More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

The Florida Project – September 9-11, 2011

Steven Miller

by , Senior Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Walt Disney World Resort

The Florida Project

I wish I could have attended the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971 (some of you reading this probably did – lucky!). One of my all time favorite Disney films from that time period is called “The Magic of Walt Disney World.” It was released in 1972, but I recall seeing it on the Disney Channel in the 1980s. What a classic slice of Disney – the lush sounds of Buddy Baker; the images of polyester and people eating food; groovy music in Tomorrowland and just pure 1970s Disney fun. A different time and a different place. It is in that same vein that I’m pleased to announce “The Florida Project: a Disney Trading and Collecting Experience” coming to World ShowPlace at Epcot on September 9-11, 2011. The image above is a rough concept poster designed by Chris Chapman from Disney Design Group. He is the lead designer for this event and spoke about the origin of this event.

“With the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2011, we wanted to focus on the feeling of nostalgia that people have when thinking about those early years,” said Chris. “The story for this event involves an alternate Preview Center that we uncovered. It was never used because the official Preview Center opened on Buena Vista Drive. The experience will be as if you stepped back in time as we will pay tribute to as much as possible from that era.”

Vintage Walt Disney World Postcards

When we had our initial idea session, I brought several of my vintage Disney items to share (it’s one of the things I collect – Disney merchandise from 1970 to 1984). We looked at vintage postcards, at images in souvenir books and even at my Polynesian Village glass vase (behold those 1970s colors). We all agreed that we wanted the merchandise created for this event to have a similar vibe.

Vintage Polynesian Village Glass Vases

“We plan to create a retro look with the character designs” explained Alex Maher, senior character artist with Disney Design Group. “The character designs in the early 1970s were unique. We want to incorporate a similar look with the merchandise we are designing.”

Vintage Walt Disney World Souvenirs

As mentioned, this event will be a Disney Trading and Collecting Experience. This means you will find a variety of items from pins to Vinylmation to potentially some additional categories. And there will be trading (of course). I consider this event an evolution of our Disney Merchandise Events. We still have plenty of details to finalize, and feedback to consider from our previous events. I will share additional information in the coming months on the Disney Parks Blog, so stay tuned.

I leave you with one final question: Did you visit Walt Disney World in the 1970s? What was it like (as sadly my time machine is still not functioning)? I’d love to hear your stories.


  • I worked at the Magic Kingdom the summers of 1976 and 1977 while going to college at Michigan State University. It was the best experience ever!!! We were called 90 wonders since we were supervisors for the summer. It was also America’s Bicentennial and the fireworks at the park were Disney perfect! The first summer I worked in Fantasy Land and the second summer was on Main Street. We also got to try our hand at being characters. The first summer I was Captain Hook and the second it was Baloo the Bear. Talk about fun!

  • I’m pretty sure I have a similar logo to this “new” Florida Project on an old bag from the 80’s

  • I now live in Celebration next to Walt Disney World because after visiting the preview center and returning for the opening of WDW, that inspired me to eventually live next to the most magical place on earth so that I could visit anytime I please. And I have been to all (sans Honk Kong) of the Disney parks around the world all inspired by that visit to that preview center although I must admit I was quite taken with visiting Disneyland as a kid plus was fortunate enough to shake Walt’s hand with a group of other kids and it wasn’t even at a Disney function.
    Steven – it appears from others’ comments that many have Disney keepsakes.
    I know people that hoard Disney memorabilia having duplicates of items.
    Is there a Disney sanctioned event where people can trade Disney memorabilia other than Disney pins? Or maybe such an event could be tied to the anniversary celebration?
    And, you are correct, time stands still when viewing the One Man’s Dream display at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

  • My aunt gave me that Polynesian mug for Christmas a few years ago. I hadn’t seen it anywhere else since. Cool stuff.

