Skip to content

Vintage Views of Walt Disney World


Are you ready to celebrate?  On Saturday, the Walt Disney World Resort will be 45 years old!  It’s  safe to say that Imagineers are getting ready to raise the curtain on a historic celebration, which will be both unforgettable and magical.

My first visit to the resort was in 1974—and like most people who love all things Disney, I was hooked for life—in a very good way.  So when I discovered a long-forgotten stash of vintage photographs from my past Disney trips, I knew I had to share them with friends who understood the fantasy that can be found at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”  I apologize for the quality of the images in advance, which were all captured with a film camera.

The first time I stepped into Town Square at the Magic Kingdom Theme Park, I entered  the park a 20-year-old disco queen—but left a wide-eyed child with visions of pixie dust.  From the 1974  photos in my collection, the afternoon parade was a much simpler event with characters who interacted with guests as they walked up Main Street, U.S.A.  With no high-tech sound system, Walt Disney World and high school marching bands provided the music.  What’s missing in the photograph?  There’s no sidewalk tape or ropes that are omnipresent during present day parades.

Fast forward to spring 1982 and the Magic Kingdom Tencennial Parade.  I have very few memories of this trip, but was happy to find that I had photos of Minnie and Mickey on their blue and silver tenth anniversary float.  The theme song that year was “Walt Disney World is Your World,” which was performed during the parade and at a special stage show at the Tomorrowland TheaterMain Street U.S.A,. looks pretty much the same today as it did in 1982.  The trees at the Cinderella Castle hub are gone, but the American flags still fly above the storefronts and the free-standing clock continues to keep guests on time for their FastPass entry times.

1981 vintage walt disney world photographs

vintage walt disney world photographsIn the early 1980s, there was an Epcot bagpipe group that played outside the Trading Post in Canada.  This group was long before the arrival of Off Kilter and before the Calendonian Bagpipe Trio.  I have seen vintage videos of the bagpipe group, but the videos are few because they were likely recorded using super 8 film.  One piece of trivia–Jamie Holton of Off Kilter was one of the performers of the Caledonian Bagpipe Trio.

My photos of Disney’s Hollywood Studios were captured during two trips, both in the early 1990s when the park was known as Disney-MGM Studios.  One shot shows a capture that looks down Hollywood Boulevard to the Chinese Theater.  The Sorcerer’s Hat had not yet been constructed nor was there a stage that blocked the view of the Theater.  If you look closely at the people in the capture, my eyes zeroed in on two things–a man smoking a cigarette and the absence of cell phone selfie captures.  And before the Power Rangers had a Meet and Greet on the Streets of America in early 2000s, there were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The Turtles arrived on a party wagon, danced on stage, then posed for pictures with guests.

The animated film Toy Story debuted in theaters in 1995.  To introduce the film, Disney-MGM Studios scheduled a daily Toy Story Parade, which included all the favorite characters from the movie.  The parade started with a precision march by the green army men, who were followed by Sarge sending out commands from atop the first parade float.  Accompanied by the song “Strange Things,” Slinky, Mr. Potato Head, the Barrel of Monkeys, and others preceded floats that transported the stars of the movie, Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

vintage walt disney world photographs MGM

And finally, the Castle decoration that everyone loves to hate, the Walt Disney World 25th anniversary birthday cake from October 1996 to January 1998.  What did it take to create this pretty in pink castle?  Four lifesavers; 50 gumballs; 40 gallons of pink paint; 26 candles; 16 candy bears; 30 lollipops; and 1,000 feet of inflatable icing.

vintage walt disney world photographsMoving on to the turn of the century and to the Millennium Celebration, Walt Disney World added a Sorcerer Mickey arm to Spaceship Earth at Epcot.  The arm was topped off with a giant wand festooned with a sparkly 2000.  After the celebration, when everyone thought the temporary decoration would disappear, the number 2000 was replaced with the word “Epcot.”  In 2007, the wand was removed, and Disney purists breathed a sign of relief.

The last in my vintage photos is an albino peacock.  What does that have to do with Walt Disney World?  Back in 2001, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground was home to dozens of peacocks.  The birds strutted their stuff through the campsites, spread their feathers, and posed for pictures.  But they also pecked on the high-priced RVs and roosted in the pine trees, making very loud and disruptive peacock calls.  After complaints from guests, Disney moved the peacocks to the Animal Kingdom.

Over the years, many of our favorite Walt Disney World attractions have gone, but through the magic of photography, they are captured forever.  Making memories, making memories, taking pictures is making memories.  Catching little pieces of time, making them yours, making them mine. 


(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)


LookingforMagicLooking for Magic is Kathy @ Two Roads Photo.  As a librarian, walker of many miles, and Paper Bag Princess, Kathy dreams of having coffee with Belle at the castle and co-administering a fantasy book discussion group.  She can be contacted at imtxag85@aol.com.