Walt Disney World is always changing. Walt Disney so famously said: “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” While I agree with moving forward, many guests also enjoy looking backward to what once was, and that’s what this blog is all about; it’s a look back at some favorites, and away we go!
This was a band that played 5 shows a day, 5 days a week, in the Canada Pavilion at Epcot from 1997 until 2014. The members of the band all wore kilts. While they specialized in Celtic music, they also played rock and roll and other genres. The band members told jokes and interacted with guests while encouraging dancing along to the music. The original group consisted of a bagpiper, bass player, drummer, lead guitarist, and a keyboard player. There were hundreds of guests gathered to watch them play on their final day.
The Animation Building
It was located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This building had a lot of interesting and fun exhibits/attractions. Guests could enjoy the Animation Academy, where a Disney artist would teach a number of classes each day. Due to showing how to draw the character line by line, even those with little artistic talent would leave with a very good likeness of the chosen character. *A very similar class is currently running at Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom, where guests can still learn to draw some of our favorite Disney Characters.
In the same building, there was also The Magic of Disney Animation, where a Disney animator showed guests how the characters in Disney animated films were chosen and designed. But wait, there’s more! Also located in the Animation Building, guests could see exhibits of upcoming Disney films showcased with both photos and props. As they strolled down one hallway, guests could look through the glass to see real artists at work drawing. There were little kiosks where guests could add their own voices to scenes from classic Disney Cartoons and other kiosks to play games related to animation. Last but not least, Sorcerer Mickey had a meet and greet in the building.
The Clown Face Mural at the Luna Park Pool
This was the theming of the main pool at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas when it opened in 1996 and was replaced at the end of 2020. The pool was both hated and beloved. Those who were not fond of clowns were in the former group; those who found it amusing to ride a water slide that ejected you through the clown’s mouth loved it. The clown was large and colorful. It was replaced by a waterslide-themed mural that features Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy.
Disney’s Boardwalk Gingerbread Gazebo
For many years the lobby of Disney’s Boardwalk Villas had a large gingerbread gazebo featuring Donald, Daisy, and a fireplace, as well as toy soldiers and gingerbread men and women. Stitch was added to exhibit during the height of his popularity. It was beautifully decorated and had Hidden Mickeys incorporated in the design. While not as elaborate as the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian, it was very enjoyable to see. In 2013 this was replaced with a booth that sold gingerbread. More recently, the Boardwalk Bakery and other shops on the Boardwalk were re-created out of Gingerbread for the Christmas display in the lobby. Here’s a photo from the 2019 gingerbread display at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas.
The Breathless Wooden Speedboat
A reproduction of a 1930 Model 103 Cris-Craft runabout, these could be rented for a spin around Crescent Lake in the Boardwalk and Beach Club area or a fireworks cruise. A captain would pilot the boat and tell you about its history. The boat was made in Honduras was made from dark mahogany woods and had hand-stitched red leather as well as Deco-style gauges. It was as beautiful to see as it was fun to ride in.
Miyuki, the Candy Lady in Japan
A truly amazing and talented artist, the Candy Lady in Japan would take candy and shape it into all sorts of interesting creatures. She would take requests from guests as well as surprise us with her own choices. In just minutes, she would take a lifeless blob and turn it into something special, like a dragon or a unicorn. Her last presentation was in 2013; she was fascinating to watch.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
This experience changed over the years to enhance it, but it was always an awesome display of Christmas lights that filled what was then called the Streets of America. Each night at sunset, the street would come alive with decorations on every single building, as well as in the air above and on the ground. Everywhere you looked was a feast for the eyes. Music would play, as the lights would “dance” to match the beat (the dancing aspect was not part of the original display but added in later). The lights went away in 2013 to make way for the building of Star Wars Land.
Mayor Weaver from the Citizens of Main Street
For many years, early in the morning, characters would roam Magic Kingdom’s Main Street U.S.A. and interact with guests. They were a joy to talk with, always staying in character when speaking with guests. The Mayor wore a sash saying “Mayor,” so everyone knew who he was. I never saw him without a big smile; he clearly loved his role. Sadly, the gentleman who played the Mayor passed away in 2017, and Disney decided he was never to be replaced. The other characters continued to interact with guests, yet the role of Mayor was retired.
The Great Movie Ride
Formerly located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this was an attraction that took guests through scenes of well-known movies. Each tram had a Cast Member who would narrate as we moved through the ride. There were two different versions of the attraction, depending on when you boarded. There was a Western version, where cowboys have a shoot-out, as well as a Gangster version, also with a shoot-out. Guests experiencing the Great Movie Ride felt like they were in the scenes they were riding through. The attraction had a finale with a movie montage of some of the greatest films of all time. The building the attraction was in is based on Graumann’s Chinese Theater in California. It now houses Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
Parasailing at the Contemporary Resort
My daughter and I experienced this, and it was one of the most fun things we ever did at Walt Disney World. Cast Members first went over safety measures. We were also told how to signal if we were nervous or wanted the flight to end early. We got harnesses and life jackets to wear, sat in the special seating area, and then the boat pulled out, and we flew up in the air. We saw great views of many Disney Resorts, as well as Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. The wind in our faces felt wonderful, and the feeling of being so high up was exhilarating. The flight lasted about ten minutes, and we were 450 feet high in the air. This experience ended in 2018.
Signs on top of Spaceship Earth
In 1999, in preparation for the new Millennium, Mickey’s arm holding a big wand and the number 2000 was installed next to and above Spaceship Earth in Epcot. In 2001 the numbers were removed, replaced by the word Epcot. These additions were lit up and sparkled in the evening. In 2007 Spaceship Earth was restored to its former self.
World Showcase Players
A troupe of wonderful actors who performed in Epcot. The players would get the audience involved, and some members of the audience even got chosen to be part of the very funny skits. The shows had scripts, but the performers were excellent at ad-libbing as well. It was a laugh-out-loud experience that ended in 2016.
Have I mentioned any of your favorites here? There have been many changes over the years that it’s impossible to list them all. I can’t deny being sad that some of these experiences are no longer, but I can’t wait to try new additions to the Walt Disney World Parks. Keep Moving Forward!