  • Dear Mr. Miller,

    I made my first visit to Walt Disney World in 1995, that was the last year Disney used the “Big D” Logo featuring the global mickey face. When I visited again in 1996 for the 25th anniversary, it changed to the Walt Disney script logo we still have today. Imagine my surprise in 2010 seeing the “Big D” logo on all sorts of merchandise. Yes it’s retro, but I wish we could see a new font for 2011 and beyond with a reimagined “Big D”. I already saw the 40th anniversary logo featured on Merchandise at the Emporium. Don’t know if you saw it, but it has the big D with a 4 and the global mickey head serving as a 0 inside the D.

    Can’t wait to see more Big D merchandise in 2011, but WDW needs it’s own distinct logo, just like Disneyland does The current Walt Disney script font logo in Florida is too generic for me.

  • Though I was not born until 1989 Ive been going to Disney since I was a year old and living in Florida makes it allot easier for me to travel to Disney. Ive enjoyed magic kingdom all my life and by far is my favorite theme park Ive ever visited. Every time I go, which is usually 12-15 times per year, I must visit Magic Kingdom. Theres a certain magic about that park, it brings back all my best childhood memories. I remember several of the closed attractions… the skyway buckets, Mr.toads wild ride, Delta dreamflight, and Im sure there are others. I cannot wait for the event next year because it will not only bring pin traders but many other collectors of nostalgic Disneyana to this event. I am so excited for the event and the 40th anniversary, I will be there for both!!

  • I first visited WDW in 1978 as a day visitor. Ticket Books were still in use and Pooh still had a honey pot on his head. There was still only one park, the Magic Kingdom, and I was in awe. I fell in love with the place. I also have the Polynesian glass on the right and several shopping bags with the “Florida Project” design on them. And I too love and still watch the Magic of Walt Disney World. It captures the feeling, the magic, that I felt when I walked through the gates of the park for the first time. In 1979 we stayed on Property at the Polynesian. It is still my favorite resort. I miss the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant. (I believe the Neverland Club occupies the site now.) WDW is a far cry from what it was in the ’70’s, but that was a simpler time. Time and progress marches on, but I’ll never forget the WDW of that era.

  • This is surprising, and so fun! Usually this type of personality and zip and style is only reserved for Disneyland. How encouraging to see Walt Disney World dip their toe in the pool of personality and embrace their heritage.

    Truly surprising coming from Florida, but this definitely has potential!

    • @Justin – Great question. I know I also have a drink tray from Disneyland Resort. I’m jealous that you have the one in mint condition. Lucky you! I’d have to do some research on it (unless there is someone out there who knows). I know that the copyright on it says “Walt Disney Productions” which means it was made prior to February 6, 1986 when the name was changed to The Walt Disney Company.

      @Denise – If you had wings, you could do anything …

      @Larry – Glad to know another Horizons fan! I’m game for some items like that too. 🙂

      @Thor – Thanks for the kind words. As a fan of the heritage, I can’t wait till next year! There are a lot of fans in Disney Theme Park Merchandise too; after all, many of us also visited Disney when we were younger.

  • How about some “E ticket” memorabilia and Horizons Pavilion memorabilia? Horizons embodied the whole theme of what Epcot was about.

  • Oh my gosh, I love the design at the top of the page! It totally reminds me of the bags I had from Disney as a child, and I regret not holding onto one. I actually have the Polynesian cup on the right. People are shocked when I say I’ve been to the parks since before there was even an Epcot (1978), but those childhood memories are my favorite. I feel spoiled that I was able to enjoy each park individually. Today, first time guests are trying to cram 4 park experiences into a time constraint. When I was a child, we got to enjoy Magic Kingdom or Epcot, then go back to spend hours at the Polynesian pool or go to the Disney Village Marketplace. It was the most relaxing time of my life!! I didn’t grow up poor, and annual visits to Disney were the norm, Unfortunately, my years growing up in school weren’t so great. Coming to Disney as a child, being greeted by friendly Cast Members, and hugged by the characters was a God send, I don’t talk a lot about my childhood at all–except for my memories of Disney and the lasting imprint it had on me. Even seeing that logo up top brings back a flood of nostalgia. I haven’t been able to attend a big Disney event in Florida, since the days of Disneyana left, but I think I’ll have to take part in the festivities September 9-11, 2011. I definitely want a poster with that logo to frame!

