Lou Mongello’s Walt Disney World Wayback Machine | Summer, 1986
What we're gonna do right here is go back… way back…back into time…
Let's take a trip in my "Walt Disney World Wayback Machine" to visit the "Vacation Kingdom of the World" and remember what it was like, way back when.
(insert dream sequence music and blurry visual effects here)
It's Summer, 1986…. And I'm back again to my favorite place on Earth – Walt Disney World. Let me take you on a quick little tour and hit some of the highlights while we're all here.
My family and I checked in earlier today to the Polynesian Resort, and were lucky enough to get a room close to the Transportation and Ticket Center, in one of the newer rooms. Last year, Disney built two more "longhouses" as they're called – one known as Moorea and the other, our building, Pago Pago (I think I just like saying, "Pago Pago"). These rooms are great! They're a bit larger than the rooms we stayed in last time we were here, and something tells me that these names won't stick for too long. If I was a betting man (and I am), I'd say that the Pago Pago longhouse will one day (say, 1999?), be called… umm.. Rapa Nui? Yeah, that sounds good.
Well, I don't know about you, but I like to visit Walt Disney World "Commando-Style", so any time not spent in the parks is time not very well spent. We're walking to the TTC to ride the monorail (one of my favorite attractions, if you can call it that), to the Magic Kingdom. Let's get this party started – I heard there's some pretty cool stuff going on over there!
Wow… there's still nothing like that feeling… that indescribable "thing" that happens when you step onto Main Street, USA. The sound of the WDW railroad train pulling into the station… the Dapper Dans singing in front of the House of Magic… Watching people use the stereoscopes in the Penny Arcade… I'm heading over to the Refreshment Corner for a quick sugar high, and then on to Tomorrowland. No, not to Space Mountain… not yet, anyway. Instead, I'm riding one of my favorites at WDW – If You Had Wings. "If You had wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings… if yoooooooooooooooou had wiiiiiiiingss…." I guess it doesn't have the same effect as opposed to actually hearing me sing it. I'm saving you a lot of pain, trust me.
Anyway, speaking of Space Mountain… yeah. It's time. My dad and I head on over, while my mom watches my little brother. Hmm… something seems a little different here. RYCA-1? What's that?… Dad? Any ideas? Oh yeah, he says that "RYCA" has something to do with their "corporate sponsor"? I guess that 150-foot tall spiraling track with the four helmeted riders, and topped by the big red "RCA" letter must have something to do with it. Anyway, there's this moving walkway called a "speedramp" with all kinds of stuff from the future, people living on different planets and things like that on the way out. I really like the old "House of the Future" that they used to have. Oh well… There's more to see, and time's a wastin'!
Rather than walk, let's take the scenic route and take the Skyway to Fantasyland. Amazing how this thing makes that 90-degree turn. And oh, what a spectacular view… Look at all the people… Time to hit my favorites. Ah yes, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, then a quick trip across the way to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (I admit it – I always though these submarines really went underwater). What? You did too? Sorry if I ruined it for you. Boy, these two attractions are classics. Lines are always out the door (especially for 20,000 Leagues – that sure is a slow-loading ride), but these are classics and I'm sure they'll be here forever.
OK. Gotta hit the favorites – Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Country Bear Jambor… What the? "Country Bear Vacation Hoedown?" Wha… what?! What about Big Al? Henry? TEDDI!? I have to go in and check this out. Come on guys…. Looks kind of the same, but the music is different – "Singin' in the Rain", "California Girls"?? Hmm… not what I was hoping for… Not sure why these guys mess with the classics.
Well, Mom and Dad outdid themselves this trip (as they always do), and we have a special surprise – dinner at King Stefan's Banquet Hall. Of course, being the young whippsnapper that I am, I ask my parents, "Why is it called King Stefan's if he was Sleeping Beauty's father and not Cinderella's?" Uh oh. I know that look… "Enough Lou… we don't care about all this Disney trivia stuff." Well, if they don't maybe other people do…hmmm…. maybe one day I'll write a book and….
OK, few more rides and then we're gonna get ready for the nighttime parade. The Main Street Electrical Parade is back, and Cast Members are telling us that it's bigger and better than ever! They said there are 24 floats in the parade, with more than 500,000 twinkling lights. One of the Cast Members spent some time and told us how this idea for the parade came about. He said that many years ago, "electrical parades" were held in town that had a trolley car system. People who participated in the parade would take a long pole with a metal hook on one end, and drag it across the overheard trolley line. The other end of the pole were strings of lights that other parade-goers would hold and twirl, creating a pretty impressive light show. That's great, but I need to get my popcorn and hunker down over here in Liberty Square and get a good seat, because as soon as the parade is over, I'm staking my claim to a spot in front of Cinderella Castle for the "Fantasy in the Sky" Fireworks, which Tinkerbell kicks off at 10:00 p.m.
(fade to black)
(yawn) – Up and at 'em, troops! My World Passport is burning a hole in my pocket, and I want to get to EPCOT Center before anyone else!
