It also told the story of how, in order to be the first guests admitted, the entire Windsor family, mom, dad and sons slept overnight in their Volkswagen in a nearby parking lot.
Alas, we do not have a copy of that newspaper in the Tickle Trunk, but I was able to find a few pages from it on the Disney Parks Blog site. The park’s first map appears on page 4 of the newspaper and is followed, on pages 4 and 5, with a listing of attractions, shops and restaurants in each themed land.
It must have seemed comical when guests opened these 8-page tabloid-sized newspapers to find their way around the parks. It would have been quite a handful!
The Magic Kingdom Park Map, as we know it today, appeared in late 1972 but the production of the tabloid-style newspaper continued into the 1990’s. Once the park map was introduced in 1972 the purpose of the newspaper seems to have changed. The content became more focused on things outside the Magic Kingdom. In my opinion, the entire purpose of the publication may have been to demonstrate to guests that Walt Disney World was more than just a theme park, a whole lot more! It promoted the many activities guests could enjoy in the resorts and in the shopping area at Lake Buena Vista.
The newspaper was printed monthly and included in the check-in package guests received when they arrived at Disney resorts. Copies were available to all other guests at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom. Carol and I have copies of ten different editions of the newspaper in the Tickle Trunk, spanning the years 1981 to 1992 and I’ll share them with you over the next few months.
Let’s start with the two issues from 1981, January and February. Carol received them both that year, while she was staying at Polynesian Village Resort.
Before we get started, let’s look at the time frame . . . what was happening at our happy place?
There was still only one theme park, The Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT was nearing completion and would open in less than two years.
Disney resorts consisted of The Contemporary Resort, The Polynesian Village Resort, The Golf Resort (renamed The Disney Inn in 1986 and Shades of Green in 1994) and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
The shopping area, opened in 1975, was known as The Village at Lake Buena Vista; in 1989 it was renamed Disney Village Marketplace and then in 1995 it became Downtown Disney.
Here is what the January 1981 issue looked like:
Page 1 had an interesting article about music at the Magic Kingdom, in all it’s venues. The Dapper Dans are jumping and clicking their heels in the lead photograph!
The second article on page 1 invites guests to shop at Walt Disney World Village. The photo shows the Empress Lily in the background. We now know her as Fulton’s Crab House.
Pages 2 through 4 focus on dining, entertainment, golf, tennis and fishing. Here are a few noteworthy articles:
The first Character Meal – Dinner Ã¡ la Disney at the Golf Resort.
Fine dining at the Contemporary Resort’s Gulf Coast Room!
Even fishing – there was something for everyone her!
Guests could enjoy some smooth jazz at the Village Lounge.
Let’s take a look at the February 1981 issue which Carol picked up on the same trip.
The front page as well as page 4 were almost identical to the January edition, only the park hours section on page 1 had changed.
There were a few differences inside though.
On page 2, The Fifth Dimension and Mickey Finn had finished their gigs at The Top of the World (today known as California Grill), Mel TormÃ© and Billy Eckstine now rounded out the list of entertainers.
On Page three there was a terrific description of Discovery Island.
A world of shopping awaited at The Village.
Naturally there were some cute advertisments.
You could arrange tennis lessons for the whole family at the Contemporary Resort.
There was even a “wee links” course at the Golf Resort.
Adventurous guests could taste exotic south seas treats at the Polynesian Village.
Even with only one theme park there was so much to see and enjoy at Walt Disney World in 1981. It was, and still is, a pretty amazing playground for kids of all ages!
And there’s still plenty of good reading left in that old Tickle Trunk, this is just a small sampling. I hope you enjoyed it!