  • Hey there: The first time I was in Disney Was the Feb 1972 I was 5 we went again 1976, 1980, and then I recently went with my daughter and husband in 2009 for my daughter’s 20 birthday, now that I am a travel agent and a graduate of Disney’s College of Knowledge I can sell and tell my stories about the changes over the years at WDW, and we are going in 2011 for the 40th Anniversary, My mom, my daughter and myself.

    Hope to have an awesome time.

    I miss the old stuff from disney like the Mickey Mouse Club, don’t like the new one on tv now. Miss everything.

  • OH, and I still have a shopping bag with the retro logo you’re using for “Florida Project”! Everything that’s old is new again!

  • Oh, I could go on and on about my trips to WDW in the 70s and 80s! It was a special time between Thanksgiving and Christmas for me, my mother and her mother. Our three generations, of modest means mind you, visited every year from 1975 thru 1983. With a couple of exceptions, we always stayed at the Polynesian, which was wonderfully decked out in 70s turquoise, gold and green. In 1975, the room plus tax was $43.68. Disney on Parade was celebrating the upcoming Bicentennial and I believe that was the best parade ever (well…Disney’s Tencennial was pretty cool too). We loved If You Had Wings, the WEDWay Peoplemover, the Skyway to Fantasyland, Small World, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates and of course, Orange Bird and the Enchanted Tiki Room. We loved to shop at Traders of Timbuktu and all the stores along Main Street (and I miss the Magic Shop too Lou!). Looking back it was kitschy, but we loved it. I cannot wait to see what you dream up!

  • I LOVE the sound of this, just wish I could visit during that time of the year!

    Is there any chance at all that any of this merchandise will be available online or anything? I’d absolutely love to get my hands on some of this stuff.

    If the merchandise team could make some retro EPCOT Center shirts available in larger sizes(5X or 6X), that would be awesome too!

  • As a Florida child in the 70s, our family has made many trips to the Magic Kingdom, and in fact, I’m certain we saved that orange and pink bag for years before it eventually had to be tossed. But my brother and I still have our hard plastic pull string Mickey Mouse dolls that played his best quotes in that shrill happy voice as his nose bobbed up and down: “Mouseketeers have big ears!” and “How ’bout some cheese please!” and “M-I-C-K-E-Y!” (among other favorite souveniers). And althought the park has changed over the years, it is still my favorite theme park destination BECAUSE it holds so many wonderful memories! Of course, now I share the magic with my own children. It is the most magical place on earth for our family! I know that we will enjoy celebrating WDW’s 40th next year.

  • For some reason, it says I’m logged in as “Stephanie” though that is not my name and the account area won’t let me change it right now.

    I first went to Walt Disney World in 1976, we stayed every year for 7-10 nights at the Polynesian Village Resort (except one year at the Contemporary). That was until 1984, when I graduated high school and we made the move to Florida. I loved the 70’s at Walt Disney World – the movie theater at the the Contemporary Resort, Tangaroa Terrace at the Polynesian Resort, the Disney Village. Until 10 or so years ago there were German Chocolate danishes sold at the deluxe resorts (at least the CR and Polynesian) that reminded me of that time.

    There is jewelry I used to have as a kid, I wish I still owned them and hope that I can eventually find a piece (or recreate one). Walt Disney World used to sell sterling silver jewelry with the original logo on it. I would love to have that again. A friend of mine went to WDW before me (early 76) and brought a necklace and earrings back for me that I really loved.

    We stopped by the public day at Epcot’s trading event this year, I haven’t even posted the photos from it yet – but there were some really neat 40th anniversary items. I am looking forward to purchasing some of this unique merchandise.


  • Unfortunately, I wasn’t there for the opening- I was born in ’75! However, my parents did take me when I was ~3 though, so I was in WDW once during the 70s. As a little kid I remember wanting to see “the big tree” whenever we went to an amusement park (Cedar Point or Geauga Lake back home in northeast Ohio)- it wasn’t until we went to WDW again when I was older that I realized it was the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse I had been remembering! My parents always seemed to think I was crazy when I kept asking to see the tree…

    Even better, I happen to have a trip scheduled to arrive on Sept. 10th, so I should actually be able to attend this event! 🙂 Still living in greater Cleveland and only being able to go to Disney parks twice a year (WDW & DL combined!) means I usually can’t get to things like this.

