You can learn a lot by leafing through decades-old Disney magazines

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A magazine advertisement for Eastern Airlines, which was the official airline of Walt Disney World when the resort opened in 1971. [Chuck Schmidt]

“You can observe a lot by watching.”

So said the great American philosopher, Lawrence Peter [Yogi] Berra.

Most of us have Disney books and magazines tucked away somewhere. Some are probably years, if not decades, old. If you’re like me, you read them from cover to cover when they first arrive at your house, then you file them away … not gone, but almost certainly forgotten.

So it’s with great interest when you stumble upon these hidden gems. To paraphrase Yogi, you can learn a lot by giving them a close second look.

I recently came across a box of old Disney magazines while rummaging through a closet and I was surprised to see just how much things have changed in Walt Disney World.

One publication I found came out in 1991 and it featured the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney World. It was titled “Disney World: 20 Years of Magic, A Yearlong Birthday Party.”

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This ad for National Rental Car and its Green Parking Lot campaign at Walt Disney World appeared in a magazine in 1991. [Chuck Schmidt]

What struck me the most about this magazine, as well as the others I had squirreled away, was how much you can learn about WDW at that point in time through the advertisements. For instance, as part of its 20th anniversary participation, National Car Rental introduced its Green Parking Lots in a full-page ad.

“Rent with National,” the ad reads, “… and you won’t just get a great car. You’ll also get a great place to park it.” The Green Parking Lots allowed customers to park near the entrances in both the Magic Kingdom and the Epcot, where they’d be “steps away from the Walt Disney World 20th anniversary celebration.” [Interestingly, the use of “green” has changed over the years. It wasn’t that the Green Parking Lots meant they were environmentally sound, rather, it was in keeping with National’s Green Means Go pitch].

Curiously, even though the Disney/MGM Studios had been open for two years by 1991, no mention of that park is made in the ad, other than a reference to “the amazing new multi-dimensional Muppet adventure, Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3D.”

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Delta Airlines, which took over as the official airline of WDW in the late 1980s, offered a visit with Mickey and Minnie in the airport during the resort’s 20th anniversary celebration. [Chuck Schmidt]

Elsewhere in the magazine, Delta Airlines [then the official airline of Disneyland and Walt Disney World] touted how “we’ve arranged for your favorite characters, Mickey and Minnie, to greet you and your family at the airport.”

Of course, Delta’s sponsorship was preceded by Eastern Airlines, which was the official airline of WDW when the resort opened in 1971. In another magazine we found, Eastern boasted of package deals that were, by today’s standards, outrageously inexpensive.

For as little as $230, you could book a package that included round-trip airfare, eight days and seven nights at a “select Orlando-area hotel,” and a ticket book that included two days’ admission and vouchers good for 18 attractions in the Magic Kingdom.

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The exterior of the If You Had Wings attraction in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. [Chuck Schmidt]

As part of its sponsorship agreement, Eastern Airlines provided funds for an attraction in the park, If You Had Wings, which opened in Tomorrowland in June of 1972. If You Had Wings afforded guests the opportunity to “travel” to the Caribbean, ancient Mexico, New Orleans, Bermuda, and other exciting ports of call that were serviced by Eastern Airlines. One memorable scene along the four-minute Omnimover journey showed the first-class cabin of an airliner, where an elaborate table setting awaited hungry passengers. There also was a scene where a police officer in the Bahamas directed traffic, signaling that it was safe for pedestrians, autos–and a flock of flamingos–to cross the intersection. The ride culminated with the voice of actor Orson Welles telling riders: “You do have wings. You can do all these things. You can widen your world. Eastern: the wings of man.”

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is now housed in the same building where If You Had Wings held sway.

Ads for Premier Cruise Line, then the official cruise line of WDW, permeated the magazines I unearthed. One ad was headlined: Dinner at eight. Black ears optional.

As part of its 20th anniversary pitch, Premier offered these exclusives as part of its land-and-sea package:

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An ad for Premier Cruise Line and its Big Red Boats. Note how the artist cleverly placed Cinderella Castle on top of the boat. [Chuck Schmidt]

A Magic Morning Breakfast with Disney characters at the fabulous Top of the World restaurant in the Contemporary Resort; an Unlimited Bonus Passport for admission to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and the Disney/MGM Studios, as well as your choice of Pleasure Island or River Country; accommodations at a “popular Disney Vacation Kingdom resort;” plus a rental car and round-trip coach airfare. That, of course, was in addition to a cruise to the Bahamas.

Unbeknownst to Premier, however, Disney’s executives were already making plans to start a cruise operation of their own, which debuted in 1998 with the sailing of the Disney Magic.

Chuck Schmidt, bitten by the Disney bug at an early age, remembers watching The Mickey Mouse Club after school in the mid-1950s. During his 48-year career in the newspaper business, he channeled that love of Disney as the Sunday News and Travel editor for The Staten Island Advance. Chuck has written or co-authored six books for Theme Park Press, including Disney's Dream Weavers, On the Disney Beat, An American in Disneyland Paris, Disney's Animal Kingdom: An Unofficial History. Chuck has shared his passion for all things Disney in his Still Goofy About Disney blog on AllEars.Net since 2016. He resides in Beachwood, N.J., with his wife Janet. They have three adult children and six grandchildren.

2 Replies to “You can learn a lot by leafing through decades-old Disney magazines”

  1. My favorite part of if you had wings was the policeman in bermuda directing the traffic, so funny it was

    I’ve been a proponent of creating a “retro ride,” where scenes from classic attractions like If You Had Wings could be revived. Til then, we have our memories and some grainy photos …

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