Sunday, January 04, 2009

Look At My Stuff, Part 2

Merry Christmas! Since we're celebrating the Most Material Time of the Year here at Passport to Dreams, I thought I'd offer a special year-end "light break" from our usual through discourse here and start a limited run of articles where you, the appreciative consumer, .... .... Look At My Stuff! My stuff and you looking... a match made on the internet! .... It will be Disney related "stuff", I assure you.

I'm pretty obsessed with Disney ephemera... those brochures, booklets, flyers and maps made to last only fleetingly seem to me to be the greatest window into the day to day realities of a Walt Disney World of 1974, 1984, or 1994. It's the only thing I obsessively collect about Walt Disney World (although I am discriminate) and it is through these paper goods that my understanding of the Walt Disney World of the past has flourished. Today I present you with an array of magazine-type publications printed to promote Walt Disney World ranging in year from 1977 to 1986.

The lineage of these magazines, I think, stretches back to a publication called Walt Disney World News which, in the resort's first few years, functioned as the guide to the Vacation Kingdom. Shortly thereafter or concurrent with this publication, a series called Walt Disney World Vacationland began to be produced, related to the West Coast version (Disneyland Vacationland). Neither lasted very long because by around 1972 or 1973 we start finding GAF "Your Guide to Walt Disney World" brochures around the resort and by the publication of that 1977 "World Magazine" up in the left above, Vacationland was long gone in Florida. Vacationland was a "real" magazine, in the sense that it had content and articles, and even advertisements for other area attractions, and was started for Disneyland by Marty Sklar as an outgrowth of a novelty Main Street newspaper he started for Walt Disney in 1955. The Walt Disney World Vacationlands, beautiful and much rarer than the Disneyland versions, contain probably some of the best little seen pictures and information about the resort's formative years.

"World Magazine" began and perhaps lasted only through 1977, as the version I have is labeled as issue 2 of volume 1 and appears to be intended for the July - December timeframe as it promotes holiday Disney theatrical releases in its' last few pages. It is much less of a magazine than a guide to Walt Disney World, with beautiful descriptions of each location and service and with an interior layout both dynamic and classy as Disney only could achieve in the 1970's. This two page spread for the Polynesian is only just the best in the magazine, but the call was very difficult to make.

By 1978, "World Magazine" had been replaced by the generic "Walt Disney World" publication, but the contents were largely the same. Flash forward to 1981 and the Tencennial "Vacation Guide", and the nomenclature had been ironed out into something sensible, which more or less would stick. In the center of all the books (it's missing in the World Magazine one but the space for it is clearly there) is a number of paper inserts detailing the very fine details of the resort operations for guests, such as dress codes and phone numbers. This is where the resort of the past truly comes to life for me, not in pictures or video but raw information about services, dining locations, and so on. Below, two such information sections for the 1981 and 1984 Vacation Guides.

The graphic design of the 1984 Vacation Guide reminds me strongly of the design for this 1983 summer season brochure.

Also inside the 1984 guide: a mail-order form for the 1985 Steve Birnbaum Walt Disney World guide, which was either in or very near it's first year.

Once we get into the Eisner era with the "Do It All At Disney!" book, things become noticeably more pedantic. Full page, oversaturated, badly clustered groupings of photos become the norm and the evocative text is gone. I'd offer examples if anything in the book were worth sharing, but anyone who remembers how bad Disney's graphic design got in the early 90's ("So Much More Than Ever Before!") doesn't need any more clues. By 1989, these full color magazines were gone, replaced by the nicely designed but more basic matte paper vacation guides. Today you're lucky if you get anything of substance at all.

The peak of this sort of thing was in the 1970's, and the absolute best, most complete one of these I have is the 1978 blue cover, with all these beautiful paper inserts in the center. I certainly feel better having a yellow room reservation slip from 1978... I could've stayed in the Polynesian for just $60 a night!