  • My mother was there I love hearing about the MK back in they day when they had ride tickets. You had to purchase these books of tickets like at the fair. She still has some!

  • I came across that same drink tray pictured above in mint condition this summer and knew that I had to add it to my Walt Disney World memorabilia collection. I got home and tried to find some information about it, but I came up with nothing. Could you tell me anything about it?

  • Was not there early on as I wasn’t here on this earth yet.
    The event sounds great, I just hope I can talk my better half into letting me go 🙂

    Steven, will the 40th Anniversary WDW 3″ Vinylmation’s be available during the time of this event or are they being targeted closer to the begining of October? Hoping to be there sometime next fall for something if I can. Thanks.

    • @Lee – I too have those colors. They are great trays! Has anyone seen the merchandise on display at the One Man’s Dream attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? I could spend hours looking at that display.

      @Regina – I didn’t know that. Now that is a big drink 🙂

      @Lynda – The Vinylmation 3″ figures you mention (seen here: ) will be released in early 2011 along with other 40th Anniversary merchandise. But we are planning some unique figures for The Florida Project event.

  • My mom’s family was there I love to hear her talk about how the Magic Kingdom had ride tickets and you had to purchase these books. Both my mother and grandmother still have ticket books they are really neat to look at.

  • I didn’t visit in the 70’s, but having followed Disney nostalgia, I’m excited to see all these different things that will be featured.

    It’s my hope that for the 40th anniversary, some of these classic designs and souvenirs will be brought back not only for those of us who remember, but so that we can introduce those classics to our kids – the next generation of Disney fans!


  • I visited Walt Disney World for the first time in July 1972, and I still have most of the things I got on my first trip, I have all of the items that you are sharing with us in this article, plus many more and many of mine still have the original price tags on them!! I don’t know how a 9 year old kept everything in such good condition and held on to it now for almost 40 years but I did!! I even still have the original guide book for the summer of 72. I have visited Disney World many times since my first trip, to many times to count and plan to visit many times more and with each trip my Disney collection grows and grows!!

  • Have pictures with my family at the Preview Center…amazing now I am taking my kids to the actual parks!

  • HEY!! I have that Polynesian “vase” on the right. (What you call a vase was actually a tropical drink.)
    I supposed I should stop using it to hold bottle caps.

  • I was at WDW in December of 1971 and 1972, but was only 6 years old at the time. But the memories I have from back then are cherished. In another thought: Did you know that the Contemporary Resort Glass Tray also comes with the Monorail with a blue stripe and a red stripe? I have both, but have yet to obtain the green stripe, shown in this post.
    Can’t wait for this event!

  • This is awesome. I love vintage. When is the merchandise going to be available? Will it be available to purchase through the DisneyStore?

    • Wow! These comments are beyond amazing! What a highlight for my day. Thank you to all for sharing your memories. Can’t wait to read more.

      @John from NY – I’m speechless. I would love to see that film. I can only imagine how awesome that must have been.

      @Anonymous – There will be a whole assortment of 40th Anniversary merchandise that we have created for this milestone. Several items will be arriving in January 2011. Stay tuned as I will be “blogging” soon.

      @Elyse – Guests attending this event will have a first purchase opportunity for this merchandise. The items will be created specifically for this event. There are no plans to release these items via the on-line Disney Parks store, yet there will be other 40th Anniversary items that should be available.

  • I don’t remember my first visit but it was sometime in the 70’s with my family. As an adult I have been going for years first with my boyfriend, then on our honeymoon and now almost every year with our 12 year old daughter. I remember her first visit was when the castle was tranformed into a birthday cake … was that for Mickey’s Birthday? Are you planning anything else next year to celebrate the 40th anniversary? We don’t know what time of year we are coming next year and we may plan it around the 40th anniversary celebration.