First stop is of course Spaceship Earth, or the "big golf ball" as everyone seems to call it. On our way in, we get a quick photo with Mickey Mouse (was he around here when the park first opened? Nah, don't remember seeing ANY characters back then…) anyway… he's in some sort of Buck Rogers-like spacesuit – the typical silver reflective jumpsuit with the rainbow on the front that all the cool kids will be wearing in the future. After our little trip through the world of communications, we head over to the Living Seas. I may be a little naïve (and way too young to use that word), but I cant seem to figure out how deep that tank must be, since the 30-second Hydrolator elevator ride seem to go down so far. The best part of Seabase Alpha to me though is the Sea Cabs. Very cool ride though that 5.6 million gallon tank. While I like the aquarium, some of the exhibits inside are just OK, I guess. They need something else here… I dunno… something very different… something interactive… we'll see.
We're going to grab some lunch at the Odyssey Restaurant, which is right in between Future World and World Showcase. I wasn't always really into World Showcase, as there doesn't seem to be a lot for kids to do around here. We'll probably save walking around there for later on tonight, so we can catch the fireworks show. It's called "Laserphonic Fantasy", which is, like, SO 80's, right? But it's an amazing show… from what CM's are telling us, it's one of the most complex shows in WDW, next to the Universe of Energy! You can sit anywhere around the lagoon and get a good view of the show. There's lasers, fiber optics, fountains, fireworks and some great classical music. The best part, though, has to be the finale. The lasers and lights are incredible.
Actually, as long as we're here, we're going to hang out for some new daytime show in the lagoon. According to our maps, it's called "Skyleidoscope", they're going to create some type of "magical rainbow" in the sky and on the water. The show is filled with all types of different vehicles, too – Ultralight gliders, boats, hovercrafts, kites, fountain boats and sailboats. There's also going to be colored streams of smoke in the air, as well as daytime fireworks (cool!), music and a detailed description of the action. It's going to be a battle between good and evil, and I'm placing my money on good. Call it a hunch.
Later on, we're going to just relax and listen to a Donny Osmond concert, as part of the All American College Orchestra concert series. No, seriously. Donny Osmond. He rocks!
Whew… Man, I forgot how hot it can get in central Florida. Maybe a little break from the parks is in order after all. A couple of hours of some time in the water sounds good to me. But the pool? Nah, I can go to a pool at home… I need something else… Something "Disney-ish"… Aha!! Got it! I'm headin' over to the ole swimmin' hole at River Country, right near Fort Wilderness. They have a great water slide, rope swings, or I can just hang out in a lazy little inner tube. For lunch, I'll grab me a burger at "Pop's Place"… or better yet, maybe me and the gang will just bring a picnic basket and have a little beach party! "Mom!!! Did we pack a picnic basket??!" OK. So it's burgers and dogs on this trip. Gotta remember that for next time. Huh. Just $9.95 for adults and $7.95 for kids. Not a bad deal. Dad thinks we should have opted for the "Sunset Adventure" where the whole family could have played at River Country for twenty bucks if we went there after four. Nah, I'm hot now. Let's go!!! Last one in's a rotten…. Who knows, maybe when we're done here, we'll head on over to Discovery Island for a while. I think it's only about 6 bucks for adults, and my mom and dad say they have some great animal exhibits and interactive things over there.
On our last day, we'll fire up those travelers checks and get ready for some power shopping. My mother just loves the Walt Disney World Village, so we're going to head over there for the day. We'll start with a character breakfast aboard the Empress Lilly, then shop away during the Village's "All American Summer" celebration. Everything here is decorated in red, white and blue, and I hear there's even a beach party and barbecue planned for later in the day. Lots of breakable stuff around here, so I'll keep my hand on my little guide map. This Artespana store looks pretty pricey, and I want to save my money for something a little more Disney-ish. Let's see… The Pottery Chalet, women's clothes at "The City", (what's "Sir Edward's Habderdasher"?), more women's clothes at "Country Chalet", Village Liquors (yes, a liquor store on property), an antique store…. Ahh!! There it is! Toys Fantastique. This store is sponsored by Mattel, but I think "Once Upon a Toy" might be a better name. I'll have to drop that in the suggestion box on the way out.
Uh oh… time's running out… maybe a quick bite at the Verandah Restaurant, including some chilled strawberry soup and a Monte Cristo sandwich before we go, OK?
Looks like my time here in 1986 is up, as my Walt Disney World Wayback Machine is gassed up and ready to take me back to 2005. WDW has come a long way, baby, but I really miss some of these shows and attractions. Nice to come by and visit them again.
(here comes that funky dream sequence music and wavy screen again).
Poof! Ugh. I'm back in 2005, sitting at my desk and not in the Haunted Mansion. Oh well. I'll just have to look forward to my next trip to Disney, and my next journey through time in the WDW Wayback Machine.
By Lou Mongello, October 17, 2005
Author of the "Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic"