March 2020: Bits and Bites

by
Joan Feder

Feature Article
This article appeared in the February 25, 2020 (#1066) edition of ALL EARS®

Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

 

Join us on our monthly journey into the past as we explore the history of Walt Disney World and the Walt Disney Company. This time we look back at Walt Disney World’s Penny Arcade which closed on March 19, 1995.

The original Penny Arcade opened at Disneyland on July 22, 1955, just a couple of days after the park’s grand opening. Part of Main Street USA, it was themed to the early 20th century, the era of Walt Disney’s childhood.

When the Magic Kingdom opened at Disney World in 1971, the Penny Arcade was one of its original attractions. For a quarter, guests could play current arcade games. But the real stars were the vintage machines and entertainment.

The Penny Arcade featured two types of movie machines. The mutoscope which required the viewer to turn a crank. This caused the photos inside to flip, creating the illusion of motion. The similar Cail-o-scope flipped the pictures automatically. Reels included both animated films and live action titles such as “Captain Kidd’s Treasure” and “Yes, We have no Bananas”.

Guests could also test the strength of their handshake, have their fortunes told, or play music. The PianOrchestra was a one penny one man band. It included a xylophone, mandolin, triangle, castanets and piano all of which were set in motion by a paper roll. Additionally, the Arcade was the home of the Magic Kingdom’s first penny press.

Disney World’s Penny Arcade closed in 1995 to make room for the Emporium’s expansion. At first it was renamed the Main Street Athletic Company. The area is now themed as Main Street Fashion Apparel.

Several of the vintage arcade machines still remain at Disney World. The Magic Kingdom has the biggest collection. A few were moved to the second floor of the Main Street Train Station. This includes the PianOrchestra, as well as several mutoscopes and Cail-o-scopes. One of the movies available there is an excerpt from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, “Metropolis”. Another shows the “Wonders of the World”. Up the street, a sport-themed game can be found at Casey’s Corner.

A couple of these antique beauties are hidden at Disney World resorts. Two mutoscopes are now at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. They are across the hall from the bathrooms near the Belle Vue Lounge. Big Bertha, another automated music maker, is at Disney’s Grand Floridian. Next time you are dining at 1900 Park Fare look up to see her in a place of honor.

Want more? In California, the Penny Arcade is still delighting guests at Disneyland. Located in the Candy Palace, its antiques include several mutoscopes and Cail-o-scopes. This Arcade also has a Welte Orchestrion, an elaborate music machine which plays tunes every seven minutes. Still not enough? Even more penny fun can be found at the Penny Arcade at Tokyo Disneyland. They have a collection of old-fashioned mechanical arcade games and pinball machines that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time!