  • I was almost 9 when WDW opened. I remember the Preview Center and making my first trip (with my Dad) on Sunday, October 3rd, 1971. I even have the large frosted glass from the Poly pictured above. Since my Mom, cousins and friends worked at Disney later on, I can’t even count the number of visits I’ve made since that Sunday. My last visit was just two weeks ago on the Magic Kingdom’s 39th birthday!

  • I loved the old logo! My family lived in NM, so we usually visited DL, but we did drive to Disney World in 1974, and again in 1976, and then my dad was in the charity golf tournament there in December of 1976 so we stayed at the Golf Resort (now Shades of Green). I remember having that tiki mug from the Poly. I specifically remember Space Mountain and the bench seating.

  • I visited the park on Grand Opening day with my parents in 1971. We got up early and drove down from GA to be there. What is unusual is that my parents were also at the Grand Opening of Disneyland. At the Disneyland grand opening my father had an eight milimeter film camera and was filming on Main Street. My father was standing on the grass to do this. A man came out onto an upstairs balcony and asked my father to please get off the grass. My father recognized him as Walt Disney and said I will if you let me film you. He said yes and my Dad got the footage of Walt Disney. We still have it on film. My impression of WDW on Grand Opening day was that everything was clean and fresh and it seemed like the paint was still wet. As a 10 year old, I was in awe!

  • My first visit was in July 1974, we spent 5 days at Fort Wilderness in my grandparents RV. We could never get enough E-Tickets!! I remember being scared out of my shoes by one of the hosts at The Haunted Mansion.

    I was in WDW for opening of EPCOT in 1980. My mom was on the phone the day they opened up room reservations for that date. We were there for 4 days before the official opening and 2 days after. That was an amazing experience. I still have our commemorative tickets, the park maps (it was a wheel) and lots of other cool things from that trip.

  • I remember going when I was near 5 in 1975. I don’t remember much other than waiting for awhile to ride Space Mountain with my father. I was so enamored by the space views and space light show going on before you get on the ride. Of course we waited quite awhile back then since it was so new. I rode between his legs and kept thinking I would fall Still something I remember to this day.

  • Yes I did! It began a love affair with the house of mouse. It was 1974, and I was a sophomore in high school when our band was invited to perform in front of the castle. It was all so new and so exciting. Who knew! I sure wish they would bring back those band concerts in front of the castle again. I know what a thrill it was for me to perform there, and the memories still linger today when I sit in the “circle” gazing at the magic and think back to a time when an entire lifetime was before me. I would love to see my kids have that chance!

  • i have pictures of my first visit in 1972, but i have a question, what yr did they start making the large maps , i have 1 from 1979

  • We visited 1972 and stayed at Fort Wilderness and the buses were browm breadboxes . There was a little train that ran around the campground. the parade on main street was the chacters walkinog down the street and people lined up early to get a good seat. t You could get to the magic kingdom by bus or boat the Magic Kingdon was the only park then and there were 3 hotels the contempary, the polynisian and a golf and tennis club (now the shades of green) There was also swan boats in the Kingdom
    thank you for letting me take a stroll down memory lane

  • My parents were there the week it opened; I was only 1 year old then. My first trip wasn’t until 1973 and I’ve been attending ever since. I, too, remember all the books of tickets and waiting in line at stands to purchase additional tickets.

  • I was 10 years old when I visited with my family from Tennessee in June 1972. I was impressed that the park had its own ‘interstate’ (divided highway) to handle the traffic. We rode the monorail through the hotel lobby and that was just too cool!

    Once we were in the park, I am amazed at how many rides I can recall. I know it is because we talked about that trip – and only a single day – for years and years. I know I have the photographs, but mom perhaps has some momentos packed away somewhere…

  • My Dad took us to the Preview Center in the 70’s and I have some of those postcards above from there. Everything was presented in renderings, I remember it well. We went for our first trip at Thanksgiving 1971. What a crazy crazy day ! Too many people for them to handle, ran out of food etc, lines hours long. Helicopters flying all over watching the crowds. My Mom wanted to leave, but I said I had waited years for Haunted Mansion and wasn’t leaving. So we waited in line for hours and when we came out, most had decided to leave. Been going non-stop ever since … just got back from 10 days 🙂

  • Wow, that post brought back memories, I visited Disneyworld back in August 1972- -it was just one park then so everything focused on the magic kingdom and it was a real big deal if you stayed on site as there were just the 2 resorts and the campgrounds. biggest difference in my mind is that it was much rarer then to see the characters I remember the highlight of my trip was meeting Tigger outside the its a small world ride. Now the characters are everywhere and there are also the great character dining experiences.
    Regarding the rough concept poster it immediately reminded me a of paper bag from one of the main street stores that sold gifts back then, I know I saved the bag for years as a reminder of my trip to Disneyworld.

