|A striking view of the Contemporary Hotel. The structure is topped off with the very popular "Top of the World" restaurant. The floor just below is exclusively suites - and was the only guest floor built not using the modular construction system.|
Design for Walt Disney Productions means setting the stage to complement the show. Every new act requires a new set. This philosophy is carried out at Walt Disney World, too although the shows here are more magical than Hollywood.
The two hotels in operation right now, the Contemporary and the Polynesian, were constructed by U.S. Steel with modular components. Both are of outstanding design and give the guest a clear feeling that this will be a different experience. With its 1047 rooms, the Contemporary is the largest hotel and will remain so. Business meetings and conventions, which account for 30% of hotel business, are usually held at the Contemporary since it has more meeting and banquet rooms than the Polynesian. Future hotels probably will not be this large, since most of top management agree that a hotel as large as the Contemporary is just not "right" for Disney. It is too large to give guests the individual attention and service Disney people feel is necessary.
The next stop on the monorail is the Polynesian Village, which offers the visitor an entirely different world. The Polynesian theme and design was selected because most guests at WDW have never been to, or will never get to, Hawaii. In some ways, the hotel is more "Hawaii" than our 50th State could ever be. Vegetation and the sound of water dominate the public areas. As you leave the monorail your immediate impression is of peace and leisure. There is none of the hustle bustle you sometimes feel at the Contemporary. Even the employees sense this. As Assistant Manager Jim Raymond explains, "When I first started, I was at the Contemporary. When I was assigned here, it was different. You absorb the atmosphere as you walk around, it is so much more relaxed. It even shows in the housekeeping staff." Jim is so enthusiastic, he claims that guests stay longer at the Poly.
|Polynesian Village Hotel Room, 1972|
Because of heat, high humidity, strong sun and other factors inherent to central Florida, all materials in the park and the hotels have been selected for durability and easy maintenance. What appears to be wood to the casual observer might actually be a very durable plastic that will not warp. The majority of furnishings in the hotels were developed by Monsanto. While they are not the types of furnishings most people would purchase for home, they are extremely durable and practically indestructible-a hotel-manager's dream.
Disney designs for the future even though the setting might be a prehistoric cave. The most immediate plans for expansion include a small (probably no more than 150 room) hotel adjacent to the golf course and clubhouse. Right now, guests are not using the clubhouse facilities to full advantage- some do not know it is there, others do not know how to get to it because it is not a stop on the monorail. By building a hotel there. Disney will make the golf course more of a "center." In time, at least three other hotels will be built in other areas, all based on themes.
There is a "Townhouse Community" with several residents already. Large companies have been buying the townhouses to entertain customers, to use as business retreats and as sales incentives. All sorts of special services come with the town-house: travel arrangements, car rentals, dinner reservations at WDW. Tour arrangements and tee times at the golf course are but a few of the numerous extras. Meals and cocktail parties can be catered and pantries, refrigerators and bars will be stocked on request. Townhouses can be leased on a one or two year basis, furnished or unfurnished. The Buena Vista Club will be completed soon. Residents will have first crack at membership. The Club will have all the social amenities of any first class country club, but with the Disney flair.
Eventually there will be condominiums and, hopefully, an entire community at Lake Buena Vista. Of course, Disney will maintain ownership of all land. The ultimate goal is for EPCOT (Environmental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), which will be the city of the future. Motorized vehicles will travel underground. Homes and offices will be designed with experimental equipment and furnishings, and the lifestyle will be far ahead of its time.
|The Poly Pool is always crowded - and a special treat is a natural waterfall, where swimmers climb the rocks and slide down into the pool.|
Hopefully, if the legal hassles ever end, Mineral King (a year-round nature and recreation facility) will begin to be developed in California. Back in 1965, the U.S. Government asked for proposals on how to create a recreation complex in this area. Based on their proposal, Disney was awarded the job. Since then, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups have tied the project up in court and a lot of people seem to look at Disney as the villain in the dispute. Eventually, they will probably go ahead with plans, but as Card Walker said, "in the meantime, we have enough to do."
|Two examples of Disney's flexibility: elegant dining or drinking at the Top of the World - or full-scale, elaborate banquet scene.|
Within 11 short months, over ten million visitors have passed through the gates of WDW. This figure exceeds the projections made before the opening day, but then it is hard to project any Disney endeavor. The hotels are running at close to 100% occupancy and turning down 1000 reservation requests daily. The state of Florida has collected over $200-rrillion in tax revenues that they really hadn't expected. The Orlando area has become one of the hottest growth areas in the country with a building boom that won't stop for a long time to come.
Certainly this is change and progress. To a large degree, it can all be attributed to Disney. Walt Disney World is the first total leisure experience center in the world. It won't be the only one for long, Marriott will provide competition with their complex outside Washington, DC. Dick Nunis has that "Marriot will be a very fine competitor and we enjoy competition. I just wouldn't want their weather."
As long as there's imagineering within the Disney team, there is bound to be a bright future. What direction the future will take is hard to determine, but with the people involved, it's bound to be the right direction.