Pictorial Souvenir Booklets (a Long-Standing Disney Parks Tradition) Are a Victim of the Times

I took home three keepsakes from our first visit to Walt Disney World in 1972: A vintage Mickey Mouse T-shirt; the Information Guide they handed out at the gate, and a copy of A Pictorial Souvenir of Walt Disney World.

The cover of A Pictorial Souvenir of Walt Disney World, circa 1972. [Chuck Schmidt]
The T-shirt is currently reposing in a landfill. The Information Guide is tucked away in a box of similar guides I’ve collected over the years. The Pictorial Souvenir? It remains a constant source of information and, frankly, wonderment.

We took many photos during that magical weekend visit to The Vacation Kingdom of the World over the Thanksgiving holiday in ‘72, but they’re all faded and worn.

Original Pictorial Souvenir from ’72 has held up well

The Pictorial Souvenir, however, has held up well over the years — all 48 of them! The photos in the booklet are still crisp and clear and the text sprinkled throughout the 40 pages is chock full of interesting, if long-forgotten facts about the Magic Kingdom, the two on-property resorts at the time (The Contemporary and the Polynesian) as well as all the recreation amenities available to guests.

An updated version of the Pictorial Souvenir from the late 1970s. [Chuck Schmidt]
Some of that text includes what amounts to Walt Disney World’s mission statement: “Walt Disney World is a new kind of vacation experience – The Vacation Kingdom of the World. You can visit here for the day, or better yet, plan to stay for an entire vacation. There’s a holiday-full of things to do and places to go, all together for the first time in The Many Lands of Walt Disney World.”

What is particularly striking as you leaf through the book is how much things have changed at the Magic Kingdom … and throughout Walt Disney World, for that matter.

A road map through WDW’s history

In essence, the Pictorial Guides offer a detailed road map through the history of Walt Disney World. That 1972 Pictorial Guide shows a Magic Kingdom that few guests today would recognize.

Yes, there’s Cinderella Castle and the Walt Disney World Railroad, the Country Bear Jamboree and the Hall of Presidents, park staples since opening day. But also featured in the ’72 Pictorial Guide are many, many long-forgotten attractions.

For a brief time, Epcot had its own Pictorial Souvenir guidebook. [Chuck Schmidt]
There are photos of the Mike Fink Keelboats, Snow White’s Adventures, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, The Mickey Mouse Revue, the Skyway, Flight to the Moon, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine voyage, the Diamond Horseshoe Revue, If You Had Wings and the movie America the Beautiful.

Magic Kingdom staples Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean were years away from joining the fun. And New Fantasyland, with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster and Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction, was still decades from becoming reality.

Early editions also gave readers a glimpse of what was on the drawing boards … even if those proposed attractions never became reality.

In the 1972 Pictorial Souvenir guide, guests were given a glimpse into the future … some attractions made it, while some, like Thunder Mesa and Western River Expedition, didn’t. [Chuck Schmidt]
For instance, in my 1972 copy, guests saw concept drawings of Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as sketches of two attractions called Western River Expedition and Thunder Mesa.

“On the drawing boards today are a variety of new attractions and facilities, both outside and inside the Magic Kingdom,” the guide claims.“Outside, there will soon be a Western-style lodge and street in the Fort Wilderness area, and new hotels beside the lake and lagoon.

Sports center, transportation systems … and EPCOT

“A sports center is being planned, and a host of additional transportation facilities. And one day, the city Walt Disney called EPCOT: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.”

While Space Mountain and the Pirates of the Caribbean have been thrilling guests for decades, Western River Expedition and Thunder Mesa never made it past the planning stages and eventually morphed into Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain.

In 1972, the rest of the Walt Disney World property was barren, waiting for construction equipment to carve out the aforementioned Epcot, the Disney-MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, the Disney Marketplace shopping district and a host of new themed resorts.

Over the years, the Pictorial Souvenirs evolved to show all the changes that have been made around Walt’s world. For a brief time, Epcot had its own Pictorial Guide.

Updated versions show those three new parks, new park attractions, new resorts and the ever-changing Disney Marketplace/Disney Village/Downtown Disney/Disney Springs landscape.

The Disney Institute campus was featured in Pictorial Souvenir guides in the 1990s. [The Walt Disney Company]
In 1990s editions, the Disney Institute was featured. It was on that sprawling campus where Disney hoped guests would enrich their lives by getting expert instruction on how to paint, cook, rock climb, take better photos, produce TV shows, etc.

We even found a typographical mistake

We even found an edition where Disney Institute was misspelled – it was called the Disney Insitute. It was hoped the Disney Institute would become a true artists’ colony. But the idea of taking classes while on vacation never took off.

The property was transformed into the Disney Vacation Club’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. As for the Pictorial Souvenir books, several years ago, they became a victim of the times.

Digital cameras spelled Pictorial Souvenirs’ demise

“Once people had their own digital cameras, they [the Pictorial Souvenirs] became less popular,” explained Wendy Lefkon, Editorial Director, Disney Editions.

“Guests could take a ton of photos and know right away if they were good, so they didn’t need a separate book.” Have no fear, however. Disney Editions has big plans for the coming 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

“We’re working on a bigger coffee table book for the anniversary, as well as a cookbook,” Ms. Lefkon added. In the meantime, looking back on the Walt Disney World of decades past – as portrayed in the classic Pictorial Souvenirs – is a great way to celebrate those bygone days, as well as look forward to whatever future endeavors WDW has in store for its guests.

Do you have a pictorial souvenir book from Disney? Let us know in the comments below!

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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 seven 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 and The Beat Goes On. Chuck has shared his passion for all things Disney in his Still Goofy About Disney blog on AllEars.Net since 2015. He resides in Beachwood, N.J., with his wife Janet. They have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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