  • i want the cups 🙂

  • This sounds incredible. I too love all of that retro Disney merch. Being that I was born in 1983, I never had the chance to get much of it, and am resigned to scouring Etsy and eBay for neat pieces of history. I’d love to be able to buy some retro-inspired/styled Disney merch (I snatched up one of those early EPCOT Center t-shirt reprints a few years ago and I love it).

  • I went in 1974. Magic Kingdom was the only park at that time, but it was two days of pure magic. My black Mickey Mouse ears from that trip still decorate my grandkid’s play room to this day.

  • I actually have every single one of the items you have pictured in the article from visits dating back to 1972. (Including the bag design that you modified at the top…Heck I even have old Disney Ballon design bags)

    I was brainwashed at the age of two and I’m still hooked, so this is awesome news that you’ll honor and pay homage to the best years of the Resort.

    Thank you.

  • We were at the Magic Kingdom October 14, 1971 (just 2 weeks after it opened) for our honeymoon. We were also there in September 1975. I remember we had ticket books in 1971, but don’t remember if they were still using them in 1975. I also remember that you could catch Disney characters just walking around the park, and my husband took a picture of me with one of the Country Bear’s. I also have a picture of Micky and Donald by the railroad station by the front entrance. I still have our two ticket books, and they each have one A ticket in them. Used all those E’s. We hope to celebrate our 40th anniversary (October 9th, 2011)and Disney World’s 40th at WDW.

  • This… is… awesome!!! As an early visitor (November, 1971) and lifetime collector (love my Haunted Mansion Secret Panel Chest and cigar box from the Main Street Tobacconist shop), I love the idea of a collectors’ event!

    Looks like I’ll need to build more shelves for the retro-style merchandise coming for this!

    And as for what it was like “way back when”? – I remember (and miss) the House of Magic on Main Street, buying just one more E-Ticket to ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, JP and the Silver Stars in Adventureland, The Orange Bird, riding the Skyway, If You Had Wings, River Country, the Polynesian Wave Machine, Goofy water-skiing on Bay Lake, the Walt Disney World Village (the kaleidoscope!) the Fort Wilderness Railroad… the list goes on and on!

    From a nostalgic Walt Disney World enthusiast – THANK YOU!!

    Lou M.

  • Super cool! I didn’t visit on opening day but did visit in 1971. I saved many things over the years including “E” tickets – hard to do because all the best rides were “E” ticket rides. I even have a parking receipt from the Magic Kingdom when parking was only fifty cents!!! While we may look back and giggle a little at some of the things from the 70s at Walt Disney World, I promise it was every bit as magical as it is today.

  • I can’t wait for all this awesome merchandise and to attend the event! I’m counting down the days!

    Will the Pin event be separate from the vinylmation event like this year’s Trade City? Or will they be a combine event?

    • @Albert – The acutal Preview Center was located on Hotel Plaza Boulevard near Downtown Disney Marketplace. The building is still there today. It is now home to the Amateur Athletic Union. For this upcoming event, we (of course) are pretending to have uncovered an alternate preview center (all part of the story for the event).

      @Jennifer – We are still finalizing details about this event. We have a few ideas based on the Trade City, USA event held last August. I can say that we plan on creating Disney pins, Vinylmation and perhaps a few other things.

  • Where was the preview center located?

  • Sounds like a lot of fun! Really interesting to learn about the preview center that was never used. I always enjoy learning more about the history of the parks! To answer the question, I did not visit Walt Disney World in the 1970’s, only the twinkle in my parents eye did 🙂

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